Off The Grid by majorpaleface
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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.”


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