Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" - Isiah 6:8
The eyes of John opened, and he saw only chaos.
Through the clear view port of his Cryostasis pod, John could see strobing red lights, debris drifted around in zero gravity, as sound and feeling slowly returned.
Muffled decompression could be heard occurring somewhere to Johns left as he squeezed his eyes shut and willed for everything to simply be a nightmare. But as the numbness of the Cryostasis pod succumbed to biting cold; he realised that he had traded one world of uncertainty for another.
He could hear the ships computer issuing an alert in a vaguely feminine synthesised voice, to the ship, and on all other broadcast frequencies.
“Mayday, Mayday! This is the VSS Anlace. Major Hull damaged sustained! Loss of life support on decks Sierra though Omeg—” The computers voice was cut short by another thumping decompression somewhere deeper in the ship, followed by an explosion, a wailing klaxon began its cry and the ship shuddered as its superstructure groaned and creaked.
John scrambled for the emergency release lever inside his pod, it was above his head and with difficulty he gripped the handle with both hands and pulled. It came down with a crunch, and the pod's door opened upwards.
John floated out into the hallway, grasping at the edge of his pod and any other hand-holds located on the bulkheads to move along. He knew he needed to get to the bridge and find out what was happening, but first to the armoury in the next bay.
Another explosion sent the ship hurtling downwards, and sent John sprawling into the ceiling; his all black body suit absorbing much of the impact, "it still hurt", he thought.
With a loud groan of exertion, John used his legs to kick off of the ceiling above him and quickly drifted down the Cryo bay to an entrance hatch. The bay was long and dark, lit occasionally by the warning lights - the light cascaded down through grates in the ceiling and floor, pipes connected multiple pods together – John saw no movement or signs of life from within.
As John drifted towards the end of the corridor, he reached the centrally located, hexagonal shaped door. Its hatched warnings clearly marked it as an emergency entrance to a specific area; above the hatch read 'Armoury'.
John entered an emergency access code into a terminal next to the doorway. As it whisked open, he could see bright fire spiralling towards him, the effect of flames in zero gravity made it look like sand swirling under water. He didn’t hesitate in quickly re-sealing the hatch, but not before a few of the flames got through.
The few errant embers continued on down to the other end of the corridor where a double sided steal door sat firmly shut. They pitted against it leaving burn marks before bouncing off somewhere above the pods, their speed slowed.
John turned his attention back to the screen, this time instructing the fire suppressant system on the other side to activate and quell the flames. The system showed a two dimensional rectangular room. It was flashing red indicating fire, the flashing slowed and changed to white, indicating that the room was full of Carbon Dioxide.
Above the terminal lay an emergency supply cabinet, it held many survival aids including a rebreather mask – John strapped it to his face and took a couple of test breaths to ensure its functionality. He then manipulated the controls and the door once more swished open.
The Armoury was now filled with a cold, floating mass of vaguely white smog and charred carbon. John ignored it and drifted into the centre of the room, he looked to his right and saw an armour cradle; a large circle filled with robotic arms – he drifted over and placed his feet squarely into the marked receptacles.
“Welcome Commander Maxon.” An automated voice announced.
Upon entering a command into the control panel on his left, the circle and its arms whirred to life; panels in the floor opened and pieces of matte grey armour were lifted out by the arms. John’s hands grasped handles above him so that he was in a star-jump position; he was then raised up and rotated by the Armoury Cradle as its many arms began to build an alloy frame around him, before covering the frame in bulky plate armour.
Lastly he inhaled a deep breath before a Cradle arm removed his rebreather and an armoured helmet was lowered onto his head, it hissed and clunked once in place.
After a few moments John was fully encased in Power Armour, it covered him from head-to-toe, large armoured shoulders and greaves, a bulky torso piece with a power core mounted on the back and a blocky helmet that had jet black slits for eyes. It’s only other noticeable features were a small protruding lump where the mouth would be, it had several pipes and hoses connecting to it.
The Armour bay cradle rotated John back to his original position, he stepped out of it - with his steel boots clanging as they met the floor, inside his helmet his Heads up Display showed him vital information about himself, the armour and his environment. It tried to wirelessly contact the ships computer, but after several seconds it simply displayed:
Connecting… Connecting… Uplink unsuccessful. System reboot recommended.
John activated his Magnetic Boots, “no more floating around”, he thought. He stomped over to the other side of the Armour bay, where a weapons locker lay; it had been melted to the floor, blackened and charred by the flames previous, nothing of use here.
John knew his next location would be the command and control centre - or the Bridge. He brought up a view of the ship on his Personal Information Processor, or Pip Boy.
Mounted on his left wrist it showed a similar two-dimensional view as the Terminal had earlier, although this would show him the entire ship – much of it was unrecognisable to John.
Many hallways and rooms were displaying flashing red, black or simply weren’t displaying anything. John traced a route that would see him safely arrive at the Bridge, it would take several minutes to get there. He turned around and headed for a rectangular doorway, he opened it and stomped his way toward the bridge.
The Anlace had seen better days; power fluctuations were causing some areas to suffer loss in gravity, like in the Cryo Bay. Others had lost life support or had made the air toxic; many others had suffered critical surges that had caused power to build in their capacitors, before exploding. There were Hull breaches all over the ship, on his way to the Bridge John had glanced down one hallway to see it being crisscrossed with arcing bolts of electricity, he had quickly sealed all the access points around it and diverted the power flow before continuing – but the ship was a mess.
At the Bridge John stopped. “Shit.” He spoke aloud, his helmet giving his voice a mechanical edge.
The doors had been buckled inwards, getting in would be impossible without cutting through them, those doors were supposed to be damage resistant – what had caused them to become so twisted?
John vowed to return with the correct tools. He did an about face and slowly moved back down to another access hatch. He entered his command code into its terminal to open the door, this time no fire balls erupted out at him, although he suspected his suits energy shielding could handle anything. He was too large to fit through in armour, so he had to use the terminal to close off the emergency bulkheads closest to him, and divert life support into his section of corridor and the room through the hatch.
After several long moments of hissing, the display read green across the board. He exited his armour – a much simpler task than equipping it; using his hand inside his armour, he depressed the release trigger three times in quick succession, causing the armour to open from the back. The large section of plate armour along with the fusion pack lifted up with segments across the backs of the arms and legs flowering open.
John stepped out and down, his considerable height was lessened greatly without the armour. Gravity was active in this section, so John clambered through the hatch into the room beyond.
It held several racks for weapons and equipment, John immediately punched in the access code to a tall, narrow locker. Inside were an assortment of energy weapons, grenades and blades. He took a large combat knife, meant for Power Armour; it was half a meter in length. Next were a Type 21 Laser Rifle and a Type 17 Laser Pistol. He also took a few Plasma grenades and a big interlinked belt that held several dozen Microfusion Cells: ammunition for the energy weapons, John carried it all back to the hatch.
It was a lot to carry, his suit responded magnetically to the presence of the weapons; he stuck them onto the armour and went back inside to another container. This one more box-like; it was mounted at chest height.
He opened it, inside were medical supplies and nourishment, after filling a circular capsule with as much as he could, mostly water and MREs. John retreated back to the Power Armour; he got back inside after clipping the Aid Capsule to his Armour's hip.
The armours segments sealed once more, John accessed the terminal, and he returned the breathable atmosphere back to holding tanks and shut off the gravity to conserve power.
Not long after, John returned to the Bridge, the terminal next to it had been destroyed and with his Pip Boy unable to secure a connection, he couldn’t see what was happening inside the room.
He walked back to the corridor that branched off from the one leading to the Bridge. John took a single Plasma Grenade and activated it before gently tossing it down toward the centre of the Bridge door. He veered around into the corridor and checked his HUD, ensuring his Mag Boots were engaged.
The Plasma Grenade detonated, making a strange electrical and pulsing sound; the darkened hallway was lit up a brilliant green, before dimming once more. John tentatively looked toward the Bridge door; it was now a large hole, still glowing red and green from the super-heated plasma.
He stomped his way towards and through the new hole. On the other side was more destruction, the bridge had once been an expansive, multi-tiered level of computer screens and terminals. It had many chairs arranged along its edges for the bridge crew to sit, before an almighty view screen, overlooking the frontal half of the Anlace.
Only the top two tiers were left, much of the lower portion near the view screen along with the screen itself and the frontal most two hundred meters of ship were simply gone. Debris was kicked and bounced around.
John’s sole attention was the giant green marble spinning ahead of the ship; it looked similar to Earth, but it was more vibrant – John knew he needed to look at the Computer system and quickly.
