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[RGRE] WH40K Shitpost

By MrSkeltal
Created: 19th August 2021 01:31:55 AM
11th October 2021 12:18:44 AM

  1. Original Poster: Love and Powerlifting (http://ponepaste.org/user/lapsbin)
  2. Reason this is posted here is because LaP regularly doesn't bin things. Will be removed upon or shortly thereafter being posted on his bin. Maybe.
  3.  
  4. >There were creatures beyond Luna's stars.
  5. >For centuries, such thoughts had been spoken of, theorized, debated, and argued between scholars, magi, and scientists. Those of the Holy Order of the Sun and Moon insisted that it was heresy of the highest degree, the creator had molded ponies in her imagine and none other; gryphons, yaks and the like were considered by them to be imperfect ponies, to be pitied and nothing more. Magi, especially those who gaze upon the stars, had attempted to reach out beyond their planet to find life, meaning, anything. Those that were lucky found nothing, those that weren't could find their minds smashed to atoms. Scientists looked out amongst the stars as the magi had-- and do-- using telescopes and mathematics instead of arcane might.
  6. >While many swore they knew the answer, brought forth proof proving or disproving, or raved and stomped their hooves, there had never been clearly, solid evidence. Until something had come from the sky. Those that had seen it said it was massive; larger than any ship, dwarfing even the mountains that it floated over. It was no flying machine that any had seen, even in their wildest dreams. Even the noise it made was completely unknown. The creatures that stepped off the craft were far less impressive than their creation, and a little odd.
  7. >Bipedal, lithe, mostly hairless and speaking a language that nopony could make heads or tails of. They were aliens, and these aliens had made themselves known in a small village twenty miles from Las Pegasus.
  8. >Newspapers couldn't print the story fast enough. A council of ladies was called in Canterlot, and the entirety of the nobility arrived in under three days; an unheard of speed. The church was in an uproar, there was some rioting, many feared for their safety. A preemptive attack was suggested on the unknown force. Such a thing might have even happened, if not for the second vessel that appeared over Manehatten, then another near Cloudsdale.
  9. >This was when most hid in their homes, fearing the worst. The aliens were here to take their colts and their oats, and probably blow up the planet to add insult to injury. Somepony might even get probed, or find herself shoved in a giant tube or something like that. Fortunately, when a smaller ship flew to Canterlot, ponies found out that that wasn't the case.
  10. >The aliens weren't hostile. They had found them by accident, thinking that this planet would be nothing more than a water world that they could use to resupply. These creatures that had scared the daylights out of so many for weeks and weeks called themselves humans, and a hand was offered in negotiation. While many had reservations, it was Princess Luna who took that hand, and a year later a fragile but hopeful friend was beginning to form.
  11. >Rarity, Fashionista extraordinaire, Element of Harmony, and whitest unicorn in Ponyville seven years running, found herself standing in an open field. Months ago, the area had just been another section of the Everfree, but under Princess Twilight Sparkles orders the land had been cut and flattened for a very special purpose. The humans were sending a representative to Ponyville--along with numerous other towns and cities--to "study and record" the life of the common pony. Rarity had, against the wishes of many and common sense, had volunteered to host the strange alien and do her best to put Equestria in as best of a light as possible.
  12. >The unicorn insisted that she was as cool as a cucumber about the whole thing, but her friends knew she had barely slept a wink in the past two weeks.
  13. "Are you certain that this is the EXACT place where we're to meet them, Twilight?" Rarity asked, turning toward her friend.
  14. >The other girls would have been there with her if they had been allowed, but due to the humans' insistence, only Twilight could be anywhere near the landing site. Twilight had attempted to ask the proper channels why this was, and had gotten different answers from whoever she asked. The best she could figure out was that their guests wanted to be discreet as possible, though she had a feeling that would be easier said than done.
  15. >"I'm a hundred percent sure, Rarity. Just like I was sure the last ten times you've asked me," Twilight said, making sure that her crown sat correctly on her head. It wouldn't do to look less than her best after all.
  16. "I know, dear, but are you positive that there wasn't a last minute letter? Or some word from Canterlot?" Rarity asked, anxiously running a comb through her mane. "Goodness me, the poor stallion could have forgotten today was the day we're to meet. You know how colts are."
  17. >Twilight nodded, looking up toward the sky to see if she saw one of the human's flying machines in the distance.
  18. >It still baffled her; stallions that ruled an empire hundreds of planets wide. She couldn't even imagine some of the colts around here running a town or a city, and here the leader of these aliens ruled a population of... so many that she couldn't even guess!
  19. >It was so mind-boggling that she still half-thought that there was some sort of miscommunication. The creatures they had been speaking to for months were just mares with phallic-like appendages, or maybe they could change their gender at will. Harmony knows that would make more sense!
  20. >She squinted as a rainbow blur flew across the sky miles away. While she was an alicorn, and had acquired all the perks that came with it, even an alicorn didn't have an pegasus' eyesight. The purple mare would bet her library card that Rainbow had seen the ship carrying their VIP. While she had told Dash to keep on the ground today, she knew in her heart the pegasus wouldn't listen, especially after she had been told just how fast those flying machines were able to go. Knowing her, she was going to see if she could race the thing.
  21. >"Horseapples... I should have had Applejack tie her up and throw her in a barn," she muttered to herself, shaking her head. "Oh, I hope she doesn't do anything stupid."
  22. >"Rainbow? I'm sure she's just having a bit of harmless fun," Rarity said, checking her makeup once again in a small portable mirror. "She knows how important this is. I imagine she simply wants to look at this "flying saucer" or whatever she's been calling it."
  23. >"For her sake I hope so," Twilight said with a frown. "I'd really like not to have another yak fiasco on my hooves, thank you very much."
  24. "You shan't, if I have anything to say about it," Rarity said, placing a hoof against her chest and tilting her head upward. "I promise you that this will go--"
  25. >A rainbow blur arched through the sky. A second or so later, Twilight could see a small black dot moving at an incredible speed towards them. Rarity must have seen it as well, since the unicorn stiffened, eyes widening.
  26. "Oh sweet Celestia, I don't know if I can do this, Twilight!" she whispered, ramrod stiff. "I'm no diplomat, I'm a lady for goodness sake! I don't want to be the one that accidentally starts a war with ALIENS!"
  27. >The mare began to hyperventilate. Twilight, who was a master at dealing with panic attacks, as she's had more than she could count, was quick to jump onto action. Grabbing her friend by the shoulders, she began to violently shake her. When that didn't seem to be working as she could have liked, Twilight added a few smacks to the face. Not hard enough to really hurt, but hopefully hard enough to knock some sense into her.
