• Published 9th Dec 2018
  • 419 Views, 16 Comments

New Neighton - FlyingSaucer



When the long dormant portal to a lost pony colony opens unexpectedly eighty-six years after vanishing without a trace, a small group of Lunar Guard is sent through on a mission to find answers.

  • ...
1
 16
 419

Chapter 7 - Alien Space Ghost

“’Shouldn’t have such a convenient name’, he says.”

Dawn Trotter grumbled to himself, his muzzle scrunched up in annoyance. The young Lunar Guard found himself perched atop the ruined tower that now served as their campsite. His form was concealed, mostly, in a low between mounds of rubble. Having removed his helmet, only his ears and eyes rose above the surrounding debris, affording him a good view of the tower’s immediate surroundings. He settled in for the dawn watch.

“Stupid sarge. Stupid planet. Stupid...fog?” Dawn stretched his neck upwards, craning it slowly around. In the time it had taken the stallion to get settled, the low, barely notable wisps of fog that had been present during the night had greatly thickened, and were now forming the beginnings of a blanket, surrounding the garrison tower. Steering his eyes to his rear, he could see its source; thick rolls hung over the river that divided the town center, and were slowly advancing from it. The fog, it seemed, would come with the sun.

“Stupid rivers, too,” said Dawn. “Like it wasn’t spooky enough here already.”

He plopped his head down on the debris piled directly in front of him. Dawn was more than willing to sacrifice a bit of stealth for comfort, even if the stones didn’t make a particularly good pillow. He got comfortable, and watched the fog roll in.

An hour passed. Maybe two. Dawn wasn’t quite sure. Time got a little muddy when he was bored. And tired. His ear twitched. The wind was slacking even further now, nearly dead. Only the highest part of the trees caught any breeze, and the rustling noises that had accompanied it their entire trip so far had mostly faded away. It was the quietest it had been since the group had arrived on the planet.

Dawn’s ear twitched again. His eyes narrowed. He glanced to his side, swiveling the ear. Every so often, Dawn would hear something. Or he wouldn’t. He wasn’t quite sure. The relative silence seemed to magnify every movement he made, every shift of his barding against the stone, every breath he took. He thought he heard the buzz of a fly, but didn’t see one. He hadn’t seen any bugs.

He wiggled himself a bit, listening to the sounds he made. Nothing seemed to buzz. Suspiciously, he eyed the tops of the surrounding treeline, seeing if it may be one last trick of the wind. The trees seemed innocent, but one never knew.

I swear, if I am the first pony to get stung by a giant alien bee I am going to friggin pissed. They’re probably poison, and…

Dawn’s thoughts came to a crashing halt.

Something moved down below, barely visible in the fog. A tall, pale shape advanced silently in the mists, moving slowly along the treeline.

Dawn’s eyes went wide, his ears pinned back, and he dropped low. He peeked cautiously over the stones surrounding him. The buzz forgotten, his quickening heartbeat was now the only sound he could hear.

He watched the thing advance. The nearer it drew, the more of it Dawn could make out. It was a tall thing, and narrow, maybe twice the height of a pony, or more. It had to be light gray, or white, or some combination of the two colors, judging by how well it blended in with the surrounding fog. Most disturbing however, was the way that it seemed to sway or billow about the edges as it moved.

Then, it clicked.

“G..gh...gh..ghost..” Dawn stammered, sliding backwards in panic, his pupils had shrunk to nigh invisible slits. Fumbling for his helmet, he barely managed to to get it back on amidst the terror. Falling to his belly, he low-crawled back to the hole leading to the tower interior, and to his sleeping comrades.

Dawn poured down through the hole in the ceiling like slime, fluttering to the ground in the middle of the circle of sleeping bat ponies. Still dragging his belly, he slid over to the sleeping form of Watchful Eye.

“Sarge!” hissed Dawn, prodding him in the foreleg, “sarge wake up!”

“Hnnh?” mumbled Watchful Eye, blinking slowly awake, “what is it Dawn?”

“Sarge...” whispered Dawn, turning his head as if to see if he had been followed. Turning back to face the rousing sergeant, his helmet slipped forward, nearly obscuring his eyes.

“Outside! There’s...there’s a!..”

The sergeant turned his head to dawn, cocking an eyebrow, “a...what?”

“AN ALIEN SPACE GHOST!” blurted Dawn, in the loudest whisper he could muster. He pushed his helmet back into place.

Watch stared at Dawn Trotter a moment, started to say something, then abruptly stopped. He looked at Dawn with a curious expression, then nodded.

“Wake the others, quietly,” said Watchful Eye, “I’ll get the captain.”

Dawn nodded back, then, still slinking along on his belly, began to move from pony to pony, waking them as quietly as he could.

“Psst, Star,” he said, prodding the snoozing stallion in the muzzle. Star’s eyes shot open, and before he had a chance to speak, found Dawn Trotter’s hoof in his mouth.

“Shhh.”

Star Duster’s face contorted in confusion, but he nodded back.

Dawn continued around the circle.

“Huh? What is it?” whispered Winter Sky, somewhere behind him. Dawn’s ear swiveled to the sound.

“I’m not sure, sir,” came the hushed voice of Watchful Eye, “Dawn saw something outside, something that spooked him pretty bad. I think we should check it out,”

Having successfully alerted the rest of the squad without any shouts or screaming, Dawn turned towards Watch and the captain.

“What is it, private?” asked Winter Sky, creeping close to the anxious bat pony, Watchful Eye in tow.

“There’s a ghost down there sir,” said Dawn, as quietly as he could manage while still being clearly heard, “moving around in the trees. An alien space ghost!”

“Alien...space...ghost?” repeated Winter Sky, his unsure eyes locked on Dawn’s. He glanced to his side, to Watchful Eye, who motioned towards something with his head. It only took Dawn a second to realize it was the hole that had served as their window earlier.

“Show me,” said Winter, “and stay low.”

Dawn crept up to the opening, staying below the jagged ‘lip’, and motioned for Winter Sky to look out.

The captain nodded, and approached the opening in the same fashion, Watchful Eye right behind. The two raised their heads just enough to get a view below.

“Where?”

“Down there” said Dawn, “near where we were shooting earlier!”

“Near the statue?” asked the captain.

Dawn Trotter nodded.