He waded through the floating debris toward the only active terminal, as he got close to it, he used an armoured gauntlet to brush aside a large piece of console that had drifted in front of him.
Tapping commands into the terminal, John established a link between his Pip Boy and the ships computer. The computer had been damaged by all of the power fluctuations, as well as losing many of its hardware when the frontal part of the ship broke way.
Somewhere in the bowls of the ship, the superstructure groaned and creaked loudly before a deep CLANG announced that another part of the ship had divorced itself. The spinning of the ship was causing large amounts of damage to the external sections and needed to be remedied.
John used the terminal to manually fire all of the remaining manoeuvring thrusters to try and stabilise the ship. As the computer processed his request, John turned to look out of the broken view screen. A shuddering phwooshing sound announced the activation of the manoeuvring jets. The ships spiralling slowed and eventually stopped.
The Anlace was still hurtling toward the planet at high velocity, John checked the terminal - which proudly displayed that the manoeuvring action had been completed – he found the current velocity reading. Approximately one thousand and thirty meters per second, “very fast”, John thought.
“Just how am I going to slow this thing down?” He wondered aloud, “possibly an aero-breaking manoeuvre”, he continued.
John then entered the prompt into the terminal and it flashed red, indicating a non-function. John thought for a moment. He looked at more statistical information that the Anlace computer was displaying. It wasn’t pretty.
The duel-fusion reactors that powered virtually all of the ships systems had been damaged, it would take a team of engineers and many weeks to get them to work again, the ship only had access to around eighteen percent of its nominal back-up power; mostly fusion cells and most of that power couldn’t get to where it was needed due to the catastrophic power relay damage the Anlace had suffered.
He tried rerouting all of the main and secondary systems access through the bridge terminal. It took several minutes of slowly tapping away, speed was impossible in zero-G and doubly so when using fat, bulky armoured fingers.
Frustrated, John had managed to reroute secondary control through the terminal, most of the systems were offline or non-functional.
He groaned to himself; this would prove difficult.
A moment of clarity occurred when he thought about the ships Virtual Intelligence, it had most definitely been lost to the void when the ship had split in two, but a secondary hub laid in the engineering compartment a deck below this one. Activating it could cause the VIs redundancy sub-systems to activate and take a limited control over the ships systems.
John decided it was worth a shot, looking back at the terminal, he saw he was still locked out from the primary systems; he really wanted to look at the navigation log and to check the ships sensor suite.
“Later” he thought.
John clambered down rungs of an over-sized ladder; it had been built specifically for use in Power Armour. John heavily landed at the bottom, this area was open to space as he suddenly realised he could only hear himself breathing, he could even hear the blood rushing around his body and he started feeling drowsy after Cryostasis.
Entering the engineering compartment he stepped into a large cavernous room. It held two dark, cold fusion spires in the centre and was surrounded by computer screens and diagnostic equipment, most of which was floating around in Zero G. His suit lit up with clicking, indicating a high amount of radiation, he would be safe in his armour.
The secondary hub was on the far side of the reactor room, so he disengaged his Magnetic Boots and pushed off to drift to the other side. Areas of the floor had been blasted through; he could see the blackness of space through them and occasional glimpses of the planet.
He landed by the secondary hub, after stabilising himself he punched in some commands and after a moment it lit up with life, text scrolled across its many screens, lights came on across the bay, John made his way back to the bridge sealing the way behind him.
Back at the only functioning terminal, John could tell that elements of the Virtual Intelligence were working to lift the locks on the primary systems. One by one they came back online, Navigation, Life support and Power Management. Several of the non-active Fusion Cells came online as well. John once again entered the aero-breaking manoeuvre. While it processed his request John looked at the Navigation Log. It displayed the journey to where they were now.
The Anlace was an experimental deep-reconnaissance vessel capable of reaching extremely high speeds of travel using an alternate realm called subspace.
The crew of the Anlace had been sent to reconnoitre an area of the solar system around the star Proxima Centauri; it had a high likelihood of containing a habitable world. John could clearly see an Earth-like planet in front of him.
They had left earth an estimated ninety years ago.
“That was twenty years more than predicted.” John thought, “Likely there had been a malfunction.”
They had arrived on the edge of a solar system. Scans indicated a red dwarf star lying deeper in the system – scans also detected the signatures of several planets, not just the three or four expected upon arrival. Something didn’t feel right.
He accessed scans of the planet ahead of him, it had an atmospheric composition almost identical to Earth, it was a rocky world with about seventy percent of the surface being liquid water, it had a fairly temperate climate of around twenty three degrees Celsius, or about seventy three degrees Fahrenheit. It had two large Polar Regions both into the minus temperature.
Atmospheric composition was similar to Earth's as well; with seventy seven percent Nitrogen, twenty percent Oxygen, one percent Argon and trace amounts of other gasses. He was also seeing readings for water vapour, dust and pollen particles.
There was a large cratered, ash grey moon hovering in the distance and the Anlace was fast approaching the dark side of the planet. Scans didn’t detect any radio signals or higher than normal amounts of radiation. The orbital period was around 1.1 Earth years and the mass was similar to Earth.
They had been sent to evaluate Proxima Centauri b; a small rocky world with a fast orbital period, this definitely wasn’t Proxima Centauri b. Furthermore the solar system shouldn’t have contained so many planets; at least the long range scans hadn’t indicated that it would.
John formulated a plan in his mind as the computer completed its projections. He would have the ship use the planet’s atmosphere to slow the vessel down, crossing into the ‘day’ side of the planet and simultaneously collecting more scans, before making planet fall inside the ‘night’ side. The Anlace’ LiDAR was able to detect a flat landmass near a mountain range.
“It would do” John thought suddenly, he realised he had no choice if he wanted to survive. He checked the Cryostasis diagnostic and was saddened to see that through an unfortunate twist of fate, his had been the only pod to survive the power surges. He would bury them later he decided.
As john tapped in the commands on the terminal - still difficult in his Armour - he had the crushing realisation that he was the only one left; he’d be all on his own for the remainder of his life. He wondered was it even worth it? He decided he’d deal with that later.
As the terminal flashed to acknowledge his command, he searched for the nearest escape capsule, after a second several showed up.
“Shit”. John thought, they were on the other side of the ship near the starboard nacelle. He had an estimated three hours to reach the escape capsule. His last thought before departing was “I hope it works.”
The last of the sun's waning rays had disappeared behind the horizon, Princess Luna sat upon her balcony admiring her night sky.
“Beautiful as ever, sister”, a smiling Princess Celestia said announcing her presence.
Luna craned her neck around to smile back, the moonlight reflecting in her blue eyes “We were not expecting you to join us Tia.” She had used that nickname from when they were small fillies.
Celestia trotted over to sit next to her younger sister, “I had not seen you today and thought I would see how you were doing.” Celestia continued to look at the stars.
Luna hummed “Thou needn’t worry dear sister, for we fare well”, Luna stood and moved back into her chambers, an airiness to her every movement.
A moment later Celestia followed through the dark blue silk curtains into Luna’s room; it was a spacious room with a large four-poster bed at its center. It had drawers and cabinets all made from a dark stained wood, a big telescope sat in one corner. The room held many old relics from Equestria's long and varied past.
“Tea?” asked Princess Luna, she gestured at an ornate teapot.
“Please”, Replied Celestia “you know how much I love tea, dear sister.”
Luna used her dark blue magic to pour them both a cup of tea before levitating one to her sister, whose own golden magic enveloped it.
“Thank you”. Princess Celestia smiled and sipped at her tea.
They moved into a smaller side-room which held a small libraries worth of books and tomes, they sat on large red pillows near a quietly crackling fireplace. The room was rounded and had windows from floor to ceiling; situated on one of the tallest spires in Equestria; Canterlot, the capitol city of Equestria, offered many a serene view. At the bottom of one such valley, the closest town of Ponyville could be made out in the light of the full moon.
“We do not often share in such moments as these, Luna”. Celestia said disrupting the silence.
Luna could only hum in agreement, lost in thought as she stared into the burning embers.
After some minutes sat in silence, save for the fireplace cracking and spitting, Princess Celestia looked at her sister and pondered why she was so quiet – after all she would usually talk on and on about her day, Celestia thought to inquire;
“What thoughts trouble you Lulu?”
Luna said with a start, “We cannot figure something out.”
“And what, pray tell, might that be?” Celestia said with interest sparkling in her pink eyes, as she used her magic to gently place a couple of logs into the fireplace, they hissed and popped as the fire took hold.
