The crew of the Destiny unwittingly get their first taste of magic.
There wasn’t much in common between the impoverished lower-class of planet Earth, and the crew of an Ancient starship on the other side of the universe. The only thing these two groups had was this: They both had no idea where their next meal would come from.
Tight rationing had already begun on the Destiny, which meant the crew was irritable and hungry, and it was times like these that the ship’s military personnel kept busy.
Scott and Greer ran down the corridor, straight to the mess hall, where the sounds of yelling and clattering dishware originated.
They quickly tried to separate Morrison and Becker.
“HEY!” Scott yelled. He forced the two crew members apart, and just as Morrison was about to turn on the lieutenant, Greer reacted quickly, pulling out his service pistol, and aiming right at the doctor’s head.
“Just try it,” he said.
“Sergeant?” the lieutenant said.
Greer slowly lowered his gun.
Scott turned to Becker. “You alright Airman?” he asked.
Becker nodded, holding his hand near his chin, hoping there was no blood.
“Alright, now what’s going on here!?”
Morrison pointed at accusatory finger at the Airman, “He won’t give me any food!”
“He already received his daily rations sir,” Becker explained calmly. “He said he wanted more.”
“This:” He grabbed an empty bowl nearby. “Isn’t enough to live off of!”
“We’re under strict rationing doctor,” Scott explained. “I’m sorry but that’s all you get.”
“Yeah, well I’m still hungry-”
“We all are!” Volker said from the other side of the room, calmly eating a purple tomato.
“-and I can’t work on an empty stomach.”
“Look,” Scott continued. “He’s just following orders. You got a problem with that? You can take it up with the Colonel.”
“Well, maybe I will.” Morrison sauntered out of the room.
As everyone went back to eating and preparing food for eating. Greer turned to the officer. “Remember the good ol’ days, when we were just fighting off aliens trying to kill us?”
He had a laugh, as the ship dropped out of FTL.
The two of them took the signal and headed straight for the Gate room.
As Colonel Young arrived in the Gate room, Doctor Rush was working. Looking over the database, he didn’t notice the ship’s commander enter.
“We got anything?” the Colonel asked.
“Jesus!” Rush said, startled. “Yeah, one planet.”
“Dial it, quickly,” He explained. “We only have three hours here.”
“Aware of that Colonel.” The Stargate spun rapidly.
As they waited, two of Young’s men, Scott and Greer, both arrived in the gate room, ready for duty. Following close behind, Volker was finishing his purple fruit… or vegetable… or plant.
“Sir,” Scott reported. “There was a bit of a scuffle in the mess hall, Morrison was upset over the new rationing restrictions.”
“I assume you handled it.”
“Yes sir,” Greer responded.
“Though he said he’d want to talk to you,” the lieutenant explained.
“Damn, I was hoping to avoid him,” the Colonel said. “Well, hopefully it won’t be an issue soon.”
The Stargate connected and a Kino quickly went through.
“Well, it’s breathable,” another Kino said. “But…”
“No vegetation nearby,” Rush interjected.
“What about further away?” Volker asked, mouth still full. Everyone looked at him. “We need the food, a short trek wouldn’t hurt us.”
On the other side of the wormhole, surrounded by barren, cracked wastelands, the Kino moved higher and higher, as high as it could go. It quickly spun around and said, “Ah ha!”
“Found some type of forest,” Eli explained.
“How far away is it?” asked the young lieutenant.
“Not far, an hour there, an hour back.”
“That’ll give us an hour to collect supplies,” Volker explained. “Should be more than enough.”
“But if we’re ambushed…”
“That’s always a risk, lieutenant,” the Colonel said. “Find as many volunteers as you can, suit up, and get going, we need that food.”
Scott paused for a second. “Yes, sir,” he said, before quickly running off, Greer and Volker following him.
Chloe took a deep breath. Enjoying the humidity of the swamp world she found herself on. The sun was shining, the crickets were chirping, birds were flying and tiny insects were buzzing around. It felt a lot nicer than the cold and dark corridors of the Destiny.
Sitting next to her, Doctor Lisa Park enjoyed the sights before her.
“So what do you think?” came a voice behind them.
Doctor Park was the first to speak. “It’s beautiful, Eli.”
“Yeah, how long did this take you?”
“Oh,” he explained. “On and off, a few years.”
“What other environments have you designed?” Park asked.
