• Published 2nd Jan 2013
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Slipping Through A Sideways Door - hornethead



A man accidently follows his friend, who was believed to be dead, to a strange and colorful land mired in conflict.

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Falling In Place

Chapter 23: Falling In Place

The airship was still rising pretty high. Mayfield wondered just how high she planned to go. He was sitting in the main compartment of The Clipper, the first of it's kind with Rainbow Dash. Myst was at the controls in the cockpit, he was interested to learn that in addition to her duties running the flight program in Canterlot, she helped out with Dash's little skydive company on the side. Jackson was busy up in the capitol for the time being, so Mayfield thought he'd give it a go.

He'd done jumps plenty of times before, but it was only when doing his job, he never had properly enjoyed the experience. He guessed now was a good time as any. Plus he thought it'd be a good idea to get on good terms with hot headed pegasus mare across from him if they were going to be good buddies with a shared secret. His thoughts were momentarily distracted by the engine compartment door opening up. Out trotted Quick Fix with a look of content on her features. "Fancy what you saw?" He asked her.

Her head swung towards him, "Did I. I wish I could have gotten my hooves on something like that machine earlier! Just thinking of the things I could do with it. . ." She spaced out, suddenly lost in thought.

"If you want to try something, I got an old busted one back at my hangar." Myst called back from the open cockpit door. Apparently, she'd been listening in.

Quick Fix perked up, "Really?"

"You fix it, it's yours."

"Losing your touch?" Dash jibed, "Thought machines were your thing."

"And they still are. Just don't have a ton of time between this, work and my kid."

"How is little Flicker doing, by the way?"

"Great. He's doing good in school, even though he just started recently. Ms. Cherilee said she's even thinking of advancing him early." Myst said proudly. "Takes after his mom, thank Celestia..."

"Your hubby isn't that bad, is he? Bit rough 'round the edges, but he's smart." Mayfield put in.

"Oh, no it's not that." Myst replied. "I just don't want to see him jumping out of perfectly good aircraft like his father and his goofy friends."

"Come now, it's not that bad." Mayfield said defensively. "Personally, I've only actually landed in airplanes about five times. I jumped the rest of the time and I've only been seriously injured twice."

"See, that's exactly what I'm worried about."

"Speaking of," Dash cut in, "we at the spot, Ari?"

Myst checked her instruments, "Getting there. You might wanna throw those masks on, I'm sealing the cockpit door."

"Ooh, hold on I'll join ya." Quick Fix said, trotting to the cockpit.

"Not joining us?" Mayfield asked as he stood up.

"Nah, I kinda wanna check out how she steers this thing any way. Have fun!" With that, the cockpit door slid shut with a thunk and a click as it locked tight.

Mayfield turned his attention back to Dash, "So, masks. We doing a HALO or something?"

"You said you wanted the real deal and not the campy touristy stuff." She said, tossing him a mask. He noticed it was the right fit for a human, but lacked any ports for air hoses. "You're lucky I had an extra one. Make sure you put the earpiece in so we can still communicate." She ordered.

Mayfield noticed that the air was starting to get thinner and it was becoming a bit harder to breath. Dash was already slipping her own mask on, so he followed suit and was surprised that he could instantly breathe better. He'd have to ask how they managed that later. After the straps were tight and secure, he pressed the earpiece in and was rewarded with a loud crackle as some one came on the air. "Alright, we're almost to altitude." Dash said. "You good?"

"As pie, love. One question though, how'd you come about this nifty device now on my gob? Me and Jackie never got fitted for one. And why did you need and extra?"

Dash's eyes made a confused expression, "I gotta get used to the way you talk. I assume you mean the mask on your head, right?" He nodded. "It's a secret."

"Now, why's it so hush hush? You must be talking about our dear friend and I already know him now."

Behind Dash, a red light started flashing on the bulkhead, prompting them to move to the open side door. "Well, maybe it's more of a surprise." She said cryptically.