Luna sat more straight and looked up at her sister, being slightly shorter, their eyes met,“I can sense something above us sister”, she said looking pensive “I cannot determine what it is, it is much like a comet, and is traveling at high speed straight for our world.”
“Is it something we should be worried about?” Celestia’s eyes glistened with concern.
“We are unsure, sister”, Luna turned back to her staring contest with the now roaring fire,“At first we thought it to be a comet or small asteroid, it would have missed Equestria entirely, and we nary gave it a second thought.”
A pause,“What makes you worry so?” Celestia asked, uncertainty marring her features.
“Because some hours ago we detected it alter its own velocity rapidly and change its course”, Luna said “It will enter our atmosphere several leagues from the castle.”
Celestia thought on this, “Is there anything we can do?” She asked hopefully “Perhaps we could move it—”
“You don’t understand sister!” Luna interrupted as she stood up. “We are detecting harmful energies from within this object!” She closed her eyes for a second, afterwards speaking more calmly “We predict it could impact the Northern Sea of Lights and cause huge amounts of damage to our Deer neighbours and even some of our own territories, Tia!”
Celestia thought on this before draping a large white wing over her younger counterpart, forcing her to sit once again.
“If you say there is nothing to be done, I believe you. I simply hope the damage will not be as severe as you say.” Celestia looked out of a window and glanced at the moon.
“We will simply have to endure and prevail, as we always have Luna.” She pulled Luna in close for a reassuring nuzzle. “Do not worry so much sister, we will get through this together.”
Luna looked up at Celestia, “What of our little ponies?”
“They are stronger than you think, sister. I have faith in them and so should you. Without them you would not be here now.”
Luna's shoulders sagged as did her head; she looked sadly at her hooves. Celestia used her other wingtip to raise Luna's head to meet her own eyes, “Fear not dear sister, all will be well” Luna did not look as certain as Celestia.
As John stomped through the Anlace, he couldn’t help but wonder as to the strange circumstances that he found himself presently in. He wasn’t merely a stupid mud stomper and prided himself on his ability with the pen as much as the sword.
The Brotherhood of Steel usually separated those who grew up as children into classes of soldiers or scholars. John excelled in both areas, at a young age his proficiency with military strategy and weapons usage heralded him as the next great ‘Maxon’.
He hadn’t a spare minute to reminisce however, time was of the essence.
John smashed his way through a collapsed corridor; on the other side he reached an emergency escape capsule. It was a large self-contained unit, almost four meters in height and two across – it could hold a single occupant with or without a powered exoskeleton. The capsule could eject itself into space or atmosphere and use a small propulsion unit to navigate to safety, it was rated for atmospheric entry and had a large suite of sensors, emergency broadcast arrays and life support. It was even capable of putting the occupant into a state of semi-cryostasis.
John wasted no time as the Anlace wouldreach geosynchronous orbit soon, he stowed his weapons inside the capsules multiple weapons lockers, it already had a vast array of weaponry inside as well as food and medical supplies, John had wanted to be as well-equipped as possible.
The Anlace started to shudder and John heard the ship start to rattle, he turned around after ensuring all of his equipment had been secured and backed into the capsules waiting hold.
It was a snug fit – John was about three meters in his armour, the pod sagged noticeably with his weight.
The ship visibly shook as the pods door slid closed, meeting down the centre, there was a small view screen from which John could see the inside of the hallway he had just left, that disappeared as the pod was lifted up, the back of the pod would now be against the coldness of space.
The Anlace would enter the atmosphere above its landing zone, before it glided around the planet to bleed off its considerable speed and then rotate a hundred and eighty degrees to use its main thrusters to slow it even more until it made land fall.
The Virtual Intelligence would handle all of the piloting; it had estimated a seventy seven point two percent chance that the ship would land on the surface, relatively intact.
Before touchdown however, after the trip around the planet and at approximately three hundred meters, John would be ejected out of the Anlace.
After many minutes of increased groaning and shuddering, John could feel gravity shift to his back, he was enduring at least two times the gravity of Earth, the pod had a dampening field which helped whether the effects.
John’s mind was linked with his suit, he thought about viewing one of the ships external cameras and his vision was suddenly filled with the planet below, red flames were pulling and blistering at the underside of the Anlace. John watched calmly as a chunk of armour plating sailed past, narrowly missing the camera.
The ship continued to be pulled towards the planet, soon enough the bright flames coming off of the ship were too much for Johns eyes and so he willed the camera to disappear. It flashed out of existence.
For several minutes John’s world was only of darkness, shuddering and extreme gravity. His adrenalin made him shake and he prayed to whoever was listening that he would make it, John wasn’t religious but he would take any help he could get.
As the ship rotated he felt the shuddering reach a crescendo before tailoring off into a heavy vibration. John once again wished to see an outside camera and the view from one appeared before him; this time from the Aft side; he could see the world transitioning from a barely visible landscape to an almost jet black nothingness.
As the Princesses sat together and comforted each other, Princess Luna suddenly said “It is changing its course again!”
Both of them stood up, Luna walked hurriedly over to her telescope, using her magic she turned a few dials until it pointed North-East of Canterlot and then looked through it.
Princess Celestia followed and stood by her side, she glanced at her sister, to see her frowning.
“Is everything okay Luna?” She asked, concerned.
Luna didn’t speak for a moment, as if the telescope held all of life’s answers, “No,” she said at last.
Princess Celestia directed her attention north, trying to see what Luna could be looking at. Squinting and craning her neck still revealed little.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, as her keen eyesight saw in the upper reaches of the sky, a faintly glowing object.“What is it sister?” she asked.
Princess Luna continued to peer through her telescope with one eye tightly shut. “It is made of some kind of metal.” She said finally, looking away from the telescope and up at Celestia.
Celestia looked back toward the streaking meteor-esq object now hurtling through Equestrias upper atmosphere, “What do you make of it sister?”
Princess Luna returned to squinting through her telescope, turning dials and guiding it with a hoof to keep track of the brightening piece of space-junk.
“We are uncertain as to what is may be.”
“Perhaps it is simply a meteor rich in Iron.” Celestia did not look convinced.
“Nay, sister,” Luna said with confidence, “it shines as though it were forged by somepony, or something.”
She looked back to Celestia as the burning metal thing had disappeared from view.
“Is it not possible for it to be actual aliens?” Luna asked excitedly, “I hope they’re friendly!”
Celestia both respected and envied her sister's proficiency with all things outside of Equestria's surface, ever since they were young; Luna's grasp of the sciences such as astronomy, astrophysics and space archaeology far exceeded Celestia’s own, although she was no slouch.
“Sister, while I believe you are more knowledgeable than I regarding matters of the universe, let’s not get ahead of ourselves”, she blinked a few times before looking squarely at Luna, “What are the chances of it being intelligent life and not simply some form of extra-solar oddity we haven’t been able to account for?”
Princess Luna's ears splayed, “We know that it is not likely to be aliens, sister. We are not so naïve.” She continued unabated, “we shall depart tomorrow to personally investigate the impact crater.”
Luna had an air of excitement Celestia had not seen in many years.
“Very well Luna, but I insist of providing an escort of Royal Guard to ensure your safety.”
Luna scoffed, “We art perfectly capable of looking after ourselves, Tia.”
“I know,” Celestia reassured “do it for me Luna? Please.” Celestia gave her best pleading look, even pouting a little.
After a moment of pretending to consider her offer, Luna sighed, “Very well Celestia, thou know we are soft for your kindness.”
Celestia smiled triumphantly and raised her regal head to its full height, “I know Luna. I shall speak with you in the morning; I have scrolls to read before I rest.”
“Slumber well sister”, Luna said as Celestia turned to leave “may your dreams be forever joyful.”
Celestia turned her head slightly and said with a wink, “With you guarding my dreams? I don’t expect anything less, dear sister.”
With Celestia gone Luna prepared herself to hold the night court, it would run for several hours before she had some free time ahead, she greatly anticipated exploring during tomorrow’s adventure. Little did she know that an adventure would be coming her way sooner than expected.
No more than fifteen minutes into her first hearing and Luna was already exhausted to near-death due to all the pomp and ceremony upon her arrival; first her royal guard retinue had paraded around the throne room, they had made a well-rehearsed display of switching all of the banners and displays from golden and yellow colours, with her sister's sun cutie mark, to those in several hues of blues, purples and black with her own crescent moon cutie mark plastered onto everything.