“Well, there’s the beach world, there’s the world that’s constantly night, there’s the dark forest with scary creatures.”
“Why’d you design that one?” asked Chloe.
He merely shrugged. “So the interface works? For both of you.”
“Oh, I’m sure of it.”
“Yeah,” Park responded.
“Good,” he said.
But something was nagging at Park. “I need to wake up,” she said.
Doctor Park opened her eyes, and saw nothing. It was the darkness she saw everyday. It was all she saw. Ever since that fateful day:
Every star was blocked by the drones, a race of robotic ships programmed to attack any ship it did not recognize… such as the Destiny. Any time they tried to refuel, the drones would attack. The only option for the crew was to attempt a refuelling maneuver in a blue supergiant.
The heat of such a star was well beyond what the Destiny was designed to handle, which was precisely why the drones weren’t waiting for them there. They were likely programmed under the assumption that their targets weren’t suicidal. But it meant most of the crew had to evacuate to a nearby planet, while she, Eli, and Rush, stayed behind, safe inside the environmental suits. But she wasn’t as lucky as the others.
As Eli and Rush were directing the ship through the star, she was trapped in the hydroponics dome, the door refusing to open. She would have been okay, if it wasn’t for the heat and pressure within the room causing the dome to shatter, nearly pulling her out into the vacuum of space. She survived, but a cost: For as the air around her was pulled out of the ship, she opened her eyes, and looked directly into the star. It destroyed her retinas, and she still had not healed from the damage. She doubted she ever will.
Being in that simulation, all it did was remind her of what she had lost. She still could not see, she didn’t gain anything. It was nice to see a bright summer’s evening again. But she knew it wasn’t real, and when she woke up, she was back in reality, blind and helpless.
As she lie there, allowing reality to come back to her, she could feel the moisture on her vestigial eyes. The tears ran down her face, as she continued to mourn the loss of her sight.
Rainbow stood at the edge of the balcony, hooves perched on the railing. Her gaze overlooking the city of Canterlot below her. As she looked over her shoulder, she could see Twilight, in her bed, sound asleep. The sun was just about to rise as she turned her head, and slowly tipped herself forward into the city below.
As she hurtled towards the ground, the pegasus quickly spread her wings, allowing the air to flow over them. She tilted them slightly, pulling out of the dive, passing just inches over the castle spires.
Using her momentum, she climbed higher and higher, gliding over the city of Canterlot. She had few plans that day: Hang with Twilight, practice some stunts, hang with Luna, practice some stunts, meet up with Spitfire and practice some stunts. Not much of a list.
The pain in her wings from yesterday morning was still there, but fading, and she would be damned if that would stop her taking to the air on such a clear morning.
Off to her left, she could see two familiar pegasi in the distance, one waving dramatically to her. She slowed down, and began to hover as they flew towards her.
“Hey!” Spitfire said as she got closer.
“Oh, hey Spitfire!” she replied, trying to act cool. “What’s up?”
“Rainbow Dash, it’s been a while!” said the blue stallion next to her. “I hear you’re gonna be at the try-outs!”
“Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t dare miss it!”
“Good, fresh meat!”
“Ignore him,” Spitfire explained. “So what’s new? I didn’t see you yesterday.”
“Oh, yeah,” she said, regretfully. “Sorry, something came up, you didn’t wait for me did you?”
“Nah, I was just surprised.”
The two looked at each other, awkwardly.
“Hey Soarin!” Spitfire said, trying to move the conversation. “Why don’t you go on ahead, I’ll catch up.”
“Alright,” he responded. “Just don’t keep me waiting.”
“Of course.” The stallion flew off as she turned to Rainbow and said, “alright, spill the beans, what was more important than training?”
“Uh…” Rainbow was nervous, was it her place to say? “Well, Twilight’s little brother came into town, and… he’s kinda mad at her. Apparently she wasn’t that nice to him when they were younger and he’s holding a grudge. So last night I was trying to convince him to at least talk to her. I don’t even know if it worked.”
Spitfire put a hoof to her chin. “She has a younger brother?”
Rainbow looked at the yellow pegasus, who was lost in thought. “So… sorry about that.”
“Bah, don’t worry about it. I spent the time training. No big deal.”
“Now!” she said, throwing up a hoof. “If I wasn’t training, and just ended up wasting time waiting for you, then I’d be pissed.”
Rainbow smiled. “Sorry?”
