These are a collection of short stories chronicling a series of events in the Equestrian home system.
These first stories take place during and after 1119 (Year of the Pegasus), 119 years after the night of the thousandth year of the Summer Sun Celebration.
Series One: 1: The Pony in the Cockpit 2: The Old Terraformer 3: The Broken Filter 4: The Empty Magazine 5: The Relays 6: The Stargazers 7: The Bright Spark
Series Two: 1: The Convenience Store, The story of Kir'gle - Chapter 1 (New!) 2: The Flight Plan, The story of Aqua Flux - Chapter 1 3: The Story - The story of Sugar Dew - Chapter 1 (Coming soon)
A quick bit of world building, at this point in Equestrian space. FTL travel has been developed, a good majority of the systems population has moved out beyond it's planets. Including corporations and a good portion of the fleets, what remains are those too stubborn or unwilling to go.
For planetary reference, starting sunward and working its way out.
Lights flashed in the cockpit, and the hiss of air awoke the pony strapped to the pilot's seat. The stars and dark rocks spun lazily by the window as the ship turned, the pony felt the drip of something hot running down its face and puddling uncomfortably against its neck fur. The ponies eyes, blurry and heavy with effort quickly scanned the instruments. Air was leaking from an obvious crack in the canopy and Sisters knows how many other places on the small surveyor, shields were inoperable and there was a dent in the console from something hard hitting it.
The pony reached down with a hoof, and grabbed the roll of duck-tape brand tape and quickly ripped off a piece. The pony slapped the piece into place and satisfied the leak was mostly mended it slowly pulled the controls back so the ship slowed its roll. After a moment the pony reached up with a hoof and winced in pain as its hoof touched the gash in its forehead. Suddenly the ship jerked hard and the crunch of metal filled the cabin, the pony quickly jammed on the helmet sitting on the back of the seat. The Magnetic clamps activated nearly silently as they clicked into place.
The readouts on the dash were going haywire, and as the pony watched despite the ship no longer spinning a quick look out of the canopy revealed no additional clues as to what has transpired. A sudden explosion rocked the ship, the flash filled the cabin and the pony was thrown violently forward against the seat restraints. Out of breath the pony could only stare at the readouts in confusion, as nothing indicated a engine or other system had suddenly catastrophically failed. As the pony swung the pilots chair to search for the cause of the explosion it came face to face with the business end of a ship sweeper.
The pair of suited figures stared at what was left of the ponies corpse, before the one holding the ship sweeper poked the pony in the chest with it. The pony, admirably remained in the seat, although that might just be the harness holding it in-place. The figures stared at the corpse for another moment before the second figure growled. "Only Equestrian."
In a small dusty town on a dusty moon in the far reaches of the Equestrian solar system sits a small dusty general store. Where a positively ancient pony brushes dust from the dusty shelves of the store. The Sun is a permanent fixture overhead but citizens have learned to live with the constant sunlight over the years. The pony was once a prominent Terra-former back in the days when that meant something in the system, but now those days are passed and the pony is content to do a bit of midnight sunbathing and read the news, but not the current stuff. No, this pony prefers to read outdated news.
Of course, if this pony read current news or listened to gossip talk shows the pony may have taken precautions. But the pony did not, and so walked home without a care in the world, unbeknownst to the pony there were rumors of strange goings on around the smaller colonies. Disappearances some say, Murders whispered others. Ships mysteriously vanishing, strange goings on.
But none of these things bothered the old pony because, as was determined earlier the pony did not keep up with the news. Now, as the sun hangs in a nearly permanent high noon the pony walks along the same dusty path, in it's same dusty jacket and hat as always. Admiring, once again the ingenuity of ponies. The ability to create livable, breathable air and atmosphere from near nothing, the ability to shape the worlds and the moons to their will and wondered briefly as it did every day if improvements could be made to the weather processor to allow for heavy enough clouds to cover the sun, just for a little while.
Lost in it's own thoughts the pony failed to notice the silence as it neared it's domicile, a three story affair of glass and concrete of the ponies own design. If the pony had bothered to activate the dwellings proximity sensors it might of noticed the alarm being tripped, but there was never a need, few ever came through the town and it was the kind of place you knew every-bodies name. Safety, always a priority was once again forgotten out in the rim by those who feel it is safe to leave a front door unlocked, in case a neighbor needed a cup of sugar. But as the pony opened the door, stripped out of the dusty clothes and took a shower the only thing going through its mind was how nice it would feel to be dust free again and enjoy the cup of coffee and the news.
A fine thought, not nearly as fine however as the high velocity round which found it's way through the base of the ponies skull and into the view-screen. As the mist containing the ponies last thought settled onto the coffee table and the mug of slowly cooling coffee. A figure steps out of the artificial shadows created by the blinds over the windows to block out the overhead sun. The figure looks over the rapidly cooling corpse, wrapped in the bathrobe and stillness. The figure growls through it's suits built in communications, "Only Equestrian."
In the far reaches of the Equestrian system sat an asteroid, little more than a bit of broken dust and rock. But this asteroid was special, it was the home to a pony. A pony who had decided to set up a little communications station. Out that far, the life giving sun was little more than a dot in the sky, the planets unseen by the naked eye.
As that pony went through the daily checklist and noticed a red blinking light on the console it was the same kind of day as any other. Something was broken, and that pony was going to fix it. The Pony gathered up it's gear, made sure the stations oxygen and power levels were stable and went off to fix the filter.
As the pony trekked through the small hallways of the station, it once again thought about how nice it was going to be to read the daily correspondence between the denizens of other stations. For there were several stations out in the cold dark of the rim, other ponies who braved the cold and the dark and the long journey to set up their own little slices of home. It was odd though, a few of the stations had recently gone offline. Technical problems most likely, or as the pony was ever so aware perhaps they ran out of one of the precious commodities that was necessary to life.
Ahead was a door, it was marked "A-13" a unlucky name, the pony mused as it hit the lock with a hoof. The door slid open with only a slight hiss of it's hidden hydraulics. The pony stepped inside and quickly located the vent that contained the broken filter. Although not a terribly important problem, a problem none the less and if one did not fix problems, they could quickly become serious. It took little more than half an hour, standard equestrian time to switch out the broken filter. In which the pony only managed to slam the vent cover into it's knees twice. After re-securing the vent cover the pony dusted themselves off and began to head back to the command center.
As the pony trekked back through the long thin corridors, bored out by a machine which the pony had purchased at a very reasonable price. Well, at least that's what the salesperson had said when they sold it to the pony. But what did the pony need with money all the way out here, on it's own private island, in a sea of stars and silence. As the pony followed the corridors it decided maybe, it was time to take a quick nap. It's not like the universe was going anywhere. And so, the pony altered course.
Had the pony gone back to the command center it might of seen the blip the sensors couldn't quite identify, the pony might of had some time to prepare, as the blip came closer to it's little island, as it docked with the station. But the pony saw none of this, the only thing the pony saw as a high velocity round entered through the side of it's head was a very nice dream of green fields. And another pony, long lost but never forgotten, beckoning the pony to join them.
The figures stood in the small sleeping chamber of the pony, looking down at the rapidly cooling corpse. The stars twinkling merrily overhead outside of the small viewing window the pony had specifically installed, to watch the planet from which it came. One of the figures turned to the other and growled through its suits built in communications, "Only Equestrian."
The darkness is vast, and sometimes things cloak themselves within it.
In a ship larger than most city blocks sat a single pony. It was this pony's job to make sure the cargo hauler got to its destination in the outer rim without a hitch. For this hauler carried life giving materials to the far stations. Although not as critical as in the years past it was still of vital importance. One would think a ship like this would be of interest to pirates out in the far reaches.
For this ship carried only simple materials. Things which were hard to get or couldn't be manufactured on the far stations. All the parts the ship hauled were of course stamped with serial numbers. Stealing from a ship like this carried a sentence much worse than anything any pirate was willing to pay. Not to mention the various defenses the ship carried. A number of small point defense cannons were more than enough to chase off a pirate band or two.
It was in this ship the pony sat entombed in the cockpit, with only standard ration packs for company. Its journey would take no more than three standard days and it was already fifty hours in.
The pony sat and watched as the stars go by, and imagined maybe one day having a ship of their own. The pony, having little else to do, sat and read. Books, magazines, journals, some happy, some sad, but all these items had a common theme. "Love" screamed the journals, the magazines and the books. For it was love that special kind of companionship that the pony craved most and perhaps... just perhaps, it was this trip that would mark that particular mission, complete.
But the darkness is vast, and sometimes... it hides that which should be feared.
It was the vibrations and the blaring alarms which jarred the pony from their daydream. The PDCs had let loose upon the void surrounding the ship. Streams of fire screamed out into the darkness in perfect silence as the ships frame vibrated with the salvos. The pony blinked and was instantly alert, eyes scanning, watching the darkness as targeting systems attempted to lock onto something... something the sensors couldn't quite seem to identify.
Numbers ran across the display across the cockpit, fuel, air, rounds... the ship was old, constructed before light replaced hard metal as the weapon of choice. The PDCs needed ammunition, and they were running dangerously low as the silent fire screamed into the darkness. The pony slammed a hoof against the override. The vibrations rippling along the frame slowed and stopped. The alarms silenced, the great frame was once again quiet and still.
Out in the darkness, something glistened. Like silk around a beautiful frame, it rippled and moved and made its way towards the ancient hauler. The pony, eyes keen from watching the stars watched the object and checked the sensors. The course matched what the pony could visually confirm. The pony watched the object glide closer and, did a quick calibration on the fire control panel. A simple change to lock directly onto the target rather than lead it, the PDCs already prepped and the targeting solution locked in.
As the shimmering object slid closer, the pony hoped that the final few salvos would be enough. The ponies hoof hovered, just millimeters over the engage command.
Closer, closer... Sweat dripped down the pony's neck and stung its eyes. But they wouldn't give up, not when they had a mission to complete.
A push of the button, and vibrations shook the aged frame as the silent fire raced out towards the object. It was simply too close for the object to evade evade, to run. The silent streams of fire converged on the point like a lover's embrace and for a moment, the shimmering faded as the fire passed straight through it and further into space. But moments after the fiery embrace had leapt from the aged ship, the vibrations stopped. A readout showed what the pony had feared.
The guns on the hauler fired only once before in fear and doubt now lay dormant, their capabilities expended. As the pony watched, the object regained its shimmer and continued on it's slow journey towards the hauler. It was at this moment, the pony realized something was very, very wrong with the object. The pony had expected a kaboom, or bits of the ship to go flying off into the void. But to just shrug off what should of shredded something of that size that was just unnatural.
