• Published 19th Aug 2012
  • 7,106 Views, 214 Comments

Heaven Sent - Sixpence



The last survivor of a colony ship headed for Betelgeuse happens upon Equestria

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Chapter 01: En Route

“It’s time to get up, Magnie,” a voice to my left announced loudly. “Even if you are technically up, sorta,” it continued. My mind was still unable to connect the dots, still half asleep. The voice mumbled something about gravity being out again before I began coming to my senses.

“Murr…” I murred sleepily. “‘S too early…”

“Nope, it’s oh-seven forty-five,” said whoever it was that sounded far too upbeat said. “I think. Might be something else,” she, for it was a female voice, chirped happily. “Never mind, you’ve been asleep for… eight hours, give or take a few years.”’

“Fine…fine… I’m up.” I kicked out at the blanket covering me, only to feel a stinging pain and the nauseating sensation of vertigo. My eyes shot open in surprise, only to see the world tumbling around me. “What’s going on?” The world was a blur, a grey blur, that was spinning. “Make it stop! Make it stop!”

I got no response at first, only the sound of air being disturbed. Something began rumbling, and my face was promptly introduced to the hard edge of a steel table, shortly followed by the rest of my body slamming painfully into the floor as gravity reasserted itself.

The next thing that happened was a cup, miraculously still holding a bit of coffee, landing on my horn and spilling its cold contents on my face.

Oh, right. Horn. It might have been surprising that after all this time, I kept forgetting that my body was no longer that of a human. Instead, I was now a horse. Or something similar to one at least. Last time I’d checked, horses didn’t have wings or horns, not real ones at least. Mythology might have pegasi and unicorns, but no hybrids of the two as far as I knew.

At least it healed fast, and my pain quickly receded.

When I once again opened my eyes, the world was still around me. Nothing moved but for the dust-motes tumbling back and forth over the bare metal deck.

It was silent, almost eerily so, and it had been this way for a long, long time. Once, there had been the hustle and bustle of many feet scurrying over these decks. I could still imagine the scuff-marks of countless boots on the steel.

For a while I just laid there, captivated by the movement my breath created in the dust. I didn’t really feel like moving. Hadn’t really felt like moving for a while.

It wasn’t as if there was a lot for me to do.

Four blue legs moved into my field of vision, and I let my eyes follow them up to meet the grinning visage of Ana.

“Come on. Get up!” she said and prodded my nose with one of her hooves. “Things to do, places to be!” The tiny blue gynoid skipped a few times over the floor, fluttering her small wings and further disturbing my dust.

With more of an effort than it really should have been, I started getting up off the cold metal. “Sure. Whatever you say,” I mumbled and steadied myself on my four legs.

“Aw, you’re no fun today.” Ana pouted and walked over to me with a slight smile on her face. “What’s got your panties in a bunch?”

I scrunched up my muzzle and tried to remember my dream. Something about ice. “I don’t know,” I said honestly, letting out a sigh. “Just one of those days I suppose.”

“One of those days when you feel like walking around with coffee on your face and a cup on your horn?” Ana said with a smirk.

I cracked a smile myself, licking some of the cold beverage off my nose. “Yep. It shall be my headwear for today.” I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, feeling some of the weight lift from my shoulders.

Ana faked a gasp and held a hoof to her chest. “Stop the presses! The latest in galactic fashion has been revealed!” She fell to the floor, laughing her little blue butt off.

As for myself, I felt a lot better. A smile was on my face as I strode proudly out of the storeroom I somehow had fallen asleep in. Ana got to her feet and began following me with a skip in her step, no doubt elated that she had managed to pull me out of my funk.

“So,” I said after a time of walking through the empty corridors of the ship towards the cantina. “How come I was in a storage room?”

Ana’s steps faltered a bit before she resumed her previous carefree skipping. “I don’t know,” she said with a smirk. “Maybe you got tired of sleeping in the arboretum and wanted to expand your horizons?”

I shook my head, rattling the cup still adorning my horn. “I can’t remember doing that…”

Her smile became a bit wistful before she turned away without answering. We had reached the cantina.

