• Published 10th Jan 2018
  • 2,699 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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6. Straight to the Horse's Ear

As promised, Valerie dropped off a tablet before Aiden had even finished in the shower. While Rarity had seen humans using them enough to discern what they were, more or less, getting a tutorial on one so as to use it herself was another matter entirely. Still, it was very ‘user friendly’ to quote Valerie and before long Rarity was looking around at its features using a stylus held in her telekinetic grip.

“This truly is remarkable… it’s like a book containing an infinite number of other books. I don’t suppose I could manage to get one of these to take back to Equestria with me?”

Valerie chuckled. “We might be able to work something out, especially since we’re hoping you’ll put in a good word for us with your leaders. I know that’s asking a lot after what you’ve been through, but…”

“Oh, pish posh, darling. My arrival was a bit unlucky, but could have gone much worse if the doctors working for that Owens person were actually bad people. And you were there to arrange my rescue from captivity, and now a whole group of you are helping me. You’ve done so much… even if Princesses Celestia and Luna were made of stone I would beg at their hooves to hear you out when the time comes. And since they’re not, at all, I’m still going to owe you a tremendous debt.”

“Hmph, nonsense,” Aiden said as he exited the bathroom, a towel slung loosely around his neck and a pair of loose sweatpants his only other covering. “We’re talking about a chance to make history here, and change the course of the human race for the better. If it all goes well we can definitely call it even.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow at him. “And if it doesn’t go well?”

“We’ll negotiate over a commiserative pitcher of beer.”

Rarity scrunched her muzzle. “First point of negotiation: wine over beer.”

“Provisionally accepted. But only a red; I don’t care for most whites.”

“Done then.”

“See? Easy. We got this.”

Valerie had simply looked between them as they’d conversed, barely seeming to wait for the translations in their back and forth. “Well then… good to see you two have gotten comfortable with one another.” She smirked at Aiden, deliberately gazing at his bare torso. “Shirtless comfort, even.”

“Indeed, darling; I was going to comment on that as well. This is the least dressed I’ve seen a human yet. Muscle definition is all well and good, but are you sure you’re eating enough?”

Aiden flushed red. “The shirt I grabbed was too small, so clearly I’m eating fine, thank you!” He said as he retreated to the bedroom to grab a different shirt.

Rarity giggled at his embarrassment before turning conspiratorially to Valerie. “I… actually don’t know what’s considered attractive for humans. Not that it matters much to me anyway, you could tell me he’s hideous and I think moments like that would still make him adorable.”

Valerie chuckled in response. “He’s certainly not hideous, though I prefer them a bit taller, personally. My husband is half a foot taller, and that’s about average.” She grimaced and shrugged slightly. “A lot of Espers are on the short side. Extreme physical activity before puberty, alongside tendencies towards severe injuries and the poor health care available during those years… honestly they’re fortunate they heal as well as they do. Magic has its advantages.”

Rarity nodded, but pursed her lips thoughtfully. “He went through a lot from what I’ve heard. Should I not be teasing him so much?”

“Oh no, tease away. It’s long past him, most of them in fact. And that goes for most soldiers. There are-”

“Hey, should I stay in the bedroom so you ladies can talk about me freely?” Aiden stood in the doorway, fully if casually dressed.

Valerie grinned. “Did you get the impression we would hold back with you here? Come in already. I was just saying that most soldiers came through the war okay, despite the Hell they went through. That includes myself, though unlike Aiden and General Grumman I wasn’t involved at the beginning.”

“Yeah, you’re just a kid.”

“Pfft, I’ve four years older than you!”

Aiden laughed, sitting down on the couch across the coffee table from them. “It’s true though, about the war. There are a large number of good men and women that didn’t make it, and another large number that may never recover from what they went through. Their sacrifices can never be forgotten. But even added together, they aren’t the majority. Most of us managed to keep walking forward through it all. Part of that’s willpower… most of it is not having to do it alone.” He nodded to Rarity. “And that’s why you’re going to get home. Because you’re not alone in the attempt.”

