• Published 28th Mar 2018
  • 2,461 Views, 90 Comments

Off The Grid - MajorPaleFace

Commander John Maxon unexpectedly arrives in orbit above Equestria after a 90 year interstellar journey to Proxima Centauri in Cryostasis. John must learn to survive and inspire in an strange new world.

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A Voyage Made in Steel

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" - Isiah 6:8

John opened his eyes, he saw only chaos.

Through the clear viewport of his Cryostasis pod, he could see strobing red lights, debris drifted around in zero gravity, as sound and feeling slowly returned.

Muffled decompression could be heard occurring somewhere to Johns left as he squeezed his eyes shut and willed for everything to simply be a nightmare. But as the numbness of the Cryostasis pod succumbed to biting cold; he realised that he had traded one world of uncertainty for another.

He could hear the ship's computer issuing an alert in a vaguely feminine synthesised voice, to the ship, and on all other broadcast frequencies.

“Mayday, Mayday! This is the VSS Anlace. Major Hull damaged sustained! Loss of life support on decks Sierra though Omeg—” The computer's voice was cut short by another thumping decompression somewhere deeper in the ship, followed by an explosion, a wailing klaxon began its cry and the ship shuddered as its superstructure groaned and creaked.

John scrambled for the emergency release lever inside his pod, it was above his head and with difficulty, he gripped the handle with both hands and pulled. It came down with a crunch, and the pod's door opened upwards.

John floated out into the hallway, grasping at the edge of his pod and any other hand-holds located on the bulkheads to move along. He knew he needed to get to the bridge and find out what was happening, but first to the armoury in the next bay.

Another explosion sent the ship hurtling downwards, and sent John sprawling into the ceiling; his all-black bodysuit absorbing much of the impact, "it still hurt", he thought.

With a loud groan of exertion, John used his legs to kick off of the ceiling above him and quickly drifted down the Cryo bay to an entrance hatch. The bay was long and dark, lit occasionally by the warning lights - the light cascaded down through grates in the ceiling and floor, pipes connected multiple pods together – John saw no movement or signs of life from within.

As John drifted towards the end of the corridor, he reached the centrally located, hexagonal shaped door. Its hatched warnings clearly marked it as an emergency entrance to a specific area; above the hatch read 'Armoury'.

John entered an emergency access code into a terminal next to the doorway. As it whisked open, he could see bright fire spiralling towards him, the effect of flames in zero gravity made it look like sand swirling under water. He didn’t hesitate in quickly re-sealing the hatch, but not before a few of the flames got through.

The few errant embers continued on down to the other end of the corridor where a double-sided steal door sat firmly shut. They pitted against it leaving burn marks before bouncing off somewhere above the pods, their speed slowed.

John turned his attention back to the screen, this time instructing the fire suppressant system on the other side to activate and quell the flames. The system showed a two-dimensional rectangular room. It was flashing red indicating fire, the flashing slowed and changed to white, indicating that the room was full of Carbon Dioxide.

Above the terminal lay an emergency supply cabinet, it held many survival aids including a rebreather mask – John strapped it to his face and took a couple of test breaths to ensure its functionality. He then manipulated the controls and the door once more swished open.

The Armoury was now filled with a cold, floating mass of vaguely white smog and charred carbon. John ignored it and drifted into the centre of the room, he looked to his right and saw an armour cradle; a large circle filled with robotic arms – he drifted over and placed his feet squarely into the marked receptacles.

“Welcome Commander Maxon.” An automated voice announced.

Upon entering a command into the control panel on his left, the circle and its arms whirred to life; panels in the floor opened and pieces of matte grey armour were lifted out by the arms. John’s hands grasped handles above him so that he was in a star-jump position; he was then raised up and rotated by the Armoury Cradle as its many arms began to build an alloy frame around him, before covering the frame in bulky plate armour.

Lastly, he inhaled a deep breath before a Cradle arm removed his rebreather and an armoured helmet was lowered onto his head, it hissed and clunked once in place.

After a few moments John was fully encased in Power Armour, it covered him from head-to-toe, large armoured shoulders and greaves, a bulky torso piece with a power core mounted on the back and a blocky helmet that had jet black slits for eyes. It’s only other noticeable features were a small protruding lump where the mouth would be, it had several pipes and hoses connecting to it.

The Armour bay cradle rotated John back to his original position, he stepped out of it - with his steel boots clanging as they met the floor, inside his helmet his Heads up Display showed him vital information about himself, the armour and his environment. It tried to wirelessly contact the ship's computer, but after several seconds it simply displayed:

Connecting… Connecting… Uplink unsuccessful. System reboot recommended.

