Edited by Jenn Michelle
Art by Nadia Rodriguez
Twilight lay in the center of her library, eying a book page to page as if it may suddenly pop out at her. She was in deep concentration, absolutely fascinated by the subject she was reading. It had been nearly a day since she had first discovered this sudden interest, and was now pursuing it as a hungry lion would an antelope. She scanned the pages with incredible speed from all the years upon years of reading she had already accomplished.
Turning the page with her magic, she read on - reading through with increasing speed. Any other pony might have noticed that she read with such incredible speed, but Twilight Sparkle was far too caught up in her studies to even notice.
Then Spike appeared, wobbling to the edge of the top stair with a tower of leaning books held in his short, stubby, dragon arms. Sticking a leg out, he prepared himself to descend down the stairs without looking where he was going.
“Twilight! I've got the books you wanted--!” He called, but was interrupted by one of the lower stairs colliding with his face. Books went flying as the purple and green dragon tumbled down the stairs, letting out a wail each time the edge of one jabbed into him. As he approached the bottom of the stairs and launched into the air, a cloud of purple light engulfed him.
He stopped, still hoovering in mid-air. He glanced down at the floor below, now littered with books, feeling confused. He shot a look over to Twilight who's horn was also glowing with the same magical light.
“Quit goofing around, Spike, I'm trying to concentrate here,” piped Twilight, releasing her magic.
Spike fell to the floor with a flop. He groaned.
Finally reaching the end of the last page, Twilight slammed the book shut.
“What an interesting read!” She commented enthusiastically.
Spike wandered over, rubbing a sore spot on the top of his head. He read the cover as he lifted the book with his right hand, continuing to rub the knot slowly growing on the left side of his head.
“Arcane Magics in Theory...?” Spike read aloud, “Why are you reading this?”
Twilight shrugged. “It sounded interesting. Oh, and I have an idea!” she added, leaping to her feet. “Thanks for finding the books I asked for.”
Spike rubbed his head one last time before returning his arm to his side. “No problem...” He began, “But, what exactly is this idea you're so worked up about?”
Twilight stood in the middle of the scattered books, lifting each with her magic and scanning the cover, “A good one,” She responded, continuing to search through the wreckage.
Spike stared, “What kind of good one?”
“Aha!” squealed Twilight, lifting a book. She wandered past Spike and returned to her spot in the middle of floor.
“Advanced Theories in Teleportation...?” Spike read aloud, “What is all this, Twilight?” He questioned, growing slightly angry.
Twilight sensed the exasperation in his voice. “Oh, calm down, Spike. Try not to get so upset,” she ordered, opening the book to the front page, “If you really must know, I'm trying to create a spell which will allow ponies to travel great, great distances.”
Spike thumbed his chin in confusion. “But, isn't there already a spell that can teleport you miles away?” He inquired.
Twilight shook her head. “No, silly, I'm talking about other ponies, not just myself. And I'm talking much more than just a few miles.”
Spike's confusion only grew. “But how do you plan on doing that? Can you teleport other ponies and yourself at the same time?”
“No, I can't. That's why I have to think of something else.”
Spike had just about given up at this point. All this beating around the bush was putting a strain on his brain. “Okay?... So how do you do it then?”
Twilight smirked. “Simple. With portals, of course!”
Spike's eyes shot wide. “Portals?”
Twilight shot him a look. “Yes. Supposedly its never been tried before. I'm gonna’ be the first to make it happen!”
Spike shook his head. “Twilight...” he began slowly, “Haven't you learned anything about trying new spells that have never been done before?”
Twilight looked up from the book. “Oh, Spike, you worry too much! This won't end up like last time, I swear!” She responded gleefully.
Spike rolled his eyes and turned to start picking up the scattered books. “That's what you said last time,” he mumbled.
Twilight smiled at him and returned her focus to the book in front of her.
About half an hour later, Spike approached Twilight Sparkle again.
“Hey, Twi, I think you should take a break and get some lunch or something. You've been reading all day,” he suggested.
Twilight slammed the book with delight, having finished it.“Not a chance, Spike!” She bolted, lifting the book and tossing it to him. He caught it as it whacked him in the chest.
“I think its time to try a quick test.” Spike held onto the book, watching Twilight prance across the room.
“Uh...” He groaned, “Just, be careful, I guess...”
“Oh, don't worry, I will be,” she assured, stopping and turning around in place.
Spike cringed at the thought of what happened last time. Last time she had been trying to create a spell which would make plants, more specifically, apple trees, grow to full maturity in an instant. Instead, she had set part of Applejack's orchard ablaze. That was no fun.
Twilight Sparkle lowered her head and groaned as magic engulfed her horn. Light began to dance about the room across the walls, floor, ceiling, and even Spike's face. A second glowing light erupted from her horn and engulfed the first layer of light she was already emitting. She cried out in torment, grinding her teeth together as she focused all her energies into this one spell. Sparks erupted from the tip of her horn and sprayed across the room.
“Twilight?...” Spike called, concerned.
She let out a shriek as a third layer of light overtook the second, and the room began to glow brightly.
Outside, ponies gathered around to witness the spectacle. Twilight's house was glowing like a Christmas tree, light escaping from just about any opening it could escape from, illuminating the entire street like a giant, wooden disco ball with leaves.
A large flash occurred on the other side of the room by Spike. He squealed as he dropped the massive tome entitled Advanced Theories in Teleportaton, and booked it for the stairs.
The flash became a single light, glowing brightly on the side of the room opposite of Twilight. Hovering, just next to the stairs, was a pulsing white light. Lightning popped and burned spots into the ground where they landed. Spike let out a yelp as he dove out of the way of one of the stray bolts. The lightning continued to flail about the room, causing a few fires, and charring a few books on the shelves. The light continued to pulse, eventually turning a light blue color in the center.
Spike watched in horror, and astonishment from the safety of Twilight's covers. All at once, a loud crash was heard as the light finally exploded, opening wide into a large, oval shaped sea of dark blue light, outlined by a pulsing light blue light. The lightning stopped and Twilight collapsed in exhaustion.
“Twilight!” Spike clamored, then charged down the stairs frantically to his fallen friend's side, “Twilight, speak to me!”
Her eyes were clenched shut, but fluttered open at the sound of Spike's voice. A dim light cast shadows about the room.
“S- Spike?...” She sighed, her voice fatigued.
“Yes, its me, Spike. Just hang on, everything's gonna' be okay,” he soothed, tears gathering in his eyes.
“D- did it... work?”
Spike shot up in surprise. “Wha-?”
“Did it work?!” Twilight delightedly shouted, lifting her head and smiling from ear to ear. Spike was baffled, moving his lips for a moment, but no words or even unintelligible, disarranged grumbles came out.
The dark blue center shimmered like the sun off of water. Twilight stood before it, gazing up in bewilderment.
“I- I can't believe it actually worked!” she said, “Oh, Spike, this is the best day of my life!”
She darted across the room and swept her companion up in her forelegs, smothering him in a bear hug. He growled in protest, but mostly because she was squeezing the life out of him like a tube of toothpaste.
“Twi- Twilight... you're squishing me...” He clammed up, painfully.
Twilight’s eyes popped open. “Oh, sorry.” She apologized, letting Spike fall to the floor.
She turned back to the portal. The room almost seemed darker, as if deprived of all light aside from the portal. In actuality, the light the portal was producing was brighter than the light from the sun creeping in through the windows. Their eyes had just adjusted to this new light, causing the rest of the room to appear dark. It was merely an optical illusion.
“Oh, they're gonna' love us, Spike! Imagine it, with this spell we could go anywhere in Equestria! Or the whole world!” Her eyes squinted with seriousness. “I bet we could even go anywhere in the galaxy...”
She turned to Spike. His eyes stood wide, trying to predict Twilight's next words.
“Want to meet an alien?” She asked Spike.
Spike face-palmed with a slap. “Twilight, I hope you know what you're doing.”
“Oh, I do,” she retorted confidently.
“Oh, yeah? Then where does this portal go?”
Twilight's ears perked up as her eyelids exploded open. She turned slowly to face the dragon, who was now smiling profusely.
“Uh...” was the only thing that managed to battle its way out of Twilight's mouth, “Well...” She tried to explain, but drew nothing. “Its complicated,” she finally claimed, lowering her head.
“How?” Spike demanded.
“It just is.”
“Why can't you just tell me?”
“Because I don't know, Spike!” Twilight finally admitted with a shout.
Spike stood for a moment, astounded by her fury. Twilight Sparkle lowered her head in defeat. “I... don't know, Spike.”
Spike grimaced. “Where do you think it goes?”
She turned and glanced at it, then back to Spike. “Not sure, but I honestly doubt anywhere bad.”
Spike rubbed his chin. “Somewhere in Equestria?” He suggested.
Twilight nodded her head. “It has to be, there's no way it could be anywhere else. I didn't concentrate hard enough to make it that far away.”
The two stood still, silent, staring up at it, allowing themselves to be bathed in its light.
“Well, who's gonna' go first?” Twilight challenged.
Spike's complexion drained of its color as he bit down on his lip. “Uh, I don't think I can,” he whined.
“Yeah, I don't think I can do it.”
Twilight smirked again. “Why is that?”