  28. >"You'll do fine, Rarity. You'll do fine, do you hear me? You've been getting ready for this for WEEKS. There's no need to panic. Do you hear me? There's. No. Need. To. Panic!"
  29. >She slapped the unicorn a few more times before letting the now frazzled mare go and stepping away. Twilight then looked back up toward the sky. The craft appeared like it would be landing in a minute or so. It also looked like Rainbow had had her fun, flying toward her home instead of flying after the aliens. Thank Celestia.
  30. >The twinkle of magic turned her attention back towards her friend. Rarity was fixing herself up as best as she could a comb, bottles of makeup and various powders floating around her head. In no time at all she looked like her usual, pristine self.
  31. "Thank you very much for that, Twilight," she said with a smile as all of her cosmetics disappeared with a flash of blue light. "I didn't mean to act like some frazzled stallion."
  32. >Twilight smiled back. "What are friends for?" she said. "Now get ready. It looks like they're about to land."
  33. >This craft wasn't like the mountain-sized vessels that had terrified ponies to their core when they had first seen them. It was a tiny thing in comparison with those behemoths, being only the size of a large house. It was a black color that seemed to drink in the light, decorated with ornate golden pictures and even the odd iron statue. It's "engines" were of a darkish silver, caked with soot and slightly discolored at the ends, no doubt due to the flames constantly streaming from them. As it grew closer, one could see more little imperfection. A chip of paint there, a patched wing, a spec of rust. All the ships that had come to Equestria had the same damage from traveling through the cold vacuum of space, though this machine seemed newer, sleeker, and more advanced, as if it had just recently been built.
  34. >On the door of this vessel, there was a particular icon, one which caught both of the mare's eyes. A double headed eagle with its wings open as if in flight. It also seemed quieter, the noise of the engines almost nonexistent compared to the deafening, smoke-belching, sky-blackening engines on most vessels that the mares had seen.
  35. >Both Twilight and Rarity stood there with baited breath as the craft floated toward the ground. There was a loud hiss, landing gear deploying as the vessel touched the ground. Shock absorbers caused it to bob and groan as it touched down, the grass behind the craft blackening as blue flames danced over it. What little noise the engines made ceased, as did the flames. Rarity cast a nervous glance over Twilight, who seemed unable to take her eyes off the vessel.
  36. >"Wonderful... so simple, but it can take them in and out of space as easily as we can take a balloon to Clouddsale... I wonder--"
  37. >Another loud hiss filled the air, making both mares jump. The side of the vessel opened, slowly lowering toward the ground. It revealed an inside of polished, metal, bits of machinery that neither mare could make heads or tails of, and a figure. It wore a long black robe that covered its legs and its hands, that double-faced eagle icon stitched into the chest. A green mask covered its head, with no opening for the eyes or mouth. Pouches of various sizes sat on it's belt, filled with all manner of things. This was the human that would be staying with Rarity for the next few weeks.
  38. >Two things floated beside the human; a pair of skulls with green and blue lenses for eyes and that same eagle icon stamped into their foreheads. Entrails of cables and wires hung out of the base of the skull. One was holding a massively thick scroll in a metal claw, a quill and the other and an ink pot sitting in a compartment drilled into the side of it. The other was holding what looked like a package, the weight of which seemed to give it difficulty staying in the air.
  39. >The human slowly walked down toward the mares, the floating skulls following closely behind him. If this even was a him; Rarity and Twilight couldn't exactly tell at that moment. He--or she--seemed to be in no hurry, head held high, back straight, every step careful and calculated. By the time the human's feet were on Equestrian soil, it was all Rarity could do not to tell him--or her-- to hurry it along. Theatrics was one thing, but they were burning daylight!
  40. >Twilight bowed as the human approached. Rarity was quick to follow her example. The human stopped a foot or so short of them, looking them over before bowing their head.
  41. >"Princess Twilight Sparkle, Mrs. Rarity. It is wonderful to meet you," they said.
  42. >If she had to guess, Rarity would have said that it was a male speaking, though she couldn't say with one hundred percent certainty. The human's accent was exotic, though not difficult to understand, and there was a strange, robotic twing to each word that it spoke. Not able to help herself, Rarity peeked up at them.
  43. >"My name is Anonymous. I'm the..." He-- a he; she was sure of it now-- paused, and while the unicorn couldn't properly see his face, she swore she could see his face scrunch up ever so slightly. "...Alogologist is the closest word in your language to describe me. I am the anthropologist to see and record what I can while I am here."
  44. >"The pleasure is all ours, Mr. Anonymous," Twilight said, smoothly lifting her head and settling into a more royal pose. "I trust that your trip was well?"
  45. >"As well as could be expected. There were some issues, but that is quite common while traveling halfway across the galaxy."
  46. "Pardon my manners, Mr. Anonymous, but I must say that you speak Equish very well," Rarity said with a smile.
  47. >"I agree, there are some humans in Canterlot that have been here for nearly a year that still struggle with the basics," Twilight added.
  48. >"Thank you very much for the kind words. I've always had a skill for languages. They give one something to focus on while traveling," the anthropologist said. "Even so, I must ask you to forgive any gaps in my knowledge."
  49. "Of course, dear," Rarity said.
  50. >The human finally stood up to his full height. He lifted an arm, revealing a normal human hand. He gestured toward the floating skulls, who lowered themselves toward the mares.
  51. >"I've brought you both gifts, to thank you for housing and overseeing me while I do my work."
  52. >The skull with the package floated in front of Rarity, offering it to her. Whatever it was appeared to be wrapped in thick butcher paper and tied with twine. Resisting the urge to take a step back, she took it with her magic.
  53. "Um, thank you," she told the skull, placing the surprisingly heavy thing onto her back.
  54. >"I was told that you were partial to fabrics, so brought some of the finest available," Anonymous said. "It's called Toroeum; also known as star silk. It's woven on mother Terra herself. I did not know which color you would have preferred, so I acquired a few yards of numerous colors."
  55. >Rarity stiffened. Yards and yards of alien fabric? A rare and no doubt extremely valuable one at that?
  56. >A low, happy noise escaped her throat as the human turned toward Twilight.
  57. >"Highness, I was told of your fascination for our technology, so have decided to gift you with one of my servators," he said, gesturing toward the skull that had just given Rarity her gift.