Winter Sky squinted, searching for their star thrower target from hours before.

“This fog seems...excessive.”

“You were probably dreaming,” yawned Sable Shield, from somewhere behind. The clip clop of hooves announced the others were joining her.

“I had watch,” hissed Dawn, “I wasn’t asleep!”

“Uh huh.”

Dawn couldn’t see her, but could practically feel her rolling her eyes. He was beginning to feel very reasonably angry.

“Shh,” snapped Winter Sky, “I see something.”

“What is it?” asked Watchful Eye, squeezing in close to the captain.

“I’m… not entirely sure.”

Dawn cowered below the edge of the opening, his eyes peeking over just enough to allow him to see what the captain was looking at.

The ghost was still there, and still shrouded by fog. It seemed to have shrunk since Dawn had last looked, and now stood directly before the broken alien statue-thing.

“Oh, I see it! What's it doing?” Whispered Watchful Eye.

Before either pony could answer, the specter began to rise. Slowly it assumed the height Dawn remembered from his first encounter. He realized the thing hadn’t shrunk, but had been sitting, or at least bending towards the ground in some fashion, right at the base of the statue.

“Whoa,” said Watch.

“It’s tall,” said Winter Sky.

Dawn Trotter watched as the mysterious spirit began to move again, continuing down the treeline, moving closer to their position in the ruins. It seemed to almost glide towards them, its strange, ghostly form trailing it slightly at the edges.

“That’s no ghost.” said Watchful Eye.

Dawn’s Eyes darted to the sergeant, half angry, half confused.

“It's fabric of some type,” continued Watch, “it's wearing..something, Dawn.”

“Watch is right,” added Winter Sky, still squinting harshly at the mysterious visitor. “it’s wearing a dress or something. Whatever it is. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Private Dawn Trotter turned his worried eyes back to the visitor. It had drawn yet closer, and its form was now more easily discerned through the fog. What he saw only disturbed him more. What Dawn had first assumed to be wispy bits of spirit trailing the thing were in fact part of some kind of elaborate garment, swaying gently as it walked. As he watched it move slowly forward, a chill ran down his spine, from his mane to his tail, and right back up again to the tips of his wings. Nothing about the way the thing moved seemed natural. Graceful, but unnatural. Such a tall, narrow thing should topple over, moving about like that on what could only be two legs. Worst of all, however, was what had to be the things face, if any pony could call such a thing that. It was featureless, other than being silver. The bright, reflective silver of an expertly polished mirror. The surroundings reflected in what part of it was visible as it moved, and if there was one thing to be thankful about, it was that the thing didn’t seem interested in looking up.

“What was it doing by the statue thing?” asked Dawn Trotter.

“I’m wondering the same myself,” said Winter Sky.

“Was it looking for something?” asked Watchful Eye, sounding very unsure himself.

The creature shifted, revealing an as yet unseen upper appendage, and lowered its head slightly. It clutched something in whatever claw-thing it had, holding it before it’s face.

Dawn cocked an ear, trying to make out just what the ghost monster had. Something thin and fairly long. His eyes went wide.

A Star Thrower bolt.

“Oh horse apples,” hissed Winter Sky, recognizing the fact at the same moment.

“Down!”

The three ponies dropped below the line of their makeshift window, no longer visible to the creature. Dawn glanced back to the rest of the squad, all of which were giving them concerned stares.

“It knows we smashed its pillar thing,” said Watchful Eye.

“It knows something did at least,” added Winter Sky.

“You mean it,” said Rapid Advance, “whatever it is, knows something smashed its statue thing. With the artillery piece that is still sitting at the entrance to the tower we happen to be occupying at the moment.”

“Ah crud,” said Distant Voice.

“Wait,” said Far Out, “the ghost knows we’re here?” She dropped low, covering her muzzle with her hooves. Her eyes darted side to side.

“No, err, maybe not,” said Winter Sky, turning to the mare, but glancing between the others as well, “it knows something probably broke its pillar-statue.”

“..and that something probably used the star thrower right below us.” said Watchful Eye.

“Yes, we need to move,” said Winter Sky.

The captain rose slowly back to their makeshift window, peering cautiously. He immediately dropped back down.

“Luna’s teats there are more of them!” he hissed.

“Language!” said Far Out, still covering her face with her hooves.

“Whoa,” blurted Sable Shield, who seemed more surprised by the captain’s sudden vulgarity than by the possible horde of alien ghost monsters descending on them.

Dawn did not like the sound of any of this, not one bit. He had to see for himself though. Watchful Eye seemed to have the same idea, and both ponies cautiously rose.

The ghost, or whatever it was, was still there, holding the Star Thrower bolt. He could no longer see it’s face, if that creepy shiny thing could really be described as such, as it had turned from him, now looking in the direction from which it had come. That’s when he noticed the movement. Two more forms, barely visible, were making their way forward along the same treeline the ghost had followed. They were the same gray and white coloring as the ghost, or least looked to be from this distance, but lacked the strange dress-like covering it wore. They were also much bulkier. Their faces were also different. If they had the same strange mirror-face going on, it wasn’t as obvious as with the ghost. Both were carrying some sort of object in their limbs, much larger than the Star Thrower bolt and seemingly identical between the two of them. Dawn didn’t like the look of them one bit.

“You two, get down!” said Winter Sky.

Dawn found himself suddenly seized from behind, and forced to the floor.

“Don’t let those things see you!”

“Do you guys uh, feel that?” asked Star Duster.

All three stallions turned to face him.

“Feel wha- oh.” said Watchful Eye.

Star Duster extended a wing part way, flapping it for effect.

“A little like earlier, before we killed the statue, but not nearly as bad. The anti-magic creepy stuff.”

“It’s getting colder too,” said Distant Voice, “don’t you guys feel it?”

“I do,” said Star Duster, “but I thought I was going crazy!”

The two stallions shared a worried look.

“We should get out of here before we can’t use our wings to do so,” said Rapid Advance.

Dawn looked to Winter Sky, who nodded to Rapid.

“Was thinking the same thing, but we can’t go the way we came in without walking right out into them. We can’t hop out the window for the same reason. If we go out the other side they’ll see us crossing the open area.”

“Wait till they get to the base base of the tower,” said Watchful Eye, “they will need to go through the door to get up here after all. Once they do we glide out the opposite direction, keep the tower between us and them and make for the other treeline, towards the river, as fast as our wings will take us.”

