• Published 15th Jan 2020
  • 820 Views, 89 Comments

In From The Cold - Cackling Moron



Twilight's prized pupil finds something in space.

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#6

Author's Note:

Exposition!

HURGH!

/vomits all over your shoes

Jack had, indeed, not gone far.

He was sat in one of the chairs around a table that was itself sat incongruously on the grass outside the shuttle. None of this furniture had been there before. Indeed, how it could exist at all was unclear. But there it was, and there was Jack sitting on it, staring out over the hills at nothing much at all.

Also, shouldn’t it have been dark by now? Maybe Blithe had had the numbers a little off.

Probably not important.

“What the…” Nova mumbled before shaking her head and abjectly refusing to be distracted by nonsense like randomly-appearing, low-quality garden furniture. It’d take more than that to rattle her! She moved on over to join him.

The closest spare chair had - in sharp contrast to all those Nova had experience of - plainly been designed with only those of Jack’s shape and dimensions in mind. Sitting in it wasn’t impossible for her, just trickier than she might have liked. Balancing against the table helped.

“Hope I didn’t scare her off…” Jack said.

“You really knew the Princess? From before? Way before?” Nova asked, without preamble.

He spared her a glance. A brief one.

“I did indeed. Heh, what gave me away? That she freaked out?”

“Kind of. I’ve never seen her be like that before. Ever,” Nova said. Jack sighed, more happily than anything else.

“She has her moments. We all do.”

Jack kept staring off at the horizon and Nova was quiet a moment, chewing on her lip, thinking of how best to proceed.

“How old are you?” She asked.

Jack thought about this, scratching his head.

“I don’t know, pick a number. How old is Twilight? Pick that number and add or subtract some years. Space is weird. Time is weird. It doesn’t matter anyway. Does it?”

“It kind of does,” Nova said.

He thought about this, nodded, shrugged.

“Suppose. Can’t really help you, I’m afraid. Wasn’t really in a position to keep count. And to have years you kind of need to have a sun, and I didn’t have a sun for quite a while.”

Nova squinted at Jack, then squinted at the sun that was very obviously there where it belonged (in the sky, still, somehow, despite how it should have set by now) and then squinted at Jack some more. She got no answers from doing this.

“What?” She asked.

“Nothing, don’t worry about it.”

“You can’t just drop lines like that and expect me to say ‘Oh okay sure fine’! Sun’s are important! What do you mean you didn’t have a sun! It’s there!”

“Keep your hair on, geeze. You not learn about this? Guess you wouldn’t. Ancient history, right? There was a sun, used to be a sun. Used to orbit the planet. A - a very nice lady used to keep it going round. But it was all magic bollocks. Everyone left. The sun died, she died, everything died. So it goes. Well, except me. I just stuck around.”

“You survived the sun going out?”

“Well I’m here, aren’t I? And why else do you think Twilight and you lot left? For kicks?”

He had a point, and it did ring a bell. Something she had partway forgotten from a lesson a long time ago back when she’d been only little, something on how and why they’d ended up on a habitat and in the Hegemony. At the time she hadn’t paid a huge amount of attention and, since then, hadn’t seen a whole lot of reason to go back over it.

“So you...were on a planet with no sun?” She asked.

“Yes.”

“For years?”

“Yes.”

“Hundreds or maybe thousands of years?”

Jack sighed.

“Yes. Look, I’m not going to lie and say that it was a great time. Things were pretty miserable. Extremely miserable, in fact! Anytime I wasn’t asleep I rather wished I was. Or dead, you know, sometimes. Not that that could happen, really. Could have steered into something stellar and lethal, I suppose, but by the time I could do that I had other plans. Dwelling on how bad things were wasn’t going to fix them, you know? Wasn’t going to change the hand I’d been dealt. So just had to push forward! There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn, you know.”

In no way was this what Nova had been asking for.

“Uh, okay,” she said.

“It’s a thing I heard one time. Long time ago! Anyway. Doesn’t matter now. The point is I’m still here. Been here a while. Felt bad before but now I feel much better. Hah! Ahaha! Ahahahaha!”

He clapped and gave some momentary jazz-hands. Nova, stony silent, stared him down the way someone with an eye-less helmet can only truly manage. Beneath this, Jack wilted, sinking into his seat and picking at the tabletop.

“Sorry, out of practise with conversations,” he said, quietly.

“Kind of picking up on that,” Nova said.