John activated his Magnetic Boots, “no more floating around”, he thought. He stomped over to the other side of the Armour bay, where a weapons locker lay; it had been melted to the floor, blackened and charred by the flames previous, nothing of use here.

John knew his next location would be the command and control centre - or the Bridge. He brought up a view of the ship on his Personal Information Processor, or Pip-Boy.

Mounted on his left wrist it showed a similar two-dimensional view as the Terminal had earlier, although this would show him the entire ship – much of it was unrecognisable to John.

Many hallways and rooms were displaying flashing red, black or simply weren’t displaying anything. John traced a route that would see him safely arrive at the Bridge, it would take several minutes to get there. He turned around and headed for a rectangular doorway, he opened it and stomped his way toward the bridge.

The Anlace had seen better days; power fluctuations were causing some areas to suffer a loss in gravity, like in the Cryo Bay. Others had lost life support or had made the air toxic; many others had suffered critical surges that had caused power to build in their capacitors, before exploding. There were Hull breaches all over the ship, on his way to the Bridge John had glanced down one hallway to see it being crisscrossed with arcing bolts of electricity, he had quickly sealed all the access points around it and diverted the power flow before continuing – but the ship was a mess.

At the Bridge, John stopped. “Shit.” He spoke aloud, his helmet giving his voice a mechanical edge.

The doors had been buckled inwards, getting in would be impossible without cutting through them, those doors were supposed to be damage resistant – what had caused them to become so twisted?

John vowed to return with the correct tools. He did an about face and slowly moved back down to another access hatch. He entered his command code into its terminal to open the door, this time no fireballs erupted out at him, although he suspected his suits energy shielding could handle anything. He was too large to fit through in armour, so he had to use the terminal to close off the emergency bulkheads closest to him, and divert life support into his section of corridor and the room through the hatch.

After several long moments of hissing, the display read green across the board. He exited his armour – a much simpler task than equipping it; using his hand inside his armour, he depressed the release trigger three times in quick succession, causing the armour to open from the back. The large section of plate armour along with the fusion pack lifted up with segments across the backs of the arms and legs flowering open.

John stepped out and down, his considerable height was lessened greatly without the armour. Gravity was active in this section, so John clambered through the hatch into the room beyond.

It held several racks for weapons and equipment, John immediately punched in the access code to a tall narrow locker. Inside were an assortment of energy weapons, grenades and blades. He took a large combat knife, meant for Power Armour; it was half a meter in length. Next were a Type 21 Laser Rifle and a Type 17 Laser Pistol. He also took a few Plasma grenades and a big interlinked belt that held several dozen Microfusion Cells: ammunition for the energy weapons. John carried it all back to the hatch.

It was a lot to carry, his suit responded magnetically to the presence of the weapons. He stuck them onto the armour and went back inside to another container. This one more box-like, it was mounted at chest height.

He opened it, inside were medical supplies and nourishment, after filling a circular capsule with as much as he could, mostly water and MREs. John retreated back to the Power Armour; he got back inside after clipping the Aid Capsule to his Armour's hip.

The armours segments sealed once more, John accessed the terminal, and he returned the breathable atmosphere back to holding tanks and shut off the gravity to conserve power.

Not long after, John returned to the Bridge, the terminal next to it had been destroyed and with his Pip-Boy unable to secure a connection, he couldn’t see what was happening inside the room.

He walked back to the corridor that branched off from the one leading to the Bridge. John took a single Plasma Grenade and activated it before gently tossing it down toward the centre of the Bridge door. He veered around into the corridor and checked his HUD, ensuring his Mag Boots were engaged.

The Plasma Grenade detonated, making a strange electrical and pulsing sound; the darkened hallway was lit up a brilliant green, before dimming once more. John tentatively looked toward the Bridge door; it was now a large hole, still glowing red and green from the super-heated plasma.

He stomped his way towards and through the new hole. On the other side was more destruction, the bridge had once been an expansive, multi-tiered level of computer screens and terminals. It had many chairs arranged along its edges for the bridge crew to sit, before an almighty view screen, overlooking the frontal half of the Anlace.

Only the top two tiers were left, much of the lower portion near the view screen along with the screen itself and the frontal-most two hundred meters of the ship was simply gone. Debris was kicked and bounced around.

John’s sole attention was the giant green marble spinning ahead of the ship; it looked similar to Earth, but it was more vibrant – John knew he needed to look at the Computer system and quickly.

He waded through the floating debris toward the only active terminal, as he got close to it, he used an armoured gauntlet to brush aside a large piece of a console that had drifted in front of him.

Tapping commands into the terminal, John established a link between his Pip-Boy and the ship's computer. The computer had been damaged by all of the power fluctuations, as well as losing many of its hardware when the frontal part of the ship broke away.