“I said don’t worry about it!” Her eyelids lowered.
Spitfire snapped, “STOP THAT!”
As Rainbow burst into laughter, her friend and hero joined her.
As the crew crossed the dry, cracked landscape, there wasn’t much to talk about. But one of them did anyway.
“Are we really expecting to find anything out here?” Morrison whined.
“There’s a forest just up ahead,” Scott explained pointing ahead of the group. “We’re not far.”
“Look at the ground! There’s no moisture on this rock!”
“There’s moisture up ahead,” Varro said from behind the doctor. “We just need to keep walking.”
“I’m tired, I’m hungry-”
“You know you didn’t have to come with us!”
“And let you guys take all the food!?”
“What’s that supposed to mean!?
“HEY!” Greer shouted from the rear of the procession. “Shut up, and relax, or you can head back to the gate!”
Everyone silenced themselves as they continued on their trek.
Moonlight’s routine fluctuated every day. Some days he’d stay up late, working on a screenplay, or filming a late-night scene. Other days he’d get to bed early, and wake up early to watch the sunrise while sipping a cup of tea. This was one of the latter days.
He leaned over his hotel room balcony, watching the sun slowly creep over the horizon, as his thoughts wandered.
Moonlight’s talk with Rainbow Dash the night before ate at him. Was he judging his sister too harshly? So far two ponies, who weren’t family, and who met them both and knew all that they could know, both say she changed. Could they be right? Was it even relevant?
It wasn’t long ago, that his biggest film, Deamon Lux and the Solar Invaders, hit the theatres. It was met with decent reviews, and terrible box office showings. But one thing he remembered about the film was the character of General Starstring. She was rewritten at the last-minute, as a favour to a friend. The stuck-up earth pony commander of the Equestrian military.
When he rewrote the character, he didn’t notice at the time that Starstring had some significant growth. As some of the reviews noted, Starstring started off being a complete jerk to the main character. But she learned, in the end, to stand back and trust Deamon. That the character’s personality changed.
But did she? Or was she just being practical? That’s what Moonlight thought. Starstring was just being practical. Once Deamon explained her plan, Starstring realized it would work, and let her go through with it. It was logic, not trust.
But was he wrong? Did he inadvertently change the character’s personality? And if so, why weren’t the reviews harsher for that?
Can ponies change? Did it matter?
A crash came from behind him as he quickly turned around.
“Damn it, what’d you break now!?” He asked.
“Nothing!” cried a feminine voice from within.
Moonlight sighed as he trotted back into the hotel room.
The forest on Mystery Planet number 16728 wasn’t very large. But it didn’t matter. The crew needed food, and this was the only planet in range. So they began looking, high and low, for any sort of plant that looked remotely edible.
The group spread itself thin. Trying to find whatever food they could, by covering as much ground as possible. But Scott refused to allow them to go out on their own. Everyone was partnered up. Which is why Camile had to deal with the one of the most annoying men on the ship.
As Morrison looked up at the trees, his gaze was frantic. “There’s gotta be something here!” He complained. “We saw some sort of herd animal back there, they must eat some type of fruit.”
“Too bad it ran away before we could get it,” Camile said.
Her gaze turned down to the forest floor. Off in the distance, Camile saw what appeared to be a patch of blue grass. A sharp contrast to the mostly barren ground. On a hunch, she ran towards it. Hoping there would be some type of fruit where there was more vegetation.
Varro and Volker were slowly walking through the trees, trying to find whatever looked edible. Their bags were empty.
“You worried?” Volker asked the former mercenary.
“About what?” Varro responded.
“We haven’t found a lot of food here, I’m starting to think this whole galaxy is a wasteland.”
He looked at the astrophysicist before continuing. “Never thought about that.”
The sound of rushed footsteps got their attention. The two ran toward the source of the noise. It wasn’t long before they saw Camile Wray, standing in front of a bed of blue flowers, crouching down to look at them.
“What was that!?” Morrison asked from behind them. Slightly out of breath.
“Thought we might find something here,” she explained. “These flowers are beautiful.” She plucked one from the stem and gave it a good sniff.
“Um…” Varro looked up at the treetops.
“We’re supposed to be looking for food, not flowers,” Morrison explained.
“Hey, relax,” Volker interjected with a smile. “Stop and smell the roses.” He walked up next to the IOA rep, and wordlessly asked to sniff the flower.