  58. >He said something in his strange language. The skull suddenly rose into the air, lenses flickering and adjusting and cables swaying. The color of its lenses changed from green to purple as it lowered, now hovering next to the alicorn.
  59. >"I've now reset it so that it sees you as its master. It's been programmed to understand and learn Equish, so you should have no trouble giving it orders. I've also taken the liberty of placing ten petabytes of data relating to the empire and humanity in general; again all translated as best as possible in the short time that I had to do so."
  60. >Twilight's joy was far less restrained than Rarity's. As soon as she processed the human's words, she began hopping around and bucking like a foal, a look of utter joy on her face.
  61. >"Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh! Thank you so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you--"
  62. "Twilight," Rarity hissed, before pinching the alicorn's rump with her magic. "TWILIGHT! FOR CELESTIA'S SAKE!"
  63. >Twilight froze mid buck. She looked at Rarity, then at Anonymous. A sheepish smile came to her face.
  64. >"I...Sorry... Sorry..."
  65. >Rarity resisted the urge to groan, covering her face with a hoof. "Harmony help me..."
  66.  
  67.  
  68. >The walk back to Ponyville proper took longer than it should have. Rarity didn't wish to hurry her... "guest", and while Mr. Anonymous did have long legs that seemed the standard of his kind, his pace was, to put it politely, slow. Twilight also didn't help matters.
  69. >"How much information is ten petabytes of data exactly, Mr. Skull?"
  70. >"TeN pEtaByTeS oF iNfOrMaTiOn Is RoUgHlY tEn TrIlLiOn PaGeS, oR eIgHt BiLlIoN vIdEoS oF vArIoUs LeNgThS."
  71. >Twilight let out a squeal, one of many since she had been introduced to what was no doubt her new favorite thing.
  72. >"You DO speak Enquish! It's a little rough, but I can understand you completely! And ten TRILLION pages?! I have libraries, LIBRARIES of information! Tell me you have books, and whatever a video is inside of you."
  73. >"sCaNnInG. tHiS uNiT hAs ThAt AnD sO mUcH mOrE."
  74. >"Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!"
  75. >Rarity rolled her eyes, looking up at the human as they walked. "I'm terribly sorry about that, Mr. Anonymous. The princess is usually much more composed than this, I promise you."
  76. "There is no need to apologize," the human said with a wave of his hand. "I am happy that my gift was met with such enthusiasm."
  77. >"Yes... so much so that we'll have to make sure somepony checks up on her for the next month to make sure she's been sleeping," Rarity murmured, looking back at the alicorn.
  78. >She shook her head, once again turning her attention toward the human. "Forgive me, but might I ask you a question?"
  79. The human looked over at her. "You may."
  80. >"You called yourself an... Alogologist was it? The term seems familiar, but you could go in depth on your profession, if you may?"
  81. "It is my duty to study alien beings and their cultures, to see if they might be a benefit or a detriment to the empire."
  82. >"Oh, and may I ask how a fine upstanding stal--er, man like yourself came into such a profession?"
  83. >As he was a being that couldn't produce a Cutiemark, Rarity was curious how his kind knew exactly what they were good at. She had the same curiosity with donkeys and gryphons and other such creatures, but being this was an alien the discovery MUST have been so much more, well, alien. Was it nothing more than trial or error? Were these creatures simply good at everything? Did they do something long enough that it was considered their talent?
  84. >Anonymous slowed to a near stop, looking straight ahead. For a moment, Rarity feared that she offended him in some way. She was about to apologize when he spoke.
  85. "I was given this position by my lord and his imperial house, as they saw some potential in me," he said. "That, and I have some... history with xenos. I had my reservations, but I think that I do my job well."
  86. >Rarity's ears perked up. "Imperial house? I suppose a job such as that would be important, but to be hoofpicked by the ones that rule your entire empire..."
  87. "My lord has great faith in me, which is why he appointed me as his representative in all manners pertaining to this planet, " The human cocked his head to the side. "That is an odd word in this language. Representative. I feel that there might be a better word to describe what I wish to convey. Hmm..."
  88. >Anonymous began walking again, mumbling to himself in both Equish and his language. The other skull, which had been writing away on its massive scroll since they had left the landing site of his ship, was quick to follow him. Rarity stayed rooted to the ground, staring at his back wide-eyed. She looked back at Twilight, who was still playing with her little toy.
  89. >"Twilight. TWILIGHT!" she hissed. "Get your FANNY OVER HERE. Did you know I would be housing such an important creature? He said he was the head of his field, that his position was overseen by their EMPEROR?! Twilight, for pity's sake, come here before I have a panic attack!"
  90.  
  91. ~_~_~_~_~_~
  92.  
  93. >Twilight, in fact, had no idea that such a VIP would be in their midst. She went on to further fray Rarity's nerves by saying that someone of the imperial house hadn't yet stepped foot on Equestrian soil. Some representatives had been sent, and Princess Celestia had even spoken with this mysterious emperor through some unknown means, but no one directly affiliated with him had turned up until now.
  94. >Most mares would have broken down right there, crumpled into a little ball or started to dry heave from the stress of just who was walking a few feet in front of them. If Twilight hadn't been so fast with a calming spell, Rarity would have been most mares. As it was, she did not have the luxury of emptying her stomach and passing out on the ground with dozens of ponies watching, so she did the best thing that she could think of: just not think about it.
  95. >If she didn't think about it, everything would be fine. She just needed to forget what Anonymous had said. He wasn't the most politically powerful being that she had ever met, he didn't have power and resources that she couldn't possibly begin to fathom. He was just a normal, everyday alien that wished to see the sights. That was it.
  96. >That plan went swimmingly, until Rarity took ten steps and Twilight had to blast her with another calming spell. Thankfully, Anonymous didn't seem to notice, taking in his surroundings as he walked. It took three more spells before Rarity realized that the human was just walking along by himself. Proper manners overtook sheer terror, and she trotted back to his side, leading him to her home. She couldn't knit together words for a conversation. Twilight stayed ten paces back from the two, her own panic and worry becoming evident. Thankfully, her boutique wasn't much farther.
  97. >"T-There it is, my humble abode," she said, forcing out each word.
  98. >The little skull floating next to the human looked at the home. It's eye lenses adjusted, shortening and elongating rapidly. After a minute or so of this, it began to beep. It was nonsense to Rarity, but she could have sworn that she heard a pattern in the noise. Anonymous hummed, making his way toward the door.
