• Published 2nd Jan 2013
  • 4,835 Views, 741 Comments

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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5: Back In The Game

Chapter 5: Back In The Game

The hum of a large propeller and the cold rushing air from the open side door filled the main cabin of a small airship. Jackson now sat on a bench inside that ran along the starboard bulkhead. He was back in his uniform, but none of his weapons and equipment had been returned to him yet. Across from him sat the pegasus with the damaged wing and four other stallions. They all watched the man carefully. Neither party fully trusted the other.

Currently, they were all headed to an area near the Frozen North. There were reports there of a strange two legged snow beast that stole food and disappeared without a trace, all without injuring any of the ponies it stole from or threatening any of the villagers. Jackson of course knew better. He knew only one being that could possibly be doing all that.

Jackson leaned over and looked out the side door to the snowy ground below. They were just now passing over the village that reported the incidents. The homes within it were beautiful, the architecture was inspired by the fractal geometric patterns of snowflakes. Then, before he could really admire it, it was gone, the airship speeding past on its way to wilder places.

The pegasus with the damaged wing cocked his head to one side like he was listening to something. a second later, he looked directly at Jackson and started to speak, "We're nearing the site. When we put down, you stay here and let us find the guy."

"Flash, was it?" Jackson asked, "That's a pretty bad idea. He sees you and your crew coming and it's over, he bolts and we never see him again."

"We'll catch him, don't you worry."

"Yeah, and if you corner him, he's gonna fight back and this guy is at least as dangerous as me, if not more. I'll go snag him and bring him back. If he sees someone he trusts, he'll come out of hiding and I can explain to him the situation."

Flash considered this for a moment.

"Very well," he decided, "Sylver, you go with him."

A spark of annoyance flashed across Jackson's face, "That might not be a good idea."

"Either he goes with you, or we all go and you stay here." Flash gave in ultimatum.

"Fine, but he stays out of my way."

A few minutes later, the airship put down near a grove of trees. Flash's team filed out and took positions with practiced grace, each one of them setting up to cover a field of fire or avenue of attack. Jackson jumped down into the snow and scanned the area. On two sides was a line of trees. To the right was a slope that went down into the valley. On the left was a rise that culminated in a hill with steep sides. It had less cover, but Jackson knew his target. He was a sniper, he could disappear in any environment. And he had probably already seen them coming. Taking a deep breath, Jackson started off for the hill,

Sylver trotted out from the firing line and followed.

The human crunched through the snow with the unicorn following close behind in his footsteps. Jackson marched forward, annoyed at his situation, but he wasn't about to make it worse by causing a scene out here. He would play nice for now, find Mayfield, go back to that place they called Canterlot and get what he needed to find Kaughn from Celestia.

"How did you know him?"

Jackson stopped at the sudden question. He turned and saw the unicorn staring at him, curiosity in his golden hued eyes.

"Know who, Mayfield? We were just working together for a training exercise." The man answered, resuming his steps.

"No, not him. I'm talking about Commander Kaughn."

"Commander, huh? He get promoted?"

"I guess so..."

"Why do you want to know anyway?" Jackson asked the unicorn in a slightly hostile tone.

"Well, you actually worked with him, I want to know more than just the tales. I mean, he's the whole reason I applied for this job in the first place. If a stranger like that with no stake in the country could change the world the way he did, imagine what I could do."

"Why don't you ask your team leader there? From what little I was told, they were pretty good pals."

"They don't really like to talk about it all that much. Even our melee combat instructor would smack you around a little even at the mention of him. The subject of him is pretty much taboo for some reason." The unicorn said dolefully.

"Well, if you really want to know, he was a good man. Always looked out for his buddies, never enjoyed being the subject of attention. All around down to earth guy." Jackson told the stallion, without any flare.

"Oh. I expected something a bit more... exciting or heroic."

"Then stick to the stories, kid."

The next mile was spent walking mostly in silence, the situation between the two now growing somewhat awkward. They soon came to the base of the hill. Jackson looked up it and picked out a possible path to ascend among the rocks and trees. He started going up it, watching for signs of the SAS operative in the snow and on the trunks of the trees. At one point, the path leveled out and they came out into a small circular, shallow bowl like depression at about half way up the slope.

Jackson stopped. On one side of the opening, up hill, a stick lay in the snow. This would be unremarkable in itself, except this particular stick did not match many of its brethren that were scattered about the clearing. While all the other sticks and broken branches lay covered in a layer of undisturbed snow, this one looked like it had just recently fallen into the fluffy white powder.

