Time – August 5, 2087, 1300 Hours
Location – 283 miles above the Earth.
Mission – First manned test of anti-matter propelled spacecraft.
“Eagle 3, this is ground control, launch will commence in 30 minutes.”
“Roger that, Ground control, launch in 30.” Major Thomas Williams craned his neck to the side in the cramped capsule in order to catch a glimpse of the blue and green orb that he was currently circling. Returning his eyes to the display in front of him, he allowed himself a moment to contemplate his mission. True, this was a momentous occasion, but was it not like the rest of the space missions in the last half-century, mere national morale boosters? Even if this test succeeded in proving anti-matter propulsion was quicker and more efficient than conventional rockets, the facts remained the same. No politician wanted to put more money into a program that already worked, because that wouldn’t guarantee them more votes. As a matter of fact, NASA was facing budget cuts already. Major Williams’ reflections were interrupted by the crackle over his headset.
“Eagle 3, it is time for the final checklist, do you copy?”
“Copy ground control, ready when you are.” As he went through the same checklist he had performed a hundred times over in simulations, Major Williams found his mind beginning to wander again. His eyes strayed to the yellow handle clearly marked in black - ‘ABORT.’ He mused over the lever for a moment, one of the tell-tale signs that his craft was in fact a hand-me-down from an earlier project. It still worked, but flinging himself into space in a re-entry vehicle that was about as big as a four-door car didn’t seem terribly appealing. The Major pondered for a moment if having a failsafe made him feel more secure because it was there, or less, since one was needed. Hopefully the test would go as planned, and after the test engine was spent, he could sail down to earth on Eagle’s lifting body design and land safely at Kennedy Space Center, as astronauts had been doing for decades.
“Eagle 3 this is ground control; we are beginning the one-minute countdown. Godspeed, Major.”
“Roger that, beginning final countdown, test engine on standby.” Looking up at the stars above him, Williams wondered if mankind would ever reach out farther than Earth’s own orbit, or simply meander along, satisfied with their accomplishment more than a hundred years ago, in 1969. His attention was brought back to the present by the increased humming from his craft, accompanied by the voice on his head set counting down;
“5… 4… 3… 2… 1… 0… We have ignition. Eagle 3 is away.”
The antimatter rocket that propelled the Eagle 3 was an engineering marvel. The onboard fusion reactor provided the power to the proton and anti-proton magnetic containment fields, as well as the flow regulators that fed the annihilation reaction and the magnetic nozzle that shaped the exhaust. The annihilation reaction produced gamma radiation, as well as subatomic particles called mesons, and while gamma radiation has no charge, enough of the mesons produced thrust when directed aft of the ship via the magnetic nozzle. For reference to the power stored within antimatter, a one-way trip to Mars relying on chemical rockets takes around a year. With 10 grams of antimatter, the trip only takes a month. The computer that regulated the matter/anti-matter flow was constantly in contact with two ground control computers that were checking every calculation and sub-process to avoid a potentially fatal error, such as a complete failure of the containment for both the anti-matter and the fusion reactor, which would create a spectacular explosion on the level of unknown megatons. The working theory was that such energy, when applied to existing matter, could transform it completely into energy, thus causing an explosion exponentially larger than would have normally occurred. However, this was all theory. Mankind would have to wait for the answers to those elusive questions, and many barriers lay between observation and true understanding.
Location - 19 Million miles away from the Eagle 3
The Sun. Long has that majestic ball of fire hung in our skies, providing warmth, comfort, and life. At a glance, it seems to enjoy the happiness it brings, breaking the cloud cover after a long, dreary winter, or warming the lands too long gripped by cold. However, the Sun has no such benign disposition. For every break in the cold, it also brings relentless heat. It brings floods and droughts alike. It brings searing heat. It brings famine. It brings death. That immense inferno cares not for the lives it both gives and takes; it burns rock and flesh alike. On this day, it continued in an eon-old cycle that brought it to its highest peak in a millennium. And it brought it with all the fury that ancient power is renowned for across the globe. The surface of Sol erupted in an almighty solar flare, reaching far across the heavens to touch the surface of Mercury, turning its’ already blasted surface into gas in an instant. The solar wind howled across the vast expanse of space, speeding with the fury of the storms towards Earth, and the unsuspecting capsule now approaching the northern pole of that planet.
Location – Equestria, on a hill just outside of Ponyville.