  99. >"Please, allow me," Rarity said, quickly trotting in front of him, not noticing one of his hands disappearing into his sleeve as she opened the door and motioned for him to step inside. "Do come and make yourself--"
  100. >"SURPRISE!"
  101. >A burst of confetti shot past the unicorn's head, perilously close to her ear. Rarity was quick to let out a shriek of panic, diving away from the door as two more shots flew out the door. She quickly picked herself up, ready to cuss out whoever had tried to give her a heart attack, when she saw them. There, looking as pleased as punch with themselves, small, thin tubes held in their little hooves, was Sweetie Belle, Applebloom, and Scootaloo.
  102. >"Geez Louise, look how big he is!" Scootaloo said, mouth open as she looked the shockingly calm human up and down.
  103. >"Ye. They must have feed ‘im a whole lotta oats when he was growin' up," Applebloom agreed.
  104. >"Hello Mr. Human!" Sweetie said with a wave. "We made you a welcome banner, and got you some cupcakes!"
  105. >The unicorn filly looked around. Frowning, she nudged Scootaloo, who quickly grabbed a rolled up bit of cloth; a picnic cloth by the looks of it. All three fillies helped unfurl it, revealing the words "Welcome to Our Planet" written with pencil, paint, crayon, and what must have been a pound of glitter.
  106. >"Sweetie Belle! What on earth are you doing here!" Rarity said, placing herself between Anonymous and the foals. "I thought mother and father took you with them to Appleoosa!"
  107. >"They were going to, but when I told them I wanted to see the alien they let me stay over Applebloom's until they got back from their trip!" Sweetie said with a happy hop, covering her nice, clean floors with glitter.
  108. >Rarity's mouth opened and closed. Her parents were always laissez faire with how they did... well, everything really, but she really was astounded with this level of thoughtlessness. She had told them how important this was, and here they went and brought together a force as destructive as any villain that she had fought. There was a REASON she wanted Sweetie as far away from Ponyville as possible for the next few weeks!
  109. >Before she could finally have that long overdue panic attack, Anonymous walked toward the crusaders. He seemed to examine each of them as his little skull companion floated close by.
  110. "Sweetie Belle, Applebloom, and Scootaloo. Known as the Cutiemark Crusaders," he said.
  111. >"That's right!" Scootaloo said, puffing her chest out.
  112. >"How'd ya know that, mister?" Applebloom said, eyes narrowing.
  113. "I have some knowledge of every individual in town for my own protection, even those that don't permanently live here," the human replied, gesturing toward Sweetie.
  114. >He bent down, extending a hand toward the girls' banner. They quickly got the message, handing it over to him. He shook much of the glitter onto the ground, before rolling the banner up and tying a note of cloth that he had gotten from one of his pouches around it.
  115. "Thank you very much for the warm welcome," he said. "Could you please take that inside? I'll partake in what you were kind enough to get me in a moment, okay?"
  116. >"Okay, mister!" Sweetie chirped. She took the banner out of his hands, and in a flash both her and the other fillies disappeared back into the kitchen.
  117. >Anonymous clicked his tongue. His skull friend quickly floated down, using one of its tubes to suck up all the glitter, leaving her floor once again spotless. Dusting himself off, he then made his way into the house.
  118. >"I, um, the..." Rarity babbled, mouth opening and closing.
  119. >Twilight quickly trotted over, placing a hoof on her friend's shoulder as she just sat on the dirt street, too overwhelmed at the moment to even care that her perfectly white coat would get dirty doing so.
  120. >Anonymous walked through what appeared to be a kitchen, toward the sound of the foals chattering amongst themselves. Both his hands were searching through his pockets and pouches, looking for something. His servator had put away its ink and quill and rolled up the scroll, the marvel of human technology running every scan that it's systems could, recording and documenting everything within the cellular level. As he made his way into a room with a couch and some seats, where the crusaders were now lounging, Sweetie Belle holding a plate of sweets, he finally found what he was looking for.
  121. >Sweetie, Scootaloo, and Applebloom stopped what sounded like an argument as he entered the room. They all grinned as Sweetie lifted her plate, her tail wagging.
  122. >"Here you go, mister! We just got them at the local bakery, so they're super duper fresh," she said.
  123. >"We didn't know what flavor you'd like, so we got all kinds," Scootaloo added.
  124. >Anon pulled out a small scanner. To any citizen of the empire, it wouldn't have looked terribly remarkable; maybe some sort of data slate or a vox speaker. None would guess that this was both a product of very ancient and cutting edge technology; a device created by his lord for one single but very important purpose.
  125. >He placed the scanner on the table closest to him, pulling off his gloves. The crusaders saw his bare hands, both of which were a pale milky color with just a tint of green. On each finger were rings of different colors, sizes, and shapes. He carefully picked up one of the cupcakes, and after his servator scanned and showed that there was nothing in the sweet that would harm him, he used his free hand to pull his mask up his face.
  126. >The crusaders were watching him intently, though something funny happened. As he lifted his mask over his chin, their vision went a little funny with little dots. Each filly began to rapidly blink them away, only for their vision to be unfocused. While each of them thought that this was really odd, thankfully it didn't last too long as Anonymous covered his face once again.
  127. "Thank you very much for the sweet. It was very good," he said, gesturing toward the plate. "Please, why don't you all help yourselves as well."
  128. >"But these are for you, mister!" Sweetie said.
  129. "I'd never be able to eat them all myself."
  130. >Applebloom bit her bottom lip. "Yer sure you wanna share?" she asked
  131. "I insist."
  132. >The girls looked at each other only for a moment before tearing into the cupcakes like a pack of wild animals. Scootaloo just grabbed two and shoved them right into her mouth, while Sweetie and Applebloom fought over a triple chocolate deluxe. As they talked and bickered, the human examined them, picking his scanner back up. He clicked his tongue, and his servator had the scroll, ink, and quill back out.
  133. >Sweetie paid him no mind as he scanned her, but Applebloom watched him curiously. "Whatcha doin'?" she asked
  134. "I'm just checking something," Anonymous replied, gently placing a hand where Sweetie's neck and body met. "Swallow for me. Please."
  135. >Sweetie did as he asked, then quickly stole the desired cupcake, something which Applebloom wasn't the least bit happy about. An argument broke out, allowing the human to examine the earth pony without much trouble as his servator scribbled away.
  136. "Nothing yet," he murmured to himself, checking the scanner's readings. "No sign of it.... None whatsoever..."