“We have to start heading back soon, and we’ve found nothing.”
“Yes we have,” Varro said.
The rest of the team followed his gaze. High above, was a very leafy tree with some large, bright-red fruits. Majestic, almost calling to them.
For several seconds, no one spoke. Their gazes fixed on the fruit above. Until Volker finally said, “So how are we gonna get it?”
Morrison acted quickly, running through the flower bed, and jumping onto the tree. Squeezing the trunk, he managed to shimmy up, at a shocking speed. He quickly got to the tree branches above, and started shaking each one, careful not to lose his grip.
As the fruits began to fall, the three humans still on the ground acted quickly, holding open the sacks they were using to collect food, and trying to collect them before they hit the ground.
Morrison shook one branch after the other, and it wasn’t long before all four sacks were full. Some of the fruit landed in the flower bed, but they were quickly collected.
“Alright,” Varro exclaimed. “How’re you gonna get down?”
“Just a minute!” He screamed. As he tried to lower himself slowly down the tree, his grip slipped, and he fell with a scream.
Varro acted quickly, running to catch the scientist.
The impact caused him to fall backwards into the flower bed, hitting the ground hard.
“Are you alright?” Volker asked frantically, helping Varro to his feet.
The soldier nodded, as Morrison said, “I’m fine, thanks for asking.” He got to his feet and dusted himself off.
Camile approached the group. “Well, at least we got some food,” she said, as she put the blue flower in her hair.
“Let’s just hope it’s enough.”
A young pegasus mare ran down the streets of Canterlot, a determined look on her face.
“Sunny!” A unicorn stallion screamed behind her, running after the mare. “Sunny!” Catching up to the pegasus, he placed a hoof on her shoulder. Only for her to spin around and hit him right in the face. The slap echoing through the mostly vacant streets.
“You thought I wouldn’t find out!?” she screamed in anger.
“It’s not like that at all!”
“You’re engaged! To a princess!!!”
“She means nothing to me.”
“I’m sure!!!” she said, sarcastically, turning to leave once again.
“LOOK!” he screamed at the mare, turning her around, and holding her. “I don’t love her! My parents want us to marry for money! I don’t! I only want to be with you! I love you!”
“CUT!!!” a voice screamed.
The stallion turned to look at the voice.
Moonlight leaned forward, looking at the actor. “Did you get enough sleep last night?”
He was confused. “Yeah? Why?”
“You look tired, and Crimson Light is not tired. He’s emotional, he’s angry, he’s pissed, he’s scared, he’s in love, he’s not tired.”
“I’m not tired.”
The director leaned back. “Well it’s either that or you’re bored, and phoning it in, I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt.” He looked around at his crew. “Let’s take it from the top!”
Red Rain, who had a camera strapped to his mid-section, started getting everything ready. “Alright, places everyone!” he screamed.
Moonlight looked past the set and as his eyes went wide he said, “Actually… everypony take five.”
As the crew began murmuring among themselves, Moonlight trotted past the cameras. As Red followed his friend’s gaze, he saw who the stallion was trotting towards, and quickly flew over.
“HEY!” the blue unicorn screamed. “You’re in our shot!”
“Too bad!” the white unicorn in front of him declared.
The two stallions trotted up to each other and embraced.
“What up Shinay!?” Moonlight said as they parted.
“Not much, heard you were in town, thought I’d make sure you didn’t break anything.”
“Oh, one time!”
The two had a bit of a laugh at their own banter, as Red approached them.
“What’s up Shining?” Red said, greeting the soldier.
“Not much… got married… you?”
“Yeah, dude what the hell!?” Moonlight responded.
“Yeah, why didn’t you show up, I sent an invite!”
He took a glance at his friend, before continuing. “Well, actually we were in Spurn, doing some filming, and when we got back, I check the mail, and see ‘oh, my big brother’s getting hitched… three days ago!'”
“Well, that’s not my fault.”
“I checked the stamp, it was sent out two weeks earlier. Who plans a wedding only two weeks in advance?”
“Yeah, it was really short notice.”
“And not only that… Cadance?”
“Oh wait, let me guess…”
“You could have the pick of any mare in town and any of them would have the benefit of not being Cadance.”
“Haha smart flank.” He explained, “look, she’s my wife now, so could you lay off that kinda stuff.”
“Oh what kind of brother would I be if I didn’t remind you on how annoying she is?”
