I’ve been really busy lately, but I took today off to write a chapter. I was going to post it, but I realized that I haven’t done anything leading up to it, and one should not be confused when reading. Enjoy!

Ch. 2 Backs Straight as Rulers

“Backs as straight as rulers. Every single military man or woman in the Empire’s military have backs as straight as rulers. Their discipline must be absolute. Their ambition was the only thing that could match it. They grasped at with iron clad fingers and ripped it to their bosoms. There, it grew and bred like a virus. It is what drove them into the stars and to create the empire! A thousand star systems and over fifty inhabitable worlds colonized and hundreds more being terraformed and the empire still grows!

Fifteen species bow to the humans, and it is only you ponies who have earned the right to expand out of your paltry stellar mass and into the greater universe for anything more than what we allow. Indeed the generosity of humanity to the lesser sentients cannot be underestimated! You will behave accordingly and not screw this up for your entire species. We’ve wiped out more powerful civilizations and committed genocides on cuter animals.

Mandatory human bragging complete. Ms. Sparkle you have completed all necessary documents and now only require your hoof print or signature to be allowed to enter the Empire of Man’s ships and transport to the capitol. A copy will be sent via hyper-droid to the capitol in digital triplicate. Another copy will digi/magically appear at the necessary functionary’s desk in Canterlot. Please sign here.”

Twilight Sparkle exasperatedly placed a hoof on the hard light surface. Humans and their bureaucracy. Several hundred years of running a galaxy spanning empire and they still want their digital signatures in triplicate. The hard light glowed a little brighter and then disappeared. A happy ding and a human smiley face popped out.

“Thank you for your compliance. Please remember that humanity does not cull other species without good reason. So don’t give us an excuse and we’ll get along just fine! :D”

Twilight levitated the contraption down into the box it came in. It was a computer, specially designed for Pony-kind’s use. She had long gotten use to the posturing humans made. They would not destroy the entire pony race for the actions of one pony making a diplomatic snafu. Indeed, she did not think any human involved in the empire’s work had killed a pony in cold blood since the human-pony war.

She taped the box shut. She hated that thing, a remembrance of human’s domination and technological advancement. After all, what could she not learn from a book? Besides, most the computer could be used for is surfing the Equestrian net. And that was full of beastiality. You could not go five websites without seeing ‘Mares in Heat wait for your pleasure!” or “Tips for the inferior Stallion”. For Celestia’s sake. Besides that, to get any human information from their web you had to hire a very expensive hyper-droids. These self-propelled AIs would drop into hyperspace for your request, pick it up on Earth and come back. It took days and cost as much as an island fortress.

“Spike! Take this up to the attic! And don’t drop it!” Spike waddled forward. He had done his registration early and was annoyed that Twilight had put this off to the last possible minute. She was already trying to figure out what books she would take with her. As she understood, the Emperor was a lover of books, and it would do well to give him some rare tome of Equestrian lore.

“Twilight, calm down. They’ve been traveling in space for hundreds of years. It’s safe.” He picked up the box and started to half-carry and half-dragged it to the attic stairs. He shuttered the attic and returned to the ground floor. The normally neat if patched library tree was a mess. For a while, up to their trip, he had attempted to keep the tree as neat as possible, but the battle against entropy was too great and he gave up as Twilight became more and more stressed.

The organic shelves were rearranged daily, and on periods of greater stress, like the psychology exam, hourly. How she passed that he could not tell, but she did and that was all that mattered. Now she hadn’t bothered re-shelving since her last ransack and it was all underfoot. Spike trod equally on “Unicorn’s First Arcane Knowledge” and “Horsedotus’ Natural Horsetoria”. Twilight, on any other day, would reprimand him sharply, but this just wasn’t one of those days.

She half ripped apart a series of papers in frustration when they wouldn’t fit into a suit case. Spike began to sweat a little. The pink and purple mare was not known for her sanguinary nature. “Well, Twilight, I’m going to visit Rarity and she if she needs any help.” She yelled in frustration as several important note pads were lost in the abyss that had become the floor. Perfectly camouflaged, even Spike could not guess where they were.