“Goddammit Windborne, that’s really corny.”

“I thought it was lovely. And that cinches it, darling; you’re adorable.”

Aiden snorted, though he flushed a bit at the comment. “Says the little white unicorn with blue eyes that are unfairly big and bright…” he blinked and tilted his head slightly as he peered at her, “and did you put on makeup?”

“Of course, darling. One must look presentable,” she replied, waving a hoof at him in an ‘oh, you’ sort of gesture.

“Riiiight. Well, I honestly didn’t have much to add other than the joke about staying in the bedroom. Because honestly I’m wiped out. I’m going to get some sack time. Wake me if we’re storming the castle.”

“Wouldn’t go without you,” Valerie assured him with a grin. “Sleep well.”

“Sweet dreams, darling.”

Aiden headed to the bedroom and shut the door quietly behind him.

“Right then, Valerie… let’s continue with this… you were mentioning ‘videos’ from the ‘internet’ earlier,” Rarity continued, more or less correctly pronouncing the words that didn’t seem to have direct Equestrian equivalents. “I’d also like to learn how that coffee maker works.”

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

“Our interview today is with a very special guest. They’ve been called our guardian angels, the saviors of humanity. Without them, the war may have ended before it began. Instead, thanks to their brave efforts, we have a glimmer of hope that grows brighter every day. Our guest is Knight Aiden Alexander Windborne, Esper and hero of the Siege of Seattle. Knight Windborne, thank you for joining us.”

“You can just call me Aiden.”

Rarity bit her bottom lip. According to the website’s information, the video was thirteen years old. She was looking at a twelve year old Aiden, already a soldier. She couldn’t imagine Sweetie Belle being forced into such a role, and here was a human, her friend, who had been through such a horror at such an age. His face was clearly younger, though recognizable, but the true difference was his eyes. There was a haunted, lost look in them as he stared at the camera as though he expected it to attack him. Those eyes bore dark circles that had no business on such a young face. She wasn’t quite sure she should be watching this, but after two hours of making notes on the tome and another hour of browsing around various websites Valerie had suggested, she’d ended up on listings of Esper related videos. This one in particular had caught her eye, and despite her misgivings she wanted to know more about her allies. She was sure she’d owe him an apology later.

The video continued. “Will do, Aiden, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. The world is rooting for you and those like you. It’s important to know your side of things, for everyone out there.”

“Mr. Grumman said the same thing. I can’t answer everything though; some of it might be classified.”

“I understand. And for our viewers, that’s Marine Lieutenant General Albert Grumman, commander in chief of the Esper forces here in the U.S., as well as liaison to commanders of similar forces worldwide. To our first question… Can you tell us what life is like with the Marines for someone your age?”

“It’s… okay. I have classes like I did before… and um… training, between missions and attacks. Some for physical conditioning, and some for using magic.”

“Are you with other children your own age? Other Espers?”

“A few. Some have parents stationed where I am, so they have classes with us. None of the Espers have parents though, not anymore.” The young Aiden looked away from the camera, as though guilty about admitting that for some reason. Rarity decided he was getting a big hug when he woke up.

“I apologize for leading into that, Aiden, I can only imagine-”

“No, it’s fine. A lot of people have lost family everywhere. We have to talk about them. We can’t ever forget.”

“That’s very brave of you,” and Rarity couldn’t help feeling that the woman performing the interview sounded a bit condescending. Then again, she was interviewing an adolescent. “Since you say that… I’m sorry, I have to ask about the Seattle crater. Our sources tell us it wasn’t the Oni-koru that caused it. Can you tell us what happened? The real story?”