The room we entered was relatively small. Then again it wasn’t meant to house that many people either, unlike the main cantina which was enormous, big enough to feed several thousand at the same time—this was just meant for a hundred officers on rotation. Not that there were anyone else to share it with. It had been empty for so long that I had given up trying to remember the amount of years it had been...

Inside were several bare metal tables, and only small hardened pieces of wood still clung to the surface. The seat coverings had long ago faded to nothing but so much dust. Sure, Ana could probably have the place looking brand new in a few hours if she wanted to, but keeping the ship running was a bit more important.

I made my way to the counter and rang the small bell on it. The sound echoed through the room before it faded into the long abandoned halls.

Ana scampered through a small hatch in the wall and soon reappeared on the other side. She was wearing a matching coffee-cup on her head, barely managing to balance it behind her horn so it didn’t fall down and cover her head.

“So! What’ll it be!” the small cup-wearing gynoid asked in her best grumpy-chef impression, though it was somewhat lacking due to the grin on her face.

“Hm.” I put a hoof to my chin and pretended to scan the empty board above the counter. Grimy lights flickered half-heartedly behind a faded plastic cover. “What’s the house special for today?”

Ana put on a similar mock-pondering expression before checking an imaginary note on the wall. “Today’s special is… a surprise!” she announced with a devious grin.

“Oh, oh! What is it? Is it bacon?” My stomach grumbled heartily at the thought of some deliciously crispy meat. “Maybe on a sandwich with fresh lettuce, tomato and more mayo than can be considered healthy?” The look I fixed Ana with was almost pleading. I knew it couldn’t be true, but one can hope, right?

Ana sighed and rolled her eyes. “Nope! It was close, but wrong! One strike for Magnus!”

My face fell a bit, but I decided to continue the charade nonetheless. “Is it… Spaghetti? Carbonara maybe? With a thick, creamy parmesan-sauce and small bits of… bacon?” I grinned hopefully at her.
“Not even close! Strike two!” She stomped her hoof on the countertop and urged me to go on.

“Hmm, this is harder than I thought.” I scrunched up my face and poked my forehead in a gesture of extremely deep thought. “Is iiiit… flavoured nutrient paste with a side order of nutrient paste and some coffee?”

Ana threw her front hooves up in a gesture of victory. “Ding ding ding! And Magnie finally guesses right!” She landed with a slight thump. “Close enough anyway. I did say it was a surprise.”

That managed to pique my curiosity. There wasn’t a lot that did that these days, and the amount of things that could be a surprise was… surprisingly small.

The gynoid nimbly jumped off the counter and disappeared into the dark kitchen. The lights in there had gone out many years ago, and we had never cared enough to fix it. Only Ana went in there anyways, and she didn’t really need the light.

I heard the telltale hum of the nutrient-paste machine and the clatter of a plate. There was a fart-like sound, which was how I knew she had squeezed some of the rather unappetizing stuff onto the platter. Then I hear her running further into the kitchen without sounding heavier as she usually did when she carried the food. She let out an audible grunt, followed by a ‘pop,’ then she assumedly ran back to the plate.

A few minutes later she arrived back at the counter, carefully balancing a plate covered by a metal lid on her back as she climbed the ramp leading up to the countertop from behind.

With unusual care, she slid the platter off her back and onto the counter, barely concealing a nervous smile.

I gave her a curious smile of my own before looking at the relatively fancy serving method. “What’s the occasion?” I asked before carefully taking the handle in my teeth and lifting it away.

The sight that met my eyes made my jaw drop in surprise. On top of the usual grey paste sat two shiny, perfectly red tomatoes, and beside them sat one strip of… “Is that... Is that really…?”

Ana was practically aglow with pride, blue eyes shining with glee as she answered, “Yep! It is!” Her smile faltered slightly before it reasserted itself. “Well, sorta. I mean, it’s as close as I could get with what we have.”

My eyes were glistening as I tore my sight from the beautiful red-and-white strip of bacon. Just the tomatoes alone were a surprise that would have floored me any other day, but this was astounding!

“How? I mean…” I lunged forward and grabbed the small robot off the countertop, squeezing her tightly in a hug. “Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I exclaimed between sobs of happiness, matting her fur with tears.