Winter Sky looked to Watch, thought just a moment, then nodded again.

“That’s really our only option. Everypony, make sure you have everything you need, and be ready to take wing. This fog should help us a bit. You lead us out Watch, when I give the order.”

Watchful Eye saluted, drew back, and staying low, made for the opposite side of the room.

“Everypony on me, stay low, and keep quiet.”

Dawn Trotter moved away from the window with the others, staying as low as he could. He held position behind Watchful Eye, who had placed himself beneath one of the large holes in the remaining ceiling structure.

“When Captain Winter gives the order, I am going up and out. Everypony stay on my tail until I stop moving”

Dawn Trotter stretched his wings, nodding along with the others.

Winter Sky was still at the window across the room, trying his best to stealthily observe the approaching creatures. After a few minutes of awkward, unbearably tense silence, he dropped to the floor once more, and crawled swiftly across the room to the assembled Cookie Squad.


“Watch, go.” said Winter Sky.

Watchful Eye nodded, spread his wings, and with several labored wing beats, was up and out. The others swiftly began to follow. Dawn Trotter spread his own wings and prepared himself, he would be right behind Distant Voice, with Winter Sky behind him as the last pony out.

Getting airborne was difficult and gliding any distance was not going to be possible. Dawn and the others found themselves beating their wings as hard as they could just to stay aloft with any sort of speed, though it was getting easier the farther they got from their campsite. No heed was given to maintaining any kind of formation, just staying on Watch’s tail was proving difficult enough. Dawn pulled up alongside Distant Voice, who per usual, was laboring the hardest to keep up.

“Hey, it feels like it’s getting easier at least,” said Dawn.

“Yeah,” huffed Distant Voice, “as long as we don’t fly into another one of those statue things!”

“I don’t get why it got hard in the first place,” said Star Duster, falling back to place himself beside Distant Voice opposite of Dawn Trotter, “I mean we broke the dumb alien face statue.”

“Maybe,” wheezed Distant Voice, “they fixed it?”

“That fast?” asked Star Duster.

“Some kind of evil space alien sculptors back for revenge?”

“Treeline ahead,” said Watchful Eye, who quickly dropped to just above ground level. His tucked forehooves swept across the tops of the tall grass as he moved in towards his chosen landing point.

A moment later and the sergeant was down, trotting to a stop beneath a large pair of trees. One by one the other members of the squad alighted around him, with Dawn and Distant Voice coming in to his left. Voice stumbled a bit as he trotted to a stop, breathing as if he had just finished first in the local Running of the Leaves.

Watchful Eye turned to Distant Voice, raising an eyebrow.

“Not going to die on me, are you Voice?”

“Can I?”

“Nope.”

“Not even a little?”

“’fraid not,”grinned Watchful Eye.

Suddenly, the armored form of the captain dropped into their midst, turning immediately to Watchful Eye.

“I don’t think anything saw us leave.”

“And I didn’t see anything out ahead of us on the way here,” said Watchful Eye. “It looks like it's just the three of those things. So far, anyway.”

“Oh well goody,” said Far Out, pushing her way into the group of speaking ponies. She bore a nervous grin, and turned her hopeful eyes to Winter Sky.

“So like, that means we are going to leave now, right?”

“Yeah,” added Sable Shield, “you know for once I think she’s right. Those things sound super creepy, leaving before they can try to...” she dropped to her haunches, raising her hooves in an air quoting gesture, “’make friends’ with us sounds like a good idea to me.”

Watchful Eye glanced at the captain. Dawn knew he was waiting for an order.

“No need to convince me,” nodded Winter Sky, “whatever those things are, it's a near certainty they are connected to the destruction of this place, and the loss of its garrison with all hooves. I have no plan to join them.”

“Back to the portal?” asked Watchful Eye.

“Back to the portal,” said Winter Sky.

“Now wait a moment,” said Rapid Advance. The large bat stallion stepped forward, drawing the attention of the rest.

“From what you were saying up there, these things were investigating that statue of theirs we shot up with the Star Thrower?”

“Yes,” said Winter Sky, “the one was even carrying around one of the Star Thrower bolts we fired.”

“So,” continued Rapid, “if these things were somehow able to tell we broke one of their little decorations, and exactly where it was, well...”

“Oh no,” said Far Out.

“Ah.” added Winter Sky.

“Horse apples,” said Watch.

“Yes, you see the problem. If we backtrack towards the portal, we also backtrack towards the other smashed pillar. If those things move to have a look at that one as well, we could run right into one another. Orr worse, more of those things that might already be there.”

“AHH!” yelled Far Out, causing the rest of the assembled bat ponies to jump. She was quickly silenced with a hoof in the mouth, courtesy of Sable Shield.

“SHHH,” hissed the angry gray mare, scowling.

“MMBBLLLGNNG!”

“What?” asked Sable, through half lidded eyes.

Far Out scowled in return. She then grabbed Sable Shield’s offending foreleg between her own hooves, and yanked it out of her mouth.

“I meant!..What about the other smashed one? The one the tree fell on! It’s right near the portal thing!”

Sable’s eyes went wide.

“Oh yeah!” She turned towards the captain.

Dawn watched the exchange with confusion, then concern. He had forgotten about the ruined alien statue thing in the trees by the portal. Would they be blamed for that one too?

“Yes, that’s what I was getting at,” said Rapid, regaining everypony’s attention.

“What do you suggest?” asked Watchful Eye

“I...don’t really know,” said Rapid. “We could lay low, try to wait them out. Then make back for the portal once it's clear they have gone.”

“But what if they don’t go?” asked Star Duster. The concern in his voice was well disguised, but Dawn could recognize it. Then it hit him.

“Oh no!” said Dawn Trotter, grabbing the sides of his helmet. He had the others’ attention.

“What if they just keep coming? More and more of them? What if those three are just the vanguard of an insidious alien invasion!”

“Re-invasion”, said Distant Voice, giving Dawn an incredulous look, “they already invaded Dawn, and ruined everything. Like, big time.”

“That’s even worse Voice!” continued dawn, who began to wave his hooves emphatically.

“Don’t you get what this means?”

Distant Voice blinked in confusion, and Star Duster appeared beside him.