  137. >He turned toward Scootaloo, who had grabbed herself another pair of cupcakes. As he ran the scanner over her, making sure not to touch her with it, there was a telltale beep. This caused him to move the priceless piece of technology away. He looked at the numbers and words filling the scanners screen. It was the corruption, but unlike any he had seen.
  138. "Scootaloo?"
  139. >Scoots, who was just about to throw her cupcakes into her mouth, froze. "Yeah?"
  140. "Your wings. Are they a normal size for your age?"
  141. >All three crusaders flinched as Anon began to once again search through his pouches.
  142. >"I... no they're not," Scootaloo said, looking down at the ground. "They're small, but the doctor said maybe they'd start to grow once I got my cutiemark."
  143. >"They will!" Sweetie said, spitting crumbs everywhere.
  144. >"Yer darn tootin they will!" Applebloom added. "They'll be bigger ‘an Princess Celestia's!"
  145. Anonymous nodded, pulling a scrap of cloth with a seal out of one of his bags. "Scootaloo," he said, causing the filly to look up at him. "I would like you to hold onto this for a second."
  146. >He offered it to her. Scootaloo, putting down one of her cupcakes, took the thing and looked at it.
  147. >"Um, okay," she said, looking at the gold lettering on the piece of paper. She couldn't read what it said, but just looking at it filled her with a sense of calm. "What is it?
  148. "A piece of cloth," he replied, placing a hand on her back. "Tell me, does looking at the lettering cause any discomfort?"
  149. >The pegasus shook her head as he gave the space where neck and shoulder met a squeeze. He then moved his hand down to right above her wings, then moved it right below.
  150. >"No. They're actually really pretty," Scoots said as he raised a hand. "Mister, is it alright if I keep this?"
  151. "It was my intention that you keep it," he said.
  152. >His middle finger twitched, which caused a small needle to pop out of the ring sitting at the base of it, as long as his fingernail and half as thin as a hair. He brought his hand down on the space right between Scootaloo's wings. The filly didn't seem to notice as the needle pierced her skin, though her wings twitched.
  153. >"Ohhh! Can I get a piece of cloth too, Mr.?" Sweetie asked, trying to look at the cloth Scootaloo held.
  154. >Applebloom was trying to peek at her friend's gift as well. A shoving match broke out, the fillies trying to get the best view of the gift. Anon reached into his pockets, producing two more seals. He handed them to Sweetie and Applebloom, much to their delight.
  155. "These are for all of you, as thanks for the warm welcome," he said, also pulling out a small bag. "Applebloom. I need you to do something very important for me."
  156. >"Me?" Applebloom said, cocking her head to the side.
  157. "Yes. You. Take this and Scootaloo back to your farm. Very soon, your friend will become hungry; extremely so. Tell your grandmother to make a feast. Three times what you would usually cook if you had guests. Allow her to eat her fill, and make more if she asks for it. Let your sister know the contents of the bag are payment for any inconvenience that this might cause."
  158. >The human leaned close to the confused filly.
  159. "This is extremely important. I'm trusting you with this because I know you are a dependable mare. Can you do this for me?"
  160. >After a moment's hesitation, Applebloom puffed her chest out. "Ya can count on me, mister!" she said, stomping her hoof. "But... can I'ah ask why ya think Scoots will get so hungry?"
  161. "I have a feeling that Scootaloo is about to have a... growth spurt I believe it is called?"
  162. >Scootaloo perked up. "You think so?!" she asked excitedly.
  163. "Almost positive."
  164. >Sweetie frowned. "How would you know something like--"
  165. >"Who cares? It's probably just alien magic or something," Scoots said , butting her head against Applebloom's side. "Come on. Let's go back to the farm! Lets go, lets go, lets go!"
  166. >Under the filly's urging, both Sweetie and Applebloom were herded toward the door. Sweetie still looked confused and had the plate of cupcakes still on her back, as did Applebloom, but both allowed them to be escorted outside with a final wave. Anon watched them go, securing his scanner and putting his gloves back onto his hands. It was then a rather frazzled Rarity came into the room.
  167. >"I'm terribly sorry about that, dear. I just needed to have a chat with Twilight," she said, trying to fix her mane somewhat with a hoof. "I also must apologize for my sister and her friends. I swear that wasn't--"
  168. Anonymous lifted a hand. "There is no need to be sorry about anything. They were no trouble at all," he said. "In fact, they were quite educational."
  169. >Rarity blinked. "Oh... really? Well, fantastic then."
  170. The human nodded, walking over to her. "If you would be so kind as to take me to my quarters, I would like to get settled in. Tomorrow I will begin my examination and study."
  171. >"Of course," Rarity said, not noticing as dozens of small metal balls rolled themselves out of his pockets and pouches.
  172. >They rolled down his robe, making their way toward windows and doors. Some would stay in the home. Most would investigate the town, feeding more data into his servator for study later.
  173. >"Come this way," the unicorn continued with her best smile. "I've set up, in my humble opinion, a rather fetching room."
  174.  
  175.  
  176. >"Am I fine here, darling?"
  177. "Sit however and wherever makes you comfortable, Rarity."
  178. >Rarity leaned back onto her favorite sofa. Across from her, seated in a relaxed manner, with his little skull friend already writing away, was Anonymous. It was early in the morning, and the two had just finished a simple yet filling breakfast. In an hour, the unicorn would open her boutique and send a few letters to touch base with customers about their orders, but now she was to undergo an interview of sorts at the human's request.
  179. >A surprisingly good night's sleep had calmed Rarity's nerves considerably. She worked with and for all kinds of powerful ponies and nobles; Anonymous here was no different. If she didn't think too hard about the scope of his powers she would do fine. In fact, she was almost positive that she'd not only help him complete what he needed to do here he'd go back to his lord with nothing less than a glowing review. Then who knows? Perhaps she'd begin receiving orders from alien nobility!
  180. >The thought made her smile, though she did her best to adopt a more neutral expression. She pressed her back against her sofa, teasing a curl in her mane with a hoof.
  181. "I don't mean to take up much of your time. All I wish is to ask you a few questions about yourself," Anonymous said, placing his hands in his lap. "Nothing too personal, I promise. I humbly request that you answer them as truthfully as you can. Now, may I begin?"
  182. >"Of course," Rarity said with a nod.
  183. "Very well. May I get your full name. For the records."
  184. >"Absolutely. My name is Rarity."
  185. "Rarity. Nothing else? No..."
  186. >Through his mask, Rarity could see Anonymous's face scrunch up in thought.