There was a split second where the pony saw something reflected in the canopy of the cockpit behind it's seat. Then the pony saw no more. The pony who had wanted to love, to be loved... was no more, and all that remained was a corpse strapped to a chair.
A figure stood silhouetted in the doorway, like some lover come to sweep the pony away. The figure moved forward, to look into the corpses helmet, its eyes, open and shimmering in the glow of the console. It's mouth lips parted slightly as if to receive a kiss. The figure looked into the surprised eyes of the corpse, it growled through its suits built in communications, "Only Equestrian."
The pony sighed. Another broken conduit, this one looked like it had been sheared nearly clean through. The pony maneuvered its work bag into place, the small magnetic clamps locked into place on the side of the small relay station known simply as "ERS-054". After removing the broken conduit the suited pony swiftly replaced the section of cabling and screwed the access panel back down.
Three broken conduits, all completed today. It was time again to check the control systems and make sure everything was functional and maybe, a quick shower and a nap on the way to the next station. The pony picked up the gear bag and secured it to their chest using a series of straps. The pony confirmed the straps were secure and used the hoofholds, a hold over from the earliest years, in the hull of the station to reach the control panel.
Reaching the control panel, the pony smacked the on button with a hoof. The display scrolled through the boot up procedures and confirmed that the station was, once again functioning. The pony idly scanned through secondary menus for a few minutes, confirming everything was functional as the system indicated. The pony punched in a all clear code for the station and watched as it confirmed sending, before pushing off from the station. The pony used tiny blasts from its suits backpack to maneuver back towards its ship, floating just far enough away from the station so that it wouldn't interfere with the repair procedures.
Reaching its ship, the pony quickly moved inside and after cycling the airlock, striped off the suit. The pony moved to its console and punched in the autopilot before heading to the tiny living quarters. Just large enough for one repair pony on a quick jaunt to accommodate for a day or two. The Pony turned on the water and stood beneath it for the allotted forty five seconds of water. The pony exited the shower, wrapped a towel around their mane and checked the autopilot. Satisfied with the result the pony headed over to the tiny cot. Lying on their back, mane drying slowly in the towel the pony couldn't help but wonder how those conduits had gotten damaged in the first place before falling into a deep and restful sleep.
Several hours later, the pony re-awoke to the helpful alarm of the ships autopilot, indicating that the destination was near. The pony stretched and rolled out of bed and headed to the pilots seat to look out the window, it is greeted by the sight of the small gray station nearly identical to the one it just left. This station turned relay, designated "ERS-014" was built into a natural asteroid. It was one of the earliest stations in the system and had been on the fritz for weeks.
The pony pulled up the schematics of the station on the primary console and scanned them thoroughly. After rereading several poorly written sections which some previous tech clearly could not of been bothered to do properly. The pony gathered the necessary tools and shoved them into the gear bag strapped to their trusty suit. After squeezing back into the now dry, if a bit smelly suit the pony jams the helmet back on and makes sure all the seals are reading as green.
The pony stepped into the airlock and cycled it, allowing them to open the outer door and step into the void. Space, as the pony knew was cold. And despite the heated suit a small shiver went through them each time they stepped into the dark. The pony uses the small jets on its suit to maneuver towards the little station, taking a moment to reread the specs on a small hoof held tablet built into the suits arm.
The pony touched down with no sound and just a small thud through the suit on the ancient entry pad. The pad itself scarred with countless miniature meteor and debris strikes from previous repairs. Reaching the airlock the pony tapped a hoof on the entry button. Which, flickered for a moment before the exterior door opens. The interior is dark for a moment while the recessed lights warm up and fill the space with a soft light.
The walls are bare rock, the floor little more than a series of constructed walkways and as the pony walked into the little station. It can't help but wonder if it were ponies or machines which carved out the expansive interior. The lights above only function just above the catwalk, throwing the rest of the former station into darkness. The pony knew, from the schematics that this relay was in fact once a station. Housing a crew of a few dozen, and enough support personnel to support the various constructions in the rim.
The station the relay resides in had been dark for years, ever since the great expansion it had stood abandoned. Moving deeper into the relay the pony located the central elevator and after playing with the controls for a moment, the ancient elevator sprung to life and the doors opened, ready to accept the visitor. The pony takes a short uneventful trip through the elevator to the command center, situated in the deepest part of the asteroid and reinforced heavily enough to withstand nearly anything. The doors of the elevator open and the pony stepped out into the entry hall.
The lights here were much harsher, prompting the suits built in visor to snap down. Shielding the ponies eyes from the glare, The pony shrugs, lights weren't their concern. The pony moved to the oversized door at the end of the short entryway, passing the ancient barricades and hidden mounting points where anti personnel weapons once sat housed. The great door was open, no surprise and the pony strolled inside.
What was a surprise however, was that there was a set of sophisticated gear sprawling across the inside of the room. This was not the old dusty consoles which sat nestled against the walls, no it was almost as if this gear was feeding off of the various consoles. The pony looked around, but with no one else in sight the pony seemed to relax a little before saddling up to one of the nearest consoles, still untapped. The pony scrolled through menus, data, messages, everything that had passed through the station.
Somehow it came as no surprise that the messages appeared to of been duplicated. But how no one noticed it on the far end... unless that's why the station was on the fritz. The pony thought through the issue and drummed a beat with their hoof. The messages, copied and resent it only added between a few seconds to a few minutes but enough messages at once could of caused backups, delays.
The pony stood from the console, shutting it down. It had to report this, it had to let someone know. As the pony tapped on its helmet to begin a encoded message it felt a prickling at the back of its neck, no more than a moment before the blade sliced cleanly through the ponies suit and buried itself in its neck.
Three figures stood, and watched the pony convulse before its movements slowed and finally stopped. They watched for a moment more before the one who had done the deed growled through its suits built in communications, "Only Equestrian."
Just out past the planet Tharatos was a tiny ancient station, designated "Equestrian Watchpost: T-03". It was a small station, manned by a crew of just three ponies. They were assigned the very important job of making sure no ships ran into each other, and use the high power telescope built into the station to help map the far stars out past the edges of the Equestrian Solar System. They were technically part of a whole Equestrian legion, but considering it was made up of washouts that wasn't saying much. The whole legion, being the worst of the worst were nearly always assigned to stations like the one the three ponies were stationed on. They were jokingly referred to as "The Stargazers".
Funny thing about sensors, sometimes they get confused. Of course with a high enough powered scope and a sharp pair of eyes even the most confusing sensor reading can be visually confirmed. That is, if the sharp pair of eyes were actually watching for strange sensor anomalies. Instead of feasting on a variety of wholly inappropriate content, on some of the best several generations out of date viewscreens that taxpayer money could buy. But as many knew, these were not the best ponies. These ponies were wholly unqualified to run a hayburger stand, let alone anything as important as mapping the stars or looking for sensor anomalies.
It was on one of the late "night" shifts, if one could call them that due to Equestrian main time. During the time when one of these ponies sipped on some reheated and entirely too strong coffee that a sensor or two began to beep. The pony with mug in hoof tapped on the console, waiting for the sensor light to go back to its dreamless sleep. The slow beep however did not stop and after staring at it in annoyance for a moment the pony sighed and sat forward in the consoles spinning chair. After scrolling through several, extremely simplified menus the pony came to the source of the sensors incessant beeping.
An object, which the sensors couldn't quite identify was moving around out in the system. Several hours out at best speed for the stations little shuttle but just a quick visual inspection away. That was, if this pony could be bothered. But why would they be bothered by some random object the sensors couldn't identify? It wasn't as if it was traveling sunward towards them, it was probably just another comet on its long journey around the system. The pony marked the object as non-essential and to be ignored by the sensors. The pony manually shut off the sensor warning light and after a moment pulled up a report log to made a quick journal entry.
"To: Crew" "03:27-EST: Unidentified object detected by sensors, probably just another comet." "Note to self: Request better coffee."
The pony closed the entry and sat back, A sensor anomaly, That's all it was. The pony sat in silence for some time, and sipped its terrible coffee until just the dredges remained in the bottom of the chipped mug. The pony sighed and got up, taking a quick look at the time. The glowing clock-face read "07:42-EST" not long until the ponies shift was officially over, it sauntered over to the coffee machine and after dumping out the mug set it in the wash bin. It was just as the cup touched the bottom of the bin that the pony felt it, the unmistakable thud of a ship landing against the ancient hull and magnetic clamps slamming into place.
The pony stood stock still for a moment, trying to decide if its sleep deprived mind had really just felt a ship land against the ancient station. As the pony thought about it, it decided that no that wasn't possible. The sensors would of warned them long before anything got close to the station. But the pony could of sworn something had hit the hull, and it was up to them to find out what. So the pony, brimming with confidence strode purposefully towards the tiny armory and donned the meanest looking out of date gear it could find and the heaviest weapon, A Mk-3 training shock stick.
It was about this time the pony became aware of three things. First, that all the lights had suddenly decided to stop working. Second, the gravity had shut off and lastly, the constant hum of the air recyclers had quieted into nothing. It was just about then when the pony started to panic. The pony grabbed the nearest thing tied down to the floor of the ancient station, a central column and held on tightly so they didn't float away. Before remembering that each of the standard issue jump suits did in fact come with magnetic boots.
The pony quickly smacked their hooves together and the boots hummed softly, before touching the metallic floor and sticking too it. After another brief moment of panic when it couldn't move, the pony quickly turned down the power on the boots, the hum moved into a almost unhearable range, just at the edge of the senses. The pony found the light built into its suit and after smacking it on light filled the small armory. Hefting the shock stick in its mouth, The pony moved back slowly out of the armory, bumping into the wall a few times as it got used to the boots.
Slowly, the pony moved back to its terminal, and into a cloud of floating objects that the crew had never bothered to secure as per regulation. As the pony neared its station it could hear a faint sound coming through the vents, it sounded like metal screeching and tearing and all sorts of sounds that any space fairing pony really did not want to ever encounter. Luckily for the pony the terminal was still functional and after maneuvering into the seat the pony went to work.
The pony pulled up interior cameras, all down. Exterior cameras, all down as well. Sensor data, which the pony stared at dumbfounded for a moment. The object had changed trajectory, hours ago. After the pony had turned off the annoying sensors and written that report. It had come in on a collision course, but the sensors didn't mark it as a problem. Because, well comets don't change trajectory like that in space and the pony had marked the object as such. So the sensors, rather than realizing there was a problem decided to, just as the pony instructed, Ignore the object.
Perhaps... thought the pony, as panic turned into outright terror. That it was just pirates, pirates who would ransom them back to the nearest outpost for a bit of cash and fuel. But as the pony pulled up the interior sensors on its console it realized that, well. These probably were not pirates, as both of the ponies companions vitality monitors were reading as "No Activity", and that the sensors were showing only one life form aboard the station.