The contingent of Royal Guard then had a quick pause as they were replaced by the Lunar Guard; they saluted and marched in pairs to their positions. While the Royal Guard were all ponies wearing enchanted golden armour to make them appear as white stallions - the Lunar Guard, by contrast, were exclusively thestrals; a race of pony that had the appearance of a Pegasus crossed with a bat. They have a variation of yellow coloured eyes with slits for pupils, shaggy fur in a range of blacks and greys and oversized bat-wings.
Their Guard armour focuses on utility over appearance and is a dark series of interlinking plate and chainmail. It covers the thestrals from hoof to neck with a thick armoured helmet covering their heads, with small alcoves for the ears to protrude. Finally they wear a short blue caparison adorned with stars and a crescent moon.
After the exchanging of the guard, the first citizen was permitted to speak to her. Princess Luna smiled warmly and greeted them, “Hello my little pony, what troubles may your princess aide you in?”
The pony, a young white stallion, barely out of his teenage years, after giving a deep bow, he stood and announced himself. “G-g-good evening Princess Luna, thank you for hearing me.” He paused before continuing, albeit nervously, “I am Master Silver Shine, my father is sick and I have been sent to re-request medical help, Princess.” He bowed deeply afterwards.
“Rise”, Luna said somewhat sternly, “why have you sought our council and not that of a doctor?”
Silver Shine stood once more, “I attempted to buy the necessary medicine, however I was turned away as I am not a citizen of Equestria.”
Luna looked down her nose at him and examined him more thoroughly, “We do not understand, you are a pony: all ponies are citizens of Equestria.”
Silver wilted under her stern gaze, “N-no your highness”, he said with trepidation, “I was born in Snowbush, in the Griffon Kingdom, your majesty.” He bowed once more.
Snowbush had once been a border town established millennia ago to further relations with the, at the time, newly discovered Griffon Empire. Many battles had been waged around that region; but that was many a year ago. Now it was a simple trading outpost but it was not under Equestrian sovereignty.
Princess Luna tried to look friendlier, “We find ourselves in need of more information. Speak plainly master Silver Shine.”
Silver stood once more, and swallowed dryly, "I was born in Snowbush”, he said shakily, “I do not possess Equestrian citizenship as I was born outside of its borders. Every doctor or nurse I’ve spoken to told me it simply wasn’t possible to give me free medical supplies.”
“I told them”, he continued, “that my father, also named Silver Shine, your highness, held Equestrian citizenship and they said he would have to come here himself.”
He visibly shook, “I’m sorry Princess”, he bowed his head, “but the journey is long and tiring and I fear that my father would not make it, he is quite old.”
Princess Luna stood and approached, her silver shoes clipping loudly in the otherwise silent courtroom. Silver Shine scrambled away from her and bowed deeply.
As Luna approached she sensed his entire body tense up, “Please do us the courtesy of relaxing Master Silver Shine, we mean you no harm.”
“Ce-certainly P-p-princess”, He stood up and looked up at her refusing to make eye contact, Princess Luna was easily a head taller than he was.
Luna raised her royal voice, “We hereby decree that Master Silver Shine is to be given emergency Equestrian Citizenship”, she looked directly at her personal aide, “Fantasia, see to it personally and have a guard escort him back to Snowbush at first light with enough food and medicine to see that Master Silver Shines father makes a full recovery."
Fantasia, a tall lithe unicorn mare with a light pink coat and matching white mane and tail tied back in a bun answered, “At once Princess Luna.” She smiled as she said it and scribbled on a piece of parchment.
Luna turned back to Silver, “We hope this serves you well young Silver Shine, may our moon guide you in the coming nights.”
He stumbled over himself, “Th-tha-thank you Princess!” He made eye contact shortly and smiled broadly before rushing to bow one last time.
“Do not concern yourself my little pony, we are here to serve.”
As Luna turned to sit back upon her blue dais an almighty explosion rocked the castle; dust and debris drifted from the ceiling and the stained windows rattled. Ponies screamed and shouted in fear and confusion, the thestrals doing their best to calm them while just as confused.
Princess Lunas senses lit up, she could sense that piece of metal, and it was so close. It must have been directly above the castle.
She whipped around to speak to the only officer present, a young mare by the name of Midnight, “Lieutenant, calm our ponies down – ensure their safety and assemble a squad in the eastern carriage bay.”
“Princess?!” she all but shouted over the frightened ponies.
“We are going to discern what that commotion was.”
“Captain, give me a situation report.” Princess Celestia was all business after being suddenly woken.
“Yes ma’am!” Captain Stark Wing, commander of 1/6th battalion replied, joining her, “An explosion sounded above the castle several moments ago, damage is minimal and our casualties are limited Princess.”
They were walking at a fast canter side-by-side, down a corridor in the western section of the castle, attempting to locate her sister and find out just what had happened. If Stark was struggling to keep up with her long strides, he didn't show it.
“Some good news Captain, do we know what caused the explosion?” She said as a trio of Lunar Guard hurried past them in the other direction.
Captain Stark looked up, his features not betraying his feelings, “No princess, at first we thought we were under attack – possibly the changelings again – but our scouts have returned with no sightings, I’ve instructed them to do a perimeter sweep and put the entire castle on stand-by. Both the Lunar and Royal guard are on high alert Princess.” He finished, speaking quickly and matter-of-factly.
A window in a passing room gave an idea as to the hour, as the world beyond was still very dark. “Very good Captain, keep me appraised. Where is my sister?” several Royal Guard and some panicked civilians raced past.
“We haven’t been able to locate her or her personal guard, we have runners all over the castle trying to pin her down but you know how she can be.” He faced forwards as he spoke.
“Yes, I certainly do,” Celestia said knowingly, “she has likely taken on the task of discovering the source of the explosion on her own.”
Princess Celestia and Captain Stark Wing reached the center of the throne room; it was covered in dust and had discarded furniture splayed around. Celestia halted so abruptly that the Captain almost pitched over trying to stop as suddenly. He managed to pull it off however.
She turned to face him, “continue doing what you are doing Captain, inform your scouts to look out for her.”
“Yes Princess”, Stark said firmly while saluting, “what will you be doing?”
She made an unwelcoming expression, “I will be in the common room, trying to sooth the ruffled feathers of the noble stallions, as I am sure they have their fair share on what to say.”
His face remained as blank as ever, “Better you than I, good luck Princess.”
As the Anlace continued its controlled descent, John weighed the odds of survival, and eventual rescue. As the ship jostled and weaved with its re-entry, a sudden queasiness reminded him to think on it later.
A countdown in his helmet appeared, starting at about three thousand meters and rapidly lowering, he would be ejected into the sky at around three hundred meters from the surface. A full minute went by and the readout ticked over three hundred and seventy two before he rapidly shot out of the Anlace.
The feeling of falling only intensified, but John could see outside of his pod once again, he could see the Anlace; glowing red with pieces of it being stripped off as it hurtled toward the surface – its rear end facing down and thrusters firing at full. It would be a simple contest of power for the thrusters versus the weight of the ship and the planets gravity.
John didn’t get to bet on which would win as his escape capsule fired its manoeuvring thrusters to level him out and his view screen was filled with stars briefly, before three domed parachutes deployed with a thwumf.
The pod lurched and bobbed and then settled into a gentle decent. It would take several minutes to reach the surface; John planned on immediately gathering weapons and ammo before heading to the crash site.
Princess Luna relished the feeling of the wind rushing through her mane and across her wings. Luna and several Lunar Guard endured flying at a high altitude so as to track the meteor, it made little sound but its bright red glow could be seen from afar.
“Lieutenant Midnight!” Luna shouted to be heard over the rushing wind, “Are you enjoying this as much as we are?” Luna hadn’t felt such a pure sense of happiness in some time; “to be free of that blasted court of kangaroos”, she thought.
The Lieutenant turned her head to shout directly back at Luna so as to be heard over the rush of the wind, “What?!” She exclaimed.
Luna could only smile at that, with her mouth firmly closed, lest she end up as a royal fly catcher.
After many minutes of comfortable, at least in Lunas mind, gliding – the strange glowing object impacted the ground with a thunderous boom at the base of two small peaks. The crash sent vibrations through the air itself along with a plume of dust that was illuminated by the light from the still glowing metallic meteor.
“Let’s investigate!” Luna shouted, “Carefully”, she added as an afterthought.
John’s descent was almost calm, moments before the barometric altimeter reached zero - he could hear a distant crack and his pod quivered almost imperceptibly.
“That must have been the Anlace.” He said to no one in particular.
Moments passed, he felt the pods airbags inflate, and he imagined the ring of small circular gas bags suddenly springing to life. Then felt the pod impact solid ground for the first time and he grunted, it banged and jumped as the parachutes dragged the pod a few dozen meters before finally coming to a complete stop.