Somewhere in the bowls of the ship, the superstructure groaned and creaked loudly before a deep clang announced that another part of the ship had divorced itself. The spinning of the ship was causing large amounts of damage to the external sections and needed to be remedied.

John used the terminal to manually fire all of the remaining manoeuvring thrusters to try and stabilise the ship. As the computer processed his request, John turned to look out of the broken view screen. A shuddering from under his boots announced the activation of the manoeuvring jets. The ships spiralling slowed and eventually stopped.

The Anlace was still hurtling toward the planet at high velocity, John checked the terminal - which proudly displayed that the manoeuvring action had been completed – he found the current velocity reading. Approximately one thousand and thirty meters per second, “very fast”, John thought.

“Just how am I going to slow this thing down?” He wondered aloud, “possibly an aerobraking manoeuvre,” he continued.

John then entered the prompt into the terminal and it flashed red, indicating a non-function. John thought for a moment. He looked at more statistical information that the Anlace computer was displaying. It wasn’t pretty.

The duel-fusion reactors that powered virtually all of the ship's systems had been damaged, it would take a team of engineers and many weeks to get them to work again, the ship only had access to around eighteen per cent of its nominal back-up power; mostly fusion cells and most of that power couldn’t get to where it was needed due to the catastrophic power relay damage the Anlace had suffered.

He tried rerouting all of the main and secondary systems access through the bridge terminal. It took several minutes of slowly tapping away, speed was impossible in zero-G and doubly so when using fat, bulky armoured fingers.

Frustrated, John had managed to reroute secondary control through the terminal, most of the systems were offline or non-functional.

He groaned to himself; this would prove difficult.

A moment of clarity occurred when he thought about the ships Virtual Intelligence, it had most definitely been lost to the void when the ship had split in two, but a secondary hub laid in the engineering compartment a deck below this one. Activating it could cause the VIs redundancy sub-systems to activate and regain limited control over the ship's systems.

John decided it was worth a shot, looking back at the terminal, he saw he was still locked out from the primary systems; he really wanted to look at the navigation log and to check the ships sensor suite.

“Later” he thought.

John clambered down rungs of an over-sized ladder; it had been built specifically for use in Power Armour. John drifted to the bottom, this area was open to space as he suddenly realised he could only hear himself breathing, he could even hear the blood rushing around his body and he started feeling drowsy after Cryostasis.

Entering the engineering compartment he stepped into a large cavernous room. It held two fusion spires in the centre and was surrounded by computer screens and diagnostic equipment, most of which was floating around in Zero G. His suit lit up with clicking, indicating a high amount of radiation, he would be safe in his armour.

The secondary hub was on the far side of the reactor room, so he disengaged his Magnetic Boots and pushed off to drift to the other side. Areas of the floor had been blasted through; he could see the blackness of space through them and occasional glimpses of the planet.

He landed by the secondary hub, after stabilising himself he punched in some commands. After a moment it lit up with life, text scrolled across its many screens and lights came on across the bay. A warning blip drew his attention to a screen that flashed across his Heads Up Display, both reactors were spinning up once again with readouts spiking into the red zones.

Hydrogen fusion reactors, once tenable had been the Brotherhoods main means of power generation for the last century. While a single S-10 fusion reactor was capable of powering the Anlace, a second had been installed in the name of redundancy.

The urgency of the alert was elevated by the ships automated security systems. One of the S-10's had little activity on its cooling system - a slurry of ions chilled to near zero ran through a sheath against the cores shell, maintaining a manageable temperature.

In space getting rid of heat remains an ongoing process for everything, including people and the friction caused by every moving object.

With the sheath on reactor one reading as non-functional - the energy was bleeding off as heat into the chamber, slowly being cooled by the exposure to space. It was still building rapidly within the bowls of the reactor.

John moved to a small maintenance terminal positioned between the pair of fusion spires. He stabbed his stubby armoured digits at the undersized keyboard, eventually bringing up the shutoff failsafe procedure. He was given the option to prevent the reactor from building heat by starving it of fuel, causing an automatic shutdown.

His armoured finger depressed the 'Y' key, several others sinking along with it - however, the terminal accepted the input and began shunting fuel away from the overheating spire.

John made his way back to the bridge sealing the way behind him.

Back at the only functioning terminal, John could tell that elements of the Virtual Intelligence were working to lift the locks on the primary systems. One by one they came back online, Navigation, Life support and Power Management. Several of the non-active Fusion Cells came online as well. John once again entered the aerobraking manoeuvre. While it processed his request John looked at the Navigation Log. It displayed the journey to where they were now.

