• 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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5. Training, Tales, and Travel Plans

Rarity lasted maybe another hour before nodding off, leaning lightly against Aiden as she did so. It occurred to him that he had been dozing a bit himself; he couldn’t remember what they’d been last talking about. It didn’t much matter and it had been a long night. He lifted her gently, levitating both translators while he was at it, and carried her to the other room. Telekinesis was quite useful for the task at hand: tucking her into bed without jostling her was a simple task. He pulled the blanket up over her, noting that she had adopted a human posture quite naturally while sleeping. It was one more similarity, the most recent of which being her laugh. He smiled softly; he looked forward to hearing it again. They’d give her every reason to be happy, including getting her home.

He nodded to himself, sighing quietly through his nose. It’d been awhile since he’d had a clear cause to work towards. The war’s end had gotten… muddled, in terms of direction and purpose. Things had shifted from ‘save humanity from the alien threat’ to ‘various factions wanting to rebuild their way’ fast enough that Aiden had been far from the only one to walk away. And yet, he couldn’t help wondering if that was the right choice now. How many like Rarity could he have helped between then and now if he hadn’t walked away? Well… not quite like Rarity, obviously. Point was… ehh, some Spiderman thing about power and responsibility that he’d never fully appreciated. He snorted, laughing at himself internally. He suddenly wasn’t tired at all.

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

Rarity awoke several hours later to a quiet room. It was easy enough to figure out how she’d gotten to bed, though less easy to figure out why the other bed, across the room, didn’t seem to have been used. One thing at a time though… the bath was calling to her.

After a bit of thought on the matter, she opted for a simple shower. The room had a few more amenities in terms of soaps and lotions than she would have expected from a military compound, but then again that had been true of the other room as well. She supposed they had been planning to free her from the lab for some time. She smiled as she brushed out her mane, getting it into proper condition for the first time in weeks, at least not counting the ‘cheating’ she’d been doing during that time. Far be it from any unicorn to consider magic cheating, but Rarity would always prefer the mundane approach to a beauty regimen. As such she felt much more like her old self when she finally exited the bathroom. That just left determining what had become of her new roommate. As she trotted quietly out into the main room she noticed a covered tray on the coffee table. Her stomach chose that moment to remind her, in a rather unladylike fashion, that she hadn’t eaten anything beyond an apple in the last fifteen hours or so. As such… breakfast, and then she’d figure out where Aiden had gone off to.

Breakfast had been completely worth it. Pancakes, fried eggs, hash browns, and orange juice had rounded out the contents of the tray, which had been insulated to keep the first three items warm and delicious. She suspected, based on the scent in the room, that they’d been dropped off shortly before she’d finished in the bathroom. She’d be asking about that timing later. After considering and dismissing the coffee maker (she didn’t quite understand how it worked), she headed out to find some answers. ...And then headed back for her translator. It took a moment to figure out why it was attached to a wire attached to the wall, but she’d seen enough similar devices in the lab to be confident about disconnecting it. Activating it would have been another matter, except that it seemed to come on on its own when unplugged. After testing it with a simple “Hello, humans! I… am Rarity!” she grabbed the other translator so she’d understand responses. She idly hoped there were more of these things sitting around, though she supposed as long as she had both she could converse with anypony… err... anyone, easily enough. That was good, since she had all manner of questions to ask, and it was now time to attend to the first.

She trotted lightly into what she’d dubbed the control room to find a different group of humans there. The three of them turned, wide-eyed, to stare at her before one smiled a bit nervously and muttered ‘good morning’, faithfully translated by the device Rarity floated alongside her. She responded with a smile and reciprocated, “Good morning. We haven’t met, I think, but I am Rarity. Err… I’m looking for Aiden, he wasn’t in the room when I…” She trailed off, seeing one of the screens the humans had been watching.

Aiden was on that screen, viewed from perhaps twenty feet away and above… where he seemed to be fighting several metal golems. Rarity was across the room in an instant, and leaning up against the screen. “What is this?!”