“What’s it mean?” asked Star.

“A DOUBLE ALIEN INVASION!” blurted Dawn Trotter, “We’re DOOMED!”

“Aliens can’t invade twice!” said Sable Shield.

“Oh yeah, then how do you explain those three things over there!” Dawn waved a hoof in the general direction of their campsite.

Star Duster and Distant Voice blinked in unison, looked at one another, and screamed. With the quick addition of Dawn, all three embraced in a traditional Equestrian panic hug.

Winter Sky blinked at the spectacle, before raising his hoof to his face. Not even Far Out flinging herself into the pile of panicking guard ponies managed to draw a response.

“I don’t have enough hooves for this manure,” said Sable Shield.

“Watch, help.” said Winter Sky, the hoof never leaving his face.

“Okay okay, panic time is over”, said Watchful Eye, moving in and rapping each of the ponies on the helmet with his hooves.

“Back on your hooves you nut jobs,” he said, seeming to enjoy the exercise far too much for Dawn’s liking. The sergeant quickly had everypony back up, and began herding them away from the captain.

Dawn Trotter began fixing his crooked helmet. He took a deep breath and looked to Winter Sky, who was now speaking with Rapid Advance. He waved Watchful Eye over as well, and digging out his map once again, the three of them began to discuss something.


“You think so?” Rapid Advance.

Dawn didn’t catch the first part of what was said, but began to tune in to catch the rest.

“Yes, I do,” said Winter Sky.

“You are right about backtracking Rapid. The chance of running into those things is just too high if they are drawn to the damaged statues. So we can’t backtrack. We also can’t stay here.”

“Why’s that?” asked Watchful Eye.

“Because, there may have been some small kernel of truth in that ridiculous display a moment ago. If there are more of them, and they begin to actively search for us, it will probably be in the areas around any of the damaged statues, then fanning out from there. They’d find us fairly easily here.”

“So,” said Watchful Eye, “We can’t just go back the way we came, and we can’t stay here.”

Watch narrowed his eyes slightly, cocking his head.

“So where are we going?”

Winter Sky tapped his map.

“That vineyard, as originally planned. It’s way off the path we took, in the complete wrong direction for anyone heading back to the portal, by a fair distance. I say we spend some time checking it out as we intended to anyway, and then we make back for the portal from there. It’s a completely new path, so if those things are really hovering around the statues we damaged, we should be able to avoid them entirely. At least until we get near the gateway itself.”

Watchful Eye and Rapid Advance both nodded as one.

Dawn Watched as Watch then broke from the little group, and approached the rest of the squad.

“I’m sure most of you heard that,” said Watch.

“We are going on a little hike. A horrible, awful, sun-infested daytime hike through fog and trees probably teaming with alien monsters. Sounds fun right?”

Dawn just stared. It hadn’t even hit him that the sun was up. It sure went a ways towards explaining why everything felt so completely awful. Well, aside from the alien space ghost monsters of course. He glanced up, finding the looming form of that fiery curse-ball in the sky, and scowled at it as hard as he could. This was going to be a bad day.

******

They’d been walking for what seemed like hours. Or maybe it was hours. Dawn wasn’t about to look up and see where exactly in the sky the sun was. He wasn’t about to give it the attention. That thing hated him, and he hated it. At least there was just one.

Progress was painfully slow thanks to the “no flying” order put in place by the captain, and the lack of anything resembling an intact road heading towards their destination. Not flying was probably a good idea though, as above the fog and obnoxiously thick trees, a squad of miserable bat ponies was probably a pretty easy thing to spot against a nearly cloudless daytime sky. At least they were nearly out of the fog.

What was even up with that fog? Dawn thought.

It seemed to have risen up around the camp in just a few minutes, and blanketed the whole area. Dawn knew that rivers could make fog, or attract it or whatever, but he didn’t think they could spew fog.

“Yeah, that fog was pretty spooky.”

Dawn blinked, his ears pinned back. He glanced towards the voice on his right.

Far Out walked beside him, nodding to herself.

“Uhh, I am pretty sure I just thought that,” said Dawn.

“Yeah,” said Far Out.

“I hate the sun too!”

Dawn Trotter drew his head back, as far as he could get it away from the mare, eyeing her up and down in concern.

“Far, what the hay! I don’t know how you do that but it’s weird! Can you read minds or something?”

Far Out grinned to herself. The mare was clearly trying to stifle a laugh.

“Nah. Not minds. Just some ponies. Faces can say way more than words sometimes. Or lots of times, depending on the pony.”

Dawn Trotter continued to eye her suspiciously.

“Faces?”

“Well,” said Far Out, “maybe not just faces. Wings and ears too a lot of the time. Tail as well. Take them all together and a pony can be talking and not even realize they are.”

So..what you really mean is that you spend a lot of time staring at all of us. Intently.”

Far Out blinked.

“Uhh, maybe.”

“Why, does that turn you on?”

Dawn Trotter snorted, and stumbled, nearly falling flat on his face.

Far Out giggled.

“Ha, Gotcha!”

“That’s not fair! I was setting you up, you can’t just spin it around like that!” said Dawn Trotter.

“I can, and I did!” snickered Far Out, “faces can say more than words, remember!”

Dawn Trotter snorted again, in the most exasperated way he could manage.

“I’d do this totally great mane-toss of a victory pose but you know, helmet.”

Dawn Trotter shook his head. He was too tired to compete at Far Out’s level right now. She may seem immune to the effects of sleep deprivation, but he certainly wasn’t.

The subject had to be changed, his honor depended on it, and he knew just the thing. The one subject this particular mauve menace could never resist talking about.

Things she stole looted found.

“So, Far” said Dawn Trotter, “How many of those little alien boxes did you make off with
anyway?”

“Huh? Oh! Six I think, I didn’t keep the broken one.”

Dawn was somewhat shocked by the fact the answer was not all of them.

“They are so cool! The hinges and the crazy little latchy bits are amazing! I wonder what was in them?”

“Hard to say. Shame we can’t speak alien ghost monster, that symbol on them would probably tell us.”

“OH! Yeah, the symbol!”

Far Out looked straight at Dawn, and her expression puzzled him.

“Far?”

“I didn’t want to say anything last night.” said Far Out “cause everypony would just like, say I am being weird and all that other stuff they usually say.”

“Say what?”