He skedaddled out. He turned around briefly. He had too. The tree had been his home for three years. It had grown a little, even, as he had. The door, the leaves, the trunk. All of it had very well begun to become his home in truth. He had hoped to spend many more years there. Well, he knew that he would hopefully come back, but not for a long time. Space was big, they told him. bigger than anything. He felt it would be a long time.

Rarity was doing surprisingly well. Compared to Twilight, she was the literal saint of preparedness. “Oh darling…” She said, languorously shifting through scarf and hat combos. “A lady must always be prepared. Besides, I’ve been following Earth Nobility fashion trends for quite some time. A bit garish, honestly, but very colorful and slightly showing and -ugh- military inspired. I’ve sold a literal ton of pony versions to the nobility in Canterlot. But I do envy their combination of form and function. Supposedly the Empress wears a corset that can stop a bullet…”

“What’s a corset? It sounds uncomfortable.” Spike slightly regretted his question, but he figured that it would be better to ask than act stupid later. He was sitting on white and purple luggage. All the luggage was matching, both to themselves and the owner. She was wearing nothing but a small headband keeping her immaculate hair out of her eyes as she had to shift constantly. She must sacrifice pure fashion now, for great results later.

“It’s a thing that goes around a human’s middle. It makes them thinner or something.” She waved a hoof at Spike. “Oh, I’m sorry Spikey-Wikey but I’m rather busy.” She gestured at the mountain of baggage behind her. “I’ve got most of it done, but I’m still out of sorts about my hats. Could you be a dear and run an errand for me?” She magically pulled out an opal from her gem box. It was a pure opal, and Spike visibly salivated. She placed it on his tongue with a giggle. “I’ve made some garments for Applejack, poor dear has nothing recent for the Emperor’s court.” She grabbed a solid white luggage piece with a black handle. It was comparatively small, nearly perfect size for him to carry.

“I’ve already fitted it and had it perfectly packed. Tell her not to open it until we meet the Emperor!” She got off her lounging chair and walked him to the door. She opened it with her magic and waved him out.

“I’ll tell her Rarity! See you later!”

“Bye Spikey-Wikey! And thank you very much!”

Apple Acres was a walk for a little dragon, but opals are full of energy and his time with Rarity put him at a higher spirit than he had before. He found Applejack working on a field close by, making an inspection. These apples were not likely to be ready for a good three months, but apples can be killed for the entire tree if a branch rots or a worm plague hits them. The trees were in excellent condition. Their leaves were green and the apples were green. The grass was green too. The only different colors were ensconced in the brown tree trunks and Applejack herself.

“Howdy, Spike! How are yah?” She grinned at him. She escorted him to the barn house, taking the luggage in her teeth. It had a long, soft nylon handle that was actually perfect for biting. She couldn’t really talk with it on, but she still mumbled quite around it, talking about how several relatives were coming in to help. She was still worried about her orchards. Big Macintosh was at the barn house giving a tip to the telegraph stallion. He nodded solemnly at Spike, which is about what passed as a greeting between the two males. Applejack went inside.

Applebloom and her two friends, Sweetie Bloom and Scootaloo, behind her. They were covered in barn paint, Pinkie Pie had done a fabulous job, but had forgotten to put any time into the paint finish. After a year and a half, it was starting to peel quite badly. Spike assumed that Big Macintosh tricked them into thinking there may be cutie marks in barn painting, but only if they can do the entire thing. They were on their way, but slowly and in questionably quality. Big Macintosh had already resigned himself to doing it, or getting one of the relatives to do it.

“Hi Spike! How are yah doing?”

“I’m on an errand from Rarity!” He said proudly. He wanted to get his part in before he politely asked. “What are you three up to today?”

“Cutie Mark Crusader BARN PAINTERS!” They yelled in excellent unison. “We’re painting the big barn!” Sweetie Bell added. Spike could tell. It was the only barn with about two or three feet of fresh red paint and faded, near pink paint above it.

Applejack came outside. She had a small bag which, by smell, held some supreme pastry that would be a wonder to taste. She expertly flicked it to Spike, who caught it. “Thanks Spike. Ah suppose meeting the Emperor of all Mankind means Ah should wear something frou-frou.” She grinned. “One taste of mah apple fritters and he’ll be sure to let us colonize that new planet! We’re thinking of calling it…” She paused for dramatic effect. Spike took the initiative.