"In which bloody way is it a surprise?" Mayfield startled suddenly as music started blasting through his earpiece, making him wince. As if that wasn't enough, he thought he recognized it. "Is that... is that the bloody Flogging Molly!?" He asked incredulously as the song The Seven Deadly Sins was piped into his ear.

"What, you don't approve of my music choice you limey freak?" Said the voice of some one Mayfield had only met but recently.

"Mr. Kaughn, you cocky tit, I didn't know you'd be here! Don't worry, I've got a cousin who's half potato. Where you hidin' at?"

"Take a look outside."

Mayfield looked out into the empty air in front of him, but didn't see anything. He was about to ask what he was looking for when something sped down into his field of vision so fast that he almost didn't catch it. It was a man in all black clothing, wearing the same respiratory mask as himself. He was facing the airship upside down, legs spread out wide in front of his body, two gloved hands were over his crotch making a very vulgar gesture with the middle fingers.

The light turned green and Dash leaped out the door laughing, wings folded tightly to her sides for speed. "You cheeky little shit..." Mayfield muttered, smirking under his mask, before launching himself out into open air as well.

=================================================


It was painfully quiet inside the cell. On the table, the plate of treats sat untouched, but the water had been divided between three glasses already, though only two of the room's occupants had drunk any of it. Howitzer and Jackson sat across from their guest, a pegasus the color of dirty mustard that went by the name Marcus.

Marcus was chained to the chair he sat on, wings bound tightly to his body by a coil of rope. Currently he was glowering at his two interrogators, Jackson had just caught him in a lie and he wasn't very happy about it. They had begun slowly, catching him off guard by making small talk about his home town of Hollow Shades where he grew up with his grandparents. Once he was loosened up, Jackson began subtly steering the conversation towards his activities during his time off work.

This had led them to this point where Marcus claimed he had never been north of the plains before, which was false because some of his friends had told investigators that he regularly traveled up to the snow fields on weekends. It was significant because there had been recent sightings of Lotkin warriors not belonging to any of the known tribes up there.

Marcus shifted uncomfortably in his chair, narrowing his eyes as he prepared to speak again, "Ok, so I've been up there a few times, so what, there's nothing wrong with that."

"Then why lie about it?" Howitzer countered.

Marcus crossed his forelegs and leaned back, "Maybe I like my privacy. What's it even matter anyway?"

"What matters is that you were found with a large amount of a very special type of explosive and you've been traveling to areas that have been noting recent enemy activity. It's best if you just came clean now, I promise this will go a lot better for you."

Marcus changed his position again, "It's not even my stuff. I'm just getting paid to hold onto it." He said as if that would somehow vindicate him of any wrong doing.

Jackson spoke next, his voice firm, but respectful, "That doesn't make it any better." Then his voice took on a slight mocking tone, "Do you even know what they're trying to do with these materials? Or do you not really rank high enough for that kind of trust?"

"Of course I know!" Marcus said, taken aback by the question. "I mean, I'm sure they're just gonna use it on the guard and stuff, right?" Jackson began scribbling notes down as Marcus spoke, he was suddenly telling them some very juicy stuff, even if he didn't realize it. "I ain't met the guy backing this, but the guys that have all tell me about how he just goes on and on, complaining about the princesses and how things are being run in this country. Says he's gonna change it and reward anypony who helps him real good." Marcus then noticed Jackson furiously writing on a notepad in his lap, "Hey! What are you writing?"

"Nothing important." Jackson said calmly. "Though I appreciate the time we've spent here, I actually should go." He stood up and motioned for Howitzer to follow. "Take care."

"Hey, wait! Oh crap. Don't tell them I said anything!"

Howitzer shut the door behind him. Out in the passageway, Celestia had gone, but Luna was still there waiting. "How'd it go, did you find anything?" She asked impatiently.

"Oh yeah, got some good stuff." Jackson assured her. He turned to Howitzer, "You said you seen those kind of explosives before?"

"Yup. Magically made. Very volatile, very dangerous."

"Can you trace it?"