Aiden grimaced slightly, and swallowed before nodding slowly. “It wasn’t their weapon. It wasn’t a weapon; it was a space folding device used to deliver weapons or soldiers. They used it to send a bunch of troops to the surface as their ship flew by towards the middle of the city. It set off a shockwave through the aether-”

“For our viewers, that’s the official term for an energy field that was heretofore unknown to modern science. Many are calling it magic, but it’s in fact an entirely new branch of scientific discovery that is adding new rules and exceptions to our understanding of the universe. I’m sorry to interrupt, please continue.”

“Magic is science…” Aiden replied, sounding a bit annoyed, “like physics and chemistry. I like the labs for them. But the shockwave… it killed everyone there before the soldiers could have even done anything. Aether disruptions are like severe radiation bursts… fatal to anyone without proper shielding. For Espers though… it’s what first woke us up, disruptions to the aether from Oni-koru doing things with their technology; it’s all aether based. The shockwave woke me up, but it didn’t cause the crater. It was supposed to use the aether disruption to merge the local space with its pocket dimension, basically teleporting everything inside it into the surrounding area. So it didn’t make the crater. I did.”

“How so?”

Aiden shook his head; his eyes were shining with unshed tears, but his expression was steady. “I didn’t mean to. When it hit our car, mom and dad were in front watching the ship fly overhead. All the first attacks happened at the same time so we didn’t know what we were seeing. Then it flashed when it flew by, and… they died. Moira hugged me right before it happened, like she knew something bad was coming. She was my big sister.” He took a deep breath, and slowly exhaled through his nose. It reminded Rarity of Twilight’s calming exercise. “But when the shockwave hit me, and I woke up to my powers… I reversed the gravity drive’s activation. It was instinct; and I can’t do something on that scale anymore, because I’d have nowhere to put it.”

“I’m… not sure what you mean by that.”

“In that instant, I created my own pocket dimension. It’s the same size as the gravity drive’s capacity, which would be classified but anyone can measure that crater. It’s almost 324 meters across, centered on where I was. It’s not much of a crater though, as you know. I didn’t take in much of the ground so it’s not nearly as deep as it is wide, or high. It’s like a dome. But I sucked in everything around me, and then the drive activated and deployed the soldiers to the area. From what they told me it all happened in less than a second. I was delirious and don’t remember. I killed all the soldiers by distorting space around them, basically pulling parts of them into the pocket dimension I had made. But I don’t remember doing that, either.”

“I… see.” The interviewer looked decidedly nonplussed. “While I and many of our viewers were already aware of some of these details, the specifics are certainly a lot to take in. I thank you again for sharing this with us. If I may… what did you do with this ‘pocket dimension’ you created that day?”

“Nothing. It’s still a part of me. I can’t get rid of it any more than you could pull out your own bones.” Aiden sounded a bit angry now, not that Rarity could blame him. “I can use the space, but I can’t go into specifics because they’re classified.”

The interviewer took a sharp breath. “I… understand. But, Aiden, if it’s still a part of you, what became of your family?”

Aiden’s jaw clenched as he pursed his lips firmly together. “I’m not a computer. It’s not… that clean. I can’t just reach in and grab whatever I want. Even if I think I know where it is, it’s not that simple. They’re… all still in there. Dead. Every single person who died where the crater formed is inside my head right now. And they always will be.”

Rarity gasped, covering her muzzle with both hooves as she stared in horror at the screen.

“I’m… I’m sorry. Information of this sort has been very difficult to obtain and verify. We had no idea. ...I… no, that’s more than enough for now. Turn off the camera, please.” The video ended there, and Rarity let out a shuddering breath.

And then shrieked when a hand landed gently on her withers. She twisted away from the touch, landing sideways on the couch and looking up…

At a wryly smiling Aiden. “Sorry about that,” who was apologizing for some ridiculous reason.

“What? Oh no no no, I’m the one who’s-”

“Shh, nah. That’s Youtube. Believe me, anything on there’s public knowledge, for better or worse.” Aiden waved off her sputtering apology attempts. “That interview, and others like it, were highly publicized even before Youtube was a thing. Wouldn’t be fair to keep it a secret from you when basically the whole world’s seen it. It was a long time ago anyway; people really didn’t know much about Espers back then. The stories like that one helped generate sympathy and bridge gaps. I uhh… didn’t exactly enjoy it at the time, but looking back it was a good thing that they were made.”