“Uhh… practice, ma’am. He’s been in there for hours now, but there’s no real danger. We monitor so he can stop any time by signalling us.”

She stared, less worried but still on edge about what she was seeing. He was moving around the room rapidly, and there was a sort of distortion as he did so. It was similar to watching a unicorn teleport. Despite that, the golems were able to keep up with him as often as not. As such he was blocking their attacks, which Rarity now saw consisted of melee attacks with blunt objects that appeared to be padded, and balls fired from mounted cannons. Although… judging by the one that had just been lodged in the wall, they weren’t tennis balls. Aiden was always in motion, even between the teleport hops, and countered with a pair of clubs of his own, one of which floated in his telekinetic grip. That one maintained a defense, knocking away attacks as Aiden closed gaps to knock golems around. It was almost like a dance… or a rave, Rarity thought, stifling a chuckle. Yes, he’d definitely get along with Rainbow. Although… “Why hours? Doesn’t he sleep?”

“Yes, ma’am, I’m sure he does, but… well he does work nights, or has, to my understanding, so maybe he sleeps later in the day? Either way, he came down a while ago and said he wanted some combat practice just in case he was rusty and didn’t realize it. But, he’s done fine. Those drones are set at maximum capacity right now. It’s like he’s fighting a platoon of Oni-koru. Err.. their mid-level soldiers, anyway. We can’t simulate their elite combatants. Just a moment,” the tech pressed a button near the display. “Knight Lieutenant Windborne, Miss Rarity is up here with us. Perhaps you’d care to take a break?”

All at once, the golems disappeared, surrounded briefly by the same dark distortion that heralded Aiden’s teleport hops. They reappeared across the room, in a heap, and Aiden looked up to the camera, “Alright, shut them down. Thanks for the patience, guys.”

The tech tapped a different set of buttons on the keyboard, and the golems stopped moving. At nearly the same time, Aiden disappeared.

And reappeared in the control room. Rarity’s eyes widened a bit, but not from him arriving. The surprise had been that she’d felt it happening an eyeblink before he’d appeared. His weapons, such as they’d been, had been left behind in the training room, regrettably he’d brought something else with him. Rarity wrinkled her nose as she looked over, hopping away from the computer displays and trotting to him with a smirk. “Setting aside your need for a bath, for only a moment… if you could teleport them like that, why fight them with bats?”

“It’s not quite teleportation, but either way that’s cheating,” he chuckled, looking sheepish after the ‘bath’ comment. “Robots like those can’t use magic, so they can’t disrupt the aetheric field to defend themselves, sooo I can freely win any time. Which… peachy if I was down there to ‘win’, but pretty useless as a training exercise. So I just use that ability on myself, for mobility, while focusing on physical enhancement magic and telekinesis.” He looked over at the technicians, “How’d I score?”

“You’re forty-two percent above acceptable baseline for red level missions, and that’s by Grumman’s high standards. Pretty impressive, more so given how long you were at it. 1st Gens really don’t get tired, do they?”

Aiden snorted. “Says you, I’m pretty wiped out. Another hour, tops, all I had in me. And as Rarity has pointed out… I really need a shower, now.”

Rarity nodded emphatically, still scrunching her muzzle. “No offense intended, darling, but you are a bit offensive just now.”

He nodded, and headed towards their room. “Sorry. I should have slept earlier. I’m going to have to switch my sleep schedule back to a normal person’s here. For now though, I’m going to shower and then pass out for a few hours, at least.”

She followed him, mostly for lack of anything better to do since she didn’t feel comfortable roaming the base alone. It wasn’t fear, interestingly enough. Rarity didn’t really do fear, at least in that regard. Still, she wasn’t ready to roam around unescorted. It would be an abuse of hospitality, completely unacceptable. She wasn’t sure what she’d do in the room while Aiden showered and slept, but she doubted Grumman would leave them sitting around for long. She found out how right she was almost as soon as she got through the door. Grumman was inside, sitting at the coffee table, reading on a tablet. On the table itself… Rarity gasped as she saw it.