  187. "I don't believe I know the term for it. A family name perhaps? Would you not be Rarity Belle instead of just Rarity?"
  188. >"I believe the word you're looking for is surname, dear," Rarity said. "And no, I don't have one. That is more of a gryphon distinction. We ponies are not as concerned with things such as clans."
  189. "Surname. Surnammmmmme," Anon said, scratching his chin. "A strange word. So the Belle in your sister's name is not her surname then?"
  190. >Rarity found herself frowning. "That would be my parent's doing. They're... eccentric you see. From what I was told, they had a flight of fancy along with some others that were becoming parents. Twilight will tell you the same about her parents, and I promise you'll speak with ponies in a similar situation. There is nothing significant about the Sparkle in Twilight Sparkle or Belle where my sister is concerned."
  191. "Hmm, that is interesting," Anon said with a nod. "Tell me, have you lived in Ponyville all your life?"
  192. >"No. I moved here in my early teens. I was born in a place called Wiscowsin. My mother is a milk salespony by profession you see. She goes where the milk unions need her, and as such we did quite a bit of traveling. We never stayed in one place too long; a year at most. When we did find ourselves in Ponyville I decided that I was thoroughly sick of traveling, much to my mother's disappointment. I believe she wished for me to take up the family profession."
  193. >Rarity snorted, showing the human just what she thought of that.
  194. >"I've lived in this lovely little village for over a decade I believe. Cities such as Canterlot and Manehatten are breathtaking in their own way, but I don't think I'll ever leave this place."
  195. "Interesting. May I ask your age?"
  196. >"Twenty-seven. I'll be Twenty-eight this winter."
  197. "What of your profession? You are a seamstress by trade, correct?"
  198. >"I would prefer fashionista, but that is the technical term, yes."
  199. "May I ask how long you've been a fashion... ista, as you call it."
  200. >Rarity smiled. "As long as I've been able to hold a needle. It is my profession, obsession, and the thing that gets me up in the morning. If I might be so bold, I would gladly make something for you. A more comfortable robe perhaps? Or at least a robe where the pockets and pouches don't look like they're going to fall off."
  201. Anonymous looked down at himself. "I have had this robe for a very long time," he admitted. "At the very least it could do with some patching, yes?"
  202. >What the unicorn really wanted to say clashed with manners as she looked at the ratty old robe that had all sorts of things sticking out of its pockets. Thankfully, manners won out in the end.
  203. >"Yes... something like that."
  204. The human nodded again. "Tell me, you said that you stayed here when you were in your teens. Is that a normal thing with your family units? Allowing teenagers to leave their parents?"
  205. >Their conversation continued for the next hour. Anonymous asked the mare all sorts of questions, some simple and straightforward while others were just downright odd. Again, it boggled her mind just how focused and eloquent this alien stallion was. There was no stallion that she knew that would be able to focus on something like this without struggling at least a little. She didn't need to dumb down her wording, or try to keep him on task. There were some things that he had her explain, words he didn't understand, or he had her say a phrase two or three times, but it was honestly a breath of fresh air. The unicorn was almost disappointed when the human suddenly stood.
  206. "I thank you very much for your time, Rarity," he said, bowing his head. "You've helped me much more than you know. I apologize, but I fear that I must ask you for another favor."
  207. >"I'm happy to help in any way that I can," Rarity replied, puffing her chest out.
  208. "I would like to take a stroll around town to see how you ponies live. If I am able, I would also like to speak with any that would talk with me."
  209. >"Say no more, darling. I'd be happy to show you around," the unicorn said with a wave of her hoof. "Just give me a few moments to freshen up."
  210.  
  211. ~_~_~_~_~_~
  212.  
  213. >Today a heavy thunderstorm had been scheduled, as was usual at the end of the month. Because of this, there was an urgency in the movements of most ponies walking around town. The storm was scheduled for after lunch, but one could never tell with Rainbow and her weather crew. It drove most nuts, and more than once Rainbow and some of the other pegasi had been issued formal complaints from town hall itself, but there wasn't much anypony could do but curse Cloudsdale's almighty union.
  214. >Rarity made her way through the marketplace, going slow as to let her guest take in the sights. She was sure a few simple stalls and shops weren't as grand as what he was usually used to, but even so she hoped he saw the rustic charm in it. Ponyville was one of the few villages that bartered for wares, a fact which the town took pride in and drove outside merchants up the wall.
  215. The unicorn looked over her shoulder at the human, who was carefully looking around. "I do not see many stallions," he said. "Are they not allowed here?"
  216. >"Most are working at the moment," Rarity replied. "A rain was scheduled today, so many are out in the fields."
  217. "So they can come here?"
  218. >"Oh, absolutely. Though, if I'm being frank, a stallion really shouldn't be allowed to come to the marketplace by himself, especially if it's his intent to purchase something."
  219. "May I ask why?"
  220. >"A number of reasons," Rarity said with a sigh. "Most have difficulty bartering properly. The poor dears try their best, but most are rather... simple. The shopkeepers in town usually wouldn't take advantage, but some nasty outsiders have robbed stallions blind."
  221. "Simple you say?" Anonymous said, stopping to scratch his chin.
  222. >Rarity stopped, patiently waiting as he looked around at each stall. He stuffed a hand into his pocket, turning on his heel and making his way toward Bonbon's stall. Rarity was quick to follow him.
  223. >Bonbon, who was chatting with her stall neighbor Carrot Top, perked up as they approached. "Good morning!" she said with a smile. "The mayor said that you'd be coming soon. It's nice to see that you got here alright. My name is Bonbon."
  224. "You may call me Anonymous," Anon said, bowing her head. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Bonbon."
  225. >Carrot Top, every the nebby mare, piped up. "An' I'm Carrot, sugar. Pleasure ta meet one of them aliens."
  226. >Anon bowed his head at her as well while Bonbon, giving the mare a dirty look, cleared her throat. "Since you walked over to my humble little stall, is there something that I can help you with? Maybe a free sample? I just made some chocolate fudge this morning that I think you'll really like."
  227. >She lifted a block of fudge from underneath the counter, looking up at him expectantly. The human was silent, head cocked to the side as if in thought.
  228. "I would like to buy some of the..."
  229. >"Fudge."
  230. "Yes. I would like to buy this fud-ge."
  231. >The earth pony pulled out a knife, cutting a small chunk out of her block of fudge. "Here, at least have some before you go and start buying," Bonbon said with a laugh, offering it to him. "I insist."