John hit the release on his pods interior and the frontal panel hissed and burst off shooting into the dark before clattering loudly nearby. He clambered out; not easily done in Power Armour and stood atop the pod, surveying his surroundings.
His HUD automatically adjusted for low-light and so he could see tall trees and rocky ground, all around him, nearby the pods parachutes had become hung up on a tall pine tree, they rustled with the wind.
John quickly opened the access hatches for his weapon, a moment later and he had his laser weaponry, grenades and ammunition as well as a large combat knife tucked into his right armoured pauldron.
In the distance he could see a spire of smoke being gently illuminated by the wreck of the Anlace. John set a course for it on his PIP boy, it had created a two dimensional map of much of the planet after the scans taken by the Anlace during its decent.
He unslung his laser rifle and stomped off into the forest.
Equestria certainly was a place of serenity; the galaxy above could be seen clearly, its picturesque reflection from a nearby lake was so clear, that it could cause one to believe a universe existed beneath their hooves. The moon hung high in the heavens, a silent vigil over an otherwise still world.
Princess Luna, along with a flight of Lunar Guard, glided silently across the backdrop of stars; ahead of them, looming in the distance, the peak of Foal Mountain and its lesser two peaks lay partially illuminated by small fires from the impact site, its location was somewhere South-East of the furthest peak from Canterlot.
As they descended toward the impact site, Luna's eyes tracked the trail of carnage, it hadn’t impacted like any meteor she had ever witnessed in her long life and had left a trench with scattered pieces of metal and debris – its journey had uprooted dozens – perhaps hundreds of trees.
Her Guards were looking at her for leadership – she gestured at a small ridgeline a short distance from the final resting place of the unusual metal object. As they closed the distance to it, Luna could see markings and small details she hadn’t been able to through her telescope.
They touched down along the ridge, her ponies doing so with a practised subtlety she couldn’t quite imitate, her large wing flaps kicking up dust and dirt. She looked apologetically at the nearest guard as he rubbed an eye with the back of his foreleg.
Assuming a low position, they watched in silence as thick smoke poured out of the thing. She glanced at Lieutenant Midnight, she saw pure yellow eyes watching the crash site with a calculating professionalism.
“Lieutenant”, Luna started, “take three guards and set up an observation point on the other side of the object. Keep low and out of sight – take the long way around if the need arises.”
Lieutenant Midnight looked to her Princess for a moment before her head nodded almost imperceptibly. “Yes Princess”, she stood to leave and pointed with a foreleg at three Guards, “you three with me.” Her voice was quiet, and then the four of them took off with great speed and agility before diving out of sight.
Luna turned her attention back to the object; exhaling noisily she took note of its features. It was absolutely massive, boxy and industrial, it looked like it had lost large portions of itself, "perhaps in the atmosphere", she thought to herself.
It lay at the edge of a small wood; its journey had uprooted numerous trees and bushes – many of which now lay sticking out from under its front or had been deposited on its top. The side facing them was a jagged mess of sheared metal and wiring, electricity occasionally flashed and sparked along with the plumes of smoke it was emitting near its upper regions.
Trees from the wood became sparser toward the crash site; it had landed just on the outskirts of the treeline before smashing heavily into a sheer wall of granite. The impact had caused large chunks of rock and dust to rain down around the ship.
“What is that thing?” a female Guard by the name of Starry Skies asked with worry in her tone.
“We believe it may be a ‘spaceship’.” Princess Luna said, she gestured around her, “The world shall look to us as an example if we are to happen across a new species."
After a short while of simply watching, Luna heard a sound, carried by the gentle breeze; it sounded like a tree branch being snapped. Possibly ponies coming to investigate, although the nearest settlement of Hollow Shades was half a day’s travel on hoof and lay on the other side of the mountain.
It wasn’t likely to be any wild animals as they should have been wary after such an impact. If indeed this really was aliens, then perhaps one of them had managed to survive. Luna's head was filled with images of little green ponies, or of large grotesque monsters that had come for conquest and to sow ruin.
Luna shook her head, knowing that any life forms probably didn’t look like that. In the distance, between the far edge of lone trees at the edge of the wood and the spaceship, Luna thought she saw a large figure move quickly to the edge of the craft, before disappearing from view.
“There!” exclaimed a guard in a stage whisper, “Did anypony see that?”
“See what?” Another answered.
“Right there, I saw something – it looked like a Minotaur.”They pointed with a hoof.
The second guard snorted, “Don’t be ridiculous; there aren’t any Minotaur’s near here.”
The first opened his mouth to offer a rebuttal, but Luna interrupted it before he could.
“We saw it as well. It appeared to be a large biped, and we concur in that it likely was not a Minotaur.”
“So what was it, Princess?” The second guard said, her voice rising in pitch.
“We believe it to be Equestrias first visit from life outside of our world.Something truly deserving of the word alien, somehow it survived the crash. We wonder if there are others; or if it came alone.” After she finished speaking the atmosphere between the guards became eerily quiet.
After several moments passed she said, “Let us venture and investigate this object. We will ask them ourselves.” She stood afterwards, a look of steely determination in her eyes.
“Guard”, she said looking at one of them, “Return to Canterlot and inform my sister of what we have discovered, the others and ourselves will take a closer look”
The guard looked defiant for a second, her face screwing up as she said, “are you sure that is wise Princess?”
“It is our decision; we must attempt first contact and pray they are not harbouring hostile intentions. Please fly with haste.” The guard offered a slightly demure expression before nodding and extending her over-sized bat-wings, and then with a single powerful flap, she disappeared into the star filled sky. Luna watched as the Guards form made a trail in the cosmos, before turning back to the ship.
“Come”, she said, extending her wings, “let us meet this visitor from the heavens.”
John Maxson’s hulking power-armoured frame moved bodily through the trees, they were tall - stretching for tens of meters into the sky and greatly resembling pine trees. John had long wondered if life on other worlds could exist to the same degree as his home world. And if so; how different would it look like: the answer here before him was not very different, at least to Johns eyes.
The low light vision of his helmet gave everything a pulsing grey, slightly oily look to it. Readouts on his Heads up Display were indicating a breathable atmosphere. John had an internal supply of several hours-worth with more back on the Anlace. He vowed to use it until he could determine that the air wasn’t filled with some sort of fungi or bacteria that would ultimately kill him.
The servo motors of his power armour whirred and hissed quietly with each pounding step, he shouldered his way through a small bush and a loud “snap” resounded around him as he pulverised a small dead log.
Arriving at the edge of a clearing in the trees he could see Anlace lay up ahead; it was barely recognisable – he realised that it had been flipped onto its side. “Great.” He thought.
He ceased all movement, barely able to conceal himself behind a massive tree trunk. Peering around the edge he couldn’t see any immediate threats and decided to throw caution to the wind and make a charge for the nearest hole.
After several seconds he quickly cleared the distance to the side of the Anlace, although it might have been the bottomgiven its shape and lack of view screens.
He saw a large gash spanning several meters across and two decks high but was quite narrow. He managed to squeeze himself through, power armour squealing as its steel kissed with that of the ship. Finally he popped through with a screech and thudded to the bulkheadbelow.
“What a mess.” He said aloud – panels from the walls, floors and ceiling had been warped and bent – in some instances they were missing altogether or hanging from a tangle of wires.
Bringing up his Pip Boy he wordlessly scrawled through statistical information about the status of the Anlace, the Virtual Intelligence was still online; albeit barely. It was listing all systems as down or non-functioning. The last few Hydrogen Fuelcells were at only ten percent capacity, it would do for looking at terminals, John thought, but not too much else.
A warning tone pinged from inside his helmet and a new data stream appeared inside his Heads up Display; it was information regarding the reactor room: it had suffered major damage to its failsafe mechanism.
The Anlace had been equipped with a pair of fusion reactors that could boost their power efficiency by over four hundred percent than if it had only been outfitted with a single reactor. One of them wasn’t giving any readings, but the other was going into meltdown – its core had been knocked out of alignment.
The numbers were clear; if John didn’t find a way to prevent the core meltdown, then it would explode and he along with the Anlace and much of the planet would be incinerated in an explosion in the scale of hundreds of megatons.
His face became set with determination; he wouldn’t allow a repeat of what his ancestors had achieved over three centuries prior.
John set a marker on his Pip Boy and thundered off as fast as the chaos of the Anlace would allow.While navigating around collapsed supports and jumping clear of missing floor segments he was able to display information on his HUD by simply thinking; he could see vast amounts of damage and he tried to discern if any of it would cause any future problems.