Far Out glanced around suspiciously.

“I am pretty sure I have seen the symbol on those little boxes before Dawn. Somewhere back home.”

“How?’ said Dawn Trotter, “That’s a space alien symbol Far Out, why would there be space alien symbols in Equestria?”

“I don’t completely remember! I know I’ve seen it before though! Plus, Dawn, it’s got a cute little snake on it! One that looks just like any regular snake back home. Do aliens even have normal, non-spurmapillar snakes?”

She had a point there.

“You can’t remember where you saw it at all? Not even a little bit?” said Dawn.

“If I could I wouldn’t be so frustrated!” now it was Far Outs turn to snort.

“Maybe somewhere in training? A book or something.”

“Well,” said Dawn, “I don’t remember ever seeing it. And I am pretty sure any of the others would have said something if they recognized it, and they all went through the same training.”

Far Out’s eyes went wide. “That’s it!”

Dawn cocked an eyebrow. “What’s it?”

“You said everypony went through the same training and didn’t see it!”

“Yeah”

“Except that’s not like, 100% true! Some of us got some special stuff. Like, Watch has the NCO stuff, the captain the fancy officer stuff, and me.”

“Oh yeah! Said Dawn, “you did the medical course!”

Far Out nodded enthusiastically.

“That’s where I saw it! It was in a book! It's some kind of super old healing symbol or something!”

“Sooo” said Dawn, “evil space aliens with silver space boxes with ancient Equestrian healing symbols on them. Far that makes like, negative sense!”

“I know!” nodded Far Out, It’s great!”

******

After an entirely-too-long and laborious trek through an entirely-too-plant-infested forest, Cookie Squad had finally arrived at their destination. They stood together, gathered around Captain Winter Sky, who was consulting his map. Above them, the thick canopy of trees surrounding the large, steep hill which was host to Pink Sun vineyards. The trees grew nearly up to the very base of the hill itself, leaving a small ring of grass surrounding it in an otherwise ocean of overgrown trees. The bat ponies had seen no sign that they had been followed or even seen fleeing their campsite, and the group, aside from the incessant yawning of ponies deprived of sleep, had nearly returned to normalcy. Nearly.

Dawn had encouraged Far Out to bring her memory of the symbol on the strange silver boxes to the rest of the group. After a rather colorful debate on the subject, Winter Sky decided to move on and withdrew his map, declaring that the group would be on the lookout for any more familiar symbols, but that Far Out was probably mistaking it for some similar obscure symbol. Dawn didn’t buy it, and from the look of things, neither did Voice or Watchful Eye, but he understood the captain needing to move on to things that could actually be dealt with. Like escaping from alien space ghosts.

“So then,” said Winter Sky, who rested on his haunches with his nose in his map,” from what I gather looking at this map, somewhere around here, built into the base of this hill, is a door leading into the lower levels of the storage cellars for the vineyard. Probably a good place to start, and get away from the prying eyes of whatever those things were.”

“If they even have eyes,” said Star Duster.

“Not to mention, the structures on top of the hill looked completely destroyed,” said Watchful Eye.

“Yes, that too.” said Winter Sky.

“So, we are looking for a door,” said Rapid Advance, moving out into the grassy area between the trees and the base of the hill.

The others followed. Rapid Advance was an expert on destruction, so if anypony was going to find something that needed broken into, it was him.

Sadly for Rapid, his services would not be needed.

“Whoa,” said Watchful Eye.

The sergeant moved out ahead of the others, approaching a large, rectangular hole in in the hillside. A hole it was, as the door was no longer present, lying twisted and half covered with dirt directly before it.

“That’s kind of big for a door,” said Distant Voice.

The little pony moved past Watchful Eye, and up to the remains of the half buried door. He gave it a few curious taps with a steel shod hoof, the muffled clang of metal on metal drawing the attention of his comrades’ swiveling ears.

“This is a pretty freakin’ hefty door.”

“Not hefty enough,” said Rapid Advance.

“I’ll say,” said Watchful Eye, stepping past the door and moving closer to the opening itself, “and what the hay is this?”

Watch looked back to the rest of the group, motioning for them to look where his hoof was pointing.

“The hinges, they look melted or something.”

Winter Sky moved close, squinting at the hinges in question.

“They do indeed. Strange.”

“That doesn’t bode well for anypony that tried to seek shelter here,” said Rapid Advance.

Dawn glanced from the edge of the opening that the sergeant was pointing at, then back to the door that Voice was still half standing on.

“Why the heck did they need such a big door, anyway?” he asked.

“So large carts can fit through I am guessing,” said Winter Sky, turning to face the private.

“Seems about the right size for a wagon stable door. Judging by the map, some kind of road or trail led up here once.”

“Makes sense,” said Rapid Advance, “easier than trying to pull a wagon up this hillside, road or not.”

“So, do we reaaaally have to go in here?,” said Watch. He stepped up to the threshold, sticking his head inside. He pulled it out just as quickly.

Dawn paused, recalling the difficulty the sergeant faced with their crawl in the town hall ruins. He was pretty sure Watch was claustrophobic after that, and judging by the glance he had just gotten from Star Duster, he wasn’t the only one. Hopefully things wouldn’t get too tight in there, for their poor sergeant’s sake.

“Well, at least those things won’t be able to see us in there,” said Star, “hopefully.”

“Sunstones,” said Winter Sky.

“Whaa?” said Distant Voice, “I thought we were going to get away from all this awful light.”

“This may be our last chance to find something, Voice, “said Winter Sky, “I don’t want to risk missing anything.”

Dawn was in agreement with Distant Voice on this one, but orders were orders. Like the others, he removed the offending little gem from his bag, sliding it into its position on the front of his helmet, just below the plume.

“These things always reminded me of those silly helmet lamps miners wear,” said Star Duster.

“I didn’t sign up to be a miner,” said Sable Shield.

“Well you didn’t sign up to be a huge pain in the rump either, but here you are.”

“You’re lucky I am too tired to bother going over there, Star.”

“Hey,” said Far Out.

“Nope,” said Watchful Eye, “we gotta turn these things back in.”

“Aww.”

Winter Sky cocked an eyebrow.

Dawn Trotter shook his head, trying not to giggle.

“Everypony ready?” asked Winter Sky.

Most of the group nodded.