It was at this time the pony looked over its shoulder at the door just a few feet behind them and stared into the darkness. The light from the flashlight only illuminated the console and the control room but did not penetrate the darkness beyond. The pony quickly turned back to the console, pulled up emergency procedures and initiated lock-down. There of course, was no lock-down, Only the console still had power. A cruel joke played on the pony as it quickly pulled up a new report.
"To: All" "We are unnnnnnnnnn..."
Unfortunately for the pony, the only warning was a slight sense at the nape of its neck as the hair stood up. Before a sound not much louder than a cough echoed through the confined space and the pony, in the beginning of the most important message it would ever send simply stopped. The message, forever left unfinished and the console turned a lovely shade of red.
The figure stood in the shadowed doorway, watching the corpse of the pony slowly float forward in the command chair before it bounced softly off the console screen. If by sheer dumb luck or some divine intervention the ponies nose bounced off "Send" and the message, routed to a secondary communications array with its own backup power. Fired off sunwards, back to those who had sent The Stargazers out into the cold vacuum in the first place. The figure watched the corpse float gently away, before it turned away from the scene. Its voice growled through its suits built in communications, "Only Equestrian."
The following is a set of audio logs recovered from the adrift wreck of the trade ship "Brilliant Night". The voice on the recording has been positively identified as The Captain of the "Brilliant Night". No other logs from the rest of the crew have been located.
Log: 3124 "Y'know... They always called me 'Bright Spark'. Ironic, I suppose. Because that's exactly what killed us."
Log: 3125 "I know it seems bleak, but this is what you sign up for when you start your own shipping route. I should've listened to Ma' and gone into the Navy, Last I heard they were finding some pretty cool shit out in the reaches. Damage is uh... significant. Lost most of the ships systems, Engines, Comms, most of C deck, The Shrink. We uh... couldn't recover a body, the whole area is in vacuum and we don't have any functional suits to head out and assess. That's going to be priority one. Life support and rations appear okay for now. I'll update as I know more."
Log: 3129 "Oxygen is dwindling, Only about 72 percent left now. We had picked up just enough to reach Kollam Four. I suppose... I suppose we shouldn't of cheaped out on that refit. Might of even made it with that oxygen."
Log: 3132 "You ever notice how bright it is in space? You never really notice it planetside. Been staring at that speck out in the distance for a bit now. It's just, always there. I know we ponies are supposed to like sunlight, but it's... just odd, y'know? It's just a huge ball of burning gas, and it's been close to us... well... forever. Update on the suit situation, we think one of the emergency suits may be suitable for vacuum if we cannibalize the rest. Too bad they are damn uncomfortable. "
Log: 3146 "The Engineer shot himself today. One round, straight through the temple. He left a audio log to his family, it's under 3139. We left his body in his cabin, not much use jettisoning it. Might as well keep everyone together, it's not like we are going anywhere."
Log: 3151 "Update on the suit situation, turns out the Engineer had a whole list of little problems he kept to himself. Including, you guessed it. A little fluctuation in junction E-318, That's right on C deck just under cargo bay 2. We still aren't sure what caused the explosion exactly, but we are thinking it had something to do with that junction."
Log: 3155 "We took a look at the damaged section in bay 2 today... Tonight? Ship's clock got taken out in the explosion with the rest of the electronics. The Cook had one of those old mechanical watches, too bad she never wound... winded... it up. Damage is as we already knew, too significant to repair even with the Engineer. Still drifting at speed, The Navigator says we will probably miss Kollum IV. If we don't get trapped in the gravity well of Kollum or slam into some uncharted hunk of debris that is. Couldn't find The Shrink's body, must of been sucked out into space."
Log: 3158 "I was thinking about the sun today, as I dug through the debris in bay 2. I can't help it, the whole section is exposed, it's just... hanging there, can't even see the planets with the naked eye. But that great big burning ball, you can see that. I've never felt fear in the vacuum. It's almost... comforting, y'know? It's cold, and dark and just... there."
Log: 3161 "We ran out of my favorite bars today, the oat and honey ones. They always made your mouth feel just a little sticky, but not gross sticky just... sticky. I don't think anyone is sleeping very well, The Pilot says he could of sworn he saw something out in the dark. I told him if anything were going this fast and he could still see it than we might be rescued by dinner time. I'm thinking about having some soup, maybe a piece of cold bread."
Log: 3164 "Oxygen is now down to 45 percent. The Navigator assumes, from last recorded position and at current speed we might be in visual distance of Kollum in about two weeks. We are hoping long range planetary scans will pick us up, at least we got The Cooks old watch working so now we have an idea of time. Next thing on the agenda is that we are going to try on communications again here soon."
"I uh... also found something odd today when I was going through The Shrinks notes on the crew. I'm going to dig a little deeper before reporting anything."
Log: 3166 "Still looking at The Shrinks notes, but The Pilot said he saw something again. This time it was in a hallway. I know the lights have been acting a little off since the explosion and I'm going to maybe give him something out of The Shrinks stash. Hopefully it will help him relax a bit, can't have the rest of the crew getting jittery."
Log: 3168 "The Pilots gone. First he was muttering about seeing things and now he's just gone. How does someone disappear on a ship? We checked the functioning airlocks, the last cycle was during the last time The Cook went out to check the communications array. Apparently she took a course in communications repair at some point, who knew?"
Log: 3171 "I had a weird dream last night. It's uh... hard to explain. You know when something feels off and even after you wake up that feeling just doesn't go away? It was like that. I spent some time just watching the sun, I just... I wanted to make sure it was still there. The repaired suit sprung a small leak, we were able to get it patched. Work on the communications relay is going slow, Cook says we should take a look at the shipping inventory. See if there's anything we could salvage to speed up the work."
Log: 3175 "We have listed The Pilot as missing. I checked oxygen consumption, It tracks with what would be used by three ponies. Not sure why I thought it might be any different... just never hurts to check. We are going to scour bay 1 today, see if we can't turn up anything. We ship a lot of corporate crates, you know. The kinds of ones we get a chunk of bits not to open? Yeah... Here's hoping none of them have any anti tampering devices."
Log: 3177 "Well, bay 1 was a bust. Who even ships a bunch of hard copy files anyway? You see one file as thick as your hoof you've seen em all I say. Going to have a talk with The Navigator and The Cook. See if we can get some of the lights in the main corridors replaced, they are giving me the creeps."
Log: 3180 "Took a few pills out of The Shrinks stash today. I can't sleep, every time I close my eyes all I can see is that big burning ball. It's been in our rear view since we set out from Equestria... but every night it's getting closer. I don't know why I keep seeing it, but I've closed all rear facing blast shields. Don't need to see any more of that than I absolutely need to. No progress to report on the communications array. Still haven't located any replacement parts in bay 1, Thinking about searching bay 2 again."
Log: 3183 "Damn lights, first we can't get them to stay on. Now we can't get them to turn off, they are running full power all the time. If we still had mainframe control maybe we could look at the environmental settings and see what's going on. I'm thinking we remove half the physical connections, that way even at full blast there's only half of them."
"At least they stopped flickering."
Log: 3184 "I can't make heads or tails of these notes. On the surface they look like totally normal personal files, but they have these weird little scribbles in the margins. They just... maybe they are personal notes? Can't decipher any of them. It's like The Shrink wrote random bits of information in here. Paragraphs from works, quotes, ramblings maybe? I honestly don't know much about The Shrink, Government contractor and all that. Any ship with a large enough crew warrants one, I just never heard anything about one of them ever writing notes like this. I'm going to put these away, there's nothing I can get from them."
Log: 3186 "Funny thing, Staying out here too long. It makes you dream about all sorts of weird shit. I just had a conversation with my sister. She's been dead some five years now, burned up over Azar..."
"She always did love the sun."
Log: 3189 "Oxygen is down to 21 percent, We are still about four days out. Started digging around in bay 2 today, can't get a lot of these crates open. They have some kind of magnetic locks on them, high grade military shit. On a... uh... note. We were able to remove some of the lights, now maybe we can actually get some real sleep."
Log: 3191 "I was in bay 2 today, and I caught myself staring at the sun again. I'm not quite sure how long, but I only realized once my oxygen level got to low and the alarm started going off. I'm going to take a few more of those pills out of The Shrinks stash. I think The Navigator has been as well, there were less the last time I grabbed a few."
Log: 3195 "So I was talking to The Navigator today over breakfast and she asked me if I had seen the watch. I thought The Cook had it but when we asked her she said she hadn't seen it and thought that I had it. We can't be that far out now, we should have the Oxygen and Rations to last us the last few days."
Log: 3196 "I've never been scared of the dark. The Vacuum dosn't scare me. I grew up on ships like this, I was born on a ship like this. I've known the cold and the darkness a long time and I accepted that if I were lost to space that would just be part of life. But the Light... The light scares me, flames, sparks, all those things which could catch and burn. I saw the crew of my first ship burned alive. It was a simple oxygen malfunction, mix got too high. A dropped fork, that's all it took. They never even made it out of the mess hall, Automatic doors and what not. We were in port on a refit, the fire suppression system never even came on..."
"I can still see their faces."
Log: 3199 "I... We... found The Navigator this morning. She didn't make it to breakfast, Slipped and fell in the doorway to her quarters. The doors are automated, the sensors must not of registered her in time..."
"She never stood a chance... At least it didn't shut all the way. There was hardly any blood. I thought maybe she took a nap in the hall with... her tea cup."
"The only thing I can think about, was how many times... I had put off replacement of those sensors."
Log: 3200 "We decided to move her body in with the Engineer. The smell was... overwhelming."
"When we moved her, I broke her tea cup. She..."
"She loved that teacup and the last thing I did for her was break it."
"I had the cook weld the door shut, while I took a cold shower."
Log: 3201 "I can't find any adhesive that will do the trick. I've been trying for hours to piece it back together but nothing on this ship works with porcelain."
"I have to fix it. I need to find a way. She loved that teacup."
"It was the one thing she ever loved on this ship."
Log: 3203 "We should be able to see Kollum, but all we can see is empty space. I even opened the blast screens at the back. That damn sun is still there of course, just that one big ball of light in a sea of stars. I'm going to take the last of the pills. Maybe after a good nights sleep we can get communications back up and running. The suit only has a few more uses left in it's frame I think, gotta make them count."
Log: 3206 "The Cook says there's nothing we can do. She's looked at the problem every which way and there's just no way she can find to get comms up and running. Still can't see Kollum. Maybe The Navigator got it wrong, maybe we are still a few days out. Even if we can't see it, we should run into it at some point. With just Me and The Cook we have a few days left of oxygen. But..."
"We may want to start looking at how many rounds that pistol has left."