The Anlace was an experimental deep-reconnaissance vessel capable of reaching extremely high speeds of travel using an alternate realm called subspace.

The crew of the Anlace had been sent to reconnoitre an area of the solar system around the star Proxima Centauri; it had a high likelihood of containing a habitable world. John could clearly see an Earth-like planet in front of him.

They had left earth an estimated ninety years ago.

“That was twenty years more than predicted.” John thought, “Likely there had been a malfunction.”

They had arrived on the edge of a solar system. Scans indicated a red dwarf star lying deeper in the system – scans also detected the signatures of several planets, not just the three or four expected upon arrival. Something didn’t feel right.

He accessed scans of the planet ahead of him, it had an atmospheric composition almost identical to Earth, it was a rocky world with about seventy per cent of the surface being liquid water, it had a fairly temperate climate of around twenty-three degrees Celsius or about seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit. It had two large Polar Regions both into the minus temperature.

The atmospheric composition was similar to Earth's as well; with seventy-seven per cent Nitrogen, twenty per cent Oxygen, one per cent Argon and trace amounts of other gasses. He was also seeing readings for water vapour, dust and pollen particles.

There was a large cratered, ash grey moon hovering in the distance and the Anlace was fast approaching the dark side of the planet. Scans didn’t detect any radio signals or higher than normal amounts of radiation. The orbital period was around 1.1 Earth years and the mass was similar to Earth.

They had been sent to evaluate Proxima Centauri b; a small rocky world with a fast orbital period, this definitely wasn’t Proxima Centauri b. Furthermore, the solar system shouldn’t have contained so many planets; at least the long-range scans hadn’t indicated that it would.

John formulated a plan in his mind as the computer completed its projections. He would have the ship use the planet’s atmosphere to slow the vessel down, crossing into the ‘day’ side of the planet and simultaneously collecting more scans, before making planetfall inside the ‘night’ side. The Anlace’ LiDAR was able to detect a flat landmass near a mountain range.

“It would do” John thought suddenly, he realised he had no choice if he wanted to survive. He checked the Cryostasis diagnostic and was saddened to see that through an unfortunate twist of fate, his had been the only pod to survive the power surges. He would bury them later he decided.

As John tapped in the commands on the terminal - still difficult in his Armour - he had the crushing realisation that he was the only one left; he’d be all on his own for the remainder of his life. He wondered was it even worth it, he decided he’d deal with that later.

As the terminal flashed to acknowledge his command. He then thought about where the nearest escape capsule would be, John knew the ship well, having spent months training during their pre-deployment.

“Shit”. John thought, they were on the other side of the ship near the starboard nacelle. He had an estimated three hours to reach the escape boat. His last thought before departing was “I hope it works.”

The last of the sun's waning rays had disappeared behind the horizon, Princess Luna sat upon her balcony admiring her night sky.

“Beautiful as ever, sister”, a smiling Princess Celestia said announcing her presence.

Luna craned her neck around to smile back, the moonlight reflecting in her blue eyes “We were not expecting you to join us, Tia.” She had used that nickname from when they were small fillies.

Celestia trotted over to sit next to her younger sister, “I had not seen you today and thought I would see how you were doing.” Celestia continued to look at the stars.

Luna hummed “Thou needn’t worry dear sister, for we farewell”, Luna stood and moved back into her chambers, an airiness to her every movement.

A moment later Celestia followed through the dark blue silk curtains into Luna’s room; it was a spacious room with a large four-poster bed at its centre. It had drawers and cabinets all made from dark stained wood, a big telescope sat in one corner. The room held many old relics from Equestria's long and varied past.

“Tea?” asked Princess Luna, she gestured at an ornate teapot.

“Please”, Replied Celestia “you know how much I love tea, dear sister.”

Luna used her dark blue magic to pour them both a cup of tea before levitating one to her sister, whose own golden magic enveloped it.

“Thank you”. Princess Celestia smiled and sipped at her tea.

They moved into a smaller side-room which held a small libraries worth of books and tomes, they sat on large red pillows near a quietly crackling fireplace. The room was rounded and had windows from floor to ceiling; situated on one of the tallest spires in Equestria; Canterlot, the capital city of Equestria, offered many a serene view. At the bottom of one such valley, the closest town of Ponyville could be made out in the light of the full moon.

“We do not often share in such moments as these, Luna”. Celestia said disrupting the silence.

Luna could only hum in agreement, lost in thought as she stared into the burning embers.

After some minutes sat in silence, save for the fireplace cracking and spitting, Princess Celestia looked at her sister and pondered why she was so quiet – after all, she would usually talk on and on about her day, Celestia thought to inquire;

“What thoughts trouble you, Lulu?”