“Well, little bro, forgive me if I don’t listen to your advice regarding mares. After all, we both remember your high school sweetheart.”
“Yeah, well one difference: I didn’t marry her!”
“Yeah, because she broke up with you.”
Moonlight looked at his brother with pursed lips, and lowered eyebrows. “So, you gonna hang out with us tonight at the hotel?”
“See ya later bro!” he held out a hoof.
“Later Moony,” Shining Armor responded with a hoofbump.
As Moonlight and Red walked away, his older brother shouted behind him. “Maybe I’ll bring Cadance!”
The two stallions froze in their tracks, before spinning around and quickly catching up to Shining.
“Are you nuts!?” Red said in hushed voice as he floated above the elder unicorn.
“Shining, you can’t,” Moonlight explained. “Not even joking.”
“Oookay, why?” he asked, genuinely curious.
The younger unicorn paused to collect his thoughts. “Okay, fine, I’ll leave the decision to you. Do you really think you can trust her-”
“She’s my wife,” Shining responded with slight annoyance.
“Let me finish, do you really think you can trust her to be more loyal to you, me and… her… over her position? Or did you forget you married a princess?”
His eyes went wide.
“You want to bring her, that’s fine by me, but what will not be fine by me is if… is if she ends up putting everything in jeopardy.”
The white unicorn looked down sombrely, before bringing his hoof to the back of his neck, rubbing softly. “I… uh… I didn’t think about that, actually.”
Red looked at with skeptical eyes. “Are you kidding?”
“Look, we have to get to work,” Moonlight explained. “I’ll see you tonight.”
As the two stallions left, Shining stood there, thinking.
The Destiny was cruising through FTL.
The infirmary was quiet, as TJ was reading from a computer screen.
The mess hall was quiet, the only sound came from Becker, chopping up a fruit they have since dubbed space-apples.
The bridge was quiet, the only sound coming from Rush’s pencil scratchings.
Volker’s quarters were quiet, until a sudden beeping sound emanated from the bedside table.
The astrophysicist opened his eyes wide. Grabbing his watch off the table, he noticed the time. He only slept for a few hours. All he really wanted. Quickly sitting up in bed, he noticed everything go dark, and his head feeling heavier than normal.
Putting his hand to his face, he felt a large amount of padding hanging over it. All his drowsiness quickly went away. Brushing his hair aside, he quickly ran to the mirror at the other end of the room. His hair was much shorter before he went to sleep. Now, it hung to his waist.
“How long have I been out!?”
Morrison wiped the sleep from his eyes as he entered the mess hall.
“Doctor Morrison,” Becker said from the other side of the room. He quickly placed a few of the space-apple slices in a bowl, holding it out for the scientist. “TJ tested it, said it was alright. The Colonel said, with that haul we might be able to relax some of the rationing, so you can have the first taste.”
He sat down at the bar, where Becker was still chopping the fruit. Solemnly eating the first slice.
“Is there a problem sir?” Becker wasn’t one to easily hold a grudge. In fact, he preferred to let things go. Because of that, his fight with Morrison earlier that day didn’t really phase him. But he knew not all people were like that. So he knew what to expect out of the scientist. Unfortunately, what he expected, did not come.
Morrison opened his mouth to speak and released a loud, “HONK!” His eyes went wide.
“Sir?” the airman said, very confused.
He quickly cleared his throat, and shook his head. Taking a deep breath, he tried again. “HONK!”
Becker put down the knife and said, “are you okay sir?”
The doctor shook his head.
“You need to go to the infirmary?”
“I’ll come with you.”
They left the mess hall together.
As Volker entered the ship’s infirmary, holding aside his long, curly hair, TJ quickly got to her feet. “Dale?” she asked.
“Yeah, I don’t know what happened,” he explained. “I took a nap, woke up a few hours later, my hair was like this.”
“Well, sit down, let me take a look.”
He quickly approached one of the stretchers and sat down, careful not to sit on his own hair.
TJ approached the doctor, and began brushing the mess aside to a good look at his scalp. “Well, it doesn’t appear to be growing anymore. We could probably just cut it off.” She reached over to one of the equipment tables, grabbing a pair of surgical scissors, as two men entered the room. “Take a seat, I’ll be with you in a moment.”
Morrison sat down on the nearest stretcher.