A wind blew, and all that clone grass rippled.

“Here’s kind of a basic question but what did you eat?” Nova asked, just to keep things moving.

“I don’t eat,” Jack said, sullently, shrugging.

“Right, sure, of course not ask a stupid question.”

Jack shrugged some more, practically melting into his chair at this point.

“Sorry.”

Nova sighed.

“What’s up?” She asked, not totally enthused with playing agony aunt to an alien.

“Nothing, just - y-you don’t think Twilight’s mad at me, do you?” Jack asked.

“What? No. I mean, I don’t think so. How could she be?” Nova asked in turn, kind of baffled that he’d even think this - they’d barely spoken!

“I don’t know. I kind of used to like making her mad at me. A little mad, you know. Just for fun. Long time ago, mind. Kind of seems stupid now. Oh man. Can we - can we talk about something else? Ask me something else. Please.”

He just looked so bloody forlorn all of a sudden that Nova couldn’t really help herself.

“Uh, sure, alright. So if you were on a planet with a sun going around it, and that sun went out, then how…”

She glanced up to the sun again, making sure that Jack saw her do this.

“I moved the planet. From there, to here,” he said, holding his hands out as though holding a ball and then moving his hands from one side to the other. A good demonstration, all things considered.

A particular type of question was begging to be asked, though.

“Did you say ‘moved the planet’?” Nova asked.

Jack rubbed his face.

“I really should just lay it all out shouldn’t I? Or would you like to make a list of questions? Yes I moved the planet. I can move the planet. That’s how I got it here. And just so you don’t ask me this question later when you work it out yes this is the planet that you guys left in the first place. Talk about coincidences, eh? What a strange universe we live in.”

Nova stared at him for a second, waiting for another burst of laughter or a punchline or something, but nothing. She wished she could rub her own face but the helmet got in the way.

“I think I’ve hit my limit on strange stuff. That one didn’t even really register, I just felt it wash over me. This is the planet we came from, the planet Princess Twilight and Princess Cadence and a few others used to live on. Hmm. Nope, nope. Not sinking in at all sorry. Just won’t work,” she said.

She’d had a long day.

“Weird, right? But then I’ve had a lot of weird. Maybe it’s like time travel in Star Trek. You know? Once you’ve dipped your toe you start attracting more and more. Christ how do I even remember that?”

Nova had no idea what he was talking about and, at that exact moment, didn’t have enough care left to fritter it away on things like that. She had other issues.

“Just out of curiosity how did you learn you could move planets?” She asked.

“Same way anyone learns they can move planets,” Jack said.

“Oh yeah yeah, right. Course,” Nova said with laboured cheerfulness. Jack looked askance.

“I kind of get the impression you don’t believe me.”

“I don’t. But I also can’t deny that you’re here somewhere that doesn’t make much sense, sitting on a chair that wasn’t here before. That, and I do know this was a rogue planet anyway, annoyingly. I’m keeping an open mind. Or trying to.”

“How is any of this unbelievable? Don’t you guys still have magic?” Jack asked.

“We do, but there’s magic and then there this! And stop showing off that you know things!”

“Hehe, sorry. But I do! And hmm. Meh. Maybe you have a point.”

Jack went thoughtfully quiet a moment before swivelling about so he was actually, properly facing Nova head-on for the first time in the whole conversation, stretching his hands out and laying them flat on the table. He let out a breath.

“Right. So. I was meditating - well, not really, I was just sitting and staring into space. Actual space, like, with the stars. I used to do a lot of that, back when I was in the dark. Didn’t have a whole lot else I could do. And I was staring and I just sort of became more...aware...of myself. It’s hard to explain. I started noticing things that I couldn’t see. They were there, I knew what they were and what they were doing, but I wasn’t sure how I knew. Over time though I did start to know how I knew. If you follow?”

Nova did not follow.

“Um, not really.”

Jack frowned and clenched and unclenched his hands, as though hoping words might, like butterflies, settle. They did not.

“Ah, it’s like, hmm…”

He thought about how best to explain it. It wasn’t anything he’d ever had to explain to anyone before.

“Have you ever heard a noise without knowing what it was? And your brain kind of gropes around for what the best fit might be and so you imagine it as a bunch of different things until you actually get a bit more information and your brain realises and recognises it and suddenly the noise makes sense?”

“I guess?”

“It was like that,” Jack said, smiling in satisfaction at having apparently got his point across.