Luna said with a start, “We cannot figure something out.”

“And what, pray-tell, might that be?” Celestia said with interest sparkling in her pink eyes, as she used her magic to gently place a couple of logs into the fireplace, they hissed and popped as the fire took hold.

Luna sat more straight and looked up at her sister, being slightly shorter, their eyes met, “I can sense something above us sister”, she said looking pensive “I cannot determine what it is, it is much like a comet, and is travelling at high speed straight for our world.”

“Is it something we should be worried about?” Celestia’s eyes glistened with concern.

“We are unsure, sister”, Luna turned back to her staring contest with the now roaring fire, “At first we thought it to be a comet or small asteroid, it would have missed Equestria entirely, and we nary gave it a second thought.”

A pause, “What makes you worry so?” Celestia asked, uncertainty marring her features.

“Because some hours ago we detected it alter its own velocity rapidly and change its course”, Luna said, “It will enter our atmosphere several leagues from the castle.”

Celestia thought on this, “Is there anything we can do?” She asked hopefully “Perhaps we could move it—”

“You don’t understand sister!” Luna interrupted as she stood up. “We are detecting harmful energies from within this object!” She closed her eyes for a second, afterwards speaking more calmly “We predict it could impact the Northern Sea of Lights and cause huge amounts of damage to our Deer neighbours and even some of our own territories, Tia!”

Celestia thought on this before draping a large white wing over her younger counterpart, forcing her to sit once again.

“If you say there is nothing to be done, I believe you. I simply hope the damage will not be as severe as you say.” Celestia looked out of a window and glanced at the moon.

“We will simply have to endure and prevail, as we always have Luna.” She pulled Luna in close for a reassuring nuzzle. “Do not worry so much sister, we will get through this together.”

Luna looked up at Celestia, “What of our little ponies?”

“They are stronger than you think, sister. I have faith in them and so should you. Without them, you would not be here now.”

Luna's shoulders sagged as did her head; she looked sadly at her hooves. Celestia used her other wingtip to raise Luna's head to meet her own eyes, “Fear not dear sister, all will be well” Luna did not look as certain as Celestia.

As John stomped through the Anlace, he couldn’t help but wonder as to the strange circumstances that he found himself presently in. He wasn’t merely a stupid mud stomper and prided himself on his knowledge of the pen as much as the sword.

The Brotherhood of Steel usually separated those who grew up as children into classes of soldiers or scholars. John excelled in both areas, at a young age his proficiency with military strategy and weapons usage heralded him as the next great ‘Maxon’.

He hadn’t a spare minute to reminisce however, time was of the essence.

John smashed his way through a collapsed corridor; on the other side, he reached an emergency escape capsule. It was a large self-contained unit, almost four meters in height and two across – it could hold a single occupant with or without a powered exoskeleton. The capsule could eject itself into space or atmosphere and use a small propulsion unit to navigate to safety, it was rated for atmospheric entry and had a large suite of sensors, emergency broadcast arrays and life support. It was even capable of putting the occupant into a state of semi-cryostasis.

John wasted no time as the Anlace wouldreach geosynchronous orbit soon, he stowed his weapons inside the capsules multiple weapons lockers, it already had a vast array of weaponry inside as well as food and medical supplies, John had wanted to be as well-equipped as possible.

The Anlace started to shudder and John heard the ship start to rattle, he turned around after ensuring all of his equipment had been secured and backed into the capsules awaiting hold.

It was a snug fit – John was about three meters in his armour, the pod sagged noticeably with his weight.

The ship visibly shook as the pod's doors slid closed, meeting down the centre, there was a small view screen from which John could see the inside of the hallway he had just left, that disappeared as the pod was lifted up, the back of the pod would now be against the coldness of space.

The Anlace would enter the atmosphere above its landing zone before it glided around the planet to bleed off its considerable speed and then rotate a hundred and eighty degrees to use its main thrusters to slow it even more until it made landfall.

The Virtual Intelligence would handle all of the piloting; it had estimated a seventy-seven point two per cent chance that the ship would land on the surface relatively intact.

Before touchdown, however, after the trip around the planet and at approximately three hundred meters, John would be ejected out of the Anlace.

After many minutes of increased groaning and shuddering, John could feel gravity shift to his back, he was enduring at least two times the gravity of Earth, the pod had a dampening field which helped whether the effects.

John’s mind was linked with his suit, he thought about viewing one of the ships external cameras and his vision was suddenly filled with the planet below, red flames were pulling and blistering at the underside of the Anlace. John watched calmly as a chunk of armour plating sailed past, narrowly missing the camera.