“Very well. Watch, lead on.”

Watchful Eye hesitated a moment. His ears pinned back.

“Okay.”

The sergeant moved through the opening.

The others followed, with Winter Sky pausing and turning to Distant Voice.

“I need some pony to stay out here and keep a watch for those things, and you are it Private. I don’t want to be surprised coming out of here. Try to stay out of sight.”

Voice sighed, then saluted. “Yes sir.”

Rapid Advance, paused, just before entering, turning to Voice as well.

“You heard the captain, Voice. Stay small.” he grinned.

Voice’s eye twitched, but he said nothing. Rapid Advanced disappeared into the opening.

“We’ll try not to be too long.” said Winter Sky, who behind Dawn, was the last one to enter.

Passing through the ruined doorway, Dawn could quickly see that Winter Sky had been right with his guess. On the other side of the short entrance way it opened up into a large room. To one side was a cart, still half loaded with boxes, the Pink Sun name clearly visible on them. Some random items were scattered about the room. Dawn recognized what was left of harnessing tack, most likely from the wagon. Towards the other side of the room, a heap on the floor that looked suspiciously like a set of old saddlebags drew his attention. On the far end, exactly opposite the entrance, another open doorway lead deeper into the complex. The multiple sunstones cast too much light for Dawn’s liking, but on the literal bright side, it would be pretty hard to miss something now.

“We must be a fair distance from any of those statues, judging by how well these are working,” said Winter Sky.

“I was thinking the same thing,” said Rapid Advance. “Quite the difference from the garrison.”

Sable Shield, having moved almost immediately to the old cart, was in the process of trying to pry open one of the boxes.

“Give me a hoof, Star.”

“On it,” said Star Duster, moving to assist.

“I doubt you’ll find anything interesting in those boxes, private,” said Winter Sky.

Sable grinned. “I respectfully disagree, sir.”

Dawn Trotter walked slowly across the room, nudging the pile of suspected saddlebag with a hoof. Turning part of it over, he could see a clasp and flap, along with the large fastener for the bag’s cinch strap. Definitely saddlebags. He lowered his face to the clasp to get a better look at it, and taking a deep breath, blew. A cloud of dust erupted around him.

One coughing fit later, Dawn was able to see the clasp a bit better. Some kind of fruit it looked like, probably a pear. The clasp was unfastened, and gently, Dawn opened it, and looked inside. Nothing. After a few good shakes, he knew both bags were empty.

“What are you doing, Dawn?” asked Watchful Eye, coming up behind him.

“These were saddlebags, but they’re empty,” said Dawn, “belonged to somepony with a pear cutie mark, or something that looked like a pear, anyway.”

“Huh, interesting. We haven’t really found much in the way of personal belongings.”

“Hey, look at this!” came the voice of Far Out, on the other side of the room.

Dawn turned away from the saddlebags. The mare was standing at the wall, near the old cart and a bit behind it. She had opened some kind of door in the wall, and was motioning to it. He moved over to get a better look at what she had.

It resembled a cabinet of some sort, perfectly square and set above the ground about withers height. Something resembling a shelf looked to be wedged inside, near the top. The lower half of the interior seemed to be unfinished stone. It took Dawn a moment to figure out what he was looking at.

“It's a tiny little elevator thing!” said Far Out, just as he had managed to work out what he was seeing.

Sure enough, it was a small elevator, rope and pulley powered, similar to those you would see in the wealthiest unicorn estates in Canterlot, but about twice as large. Glancing around the room again, it was clear it was not the only one present.

“That must bring down product from the upper levels, to be loaded on the cart,” mused Rapid Advance, joining the others at the elevator.

“Ahh, so this is some sort of loading dock,” said Winter Sky, “clever ponies.”

“Wait,” said Sable shield, who was observing from on top of her cart, “loading dock, upper levels? How big is this place?”

“Supposedly, this entire hill has been hollowed out into one big wine cellar and grain store. So big.” said the captain.

“Earth ponies,” chuckled Star Duster.

“It does sound like the perfect place to fall back to,” said Rapid.

“Or the perfect place to get trapped in,” added Sable.

“We’ll only check some of the largest places we can find on the lowest levels,” said Winter Sky, “places that could shelter a fair number of ponies. Considering the state of that door we passed through though, I think we’ll just find more of the same.”

******

Leaving the loading dock, things got tighter. Cookie made its way through rough-cut hallways with low ceilings, with the occasional rack of bottles, or storage cabinet, lining the walls. Occasionally a door would lead off from the low passageways, opening into much larger single rooms. Most of these so far encountered were filled with the decayed remnants of whatever agricultural product they had been storing. One had been empty, with nothing of interest inside. The bat ponies found themselves approaching the open door to another one of these large, yet unexplored, rooms.

“We’ll check a few more of these on this level, then head back out. Follow me,” said Winter Sky.

With the captain now at the front, Dawn and Watch now brought up the tail end. The sergeant’s ears had been pinned since they went underground, and the stallion had been uncharacteristically quiet. Dawn had seen Far Out try to approach him twice already, but she’d been unable to get him somewhere she could talk. Dawn seized the opportunity.

“You doing okay sarge?” whispered Dawn.

Watchful Eye said nothing for a moment, then sighed a little.

“Is it that obvious?”

“Ears.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I’ll be fine once we get out of this place. It gives me the creeps.”

“Hey, what are you guys whispering about?” said Sable Shield, in an obnoxiously loud voice.

“You,” said Dawn.

“Yeah I figured.”

“We’ll be out of here soon sarge,” Dawn continued in a whisper, “plus, this place is in pretty good shape, like, nothing is collapsing or fallen over or anything, so it should be a breeze.”

“I sure hope so,” said Watch, “...and you know, you’re right. This place IS undamaged. Even the bottles are intact.”

“Sir?” said Watchful Eye, in a loud voice.

“Yes, sergeant? Said Winter Sky.

“Dawn here just pointed something out to me. Have you noticed that nothing down here is really, you know, damaged, crushed or blown up?”

“I have,” said the captain, “glad I am not the only one. It seems that whatever happened outside, didn’t make it in here, despite the damage to the door.”

“That’s rather paradoxical don’t you think?” added Rapid Advance.

“Yeah, what Rapid said,” said Star Duster, “who batters down the gates then doesn’t even go through them?”