"Sure can! Anything that powerful made with magic always leaves a slight trail of magical residue, especially if he kept using the same route when transporting it."

"Well, he's a low level guy so I'm sure he didn't think to change it up."

"You think he might know anything else?"

"Probably not. Keep him detained though." Jackson looked at the papers again, "This amount of explosives, can't be a small Op. I recommend you send teams to every major city, most likely there's more than one cache."

"Got it."

"What about Van Hoover?" Luna inquired.

Howitzer answered her, "I got a guy that can look into that real low key. He can snoop around without arousing anymore suspicion, it'll look like we've dropped the case in the area."

"That's absolutely perfect." Jackson said. "I head there myself and supervise, break in some new operatives."

Howitzer started to object, "Wait, that might not be..."

"What, what's wrong?"

"Uh. . . Nothing. All good."

"Sweet, let's hop to it."

=================================================


Mayfield sat at the table on James' outside deck by the falls. Evening was quickly coming on and he was enjoying a drink with Dash and the man himself. Music was playing loudly from speakers inside the house, setting an energetic, but relaxing, ambiance for their conversation. At the moment, they were rehashing the events of the day.

"Y' know, I never thought of jumping out of planes for fun. Gotta say I quite like it, I can float around in the sky without worrying about what might be trying to kill me on the ground." Mayfield commented.

"No kidding, I didn't even think just falling could be fun when I could just fly, but I get a great rush, diving, falling, going as fast as I can. Sometimes just waiting until the absolute last moment before I hit the ground before spreading my wings shooting close along the ground!" Rainbow Dash said in agreement.

James chuckled, "Just make sure you're not too close when she goes for a speed record. If she breaks the sound barrier while you're nearby, you're in for a rough ride."

"Really?" Mayfield leaned forward in interest. "She can break the sound barrier?"

"You bet your flank I can!" Dash said confidently. "But I don't remember ever causing you trouble." She said while eyeing James.

"Sure you don't remember!" James laughed. "I bet you don't remember that one time you did it and the shockwave sent me tumbling through the air into the Ghastly Gorge." He looked over to Mayfield, "Spent the rest of the day dodging a bunch of giant ass eels!"

"Heard about those," said Mayfield, "dreadful things, eels. 'Specially giant ones."

"Oh, stop it!" Dash hit James playfully in the shoulder. He winced and pretended to rub the spot. "You were only in there for half an hour before I found you and flew you out. And I made up for it later, didn't I?"

"Sure did." He leaned over and gave her a peck.

Mayfield took a swig of his drink, a nice little mixture of gin and some kind of blueberry flavored beverage. "And here I thought retirement was supposed to be dull and boring."

"Yeah, it's weird. I thought you're supposed to slow down as you got older, but I've just been feeling younger by the day." James said. "Funny thing, the other week I was cooking and accidentally cut myself pretty good. Slapped a bandage on it and went back to cooking. Checked it a day later, shit was healed. Just left a little scar, see?" He held out his right arm, revealing a small mark about two inches long and two centimeters wide on his wrist, near the vein.

"Don't take the piss, how'd you manage that?"

"Well, I was really drunk at the time and-"

"No no, not that you knob, that shit healing in a day."

"Oh. Not a damn clue."

*Snap*

The sound came suddenly from the other side of the house, loud enough to hear over the falls. Rainbow Dash's ears pricked up, but she didn't move, to her it just sounded like somebody dropped something. However, to the trained ears of the humans, it could have been something striking the ground. It could have been a suppressed weapon. They didn't wait to find out. Abruptly, they stood up, causing Dash to jump a little in surprise, "What's wrong?" She asked, worried.

"You should get in the house." James advised her.

"What? Why?"

"We just didn't like the sound of that, love. Thinkin' about your safety." Mayfield told her.

"Safety shmafety, if it's somepony lookin' for a fight, I can take 'em!" She retorted.

Mayfield gave James a glance and the sandy haired man nodded, "Actually, she could."