“Okay…” TJ grabbed a chunk of Volker’s hair, and trimmed it as close to the roots as she could, throwing the excess hair into a nearby trash bin. The sharpness of the tool made quick work of Volker’s shoddy mane.
“This is good,” he explained. “I was well overdue.”
TJ had a laugh as she finished the job. “There,” she explained. “Looks like I’m done. Now all you need is someone to style it.”
As the doctor put a hand to his head, she suddenly got concerned. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“I… I just.” He quickly laid down on the stretcher. “I’m feeling a little dizzy.”
It was at that moment, TJ saw something she never thought she’d see in her life. In all her years in the Stargate program, this was the most perplexing, the most unusual, the most extraordinary. Before her eyes, Volker’s hair was growing at an alarmingly fast rate.
“Oh my god!” she screamed.
Morrison and Becker approached the two. Volker reached his hand to his head. Feeling his long flowing mop, his eyes went wide. “What’s happening to me?”
“I’m guessing the same thing that’s happening to Helladius,” Becker explained.
“Your hair looks fine,” the astrophysicist said.
TJ was quite concerned. “What’s wrong Morrison?”
He opened his mouth. “HONK!”
Volker and TJ’s eyes went wide.
“He hasn’t been able to say anything at all except… that,” explained the Airman.
The medic’s response was simple: “Okay…”
Chloe Armstrong looked at the two patients in the infirmary, as Colonel Young walked in. “Okay… someone explain to me what’s going on,” he said.
“Morrison can only honk,” TJ explained. “And Volker, well, his hair is growing at an odd pace.”
“What do you mean odd?”
Chloe quickly summarized, “We cut a lot of his hair, a lot grows back, we cut a little bit, a little bit grows back. It’s as if it wants to stay at a fixed length.”
“Which makes absolutely no sense,” the medic continued. “I mean hair is… basically dead, the follicles shouldn’t react to the hair being cut, much less how it’s cut.”
“So what’s going on?” the Colonel asked.
TJ was exasperated. “I have no idea sir.”
“Okay, so what happened?” Camile said as she walked in, wasting no time.
“I’m not sure, we’re still trying to figure that out,” the medic explained. “Morrison can only honk and Volker’s hair is growing out of control-”
“-mostly,” Chloe interjected.
“I mean, the symptoms are too odd and erratic to have the same cause, but I doubt it’s a coincidence that they both got sick at the same time.”
“You don’t have a single clue what’s causing this?” Wray asked.
“No,” she turned around to the equipment table. “But I figure I should take a blood sample and-”
“Damn she’s got a nice ass.”
TJ spun around in shock, as everyone in the room looked at the IOA representative.
She dropped her radio. “Did I just say that out loud?”
It was at this moment, Chloe snickered. “Sorry,” she said as everyone turned their gaze to her.
“He was honking?” Scott asked incredulously.
Airman Becker was still chopping fruit. “Yes, sir, I think that was all he could say.”
“Why did he come here?” Greer asked, chewing another slice of space-apple.
“I don’t know, I think he wanted to apologize, but I can’t be certain.”
The ship’s loudspeaker activated, as the Colonel’s voice echoed throughout the ship. “Attention all crew, effective immediately, we are implementing basic quarantine procedures. Stay where you are until further notice. All crew members in the halls, return to your quarters immediately. Lieutenant Scott, Sergeant Greer, and Airman Becker report to the Infirmary.”
Becker dropped the knife once again. “I’m never gonna get this done.”
“I’m really sorry,” Camile said, lying down on the stretcher.
“Don’t worry about it,” TJ said calmly, with a reassuring smile, as she took a blood sample. “Just try to clear your mind.”
“You have a beautiful smile.”
“I’m sorry, it’s like every thought I have, I say aloud. I don’t think I can stop it. You got any tape or maybe a few pieces of cloth we can turn into a gag?”
TJ laughed at her statement.
“Sir,” Greer said as the trio entered the room.
“Sergeant, Scott, Becker,” the Colonel addressed his subordinates. “We need to know if you’ve been experiencing any odd symptoms.”
They looked at each other before Scott answered. “No sir, what kind of symptoms?”
“Well apparently, it could be anything,” TJ explained. “Morrison and Camile are both experiencing odd neurological symptoms, mostly affecting the speech centres of the brain… and Volker has… hair symptoms, I don’t know how else to describe it.”
“Well, nothing from us sir.”