Log: 3208 "Eleven. One magazine, minus the one round the Engineer used to take himself out. But we aren't there yet, I think we are going to make it. I can feel it."
log: 3211 "I saw my Sister again last night."
"She wanted me to join her, I told her I wasn't ready. Not like that, not by fire."
Log: 3213 "Fuck! The Cook locked herself in the galley and doused herself in oil. The whole section is an inferno, I've sealed the blast doors but I know it's burning through the lights and the insulation. It's only a matter of time before the whole ship is on fire. But I won't go out like that, I won't let the flames take me. This will be my final log before I seal myself in the cockpit and depressurize the ship, I'll try to siphon as much oxygen as I can."
Log: 3214 "The safeties won't let me depressurize the ship."
"The fire is burning through the hull, I can smell it."
"I won't let it have me."
"I've never had a fear of the dark. I've never felt afraid of the cold, of the vacuum."
Boring, that's what it was. Boring and slow, thought the pony known only as "Kir'gle"; at least that's what it said on his name tag. He flipped a page in a rather dull magazine, a magazine which was packed to overflowing with useful and not so useful information on the nature of space travel.
His eyes traveled up from a particularly boring article on the effects of baking confectionaries in a vacuum, to the clock that hung above the sliding doors, it read 3:01am. They hovered for a moment on the digital display as it slowly ticked upwards, towards the end of his shift.
Kir'gle wasn't necessarily a bad employee, it was just that it was boring in the little shop. The overhead florescence was much to bright and he'd already stocked the shelves, used the ancient floor buffer and cleaned the countertops, twice.
There simply wasn't much else to do, and realized that perhaps it was time to take a fifteen minute break he diligently hit the button under the counter to lock the doors and set a 15 minute timer.
With a small sigh Kir'gle stood, his knees groaning in small protest from his lack of movement. He walked to the employee break room, an even smaller variant of the store.
Upon entering he thought for the thousandth time, someone must of been having a day when they put a vending machine inside the break room. It seemed rather pointless after all, considering any snack you could ever want could be bought in the main store.
He took a worn coffee mug from its hanging hook and walked over to the coffee machine, sadly broken for... well, longer than he could remember and instead poured himself a stiff glass of water from a cooled container. Kir'gle then sat once again in his favorite, and one of only three chairs in the break room.
He let his head loll back, and stared straight up at the lights as if to burn the sleep from his brain. He wasn't quite sure how long he sat like that, while his coffee mug sat on the table, the water warming slowly.
His watch roused him from his slump and he looked at it. It read 3:14am, Kir'gle sighed and got up. Back to work he supposed and headed out to unlock the doors. He took a sip from his mug and reached his terminal as the doors made a faint "click" as the locks disengaged. He had just resat himself on his small uncomfortable stool when the doors chimed, and in walked an awfully pretty mare.
Kir'gle's heart nearly stopped in his chest, this mare... she had come around each night for the past week or so. Different times, always different clothes, this time in a stunning tight fitting jumpsuit, dyed deep green, station patches adorned the shoulders. She had her golden mane back in a low ponytail, its purpose he assumed, to keep hair from her eyes.
She walked about the store, perusing the various snacks and stopped for a moment at the flower display, she pulled a small grip of daisies and finally walked to the counter.
Kir'gle smiled and nodded slightly to show knowing.
The mare returned it.
"So," he began "will this be all for you tonight?"
"Yes, thank you." the mare responded with her own soft smile, as she set all the items on the counter.
Kir'gle quickly rang up the items: One bouquet, daisies. One bag, hay chips. One, oversized can of chilled coffee and then read the total off to her. The action of making the mental list was simply automatic, it appeared in his mind as the items rung out.
The mare nodded and swiped her forward left leg over the small display showing the total for her items.
It beeped in recognition and the display facing Kir'gle confirmed a completed payment. "And would you like a bag for this today, ma'am?" He offered helpfully.
"No, not today." she responded hastily, and shoved the chips and drink into her jumpsuits pockets.
Kir'gle, not intentionally per-say but having nothing better to look at, noticed her name patch, sewn into the jumpsuit it read "Traffic controller: Cherry Petal", and just to the left, nearly hidden under the collar a small pin, dull white and in the shape of a pony's skull. He cocked his head slightly at the strange item and watched her struggle to get the oversized can of coffee into her jumpsuit pocket.
Cherry finished pocketing the items, finally securing the coffee and picked up the daisy's with a teal wing, holding the flowers to her side. "Thanks." she said with a small smile and turned to leave.
"Of course, and have a wonderful night!" he responded cheerfully, and wondered for a moment... If maybe he should call after her and ask her what she was doing later. Dinner was, after all not that far off.
The door chimed as she walked out, the sliding doors coming back together with a soft hiss.
"Maybe tomorrow..." he said to no one in particular, as she strolled away.
The rest of the night passed without incident. A few scattered regulars came by, getting the usual items and making the same banal conversation that plagued his life day in and day out. Finally, the clock read 7:28am, and knowing that the morning shift gal would be in momentarily he began to pack up his meager items into a pair of beaten saddlebags.
One, magazine (sent to his address by mistake). One, snack bar (half eaten). One, pair headphones (taped). One, music player (Damaged) and one, glasses case w/microfiber cleaning cloth. He recited the list in his mind as he packed, it made sure he never lost anything.
He zipped the saddlebags closed and stashed them under the front counter, waiting for the next shift to come in. He thought for a moment, on his quirk of listing items in his head as he put things away, but dismissed it. He was a cashier after all, it was literally his job to make sure each item got put in its place.
He looked at the clock again 7:32am, it was almost time for his morning ritual. Where even was that mare... He had never bothered to learn her name. She was new anyway, she'd be gone in a month, maybe less. Replaced by another fresh faced eager youngster ready to do just as best as they could to serve the corporation and the people on the station. Or maybe they'd a veteran of the till, eyes sunken in their head, a permanently haunted look about them. He knew he hadn't gotten there yet, but he could feel it pulling at the corners of his eyes in the hollowness of each recited greeting and smile.
But not yet, he was going to continue on. Finish the journey he had started all those years ago. And there was the door chime, he looked up hopefully and saw the day shift mare, her green and white polo and khaki colored pants that matched his own casually strolling in. It was 7:39am, and she was late. But it didn't matter, he gave up a standard greeting and received the same in response.
He retrieved his saddlebags from under the counter, nearly smacked the time card machine with his employee badge to clock out and quickly trotted out the doors as the day shift mare began her early morning procedures.
He had a ritual to attend to and he wouldn't miss it for the world. The hard white floor sped beneath him, colorful lines painted on the floor and walls indicated specific paths that could be taken to get to certain areas.
He followed the green line, despite having taken the journey every day after work since he discovered it.
The halls were mostly clear, a few people stood around chatting, looked at shop windows or were delivering food, usually on small wheeled electric bikes.
Kir'gle ignored all of them, the station was nearly deserted anyway. The few people that were still station side were either too young, too old or simply didn't want to travel.
Kir'gle though, he fell into a fourth category, he had wanted to travel. See the sights and the places beyond the Equestrian home system but... he supposed he was just nervous.
Years ago, he had been in university, he had even completed his courses and earned his degree. It was a shame it was in a useless skill. No one needed a... well, it didn't matter anyway.
He had applied for several corporations to try to get on one of the many exploration teams which traveled farther and farther from the home system with each passing year.
They had found wonders it was said, things that defied logic. He had tried, exhausted every avenue that he could think of to get on one of the teams, finally he simply gave up.
The last interview had been on Horizon station, nearly six months back and by that point he was so discouraged he simply took the first job available. For six months he had been stuck on the station, and with each passing day he had tried to work up the courage to leave.
He still hadn't mustered up the courage to do so, and now he could feel his dream slipping away. It would be so easy of course to simply stop trying, to continue to live on the backwater station, no one would bother him here.
He had daydreamed often, of maybe meeting a nice mare like Cherry. Settling down, having a couple of foals. Living out his life as a simple pony. It would be unfulfilling he knew but it would be easy, and maybe that would be enough.
He stopped and blinked, he had been lost in his head for so long he didn't even realize he had reached his destination. A small garden lay before him, one of several public relaxation areas on the station, at the far end a massed bank of windows facing out towards the interior of the system.
But he liked this one, it was here where he could practice his ritual in silence.
Kir'gle walked to the windows and sat on his haunches before leaning against a convenient railing. He fished out his watch from its place beneath his polo and took a look, 7:57am.
Right on time then. He removed the half of the snack bar he had left from his saddlebags and pulled the wrapper from the sweet smelling oat bar and munched on it slowly. Like so many other mornings, he savored the flavor of the oat bar as the seconds ticked by in silence.
He could see out, past the windows to the stars beyond. The planets were still below the horizon of the station and as he watched the stars spin slowly away across the night sky, the pinpoints of light danced against the dark tapestry.
Finally, the first rays of the sun crested the far edge of the station and crept across the grey rock of the station's skin. The sunlight splashed over the massed windows and as they dimmed slightly to compensate a small smile found it's way to the corners of his mouth.
Sunrise, his favorite time of the day.
It was a short walk back to his small apartment, a one bedroom one bath affair on the third domicile level. The corridors were narrower here, the lights set not in the ceiling but in the walls above the doors and along the floor, giving some the appearance of being lit from below if they weren't near to any doors.
He had no neighbors, no landlord, the station had given him one of the many empty rooms and simply said to keep it clean. Not that that was particularly difficult considering much of what he actually owned could fit in the one rolling suitcase he had originally brought with him.
The door chimed softly as he waved his security badge over the scanner, the gray and blue door hissed open nearly silently. The overhead lights flickered on silently, illuminating his little bed, the side table built into the wall and the little kitchen which consisted of little more than a pair of electric burners and a mini-fridge. Kir'gle dropped his saddlebags by the door and sauntered over to the fridge, he opened the door and took a peek inside finding that once again... he had no food.
With a silent sigh he walked over to the wall mounted communications terminal and scrolled through the list of takeout places that delivered at, he took a look at the clock mounted beside the door. 8:52am, still too early for noodles then, perhaps a nice pizza. But he had ordered pizza every day this week and the lady who delivered it always gave him a bit of an eye, she was pretty cute though... maybe he could get her to share a slice.
With his mind made up he quickly punched in the code for "A Slice of Life". The line rang for a moment, a merry jingle that was unique to the pizza place where he got most of his caloric intake filled the line. After a moment the line finally connected, the face in the terminal was pretty but basic. A griffon, with a shock of red feathers adorning her crown, stuffed under a ball-cap adorned with a slice of pizza, filled the screen.
The griffon narrowed her eyes. "Yeah Kir'gle, what is it?" she pronounced the name perfectly, entirely unlike most ponies that tried to pronounce it, which ended up sounding more like "K-Gurgle".