Spike began playing with his hands as he searched for a good reason. “Because- um...” he began, “I- I have to...” he stammered, “I have to... clean the...” He glanced about for a moment, then spotted a place where several books had been burned by the lightning. “Clean up the burns!” Spike finally finished, pointing a finger up.
Twilight cocked her head to the side. “Really?...” She contested.
Spike shrugged. “Gotta' do what I gotta' do.” He said slyly, then turned to head off to work.
Twilight smiled down at him. “Its okay, Spike. I wasn't going to ask you to go anyway.”
Spike turned back. “You weren't?” He questioned with surprise.
“Of course not! Its my spell, I should test it.”
Spike looked about for a moment. “Do you think that's safe? I mean, what if that portal takes you to the bottom or the ocean, or worse...” Spike began to shiver with fear, “The Everfree forest!”
“Pfffft, that's silly! Besides, I can take care of myself,” she assured Spike, trotting up to the portal.
Spike stood, biting at his nails.
“I'll just run through real fast, see where I am, then run back through,” she explained to herself. “Yes, that's all. Run in, run out. No problem.” She stood, observed it for a moment, contemplating the worse case scenario.
“Well?...” Spike whined impatiently.
Twilight shot him a look, feeling challenged. She spread her hoofs, and prepared herself to leap in. Spike, once again, watched in suspense as he lifted his tail and chewed the tip of it.
“Here I go...”
Suddenly, the ground began to shake. The portal began to ripple from the center out, and the light began to fluctuate. Lightning, once again, burst from its sides and struck various places about the room.
“What's happening?!” Spike called out over the rumbling.
“I- I think its closing up!” Twilight hollered back.
She was frightened, but quickly realized if she didn't go now, there would be no chance to again for a long while. There was no way she could cast that same spell twice in one day, or probably even a month, for that matter.
“I just have to be quick!”
Spike fell over onto his back, having lost all his balance from the earthquake-like shaking of the floor.
“No, Twilight, what if it closes before you can jump back in?!” Shouted Spike over the noise.
She turned arrogantly to him, “It won't, I'll be fast enough.” Twilight's confidence was one of the things which made her most special. Spike knew that.
He nodded. “Be careful!”
With that, Twilight winked, then turned to the portal. Once more she gazed up at the portal fearfully. Taking a deep breath, Twilight hesitated only a moment before diving in.
* * *
The portal opened up in a tall room with walls of solid metal. Twilight's body flung from the portal and across the room. She screamed, flailing her front legs and kicking her back legs as she fell to the floor below. She watched the metal floor approach her and at the last moment, noticed a canvas sprawled over an extremely bulky looking object.
Using her magic, she picked up the canvas and threw it beneath herself, using more magic to hold tightly onto each corner. She landed in the canvas just feet from the ground with a flop. It recoiled with her weight and force, then bounced her back up. She released the magic and landed on top of it, forcing it to the floor before it could gracefully push the air out of the way and hover down on it’s own. She stopped with a clop, all four hooves safely on the ground.
She looked around for a moment before setting off. Everything was made of solid metal - even the floor was cold, shining steel. Her hooves made an annoying clank with each step.
Between the falling, magic, canvas and the nature of this strange place, she had forgotten completely about returning to the portal. She turned her head sky-ward, and observed the portal. It was much too high for her to reach, but then she came to an even more horrifying thought.
It was closing!
She looked about quickly, trying to think of anything she could use to reach it: a ladder, a lift- she would even have been happy to find a bunch of balloons.
“Where's Pinkie Pie when you need her?!” she howled.
Lightning zapped the metal walls as it blasted from the portal. Twilight then had an idea: she would try to levitate herself up to it. She focused her magic around herself. A dim light grew from her horn and began to work its way up from her hooves. She felt lighter and finally felt herself lifting off the ground. Twilight Sparkle glanced down for a moment. She was barely off the ground but putting every ounce of her energy into the spell.
Finally, the magic well within her ran dry, and she fell to the floor. Legs too weak to catch her, she collapsed under her own weight along with the added kinetic energy gathered from her one-foot fall through the air.
She glanced up one last time to witness the portal shrink, then vanish in a flash. A tear welled up in her eye, and rolled down the side of her cheek as she lay there tired and beaten.
Elsewhere, several ponies stood about a room filled with screens, holographic displays, and controls. It looked like the bridge to a massive ship. Before the ponies was a single window stretching the entire expanse of the room, curving and folding at the edges where the room took more of a trapezoidal shape. Outside the window was nothing but darkness pierced only by an occasional white, sparkling speck.
They were in space!
At the front of the room was a platform which stood above the rest of the room about three feet. Leading up to it on both ends were small flights of metal stairs with railings. In between the two was a massive console with a large screen. Dancing across the screen was what appeared to be messages, images frozen, or perhaps standing still, staring into the room from the center of the screen.
The picture was of an attractive white unicorn with light-brown, almost dark-blond hair, and glasses. She looked frantic - if the clip were not paused, some might say she was frozen with fear.
A stallion with a gray coat and short black mane and tail wandered up to a square, table-like console in the center of the room.
The pony was decked out in an elegant suit. It was mostly black with a gold trim, and shoulder bars which signified a rank. Colorful bars and other awards were pinned to the breast of the suit. This pony appeared to be the captain of the vessel. He peered into the green, holographic images which drifted through the air before his face. This appeared to be some sort of radar, or navigational console. He watched as he scanned through holographic images using his hoof to press a button on the edge of the table closest to him. He continued about, stopping only occasionally when he came across an object which was large and spherical. Another planet.
“There you are...” he whispered to himself. “Connect me to Commander Raynor,” Ordered the captain as a pony turned and approached another console.
“Jim, we’ve mapped our course to Agria. We should be arriving within an hour,” the pony said, continuing to stare at the holo-map.
“Good,” Scraped a voice through static, “Dr. Ariel Hanson should be alright until then, don’cha’ think, Matt?” The voice was subtle, yet tough with a slight rasp. It sounded calm, but deadly. The voice of a good leader- except heavily laced with sarcasm.
“Uh, understood, sir. We’ll throw the engines in overdrive and see if we can get there sooner,” the nervous captain pony responded.
“Good, with the Zerg there’s no telling how long it will be until they manage to overrun their defenses,” the voice added through the static.
“Aye, aye, sir,” acknowledged Matt, closing the link, “Get us there as quickly as we can, there’s no time to lose!” Matt hollered to the other crew members.
“Aye, aye, sir!” cried another pony from up front.
Twilight was now wandering through the massive room taking in the sights, an overwhelming sense of hopelessness grabbing hold of her. It would take much too long to recover from the last spell and be able to cast it again anytime soon. With no way of returning, Twilight was forced to stay in the strange place she knew nothing about - a thought that was particularly terrifying for the young pony.
She stopped for a moment to observe an item before her. It was the large, bulky object she had pulled the canvas off of earlier to catch herself with. It was square, with sharp edges turning inward to create a box-like vehicle. The tires however, were not tires. Below the frame, where the tire would be, was nothing but a stretch of metal bars, jagged on the front edge with treading across each bar’s face. Resting atop of the strange, metal vehicle was another, smaller metal box-like thing. However, attached to the front of it were two long barrels, the ends of them charred from being used. But she had no idea what it was or what it did.
As Twilight continued to take it in, she noticed there was blue paint on it in some places, making it look more sleek and attractive. Placed on the side of the head was an emblem of some type. Twilight squinted as she glared up at it. It was a triangle pointing upward with what looked like an eagle standing over it, wings outstretched.
She cocked her head to the side, looking at it once last time before turning and walking away. There were several other large, bulky objects in the room as well, most of them covered with blank, white canvas like the large vehicle was. Each was different, none of them having the same looking bulk as the others. She figured they were all vehicles of some type and though she wasn’t about to go ripping the covers off of whomever’s stuff this was, she badly wanted to see what they looked like. Instead, she pressed on across the wide-open room. She then came upon a large door, made of thick steel. On the door was another one of the emblems with the eagle. She looked at it a moment, thinking “How do I open this thing?!”
Upon further inspection, she noticed a panel beside the door with a large green button, and a large red button beneath the green one. She used her magic to push the green button, and the door ‘wooshed’ open, displaying to Twilight a seemingly endless corridor. Her ears drooped as she looked down it, estimating it to be at least a half mile’s trot all the way to the end. With that knowledge in mind, she began.
Sometime later, Twilight came to the end of the hallway where another large door stood before her - the same, majestic-looking eagle over a triangle staring back at her. Only this time, it was painted in red. She glanced up a moment at a sign above the door.
The sign said: ‘Engineering.’
Twilight smirked, then pressed on the big green button beside it. The door flew open and she wandered in slowly, looking around the room as she did. It was large as well, though not anywhere near as large as the last room. It was also substantially darker. The glow and hum of a few lights overhead lit the room as best they could, but still failed to light it entirely.
‘Why not?’ Twilight wondered, ‘They looked like they had been there at least a decade.’
The ceiling was much lower, and the room was more narrow as well. To both sides were mesh-metal stair ways which lead up to several catwalks which crossed overhead. Twilight followed them with her eyes a moment. It was like a giant, metal maze built up in the air.