Ana squeaked and became slightly red faced. “N-need to bre-eathe!” she croaked as I felt her becoming hotter between my forelegs.

I quickly let her go and watched as she stood on the floor breathing in deep gulps. Two small, gill-like plates on her sides opened and let out steam with a loud hiss.

She fixed me with a glare for a moment before her gaze softened. “Well, are you going to eat your breakfast or not?”

I grasped the platter in my teeth and hurried over to the only table in the whole cantina still covered in polished wood. On the way, I nearly fainted from the aroma of the crispy strip of bacon and fresh tomatoes.

Before Ana could even get up on her chair, I began stuffing my face with the delicious foodstuff in front of me.

The tomatoes were bland, tasting almost like ash with only the slightest hint of tomato. As for the bacon it was more like a strip of flavoured cardboard.

But to me, they were the greatest thing to ever pass my lips. After greedily devouring the fruits and “meat,” as well as the slightly ammonia-tasting nutrient-paste, I wiped my eyes on my fetlock and turned to regard Ana with tear-filled eyes.

“Thank you…” I whispered, still feeling the lingering tastes in my mouth. “Thank you so much, Ana. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

Ana snickered and rolled her eyes. “I have some idea after seeing you eat like that. You usually show...
some decorum at least.”

I leant down and nuzzled her cheek. “No. Thank you, Ana. I needed this.”

The blue pegacorn sighed and nuzzled me back. “I know. I know how hard this has been on you. I miss them too you know,” she said before a small swarm of nanobots flew out of a vent in the ceiling, quickly devouring what was left on the plate as well as the plate itself.

My body tensed for a second before I sighed and stood up from my seated position. “What was the occasion?”

The small horse-like robot smiled wistfully before jumping up on the table and grabbing my face between her forelegs. “Happy birthday, Magnus.”

“So, that wasn’t really bacon, huh?” I asked later as we sat on the grass in the arboretum, me with a fresh cup of “coffee” and her with a small piece of metal.

The arboretum was a vast, open field filled with trees and grass-covered dirt. Most of it was an illusion provided by a large array of holographic projectors, but to me it looked real. It even had small birds flying in the air and squirrels hopping from branch to branch hunting for nuts.

I knew it wasn’t real. We could only afford to keep a small patch of grass alive as well as the lone oak we were leaning up against. Over the years, it had grown to a gigantic size, its branches nearly touched the ceiling through the clouds far above, and it took a full minute to walk around its trunk. When we had planted it, it had been nothing but a seed put into the earth as a memorial to… well, everything really.

Normally, we would never have allowed anything to grow so large, but it was one of the very few luxuries we allowed ourselves.

“Not really, no,” Ana answered with a shrug. “Your body can’t digest meat. Honestly, it’s not as if we have any pigs at hand either.”

The reminder that we were pretty much the only living beings on the ship made me slump a bit further. Ana noticed and placed a hoof on my withers. “I’m sorry,” she said morosely. “I didn’t mean to remind you…”

I sighed and folded my wings. “Nothing to be sorry for. It’s been a while. ‘Not as if it was your fault to begin with.”

Ana opened her mouth to reply but quickly closed it again. We’d had the argument countless times before, never with an outcome that pleased either of us.

With that we both fell into silence, enjoying the simulated sunlight pouring through the branches of a tree that symbolized the six million lives lost to time.

The stars shone around the ship as it travelled through space. The only real indication that there was even anything there was the dull lights that blinked occasionally along the hull. Other than that, it was as if someone had torn a piece of the stars away.

It hadn’t always been like that. Once, the ship had been a beacon in the sky, clearly visible from the ground when every part of the ship had been lit. Great lines of white had indicated the passenger decks while blue lines had marked the docking ports, though they were barely able to compete with the glare of the engines.

Now it looked more like a floating grey brick, and with the engines dormant, we were practically invisible. All the viewing ports had been seamlessly closed off to conserve energy and protect the ship. Only our immediate surroundings were lit at any time, and it was never visible from the outside.

The Heaven Sent had once been the proud flagship of a colony fleet spreading through the Milky Way Galaxy. Now, it was little more more than a ghost ship.