"Hi, Redcap. Can I get the usual?" He tried to smile at the griffon in the screen but ended up grimacing.
"Yeah, but only if you stop trying to smile. We'll be over in thirty." She snapped and terminated the connection.
For a moment, the screen was blank and he stared at his own face. Not necessarily a pretty sight: he looked tired. dark bags had formed under his azure eyes, his mane a deep forest brown, looked greasy. Stubble had grown along his jawline and down along the length of his neck. "Aw..." he mumbled. "Time for a shower, then."
Fifteen minutes later, he was washed and sat on his small bed, drying his dull orange coat. The wall farthest from the door had a built in viewing screen, normally it was blank but he could change it to exterior cameras of the station, those deemed not vital to security at least, or a number of preset "wallpapers". But the best part of the screen was that he could link films to it, his favorite being old salt westerns.
The kind of movies where the hero's were charming and the love interests were always in need of rescue. Where anyone could walk into a saloon and start a hoof-fight with the first ruffian they saw. He rather enjoyed those films, he liked it when the good people won and the bad ones didn't. And the music, oh the music he loved that, the unique blend of orchestral, whistling, vocal and harmonica.
After selecting one of his favorite soundtracks and the image of a dusty plain with a tumbleweed rolling along in the middle distance, he turned the lights off with a vocal command and laid upon the soft if plain bed. Relaxation came slowly and just about the same moment that he finally got fully committed, there was a chime from his door.
Hefting himself off the bed with a groan, he had the good presence of mind to wrap a robe around his body before opening the door. "I was just..." he began, "you're not Redcap." he finished lamely.
The person who stood just outside the door was not in fact, Redcap whom he had expected. Instead it was a doe, a female deer, or at least he thought it was. She had a distinctly angular face like a doe, at least that was what he had seen from several pictures. But she had a pair of antlers, attached to her head by what looked like a hair band in such a fashion that they appeared to hold her short white mane away from her face. The overall appearance clashed together in his mind, and in his sleep deprived state all he could stutter out was "Nice rack".
The deer, whom he had decided was in fact a doe, bodily thrust him backwards into the room and he stumbled over his own rear hooves and fell to his haunches. She moved inside quickly and hit the doors controls, they slid closed with a soft hiss.
"What are you..." he started.
"Shut up." she retorted. "I need you to pretend everything is fine. If anyone comes to the door, send them away." she hustled over to the bed, past his prone form and ducked down behind it, Invisible from the doorway.
"But... I have a delivery coming." He sputtered out in protest. "They will get suspicious if I don't take it." his mind unable to comprehend the absurdity of it all. He had managed to get his hooves under him and had turned towards her hiding spot.
"Look, shi..." she began as the door once again chimed and quickly fell into silence. Gesturing at the door with a hoof before ducking back into her hiding spot.
He stared at the bed for the moment, then turned back towards the door. "Uh... Hello? Who is it?" He said at the closed door.
"Delivery!" came the call back, "Kir'gle, you better be decent this time!" came the voice of Redcap.
He blinked, and walked once again to the door and hit the controls, the door opened with a slight hiss. Redcap stood beyond, her electric scooter idling behind her. "You would not believe the morn..." he began, remembering at that moment his robe was only partially closed.
"Whatever man, just sign." Redcap cut him off with her usual gruff tone and held out a small tablet in a clawed paw.
He did, with a hoof. "Hey Redcap, would you be interested in sharing the pizza down at..." he began as she pushed the pizza into his hooves.
"If the question is anything other than, 'May I have more napkins'. I'll make you eat your own words, pony boy." She glared at him.
He looked furtively over his shoulder at his bed, "But... I thought maybe we could go..." he began as he looked back at her.
"No way, no how, Kir'gle. Look, you're a nice enough pony, you tip well but you ain't exactly my type." Redcap said, and slid the tablet back into her delivery bag, and moved back towards her idling scooter.
"That's, no hang on that's not what I meant!" he said as she spun the handle of the scooter and it pulled away down the corridor at a brisk trot. "Nevermind..." he stood there, slightly dejected, he had for a moment thought perhaps he could ride away with redcap. Away from the deer currently hiding behind his bed.
"Psst... Idiot, close the door." The deer said from her hiding spot.
"Hunh, what? Oh, right." he said, and turned to set the pizza on the bed, kicking the door control with a rear hoof, shutting the door.
"Are you always this dense or what?" The deer said, standing again and eyed the pizza laying on the bed.
"No... I just... uh..." he mumbled.
"And what was that shit with trying to ask the griffon out, she had some good sense to tell your stupid ass off. Besides... If you wanted to share a pizza with someone you could of just asked." she batted her eyes at him, in a mock suggestive gesture.
"Uh..." he said, his mind reeling from the sudden shifts in tone. "I don't quite understand, who are you, what's your name?" He finally was able to string the few words together.
"My name is unimportant" she said, and flipped open the pizza box. "Ew, Mushrooms and jalapeno's." and closed the box again. "Look, all you need to know is that I needed a place to hang out for a few minutes and now I'm moving on. Best to forget you ever saw me." She said as she moved to the door.
"Well, now hang on..." Kir'gle said as a loud boom came from the door, followed by another.
The doe to her credit, leapt with such speed that he didn't even see her move, her gray jumpsuit a momentary gray blur as she jumped back behind the bed.
Kir'gle, now apparently the most popular person on all horizon station, looked back at the doe's hiding spot before walking to the door. "Who is it?" he said to the door.
"Station Security, open the door." came the gruff reply, muffled by the door.
Kir'gle looked over his shoulder at where the doe sat, hidden behind the bed. Or at least where she should be hidden.
She was frantically waving her hooves in the air, making motions for him to shoo the people on the other side of the door away.
He turned his head back to the door and let out a low sigh and hit the door mechanism again. "How can I help... you... officers?" he said, taking in the what could only be described as a absolutely massive pair of ponies.
The pair stood directly outside his door and he suspected he came no higher than their rather impressive looking shoulder-pads.
"Looking for a deer, Sir." said the one on the left, "Have you seen anyone who looks like this?"
The pony on the right held up a tablet with a picture of someone who looked suspiciously like the deer currently hiding behind his bed, sans the antlers.
"Uh... no, couldn't say I have." he gave them a lopsided retail smile, the kind that says "Yes, I will help, but I really have to be going." and was becoming aware that the robe he was still wearing was uncomfortably hot, he really ought to check on the air conditioning, make sure it was working.
"Well Sir, if you do see this deer, please make sure to report it to station security. She is considered dangerous, and we want to make sure all citizens of horizon station are kept safe." the left part of the pair stated, stiffly.
"Right... well, if I see her I'll let you know! But uh..." his smile faltered slightly. "What exactly did she do anyway?"
"No need to worry about that, Sir. Just report any sightings you have and we will take care of the problem. Do not engage with her directly." The pair gave a slight bow, and turned to continue down the hall.
Kir'gle stood, mildly dumbfounded for a moment before smacking his forehead into the door controls. The door whooshed softly closed, "No more answering the door... I'm too tired for this..." he mumbled to himself.
"Good Job, now come have a slice of pizza before you pass out." The deer said from somewhere in the vicinity of the bed. Her tone just south of caring and leaning heavily on the suggestive.
He sighed, head still against the wall. "Look, I've had a long day. If you are looking to hide out here, I don't care." He smacked his forehead lightly against the wall and turned around. "I really don't care what your mixed up in. But I want no part of it, alright?"
The deer, propped up on her forward legs on the far side of the bed gave him a wide smile. "Good choice." she stood, a slice of pizza in a hoof and tossed it in the trash disposal in the kitchen.
He stared at her for a moment, deciding he probably didn't want to know why she threw it away. "I was hoping to eat that." he said finally.
"Na, that one was no good." She turned back to him and smiled. "You have extra blankets? I'm going to be making myself a bed."
"Uh... yeah, fine, I guess. They are in the closet, left of the bathroom." he gestured with a hoof and collapsed onto the bed, pushing the pizza box to the edge. He flipped open the lid on the pizza and grabbed a slice, it's soy cheese so enticing. He took a bite and another, demolishing the piece as the deer set up a makeshift bed to the right of the door.
"You don't have much stuff, hunh?" she said casually as she made the bedding into a semi serviceable arrangement. "You on the down low too?"
"Not quite." Kir'gle said between bites of pizza, "I uh... I'm stuck here... sorta."
"Stuck?" she said and laid upon the bedding. "No one is stuck, sometimes they just get stuck in their own heads." She smiled wide and tilted her head slightly to the side.
The whole effect was a little creepy and Kir'gle shivered slightly. "I uh... well wait, why am I even telling you any of this? I don't even know your name and now you are here, preparing to sleep in my room. Hiding, presumably from station security." He huffed.
The doe thought for a moment, the smiling slackening. "You know what, you're right. My name... well... call me 'Cream'."
"Cream? Sure, why not. It's no weirder than the rest of my day so far. Just... try not to get me arrested, please." He rolled over, his back to Cream and turned his eyes back to the expansive screen. Remembering that he had never turned it off, despite the music having finished the song, long before.
"Hehe... Alright, I'll do my best." she said, staring at his back.
Kir'gle set the screen to shut down in ten minutes and queued up his favorite song, a harmonica melody from one of his favorite movies.
After a few quiet minutes he said softly over his shoulder, "Night, Cream."
"Night." She said back, a touch of something... tinging her voice.
Sleep claimed Kir'gle quickly as the slow sad notes of the harmonica filled his head with dreams of the wide dusty plains.
Bzz Bzzz Bzzzz, went the alarm.
"Bwuh!" went Kir'gle, who promptly smacked the alarm. shook his head and rubbed the sleep from his eyes with a hoof, Kir'gle looked over to where the deer had slept the night past.
The bed that she had made, that he had watched her make was gone. As was the deer who had made it, in fact as he looked around his little apartment he couldn't see anything out of place. His saddlebags were still in the middle of the floor, the robe he had been wearing when he finished his shower was still around his body. He didn't even see his beloved dinner of, although he would never admit it, shitty pizza.
With a wide yawn he took a look at the clock, hanging on his wall, It read 6:12pm. Well that tore it then, he thought to himself as he extracted his body from an entangling of sheets. He must of dreamed the whole thing, deer were exceedingly rare after all and a doe with antlers? It would be like finding ponies who had never heard of The Princesses, He touched his hoof to his chest softly as he thought of them.
After a moment, he stood, shed his robe and threw it on the bed. "Time for breakfast then." he mumbled, and ambled over to the small kitchenette. After preparing a small breakfast of strawberry flavored oatmeal, he flipped on the news on the wall screen and sat on his small bed.
