• Published 15th Nov 2018
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Starcraft: Queen and Country - Wanderer D



A seemingly safe experiment is violently interrupted, sending three unwitting innocents through the Void to emerge into a universe at war.

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Chapter 002

Starcraft: Queen and Country
By Wanderer D
Chapter 002

2504, Koprulu Sector █

The world returned in a haze of light, howling winds, and dust.

Everything around Sweetie was chaos; wind blasted around her as dark, gray clouds of dust whirled around. Flashes of red and white light pulsing through the clouds, flooding her senses with painful spikes of magical resonance.

She struggled to make sense of everything around her, but she could barely see anything at all past the swirling wall of gray particles.

She stepped back, until she hit something soft. Looking down, she could barely understand what was under her due to the chaos assaulting her senses. She could see a darkened shape, but other than that, the powerful winds and dust clouds made it all but impossible to see past her snout.

Thinking fast, she cast a shimmering, light green shield to fight the wind. Although the noise continued, she could now make out the huddled form of Gallus, curled into a ball and covering his head with his claws.

She didn't blame him. Without the shield (and several life-threatening experiences as a Crusader), she'd be down there too, trying to just wait the storm out and hope to survive.

A moment later, another shield surrounder hers and both their bodies, dulling down the sound and allowing Sweetie to breathe in relief some particle-free air.

"Miss Belle! Young Griffon, are you okay?" Quantum asked, stepping closer. "Thank you for raising the shield, miss Belle, I was too disoriented to think of it myself!"

Gallus had opened his eyes and was looking around wildly. "Where are we!?"

"I don't know. Maybe the Wastelands? Or perhaps the Saddle Arabian desert?" Quantum replied, staring grimly outside of his shield. "Wherever we are, we can't stay in this dust storm. My magic will eventually run out in these circumstances. We need cover, and I'm afraid that—as solid as I built it—my Quantum Sphere is too damaged to provide much protection at this time."

Sweetie shook her head, thinking fast. The Crusaders had been caught before in storms, and one thing that had always helped after she had learned the trick, had been her sister's gem finding spell. She concentrated, casting it and hoping to Celestia it worked. It wasn't as precise or strong as Rarity's, but it would suffice.

If there were any crystals or gems around, that is.

Surprisingly, she got a reaction almost immediately. Her magic was resonating with a large gem of some sort.

"I found some gems, maybe even magical," Sweetie said. "It might be a cavern!"

Quantum pressed his lips before nodding resolutely. "Come on, young griffon, let's go somewhere safer."

"Are you sure it's remotely safe to even walk around here?!" Gallus was panicky, looking around quickly and trying to peer through the wind and dust blasting the semi-transparent shield. He'd dealt with dangerous situations before, but this was entirely unknown.

"No, but I can't hold this forever," Quantum replied. "We'll walk slowly. Sweetie, you guide us in the direction we need to go. Young griffon—"

"Gallus."

"Gallus, you keep both eyes on our path. Make sure to warn us of anything that Sweetie or I might miss."

"Y-yeah." Gallus cleared his throat, standing up straighter. "I can do that. Yeah."

"We might still make a Crusader out of you," Sweetie said, grinning at Gallus. The griffon rolled his eyes, but she couldn't help but notice the small smirk.

"I'll pass, I value my life too much."

They walked slowly through the haze, wind battering hard against the shield. So hard in fact, that Quantum had to—quite verbally—initiate a second layer to his shield, anchoring magically to stick to the ground below their hooves and paws, before they were able to walk without being pushed around—maybe even toppled—by the natural forces working against them.

She wasn't sure how long they walked, but the storm was not abating. She could sense the crystals, but she couldn't pinpoint their location clearly enough, and at one point she had felt that they were walking away from them. Could the gems be moving?

It was probably an hour later, trudging through uneven ground and with barely any visibility, just as they were deflating and ready to give up that she heard it.

"What do you seek?" A voice, old and powerful, distinctly male with a slight echo to it made its way into her mind.

Sweetie paused, and the other two stumbled to a stop as well, staring at her.

She knew her eyes were wide and that her face had echoed the shock from hearing the strange voice. Forcing herself to calm down and concentrate, she felt the magical signature. From the looks of the others it wasn't something they had heard. It was very focused. Intensely—almost scarily so. And it was centered on her exclusively, because she had been following its owner. She just hadn't realized it.

"We seek shelter from the storm," she projected through her spell, hoping that the words would reach the voice's owner.

"Why do you follow me?"