“Did… did you find a way to… get rid of… ahh, I’m sorry.”

Aiden’s smile became distant, but didn’t vanish. “That space is still there. 323 meters across, 162 high, roughly. I didn’t dig up much of the ground to suck in, but it’s a few meters worth, anyway. Going in there is how I do those teleport hops. I can go in and come out anywhere within that 162 meter radius. Actually, 161.8, but yeah. Anyone within that radius in the real world is within my ability’s range; I can force them into that world by opening a portal and distorting aetheric forces to suck them through. But that’s assuming they can’t correct the distortion themselves, as most mid-tier and higher Oni soldiers could. I can pull them back out the same way… but everything I took in on that first day is stationary. I can’t find a way to… sort of grab it, I guess. The aetheric forces inside aren’t safe to non-Espers, and I’m not asking an Esper to go in there and grab bodies to pull out. It hits too close to home for us. I haven’t done it myself for the same reason. Well that and I can’t stay inside too long. Setting aside the joys of traumatic flashbacks,” he grimaced as though remembering experiencing a few, “it’s an odd sort of strain, like a resonance, the longer I stay in there. I guess it makes some kind of sense; I’m literally pulling my physical existence into a plane of space that exists inside my own soul, or something.”

“When I get home, I’ll ask Twilight about it. If anypony could explain something like that…”

“Wouldn’t hurt to compare notes, that’s for sure.”

“Agreed. Also…” and Rarity hopped up and hugged him tightly.

He chuckled. “I told you it was fine.”

“It’s not a pity hug, Aiden. It’s an ‘I’m sorry I peeked into your life without permission even though I learned something that gave me a newfound respect and admiration for you along with a powerful desire to hug you’ hug. As Pinkie Pie calls it, a number 47.”

Aiden blinked, snerked, and returned the hug. “That’s quite specific.”

“Yes, she’s a surprisingly detail oriented mare. I hope you can meet her as well… assuming I can pull you away from Twilight long enough for additional introductions.” She pulled away from the hug with a thoughtful expression, tapping her chin with a hoof. “Although… thinking about it… if you did come to Equestria, Pinkie would probably greet you first somehow. She’d find a way.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for her, then. In the meantime, anything on the agenda? I assume they’d contact us through the tablet, so...”

“Ahh, yes. I received a message about joining the others in the compound for an early dinner in about an hour. I was going to wake you soon, actually. General Grumman said to expect about twenty people, and asked about my dietary preferences.”

“Yeah… probably doesn’t want anything that might offend you at the table, especially since it’s going to be your turn to give interviews.”

“I assumed as much. I told him not to worry; like most ponies I don’t care for meat, but I’m not so squeamish as to be taken aback by others eating it. I do associate with the occasional griffin and dragon, after all.” She paused briefly. “Well… not that Spike eats meat, but my point remains. Ah, and my father is an avid angler, unusual for a unicorn but not unheard of. As such I long ago acquired a taste for various fish, which Grumman assures me will be made available. Given the quality of breakfast, I’m truly looking forward to it. I don’t believe I’ve had halibut before.”

“It’s a good choice. Definitely try it if he’s offering. Heck, I’ll probably get that myself.”

“I shall trust your recommendation then. Now then, go get cleaned up, so I can do the same. Don’t take too long; I may need a bit of time, just in case.”

Aiden raised an eyebrow. “You look fine. You’ve just been out here sitting this whole time. And I just woke up. Teeth need brushed, but that’s about…” he trailed off at Rarity’s deadpan expression. “Right! I’ll just, go get cleaned up.”

Rarity beamed at him, “Thank you, darling! I’ll be right behind you.”

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