The ship continued to be pulled towards the planet, soon enough the bright flames coming off of the ship were too much for Johns' eyes and so he willed the camera to disappear. It flashed out of existence.

For several minutes John’s world was only of darkness, shuddering and extreme gravity. His adrenalin made him shake and he prayed to whoever was listening that he would make it, John wasn’t religious but he would take any help he could get.

As the ship rotated he felt the shuddering reach a crescendo before tailoring off into a heavy vibration. John once again wished to see an outside camera and the view from one appeared before him; this time from the Aft side; he could see the world transitioning from a barely visible landscape to an almost jet black nothingness.

As the Princesses sat together and comforted each other, Princess Luna suddenly said: “It is changing its course again!”

Both of them stood up, Luna walked hurriedly over to her telescope, using her magic she turned a few dials until it pointed North-East of Canterlot and then looked through it.

Princess Celestia followed and stood by her side, she glanced at her sister, to see her frowning.

“Is everything okay Luna?” She asked, concerned.

Luna didn’t speak for a moment, as if the telescope held all of life’s answers, “No,” she said at last.

Princess Celestia directed her attention north, trying to see what Luna could be looking at. Squinting and craning her neck still revealed little.

“Oh my!” she exclaimed, as her keen eyesight saw in the upper reaches of the sky, a faintly glowing object.“What is it sister?” she asked.

Princess Luna continued to peer through her telescope with one eye tightly shut. “It is made of some kind of metal.” She said finally, looking away from the telescope and up at Celestia.

Celestia looked back toward the streaking meteor-Esq object now hurtling through Equestria's upper atmosphere, “What do you make of it sister?”

Princess Luna returned to squinting through her telescope, turning dials and guiding it with a hoof to keep track of the brightening piece of space-junk.

“We are uncertain as to what it may be.”

“Perhaps it is simply a meteor rich in Iron.” Celestia did not look convinced.

“Nay, sister,” Luna said with confidence, “it shines as though it were forged by somepony or something.”

She looked back to Celestia as the burning metal thing had disappeared from view.

“Is it not possible for it to be actual aliens?” Luna asked excitedly, “I hope they’re friendly!”

Celestia both respected and envied her sister's proficiency with all things outside of Equestria's surface, ever since they were young; Luna's grasp of the sciences such as astronomy, astrophysics and space archaeology far exceeded Celestia’s own, although she was no slouch.

“Sister, while I believe you are more knowledgeable than I regarding matters of the universe, let’s not get ahead of ourselves”, she blinked a few times before looking squarely at Luna, “What are the chances of it being intelligent life and not simply some form of extra-solar oddity we haven’t been able to account for?”

Princess Luna's ears splayed, “We know that it is not likely to be aliens, sister. We are not so naïve.” She continued unabated, “we shall depart tomorrow to personally investigate the impact crater.”

Luna had an air of excitement Celestia had not seen in many years.

“Very well Luna, but I insist on providing an escort of Royal Guard to ensure your safety.”

Luna scoffed, “We art perfectly capable of looking after ourselves, Tia.”

“I know,” Celestia reassured “do it for me, Luna? Please.” Celestia gave her best pleading look, even pouting a little.

After a moment of pretending to consider her offer, Luna sighed, “Very well Celestia, thou know we are soft for your kindness.”

Celestia smiled triumphantly and raised her regal head to its full height, “I know Luna. I shall speak with you in the morning; I have scrolls to read before I rest.”

“Slumber well sister”, Luna said as Celestia turned to leave “may your dreams be forever joyful.”

Celestia turned her head slightly and said with a wink, “With you guarding my dreams? I don’t expect anything less, dear sister.”

With Celestia gone Luna prepared herself to hold the night court, it would run for several hours before she had some free time ahead, she greatly anticipated exploring during tomorrow’s adventure. Little did she know that an adventure would be coming her way sooner than expected.

No more than fifteen minutes into her first hearing and Luna was already exhausted to near-death due to all the pomp and ceremony upon her arrival; first her royal guard retinue had paraded around the throne room, they had made a well-rehearsed display of switching all of the banners and displays from golden and yellow colours, with her sister's sun cutie mark, to those in several hues of blues, purples and black with her own crescent moon cutie mark plastered onto everything.

The contingent of Royal Guard then had a quick pause as they were replaced by the Lunar Guard; they saluted and marched in pairs to their positions. While the Royal Guard were all ponies wearing enchanted golden armour to make them appear as white stallions - the Lunar Guard, by contrast, were exclusively Thestrals; a race of pony that had the appearance of a Pegasus crossed with a bat. They have a variation of yellow coloured eyes with slits for pupils, shaggy fur in a range of blacks and greys and oversized bat-wings.