"I don't know who you are, and we weren't trying to follow you specifically, I promise. I was using a spell to detect gems, in the hopes that we could find a cave, or underground passage to camp in.

"My name is Sweetie Belle, and with me are Gallus and Quantum State. We're here by accident, can you help us? We can't keep the barrier up much longer. We need to rest and wait out the storm before we can leave this place."

There was silence, and she wondered if whatever had contacted her was going to respond at all, but then a bit of resignation reached her through the link. "I know where you can rest. Keep tracking me, and you will reach a safe zone soon."

Sweetie nodded, then, realizing the creature probably couldn't see her, sent a new message through the link: "Thank you."

"This world is dangerous, Sweetie Belle. Were my mission not important, I would gladly lead you to a safer port, but I cannot—must not—get distracted. Your objective lies straight ahead."

It was true. Soon enough they found the entrance to a cave, and stepped inside. The shelter, however, did little to calm Sweetie after the dire warning in her benefactor's voice. Still, she again sent a new mental message. "Thank you. We're here."

"Remember. Leave as soon as you can. Adun Toridas, Sweetie Belle."

Sweetie Belle blinked, unfamiliar with the expression. "Adun Toridas," she repeated, but there was no reply. It was weird. The words sounded flat, compared to when they had been sent to her.

She sighed, dismissing the thought for now and glancing around. Quantum had already cast a long-lasting simple light spell which had floated up to the middle of the top of the cavern, and both he and Gallus were looking at her curiously.

"Something we're missing?" Gallus asked.

Quantum turned around and started exploring the cave. "This place was recently used by somecreature." He glanced over at Sweetie. "Perhaps whoever it was that you were in contact with?"

"Wait, what?" Gallus asked, eyes wide. "You mean you were talking to somecreature while we were lost?"

Sweetie grinned sheepishly, shrugging with a self-conscious sigh. "Yeah. I think he had the gems I was tracing. When he sensed me, we talked briefly and he led me here."

Her smile faded. "He also said this place was dangerous and that as soon as we could, we should get out."

Quantum State sighed. "Troubling. We still haven't even established how much damage the Quantum Sphere suffered."

"Hey, hey, are we going to be even able to find it again?" Gallus asked worriedly, staring at the storm outside. "The thing's probably going to get buried out there."

"Of course," Quantum said, his smile reassuring. "I have it pinned to my senses. It has my magical signature all over it."

"Which means?"

"That we can go back to it as soon as the storm is gone," Sweetie explained, then glanced at Quantum. "We should also cast a pin here to be able to come back if needed."

"I am more concerned about this voice that guided you here. All we know is that it was male."

"It was strange," Sweetie said. "I could sense a very powerful will behind it, and a strange feel to it, the only other time I've felt something like that was from Princess Luna, sometimes. His voice was... solemn, lonely. It had a weight to it, I could feel through it guilt, but also resolve."

"Tossing Luna's name casually like that," Quantum said with a chuckle, his smile faded, and he nodded. "Trustworthy?"

Sweetie shrugged. "He brought us here. He didn't demand anything, and warned us of possible danger. He said something else, too. In a language I have never heard before: "Adun Toridas"."

Quantum pondered that. "I have never heard those words. The language does not seem Equestrian."

"Well," Gallus said, walking over to a wall and slumping down on to his stomach next to it, "whatever language it is, he helped us get here. Now all we do is wait, and then we go back home."

"Oh! Camping!" Sweetie trotted around the cave, as if forgetting the earlier discussion. "I know all about it! Cutie Mark Crusaders Camping Masters!" She laughed and kept exploring around, poking her nose behind large rocks and gazing at the nooks and crevices inside the cave, leaving the other two behind.

Gallus followed her around with his eyes, smiling slightly at her antics, just as Quantum sat down with a heavy sigh next to him.

"She's quite the pony, isn't she?" Quantum asked, as Sweetie investigated a corner where apparently their benefactor had set down at some point.

"Yeah," Gallus agreed, nodding as he kept an eye on her.

"She took all of this in stride. If I hadn't felt her attempting that shield, I wouldn't have thought to try my own."

"Crusaders are always getting in trouble," Gallus said, smirking as she levitated things and explored yet another area of the cavern. "I'm not surprised that out of the three of us, she could handle being suddenly in a dust storm."

"Do I sense a bit of admiration there?"

"Yes." Gallus blinked and frowned. "No." He glanced at the elder pony with a slightly embarrassed air and a raised, challenging eyebrow.

Quantum laughed. "No need to read more into that, young Gallus."

"Just Gallus is fine, old Quantum."