The Anlace was emitting radiation, lethal amounts in some areas; it was bleeding from the hull into the world outside. As well as the reactor melting down, a Liquid Hydrogen Storage tank on the port nacelle that was now sticking up in the air had caught fire and was pumping large amounts of toxic smoke into the atmosphere – the fire itself was burning hot enough to melt steel, it required him divert power from a terminal and command the fire suppressant system to engage.
Further down the corridor he was on he could see it divide now up and down. He considered his options as he needed to head up. Looking down into the depth of a broken corridor he leapt into the air; utilising small thrusters built into his suit he managed to clear the ten meter height and reach the top before grasping onto the edge of a wall.
He hung for a few seconds, allowing his thrusters to draw a charge from his armours fusion core – he then activated it and boosted up the rest of the way and jumped forward into the waiting darkness of the reactor access corridor.
Princess Luna and her three remaining Guards crept up to the craft, keeping low and sticking to the edge of the treeline. From there they had all but crawled to the edge of the spaceship where they had seen the biped disappear into.
Luna turned to address her guards, “We will venture inside, Starfire and Frosted Whip will accompany us. You remain here guard…” she trailed off at the remaining Guard Mare.
“Steel Mustang, your highness.” The only male guard said as he stood a little straighter
“Very good, track down and inform the Lieutenant of our intentions. Have her squad spread out around the craft, but do not under any circumstance venture inside. Is that clear?” As she said it, her tone allowed no room for argument.
“Yes Ma’am!” He said and straightened further before departing, leaving a trail in his wake.
“Come.” Princess Luna said as Frosted Whip and Starfire followed her through a hole just big enough to accommodate her.
Complete darkness enveloped them, so Luna used an illumination spell to light the interior of the ship. It was so very strange, everything was made out of cold steel, and much of the ship had walls coated in bare wires that were twisted, burned and still sparking.
She could smell smoke and ash that burned her throat and mad her eyes water, she raised a dark blue wing and tried breathing through it.
Starfire took a closer look at the wiring as she raised a wing of her own, “what is this stuff, Princess?” Her voice was muffled slightly.
“Something more advanced than we have ever imagined. Do not touch anything!” She said more loudly, interrupting the young guard’s inquisitive hoof, which lowered at the Princess’ stern tone.
“We do not know what could be harmful to us.” She could sense those strange energies again as she had when she had originally detected the vessel. “Come”, she began, “we detect a building energy signature deeper within the vessel. If that creature is to be anywhere, we suspect it to be there.”
The two guards looked at each other before looking at the Princess. “We will follow your lead, Princess.” Frosted Whip said assuredly.
“Very well”, Luna replied, “tis this way.” she lead the way down a zig-zagging hallway, the light from her horn brightening the way forward and darkening the area from which they had gained entry, the two guards following closely.
The reactor room had been a mess before; but that paled in comparison to what it was now. The floor of the chamber had almost entirely been eaten way – two decks between it and the outside world. Smoke and fire was being churned out from somewhere among one of them, John couldn’t determine where.
As the reactor spires now pointed to his right, the once floor now being to his left – he observed the two reactor cores. One had been sheared completely from its housing, the long, thick cables that had run up into the ceiling had, in the ships endeavour to turn over on its side, sent the reactor flailing out into the room. It now hung lifelessly, swaying ever-so-slightly.
The other reactor was at a slight downward angle; gravity had done its utmost to dislodge it like its twin but had been unsuccessful. Yellow lights inside its housing indicated something. John would have to get close to it and run a diagnostic routine by connecting his Pip Boy to know for sure.
He looked around the expansive reactor room - it had broken and warped pieces of equipment scattered on every conceivable surface. On johns left, what would have been the left-most wall but was presently the ceiling, held a large hoist – used for extracting the reactor cores for maintenance. It would definitely be non-functional but could hold a lot weight; namely a few hundred kilograms of armoured human.
John took a few steps back into the access corridor and took a running jump into the chasm that yawned between him and the lone reactor spire. His thrusters spat a jet of flame and he sailed toward the crane. John didn’t grab onto it so much as smash into it at a great velocity, he bounced off of it, sending the crane spinning with a screech and landed atop the side of the reactor spire.
He had landed on his back and stood up; the frame holding the core groaned in protest but didn’t break.
He spun in place, looking for an access point to connect to. He saw one at the base of the spire – he stretched for it and after a few gangly swings managed to hit the release, a small square slot extended a few dozen centimetres and opened at its end.
John fished inside a small internal compartment – not easy with the clumsiness of using large armoured fingers. Finally however, he pulled out a small length of wire and ran it from his Pip Boy to the access port.
His HUD displayed the ships internal systems once again, only this time John was able to interface with them. The ships Virtual Intelligence was stuck in a state of limbo; attempting to pilot the ship through space: It didn’t seem to realise that the ship had embedded itself into a mountain.
He looked through the ships logs; his primary concern was finding a way to disengage the reactor, as a secondary objective he wanted to extinguish the Hydrogen fire that was busy burning its way through the port nacelle.
After double checking the percentage of power remaining, he instructed the ship to divert a fraction of it to the nacelle and activate its fire suppressant system, several hundred litres of Carbon Dioxide and a combination of a chemical foaming agent would be sprayed all over the affected parts of the ship.
He counted a few seconds before witnessing through the holes in the wall the area exploding with white foam and Carbon Dioxide extinguishing the flames, the walls hissed and spat as they rapidly cooled – elsewhere on other decks of the Anlace, John could hear similar sounds of squirting foam and gas before hissing and popping from the cooling steel.
His suit indicated that the room was being flooded with deadly radiation, enough that he would have to spend as little time as possible inside the chamber and that meant trying to get the core off of the ship.
The power surge from his earlier machinations had increased the danger from the reactor, he realised with dread as his HUD was filled with equations and estimations of the time to critical failure and distance to reach the minimum safe distance.
Flicking through the information with his eyes, he determined a way to mitigate the danger.He activated a communications channel to the Virtual Intelligence and asked “Computer, walk me through the process of evacuating the core.”
After a burst of static and a high pitched squawk, the Virtual Intelligences synthesized voice spoke, broken and fragmented. “You m-m-m-m-m-ust restore-ore-ore the—” her voice was intermingled with static and feedback, “—stem. Imminent cascade failure, approximate safe distance from blast zone is—” the transmission was filled with the sound of bells and whistles, “—error: system corrupted.”
John sighed heavily, “Computer, request information on reactor spire safety evacuation protocols.” He waited a few seconds as an alarm started wailing from somewhere inside the ship.
“In the event of unexpected cascade failure; the maintenance and reactor bays should be evacuated, following that, I can establish a link to the ejection port and manoeuvre the affected reactor core into an isolation chamber.” The relevant information was being displayed on Johns HUD as the Intelligence talked him through it.
“Once inside the chamber, I can evacuate the affected core into space.” She paused for a beat, “I am detecting an automation failure. Manuel evacuation required.”
John dismissed her as he had what he needed and proceeded to retract his uplink cable before punching a series of commands into a control panel at his armoured feet.
The amber light surrounding the reactor housing turned violet and the casing flowered open to reveal a hexagonal prism shaped core. It was about a meter across and completely symmetrical.
He grasped onto it with both gauntlets and as his Geiger counter changed from a fast clicking to an almost continuous tone. John squatted to lift the core and stood to his full height. It was cumbersome but manageable; he used a mental command to be injected with substance one-one-one; an anti-radiation cocktail giving him near immunity to high levels of radiation for a short period.
He squeezed the core tightly in both arms before jumping to the gravitational ground, his combined weight made the entire room shake and groan and he left a large dent where he had landed. Nearby lay a hexagonal shaped hatch that would accept the core and use a small elevator to spirit it away.
The hatch opened at his presence and John deposited the hefty fusion core into it. As it closed magnetic rails shot it through the ship, John could hear it getting moved throughout the inside of the walls, as the sound faded he heard it eject from the side of the ship.
“Now I need to find some intact Liquid Hydrogen and pour it over an about-to-explode radioactive core, piece of cake.” He said it nonchalantly. After a short period of searching, he was fortunate enough to find some.
The tall steel canister had a mid-blue base, inside it was Liquid Nitrogen. Nitrogen in liquid form was typically used to store samples of biological material like blood, plasma and semen, although it could be used in emergencies as a hand-held fire extinguisher.