Their Guard armour focuses on utility over appearance and is a dark series of interlinking plate and chainmail. It covers the Thestrals from hoof to neck with a thickly armoured helmet covering their heads, with small alcoves for the ears to protrude. Finally, they wear a short blue caparison adorned with stars and a crescent moon.

After the exchanging of the guard, the first citizen was permitted to speak to her. Princess Luna smiled warmly and greeted them, “Hello my little pony, what troubles may your princess aide you in?”

The pony, a young white stallion, barely out of his teenage years, after giving a deep bow, he stood and announced himself. “G-g-good evening Princess Luna, thank you for hearing me.” He paused before continuing, albeit nervously, “I am Master Silver Shine, my father is sick and I have been sent to re-request medical help, Princess.” He bowed deeply afterwards.

“Rise”, Luna said somewhat sternly, “why have you sought our council and not that of a doctor?”

Silver Shine stood once more, “I attempted to buy the necessary medicine, however, I prevented as I am not a citizen of Equestria.”

Luna looked down her nose at him and examined him more thoroughly, “We do not understand, you are a pony: all ponies are citizens of Equestria.”

Silver wilted under her stern gaze, “N-no your highness”, he said with trepidation, “I was born in Snowbush, in the Griffon Kingdom, your majesty.” He bowed once more.

Snowbush had once been a border town established millennia ago to further relations with them, at that time, newly discovered Griffon Empire. Many battles had been waged around that region, but that was many a year ago. Now it was a simple trading outpost but it was not under Equestrian sovereignty.

Princess Luna tried to look friendlier, “We find ourselves in need of more information. Speak plainly master Silver Shine.”

Silver stood once more, and swallowed dryly, "I was born in Snowbush”, he said shakily, “I do not possess Equestrian citizenship as I was born outside of its borders. Every doctor or nurse I’ve spoken to told me it simply wasn’t possible to give me free medical supplies.”

“I told them”, he continued, “that my father, also named Silver Shine, your highness, held Equestrian citizenship and they said he would have to come here himself.”

He visibly shook, “I’m sorry Princess”, he bowed his head, “but the journey is long and tiring and I fear that my father would not make it, he is quite old.”

Princess Luna stood and approached, her silver shoes clipping loudly in the otherwise silent courtroom. Silver Shine scrambled away from her and bowed deeply.

As Luna approached she sensed his entire body tense up, “Please do us the courtesy of relaxing Master Silver Shine, we mean you no harm.”

“Ce-certainly P-p-princess”, He stood up and looked up at her refusing to make eye contact, Princess Luna was easily a head taller than he was.

Luna raised her royal voice, “We hereby decree that Master Silver Shine is to be given emergency Equestrian Citizenship”, she looked directly at her personal aide, “Fantasia, see to it personally and have a guard escort him back to Snowbush at first light with enough food and medicine to see that Master Silver Shines father makes a full recovery."

Fantasia, a tall lithe unicorn mare with a light pink coat and matching white mane and tail tied back in a bun answered, “At once Princess Luna.” She smiled as she said it and scribbled on a piece of parchment.

Luna turned back to Silver, “We hope this serves you well young Silver Shine, may our moon guide you in the coming nights.”

He stumbled over himself, “Th-tha-thank you, Princess!” He made eye contact shortly and smiled broadly before rushing to bow one last time.

“Do not concern yourself my little pony, we are here to serve.”

As Luna turned to sit back upon her blue dais an almighty explosion rocked the castle; dust and debris drifted from the ceiling and the stained windows rattled. Ponies screamed and shouted in fear and confusion, the thestrals doing their best to calm them while just as confused.

Princess Lunas senses lit up, she could sense that piece of metal, and it was so close. It must have been directly above the castle.

She whipped around to speak to the only officer present, a young mare by the name of Midnight, “Lieutenant, calm our ponies down – ensure their safety and assemble a squad in the eastern carriage bay.”

“Princess?!” she all but shouted over the frightened ponies.

“We are going to discern what that commotion was.”

“Captain, give me a situation report.” Princess Celestia was all business after being suddenly woken.

“Yes, ma’am!” Captain Stark Wing, commander of 1/6th battalion replied, joining her, “An explosion sounded above the castle several moments ago, the damage is minimal and our casualties are limited Princess.”

They were walking at a fast canter side-by-side, down a corridor in the western section of the castle, attempting to locate her sister and find out just what had happened. If Stark was struggling to keep up with her long strides, he didn't show it.

“Some good news Captain, do we know what caused the explosion?” She said as a trio of Lunar Guard hurried past them in the other direction.