She suddenly heard a large thump, then a grinding sound followed by a loud buzzing noise. The sounds pulled her attention away from the catwalk and toward two tall, cylindrical looking structures directly ahead of her. They vibrated strongly, no doubt the source of the buzzing sound. As she approached them she could feel the vibrations in the floor and even in the air. They shook her violently, causing her to back away quickly, her hooves shuffling against the slick, metal flooring.
Just then, two large columns of fire billowed up behind the two structures. She let out a quick shriek at the sudden blast as it singed her bangs and the fur on her face with it’s heat. She backed away more, scurrying, then turning into a full gallop away from the fire, not bothering to look ahead of her.
She slammed face first into another pony, and slid to the floor where she plopped down on her rump. The pony turned around to see who had just jabbed him in his backside with their horn. He was tall and had a bright yellow coat. Long, shaggy brown hair dangled before his eyes and long sideburns crossed his face to the bottom of his jaw. Atop his head was a small, orange and white cap. Draped across his back was some utility barding, thick with pockets, some tools and other utensils danging off it, also orange and white.
“Hey!” bellowed the earth pony, “What’s the big idea?!”
Twilight lifted herself shakily to her hooves, having difficulty hearing over the roar of the fire back on the other side of the room.
“What?!” she shouted back.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?!” demanded the pony.
Back on the bridge, an alarm began to blare.
“Status report? Are we being attacked?” questioned the captain to his crew.
“Don’t know, Captain, it appears a Protoss warp field has been opened in the hanger!” Responded a blue unicorn with silver hair, having to holler over the blazing alarm.
“A Protoss warp field? Why would the Protoss open a warp field in our ship?” the Captain asked himself, looking down.
Two other ponies who stood by for orders glanced over at one another, then back to the captain.
“Battle stations. There may not be a threat, but in case there is, I want us to be ready for it.” ordered Matt.
“Aye, aye, sir!” Both ponies chanted simultaneously before running to their assigned positions.
Another alarm, a different one with a longer howl and less of a pitch began to screech throughout the ship. Earth ponies of all different colors, most looking extremely buff, gruff, and war-torn, ran through the halls of the ship, then filed into a large room. Inside was a single walkway which ran between several disk-like platforms hoovering over nothingness. Each platform had a number at the entrance painted in hazard yellow. The ponies charged up onto their assigned platforms, then turned and faced the walkway, holding still. As each pony got into place, they stepped down into what looked like four metallic horseshoes but with siding and a back to them. Each set was painted blue.
As the pony stood, the shoes clamped down over the sides of their hooves and latched on. Several mechanical arms lowered down to the pony holding large plates of metal, all painted blue. The arms slammed the plates against the ponies’ bodies with great force, which could knock any normal pony over onto it’s side - but not these ponies, they were too tough. What was beginning to form around the ponies then became obvious as the arms began to bolt a metallic suit of armor onto their bodies. Welding together in some places, and screwing or bolting together in others, the arms sealed the suits of armor shut, and onto their bodies.
Two exhaust ports on the flanks of the armor flared up, spraying fire and thick black smoke before warming up and glowing with blue flame. The suit sounded as if it were powering up. Finally, the arms lowered down a blue helmet with an orange visor over the ponies’ head and bolted it to the armor plates along the neck and just below the head.
As the machines let go of their hooves, they leapt onto the walkway. Easily weighing more than a ton, the walkway screamed with distress at the pony’s weight, but held, and the ponies now carrying so much weight, but were still strong enough to jump more than ten feet from where they were, and then gallop full tilt down the walkway towards the other side of the room. Due to the massive weight and bulk of the suits, they had to power themselves so as not to crush the ponies inside.
Around fifty ponies marched into the next room in full combat power-armor and walked up to stations on the walls and in the center of the room. Another series of arms reached down and bolted a large chain gun to one of each pony’s side. Sparks flew about as the arms welded the weapons’ framing to their suits, and then lifted away, allowing the ponies to race off after whatever threat was waiting for them in the ship.
“Well?” Demanded the pony to Twilight.
Twilight smiled sheepishly up to him. “Well, I- uh... was just looking around and got lost.”
The pony glared at her as she looked about nervously. “Where’s your barding?” he then questioned with a smug look on his face.
She looked down at herself. “My, uh... what?”
“Barding, like I’m wearing? Where is it?”
Twilight stood still, scared to move an inch.
“What crew are you from? Engineering?” Asked the pony.
Twilight hesitated. “Y- yes...?”
The pony then frowned. “You’re not from Engineering are you?...”
Twilight shook her head slowly, biting her bottom lip.
“I’ve never even seen you before. The ship’s big alright, but not big enough for me to miss a face.”
Twilight’s attention shot up. “Ship?” She asked.
“Uh, yeah... The ship you’re on? You know, the Hyperion...”
“You’re not from this ship... are you a stow away?” He finally reared up asking.
“Stow away? Oh nononono...” Twilight began, walking backwards slowly as the pony walked towards her. “I’m just, lost... I’m from the, uh... Magic- crew.”
With that, the pony stopped. He looked down at her for a moment, then slowly lowered his head. “There is no ‘Magic’ crew.” He stated coldly.
Twilight squealed as he pounced at her and she slinked out from under him. She got away and charged full gallop towards the door.
“Guys, get her! Sound the alarm, we have an intruder!” The pony hollered, but to who Twilight had no idea. Once again, not looking forward, she slammed face first into the leg of another pony.
This one was tall and buff, but had a red coat wearing the same orange and white barding and cap the last pony had on. Standing beside the pony was another pony, a female white unicorn holding a steaming cup of what looked and smelled like coffee with her magic. Both stared wide-eyed at her, then quickly their faces changed to anger as the glared down menacingly at the husk of a pony sprawled out on the floor.
She smiled at them, then stood and darted for the door once more.
The three ponies chased her down the hallway. As she continued on she spotted a door to her right. She smiled with delight until it flew open and another engineering pony stood. Her smile died away.
“Stop that pony!” shouted the first pony with the yellow coat to the new one standing in the door.
Twilight quickly used her magic to press the red button on the door which slammed it in his face as he began out to block her path. She ran as fast as her tired body would carry her, spotting another door coming up on the left. She smiled again and used her magic to open it quickly.
As she jetted through, she closed it. The three engineering ponies screeched to a halt in front of it and slammed on the door shouting commands to open up among profanity.
She continued to gallop through another hallway, grinning victoriously as she looked back at the door. Then, turning back, she used her magic to open another door. The door lead to a circular room. It was a strange room but appeared to be some sort of laboratory. On one side were two glass tubes with what looked like crystals growing in one, and some strange, tan, pulsing creature in the other. It didn’t look very safe. In the center of the room, suspended in mid air with blue light shining on it was an odd, black object. It was blockish, and had a jagged tooth sticking out of each end. Another pony stood in the middle of the room, a brown unicorn with spiked brown hair and odd looking goggles on was using his magic to levitate up a clip board. He was also wearing a lab coat, no doubt this pony was some sort of scientist, or magic expert.
He let out a gasp and shy yelp as Twilight ran between him and his clip board, knocking it out of his magical field and tossing it across the room.
“Sorry!” she called back using her magic to open the door in front of her. The door 'wooshed' open into a hallway. Standing on the other side of the door were several ponies wearing large, blue, metal suits pointing chain guns into her face. Twilight ground to a stop and shivered in fear as she withheld the strong sensation to urinate in cowardice. She glanced back as the four engineering ponies charged through the back door with small weapons in their mouths, all but the unicorn who held one with her magic. The scientist has also managed to sneak out a firearm of some type and was holding it up with his magic. Twilight had absolutely no idea what these strange instruments they had were, but she could tell they were dangerous. She was also confused by the large suits of armor the ponies wore - she had never seen anything like it.
Then, walking through the ponies in heavy suits was another pony, tall and strong looking. His coat was a dark tan, almost like it was burnt. His mane was black with gray and white poking out. He had some scruff around his jaw as well, right around the chin it transitioned from black to gray, then to snow white just under the lower lip. His wings tucked back at his side over a leather vest and a white t-shirt. His cutie mark was a white, terrifying looking skull.
Another pony followed closely behind him, wearing similar blue power-armor as the others. Only, this one's orange visor was up revealing a tan coated face, war-torn and scarred badly with a light beard growing in. Stuck between his teeth was a short, brown cigar, smoke rising up and mostly getting caught in the roof of his helmet. On his flank where a cutie mark would normally be was a black spade with a red circle, like from a card, with a painting of an extremely slutty looking black coated mare wearing fish-nets and lingerie, holding a large weapon with a scope mounted atop of it.
“Well, well, well...” Began the dark-tan coated stallion with the same voice from the speaker earlier, “Looks like we've found an intruder.”
Twilight was stuck in place, unable to move, she just bit her lip so hard it was beginning to hurt, and looked about with her eyes.
“Looks ta’ me like she's seen a ghost,” commented the pony with the cigar, his voice was thick and southern, very raspy. It fitted his appearance perfectly. His big hazel eyes glaring down at her, thinking dirty thoughts.
“So what's your name, darlin'? And why the hell and how the hell are you on my ship?” Asked the scary burnt-tan pegasus with an aggressive tone. Twilight gulped, then opened her mouth to take in air. Then, only to let out a “Peep” before running out of breath and chocking profusely.
The others began to look around at one another. Twilight cleared her throat.
“M- my name i- is... Twilight- Sparkle. And, I- I think I might be a little lost...” she began.