"Point taken." Quantum rolled his shoulders before settling down on his stomach, mirroring Gallus' position. "Are you both students at Twilight Sparkle's School?"

"No. Sweetie, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo are all honorary graduates. They recently took roles as assistant instructors for some reason." He glanced at Sweetie with some amusement. "The Crusaders are always trying to do something new. As far as I know they've made a lot of friends in high places."

"Interesting. I have heard that there's many exceptional individuals in Ponyville, but it appears that there's always something new around the corner whenever Princess Twilight Sparkle is involved."

Gallus chuckled. "You can say that again."

"Anyway, we should all rest. We'll have plenty of work once the storm subsides." Quantum groaned as he got up and trotted over to the entrance. "Sweetie Belle, help me set up some safety spells."

"Right!"

Gallus watched in silence as the pair of unicorns performed their magic, then rested his head on his claws and sighed as he relaxed. Might as well get some sleep while he could.

"This is really not good," Sweetie said, staring outside through the translucent spell that blocked the entrance from random roaming creatures—such as Manticores or the occasional cockatrice would be—and the harsh elements, like the dust storm from the previous night. Behind them, Gallus shifted and snored softly.

The storm had died out a little earlier; the last vestiges of dust settling down with a pit-patter that sounded almost like rain, and a long hush had followed, drawing both unicorns to look outside.

And now she and Quantum sat, staring at the night sky above. It was, all in all, a beautiful breath-taking scene.

"By Celestia's mercy!" Quantum whispered, "Is that another planet?"

A large, red orb with a brown-blue ring around it rose in the distance, huge and way too close for comfort. Above them, not one, but two moons traced the sky, and whatever stars and constellations were visible, bore no resemblance to the sky of Equestria.

"That's not only another planet, doc," Sweetie whispered in awe. "We're standing in another world."

"I-how?" Quantum asked, shaking his head slowly. "How is this even possible? As efficient as my design was; as powerful as the mana batteries were, or even the added blast of energy from that unicorn that attacked us, there's no way we should have left Equestria."

The elder unicorn started pacing. "There's no way we could have been sent that distance… all thaumic laws refute at least one law of physics, but there are some universal truths behind everything. The amount of power needed to catapult us this far cannot be produced by a hundred, or even a thousand unicorns, all synchronized, using the exact same spell and magical output. Not even with mana batteries."

"In other words, we're lucky to be alive," Sweetie said, then grinned, "I can't wait to tell Apple Bloom and Scootaloo!"

Quantum stopped, ears flat, but nodded. "Sweetie Belle, I don't know if I can take us back… not without understanding how we got here."

Sweetie bit her lip, thinking back on the many times the Crusaders had been trapped in what appeared to be impossible odds of getting out. "We'll need to rest. Tomorrow will be a long day, and we don't know if the storms will come back. The weather here is wild. We can ask Gallus to go up and see if he can see any weather patterns." She glanced at Quantum with a shaky smile.

"I-yes," he nodded, "w-we should probably rest."

The pair made their way further into the cavern, and it was soon after Quantum had dismissed the light spell that another set of soft snores joined Gallus'.

After tossing and turning, unable to sleep, Sweetie finally gave in and reached out. Her gem-finding spell stretched out into the night. "Are you there?"

There was no response, not that she expected something different, given her target's earlier comments about a mission of some importance, but she still continued, finding some solace in talking to somecreature, even if they never answered.

"I'm scared," she admitted to her unseen listener, head lowering down to rest on her hooves, "I've gotten in trouble before, but I've never landed in another world. I know it's silly talking to you, and that you have things to do… it's just—it makes me feel a bit better to know that somecreature out there in this strange world at least doesn't wish us harm."

Sweetie yawned, her eyes blinking owlishly at the dark room. "I know you probably can't hear me, but I wish I had at least learned your name. Good night."

She finished her spell and closed her eyes, feeling herself fade into dreams, although she thought she heard a word, just as she fell asleep completely.

Zeratul.

The light of the morning suns broke through the haze of the forcefield they had erected, slowly waking the trio up. It was hard to figure out if the suns were actually red or if it was just the atmosphere, which according to Quantum, could affect how they viewed the celestial bodies.

"You're telling me that we're in another world."

Gallus' voice was a study in calm. Either that or he was too freaked out to really react.

Quantum nodded solemnly. "As of now, we have no idea how we made it here, other than sheer luck, that is. I discussed this briefly with Sweetie Belle, but there wasn't enough collective power in there to send us here. I have theorized all morning and came to the uncomfortable conclusion that there was perhaps an additional level of action from the unicorn that attacked us."