“This only happened after I woke up,” Camile explained sitting up on the stretcher. “I went to sleep fine, but when I woke up I was vocalizing every thought that came into my head. Maybe it only starts after you go to sleep.”
“Well, I did take a short nap earlier,” Scott continued.
“How long?” Volker asked, not daring to raise his head.
“About an hour.”
“Yeah me too.”
Morrison nodded in agreement.
“So it’s probably not contagious,” the medic surmised.
“Then what’s causing it?” Young asked.
“The flowers!” Wray yelled. “The blue flowers, we were all there, it was right under that fruit tree, we all touched those flowers when we found that tree.”
“Well, couldn’t it have been the fruit instead?”
“Well, we all touched the fruit sir,” Scott explained.
“I brought back one of those flowers, it’s still in my quarters.”
“I’ll get it.”
“No, Lieutenant,” TJ said. He stopped at the door. “We can’t risk anyone else getting affected.”
“I’ll grab it,” Camile said, getting off the table.
“Wait.” TJ reached over to one of the tables, grabbing a small plastic container and a pair of rubber gloves and handing them to Wray. “Put it in here, keep it safe.”
“Bit redundant since I’m already affected.”
As she ran off, Young continued, “is there anyone else who was exposed to these things?”
Volker spoke up, “Varro.”
The Colonel grabbed his radio. “Varro, come in.”
“Varro you there?” He nodded to Scott who quickly ran off, Greer following closely behind.
As TJ took one of the blood samples in a micropipette, she delicately released it in a small container, and placed the first sample in a centrifuge. She continued with the other samples.
“Is there anything I can do sir?” Becker asked.
“Yeah,” the medic explained. “Find out how this infection is breaking the basic principles of biology.”
Scott banged on the door as loud as he could.
“Varro, you awake!?” he yelled through the door. “Varro!?”
Scott hit the door button. After the cog spun, and the door slid open. A high-pitched voice came across the threshold. “About time someone checked on me.”
Their eyes went wide. Standing on the bed, was Varro’s very familiar face. But instead of the formerly six-foot tall man, he stood at under a foot.
“What in the hell?” Greer asked.
“I was hoping you could tell me,” came Varro’s unusually high-pitched voice.
Scott spoke into his radio, “TJ, we got a bit of a problem.”
In one tiny corner of Sweet Apple Acres, a grassy field stood. It was one of the few areas of the farm that wasn’t used for growing crops. Which made it the perfect location to begin construction.
“Okay,” Heartstrings said to the elder Apple siblings. “I think we have a plan. We can begin excavation right over here.” She pointed to a spot on the map before her. “From there we will spread outward and strip out all the ore.”
“Hold on,” Applejack objected. “What are you talking about? Are you going to destroy the orchard?”
“Well we’ll have to,” the unicorn explained. “I mean much of the ore is too close to the ground.”
“So we’re gonna have to choose between the mine and the orchard.”
“I thought you understood this.”
A blue unicorn trotted up to the group. “You don’t know Applejack that well,” Paradigm said.
“I’m not giving up this farm,” the earth pony replied.
“Um… well, I don’t think we have any other options,” the green unicorn explained.
“Applejack,” Caramel said as he approached the mare, his left eye blackened and bruised. “With the bits we earn selling this ore, you can buy land for a new orchard twice as big, and move it all there.”
“What land!?” she screamed. “Do you see any empty farmland in Ponyville!?”
“I see some empty fields that one can convert into farmland.”
“It’s not that-”
“Did your eye get worse?” the larger stallion commented.
“What?” Caramel asked.
“Yesterday your eye wasn’t that swollen.” He pointed to the young stallion’s face. “Actually, wasn’t it your other eye?”
“Oh, yeah.” He pointed to his right eye. “Bit of ice overnight, it healed right up.” He pointed to his left eye. “But then this morning my little sister was in a bad mood.”
“I know the feeling.”
The orange mare protested. “What’s that supposed to mean!?”
“Anyway,” the blacksmith responded. “Back on track Mac. I don’t want to destroy this orchard any more than you do, I mean the whole town would suffer without your apples. Sure we could import them, but generally, they’re not as good. Not sure why, still have to figure that out. Maybe the Naquadah has something to do with it.”
“Well, we still want that ore right?” replied his unicorn assistant.
“Natch,” he said, pointing to her. “We have to think of some alternative solutions. There must be something we haven’t thought of yet.” He put his hoof to his chin in contemplation.