The pony beamed down at her, brown eyes gleaming in the dim hallway lights. “Take her to the brig.” He ordered, turning and began back through the armored ponies. The one with the cigar followed closely behind him.
“I'll be down there in a minute.” He added, walking away.
The large ponies in suits trained their rifles on Twilight as the engineering ponies approached from behind and grabbed on.
Twilight sat in a cell, metal bars and everything. The rest of the brig was relatively empty, it appeared as though so many ponies liked their superiors enough that nopony really stood up to them, or caused problems. Two guard ponies stood in front of the cell, watching Twilight. She looked at them in discomfort, and they appeared to be staring back through their orange visors.
Twilight observed them and their lack of movement. They just stood there, aiming their weapons.
“Uh...” Twilight moaned.
The two guards jumped, their weapons clicking as they lined up a shot. Twilight watched this.
“A little jumpy, are we?” she played.
They stood silently for a moment.
“Is it in your job description to threaten little girls?”
They continued to stare, but eventually one piped up. “Shut your muzzle. We're under orders to shoot if you try anything... weird.”
Twilight blinked. “Weird? What kind of weird stuff are you talking about?”
“You creepy Protoss are always up to something, you and your magic!” accused the other with a higher pitched, almost nasally voice.
Twilight looked around for a moment, then down to herself. “Pro- toss? What in Celestia's name is a Pro-toss? I have magic because I'm a unicorn.” Twilight reminded them.
“Don't play dumb with us, we're onto you. Now stop moving, and stop talking.” The first guard ordered.
“Yeah,” added the other, “we all know how you can use your magic to change your appearance and stuff.”
Twilight sat back against the wall with a huff, crossing her front legs. None of this made any sense to her, but there was no point in fighting it.
Then, the 'woosh' of a door sounded off. The sound of hooves on metal drifted towards the two guards and up to Twilight's cell.
“Bring her.” Said the pegasus with the burnt tan colored coat.
With that, the two guards went to opening the cell door and swung it open.
“Get up!” one ordered aggressively.
Twilight stood quickly.
“Move!” He ordered again, cocking his weapon.
Apparently, these suits' weapons were hardwired with the suit itself, which was controlled by the pony's brain. It was incredible the technology these ponies had created. This is just how Twilight figured it, being the dork she knew she was.
She shuffled around the guards and began across the room after the pegasus, the two guards following her every movement with their guns. She was surprised to not see his friend with the cigar and perverted cutie mark on his armor.
Twilight soon found herself in a room with a single bright light shining in her face. Though, she could clearly see this was just another cell, only bigger with thicker bars. Like it were designed to hold some massive, powerful creature.
“Are you sure this is gonna' work, Egon? You sure she can't get through these bars?” asked the familiar voice from somewhere in the dark.
“Why, yes, of course! Protoss magic is neutralized by the magic I'm using on the cell. She can't do anything!” exclaimed a very nerdy sounding voice which greatly resembled that of the brown unicorn scientist in the lab.
“Good, Tychus, you be ready to get me out of there if it get's hairy,” ordered the pegasus.
“You got it, Jimmy,” said the rough voice of the cigar pony, followed by the loud click of a rather large gun cocking.
With that, the light shifted a moment as the pegaus, Jimmy apparently being his name, trotted in, a large revolver holstered at his side just under his right wing. He stopped and stared at Twilight a moment, looking at her face. Then, chewing a tooth pick, moving it from side to side, he bit.
“Name?” he questioned.
Twilight hesitated. “T- Twilight Sparkle.”
He nodded shortly. “Where you from, Twilight?”
“I live in Ponyville in--”
“Where?!” He hollered, wanting her to cut to the chase.
Jimmy bit down again. “That's back on Earth.”
Twilight gave a confused look... Earth? Jimmy groaned upon seeing this.
“How'd you get here, Twilight?”
Twilight looked down to the floor, unsure how to answer. She didn’t not wish to take too long, or seem to be hesitating as it would make her seem untruthful.
“I- I was trying out a new spell, and it kinda' backfired on me...”
“Mhm.” Hummed the pegasus. “What kind of spell?”
“It was suppose to be able to make a portal to take you anywhere you wanted. I guess it worked, but it just... took me here instead.”
Jimmy continued to chew on the tooth pick, then finally spit it out onto the floor. Twilight watched as it rolled into the darkness and out of sight. “Wonder why then the ship's magic sensors picked up a Protoss warp field opening on the ship.”
Twilight held a confused look. “There's that word again, Pro-toss, I have no idea what you're talking about!” Twilight exclaimed, getting more and more frustrated.
“Your story doesn't make much sense, as the fact that you could've just stumbled upon a warp portal spell exactly like that of a Protoss warp doesn't add up either.”
Tychus, the cigar pony in full power-armor wandered in at that time.
“Last chance, tell us who you are,” Jimmy threatened.
As Tychus came into the light, Twilight could see the rather large weapon he had cocked. It was a mini-gun, six barrels of fully-automatic death as red paste in an instant. She had no idea what it actually was, only that it was scary and extremely dangerous looking. Twilight recoiled against the wall, shivering, frozen with fear as the pony began spinning the barrels, laughing slowly and coldly as he approached.
“Tychus.” Called Jimmy.
“Last chance, little girl.” Tychus warned with his raspy, southern voice.
Twilight could hardly speak, she was stunned with fear. What had she done to deserve this? Seeing this authentic fear in Twilight put Jimmy slightly at ease.
“I don't know anything! I'm just a unicorn from Equestria!” Twilight shouted through the fear, tears welling up in her eyes and streaming down her face.
“D'aw, I dun made her cry, Jimmy...”
“That's enough, Tychus.” The pegasus commanded, stepping forward.
He stood over her for a moment, looking down. What was that on his face? Pity? Raynor smirked and turned back to leave.
“Send her back to her cell, I need some time to think. C'mon Tychus.”
As he passed the two guards on his way out, Jimmy leaned close to them. Tychus pushed Egon slightly on his way out, then the two made their way after Jimmy.
“Go easy on her, will ya'?” Jimmy whispered.
“Sir.” They both piped simultaneously.
With that, the two stood outside the cell bars and waited for Twilight to cry it all out before taking her back.
Edited by Jenn Michelle
Art by Nadia Rodriguez
“Clank, clank, clank, clank.”
The noise of Raynor’s hooves against the metal floor as he made his way down a short corridor echoed. Nothing was making sense: how Twilight managed to just create a complex portal - the same kind the Protoss used to warp things across the galaxy, how she could be from Earth (and not know what Earth is), and her general ignorance of everything confederate or dominion. It was like she was from another time or something, where back then, unicorns hadn’t developed advanced magical spells and were banging a rock and two bones together, pegasi had yet to create aerospace technology capable of taking them to the stars, and earth ponies had yet to design any sort of firearm. That would be crazy, and she had only said she was from Equestria - time travel does not exist even now, in this age of technology.
It hurt his head. Raynor needed a drink and maybe some advice. His next stop was the Cantina to water down his troubles.
A door at the end of the corridor ‘wooshed’ open into a bar filled with happy compatriots and soldiers all getting their booze on. Raynor trotted up to the counter where the bartender pony presented him with a large bottle of bourbon and an empty glass immediately, skipping other ponies. The commander always gets to go first and the bartender knows just what he likes.
Falling to a seat on his hind-end at a table, he held the sides of the bottle with his hooves and bit onto the cork. The cork slipped out with a squeak before being spat across the room. Dark, brown liquid raced from the mouth of the bottle and into the empty glass the bartender had also given him. Then, using both hooves, Raynor clamped onto the sides of the glass and emptied it, pointing the bottom towards the ceiling. Raynor placed the glass back down to refill it.
“Wha’ beh da problem, mon?...” asked a sly voice from behind with an islander accent, “Look like you got a lot on your mind, brudda...”
Raynor scowled, looking down at his filled glass as he set the bottle back down. “You heard about the Protoss warp opening in the ship, Tosh?” He asked, sounding puzzled.
Tosh, the islander pony, was actually a unicorn pony. Long, gnarled dreads crossed over the sides of his head and horn and jetted out back as if held up only by magic and maybe some good thoughts - that, or a lot of hair gel. His coat was dark brown and his eyes a very pale gray. They were kind of spooky looking. On his body he wore a strange, black skin-suit with a glowing red lined pattern crawling all over it like a maze. Every so often, a wave of light would shoot through the lines and make its way from his back to his front through the maze. On top of that, covering most of his torso, was an armored chest piece. On his flanks where a cutie mark would be if not covered, was a very strange looking red and black skull. It almost appeared to be some sort of Voodoo symbol.
Tosh tilted his head back some, looking down at Raynor with his ghostly eyes, “Maybe, brudda... Is dat wha’s bothrin’ yah?...”
“Yeah,” Raynor answered, tipping his glass back, “I just can’t seem to make heads or tails of all this.”
Tosh wandered around to the side and plopped down at the table alongside Raynor. Placing his fore-legs on the table and crossing them, he thought for a moment.
“Well, I’ll say one ting- if she’s not one of dem Protoss, and she be dah real deal, her special talent must be magic,” he said with a slight smile, sounding like he thought she was a Protoss.
Raynor began to fill his glass again, taking in the words.
“But, brudda, I believe every word she says...”