We had been heading to Betelgeuse, a previously uninhabitable solar system that had been tamed by the Prospector Fleet. Great, powerful machines were able to harness the power of the red giant and use it to terraform the planets hidden by its glare.

Our ship carried nearly a thousand crew and six million civilians in cryosleep.

It spanned over seventeen kilometers in length and nearly four kilometers in width, its mass rivalled a small moon.

The great antimatter engines powering the ship had been able to propel us up to nearly the speed of light, with an Alcubierre Drive that had allowed us to travel faster than light through the distances between stars.

None of that really worked anymore. The warp drive wasn’t aboard the ship any longer, and while Ana was able to get the antimatter engines to work, their output was less than five percent of nominal capacity.

Everyone on board had gone into cryosleep when we had left our sun’s gravity well, leaving the running of the ship to Ana.

The trip was supposed to last around sixty years, a mere blink in the eye of our extended lifespans. We were only sleeping because even such a relatively short time would have bored just about anyone to death.

We had been awakened twenty years ahead of time, just in time to observe a huge piece of rock and ice cast its shadow across the ship.

A small miscalculation had put us in the path of an asteroid during a refueling run near a small solar system. A small miscalculation that lead to the huge piece of space debris being invisible to sensors until it was too late. Even the meteorite defense system couldn’t push it away fast enough.

The universe had other plans.

The asteroid impact had left us drifting in space, completely at the mercy of the forces of gravity and forty years away from anyone capable of performing the required repairs. Luckily, we had been in a somewhat empty area of space, so there wasn’t much chance of there being more rogue debris.

Everyone had been sent to sleep, everyone except Ana and I. I’d been required to stay awake to authorize anything Ana needed to do, which had included shutting off just about everything except lights and life support in the compartments I’d roamed.

Being alone in an enormous ship for that long had been agonizingly boring. And knowing that a complete vacuum could be waiting on the other side of any door had been terrifying.

Back then, I was human—Captain Magnus Fairheart of the Interstellar Colony Fleet. I’d had a proud beard like the captains of old and piercing blue eyes. At least, that had been what my wife had said...

Taking command of the ship and going on this mission had been a dream come true for us. My family had always been explorers—my great great grandmother had been the first to ever command a vessel capable of travelling between the stars. Her son, my great grandfather had led the successful colonization of the Alpha Centauri star system.

My wife, Caitlin’s family had a lineage stretching back to the Norwegian polfarer Fridtjof Nansen. So it was no wonder that we longed to stretch our legs.

We had been floating in space for nearly three years when Ana had announced that there had been a strong change in the magnetic fields surrounding our ship, and the entire area of space we were stranded in. The gravitational sensors had suddenly spiked, something I could feel even through the artificial gravity.

A black hole was forming, a rogue black hole that had sprung out of nowhere.

Feeling everything that was myself stretching out to infinity was not something I ever wanted to experience again.

I didn’t think of my life before the incident again for a very, very long time.

“Boop... Boop... Boop... Boop... Boop... Boop...“

“What are you doing?” Ana asked as she entered the bridge only to find me staring intently at a blinking light, saying “boop” every time the light went on.

“Boop… Boop… Hm? Boop…” I replied without taking my eyes from the pulsing diode.

“Why are you saying ‘boop’ every time the light goes on?” The way my eyes were glued to it was apparently making her feel slightly uneasy.

“Boop… It needed sou—Boop—nd effects! Boop…” I answered with a grin, still staring at the light with unblinking eyes. By now, my eyes had to be bloodshot and puffy, and Ana had to be getting the feeling that this was what I had been doing for the past hours. Just sitting there, making sounds for an insignificant little light among the many like it on the bridge.

“You know…” Ana began with false cheer that was tinged with worry. “I could just add a speaker and a looped noise, no problem.” It wouldn’t have taken much effort, she could have probably just routed the electrical signal to one of the outputs in a nearby terminal. It would have had the desired effect.

“Boop… Wouldn’t b—Boop—be the s—Boop—same,” I replied, my left eyelid twitching over my dry eye. “It—Boop—feels like—Boop—like I sho—Boop—should be watc—Boop—ing it!”

The gynoid just rolled her eyes in reply. She knew every system and light on the ship. I mean, she was the ship, and it was part of her. If anything should have been watched, she would have known about it. This tiny, insignificant, little light was probably just another subroutine that didn’t need to be watched or worried about.