A pair of anchors, a pink male Galotian and a female spotted griffon dominated the screen. "In other news..." the Galotian said, "Further incidents have been reported along the-"
Kir'gle switched the channel with a wave of a hoof. A male pony in a tweed suit appeared, "And it's important to remember that these are isolated even-"
He switched the channel again, and here was one of his favorite shows.
The Adventures of Big Iron, a rough and tumble cowpony and his sidekick, the ever pretty "Miss Rouge" his on again off again griffon companion and lastly their crew of brigands, sailing the stars looking for corporate fat-cats to rip off.
Was it trashy? Absolutely, but it had already had thirteen seasons and they were in filming for the fourteenth.
He wasn't particularly fond of the recast they did for one of his favorite background villains, but the Abyssinian who replaced the captain of "The Daunting Galleon" was, he had to admit, a heck of an actor.
For a time, he watched the show. In this episode, Big Iron faced off against a Galotian lawyer. Being a lawyer was after all one of the things they were known for. But Kir'gle could never get over the slight wiggling their jelly like bodies always made, it him feel a bit queasy to watch, and since they were slightly translucent you could kinda see if and what they recently ate.
Honestly, their whole thing kinda creeped him out. Why did they have to look like ponies anyway? Considering their normal forms were just colored gelatinous blobs.
But that was the kind of comment someone kept to themselves, it was considered immensely rude to ask a Galotian about the form they chose. Besides, sometimes they took the forms of the other races, griffons and deer...
Speaking of deer, who was that doe in his dream? Perhaps a bit of bad food digesting strangely, he did have that haydog that was slightly expired off the roller just yesterday... It mattered not and as Kir'gle rolled out of bed he checked the time again, It read 7:10pm.
"Once again, unto the breach... I suppose." he said absentmindedly to himself as he collected his work clothing.
One, work polo (Worn, mildly smelly, needs washing). One pair, khaki pants (stained w/brown belt). One set, Saddlebags (beaten, graduation gift from mother). One, Station issued security badge. One, watch (Birthday present from father, with a reminder that he must never be late.)
He dressed aimlessly and checked the clock every few seconds, finally he got the damned belt in place and tightened down. He swung the saddlebags over his back, and slid his forward legs through the straps.
On the way out the door he checked his pockets and confirmed his security badge was securely clipped to his belt. Lastly, he checked his watch which he slid over his neck and tucked under the polo.
The door chimed softly as he walked out, and on his way to yet another exciting day at the job.
The day went smoothly, Kir'gle clocked in on time, said hello to the mare and promptly took over the register. After doing the count, despite few people using actual physical currency, he took his seat and spent the next few hours talking and dealing with the same people he had dealt with night after night for months on end.
Kir'gle looked at the clock for the fifth time in the last three minutes and sighed, it was still only 1:01am. The dream, or what he believed was a very vivid dream, probably brought on by stress and lack of sleep had kept him occupied for the last hour or so. Now however, he was hungry and it was time for breakfast. Remembering that he had not packed food in his bag, he locked the doors, set the timer on 15 minutes and went to the break-room.
"Veggie Crisps or Oatmeal..." he said absently to no one as he stared at the vending machine, it's green and white exterior lit just a little too brightly for comfort.
He sighed, and went over to his saddlebags to retrieve his charge card, courtesy of Equi-bank. Kir'gle flipped open the flap and unzipped the bags, and began rooting inside it with a hoof and brushed against something odd. Something... not in his mental list, and so stuck his head inside and grabbed the offending item with his teeth.
As he pulled it out he could see it was a letter, or at least a yellow papered envelope, a bit heavy to be a few pieces of paper he supposed. He spit it onto the table where it made a soft thud and flipped it over with a hoof, the front however simply said "Thank you".
He stared at it for a moment before opening the envelope and deposited the contents on the table. It was a single electronic vocal recorder, the kind that you could buy in any electronics shop. In marker along the edge it simply said "Play me".
So he did.
The voice that came from the recorder was the voice of the doe, the one whom he thought was probably just a figment of his imagination. He realized he was spacing out instead of listening, and restarted the recorder.
"Kir'gle, although I suspect, that's not your real name. Thank you for helping me. Station security has been trying to apprehend me for the last few weeks because my friends have been disappearing, and they think I'm trying to start a panic. They want to silence the disappearance of my friends, but all I want is to find them and I think security might have them. I can't tell you everything here, in case someone finds it. Meet me at landing bay C-16 at 3:00am and I'll explain everything."
Kir'gle sat in silence for a moment before replaying the message. After the second playing he looked at the clock, it read 1:13am. He would have to think her offer over, and he had only a few hours in which to do so.
He gathered the items and shoved them into his bag before heading back out to the counter. Kir'gle fished his watch out from beneath his polo and checked the time again just to be sure, before shoving the bag under the counter and hit the control to unlock the doors.
For the next hour and a half all he could think of was the message.
The few customers that did come in received only curt greetings and goodbyes. The regulars that stopped by seemed a little put out at his coldness, but he didn't care.
He was more interested in the doe and what she might want with him. Finally, after thinking through the timing he determined that if he took his lunch at 2:50 and hoofed it, he could be there by 3:00.
Assuming all she wanted to do was talk, he estimated he could be back just before his lunch was over at 3:20.
If she didn't want to talk, well... he might not care much what time he was back in that case.
It took Kir'gle less than two minutes to gather his things and punch out for lunch. He checked the door locks only once on his way out and made a quick mental note to clean the front doors again, they were looking a little scuffed.
He did everything but run down the corridor to the nearest lift station that would take him to the landing bays. Kir'gle wasn't exactly a tall pony, but he was able to hit his stride and with all the turmoil going on through his head he didn't even feel his hooves beneath him.
He reached the lifts, a wide hallway tucked between a pair of laundromats which contained simple elevators that could push a pony though the station quickly.
He mashed the closest call button and was rewarded with ready light and a soft musical jingle as the lift behind him opened with a soft hiss. He shrugged the saddlebags back into place, boarded the lift and selected "Lower Hangers" from the available list.
The doors hissed closed, and for a moment as soft guitar music played over the speakers in the lift, Kir'gle was lost in his own head. As various scenarios played through his head he couldn't quite decide what he should be feeling, although the butterflies in his stomach had their own ideas.
In what felt like no time at all, the elevator slowed and stopped, the doors once again hissed open softly and he boldly strode out into the hallway.
The hallway was wider than the usual types in the station, as it was intended as a cargo receiving area and at it's peak the station had thousands of people in and out every day in a timely manner.
By this point in time though, it was lucky if it saw any traffic and being so early in the morning it was simply deserted. He looked up, a simple sign showed that Area C was down the right side with a mark that indicated the distance, it was at that his face fell.
With a soft sigh he turned to the mobility kiosk. It was a small glass and metal setup that contained, for a modest cost, what consisted of a motorized board with four wheels. After fishing out and swiping his charge card courtesy of Equi-bank he was able to grab one of the boards off the charging rack and set it on the hard floor. He stepped deftly into the four indents and pressed down with his right hoof.
The little board jolted forward and off he went down the long corridor towards area C. As much of an embarrassment it was to use one of the "Motorboards" at least he would get there with time to spare and luckily, there was no one around.
It took a little under three minutes to reach Area C, and another two to reach bay 16. The little cart whined to a stop as he brought it to a slow and final stop.
Gingerly he disembarked from the motorboard and walked to the wide door, the identifier C-16 was painted in bright yellow as not to be missed. It took but a moment for him to locate the door panel, the interior pressure sensor showed a solid green light, indicating the bay beyond was safe. He pushed the entry button and was surprised when the door began sliding slowly into the ceiling.
"Hunh... no security check. I suppose she was expecting me." He said as he stepped into the bay and took a quick inventory. There was no ship, as one would expect in a hanger, instead there were simply crates scattered about, although it was difficult to see too far as the lights were set so low he could barely make out more than the closest few.
As he made his way deeper into the hanger he called out. "Are you here?" After a moment with no answer he looked back towards the door which was just completing it's cycle and gently settling back into it's closed position. "Well... that's o-"
"Hey!" A voice said in the darkness, cutting him off. "Back of the hanger, follow my voice."
"Uh... Alright." he said as he walked towards the back of the hanger just before catching his knee on a outstuck crate. With a groan and a dull pain in his knee he continued towards the back of the hanger albeit a little slower.
"You alright? Sounds like you caught yourself good." The voice said, she sounded closer.
Although he couldn't be sure It didn't sound all that much like Cream. "Ah... yeah I'm alright. Hard to see in here though, why are the lights so low?". Ahead he could of sworn that he saw movement. "Where are you?"
"Over here, hurry up." The voice sounded extremely close, as if he could reach out and touch her with a hoof.
Ahead he spotted a couple of crates and moved quickly towards them. Finally his eyesight was beginning to improve and so he peered between the crates, seeing nothing but more crates he pulled his head back. After a moment he sighed and turned to his right and is instantly blinded as a light flared directly in front of his face.
He whinnied in a very undignified manner, "Th-" he began as he reared back away from the offending light source. In his haste to get away he bodyslammed into a stack of crates, Knocking the wind from him and sending him tumbling to the floor.
"Kir'gle?!" A voice said from behind the light.
"Ow..." he responded, face pressed into the cold metal flooring, the harsh light filtering through his eyelids. "Can you please... move that away from my face? It's too bright." The light disappeared from behind his eyelids as a hoof was thrust under his forward shoulder that helped to propel him to his hooves.
"Kir'gle, what are you doing here?" The voice sounded... familiar.
He cracked open an eye, the light from a small flashlight filled the space. A picture of beauty stood before him, "Cherry?... I uh... should ask you the same question."
She stared at him for a moment, apparently mulling over the question. "Alright, let me ask you this. Are you here to meet someone?"
Kir'gle shuffled his hooves for a moment before standing straight and took a deep breath to calm his nerves. "Yes, Yes I am."
Cherry blinked, "Well, I guess we are both here for the same reason then." she smiled and put out a hoof in a questioning manner. "Are you alright? You smacked those crates pretty hard."
"Yeah, I'm alright..." He winced slightly as he moved, the dull pain from his side only now becoming more apparent. "So... where is your person? I was looking for mine when you blinded me."
"I was looking for her when I bumped into you. Where's yours?"
"I... have no idea." He said as he massaged his side, looking at the spot. "Wait." he stopped and looked up. "Her? I think we might be looking for the same person."
"Female? Pair of Antlers?" She grinned slightly as she said so.
"Yeah, exactly. How do you know her?" he finally stopped massaging his side and looked at her properly. Her mane was up in a tight bun and she was garbed in her flight controllers uniform, same as he saw her the other night.
"I..." Her grin faded and she flicked the flashlight hooked to the front of her jumpsuit, off.