Raynor set down the bottle and shot his gaze over to the islander unicorn, “But- I thought you just said--”
“Forget what I said, mon... I heard her, I saw her, I felt her... She is not a Protoss...”
Raynor clicked with a bit of a chuckle. “It’s impressive just how you get around to see everything on the ship, Tosh. I guess if she was a Protoss, she would deserve a ‘best actress of the year’ award. Then if she wasn’t... That’d just make sense,” Raynor explained before emptying another glass.
Tosh smiled with teeth. “You think about it, and the answer will come to you,” he informed Raynor, standing and trotting away slowly.
Raynor watched him leave, sat a moment to chew on Tosh’s words, then stared at the bottle as if the label said what to do on it.
A bit later, Raynor entered the bridge. Matt turned to welcome the commander, and ask why he looked so shaken up.
Raynor put a hoof forward, then clopped it to the metal floor. “How much longer, Matt?”
Matt, the captain, glanced back at the navigation table. “Not much longer, sir,” he stated, turning back to face Raynor. “Jim, you don’t look so good. Is this about that intruder you found on the ship?”
“It may be, Matt. I’m still just trying to figure it out.”
Matt glanced down to the floor, then back up to Raynor. “Well if it makes you feel any better, we’ve completed a full scan of the ship and no Protoss were found aboard. Not even cloaked ones.”
“That’s good,” Raynor said, “but maybe you can help me figure all this out.”
“Well,” Matt began with a theory, “we’ve got an alliance with the Protoss, they would never attack us unless it were called for. The Tal’ Darim, however, may attempt an attack but I wouldn’t ever expect them to make an offensive strike.”
Raynor nodded, “I agree, they would never do that. But what they might do is send a spy, using some kind of spell to change it’s appearance to make itself look like a regular unicorn.”
Matt shrugged, “I still don’t believe they’d try something like that either.” Raynor nodded in response.
Then, out from somewhere behind, the voice of Tychus, the cigar pony, blared in. “Ah think you should just shoot ‘er n’ get the whole mess over with. Problem solved.”
Raynor looked to him, then turned back to Matt. “That won’t solve anything, Tychus. And what if she is an actual pony from Earth?”
Tychus scanned Raynor’s face for a moment. “Whoops...” he teased.
“Funny, Tychus,” Raynor replied to the sarcasm.
“Commander,” called the blue pony with silver hair from the controls, “Egon is wanting to open comms from the lab.”
“Put him through,” Raynor ordered with a nod.
“Oh, he- hello? is this thing on?” called a nerdy voice over some static.
“We’re here, Egon, go on,” Raynor answered.
“Ah, good. I’ve been working on this Protoss-warp slash change appearance craziness for a while and think I’m onto something here.”
Raynor shot up in surprise. “Yeah, and what are you onto?”
“A spell! If the pony - or Protoss, whatever she is, is a Protoss simply disguised as a unicorn with a bologna story, this spell will neutralize her magic and return her to her actual appearance.”
Raynor smiled at this. “That’s good. Are you sure it will work?”
“Oh, absolutely! I found it in an old log another unicorn had written a while back. Its a simple spell, and very effective.”
“Excellent, meet us down in the brig ASAP,” Raynor ordered.
“Right away!” Cried the nerdy Egon as the static dropped and the line closed.
Raynor headed for the door. “Let’s go, Tychus. We’ll need your gun if this thing tries to attack us.”
Tychus followed, but complained, “Ah still say we jus’ shoot ‘er. No point wastin’ time.”
Back down in the brig, Twilight lay in her cell, curled in a field position in the back corner. She had been crying - a lot. The fur around her eyes was mangled and soaked in tears and eye residue as she shook and shivered, letting out an occasional whimper or two. The two guards stood at ease, hardly even watching the unicorn. They had realized by this point she was of no threat to anypony, and instead focused on the conversation being had inside their helmets over a private line so that the prisoner couldn’t hear them.
The door sounded off as the noise of several hooves clanked into the room. The two guard ponies noticed and stepped aside as Raynor walked right up to bars and peered through at the wet, frightened husk of a pony curled up in the corner, shaking and whimpering. Twilight turned her head, opening an eye to him. There was that look again. Pity.
“Egon, you sure this will work?” Raynor demanded.
“Oh, absolutely! Like I said its extremely simple and--”
“Then do it,” he ordered sternly, cutting him off - obviously becoming frustrated from what he saw before him, and the knowing that if this were an actual pony, he had done it to her.
Egon blinked, never have known the commander to raise his voice to him before. “R- right! Okay, here I go,” he said, turning towards Twilight.
She looked up through red and puffy eyes at the brown unicorn in a lab coat as his horn lit up a bright blue color. The same light soon surrounded Twilight as white sparkles began to float off of her from the spell. Tychus cocked his gun, spinning the barrels - ready to shoot whatever this thing was when it turned into some disgusting Protoss creature.
However, the spell soon completed and Egon released the magic, looking up to see what he had done. Twilight sat in the cell, looking down at herself. Nothing happened. Tychus groaned in disappointment as he stopped the barrels from spinning.
“Spell complete, sir,” Egon informed slowly. Raynor frowned.
Not too long after, Twilight sat in the Cantina at a table with a blanket around her holding onto a glass of water with both hooves. Raynor approached and sat down across from her at the table, Tychus following closely behind as always. Raynor set down his bottle and empty glass, and proceeded to fill it.
“Want some?” He offered.
Twilight examined it for a moment. She had no idea what “Bourbon” was, but it looked nasty and she didn’t care to try it. She shook her head.
“Gimme’ some’ah that hooch, Jimmy.” Tychus ordered.
Raynor pushed the bottle to the side with his hoof. Tychus bit on the mouth of it and tilted the bottle upwards.
“Listen, darlin’, what we did back there was - inexcusable. But we were worried for... our own safety, thinking you may not have been what you actually are.”
Twilight nodded, looking down at her glass of water. It tasted like metal, big shocker, she didn’t like it - but was thankful to have it.
“I’m okay, and I understand.”
“Good.” Raynor commented. “I’m Jim, by the way. Jim Raynor - and this is Tychus Findlay.” Jim introduced, pointing a hoof to himself, then over his shoulder to Tychus who had just about emptied the bottle now and slammed it back on the table.
Twilight stared for a moment. “What is he, your body guard or something?” she asked.
Tychus began to glare at her. Raynor laughed, “No, he’s just an old friend.”
“So this is what was going on,” Raynor began to explain, “We thought you were part of an alien race based around magic called the ‘Protoss’. These aliens have the ability to cloak themselves with their magic, and even change their appearances.”
“Damn creepy, the lot of ‘em,” Tychus added.
“When you made your portal and came out of it, it showed up on the ship’s sensors as a Protoss warp field, just... a little different, so it took the sensors a some time to figure it out and sound the alarm.”
Twilight pushed her glass across the table and crossed her hooves, looking away.
“We thought you were one of them, changing your appearance,” Raynor finished. He looked down to his filled glass. “I’m sorry,” he finally muttered, tipping it all the way back before setting it down.
Twilight began to understand, and looked back to the pony. He may have looked tough on the outside, but on the inside he was a caring pony only interested in the safety and well being of others.
“Good thing we didn’t shoot yah,” Tychus added awkwardly. Twilight glared up at him as Raynor rolled his eyes, “Bullets for my gun are expensive.”
Twilight shook her head and Raynor poured the remainder of the bottle into his empty glass. “So how did you make that portal?” he asked.
Twilight hesitated for a moment, wondering if Raynor knew enough about magic that she could really explain every detail or if it would sound like zebra language to him. If she were talking to Egon she felt she might have been able to.
Finally, she spoke, “Well, I basically just looked at how to do a bunch of other spells, and put them together,” she explained, tapping her hooves and smiling.
The two stared. “Oh... Okay,” Raynor stammered - obviously he did not understand. Twilight didn’t blame them. They weren’t unicorns, and stuff this complicated may even be too much for other unicorns to understand.
“Well, do you think you could just cast another to get home?” Raynor inquired.
Twilight shot up. “Yes, I would have to. But, it takes a long time to recover from it- so I don’t think I’ll be able to do it for a while.”
Raynor nodded, setting his empty glass down and letting out a sigh. “That stuff is strong. You didn’t backwash, did you, Tychus?”
Tychus chuckled, “Just fer you, buddy.”
“Well,” Raynor began, now talking to Twilight, “you’re more than welcome to try it again when you’re feelin’ up to it.” Twilight smiled at this. “Just... not on my ship,” Raynor added. With this, Twilight’s smile shrunk away. How would she do it then?
“We are going to be landing on a planet called Agria in a bit, you can try it there when we get to the surface. But you’ll have to be fast, its dangerous down there.”
Twilight nodded at this. “I- I don’t know if I’ll be ready, but we can try. Just how dangerous is it?”
“Well, the Zerg are down there, and they are pretty unpredictable- and very dangerous.”
Twilight bore an expression of bewilderment. “Zerg, what’s that?” She questioned.
Raynor smiled, her ignorance was amusing. “The Zerg are--” He began, but was cut off when a voice called out over an intercom system. “Commander Raynor to the bridge now, we are preparing to land on Agria.”
“Damn! No time, I’ll tell you when we get there- right now we need to get to the bridge,” Raynor said, standing and leaving the empty glass and bottle on the table.