Captain Stark looked up, his features not betraying his feelings, “No princess, at first we thought we were under attack – possibly the changelings again – but our scouts have returned with no sightings, I’ve instructed them to do a perimeter sweep and put the entire castle on stand-by. Both the Lunar and Royal guard is on high alert Princess.” He finished, speaking quickly and matter-of-factly.

A window in a passing room gave an idea as to the hour, as the world beyond was still very dark. “Very good Captain, keep me appraised. Where is my sister?” several Royal Guard and some panicked civilians raced past.

“We haven’t been able to locate her or her personal guard, we have runners all over the castle trying to pin her down but you know how she can be.” He faced forwards as he spoke.

“Yes, I certainly do,” Celestia said knowingly, “she has likely taken on the task of discovering the source of the explosion on her own.”

Princess Celestia and Captain Stark Wing reached the center of the throne room; it was covered in dust and had discarded furniture splayed around. Celestia halted so abruptly that the Captain almost pitched over trying to stop as suddenly. He managed to pull it off, however.

She turned to face him, “continue doing what you are doing Captain, inform your scouts to look out for her.”

“Yes Princess”, Stark said firmly while saluting, “what will you be doing?”

She made an unwelcoming expression, “I will be in the common room, trying to sooth the ruffled feathers of the noble stallions, as I am sure they have their fair share on what to say.”

His face remained as blank as ever, “Better you than I, good luck Princess.”

As the Anlace continued its controlled descent, John weighed the odds of survival and eventual rescue. As the ship jostled and weaved with its re-entry, a sudden queasiness reminded him to think on it later.

A countdown in his helmet appeared, starting at about three thousand meters and rapidly lowering, he would be ejected into the sky at around three hundred meters from the surface. A full minute went by and the readout ticked over three hundred and seventy-two before he rapidly shot out of the Anlace.

The feeling of falling only intensified, but John could see outside of his pod once again, he could see the Anlace; glowing red with pieces of it being stripped off as it hurtled toward the surface – its rear end facing down and thrusters firing at full. It would be a simple contest of power for the thrusters versus the weight of the ship and the planet's gravity.

John didn’t get to bet on which would win as his escape capsule fired its manoeuvring thrusters to level him out and his view screen was filled with stars briefly, before three domed parachutes deployed with a thwumf.

The pod lurched and bobbed and then settled into a gentle descent. It would take several minutes to reach the surface; John planned on immediately gathering weapons and ammo before heading to the crash site.

Princess Luna relished the feeling of the wind rushing through her mane and across her wings. Luna and several Lunar Guard endured flying at a high altitude so as to track the meteor, it was quiet but its bright red glow could be seen from afar.

“Lieutenant Midnight!” Luna shouted to be heard over the rushing wind, “Are you enjoying this as much as we are?” Luna hadn’t felt such a pure sense of happiness in some time; “to be free of that blasted court of kangaroos”, she thought.

The Lieutenant turned her head to shout directly back at Luna so as to be heard over the rush of the wind, “What?!” She exclaimed.

Luna could only smile at that, with her mouth firmly closed, lest she wind-up as a royal flycatcher.

After many minutes of comfortable, at least in Luna's mind, gliding – the strange glowing object impacted the ground with a thunderous boom at the base of two small peaks. The crash sent vibrations through the air itself along with a plume of dust that was illuminated by the light from the still glowing metallic meteor.

“Let’s investigate!” Luna shouted, “Carefully”, she added as an afterthought.

John’s descent was almost calm, moments before the barometric altimeter reached zero - he could hear a distant crack and his pod quivered almost imperceptibly.

“That must have been the Anlace.” He said to no one in particular.

Moments passed, he felt the pods airbags inflate, and he imagined the ring of small circular gas bags suddenly springing to life. Then felt the pod impact solid ground for the first time and he grunted, it banged and jumped as the parachutes dragged the pod a few dozen meters before finally coming to a complete stop.

John hit the release on his pods interior and the frontal panel hissed and burst off shooting into the dark before clattering loudly nearby. He clambered out; not easily done in Power Armour and stood atop the pod, surveying his surroundings.

His HUD automatically adjusted for low-light and so he could see tall trees and rocky ground all around him. Nearby the pod's parachutes had become hung up on a tall pine tree, they rustled with the wind.

John quickly opened the access hatches for his weapon, a moment later and he had his laser weaponry, grenades and ammunition as well as a large combat knife tucked into his right armoured pauldron.

In the distance, he could see a spire of smoke being gently illuminated by the wreck of the Anlace. John set a course for it on his PIP boy, it had created a two-dimensional map of much of the planet after the scans taken by the Anlace during its descent.

He unslung his laser rifle and stomped off into the forest.

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