"Hide, we aren't alone." She responded in a hushed tone.
Kir'gle wasn't quite sure where he should be "Hiding", but complied none the less. Feeling blindly with his hooves until he found a pair of crates he could squeeze between and hunker down.
No sooner had he done so than a voice spoke from somewhere just above his right ear.
The sound that escaped his throat was a mixture of a strangled yell and a guttural sort of choking noise.
"Geez Kir'gle, didn't mean to scare you there," said the voice.
Which Kir'gle was now able to identify as Cream, despite his mind vainly attempting to re-right itself from the backflip it had just performed. "I... hello Cream," he was finally able to mumble out.
Cream heaved an audible sigh and there was some scuffling just before he heard the distinctive sound of hooves hitting the hanger floor.
"Kir'gle, is Cherry with you?" Cream said, still hidden in the complete darkness of the hanger.
"I'm here," The voice of Cherry responded curtly.
"Good, now both of you shield your eyes. It's going to get... bright."
Kir'gle, once again did as he was told and put a hoof over his eyes. Behind his hoof the world suddenly got a whole lot brighter. "Cream? Can I open my eyes now?"
"Yes, go ahead," she responded somewhere off to his right.
As he removed his hoof from his eyes the overhead lights stung his eyes. It took a moment and much blinking for them to readjust to the light. Cream stood just to his right, inspecting a crate with a pony shaped dent in it.
Cherry walked over from his left and with a soft smile said "He's clumsy. Took a bit of a tumble."
"Well I can see that, obviously." Cream sighed and sat with her back against the crate before looking over to the pair. "I'm tired, been dodging patrols for the last three days."
As Kir'gle looked, that is to say, really looked at her he able to begin to pick out things he had missed previously. The dark rings under her eyes, the disarray of her mane and tail. "So... that story about station security picking up your friends?" he asked tentatively.
Cream opened her mouth to respond but Cherry interrupted, "Yes, it's true. Her friends have been picked up by station security. Well, at least someone claiming to be station security. To be honest, it might actually just be station security. But nothing has been listed in the database or sent out as a notice." she narrowed her eyes at Cream. "Although who would impersonate station security just to get your friends, I couldn't say."
Cream gave a tired smile. "Well, at least now I know that someone knows where my friends are. We can go pay them a visit."
Cherry sighed and put her face in her hooves. "You have to be kidding me. No." She looked at Cream, "You cannot go asking around about this, they are already looking for you. And I was only able to look because I happen to have system access. Wherever your friends are, it's not in the official records."
Creams grin slipped.
Kir'gle, having listened quietly to the conversation finally perked up. "Wait, if they aren't in the official records. Then where are they?"
"That's the question, isn't it." Cherry said, turning her head to Kir'gle. "If they aren't in official records, the question becomes why. And when the question is why..." she looked back at Cream. "A better question might be, who would want them to disappear."
Cream sighed and leaned her head back against the crate, careful not to disturb the horns. "I don't know, that's what I've been trying to figure out. They haven't done anything wrong. I was supposed to meet with Z... uh no one you would know." she quickly added upon seeing their blank expressions. "Here tonight, a few hours ago. But they never showed up." She put her hooves to her temples and rubbed them in little circles. "Look, I know this isn't your problem. But I'm out of options."
Kir'gle looked over to Cherry for a moment and then back to Cream. "What are we supposed to do? Cherry said there's not even any official records, how are we supposed to track them down? And even if we did, how would we know they wouldn't just be recaptured... and while were on the subject, why they were even picked up in the first place."
"I don't know!" groaned Cream. "I don't understand any of it. Why would anyone want to lock up my friends? The most they have ever done is maybe borrow some parts here and there. But who doesn't, right?" She smiled at the pair.
"Uh..." Kir'gle had decided at that moment in time that anywhere other than Creams pleading eyes was the absolute best place to be looking.
Cherry sighed softly, "Look, Cream. I'm going to level with you, whatever _this_ is? It's too much for me. I have a job, and a life, maybe even a career to think about. I want to help, I really do. But I can't get mixed up in this."
"But..." Cream's face had taken on a whole other look of defeat.
"No. I'm sorry. I wish you the best of luck, I hope you do find your friends and that you all make it off this station... But I can't be a part of this." She turned slightly to Kir'gle, "If you had any sense, you'd go back to work now. Forget all of this, let Cream work this out on her own."
"Cherry..." Cream pleaded softly.
"I wish you luck Cream, if you do manage to find your friends and get a ship... I can clear you for launch. It's the best I can do." and with that, she turned and disappeared into the stacks of crates. A few moments later the door at the end of the hanger began to open.
Cream turned her large eyes to Kir'gle.
Who was at that very moment utterly engrossed in his watch, which he had fished out of his polo with shaking hoof. It read 3:07am.
"Kir'gle..." She began softly. "You'll help me right?"
"I... I have to get back to work..." he said to himself, even in his own ears his tone sounded unconvincing.
"Kir..." she began.
But he had already bolted for the door, weaving between crates like a Stallion possessed.
His legs felt weak, and not just from slamming into multiple hard objects.
Somewhere, in the back of his mind as he mashed the controls for the door, he knew... he was running away.
Twelve minutes later he was back behind the counter.
"Alright crew, here's the plan." A stallion, somewhere north of sixty, paunchy around the middle but with a high and tight salt and pepper mane stood before the small contingent. "Most of you know me already, for those of you that don't. You may call me Security Chief Lightning Rod."
The small crew, a dozen in total sat in oversized chairs in the forward lounging area of the pleasure yacht "Baliza". They had been lazing about until the security chief silenced them. The white and red folder which contained that trips logistical and security plans, also known as the flight plan sat silently on the table. A few of them however still only watched the proceedings through tired eyes. They, like their chief had done this run before, a quick hop through some of the outer planets, a couple stops, see some moons that the tourists loved and then back to Freyja station for offloading.
"Right... now for you newbies, we are going to go around the room and everyone is going to state their name something about yourself." Lightning Rod said, looking over the group. Only five new crew this time around, he thought to himself privately. Not a huge turnover, but with newbies there was always a chance of someone doing something stupid. "Lets start with you." he said and pointed at a mare to his left with a hoof.
The mare in question wore a bright blue jumpsuit that clashed magnificently with her short cropped and neon orange mane. "Alright then" she said as she stood, "My name's Aqua Flux. I've been a pilot for just shy of a decade, flew a Garren "Centipede" for a few years, doing cargo runs between Freyja and the colonies before joining up with the Royal Equestrian Navy. during that time I was switched to the E-31M and I flew that for another four years on reconnaissance sorties. I was honorably discharged from the REN a year ago, It's a ple-"
"R-E-N, hunh?" Drawled a heavyset griffon from down the line, cutting her off. He wore a light grey jumpsuit with blue trim, the standard garb of the yachts security crew. "What Regiment?"
Aqua was a little perturbed but responded quickly, "First Observation Legi-"
"You're a Stargazer?!" The griffon burst out laughing.
There were a few murmurs and awkward shifting among the rest of the assembled crew at the griffons outburst.
"Hey Rod, I think we might need a new orbiting detail. This one's all starry-eyed." he wheezed out, clearly overcome with his absolutely hilarious joke.
Aqua for her part had slowly sat back down in the oversized chair, allowing her close cropped mane to fall forward over her eyes.
"Stow it Preen." Lightning Rod said, his jaw set in a tight line. "Right, no more outbursts. Just your name and something interesting." He nodded to the next person in line and the ritual continued.
Too hot, that's how it felt in the just ever so tight jumpsuit that Aqua was wearing. At least, introductions had gone swiftly and without any more shenanigans by the rest of the crew. She sighed and laid her head against the side of the cool refreshment dispenser, wondering for just a moment if it would be easier to request a new jumpsuit or to lose a few pounds.
Aqua Flux heaved a sigh and turned from her comfortable spot at the refreshments dispensary towards the voice. A voice she quickly deduced as belonging to the Security Chief Lightning Rod. "Ah! Oh, uh... chief, how can I help you?" she said, snapping to attention as best as she could while stumbling over the finer bits of shipboard etiquette.
He gave a short laugh and patted her on the shoulder with a hoof, "I meant no offense by it. I knew a few of you during my days. Although, I will say this. I don't want you and Preen having it out in range of the guests, and if there's a problem. Bring it to my attention before things get out of hoof, understood?"
"Understood, Sir." she gave a quick smile.
The machine behind her gave a soft beep, indicating her drink. A strong black cup of something resembling sludge, was ready.
"Ah, I uh... need to grab that." She said, and swiped the mug with a hoof. It's cool temperature radiating into her and assisting to calm her nerves.
Lightning rod eyed the mug with a unnerving understanding of that deep dark liquid. "Understood. Well, you have your berthing and we are due to push off at S.E.T 1300."
"Standard Equestrian Time, Sir?" Aqua was a bit perplexed.
Lightning smiled, a few off color teeth stood out like mismatched console controls. "Try getting planeteers to understand anything other than what they grew up on and you will have people showing up for breakfast at dinner time. Now, I have some final checks to run and you have four hours to do with as you please. Do make sure to have your pre-flight completed and filed before departure though. Management likes to keep their records clean, in case of accidents." He patted her on the shoulder before trotting off towards the lift at the far end of the observation deck.
Aqua watched him go, before looking down at the dark liquid, and taking a swig. It's enormous caffeine content setting her teeth on edge, and making them feel just a tad fuzzy. "Right... well, lets get to it then."
Aqua looked over the sparse but utilitarian accommodations, Two bunks crammed in close proximity to the ceiling and what she assumed was a storage area, beneath. That was... well not really all that unexpected, her berthing in previous stations had barely qualified as "Regulation grade living space". She shrugged her rucksack to the ground, grateful for the heavy rugged saddlebags to be free of her hind quarters.
"Ok... First things first." It took moments for Aqua to locate her personal storage compartment on the wall beneath her bunk. She punched in her personal access code and the door slid to the side, revealing a compartment primarily filled with a pair of small refrigeration units. The space between them however had just enough room to fit her rucksack, and as she shoved them in she was grateful for actual stowage, rather than just say, having to sleep with them. The memory of tiny transport jumpers was still fresh in her mind, and she wasn't sure if that bruise was going away anytime soon.
After a quick check to make sure the storage compartment closed comfortably, without crushing the contents within she decided it was as good a time as any to pick up her helmet. An Equestrian pilot's helmet, was of course their life, literally in most cases. As she strode from the tiny cabin to the nearest lift she reminisced on when she had first acquired hers, It was a warm spring day, Just over a decade ago...
The book hit the desk with a heavy thud.
Aqua Flux, flight school trainee shot up with a snort, and blinked the sleep from her blurry eyes.