Twilight sat, eyes wide, mouth agape as the two ponies pranced away from her. She had to make a decision, and had to make it fast before she was left behind. Stay here where it’s relatively safe, or go down to the planet with the creepy sounding ‘Zerg’ to possibly find out they could devour her body and soul in an instant without her even being able to stop them, and still not be ready to make another portal. She felt her ears drop as she lowered her head and watched the door shut behind the two ponies. Now or never - it couldn’t be that bad. With that, Twilight rose from her seat, letting the blanket fall to the floor, and took off after them.
From the wide window of the bridge, Twilight could see a beautiful planet before her, lush with green life, blue with oceans, and white with cloud cover. The pegasus ponies there must have been a little lazy, or maybe there was something down there keeping them from doing their work. Twilight stood agape, leaning against the window with her hooves. Her face would have been pressed against the glass if her horn wasn’t holding her back from doing so. She had never seen anything like it. The light from the planet even illuminated the room with a gorgeous glow of wonder.
Suddenly, a voice crackled through static and a picture appeared on the large monitor against the center of the raised platform.
“Hello, is anypony there?!” cried a frantic white unicorn with light-brown hair and glasses. The sound of this pulled Twilight’s attention away from the window as she peered back into the room.
“This is Jim Raynor, how you doin’ doctor?” Raynor asked.
“Bad!” She informed him, “We’re trying to evacuate the colonies, but the Zerg attacks are relentless! We have armored transports to take the colonists to the evac station, but not enough firepower to keep the Zerg from stopping them!”
A live feed appeared on the screen in the place of the doctor’s face. Twilight wandered up to Raynor’s side to view it. It was an aerial view from a satellite, but Twilight didn’t know that. The image was of a large, white vehicle with a large cannon on top of it. It drove along a war-torn roadway though what looked like a forest before some nasty looking purple goo had taken it over. Then, out from the trees came a horde of strange creatures, only slightly resembling ponies. Most of them were small and fast, some were tall and had a snake-like tail behind them with an over-sized cranium and scythes for arms. Others were short, wide and slow with six legs and wings.
These were some strange, spooky looking creatures all right. Twilight found herself wishing they were not the Zerg Raynor had begun to tell her about. Before she knew it, the mass of monsters clashed with the vehicles’ sides as the cannon atop of it open fired upon them. From the cannon it seemed to Twilight, was a flash of fire which blazed out in rhythmic bursts, jetting out and receding back in before jetting out again, only really, really fast. She didn’t know what it was doing, but the others knew very well that that cannon was firing .50 caliber explosive rounds into the attackers.
Their bodies began to explode from the devastating fire provided by the cannon. Twilight flinched at the sight of blood and guts spewing all around. The fight went on for another moment or two as the cannon continued to make red paste out of the creatures until one came along and spat a stream of green acid at it. The acid worked fast, melting to barrels of the cannon and ultimately taking it out of the fight. Soon, more of the short, wide creatures with six legs and wings appeared out of the ground and all spat acid at the sides of the vehicle as its tires crunched over the bodies of dead creatures. The acid tore away at the sides of the armored craft and the tires popped, causing it to stop. As it opened up and the roof fell away, inside could be seen a dozen or so ponies, who all began to panic before the feed cut out.
“No!” Twilight shrieked, “What happened to them?!”
Raynor payed no attention to her. “Then we’ll have to go down there and escort those transports to the evac station. How are you holding the line at your base?”
“Barely,” Answered the white unicorn, “We’ve got some ponies in bunkers holding them off for now, but so far they’ve only killed a few scouts. They have yet to attack our HQ in full.”
“Good. We’ll land there with ground forces and take care of your base for you. Then we’ll get some more troops and escort those transports out of there.”
The unicorn closed her eyes and sighed, as if relieved. “Thank you, Jim Raynor- this mean so much.”
“All in a day’s work. Over and out,” Raynor replied, then turned around to face a most disgruntled Twilight Sparkle. She looked furious, her face twitched as tears puddled in her eyes.
“Were those the Zerg?” She demanded, “and what happened to those ponies?”
Raynor let out a sigh. “Yes, those were the Zerg, and those ponies... Well, how do I put this lightly, Tychus?”
“They’re Zerg food.”
Twilight gasped, looking horrified at Tychus, a fresh cigar filling the room with smoke. He began to chuckle loudly.
“Not what I was looking for, Tychus. They... they didn’t make it. They couldn’t ‘ave,” Raynor explained slowly. Twilight sniffed as tears rolled down her face and dripped onto the floor, “If you don’t want to go, I don’t blame you.”
Twilight sniffed as she looked up to the pegasus. “Is there anything I can do to help them?”
This question, quite frankly, shocked Raynor and Tychus. “Filly, have you lost your fuckin’ mind?” Tychus questioned seriously.
“Look, its dangerous down there, we can always find a safer planet to let you try on later,” Raynor tried to reason, but Twilight had made up her mind.
It was obvious to them now that the lives of other ponies meant more to her than her own, and she would risk it in an instant if it were called for.
“If there is anything- anything, I can do to help down there, I’m going to do it,” Twilight argued.
“Hey, foal, less’in you got some kinda’ trainin’ with a machine gun, you ain’t gonna last but five seconds when some little Zerglin’ bastard comes after ya,” Tychus warned, chewing on the end of his cigar.
“There isn’t time for discussion,” began Matt as he approached from the side, “There are innocent ponies down there dying, and fighting for their lives while we stand here and argue. If she wants to go, let her go.” Matt said, looking at Twilight, “But I would keep an eye on her.”
“Matt’s right, we need to get to the surface now. If you’re coming then come, just keep out of the way,” ordered Raynor, walking around Matt and out of the bridge. Tychus tagged along behind.
“She won’t last a minute,” he commented, stepping out of the room after Raynor.
Twilight stood still for a moment. She closed her eyes and lowered her head, pondering. She knew she could do some good with her magic, but it would be dangerous - she could get killed! Still, she would have a chance to try making another portal, so long as the Zerg didn’t eat her before she could finish the spell.
No. She had to go. For the colonist ponies of Agria. Her head lifted up as her heart raged with fire.
She sat stiff against a hard, plastic seat, a harness lowered over her. The shuttle jiggled and jostled through turbulence as it entered the atmosphere. All around her were ponies in blue suits of armor, each with a weapon attached to their sides. But one thing Twilight learned just then which she thought was cool, was when the weapons weren’t being used, they lifted off their frames and tucked themselves against the pony’s back to conserve space.
Everything was quiet, no pony spoke. Next to her sat Tychus, and beside him sat Raynor. The only noise other than the jarring sound the shuttle made as it powered down to the surface, was the slick screech of Tychus’ over-sized machete-knife as he scraped it against the armor plating on his fore-hoof, holding the knife with his teeth. Tychus spotted Twilight watching him. He turned his head slightly to the side and gazed through the thick layer of cigar smoke at her.
“Aw, yeah...” was all he mumbled through the handle of the knife before going back to scraping.
Twilight gulped, looking down at herself. They had made her put on some strange looking suit. It was mostly black with some blue trimming. Skin-tight around the upper half of her torso. It wasn’t armored very well, but it was armored, and ran from the base of her front hooves, halfway up her neck, then stopped at the back on her flanks just before her cutie mark. It was strange indeed, she knew if Rarity were to see it on her she would have a fit. However, there was just something about the slightly armored, skin-tight suit which made her feel... stronger, indestructible. Still, she wouldn’t let such foalish ideas trick her mind into doing something stupid.
A red light began to flash at the front of the shuttle. “All right, colts, let’s do this!” called a pony up at the front sitting next to it. The others began to push the harnesses up, out of the way and moved their guns into a ready position at their side. The room filled with clicks and pops as they each loaded their weapons. Twilight cautiously pushed up on her harness, and watched as it raised up to the ceiling. She stepped forward and stood for a moment, trying to hold her balance as the shuttle continued to bounce about. But she was actually more worried that another pony would lose balance and fall onto her with their bulky suits, crushing her, than she was of falling.
Upon standing she got a good look at Raynor. He didn’t have the same kind of weapon, or suit of armor that the others had. His suit was black, and his weapon was a single unit with a long barrel. Attached to the top was a scope with a laser pointer. The scope seemed almost useless unless the pony using it didn’t have it attached to their side. Maybe it was originally designed for a unicorn to be able to hold up with magic and eye the scope. She just assumed he had kept it on for the laser pointer.
The ponies began to line up in a formation, two columns of ponies, ready to rush out into war. Twilight didn’t know where to go, so instead she just squeezed into an empty spot between Tychus and whichever pony this was standing in front of her. She felt a strong downward push which made her want to collapse as the ship began to level out and prepared to touch down.
“All right, colts! Let’s give ‘em hell!” The one pony from the front shouted, followed by a loud “Yeehaw!” as he approached a handle by the door.
Twilight gulped as the pony threw it down with one hoof, then returned to his position at the very front of the left-side column. The door cracked, then continued to slowly open as the gears screamed. Light poured in, they could see the world outside moving about as the ship was nearly to the ground. Twilight shivered, and recoiled at her thoughts. She expected the door to open completely just for streams of green acid to fly in and melt her and the other ponies.