I could see that she was curious. She leaned in and read the text on the small display above it: “LRO Scan complete: Carbon Based Lifeforms Detected”

“Boop…”

Ana stared at the label. That was no subroutine! That was a high priority system! She hopped over to the connected terminal and brought up the results. As part of the ship, she could have checked it internally, but it just felt better to do it manually.

“Magnus!” she yelled as the results began scrolling down the screen, finally stopping with four blinking symbols. “You have to see this! Forget the damned light!”

I tore my eyes off the shiny bulb with some effort and looked up at where Ana was sitting. She was more like a blue blur superimposed over a bigger, grey blur to me. I was about to question it when I blinked involuntarily.

The feeling of my dry eyelids scraping over my even dryer eyeballs made me flinch. “Ow…” I muttered and rubbed them with my fetlock, feeling some moisture return. It was very, very uncomfortable, and if I had been in any rational state of mind, I would have regretted my decision to sit there for so long having a staring contest with a light bulb.

Finally, I managed to get back on my hooves, and some semblance of sight returned. I looked over at the terminal, only getting more confused by what I saw.

“Uh, yes,” I said, striking the most thoughtful pose I could think of. Hoof on chin? Check. Brow furrowed? Check! “That is… something!” I couldn’t help but smile.

Ana put a hoof to her forehead. “You have no idea what this is, do you…”

Ana sighed deeply before pointing out a squiggly purple line that rose sharply along with another green one that followed just behind. “That purple line there shows us that there are lifeforms with roughly the same composition as us. The green one shows that there is vegetation capable of producing oxygen.”

“Sooo, that means?”

“It means there’s life, possibly sentient,” Ana answered with a soft smile. “It means there might be people. It’s not a big chance, but it’s possible.”

“Oh.” I frowned. “Does that mean there could be… cake?” My eyes narrowed, and I stared hungrily at the squiggly lines.

“I… maybe?” my small friend moved in front of the screen and tried to catch my eyes. “It’s no guarantee that there’s any sentient life there. There’s even less of a chance that there’s civilization.”

I glared at her. “But there’s a chance.”

Ana shrugged. “Yes, there’s always a chance,” she said before jumping off the console and trotting over to the chair in the middle of the bridge. “Now,” she said as she hopped into the seat, “if we’re going to be able to stop…”

I nearly ran after her, managing to put a hoof in a waste-bin along the way. “There could be cake? I mean, real, real cake!” My clattering canter caused quite the ruckus as I hobbled over and put my forehooves, waste-bin and all, on the seat. “Creamy, marzipan-covered, jam-filled, sprinkles-covered, tasty cake?”

Ana slumped a little on what was left of the seating. “The chances are infinitessimally small. You get that, right?”

“Heh… Cake…” I said as a small puddle of drool began to seep into the tattered upholstery. I’m pretty sure my eyes were twitching.

“Forget it… Magnie?” Her eyes were becoming vacant, a sign that she was concentrating on something else.

“Ca—yeah?” I tore—with great effort—my thoughts away from succulent treats and grinned up at her.

“Can you go play in the arboretum or something for a while? I need to do some calculations,” she said as the light in her eyes slowly dimmed and her voice transitioned to the speakers in the walls instead. “This is going to be tough…”

“Blergh. Math,” I announced with a grimace, before walking out. I glanced behind me at the still blue figure on the captain’s chair. Somewhere deep down, a slight feeling of dread was bubbling along with my gurgling stomach.

Ana found me a bit later sitting over what looked like a mix between a bird’s carcass and a smashed clock. My face was black with soot, and tears were making their trails down my chins.

“What… again?” Ana asked with a sigh as she took in the scene.

“I… just wanted to play with it,” I managed to say between hiccups. I had tried to put it back together, but no matter what I did, it just wouldn’t work. “Can you fix it?” I tore my sight from the carcass and looked at Ana, lip quivering.

Ana took a deep breath and walked up to the mess I had been trying to fix. It looked utterly miserable, the only somewhat intact piece was the beak, which had lodged itself in my mane. Everything else had been broken in some way.