“Planet Apple!”

She deflated a bit. “Yeahhh…” She scratched her neck to hide her embarrassment. “Ah guess it sounds silly when someone else says it though, but what could we call it? Planet Russet? Planet Pippin?” She sighed as Spike greedily devoured the pastry with glee. “Nothin’ else seems to really work, yah know? And just about everything else means that we’d have to name it after one of us. Not that Uncle Baron Tewkesbury would mind.”

“Well, I guess I should head back into town. Twilight was going a little crazy. I should make sure that she’s okay.”

Applejack began escorting him out. “She’s nervous.” She said it a little dead-panned. Perhaps, Spike thought, she was speaking of herself than Twilight.

“Yeah, more than I think she should. I know that Humans are really violent and everything, but if they were going to kill us all, they would have done it already, you know? All their posturing is like one of those academic debates Twilight gets into, neither one of them wants to be wrong, so they deny ever being wrong. I don’t know, they’re not ponies. They’re aliens, in a way.”

Applejack nodded. “Sounds right. All bark, but they don’t bite unless they have to. Maybe they just need some lessons in friendship.” She jostled Spike knowingly. He giggled. She left him at the entrance to Apple Acres. She waved a hoof at him and turned back towards her home.

Spike found pink and yellow Fluttershy desperately trying to find poor injured animals that were surely need her full care, meaning that she would have to stay home. Stay home and not go into space. Stay home and not go to the very beating heart of an extremely militaristic empire. Stay home and not leave Ponyville or Equestria. She gave Spike a once over, hoping he had an illness. Since he was healthy, she gave him a pat on the head and a sapphire she happened across. He ate the blue gem with great gusto. Life was good, despite the impending journey.

Rainbow-colored Rainbow Dash was eager as all get out for the journey. She had heard of the space fighters and of their bravery. Flying through the abyss of space into the laser fires of hell, fighting space pirates and the armies of rebels and warlords. They were the bravest of the brave, second only to the Wonderbolts. She gave him some turquoise from Little Strong Heart. His gusto was slightly dulled by previous treats, but not to the point he could not greedily devour the light blue minerals.

Finally, he met Pinkie Pie. She had a literal train of baggage. All of it to do with parties. She had prepared to a greater extent even more than Rarity or Twilight Sparkle herself. The train was as pink as she was and filled to the brims with whimsy and happiness. Games and balloons. Strangely coins and card decks. Laughter and chuckles and giggles and hilarity. She was directing several day-laborer stallions in the stacking of still more strange packages on top of the precarious tower already leaning dangerously.

There was a customs official overseeing it. He was literally losing his mind trying to keep track of it all. The human was pulling his hair out checking boxes on his notepad. The human was shaking in his boots and shouting angrily at anything. His sanity had always been in question. It wasn’t a question of any mental illness, it was a question of his mental fortitude. A hint: It was low. No mental fortitude in the world can properly prepare one for Pinkie Pie.

“OH -HONK- It’s a dragon! You here to burn this big steaming pile of -HONK-? Little guy?” The Human was a good six and a half feet, three feet taller than Spike and had to bend down on one knee to look him in the eye. His eyes were entirely bloodshot. Spike wondered if he had slept at any time in the last few days. His blond hair was extremely messed up and the thin beard he affected was a new growth. His cloths smelled and he had thrown off his official ‘customs’ jacket for a very casual t-shirt with an evil-looking clown on it. His official hat was rakish and dirty.

“Let me help you out. I have experience with Pinkie Pie. My name’s Spike, by the way.” Calling on all his experience with Twilight Sparkle, Spike began to direct the workers and Pinkie Pie. Marking off each check box for things like “No weapons” “No magical articles of faith” “No whoopee cushions” and “Properly hidden all drugs and/or hallucinogens.” He didn’t understand half of them, but the human started to calm down and began to speak much more quietly.