Cookie passed into the next large room, instinctively fanning out to search.

“Apt question, private,” said Winter Sky, “I wish I had an answ-”

Winter Sky paused mid answer.

Objects of all descriptions littered the floor. Several sets of discarded Solar Guard barding lay in the corner of the room, which Dawn recognized immediately. Along the base of the walls, more saddlebags were arrayed, along with miscellaneous other items. In the middle area of the room a few rickety tables stood, empty wine bottles still standing on some of them.

“What is this?” asked Winter Sky.

Without having to be told, the group spread out further. They moved about the items, sniffing and prodding with hooves as they went. The captain and Watchful Eye had immediately moved to the sets of Solar Guard barding, and Dawn Trotter followed along. He moved past Sable and Star Duster, who were investigating the old tables.

“Looks like four sets,” said Watchful Eye, looking down at the pile of armor.

“Yes, certainly four helmets at least,” said Winter Sky, “All pegasus, it looks like.”

“Wait, what is that?” said Watchful Eye, dropping low and yanking on one of the larger pieces of armor. He managed to pull it out from underneath the pile.

“Ouch,” said Dawn Trotter.

On the rear of the set, in one of the larger plates that would have covered one of the flanks of the pony wearing it, was a circular hole, about the size of a cherry. Unlike a normal hole you might see in a battle damaged set of barding, this one appeared to have been partially melted around the edge of the hole, with the entire area of the damage pressed slightly inward. It reminded Dawn of the little craters they had seen earlier, on the walls of the garrison building’s lower level.

Winter Sky grimaced. “Flank shot.”

“It doesn’t look like any of the other sets are damaged at all, other than by age,” added Watchful Eye.

“Nothing else seems damaged in here,” said Rapid Advance, turning his attention from the saddle bag he was shaking, “everything here looks discarded, not damaged or looted.”

“Like they left it here and just never came back,” added Far Out.

“Anything in those bags?” asked Winter Sky.

“Some crumbly bits that I think were once paper, and the occasional piece of twine. The remains of food wrappings, I am guessing.”

He then turned to the mare sitting beside him. “What about you, Far Out?”

“A little of the same, but that’s it.”

Dawn glanced around the room suspiciously, paying close attention to the walls. He didn’t see any sign of those pits and craters that were all over the garrison battle site. It sure seemed that something different had gone on here.

“Well whoever was in here, at least they had some decent booze to keep them company,” said Sable Shield, lightly dinging one of the empty bottles with a hoof.

“And plenty of it at that,” nodded Star Duster.

“Rapid, Far Out,” said Winter Sky, “keep going through those bags, I want all of them checked. Watch, Dawn, help me separate these sets of barding, I want to look all of them over, you never know.”

Watch Nodded, Dawn Trotter offering a salute. The three ponies went about their task, pulling on plates and scattered warshoes, forming them into rough piles.

“Well, since it seems everypony but us has something to do,” said Sable Shield, “Permission to go peek in that next big room sir, since it's just a bit down the hallway.”

“That is...” started Winter Sky, who paused a moment, “uncharacteristically proactive of you, private. I’d rather you not go off alone, though.”

“Well, I can take Star with me, since he’s being useless as usual,” Sable Said, motioning at Star Duster with a hoof.

“What, hey, You weren’t doing anything either you know,” said Star.

“That’s even worse,” said Watchful Eye.

“You are the last two ponies we are sending off alone together.”

Sable Shield balked. “Just what's that supposed to mean?”

“It means you are crazy and he doesn’t trust you,” said Rapid Advance.

“Dawn Trotter,” said Winter Sky.

Dawn Looked to the captain.

“Go with Sable Shield and Star Duster. You three check out that next room as quickly as you can. Just see if there is anything in there worth investigating, then get back here and report.”

Dawn hopped to his hooves, saluted, then turned to Star and Sable.

“Aghh. Fine. Come on Dawn,” said Sable. She turned and headed for the door, Star following close behind.

The three ponies made their way quickly down the empty hall, arriving at the partially ajar door of the next room. Sable Stuck her head through, glanced around, nodded, then stepped back.

“Empty, no surprise.”

She then continued down the hallway.

Dawn Trotter cocked an ear, confused.

“Sable, where the hay are you going?” he said.

“What he said!” added Star.

“Don’t worry, just right here,” said Sable, stopping near one of the rack or cabinet protrusions that lined the walls. Then she stepped behind it. “Star, get over here, we have to do this quick.”

“Wha?” Star Duster flapped his wings momentarily. He glanced to Dawn Trotter, half confused, half something else.

“What?!” Blurted both stallions in unison.

“Don’t be a coward Star, we may only ever get this one chance and I am NOT wasting it. Now get over here!” she said. She sounded slightly frustrated.

“Uhhhhhh..like, right here? Right now?” he took a few hesitant steps towards her, his wings partially unfurled to his sides. “But Dawn is right here!”

“Of course right here you dummy. And who cares? Dawn may be a huge dork, but he is a huge dork I trust. He won’t rat us out.”

Star gave Dawn one more worried look, then moved up to Sable’s hiding place.

Dawn watched with a mix of awe, and horror.

The mare leaned out around the corner, a pair of bottles cradled in her forehooves.

“Awww yeah, It’s like a dream come tru-” Sable caught the eyes of the two stallions and froze, blinking.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

Both stallions just stared in return.

Star Duster looked at the bottles Sable was cradling, then back to her face. He repeated this several times.

“Booze?”

“You bet your ear tufts! I told you this stuff is worth like a million bits back home. And here it is! Aged to perfection over like, a million years! We are going to drink some of it RIGHT NOW.”

“You were talking about space booze?” asked Star Duster again.

Sable cocked her head. “Duh. Super rare, super expensive space booze.”

Dawn and Star looked directly at one another.

“Ohhhhh.”

Sable carefully popped one of the bottle tops with her teeth.

“Now at last, I-”

Sable Shield froze. A look of horror, or confusion, or perhaps both, etched on her face.

“Oh sweet mother of nightmares I just realized what you thought I meant.”

She slowly turned to Star Duster, staring. She shoved the unopened bottle into his hooves.

“You two take that one. I am going to need this one. All of this one. All for me.” Sable Shield then slowly disappeared back behind her bottle rack.