He paced in front of the two. "Initially, I had thought his attack as something as simple as an attempt to destroy the console with a destructive spell of known parameters. Say for example, Fireworks' Final Flash, or something along those lines. Destructive enough to cause damage—for sure—but requiring little preparation from the caster.

"Then I thought the possible force-feeding of the batteries with an intentionally miscast teleportation spell! But that wouldn't make sense, because--as you know--the thaumic input of additional energy into a transdimensional spell that already has a foci established, more so through the use of a complex, stable, matrix disconnected from the original caster would simply burn out the matrix and dissipate, or, if the matrix is powerful enough as surely my Quantum Sphere is, it would simply store the additional energy or, worst case scenario, burn upon arrival."

"Yeah," Gallus said, rolling his eyes. "We all know that wouldn't happen."

"Indeed!" Quantum said energetically, turning to face the wall and drawing complex diagrams while Gallus and Sweetie shared baffled, confused smiles.

After a moment of peering at it, Sweetie's eyes widened in recognition, and Gallus shuffled closer. "So, uh, what's with the comic book?"

Sweetie giggled, making his feathers ruffle a little. "I don't understand all of it, but I've had Twilight try to explain teleportation to me enough times to recognize some of that. It's basically a very complicated way of drawing how we should have jumped, but didn't." She shook her head. "This is way to advanced for me, though. I have no idea what the rest really means…" she trailed off.

Sweetie leaned in a little peering at what Quantum was working on. "Now that I think about it, I'm sure I've seen something like that one over there when Twilight tried to explain to us Crusaders why we shouldn't use cursed books on the magical mirror she uses to travel to other dimensions."

"You mean the one he's just putting the last few pony skulls on?"

"That's the one. And the lecture was on top of having to clean up the library of tentacle remains by ourselves."

"Somehow, the fact that it seems so incredibly dangerous and you're still here is giving me a bit of comfort."

Sweetie smiled and nuzzled him on the cheek. "We'll be okay, Gallus."

"Yes, of course." Milliseconds after leaning in, Gallus had stepped back, putting a foreleg's distance between the two of them. "Let's not get too cheesy here, okay?"

"Aww, but you liked it!"

"Did not!"

"Anyway!" Quantum spoke up, drawing their attention as he stepped back from his illustrations. "As you can see here, the direct power influx from the explosion should have finalized at the control panel of the Quantum Sphere. Potentially with the intention of simply teleporting us into a rock or an active volcano, something that reflects poor understanding of matrices for a unicorn in a labcoat.

"Regardless, as the illustration here clearly proves—"

"Clearly," Gallus snorted, getting a giggle out of Sweetie.

Quantum kept walking down the long drawings with the patience of an experienced teacher, pointing with his hoof as he moved "—the force of the spell was intended to destroy only the console, and if I'm right, hide the fact that my device had been tampered with with a much more dangerous and volatile spell, which didn't eliminate us by uncoordinated timing between the reaction of the matrix interacting with an additional command just at the right time."

"So, blind luck," Gallus stated.

"Well, yes." Quantum gave him an unamused glance. "However we have discovered something important. It was through the implementation of a spell added to my matrix that this happened… which means, that the Quantum Sphere itself should have enough information for me to identify the spell, its purpose, and most importantly, given enough time, I should be able to pinpoint the thaumic timing of both spells interacting that caused this to happen."

He stopped, smirking at the diagrams, before turning to look at them over his shoulder. "As dangerous as this was, I can't help but feel exhilarated at the prospect of a whole new field of research… one that depends on less energy to achieve results like these."

"Right," Gallus said, narrowing his eyes. "So, some idiot tried to kill us and we discovered a new branch of science." He snorted and glanced at Quantum with an irritated grunt. "But, how about we first go figure out what happened and how to get back home, and then—when we're safe and sound in Equestria—you study this?"

Quantum smiled sheepishly. "Well, yes, of course," he said, earning another giggle from Sweetie. "Let it suffice that right now we have a course of action, and it should be undertaken as soon as possible."

"Well, lead the way." Gallus stepped to the side, motioning with his claw at the barren world outside.

Quantum's smile faded. "Right. Of course." He hesitated, then nodded to himself, turning to look at them. "Sweetie Belle, we should conserve as much magic as we can, in case your mysterious friend was right and this world is indeed dangerous."

"I don't think he had any reason to lie," Sweetie replied, stepping up next to him with Gallus at her side.

"Very well then." Quantum sighed. "Let's go, and keep your eyes open: we don't know what's out there, now that there's no storm to protect us."

End Chapter