John clasped it in one hand and took off for a hole in a bulkhead in front of him. From there he clambered and squeezed his armoured bulk through countless passages and winding corridors. It would take him a while, he just hoped the rapidly heating core would not implode and kill him.
Starfire was using a small illumination crystal that she had procured to view her surroundings better, after searching for the illusive creature, Princess Luna had determined that the ship may not have been the right-way up – although it was difficult to be certain as the ship had clearly been designed for something even larger than Princess Celestia.
As she used her mouth to hold the crystal; she directed its light over a piece of technology. At least that’s what she thought it was, the alien device had buttons similar to a typewriter and was connected to a square piece of glace.
Curiosity got the better of her and she touched it with a hoof, nothing.
Starfire’s shoulders sagged a little; she had been hoping it would do something, after all how were the aliens supposed to control the ship? She didn’t see any wheels or pulley’s, she was no expert on nautical equipment but surely the controls for this thing would be somewhat obvious, at least she had assumed they would be.
Turning away from the uncooperative piece of technology she could see Princess Luna and Frosted Whip looking around the room they were currently in with their own sources of light and their backs to her.
Connected to the wall in a darker part of the room, Starfire could just make out what looked to be a more intact version of the alien typewriter; this one was mounted on a wall but at a weird angle. She supposed it made sense if the ship were indeed not the right way up.
She slowly and quietly trotted over to it, she had to navigate around and over several fallen pieces of debris. Once near it, she looked up at it. It was a full body’s height above her. She carefully raised herself up on her hind legs and put each foreleg on the wall either side of the device.
She stared into the glass square, this one had a crack running across it, through which she could see diodes and wiring inside, she turned around to speak to the others and spat out her illumination crystal.
“Princess Luna, look at—” she was cut off as one of her hooves touched the typewriters buttons – many of them depressed at once with a slight click and the glass square burst into a bright white light.
It was so sudden and bright that it nearly blinded Starfire’s sensitive Thestral eyes, she tipped over backwards and loudly crashed into a pile of debris, she could see flashing after-images in her vision.
A screeching, repeating sound emitted from all around them. She’d woken a monster, she feared as it wailed for their very souls.
“Guard Starfire!” Luna Shouted to be heard over the deafening noise now emitting from the walls, “We were implicit that thou not touch anything!”
Starfire rolled onto her belly, “I didn’t mean to princess, it was an accident!” Her cat-like eyes glistened.
They all held their breath but nothing happened, after some tense moments the sound stopped.
“Are you hurt?” She asked the mare genuinely, her voice cutting through the silence.
Starfire shakily stood, “No, I’m okay.”
“Very well, and yourself Guard Frosted Whip?”
Whip was steadily looking around her, her ears were swivelling. “I am unhurt, princess. Did anyone else hear that?”
“Of course we did. Art thou deaf?” Luna deadpanned.
“No not that.” Elsewhere in the ship a muffled hissing could be heard.
“Is it a creature?” Starfire said, drawing her sabre with her mouth.
“I don’t think so; I heard fluid rushing through the walls. It was heading somewhere above us.”
Luna began to exit the room, “Then let us head there now. “
After leaving the room, the trio slowly made their way to the destination of the water in the wallsthat Frosted Whip had heard, they crossed into multiple passages and compartments, until they found themselves in a large corridor with big metal caskets running up two of the sides.
They were once again reminded of the ships tilted axis as they had to walk along a row of capsules, with another row above them. The front of each one had a big piece of curved glass; it was ice cold to the touch and frosty looking.
Luna studied them closely. Inside the one she was standing on she could make out a dark and strange looking shape. She realised with a sudden felling of wonderment that it was likely an alien. Starfire appeared to reach the same conclusion.
“I think those are aliens you guys!” She said excitedly.
“Look,” Whip added, “one of them is open.” She pointed with a foreleg at an indeed open pod, the glass had lifted up to reveal a grey interior, it had lots of small markings, the details of which were completely foreign to Lunas eye.
“This must have been where the biped we saw came from. But why was it already off the ship when we arrived?” Whip thought for a moment, trying to come up with a reason.
“It matters not”, Luna said, interrupting her train of thought, “you can ask the creature yourself once we find it.”
“Do you think it will be friendly?” Starfire said hopefully.
“By the sun of our sister, we hope so.” Luna replied as she led them higher up toward the top of the ship.
The moonlight above the Anlace was a diffuse ocean, lessening the inky-blackness of the sky, but not so much as to completely dim the stars that speckled and glittered in the heavens above.
With all the grace and decorum that he could muster, Commander John Maxon hefted himself from a peeling hole at the top of the port nacelle, his suits servo-motors whined with the strain but he eventually broke free and his large armoured form became silhouetted against the twinkling sky.
John thudded toward the edge of the wreck, the mountains to Johns left lay in a great line like the spine of the land. It was as if long ago they were a great beast, only to lie down and one day never get up.
The ship caused a shadow to fall on the ground like a great curtain, his suits sensors were indicating the core should be hiding on the dark side. As he evaluated his situation he was unaware of the three sets of eyes locked firmly onto him.
His HUD displayed the distance to the ground, he checked to make sure his weapons were securely attached before firmly grasping the canister of liquid nitrogen and then took a running leap off of the Anlace.
Princess Luna, Starfire and Frosted Whip slowly and carefully made their way upwards, had they not had wings the task of ascending up the crisscrossing maze of corridors in the capsized vessel would have been extremely difficult.
After flying up a length of corridor, they reached the fringe of the ship. The moon was visible through holes in the steel, giving off the only light as she deactivated her light spell. Frosted Whip was about to exit when she suddenly stopped and became very still.
“What is it?” Starfire whispered, looking suddenly afraid.
“It’s right there!” Whip said hurriedly.
Princess Luna moved closer to look for herself and true to Whips word, there it was, standing with its back to her. It was huge, taller than Celestia and far broader. It appeared to be made out of or encased in metal, Luna wasn’t sure which.
“What should we do princess?” Starfire hissed through clenched teeth.
“Be silent. We shall simply observe for now.” Luna whispered back.
For a time it did nothing, and stood there on the ship, unmoving; Luna wondered if it had simply stopped working. She’d just finished that thought when it suddenly exploded away from them, its movements causing loud clanging sounds and sending vibrations through the ship, before they could react, the creature jumpedfrom the edge of the ship.
All three ponies were agape; that fall would certainly kill it – and it didn’t appear to have wings. After a few seconds a faint thud could be heard from across the metal of the ship.
She felt disheartened; it had come all this way only to end its own life, they could have helped it.
They said nothing but she was the first among them to leave the safety of the corridor and clip-clop across the hull toward the edge. After a moment Starfire and Whip joined her.
Luna looked into the trees. Except for a few shreds of moonlight it was as dark as a shut cupboard.
They shambled to duck down low once they realised the creature could still spot them. Luna peeked over the top of the rim to see its back was facing them.
They all waited with baited breath to see what it would do next, but for a time it simply stood there, unmoving. Its odd behaviour was starting to unnerve the princess. Just what was this thing?
More moments spent in quiet, eventually a strange mechanical whirring emitted from the creature, Luna looked on in apprehension as the things back opened like a grotesque metal insect shedding its skin.
It dawned on her that it was likely getting out of its armour; as a much smaller biped emerged from within the steel behemoth, it was slight in comparison – only half the size of the suit that towered next to it, but still large looking even at this distance.
The suit of armour closed on its own accord with a sound like an old lock being turned. The three of them watched in silence, so focused were they on the metal creature that they didn’t notice the form of another pony attempting to hide amongst a large piece of debris in the trench that the craft had left.
For the first time, Luna realised, she was actually seeing the creature in its true form. Its features were obscure from the distance she was at and muted by the darkness, but it looked tall and muscular – clad in all black and wearing a mask on its head – her keen eyesight could make out short hair and a bald face.
It seemed to study one of its forelegs intently before taking a small metal canister still clasped in an armoured hand on the suit and walking quickly away from the ship and from them.
Motion in her periphery made her look more to her right, after squinting and trying to assuage what she was seeing, Luna could make out the form of a Thestral guard. She lit her horn briefly in a series of dim notes – it was a common Guard signal meant to remain where one was.
She then checked that the creature had not noticed - it had faded almost entirely from view as it made its way back into the treeline.
His power armour had suffered a servo motor lock-up due to the height he had jumped, it would require a manual reset, nothing too difficult but John had neither the time nor the equipment to carry out such a task, with laser rifle in hand he ran silently through the tall trees that grew thicker like giant blades of grass.
The moonlight spilled onto his back and shoulders casting a long eerie shadow in front of him. His Geiger counter clicked away with increased fervour as he approached the discarded reactor core; strapped to his back was the liquid nitrogen canister.