It was a book, and she knew exactly what book it was. From the magic she could feel surrounding it to the inscription on its ancient cover, she knew it was Equestrian in origin. “Oh, sweet Celestia… Twilight would swoon if she saw that.”

Grumman looked up from his tablet, “That reminds me, Aiden, I’ve looked into it and no one by that name has appeared mysteriously anywhere on record. If she came here, she was under our radar.”

“Thanks for checking, sir.”

“Not a problem. Frankly it would have been interesting to confirm that we’d had more visitors. As to the book, Miss Rarity, I thought you might be interested in perusing its contents. In addition to the language primers, and magic sigils designed to facilitate translations, it contains a history of your world, and our interactions there. I’d love to get your insight on the contents, if you wouldn’t mind. In addition to that, make a list of any supplies you need for your tailoring. I can send people out to get whatever you need. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that analyzing the data from the escape crystal shouldn’t take more than a week, according to current estimates. While that’s happening, we are looking into procuring a method of long range travel… namely one of the captured Oni vessels that’s somewhere near working order.”

Aiden hummed thoughtfully. “I’ve actually wondered about that. I haven’t heard anything about using those ships at all, outside of the one mission to Mars and back. I mean, that’s something we were practically capable of before the war, so… can we really get further with an Oni vessel? And if so, why haven’t we yet?”

“You haven’t heard about it because you’d left the military and using those ships is strictly classified. We aren’t NASA, though they do have a few of them and are pursuing reverse engineering for all they’re worth. They don’t use the Oni ships themselves because they aren’t safe. Even the newest are in terrible shape. As to our ‘out of the public eye’ flights… Proxima Centauri and back. Once.”

Aiden’s eyes went wide. “You’re kidding.”

“I am most certainly not. The trip took eight hours, mostly because of repairs that needed to be made upon arrival. It used a form of spacial folding not unlike your own mode of transit, and used very little of the ship’s energy reserves. Unfortunately both pilots were permanently disabled by aetheric fluctuations in the shields. As near as we can tell, it’s completely unsafe to be used by anyone without natural aether reserves of their own. It’s either a design flaw or natural wear and tear the Onis didn’t bother to address.”

“Well, they wouldn’t need to. Hell, they’d consider it a sign of weakness to repair something like that.” Aiden said with a grimace.

“I… I’m sorry, I’m not following this. Why wouldn’t they fix their own ships?” Rarity asked.

Grumman hummed thoughtfully, swiping through something on his tablet before responding. “What you have to understand is that the Oni-koru did not build their vessels, or design most of the technology their society uses. Much like the Angel race gave humans technology when they took us to Equus to help your people, the Oni-koru received their technology from the Demon race. While the Angels went out of their way to protect both our peoples after the war, the Demons didn’t do the same for their agents. So the Onis kept their tech, but that doesn’t mean they were intellectually or culturally suited to having it. As we discovered about them over the course of the war here, they’re almost best described as a warrior race that thrives on theatricality. After their initial attacks here they dialed back their aggression considerably in favor of drawing us into battles when realistically they should have been able to just bombard us from orbit. Or they could have, if they’d ever kept their ships in working order. But that approach would never have suited them on a psychological level. If not for their king keeping them in line, we’ve estimated they would have fallen apart to infighting centuries ago. Losing the war here was likely the last straw for them as a unified force.”

“That’s… almost sad. If they didn’t sound simply dreadful I might feel sorry for them.”

“You wouldn’t be the first. What we defeated was a once proud race on its last legs. Even the Demons’ superior technology was long past its prime and the Onis hadn’t advanced themselves in fifteen hundred years, be it culturally or technologically. I’m not sorry that we did it; we defended our way of life from those that would take it. But it was a shame that we, and they, couldn’t find a better method to resolve things. In a real way, we were both pawns in a war between two forces far greater than ourselves. It’s a common ground, but unfortunately not one we could build on. They came here to fight, and did so nearly to the last.”