Before she knew it, the door opened and the ship stopped. The ponies began to march out and down the ramp the door had become. Twilight stayed in place as the pony before her marched on. She would’ve stood there all day too, if Tychus hadn’t been behind her, pushing her across the floor as she ground her hooves in protest. The strength of these suits were incredible! However, Tychus being such a large, tough pony anyway, Twilight assumed he would probably have no trouble moving her to begin with, even without the suit’s help.
She came to the edge and then slid down the ramp, coming to a stop at the bottom. Her hooves clopped as they made contact with the concrete the ship had landed on. She peered down at it a moment through one eye, then looked up to take in her surroundings. This planet was just as beautiful from the surface - or, well, as beautiful as an entire planet turned into a war-zone could be. It looked a lot like Equestria, with only two differences. First, there was a massive city of modern technology - something Twilight had never seen before. Secondly, the forest was thick and gorgeous, filled with life - more so than in Equestria. At least it was until now, the Zerg had a tendency to make all life burn out, even the smallest, most insignificant. The birds, the squirrels - everything. Assuming this planet even had those kinds of animals. Then she watched as several other shuttles began to land and unload troops just like hers had.
Twilight suddenly felt a hoof in her backside as she launched forward. She landed on the concrete with a thud and slid for a moment before stopping. She had shut her eyes, but opened them to witness Tychus Findlay wander past her.
“Next time, keep out the damn way!” he growled as he readied his minigun for battle.
Twilight sighed through the concrete. “You just gonna’ lay there all day, darlin’?” Raynor questioned from behind.
Twilight stood quickly. “Uh, no.”
“Good, then let’s move out.”
“The Raiders are here, we’re saved!” a random pony off to the side hollered excitedly.
As the three made their way across what seemed to be a large parking lot for some sort of research facility, Twilight looked about at the sights. It was maddening, the chaos of a battle’s HQ center. By now rows upon rows of blue, armored ponies stood in formation, marching to their destination. But other than them, dozens of other ponies stood about. Mostly unicorns, as Twilight could see, this was a research center devoted towards the studies of magic, after all. Most of them levitated weapons at their sides with their magic. The ponies who were either earth ponies or pegasus ponies had to carry their weapons on a harness attached to their backs like saddle bags. They all wore what appeared to be some kind of security armor, but that was it. She estimated it would provide no better protection than her wimpy barding.
Beyond them were several other ponies, only, they were sprawled out across the ground on sheets. Most of them saturated with blood, some of the ponies squirmed about in agony, as others shivered in fear, and the rest lie still, either asleep or - well, no longer with them.
The situation was apparently more dire than previously assumed, these ponies had not battled the Zerg here, the doctor told Raynor they had yet to come in contact with a full enemy force. These ponies had been taken here after a battle elsewhere. It wasn’t too hard to believe when you could look off into the distance and see flashes, soon followed by faint pops.
Then, out from the front of the research facility came a familiar white unicorn in full gallop towards Raynor. Tychus stood aside as she passed him and slid to a stop before Raynor. Twilight was to his left.
“Oh, thank the goddesses you’re here!” she cried with enthusiasm, “We can’t stay here any longer, we need to get these ponies out of here now.”
“Don’t worry, Ariel, we’ll get them moving soon enough,” Raynor hesitated for a moment as he glanced over to the wounded ponies, “Them first, then mares and foals.”
“Right, I’ll get things moving. The first transport will be ready and loaded in five minutes,” She informed him, then turned to get to work.
“You heard the mare, be ready to move out!” Raynor hollered, turning to his troops standing in formation.
“Jim, Jim? Come in, Jimmy,” called a voice over a static-filled channel of Raynor’s suit.
“Swan? I’m here,” Raynor responded.
“Good, glad I caught ya’. You know them fire-horses you was lookin’ at? We’ll, I got the schematics!” called the voice through the static.
Raynor’s face lit up with excitement, “No way...”
“Yes way! I’m sendin’ a group down to you now with some Marauders.”
Then, it suddenly seemed half a dozen more shuttles entered the atmosphere. Fire blazed out from the bottom of them as they skyrocketed towards the surface. Raynor became very excited, nearly jumping out of his armor he began to prance about in place. The shuttles slowed down and landed softly against the concrete. The sound of the gears screaming sounded off again as the ramp-door slowly lowered itself down, and revealed to everypony an incredible sight.
“Swan, you’re the best,” Raynor simply stated.
“No problem, partner. Just don’t break them all at once, ‘kay?” Swan said, closing the line.
The entire shuttle’s position shifted as if a large weight were moving about inside, and the ramp dug into the concrete as huge, armored hooves weighed it down. Stepping out of the shuttle were massive ponies in enormous suits of armor. Mostly red, with two ported barrels attached to both flanks of their armor. The barrels were charred, blackened by fire. A pop was heard as a small pilot light before the mouth of the barrels lit and the ponies stopped in formation before Raynor. These ponies were easily two feet taller than the others in armor, and the weight of their hooves sent cracks in all directions as they stepped on the concrete.
“Awaiting orders, commander.” Said a sinister voice through what sounded like a gas mask as the first pony stepped forward to Raynor.
Another pony stepped forward as well, followed by a column of ponies in similar armor, only it was black, and mounted to their flank was a single, massive cannon.
“Ready ta deliv’a some love ta these Zerg pussies!” Called the pony at the front with a strange voice.
“Colts, we got us some civilians to evacuate,” Raynor began.
Tychus smiled with teeth, holding onto his almost burnt out cigar with his lips. The sight was... beautiful to him.
“Oo-rah, the big-colts are here!” He shouted with excitement, “Let’s kill us some Zerg!”
Moments later, an entire transport was filled with wounded ponies on stretchers. Twilight had used her magic to help levitate them gently onto stretchers, then into the back of the truck. She looked over her shoulder to several other ponies who lay behind her with bloody tarps over their bodies, all lined up in a neat row. She sighed. The doors slammed and locked the ponies away tightly. The bright blue unicorn pony who had slammed them stood at the back and pounded on the side of the vehicle with his hoof, and the engines roared up. Twilight watched as the cannon placed atop the transport spun for a moment, warming up. Then, exhaust spewed as the armored truck began its way towards the exit of the facility.
“Move out, protect that transport at all costs!” ordered another pony.
Six of fire ponies, six of the cannon ponies, and twelve of the regular blue armored ponies went chasing after it. Twilight watched them get to the exit and make their way up a road which lead to the evac station.
“Right, wish ‘em luck!” Called the light blue pony who had shut the doors on the last transport, “Let’s get the next one moving! Mares and foals only!” He cried as a group of frightened civilian ponies made their way out of the facility.
Raynor and Tychus stood by some monitors with Ariel, as it would seem her name was. On the monitors were several aerial views of the caravan making their way along the war-torn road. A mass of Zerg appeared from the forest, throwing themselves at the ponies, but soon found their bodies either being shredded to bits by a chain gun, blasted to goo by the cannon atop the transport, being roasted alive by the Firehorses, or splattered across the landscape by the massive explosives launched from the sides of the Marauders.
“Its, beautiful - ain’t it, Jimmy...” Tychus admitted, almost feeling a tear in his eye.
“They’re doing good work, that transport will get by with no trouble at all, Doctor,” Raynor informed.
She smiled generously at him with her gorgeous, but dirty face. He blushed at this and returned his attention to the screen to hide it. She giggled, Tychus didn’t notice at all, he was too content to continue staring at the gore on the screens until it was concluded.
About five minutes later, a static-filled line came over to Raynor.
“Commander Raynor, we’ve made it to the evac station. The transport is safe. Orders?” asked the voice.
“Get on that transport and get yourselves out of here. You’ve done good work today, and it would be harder to head back here now,” Raynor answered.
“Roger. Over and out,” the voice responded, closing the link.
“All right, the first eagle has left the nest! Get that second transport on the road!” Raynor cried out to the others as they began to cheer, “Three more transports, mares and foals in this one, civilian stallions in the next, civilian defensive forces after that.”
“Sir!” Responded an armored pony as he accepted his orders then galloped off.
The Zerg were sure to realize the forces with the transports had been beefed up, so they would also be sure to attack in greater numbers next time. Raynor knew this as he ordered an additional two Firehorses and Marauders, as well as an additional six chain-gunners to escort this transport. Raynor called the blue armored ponies with machine guns Marines.
The second transport made its way out followed closely by its escort. Same results, though Raynor’s thoughts were proven correct. The Zerg attacked with nearly a third of an extra force. But once again, the preparations put into action by the wise Commander repelled the extra enemies, painting the landscape with their hides. Though surprisingly, there was a single casualty as an acid spitting Zerg managed to spray a Marauder. The acid melted straight through his armor and reduced his body to nothing more than a reddish-green, bubbling goo. Raynor frowned when he saw this, eyes filled with anger and hatred. He didn’t view the Zerg as enemies, he viewed them as violent animals only out for blood. He hated them with a burning passion, a lot more than anypony could ever hate anything - and seeing them kill one of his troops made him furious.
The third transport was loaded with civilian stallions, and Twilight did the honors of slamming the doors and locking them herself. Raynor really beefed up the escort this time, sending in an additional six Firehorses, six Marauders, and a dozen more Marines. There would only be enough for one more transport after this. The third transport made its way off and towards the evac station.