The problem with radiation was that it wasn’t in the air, it was carried on small dust particles; ninety five percent of decontamination was simply removing the contaminated clothes and having a shower. The reactor core was emitting radiation because it wasn’t shielded properly and it was going to explode because the protons inside were reacting in a negative way due to complications with the power surges.
In the simplest of terms, the amount of radiation emitted from the Anlace would be carried several kilometres on the wind in the form of dust and pollen. Several weeks of rain would mostly mitigate the damage, the soil would absorb some of it but it would be greatly diluted by the water run off – eventually being washed away entirely.
The more pressing matter was the reactor core; with the protons about to cause a cataclysmic explosion, John would need to rapidly cool it – using Liquid Nitrogen which had a native temperature of around negative one hundred and ninety six degrees Celsius or negative three hundred and twenty one degrees Fahrenheit – he would spray a few litres of it onto and around the core, causing a reaction with the Tritium casing, the interior where the proton reaction was occurring would become stabilised and in the next fifty to a hundred years, diminish entirely.
It would still emit large amounts of radiation but John would bury it after encasing it in welded segments from the hull of the Anlace.
Stepping close; the core itself emitted a heady thrum like an angry hornet’s nest that was increasing in crescendo. The canopy overhead seemed to close and press in on him, causing everything to be coloured in charcoal.
John exchanged his energy weapon for the Liquid Nitrogen canister on his back and aimed it at the core; he depressed the small release at the top with a thumb and watched as a smoky, misty, almost clear liquid poured out to cascade all around the core, it pooled and splashed at his feel and plumes of an otherworldly fog stretched across the roots of the trees.
Almost immediately the hexagonal shape beneath the nitrogen fog clicked and hissed loudly, the sound shifting to a sharp cackle akin to a mechanical boiling. With a raised arm he checked his Geiger counter; it displayed a clear decrease in emitted radiation as the chain-reaction inside destroyed the protons and replaced them with electrons and eventually neutrons – neutrally charged atoms.
With the planet saved he endeavoured to return to his power armour and repair it immediately, he wore a breathing mask for now but its oxygen supply was much lower than that of the armoured exoskeleton. Several minutes of wondering back to the crash site and he paused at the edge, something was amiss: but he couldn’t put a finger on it.
He un-holstered his laser rifle and scanned the moonlit landscape for any signs of movement. At first all he could see was his power armour, a stark figure in the otherwise dim shadow of the Anlace. He did a double take as there was clearly something next to his suit; it looked like a small group of four-legged animals; a mother and three cubs perhaps - the largest looked to be slightly shorter than himself.
He took aim and prepared to cut them down.
Only hesitating after thinking about the possible ramifications, what if they were intelligent or if after he killed them, hordes of quadrupeds descended on him like the plague. He world tread carefully until he learned more about this new world, he now knew however, that he was not alone.
After some time his sensitive hearing could hear hushed whispers emanating from the group of creatures. His aim still on them, he was also continuously checking his surroundings and Pip Boy readouts.
He considered his options and decided he would move close, hoping his presence would cause them to scatter. Slowly and silently he crept toward them, keeping his form as diminished as possible.
As John neared the group and his towering power armour, one of them noticed him – it gestured with a limb at the others and they all froze to look at him – John made himself as statuesque as possible and tried to halt his breathing.
Nothing happened for a time, John and the four creatures simply looking at each other; a task made difficult in the shadow of the Anlace.
In the resounding silence the cool night air tousled Johns shot hair and pricked at his forehead – his lower face covered in a breather-mask, they stared at each other, neither party willing to make the first move.
Eventually John slowly raised himself into a less tense position, he moved toward them slowly – watching for any hostile reaction. He pointed his laser rifle low at the centre of the tallest creature – once he had reached a dozen body lengths from them.
He activated a light at the end of his weapon; it’s piercing white beam breaking through the darkness and illuminating the four creatures, their reaction was immediate with the smaller three drawing silver blades with their mouths and in one instance, a wing.
The tallest of the group simply straightened but they all took a few steps back at the presence of the light, using a front leg or a wing to shield their large eyes. John lowered his beam so as not to completely blind them. But kept it at the ready should the situation degenerate.
With sudden clarity he realised they possibly weren’t just animals, but intelligent creatures capable of making weapons and armour; as evidenced by the smaller of them – their yellow cat eyes seeming to look through him.
The taller one clearly their leader with its more ornate looking garb and lack of weapons, it was a dark blue colour and had a long horn protruding from its forehead – he noticed its dark blue wings – the feathers of one being used to partially shield its mesmerising blue eyes, deep pools of starlight that twinkled at him.
He pointed at himself and then at the armour, “I need that.” He couldn’t say he was expecting a reply, but on the slim possibility that they encountered another species they were to limit contact and simply observe; something that was impossible now.
The blue one tilted its head, “You speaketh our language?” her voice held a subtle, feminine smokiness to it, John really had no idea what was happening – he considered that he might have been hallucinating or under the effects of radiation exposure – a quick glance at his Pip Boy dissuaded that line of thinking, however.
He kept his voice level, “It is you who speak mine”, he added, his tone becoming lighter, “You can understand me?”
The three smaller creatures lowered their swords a fraction, allowing their leader to speak further, “How is such a thing possible? We thought thou art from the stars.” Her eyes turned skywards.
John kept his rifle low just in case it was a ruse before saying, “Whatever this is I need access to my power armour.” He gestured at it with his rifle, the motion causing wild shadows to appear as the only light source was manipulated.
The blue one looked to his armour before narrowing her eyes at John, “For what purpose? If you have come here to wage war, know that such an act will not be tolerated.”
John snorted derisively, his brown eyes meeting with hers coldly, “That isn’t my mission; I require the armour to breathe your atmosphere safely. I have a limited supply in this mask”, he gestured at his breather mask, “and there are tools I need to fetch from the Anlace.” He then pointed at ship.
She looked behind her, before returning her gaze to him. “Very well”, she said at length, “We will not interfere. What is your name? We have never encountered a species such as yours before.”
John decided to chance it and lowered his laser rifle – this was mimicked by the three smaller creatures, they held their weapons at the ready.
He moved toward his armour and crouched to inspect its bulky leg portions, “I am Commander John Maxon of the Brotherhood of Steel. I was in command of the VSS Anlace.”
The horn on the blue one’s head ignited, John feared she was preparing an attack but after nothing happened he thought it appeared as though it was a means of generating light. He didn’t let his momentary bout of concern show as he began expertly dismantling parts of one of the armoured legs.
She approached him and folded her wings behind her before saying, “Our name is Princess Luna and these are my compatriots, Guards Frosted Whip, Starfire and Steel Mustang.” She looked at each of the smaller creatures as she said it. “We are called ponies, human.” She pronounced the word ‘human’ a little weirdly; stretching out the vowels with slight difficulty. “It is our pleasure to welcome you to the land of Equestria; we would very much like to share our culture with you and your people.”
She paused before adding, “Will more of your kind come?”
He tried to hide the slightly dejected feeling by rubbing his forehead with a grease-smeared hand, “I very much doubt it. My people died on that ship.” He added harshly.
Luna looked a little remorse, “Surely that wasn’t all of them? There must be others elsewhere.”
He sighed as he struggled to loosen something within his armours leg, “But they are many millions of kilometres away – more; as I believe I must have crossed into another realm or universe instead of simply traveling the distance to our destined star system.” The part inside came off with a jerking crunch. “Damn.” He said, inspecting the broken piece.
He stood up – a head taller that Princess Luna – the helms of her guards only reaching is waist.
Clutching the damaged gizmo tightly he continued, “So they might as well all be dead.” Grimly he wondered over to the Anlace, “Wait here; I will return shortly.”
Princess Luna couldn’t believe it; an actual alien – this would reshape the history of the world and it was happening right in the heart of Equestria. She looked to Steel Mustang, “Where is Lieutenant Midnight?” Her illumination spell providing them with light.
His eyes had been tracking the creatures – no – the humans fading form and turned to meet hers, “She and the others are searching around the ship your highness, I was clear that they shouldn’t enter the ship.”
“Very good, locate her and update her on the situation; that we have made contact and are awaiting the humans return.” She said, drawing out the Commanders’ species name.
Steel extended his wings and catapulted himself into the cold night air.
“What do you think, Princess?” Starfire asked re-sheathing her sabre.
Luna looked up at her moon, “We are excited to learn more about this species. We hope he does nothing to endanger that.”