“I’m sorry Magnie, but I think it’s done for…” she said as a glittering cloud descended on the carcass. She looked me in the eyes with a determined glare, “What have I told you about playing with the birds? The sparrows in particular?”

“B-but they’re so p-pretty…” I pleaded, my eyes filling with another round of tears. “I didn’t, I didn’t mean to…”

Ana rose up on her hind legs and began patting my mane, something she often did when I needed some comforting. “They’re fragile things, and I don’t have the blueprints anymore, Magnie. There are six left, if they break…” She let the sentence hang.

After letting me cry into her coat for a good few minutes, she pulled away and lifted my chin so I could look her in the eyes. “I do have some good news though. If the images I got are to be trusted, and I think they are, there’s a good chance there’s civilized life on the planet we picked up.”

“But there’s a chance?” I asked, pleading.

“Yes. I’ve started turning the ship around, and we should start burning retrograde…”

The ship began to rumble.

“Now.”

We hurtled through space for nearly two years after that, the engines running at maximum capacity. The maneuvering caused an immense strain on Ana’s systems—they had been mostly dormant for a very long time, after all.

I was sitting with her on the bridge, watching our velocity slowly tick down. We had entered the solar system only a few days prior, and I was starting to get impatient.

“Are we there yet?” I asked while jumping up and down, making quite the racket on the metal floor, an impatient look in my eyes as I stared out into the blackness of space towards a small blue dot far away.

“No!” Ana shouted through the speakers. “Stop asking! You’ve asked the same god-damned question every five minutes for the last year!” She sighed. “We’ll be there in two days. We’re already caught in the planet’s sphe—”

A sudden explosion interrupted her, and the ship inclined violently. The shutters slid down over the windows with a bang as I hit the ceiling with a wet smack.

I regained my senses a short while afterwards, but everything was dark. I couldn’t hear anything, and it was so dark that I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed. To make everything worse, I couldn’t feel or reach the ground around me.

My face and mane felt wet and sticky, and I tried again to reach for something, anything.

“Ana?” I whispered, feeling a sense of dread grow inside me as no sound came from my mouth, and when I tried breathing in to scream… nothing happened. I couldn’t breathe.

I panicked.

I’m uncertain of how long I was out, but when I came to my senses I was lying on the floor covered with a ratty blanket. The lights were still off, but I could breathe, and a soft light was shining in through the opened viewports.

Ana was sitting with her back to me, staring out into space. She turned to me when I coughed, her eyes wide and filled with tears.

“We’re here,” she said softly, looking back outside.

I pulled myself off the floor, barely managing to stand. I felt utterly drained. It was as if everything but the tiniest sliver of life had been sucked out with a straw. My head felt heavier than it ever had, and my horn was extremely sore.

Ana tore her eyes from whatever she was looking at and looked me over. “You look like hell,” she said with a smirk.

My ears folded back when she spoke at a normal volume. “Ow… what happened?” I asked and sat down beside her, eyes tightly shut against the glare from outside.

“I’m not sure,” Ana murmured. “All I know is that one of the engines exploded and the entire ship shut down. We’re lucky there was no containment breach. When I woke up… you were floating in mid air, and…”

“And what?” I vaguely remembered the lack of gravity, the utter darkness and silence around me pressing in.

“Your eyes were glowing,” she said, and when I cracked open an eye, I could see that she looked concerned. “It was… I can’t even explain it, it was as if the universe itself was coalescing around you. I… everything went white for a fraction of a second, and then… well, then we were here.” Ana waved a hoof towards the viewport, and for the first time since I woke up, I properly opened my eyes.

“Whoa…”

It was a planet, a huge sphere of blues and greens with clouds barely concealing the white caps that were the poles. There was a storm somewhere over what was clearly a continent, and it was impossible to deny the small dots of light that were visible on the dark side of the planet. There were not many, but they were there.

We had found life.

Author's Note:

So there's finally something to show huh. About time too...
The second chapter will be published in a few minutes.

The old story can be found here: Link

Editing by: Lab. You're hereby commanded to check out Gears in the Void and the sequel, Sprockets in the North
All art by: Mister Aibo, DeviantArt, Fimfiction Profile