Probably about as good as it was going to get.

“...okay,” Nova said.

“I have a feeling that you may not be able to fully grasp what it is I’m trying to explain to you. That’s alright. The point is, basically, I discovered that I was aware of something I hadn’t been before and that, now being aware of it, I could actually affect it. Manipulate it. Thought it was magic at first - that surprised me, let me tell you! - but the more it went the more I figured it must be something else. I don’t know. Just a thing I can do now. I moved some rocks around.”

“Wow,” Nova said, dead flat.

“I know, right? Later on a spaceship showed up, just passing through, blah blah. Whatever it used to get around I could feel that too, put two and two together, experimented, learnt I could move the planet, learnt I could do other stuff, whatever. I’ve had a lot of practise now.”

Nova couldn’t help but feel he might have skipped a few key phases here, but that wasn’t what she really latched onto.

“You felt - you felt the ship’s drive or something? The hyperspace drive of the ship?”

Jack seemed to be getting more animated now, and considerably less downbeat then he had been mere moments prior. Guy was all over the place.

“Hyperdrive? Honestly? Do people really call it that? Delightful! How delightful! And maybe, I guess. I don’t know. I just now it was a thing that was there and I can kind of feel when stuff is happening with it and make stuff happen with it myself. I’m rather a fan!”

This was all demonstrably insane.

“So, to confirm and just so we’re completely clear, you can move this whole planet?” Nova asked. He nodded.

“Yep yep. I can move the planet. Can also move smaller stuff to make other stuff. Like, much smaller. The tiniest bits of stuff, put it onto other stuff, make new stuff. What I tried to do around here. With relative levels of success. I don’t know. Don’t worry about it.”

“Around here? You - you made this?” Nova asked, looking around and trying to spot what it was he was actually referring to before realising he might well have been referring to everything.

“Not the planet, that was here before like I said, but all this stuff?” He nodded to the trees in the distance, the grass all around them, gave the table a tap. “Yeah. Table’s easy, dead stuff is easy. Living stuff? Took a while, still not there yet. Place was just…”

He trailed off, seemingly not quite able to find the word.

“Place was too empty.”

Nova would have asked more questions but her brain seemed to have completely shut down by this point, this was just too ridiculous. She flopped onto her haunches and stared into space, trying to make sense out of any of it.

Alien? Not so bad, aliens existed. But this alien knew Princess Twilight personally and could also, you know, move planets and create life. And tables and chairs too, apparently. Just for the added bonus. That was somewhat harder to swallow.

Planet? Planets also fairly common, as far as common things go in space. Habitable planets? Considerably rarer, but still something you did some across. Apparently though this one in particular was the one her whole race came from. That was kind of a stretch.

Too much, just too much.

Did she believe any of it? A single word?

Given hyperspace’s relationship with superluminal travel, mass-reduction and all sorts of other strange, borderline, quasi-magical effects, being able to just fiddle about with it at will could allow someone or something to do, well, a whole heap of things, really.

It wasn’t impossible, and strange hyperspace-related phenomena had been encountered and did do some weird stuff, it was just unlikely and improbable to the point of being basically impossible that this guy could do it on a whim. Which wasn’t quite the same thing, but still.

But the way Princess Twilight had reacted…

“Heads up, here comes your boy,” Jack said, nodding back towards the shuttle. Nova turned and, indeed, Blithe was coming on over.

“Blithe?” Nova asked.

“There’s a message for you, Captain,” Blithe said, doing a brief double-take at the table but not commenting on it.

“Alright, I’ll come in and take it,” Nova said.

Blithe handed her a datapad. She took it.

“Or I could just look at it on this datapad. Thanks, Blithe,” she said. He gave a smart little nod and then headed back to the shuttle as quickly as politeness allowed.

“Space-news?” Jack asked, pointing to the datapad. Nova looked at him over the top of it.

“You can’t see it but I’m looking at you in mild disgust,” she said.

“No, I can feel that. So what’s up?”

She actually looked at the message for the first time, now.

“Message from Princess Twilight. Sounds a lot more composed. ‘Relating to our recent conversation’ etcetera ‘developments’ mmhmm, ‘immediate departure’ - wait, what?”

Nova read the pad again. And again.

“She’s coming here?!” She sputtered.

“She’s coming here!” Jack cheered, leaping to his feet, arms in the air, chair knocked over.

He then ran away.

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