“Why can’t we just mine like they do in other mines?” Applejack asked.
“What?” Paradigm asked. “You mean shaft mining?”
“Too close to the ground,” Caramel explained. “We would eventually get to the top of the ore body, and since it’s so close to the surface, it would eventually collapse. It’s dirt, Applejack, not stone.”
They went back to silently thinking again.
“Why aren’t we considering just moving it?” Heartstrings asked.
“This isn’t just an orchard,” Applejack explained. “It’s my family’s legacy. I’m not gonna just move it.”
“It’s worth considering,” the shorter stallion responded. “But only as a last resort. It could be something in the ground that’s responsible for the delicious fruit we know and love.”
“Plus,” Big Mac explained. “It’s a seller’s market right now, we can’t afford to buy more land.”
Caramel paused, looking at the stallion. “I’m not gonna ask how you know that.”
Returning to their thoughts, they went quiet again.
“Okay, let me get this straight,” Young explained. “Somehow, this single plant managed to effect Camile and Morrison’s speech, Volker’s hair, and Varro’s height.”
“Pretty much sir,” replied his Chief Medical Officer.
The two of them were in the Colonel’s office, discussing the situation.
He shifted in his seat, and asked, “What is it?”
“Well, I would have said it was some type of fungus, or parasite, maybe a prion. But I couldn’t find anything like that in their blood samples.”
“Well, I’m no doctor but maybe it didn’t make it to the blood.”
“If it made it to the brain sir, it made it to the blood.”
“So we have no idea what this is, or any idea how to treat it.”
“Well, it doesn’t seem to be fatal or dangerous, just… inconvenient.”
The Colonel spun back and forth in his chair, contemplating the situation. “And embarrassing.”
“And… kinda funny.”
They shared a bit of a chuckle. “Yeah, Varro’s a lot shorter now,” the Colonel said with a laugh. “He used to be one of the tallest men on the ship, now he’s an action figure.” As the two of them calmed down, he asked the most crucial question, “this shouldn’t be possible should it?”
“You mean an infection causing someone to shrink?” TJ responded. “No. But we have seen weird things before; I mean there was that artificial planet, and crew members coming back from the dead.”
“Yeah, maybe…” he started spinning back and forth in his chair. “Why these symptoms?”
She shrugged. “Maybe it’s some type of joke, I mean like you said, one of the tallest men on the ship is now the shortest. Morrison was always whining, now, he’s always honking; Volker’s had that hideous afro for a while, now it’s worse; and Camile’s always the diplomatic one, now… not so much.”
The Colonel chuckled once again. “I shouldn’t laugh at that.”
“Well it… seems to be mostly harmless sir.”
The smile faded from his face. “So far.”
Camile laid in her bed, trying to get some sleep. But with her mouth that wouldn’t stop moving, it was difficult.
“What’s wrong with me? What’s causing this?” For the past twenty minutes she had talked about her affliction, her duties aboard the ship, and the rest of the crew, and she was getting tired of it. “Oh, I don’t care, I just need to sleep.” She closed her eyes, and tried to clear her mind. “Why haven’t we heard anything from Earth? Did something happen there?” Her eyes snapped open. Across the room she could see a drawing. One she replicated from memory, the original hung in her home on Earth. The home she shared with her partner, her girlfriend, her lover. “Sharon.”
It had been nearly a month since they woke from stasis, and during that time she never bothered to process what had happened. Her eyes started to leak. “Oh god, Sharon! Are you alright? Are you okay? Are you happy?”
The pain in her chest was intensified by the words she spoke, as if actually saying it made it more real.
She thought about all she had lost, and how she might never see any of it ever again. Her thoughts turned to her lover, her family, her friends. Then her thoughts turned to the fact that she wasn’t speaking anymore.
In her excitement, she sat up and forgot all the pain she felt. Jumping out of bed, she ran to the table on the far side of the room. Grabbing her radio and quickly turning it on, she spoke into it.
A few seconds later the lieutenant’s voice came over the radio, “Camile? Is everything alright?”
“I… I think so, I think I’m better now.”
“You’re not talking all the time anymore?”
“Yeah, is anyone el…”
Camile started blinking furiously. Bracing herself on the table, it wasn’t long before her strength gave out.
She collapsed on the floor.
She reached for the radio, and spoke into it. “Everything’s purple.”