“Alright, that sounds good.” The official stared at the ostentatious train in wonder. “How did you get it all to fit? I’ve been doing this for years, but never I have seen an organizer of your skill! My hat is tipped, sir!” He lifted his gold/black hat and put it down again. “Alright, I’m out. Pinkie Pie! I’m adding something to give to Spike on you customs bill.”

Pinkie reached into the bole of a tree and pulled out a cake. The human blinked. Then he took out a bottle and stared at it. He threw it behind him. He ripped off a patch on his arm and brought out a cigarette. He lit it and began smoking. “Already got it!” She said. “Yep.” He said.

“Thanks Pinkie Pie!” The cake was one of his favorites. It was double chocolate. Two layers. Icing as thick as fingers. There were strawberries on the top, marvelously fresh and delicate. Indeed, Spike wanted to share it with Twilight as he hobbled back home. He did! But with one bite came another and another bite meant that he had to even them out. By the time he got to the painted door of Twilight and his home, it was crumbs, and even then he was nibbling at the plate that held it.

Twilight was finally discovering her sanity again. Her books were chosen and her clothing packed. Her mane, multi-colored pink and purple, was finally in order and her eyes were normal. Her teeth had stopped grinding and her energy was down to very reasonable levels. In fact, the reason for this sudden drop in energy and mania was that she was asleep. Her luggage was in a very messy pile next to Spike’s most conservative two suitcases.

Spike briefly considered cleaning the various areas and neaten the place, but decided against it and went to bed. He was very full from the cake, the gems and everything else, and was now tired. Besides, the little dragon had helped Twilight out, gone to Rarity’s, dragged a suitcase to Applejack, met several friends and helped Pinkie Pie and the customs official pack half a circus. The toddler dragon was tired.

He woke in the middle of the night. All of his calm bluster was gone in the darkness. His ward was breathing loudly in the bed close by and he felt a sudden desire, a NEED for her comfort. He knew that in the end, he was going to the great unknown and his encouragements to Applejack and Fluttershy were empty now. He pushed his basket as close as possible to Twilight Sparkle. Her head was close to the edge of the left side, and he slept right under it.

There are things that cause fear in the hearts of all beings. Dragons, humans, ponies… it doesn’t matter. Do not dragons sleep with one eye open when the knight is expected to arrive? Do not the Native American’s say that a ‘man’s courage is at its ebb just before the sun rises.’ Do not the ponies shiver awake when the timberwolves howl in hunger and lunacy? It is the same no matter who. Spike felt it too keenly. Twilight Sparkle kept the night back.

Her breathing stopped and she sleepily opened an eye, then closed it. “It’s going to be okay, Spike.” She seemed unconcerned now. Spike could understand why. All that remained was some ceremonies, and then the boarding. There was Rear Admiral Shining Armor waiting up in the Starswirl, the new space station constructed in Geo-synchronous orbit above Canterlot. He had Cadence with him, just waiting for her.

“Yeah.”

“Everything going to be okay.” Her voice became more sleepy. “It’s okay.”

“No matter what, you’ll be with there for me?”

“Yes.”

“No matter what?”

“No matter what.”

“… Thanks Twilight. I love you.”

She opened an eye and lifted herself enough to stare at Spike. “Me too, Spike, me too.” She placed her head back on the bed. “I love you dearly.”

“…” Spike curled into his bed deeper. His blankets consumed him and he imagined it was Twilight’s legs. After all, he was a baby dragon. Magic lifted him out. He found himself slipped between the lavender fore-hooves of his surrogate mother. She held him perfectly. He whimpered as fear drained ever so slowly from him.

“Sometimes, life is scary.” Her voice got softer as she continued. “But we’ve got our friends. They’ll help us. And we’ll be together for the entire trip.” She snuggled a little closer. Whatever she would have said next was lost in mumbled yawning. “mmmmmmmmmm mmmm mmmm m mmmm”

“Good night Twilight.”

“…Night…”

Spike was without dreams and he thanked Celestia for it. His rest, undisturbed, gave him the peace he would need to get through the next day. The fear was still there, but it was not the crippling panic he felt in the night. He could and would walk, talk and eat with as much energy as he usually did. But when he woke, no nightmare haunted him and that was all that mattered.

Advertisements