Raynor, Tychus and Ariel watched again from the screen as the transport made it all the way to the evac station unscathed once more, only this time there had been three casualties. A Firehorse who had gotten caught up in the action too long and was left behind, and two Marines. One quickly found himself surrounded and overwhelmed by the small, fast Zerg creatures, while the other took several barbed darts to the side, darts tossed by the Zerg with the snake-like tails, over sized heads, and scythes for arms. They tore straight through his armor and shredded his body to pieces.
Last transport, filled only with about eight security ponies. There was room for at least fifteen more inside.
“Let’s go!” Ordered the light blue unicorn pony who loaded the first transport to Twilight, jumping in. Ariel then made her way over and was about to board, when the worst possible thing that could happen at that moment, happened. A wave of Zerg charged towards the defenses of the facility, ready to kill everything within.
“Wrath of Luna’s dick incomin’!” Tychus hollered, turning and spinning the six barrels of his minigun.
The minigun roared as hundreds of bullets poured from whichever barrel which just happened to be at the top when a round was fired. The Zerg’s bodies were shredded to bits by the incredible amount of gunfire which befell onto them. Raynor turned and lined up multiple shots with his sniper rifle, taking the heads off several of the snake-like creatures that threw darts.
The ponies moved into a quick formation, Firehorses at the front, Marines behind, and Marauders to the sides. A volley of gunfire was set loose on the advancing Zerg horde as blood and fire filled the parking lot. Twilight panicked, and leapt into the back of the transport, letting a few more ponies who had been helping jump in before slamming the doors shut. The cannon on top roared up and went to work pulverising Zerg.
“We’ve got to get that last transport out of here before this whole place is wiped from the planet’s surface!” Raynor shouted to Tychus over the gunfire.
“And how in Hell’s sake are we s’poseta’ do that when there’s about a hundred Zerg outside the exit?!”
Raynor turned to him and smiled menacingly, like he had an idea. “By making a back door! How else?”
Tychus grinned when he heard this.
“Get that truck moving, just run through the fence!” A Marine shouted to the driver of the transport as he revved the engine and shifted from ‘park’ to ‘drive’. The driver had a dark gray coat and light gray mane with some rough stubble on his face and a white helmet. The fence provided little resistance as the massive transport rammed the side of it. With that, the transport began into the forest, pummeling saplings and flattening brush.
“Raiders, follow that transport!” Raynor ordered.
The ponies complied as they began to break formation and retreat after the transport. Soon the transport found its way to a spot in the forest completely devoid of all normal life. The ground was soaked in the same strange, purple goo which had corrupted all the land it had covered. Trees wilted and died, fallen over and had been pushed out of the way by what was hoped to be large amounts of Zerg creatures rather than one large creature. The tires began to slip, as they weren’t designed for a “goo” terrain, but did well enough when the driver switched to another gear and moved more cautiously.
The Raiders, what Raynor’s forces apparently called themselves, made their way after the transport. The cannon quickly got back to work as several more Zerg forces poured out of the tree line. The small, fast creatures darted ahead and slammed their bodies against the side of the transport before a Firehorse appeared and torched them all with his two flamethrowers. A dart soon collided with his side, going straight through, bringing bits of organ with it as it stuck bloodily into the side of the transport’s armor.
The Firehorse fell to it’s knees, but lifted itself back up shakily, peering over to the snake-like Zerg creature.
“Damn Hydralisks...” He mumbled before charging towards the creature, ignoring the throbbing pain and the inner sense which told him to be mortal and just die already.
His shoulder slammed into the side of the beast and knocked it to the ground. One of the scythe arms struck his flank, cutting deeply, and knocking off the plate of armor which covered his cutie mark. As the plate stuck into the goo, his cutie mark could be seen as a dove, wings outstretched against a bright purple coat. Soon, however, blood seeped down his flank and covered it.
The Firehorse lifted his burning side up to the Hydralisk’s face. Fire billowed from the end of the barrel as it quickly charred the Zerg to a flailing crisp. Then, the Firehorse gave a salute to the driver of the transport as the flame reached his fuel tank and exploded. The driver watched the explosion, a tear in his eye as he saluted back to the pillar of smoke which rose from where the Firehorse lay not five seconds ago.
The battle raged on as they crossed through the forest and finally made their way back to the road. They cut through the treeline, the massive transport even taking down a full grown tree as it went. The Raiders following close behind as the Zerg began to pour in from all directions. Darts flew in from every possible angle, killing several Marines and flattening one of the tires of the transport. The driver grumbled swears as he shifted to another gear and revved the engines, trying to deal with the loss of the tire. Then, a dart smashed through the supposedly “bullet-proof” wind shield and stuck through the driver’s heart, coating the seat behind him with blood.
Needless to say, the transport stopped right there. The Raiders fell into a defensive position around the transport as the Zerg filed in, wave after wave and smashed against lines of fire, bullets, and explosives. Raynor and Tychus climbed atop the transport to get better shots with their superior weapons. Raynor blew the heads off more Hydralisks as Tychus just sprayed into the crowd.
“That’s what daddy likes!” Tychus shouted to the top of his lungs, minigun roaring, showering the ponies below with empty bullet casings.
Just then, however, several of the short, six legged creatures which spat acid emerged from the ground and each sent a spew of acid towards the transport. Raynor noticed out of the corner of his eye and tackled Tychus off the roof. The acid melt straight through the cannon, roof and sides of the transport, revealing the frightened civilians and Twilight. The security ponies quickly lifted their rifles and got to work on the attacking Zerg. They didn’t last long before darts killed most of them. Ariel and Twilight hid under the seats with a few other civilians the whole time.
The door of the transport opened and the body of the driver fell to the road with a meaty thump as the light blue unicorn pony who had loaded the first transport jumped in and slammed the door behind him, a cigarette dangling from his lips. The engines revved and exhaust billowed from the pipes as the transport began to move again. The Raiders moved and pursued as the transport began to drive, but before they could get moving fast enough, more Zerg bore down on them.
One of the acid spitting Zerg flew over and landed straight into the open bed of the transport, roaring in Twilight and Ariel’s faces before his own exploded from a grenade round fired by the one remaining security pony’s rifle. They smiled at each other before the pony’s head spewed blood all over the open cabin as a dart ripped through it. Twilight and Ariel shrieked in horror as the warm, sticky liquid sprayed onto them. The Zerg were relentless, and Raiders fell left and right.
Twilight sat in the bed of the barely moving transport, huddled in fear next to the doctor. As she saw more Zerg approach from the front, she knew this would be it. But instead of hopelessly giving up, she felt a power burning within her. She stood, tears streaming through the wind as she faced the wave of incoming Zerg. She had no idea what she was doing, it was like something had taken her over, but something inside her told her to power up her magic. As her horn began to glow, Ariel watched. The power coursing through her became stronger as the light emitted from her horn burst into a flash.
She continued gathering energy, focusing her magic now with incredible inspiration – don't die, don't let the others die. The power continued to surge through her body as static began to flux from the metal bed of the transport to her hooves, almost as if she were drawing energy from it. Ariel and the few other civilians watched in astonishment and horror. Another bright flash burst from the tip of Twilight's horn as the light grew brighter and brighter. Then, all the wind began to move as though she were pulling it in. The air rushed towards her, her mane and tail fluttered about in it as she looked up at the incoming wave of Zerg under tensed, angered eyebrows. A massive flash was then seen as the winds suddenly exploded into the opposite direction. A massive shock wave of energy pulsed through the air with a final, blinding flash as her head recoiled. Then she lost all her strength, and collapsed unconsciously to the floor of the transport. Ariel and the others quickly ran to her side.
The wave traveled along the ground under the Zerg’s feet, lifting them up and hurling them back. Most of them splattered to bits against the massive flux of energy, but the rest simply landed where they did and keeled over. The driver’s eyes were wide, but without further hesitation he shifted into another gear and ground the tireless wheel into the pavement as the others squealed before the truck took off.
Without too much more resistance besides the occasional lingering Zerg which managed to escape from the wave, the now small group of Raiders accompanied Raynor, Tychus and the transport further down the road to an elevated base. One, massive shuttle sat, waiting to pick up the last of the survivors. There were several automatic turrets placed at the entrance, and it was apparent from all the lying Zerg bodies that they had been busy. A pony stood at the mouth of the open shuttle waving a hoof.
“C’mon, c’mon!” he shouted at the transport screeched to a halt.
Then, something appeared through the smoke.
“Reinforcements!” A Marine shouted as he spotted another wave of Zerg barreling towards them.
Twilight was dazed, but managed to stand. Raynor ran to the side of the transport and glared up to her.
“If you’re going to try your portal, you’d better do it now!” he warned.
She smirked, there was no way she would be able to cast the spell after releasing that enormous energy attack. She shook her head.
“Then get on the fucking shuttle!” he shouted as he and the remaining Raiders made their way to the opening in the giant craft.
The pony standing at the entrance galloped in as Ariel, the light blue unicorn pony who had taken over driving, the few remaining civilians and several Raiders filed in. The auto-turrets at the entrance quickly got to work, but soon met their fate as the Zerg passed straight over them. As they reached the top of the station, the shuttle had already taken to the air, abandoning the destroyed transport, leaving it running at the lift-off area.
All ponies accounted for.
Dedicated to the memory of Kim “Fluttershy” Dykas’ Father...