Twilight Sparkle gazed upwards at the stars that reside in the night sky like jewels of fire. She stared intensely at the dark spaces in between two stars directly above her. There! Another streak crossed the sky to the south. Twilight made another check mark on her ever-present paper and resumed her meteor watching. It was a pity nopony else wanted to tag along, but this was the third day in a row that these showers were to appear, and Twilight knew that her friends were not as interested in astronomy as her. Spike had wanted to come along, but she had been firm – a growing dragon needs his sleep. Besides, she found herself enjoying this quiet time for contemplation. She sighed contentedly and smiled, making another mark as the sky was once again rent in twain by a streak of fire. She glanced down at her paper for a quick tally. She chided herself mildly as she came up to the final count of 248. She had told herself when she set out that she would go home at 100. After all, she had a busy day lined up tomorrow. After a visit to Zecora, she had a meeting with the Mayor to help with preparations for Celestia’s visit, followed by helping Applejack and Fluttershy work out a solution for keeping the animals out of the crops. She stood up, stretched her cramped legs, and started packing her things, when suddenly, she saw something that caused her to stop and stare in awe.
Location – Low Earth orbit, approximately eight minutes after the eruption of the Sun.
Major Williams had just crossed over the night side of the planet and was continuing his acceleration when he lost radio contact with ground control.
“Ground Control, this is Eagle 3, do you read me?” The only reply was static crackling in his ears. He thought quickly to himself that there must be some sort of unforeseen side effect caused by the anti-matter engine. Then he saw his connections to the backup computers, his navigation beacon and satellite relay were all dead. Now the sweat was starting to form as he desperately tried to come up with a feasible explanation for all of this. Could it be a terrorist attack? No, the odds of a coordinated attack against ALL the space centers were ridiculous. What about the EMP blast from a nuclear weapon detonated above the mainland US?
“Eagle 3 to ground control, come in!” No, he would be able to see that from here. He was in an experimental vehicle, spinning around the Earth at a fantastic speed. He had just lost all communication with the ground, and he had no idea what to do next. His eyes darted to the ejection handle. He gripped it with his left hand and began to count to 60. If he had not regained SOME sort of contact with Earth by then, he was going to abort the mission, and to hell with the bureaucrats. At 30 he noticed the Earth was dark. Major cites lay completely black. At 45 he saw the light of the sunrise far ahead, far brighter than it should have been. He had just reached 55 when he came into full view of the sun. In the seconds before the Eagle 3 began her death throes, he sent out his last transmission to a deaf world;
“Ground control, I am aborting mission! Repeat, I am abor-!”
Location – Event Horizon of a Space-Time anomaly.
The fabric of space-time can be likened to a vast elastic surface. The more massive an object is, the more it ‘sinks’ in the fabric. Also, like actual fabric, it can be broken, as in the case of black holes, which sink so far into the fabric that it warps reality itself. Many theories on faster-than-light travel also revolve around this warping reality, hence the term ‘Warp Drive’. In the case of the destruction of the Eagle 3, reality was indeed warped. So far warped, in fact, that it opened a hole in reality for a brief instant, and it was into this hole that Major Williams found himself propelled as time itself was bent around him, allowing him a brief glimpse of his apparently frozen craft in the midst of exploding. The event horizon of the space-time anomaly warped not space as a black hole does, where matter is pulled at variant rates depending on proximity to the center, but instead created a similar phenomenon with time. From Major Williams’ perspective, he ejected, and all time but his own froze as he plummeted into blackness. From normal time’s perspective, Major Williams appeared to simply vanish into the explosion that ever so briefly rivaled the raging sun.
Location – The Aforementioned Hill outside Ponyville.
Twilight Sparkle stared in amazement as a new meteor, far brighter than any she had ever seen, arced across the heavens. Its tail reached across the entire sky as it swept overhead, illuminating the ground with a harsh red light. Several seconds after it had passed directly overhead, and before she had time to even begin documenting this momentous event, an almighty ‘C-R-R-R-R-AAACK!’ ripped through the still night air. Twilight half-recognized the sound from Rainbow Dash’s sonic rainboom, but this was a harsh, ear-splitting noise that definitely did not leave a rainbow. Looking out over the path that the object had carved through the sky, she half expected to hear it smash into the ground with a deafening explosion. After several minutes passed, and after she had finished detailing the occurrence in full, she trotted off in the direction of Ponyville, which was just settling back down after its unexpected awakening. Twilight guessed that Rarity would not be too pleased with the sudden interruption of her so-called beauty sleep. She had read all about meteors before setting out, and also how sometimes they broke apart very low in the atmosphere, but that nopony had ever been close enough to observe one properly before. She gave a hop of joy in mid-stride. SHE was that pony! She might even take a trip to Canterlot to discuss it with top ponies in the field. It was with such happy thoughts that Twilight Sparkle reached her front door and went inside.
Location – An Unnamed Lake in the Everfree Forest.