“Nearly?”

“Their king and a handful of their elites and generals escaped on three of their last, larger vessels. At this point we have enough in terms of defenses that they can’t even come near Earth safely. We lost track of them for now, though finding them has been one of the goals of some who have their salvaged tech. Colonel Owens has one of their ships with that in mind. I think he plans to hunt every last one of them down once he has his 3rd generation perfected.”

Rarity nodded thoughtfully. She suspected she knew the answer to her next question, but she wanted to hear the answer anway. “You disagree with him on that?”

“I do,” Grumman confirmed, to her edification. “Defending your home is one thing. Hunting down every last soldier involved in attacking said home is beyond what I would call warfare, and in this case it’s genocide.”

“So… wouldn’t it be a win-win if we stole Owens’ ship?” Aiden asked.

Grumman grinned. “Indeed so. I’m planning that operation as we speak. Can I count on you?”

“So when you said ‘procuring a ride’...”

“Well, I am pursuing several avenues, but as you’ve pointed out, that one has multiple advantages. If for whatever reason we don’t succeed I will have contingencies.” His tablet beeped and he scrolled through a couple things before nodding decisively and standing up. “I have matters to attend to directly, so I’ll leave you two for now. Valerie is setting up a tablet for you two which will be able to contact the rest of us so you don’t have to go hunting for me or the others. She should be by shortly. Aiden, get yourself cleaned up and consider yourself on mission standby for the foreseeable future. Unless something unexpected happens, you’ll be moving on this in less than 24 hours.”

“Yes, sir.” Aiden responded with a grin.

“Miss Rarity, any insights you can offer about what you find in that book would be much appreciated. I’ve left writing materials. Remember that, in time, the eventual goal here is peaceful contact between our two worlds. Any data you can provide us to supplement and, for that matter, update what we already know could be invaluable.”

“You may rely on me, General,” Rarity replied, saluting whimsically. “Though I must say the odds seem to be in our favor. I think our two worlds will get along wonderfully once we can travel between them. For that matter, you said Princesses Celestia and Luna were there for the war? They’ll surely remember their allies.”

“I imagine so… though I have trouble wrapping my head around the idea of actually talking to anyone who’d been alive that long. It’s one thing to hear about it, but…”

“I can assure you that the princesses are a joy to converse with, General. I’m sure they’ll both take a liking to you.”

Grumman smiled wanly. “Heh. I appreciate you saying so, but it won’t be me going. Solving that shielding problem is no small matter, so only an Esper can safely accompany you. Even if that weren’t true, I’m no diplomat. In any case I need to go. Enjoy the day, you two. I’ll be back around later this evening. We can all have dinner together so that the rest of the personnel here can meet Rarity. Better to get that out of the way sooner than later.” With nothing further he headed out, moving briskly despite leaning on his cane.

Rarity turned to Aiden. “Well then, it seems we both have a job to do.”

Aiden raised an eyebrow. “You have that book, but I’m sort of at leisure until mission briefing.”

“No, darling. Your job is to bathe, thoroughly. Please.” She stated as her magic gently opened the book while grabbing the pen and notebook to begin taking notes and adding her thoughts on its contents.

With a laugh, he tossed her a salute. “Ma’am, yes ma’am!” He went into the bedroom to grab clothes, and was headed back through to the bathroom when he jumped at the sound of a squeeing unicorn. “Oh my Celestia! Little filly Celestia! These pictures are the BEST! POSSIBLE! THING!”

Aiden laughed, and then the bathroom door shut. Rarity giddily continued, parsing through an ancient tome that held the key to diplomatic relations between two worlds. But more importantly, it held adorable filly pictures of the diarchy. Rarity had been right; Twilight was going to swoon.

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