  232. >Anonymous took the presented fudge. He reached out, taking it from the mare's hoof. Lifting it up, he examined the piece of chocolate in the sunlight. Nodding to himself, he snapped the piece in half, offering a chunk to Rarity.
  233. >"Oh, thank you very much, dear," the unicorn said with a smile, taking it out of his hands with her magic and levitating it toward her mouth.
  234. >The human, meanwhile, lifted his mask up. Bonbon and Carrot Top blinked as stars exploded across their vision. Blinking them away, they saw that Anon's mask was once again covering his face as he chewed on the treat.
  235. >"Well, what do you think?" Bonbon asked, leaning over her counter, still smiling. "I added just a bit of orange to the recipe. I think it really gives a kick to the chocolate."
  236. >"It is quite good," Rarity said, looking up toward the human.
  237. "I have tasted something very similar, though it was a fruit that was cooked over an open fire," he said.
  238. >Carrot Top whistled. "Ya hear that, Bonnie? They got fancy fudge trees up in space."
  239. >Bonbon said, nothing, still looking up at the human. "Does that mean you like it?"
  240. Anonymous looked down at her. "That depends on how much it would cost for the entire block."
  241. >The smile left Bonbon's face. Her eyes narrowed, and her nostrils flared.
  242. >What happened afterward might have been the most intense back and forth haggling that Rarity had ever seen in her life. Bonbon was all fire and fury, loudly arguing and slamming her counter. Anonymous, meanwhile, was a glacier, never raising his voice, never becoming animated. The earth pony, while hardline and aggressive in getting the best possible price for her wares, wasn't usually so willing to put a would-be customer through the paces like this.
  243. >Rarity had a feeling that the mare simply wanted to test her mettle against a real life alien, or maybe Lyra had done something to upset her, and she was taking it out on the poor human. Would this have been a stallion, Anonymous would have gotten frustrated, quickly caving to whatever price Bonbon asked or have thrown a tantrum, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.
  244. >The back and forth went from the price of oranges and cocoa beans to the quality of work to manners and the upbringing of both parties. At points, the haggling turned into an outright argument. Bonbon went so far as to say that their guest's mother was a no good donkey when he insisted the chocolate was only worth eight bits, and that might have been one of the nicer things she said at points.
  245. >Even as out of hoof as the haggling became, it never reached a tipping point where Bonbon refused to sell to the human. The longer the dialogue went on, the more Rarity felt that this was intentional on Anonymous's part. He brought the mare right to the brink of exploding, then brought her down almost to a point where she was smiling in victory, only to bring her to the brink with a few words. He did this again and again, slowly but surely overwhelming her until, with a huff, she gave him her final price. Eleven bits for what must have been three pounds of chocolate.
  246. >This was an absolute steal. Rarity could see it, Carrot could see it, as well as Bonbon, who seemed to spit out each word, ears folded back against her skull as she glared at him. The earth pony was breathing heavily, a thin sheen of sweat coating her fur as the human reached into one of his pouches, pulling out a small brown sack. He counted out each bit slowly; his victory lap. Bonbon, though she didn't look very happy, quickly bagged the fudge up, practically throwing it at him.
  247. >"Are you sure you're a stallion?" she demanded. "I've never met a colt that could haggle like that."
  248. "I am a male, yes," Anon replied, putting the fudge into one of his pockets. "Thank you for humoring me."
  249. >"Yeah, well, I was just going easy on you."
  250. >Carrot Top snorted. "Don't you be lyin', hon. That colt just robbed you blind!" she said, laughing.
  251. >"Shut up," Bonbon hissed. "And he's an alien, not some stallion. Keep your mouth shut, for Celestia's sake. I won't hear the end of it if other ponies find out!"
  252. >"Find out what? That some colt outsmarted ya?"
  253. >"Shutyourmouth!"
  254. >Anon once again pulled out his pouch of bits, untying the top and upending the bag's contents onto the counter. Both mares stopped their bickering, looking at the sizable amount of bits, then at him.
  255. "There is no need to be upset, Mrs.. You did very well. Our back and forth was... stimulating? Yes, I believe that's the word. Stimulating. Accept these bits for your time."
  256. >"Oh, sweetie, I can't do that," Bonbon said, shaking her head. "You earned that fudge fair and--"
  257. "Take them. I insist," the human interrupted. "Or give them to Mrs. Carrot Top if you prefer. I promise you that I have so much more of your currency that I was instructed to spend."
  258. >Bonbon looked over at Carrot Top, who smiled at her. That smile quickly disappeared as the earth pony quickly slapped a hoof onto her counter, blocking sight of the bits.
  259. "If you did have time I would like to ask you both some questions however," Anon continued, placing his now empty bit bag into his pocket.
  260. >"Sure!" Carrot chriped.
  261. >Bonbon, placing all the bits underneath her counter, nodding. "I have no problem with that, but you might have to move if anypony wants to buy something."
  262. "Thank you very much. Now, Rarity told me that stallions are discouraged from coming into the market by themselves with the intent to purchase items. Do you both feel that this is a correct statement?"
  263. >"Yeah, usually. There's a couple colts with a good head on their shoulders," Bonbon said. "If you ever go to Sugarcube Corner, there's a colt named Mr. Cake there that's one of them--his wife lets him run the counter for their store and he does a pretty good job-- but generally things like this are done by the mares."
  264. "So, most of the stallions in town you wouldn't trust shopping for themselves?"
  265. >Carrot chuckled. "I'd trust colts around here to plow a field or pull a cart, sug'," she said. "Most aren't good at the whole thinkin' business. They think too much they get all frustrated and liable to break somethin'."
  266. "I see, and is that the case for stallions in general?"
  267. >Bonbon and Carrot exchanged glances, both shrugging.
  268. >"Pretty much."
  269. >"You'll see a colt or two with some brains. I hear there's one in Canterlot teachin' at that fancy magic school, but most colts ain't all that sharp."
  270. >Rarity, clearing her throat, stood beside the human, who was looking up at his little floating skull, which was frantically writing.
  271. >"That's how it's always been, dear," she said. "Stallions are workers, the ones with the strength and energy to feed and look after the family. Us mares, meanwhile, do well..."
  272. >"Everything else," Bonbon said, resting her hooves against the counter with a smile.