Major Williams decided to count himself lucky. Yes, he had no idea where he was. Yes, his computer systems were fried. Yes, his jumpsuit was riding up on him. However, he was alive, and that was something. Either from skill or just plain luck he had been able to guide his careening escape capsule through the blistering atmosphere and smack dab into the middle of a rather massive lake. Musing over his approach, he decided that it was probably luck, but that he would claim skill on the official report. Sitting back in his seat, he glared out at his surroundings. Not much was visible past the inflated floats that ringed his craft, but what he couldn’t see irked him just as much as what he did see. What he did not see was a retrieval crew. No ships, no VTOL’s, no Navy divers, nothing. Heaving a sigh, he unfastened his harness and decompressed the cabin. As the canopy slowly rose, he decided he might as well dig out the emergency supplies and try to make landfall. Maybe that would keep his mind busy enough to stop him from wondering just what the hell had happened up there. Stepping out onto the top of the capsule in his bulky suit, he scanned the shore in the pre-dawn light. By the look of the trees, he was probably in the Florida Everglades or the Amazon. Fervently hoping that it was the former, he dragged the case marked ‘EMERGENCY USE ONLY’ out from its place behind his seat. Right, like he was going to decide to break out a protein bar in the middle of a test flight. Clipping it to his belt, he decided to let the wind do the work of beaching the craft and sat down to await landfall.
Location – Fluttershy’s Cottage.
Fluttershy had an abnormally busy morning that day. After that sudden noise last night, there were many animals that needed her attention. As she went from place to place, reassuring here, helping rebuild there, and retrieving the occasional lost little one, she lost track of time until the Ponyville bell tower struck a quarter till noon. With a squeak of dismay, she remembered she was supposed to meet Applejack and Twilight at the Café des Chevaux at noon! She was about to fly off as fast as she could when she noticed a monkey outside of her window.
‘Well hello there little monkey, I-’ She began before it leapt away and swung off through the trees.
‘Oh my…’ sighed Fluttershy to herself, as she watched it swing away. Suddenly, it took a sharp turn and disappeared into the Everfree Forest. So that’s where he came from… She puzzled briefly over why he had left in the first place, but she was almost late, so she pushed it to the back of her mind. With that, the pale yellow pegasus winged gracefully through the trees on her way to lunch with her friends.
Location – Lakeshore in the Everfree Forest.
“Well Tom, last stop.” Major Williams had been stuck on a sandbar 50 feet from shore for about 15 minutes now, and it was now quite apparent that it was going to remain that way. Muttering darkly to himself, he slid down the side of the blackened capsule and into the waist-deep, murky water. He promptly fell over. Sitting up again, he was glad that he had decided to keep his helmet on. This lake was nasty. He took a step forward, expecting to push off and start swimming. Instead he sank to the bottom, weighted down by the case of supplies hooked to his waist. Now that he was completely submerged, he was REALLY glad he had left his helmet on. This case weighed a ton, and he couldn’t reach the capsule to pull himself back up above the water. Heaving a sigh of resignation, he began trudging forward. There was more than one way to get out of this damn lake.
Location – Fluttershy’s Cottage.
Fluttershy’s day had not let up since that morning. After lunch, she had returned home to find what seemed to be the entire animal population of the Everfree Forest spilling out into Ponyville. After several hours of rounding up, she still didn’t seem to be getting any closer to solving the problem. More animals just kept coming.
“Oh, what could have caused all this?” she wondered out loud. Maybe she should go and get help… but in the time it would take to do that, the problem would just get worse! And Rainbow was always telling her to be more assertive… and she had quite enough of futile herding. It was time for action! What could be causing all these animals to leave the forest? Clearly, something IN the forest must be to blame. She was determined to find it and… and… well, she would cross that bridge when she came to it. For starters, she had to find whatever it was. Maybe it was somehow connected to that noise last night. Twilight had said that it never hit the ground, so what could it be? It was a nervous, but determined Fluttershy that set out for the heart of the Everfree to discover what lay beyond that was causing her beloved animals so much distress. After a time of wandering around, she noticed that the forest was unnaturally quiet. Not a single bird sang or squawked to break the thick silence that lay all around. The silence was just unnatural. The sudden snap of a twig under her own hooves caused her to squeak in fright and bolt forward for several lengths, before realizing what it was. Fluttershy, now seriously doubting the wisdom of doing this alone, was about to head back when something caught her eye through the trees. It was a lake of some sort, and there was some… thing in the water that she couldn’t make out. Moving forward cautiously, she squeezed under a bush and peeked out at what appeared to be several large balloons attached to what looked like a smooth, blackened rock with a door of some sort in the top. The door was ajar, and she was wondering whether she should go back to town and get her friends, or try to get a better look at the object, when the lake surface in front of her erupted and a tall, bulky white creature with a shiny dome for a head emerged with water pouring off the weeds that clung to it, and began striding on two legs up the rocky embankment.