"Right. Well please stay here anyway, in case it is what we think and they try to get around us. Mr. Kaughn, if you will..."

Without any further conversation, the two humans set forward. Training and instinct took over and they instantly fell into a partnership, each watching the other's back. With fluid motion, they crept around the side, careful to tread lightly so as to avoid producing any noise.

As they got around to the front, they stopped and looked around before peering around the corner. There wasn't anything on this side of the house, so they proceeded, gently edging around for a view. Mayfield—who was leading—held a hand out, "Oi, hold on. I think I see the bugger snooping around the bushes by your garden."

"What's he look like?"

"Seems to be a stallion. I can only see his silhouette, but he's got some clothing on, no bulges. He's got on a hat, but I don't think he's a unicorn."

"Might be a damn thief." James sighed. "Or worse, a reporter. Alright, let's scare him off." He started forward, but Mayfield stopped him again.

"No worries mate, this one's on me. Just sit back and watch."

James nodded and crouched by the corner as Mayfield moved forward. The man effortlessly melded with the shadows along the edge of the foliage, creeping closer to the intruder. A moment later, he emerged to the stranger's rear and grabbed him around the collar of his vest, "Oi! what you doin' here?" James heard him say as he gave the intruder a little shake.

A southern twang replied, "Oh, my deepest apologies, I must have gotten lost."

"Yeah, sure you did. Hey, I know you! Your that tosser that crashed our party!"

"I think you might be mistaken. . . Or am I? That wasn't your house, you live here?"

"Yeah, I do, alone. Now bugger off before I throw you over the falls!"

"Ok ok, shucks mister, ya don't have threaten me."

"Piss off!"

Mayfield gave the stallion a shove and watched as he galloped away. When he was sure the nosey guy was gone, he walked back to where James was crouching. "Well, that was interesting." James commented. "You knew that guy?"

"Yeah, fuckin' chav crashed in on me and Jackson's house party not too long ago."

"Probably won't be doing that again, you gave him quite a scare."

"Sure did." Mayfield agreed, but he didn't sound like he did. "Hey, mind if I stay over here tonight, I don't much care for a walk back through the forest."

"I don't blame you. Go ahead and take the couch."

"Thanks mate."

"No worries."

Mayfield decided to just duck into the house through the front door. James went around the side to the back, to let Dash know that everything was ok and also to collect the drink glasses. But when he came around the corner, the table was already clear and she was gone. He looked inside and saw the glasses in the kitchen sink.

James went in, Mayfield was already passed out on the couch. James grabbed a blanket and just tossed it on him. Dash must have already gone up to the bedroom, so that was where he went, almost tiptoeing up the stairs so he didn't cause any unnecessary noise. He found her standing by the window, looking out.

"Hey, you ok?" He asked her.

"Yeah..." She said in a tone that told him otherwise. "Who was it?" She asked, meaning the stranger.

"Nobody. Just some guy that claimed he was lost. Topher dealt with it himself." She relaxed a bit with the explanation, but she still seemed upset. James walked over and sat on the bed by her. "Something's bothering you, what's on your mind?"

Dash turned around to face him and sighed heavily, "I was just wondering how long this would last out here. I mean, you can't just hide out here forever. Somepony's sure to find out eventually. And what with all the stuff that's going on around the country, what if somepony tries to hurt you? I know you made enemies, that's why you keep that gun. What if they try to take you away from me again?" She said to him, voice thick with worry.

Touched, James reached out and pulled her in, embracing her tightly. She returned it, also wrapping her wings around him. "No one's going to take me away. And even if we got separated pr I had to go somewhere, you know I'd always come back. Besides, they'd have to deal with an angry Rainbow Dash if anything did happen, a very daunting prospect." He got a little chuckle out of her with that.

James was suddenly pitched back as she kicked off the floor and threw both of them onto the bed, embracing him even tighter, "You always did know how to make me feel better." She said into his ear. They lay there together, limbs intertwined and feeling safe in each other before drifting off into sound sleep.

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