"Ms. Flux, can you remind the class how one may pull out of a high G uncontrolled spin in atmos?" said the instructor. She had long forgotten his name, but she remembered that fat face, beady eyes and pushed in snout of a pony who had taken one too many consoles to the face in high impact crashes.
"Of course, Sir." she took a moment to gather herself. "The first thing one must do is..."
It was at this moment that as with many students through history, that she was saved by none other than the class dismissal bell.
The rest of the students, blurry blobs at the edge of her vision scurried out. But the fat face still remained in focus.
"Your helmet, Ms. Flux." said the fat face.
She looked down and in her hooves, a blank helmet. She was on a stage, a ceremony. That's not how it had gone though...
She had received it during her next class. It was one of her favorite memories, feeling the control surfaces on the interior of it's shell with her ears for the first time. Getting to take it into the simulator, scoring those first few marks...
"You are, Ms. Aqua Flux?" said the fat beaked face.
"What? Oh, yes! That is me. I must of gotten lost in my head for a moment. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name." She smiled awkwardly as she craned her neck back to look up at the... well she wasn't quite sure what it was. Bipedal, and standing a good three heads above herself, covered in what looked like feathers poking out from around the edges of it's immaculate blue and gold uniform.
The fat beaked... bird... thing... simply stared at her. "Chief Steward Okra and before you ask, I am a parrot. Not as you might think, a griffon."
She smiled and stuck out a hoof, before she realized he was holding a sealed crate bearing her personal seal between his claws. "My helmet!" she cried out, and grabbed the crate with her hooves.
"Yes, it made it through customs without incident. Come," he said and turned with a flourish. "We must get it hooked into the ships systems."
"Of course!" Aqua said and stowed the crate on her back, with it's assuring weight the apprehension of the day drained from her slight frame. It took her a moment to realize Okra had already walked off down the hall and she was forced to make a few quick strides to catch up to him.
The lift doors slid open with a soft woosh, and as Aqua stepped out onto the railed catwalk she noticed several things. First and foremost, the powerful lights illuminating the bay in a wash of sun tinged light. Second, that as far as she could see the bay was spotless. Other than a few small repair drones, a couple of light maintenance craft and a single shuttle, the bay was empty.
"Strange..." Aqua said softly to herself. "Where's my ship?" she spied a set of stairs at the far end of the catwalk, leading to the hanger floor. And so, with little else to go on she headed towards them. It took her no time at all to reach the hanger floor, from her new perspective she could see a recessed door with a large window just to it's right which was previously hidden by the catwalk.
As she walked to the door she could make out in finely stenciled letters on the sliding door, "Flight Maintenance". Just to the doors left, a small keypad was visible. As she stared at it a thought from her onboard briefing snaked it's way back into her thoughts. A security code, simple enough she thought as she punched in the code. The door, as with that on the lift and come to think of it... every other door she had encountered so far, slid open with barely a sound.
Inside was a distinct difference from the cleanliness of the hanger, bits of consoles and wiring lay haphazardly across every surface. A half eaten sandwich on a plate dangerously close to the edge of a control station appeared just about ready to take a plunge to the floor. She gingerly pushed it farther onto the control station, away from a certain doom.
The mare stood in the quiet of the small control room, taking in the mess before noticing a small red light blinking on the control station. A quick glance told her it was an open communication line, so like any curious pony she pressed the talk button, "Hello? Is anyone there?" she said into the comm.
Only static greeted her for a moment, and then a gruff voice popped out of a built in speaker. "This is a secure channel, please identify."
She stared at the console for a moment before pressing the talk button. "This is Orbital, Designation Aqua Flux."
The voice quickly came back, "Confirmed, this is maintenance, designation Kupplung. Good to meet you Aqua Flux, I'm just finishing up on this test run. Have to make sure the stabilizer doesn't blow out, aye? Back in Fife Mit, make yourself at home."
The light winked out on the console, indicating line closure. "Five Minutes..." she breathed to herself. "Well, at least it's nice to know that the crew is keeping up with maintenance tasks. Might as well familiarize myself with their logs." it took only a moment to locate the consoles popup display and another to boot it up. Unlike the mess of the flight maintenance office the desktop was surprisingly clean, it took no time at all to locate the meticulously maintained maintenance logs and even less before a new warning popped up on the display.
"Warning: Re-entry Imminent, all personnel must evacuate flight deck." the overhead lighting in the maintenance office switched from the soft sunny tones to a harsh red, bathing everything other than the console in deep shadows. A klaxon began to sound, although Aqua noted it was not a standard Equestrian style. As she dug through her memory she couldn't quite place where she'd heard it before.
Outside of the maintenance office, the large exterior doors of the hanger cracked and began to open slowly, retracting above and below into the hull. Although it was standard to see on larger stations, even those of older designs. It was uncommon for such a small hanger to have it's own atmosphere shielding, she could make it out from the soft yellow light surrounding the edges of the doors as they retracted.
Finally, a small craft swung into view. Sunlight glinting off it's reinforced canopy as it made it's final lazy approach to the hanger. The ship dipped each side momentarily, reminiscent of pegasi victory laps before slowing to cross the atmospheric shielding. Landing gear popped out of hidden compartments on the underside, and it took position in the middle of the hanger. It set down with a soft thump as the magnetics kicked in, locking it into place.
The large hanger doors slid shut as the ship landed, cutting off the view of the stars beyond. Abruptly the klaxon died and the harsh red faded back to the sunlit tones. Aqua let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding before pushing herself away from the console and to the door. As it opened she came face to face with the greasy chest rig of one griffon, standing a head and a half above her.
He spoke first, looking down at her from behind a beaked and enclosed helmet, feather patterns playing across the exterior. "I expected a pegasi. But no matter, you must be Aqua Flux." He stuck out a gloved claw in friendship.
She accepted with a hoof. "Kupplung, I presume?" she shook his hoof before returning to the moment. "That must be my ship?" She inquired, craning her neck around the wide griffon to take a better look.
"Ah! Yes, come." He smartly turned removing his helmet in the process and clipping it to his chest rig as he walked back to the ship, it's sleek frame dwarfing the large griffon. "An Abyssinian ASF-3MC "Felidae", comes with a pair of dual linked Panthera CL-4 cannons, single multi launcher and internal magazine holding up to six individual munitions." Kupplung pointed at each feature in turn as he walked around the sleek craft. "This particular model has been fitted with a Selenican Class 2 deflection generator. Although it won't take too many hits, It's better than nothing." He stops at the engine and claps a claw to the forward cowling, "Saddle Arabian Sabino G2.9, you're not going to find much faster outside of racers and military units, so... what do you think?"
Although the words had flowed in one ear and out the other for Aqua, she stared at the ship in awe. "It's... significantly better than I expected for this sort of contract, honestly. They didn't tell me much about what I would be flying, but I wasn't expecting this." Her eyes gliding over the smooth contours of the Superiority Fighter that she would be occupying for a good duration of the trip. "And the cockpit is configured for pony usage?"
"Of course, come let me show you." Kupplung said as he walked to the front of the craft. "So, the whole cockpit comes down, strait to the ground. The Abyssians have an odd design philosophy when it comes to these kind of things, but it seems to work for them." He taps on a control console above his head and with a slight hiss the entire cockpit descended from just behind the forward strut.
The seat itself is wide and comfortable looking, hoof controls appear to be in a standardized configuration. "You brought your own helmet?" Kupplung inquired.
"Of course, It's in my berthing. I can go and get it now." she replied as she looked over the control scheme, noting the removable and adjustable control setup. Due to the scuffing and minor scrapes around the individual units it appeared to of been adjusted more than once.
"Excellent, I shall pull up your personalized markings and have them added to the craft in the mean time." Kupplung smartly turned and disappeared into the maintenance room, the door whispered shut behind him.
"So then..." Aqua flipped her wrist towards her, checking the time on a small wristwatch. It's dark green display read 11:23. "One and a half hours to get washed, changed, final checks... Nap?" she shook her head, she was going to need more of her favorite dark sludge if she was going to make it the whole day.
Aqua went over the list in her mind as she checked herself out in the bathrooms small mirror. She looked the part of a real pilot again, rather than a ragamuffin living on government handouts. Like she had been for the past year... but she quickly pushed that thought from her mind and took a cloth to her helmet.
It was, as she already knew. Clean, but she wanted to make sure it sparkled, even if no one would see it in the cockpit. A chime rang somewhere at the back of her mind, it sounded a bit hollow like a... there it was again. She snapped out of her own head and realized the chime was coming from the sleeping area. She poked her head out of the small bathroom and saw a small blinking light over the door to her room.
She flipped her wrist over, the small watch read 12:03. "Strange..." she said absentmindedly to herself as she clipped her helmet to her vest. She took a few steps over to the door and tapped its controls, the door slid open to reveal a stallion standing just outside her door.
"Decker," said the stallion with a voice like melted honey. "Ace Decker," he smiled and offered her a hoof.
"Uh..." she took a moment to look him over, the flight suit hid little. There was only one way to put it, the stallion standing in front of her was absolutely ripped. Two rows of absolutely perfect teeth peaked out from beneath the kind of mustache that made mares in old timey movies swoon. His mane stood at attention, perfectly groomed with not even a hint of gel. She realized she'd been staring for a moment and stuck out her own hoof, "Aqua."
Decker took it in his own and shook it vigorously. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance! I suspect we will be seeing quite a bit of each-other over the coming weeks." He smiled again with those stupid perfect teeth. "May I come In?"
"Sure?... I'm not quite sure wha--"
"Oh of course, how rude of me. I was dreadfully late, just about missed push-off." He said as he squeezed his bulk through the door and tossed a bag to the left bunk. "Ah, much better. What say we go meet with Roddy and get the itinerary?"
Aqua blinked and then blinked again. "Sorry, who's roddy? I think I missed something here. Who are you?"
"Roddy, Rod, Lightning Rod, my apologies. I forget that not everyone has flown with that old so and so. Ah! Well I thought Roddy had already gone over it with you, I'm your wingman."
"Wingman? Co-pilot? Come now, you didn't think you were the only pilot on this cruise?" His smile wilted slightly under her piercing gaze.
"I..." she softened her gaze and looked away suddenly self conscious, "I thought I was the only one on this trip..."
"Nonsense! Who would provide orbital when you slept?" Decker turned in the narrow compartment and stowed his belongings beneath his bunk. "Well, what say we go speak with Roddy and get everything sorted? I already saw your ship in the hanger, It's good they had that one kicking about, eh?" He flashed her a grin and with more speed than his bulk indicated he was capable of, he was out the door and down the hall.
She watched him go before sitting roughly on her haunches. Her helmet was still clipped to her rig, It had been scuffed.