“We can’t let her drink a whole bottle, Star,” said Dawn,“Winter Sky will kill us. Watch will kill us. Everypony will kill us.”

“Yeah well Sable will kill us if we touch that bottle,” said Star Duster, shaking his head quickly.

“Sable, you can’t drink that whole thing on duty!” said Dawn Trotter, approaching her hiding place. “Winter Sky will have you transferred to like, the Crystal Empire, or..” Dawn shuddered a moment, “the Solar Guard! The awful gold armor, the white coats, the SUN Sable! The SUN!”

“Fine!” said Sable, stepping out from her hiding place. She hurried past Star and Dawn, her ears folded tightly against her head.

The sight startled Dawn Trotter. He’d only rarely seen Sable with pinned ears. Only when she was scared, or angry. Very, very angry. She wasn’t either just now. To Dawn, she looked embarrassed.

“I only drank half of it,” she added, continuing down the hall, back towards the others.

“Luna protect us,” said Star Duster.

Dawn nodded.

“So,” continued Dawn Trotter,” are you going to, you know, try that stuff?”

“Darn right I am. I just don’t plan to drink half a bottle.”

Star Duster moved into Sable’s former hiding place, and began to feel around with his hooves.

“Oh for the love of,” he said, “did she really put a half empty bottle back on the rack?”

“Knowing her, probably,” nodded Dawn, “just open the one she gave us.”

“I can’t, I put it back on the rack.”

“Of course you did.”

Suddenly, a loud, grating noise erupted from the rack of bottles, and it began to spin. An opening was revealed, with some kind of chamber behind it.

“What did you do?” asked Dawn, staring at what he was pretty sure was a completely real secret passage.

“I uh, tried to pull out a bottle, but it was stuck and then that happened?”

Star Duster, who had been standing right next to the thing when it spun, already had his head in the door. The secret door.

“Oh wow, Dawn, you have to see this!”

Dawn Trotted over, shoving his head through on the opposite side of the opened bottle-door.

“Is that...?”

“Sure looks like it.” said Star Duster.

The room beyond the secret opening was fairly small. Maybe half the size of your average pony’s living room. What caught Dawn Trotter’s attention however was what was in the room, leaning up against its far wall. A long pole, the upper portion wrapped in faded cloth, atop which still sat a golden sun. Not just any sun, Dawn recognized at once, but the Sun Radiant. symbol of the Solar Guard, and cutie mark of one of Equestria’s most beloved ponies. It could only be a Royal Guard standard, that of the garrison.

“The garrison’s colors!” said Star Duster.

“And more,” said Dawn.

Below the old standard, leaning up against some kind of half sized bottle rack, was a set of Solar Guard saddlebags. From the look of them, they were anything but empty.

“Going by the fancy bottles on the wall, I bet this is some kind of hiding place for super special booze,” said Star.

He was probably right, but that didn’t matter now. Well, to anypony but Sable Shield at least.

“We need to tell Winter Sky,” said Dawn.

“Yeah, preferably before Sable gets there.”

******

Winter Sky dropped the saddlebags onto the table with a thud. It had taken some convincing to get the captain to follow them to the secret room, but once they had, his entire demeanor changed. After hauling its important and non-alcoholic contents to the room they had been exploring, the captain began the process of digging into the saddlebags like a Foal into a Hearth’s Warming present. The others gathered around him in a circle to watch, all save for Rapid Advance, who was gently tending to the recovered standard a short distance away.

“Let’s see,” said Winter Sky, pulling back a large flap.

Inside was a relatively large object, which the captain managed to coax out, slowly and oh-so-very carefully, undamaged. It was a book, a big one, and heavily built. Dawn had a pretty good idea what it was.

“If this is what it looks like, this is beyond good fortune,” said Winter Sky. He proceeded to withdraw another pair of much smaller books from the opposite bag.

“Good fortune and dumb luck,” said Watchful Eye, glancing between Dawn and Star, “emphasis on the dumb.”

Dawn stuck his tongue out, but said nothing.

“There’s blood on the back edge of those saddlebags,” said Far Out.

Dawn jumped. He hadn’t heard the mare slide up beside him.

Winter Sky paused, book in hooves.

Watchful Eye leaned in close to the saddlebags, near the spot indicated by Far Out.

“She's right. Hard to see with the wear and age, but there’s a stain here. All along the back edge.”

Far Out put out her hoof, resting it on the one of the clasps to the saddlebag. She then turned, looking towards the piles of barding in the corner.

“I think we know who these belonged to.”

“Oh,” said Winter Sky, turning to face the pile of barding as well.

“Your window pony?” asked Watchful Eye.

“They managed to make it all the way here, with that hole in their side?” said Rapid, admiration clear in his voice.

“It would seem so,” said the captain, returning his attention to the book.

“Whatever fate ultimately befell that pony, we aren’t going to let it be in vain. We are getting this book back home. I just hope it tells us something.”

The captain began to flip through the large tome, hastening to the end. He began to skim the last few pages.

“Hmm, starts out with what you would expect. Maintenance, patrol and training reports, a few exercises.”

All had their eyes fixed on the captain as he continued.

“Hmm, listen to this. It’s dated a week before everything went to Tartarus.”

“It’s been more than two weeks now since we’ve heard from Blue and her group. I know she likes to range pretty far, but she’s always been good with the birds. Warned her that those mountains looked pretty dangerous. Starting to get worried. We’ve had a few missing ponies in our time, but never an entire group.”

“Then this,” said Winter Sky,” “two days later.”

“It’s now pretty clear that Blue’s group aren’t the only ones to go missing recently. The Major’s plotted them all on the map, seems to be concentrated around those mountains to the north of us. Planning to send two 5 horse flights of pegasi for recce and, hopefully, rescue.”

Winter Sky nodded to himself. “Another two days after.”

“Still no word from our flights. Birds returning with messages undelivered..”

“And later...” the captain continued, engrossed in what he was reading.

“Guardspony Silver Lining, flying above the river tonight, reports lights on the mountain.”

Winter Sky froze, staring at the page.

“The stars are moving.”

******

Comments ( 4 )

The real monster was alcoholism.

Hey, isn't this on Equestria Daily?

10321698
If so, that is news to me!

Is there any chance this story will resume? It is very well done I think, and it's a shame it hasn't gotten much attention.

Login or register to comment