Jackson looked up the slope and saw a patch of disturbed snow on top of a large boulder, "Ok, we gotta be careful, he's here." He warned the unicorn.

"Aye-up, ya miss me?"

Jackson slowly turned around to where the voice came from. Behind him and the stallion stood Mayfield, clad in his white winter gear, rifle in hand and barrel pointing straight at Jackson's chest. Gradually, he lowered his weapon, a wide grin appearing on his face.

"Long time, no see." Jackson replied.

"Yeah, was wonderin' when you were gonna show up. What happened to you radioing me?"

"These guys took all my equipment." Jackson explained while gesturing to Sylver.

"Thought I saw you get snapped up. So this really is a land of talking horses, eh?"

"You found out?"

"Who you think I been stealing food from, mate? Had a bit of a shock at first, but I think I'm all right now. Tell you what though, I'll definitely be drinkin' a skin full after this."

"Glad to see you're adjusting well."

"Yeah, you could say that. So, what we doin' now?"

"Looks like I made nice with the leadership here. Well, we won't be POWs or anything at least. They're gonna help us get back, in exchange, they want our help with some problems they've been having with some hostilities." Jackson told him.

"So we may be saying a while?"

"Probably."

"Meh," Mayfield shrugged, "I've been wanting to go on holiday."

"You took that pretty well." Jackson commented in a slightly surprised tone.

"I could still go bat shit if ya like." The Brit offered.

"Naw man, it's cool. C'mon, I got us a ride out of here."

"Thank the graces, been freezin' my nuts off out here!"

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



It was a long ride back to Canterlot. Mayfield sat with Jackson the whole way back, suspicious of the team of stallions seated across from him. His paranoia was made worse when their team leader, Flash, kept trying interrogate the man. Throughout the experience, Mayfield remained defiantly silent, sometimes ignoring the officer's existence all together, much to the Lieutenant Commander's annoyance.

Eventually, they all made it back without much incident. Jackson had dozed off during the trip and was woken by Mayfield as they touched down for a landing at a secluded and heavily guarded pier ensconced of a cliff that hung beneath the Palace. Groggily, he stood and shuffled to the door. Jumping down to the deck, he was surprised to see the two large ponies with wings and horns he had come to know was Equestria's royalty.

Both of the Royal Sisters trotted up, Flash walking to intercept them with a salute and a greeting, "Your Majesties, we've returned with the other human. He was armed, but just like the first one, only with non-lethal rounds."

"Very well," Said the larger of the two, "Dismiss your team, but remain here yourself, we shall speak with the two humans."

"Yes ma'am." Flash replied before trotting off to execute the orders given to him.

Jackson watched as the royalty began approaching and leaned towards Mayfield, "The larger one, with the big golden crown and colorful hair, that's Princess Celestia. She's the head honcho here. The smaller, darker one with the star hair, that's her younger sister, Princess Luna. Luna runs the black ops organization for the country."

"These wankers are black ops? Don't look much like it to me."

"After they captured me, I woke up in a literal dungeon with a bag over my head. Not to mention, they were trained by my old friend."

"Really? Now that's a bit of interesting."

"Chief Jackson, this is your friend?" Princess Celestia asked.

"Yes ma'am, he's Chri--"

"Uh, please, just call me Scratch, for now, your Highness." Mayfield interjected.

Jackson looked at his friend with a 'really?' expression.

"What?" Mayfield said in reply to the look, "We just met them in a land that shouldn't exist, I'm not tellin' them my name yet."

"Ok then. This is Scratch." Jackson continued, "He's an operative, like me."

"So you do the same things as Jackson?" Luna inquired of him.

"Not exactly, but similarly." Mayfield replied.

"Please elaborate."

"'Fraid I can't. Not unless you have the proper clearance and I'm sorry, but you're not even of my country."

"Very well then."

"Not to be rude or intrusive," Jackson said cautiously, "but do you have any place for us to stay that isn't that musty dungeon you had me in?"

"Of course, you're our guests now." Celestia assured him, "Lieutenant Commander Flash here will escort you both to one of the officers' quarters in the RSTG's section of the palace."

"Officers' quarters? Sounds fuckin' good to me." Mayfield quipped.

Flash led the two humans away to their new quarters, leaving Luna and Celestia alone on the airship pier. Their meeting with the two new humans over, they began walking back up to the palace to resume their other royal tasks.

"Tia, I'm sorry about the incident last night. I promise it won't happen again." Luna apologized, referring to Jackson's escape.

"It's ok, Luna. I expected something like that to happen. That human is every bit as crafty and dangerous as James was. You've handled everything else extremely well and I'm sure you will continue to. Besides, we now have not one, but two powerful allies to aid us. With any luck, we may regain a third."

"Thank you, sister. Is all going well with the court?"

*sigh* "It's as chaotic and stressful as it's ever been. Perhaps even more so with the new nation of tribes we now currently host." Celestia said in exasperation.

"Wouldn't it have been better to have simply cast them back into Tartarus from whence they came? We would probably have a great less trouble than we do with the Renegades."

"That may be so, my dear sibling, but it wouldn't have been fair to them after they showed such restraint and civility in their surrender. In the positive, we have a competent and experienced ambassador to them matched by no other. Even if he is somewhat blunt and unorthodox during diplomatic meetings."

"Perhaps an old hold over from his previous leader?" Luna said with a quaint smile.

Celestia chuckled a little, "Yes, perhaps..."

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



Flash opened the door to the room, letting soft light flood the darkened space. Jackson and Mayfield entered, Jackson finding and flipping the light switch he found near the door. The lights flickered on and revealed a small, but spacious room with two beds, two wardrobes, a large window and even a small bathroom with a couple of sinks and a shower.

"Here is your quarters," said Flash, "the mess hall is two floors down and to the left, keep going until you see the double doors. If you need anything else, I'm right down the passageway here, room three twenty-two Bravo. Don't leave the building unless you're escorted by Lieutenant Sylver or myself, understand?"

"Yeah, yeah, we got it. Let's go get some chow now, eh?" Mayfield said non-chalantly.

If Flash was offended by his comment, he didn't show it. Instead, his eyes just narrowed and he backed out of the room, closing the door behind him, the sound of hoof steps receding down the hall following soon after.

"Whew!" Mayfield exhausted, flopping onto one of the racks, "So, what you think, we losin' our fuckin' minds, or what?"

"Hm?" Jackson was busy making up his own rack.

"This place, are we really on a planet dominated by horses, or have we both just gone conveniently mental in about the same way?"

Jackson shrugged, "Could be. It all feels real enough, looks real enough. We might as well go with it."

"And if we're actually in a psychiatric ward somewhere, being treated for some psychological effect brought on by being stuck out in the cold?"

"Then we're on some pretty good drugs that give us the same hallucinations." Jackson chortled.

"Either way." Mayfield said with a dismissive tone. "Hey, why don't you say we go get some grub? Haven't had a proper meal in ages!" He suggested, suddenly sitting up.

"Sure, let's go."

Together, both the humans got up and out the door, ensuring it was closed before they left. Then, following the directions given to them by the pegasus, they descended a couple flights of stairs before coming into a wide hall way that looked to be a main thorough fare through the building. Taking a left, the walked side-by-side down the corridor, taking in every feature it had to offer.

On either side were some offices and administrative rooms, clerks working feverishly on stacks of paperwork. Some were more more secretive, having no windows of any sort, the doors heavy and fitted with many different locks. Most of the hallway, as with the rest of the building, was constructed out of extremely smooth and well crafted stone walls and blocks, much of it fitted together so expertly that it appeared as if the entire structure had been carved straight from the living rock itself.

Along the walls were thin glass boxes. Each held a row of pictures of many different ponies and stallions. Next to the photos were ribbons and accolades earned during their service accompanied by a short description of their deeds. In addition, they also had a grim feature under their placards; the dates of their birth, and their death. For an unfortunate majority of them, the date of their deaths were the same.

Jackson and Mayfield continued on to the double doors further down the hallway, passing many other ponies in the same dark uniform as the rest, occasionally receiving on odd glance or two. Swinging the doors open, they met a large bustle of activity, ponies everywhere sitting at tables and eating their meals. A few looked to the doors at the new comers, some gawking for a moment, but all returned to their meal without much else.

The two humans made their way over to what they assumed was the chow line and grabbed a couple of trays from a stack on a cart near the beginning of the line. They filed through, finding much to their chagrin, that most of the food consisted of things like hay, oats and other consumables clearly not meant for their digestive systems. There was, however, and abundance of other edible vegetables suitable for them which they hastily loaded up on before proceeding to find a table at which to sit.

"Nothing but damn rabbit food. They expect us to live off of nothing but greens?" Mayfield complained with a sour expression.

"I dunno, but we better fill up on as much as we can." Jackson said, "something tells me we're gonna be pretty busy soon."

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