  273. >"We tell the colts what to grow and when to plow, where to build a house, keep ‘em from hurtin' themselves, and keep 'em focused on what they gotta do. If we weren't there, some colts might not even farm; they'd just walk around eatin' grass without a care in the world. There'd be no Equestria, no towns, no governments, an' so many other things that we'd be here all darn day if'n I kept listin' them off to you," Carrot said. "We ain't as strong as most colts, we can't plow fields for as long or drag logs from one side of town to another without breaking a sweat, but we got the brains. We keep things runnin', an' we do a pretty good job."
  274. >"We are the shepherds of the flock; the building where the stallions are the sturdy foundation. As said holy Faust," Bonbon said, touching a hoof to her forehead, then to her chin.
  275. >Carrot made the same motion not a second afterwards. Rarity, who wasn't really the religious sort, didn't partake. Anonymous, meanwhile, seemed to tense slightly.
  276. >"Nonsensical superstition," he said quietly, tone turning sour.
  277. >"What was that, dear?" Rarity asked.
  278. The human turned toward her. "Nothing you need to worry about at this moment," he replied. "So, from what I'm being led to assume is that the females of your species are the ones that run things then?"
  279. >All three mares nodded.
  280. "I see. Would any of you happen to know if there ever were male rulers in your history?"
  281. >"There was that Discord fella. I think he was a king or something," Carrot said, scratching her head.
  282. >"There was a King Sombra in the Crystal empire as well," Rarity said.
  283. "And these kings, were they considered good and just rulers?"
  284. >"Not even a little," Bonbon said. "That weirdo Discord is still around, but when that Sombra fella ruled he was a real nasty piece of work."
  285. >"Very evil," Rarity added. "Fond of slaves and dark magic. Myself as well as my friends were forced to help stop him recently."
  286. "Slaves?" Anonymous said, a hand closing into a fist. "Then he was very evil indeed..."
  287. >He took a deep breath, slowly exhaling. He did this a few more times before once again opening his hand.
  288. >"I heard Discord wasn't much better back in the day, though he seems to have calmed down. A real weirdo that one."
  289. >"At Least Fluttershy keeps an eye on time. What good that actually does, since the second she looks away he's up in his elbows in mischief."
  290. "I see. Ladies, it was wonderful speaking with you," Anon said, bowing his head at Bonbon and Carrot. "Thank you for the fudge, as well as your help. I will not take up any more of your time."
  291. >"Aw, we were more ‘an happy to help, sug'," Carrot said. "Ain't that right, Bonnie?"
  292. >Bonbon gave the earth pony another dirty look before smiling up at the human. "If you need anything, have questions, need directions, or just want to talk to myself or anypony working in the market would be more than happy to help."
  293. >"Just do Bonnie a favor an' don't be askin' for fudge again," Carrot said, immediately ducking as Bonbon threw a piece of taffy at her, which had both Carrot and Rarity laughing.
  294. "Thank you for the kind words. I will need to take you up on that, as I have many more questions, but not today. Again, thank you for your help. Rarity, if you don't have any objections, we may depart."
  295. >"Of course, dear," Rarity said, giving both mares a wave goodbye as the human began walking down the road. "Is there anywhere specific you'd like me to take you?"
  296. "Not at the moment. If you had any... I do not exactly know the word. Duties, but not as important? Something that you do around your home or something that you do regularly?"
  297. >Rarity's muzzle scrunched up in thought as the two walked. Behind them, Carrot could be heard heckling Bonbon, who sounded less than pleased with the mare.
  298. >"Chores might be the word you're looking for," she said. "And, if it isn't much trouble, I DO have some letters that need to be sent. If it isn't too much trouble..."
  299. "Not at all. Please, lead the way."
  300.  
  301.  
  302. >At day, Ponyville seemed to be a hive of activity. There was not a shop, home, or street that wasn't filled with sound or life. Night, however, was a much different story. Every house was dark. The streets were silent and still. This was the norm for the small village, as creatures of the Everfree sometimes stalked into the town looking for unsuspecting prey, meaning that it wouldn't be safe until Celestia's sun rose above the mountaintops in a few hours.
  303. >Worries of beasts lurking in the darkness held no sway on Anonymous as he walked the streets. He knew there was nothing truly terrifying in the dark; things that were dangerous and strange possibly, but never terrifying. This little town was dark and silent now, it would be a simple matter to correct this. Just a few street lamps could drive the creatures away and make travel in the darkness as safe as in the daylight.
  304. >It was wonderful what a light could do, be it a physical light or the light of upliftment. Anonymous had been to many worlds, seen many things. Places where fire had just been invented right next to worlds that had been traveling the stars for years beyond counting. Even the most advanced could fear the dark just as these ponies did. It was why his lord's work was so important. They would be the light for this dark, fearful galaxy. Humanity would stand proud as beacons of thought and might; the greatest race headed by the greatest human had ever and will ever exist.
  305. >The human stopped for a moment to look up at the sky. The moon hung heavy in the sky, casting its soft glow on all that he could see. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the crisp night air.
  306. >His servator was processing information sent by his underlings from all over this kingdom, as it had every day since he had landed his ship on this planet. Just like him, they were poking, prodding, testing these creatures, and all two hundred Algologists had reported the same strangeness in these ponies.
  307. >They did not use the warp, and while the corruption could be found in them, as he had discovered with the filly Scootaloo, it did not react to them as it would a human. It did not horribly mutate, or break minds. One of his subordinates had brought a pony onto one of their ships, and had them stare into the warp itself for an hour. Such a thing should have annihilated an unprotected, untrained mind, but the pony had received no negative effects. In the extremely rare cases where a pony was bathed in pure warp energy, as what could have happened with the blue royal, they could be brought back very easily.
  308. >It made no sense whatsoever. Many called it an impossibility; perhaps a trick by some malevolent intelligence to halt their grand crusade. His lord hadn't agreed, which was why he was here. The alien could never be truly trusted, but they could be used.
  309. >Privately, Anonymous felt as if his lord had some alternative reason to treat these creatures so gently. In some of the most ancient records on Terra, creatures such as these ponies were described in detail. His lord might have had some familiarity with these ponies. They could have even been a product of humanity, lost during the Dark Age. Whatever the reason truly didn't matter. He was here at his lord's bidding to study these creatures and report what he found to his lord, nothing more, nothing less. >"Well, hello there!"
  310. >Anonymous paused midstep. Turning his head, he saw a creature floating some twenty odd feet away from him. Such a thing should have been impossible; he should have detected this creature two hundred yards away. His servator pinged a warning to him, his small but impressive array of weaponry snapping to the ready.
  311. >There was no need to scan the thing, nor did he need to examine the warning his servator sent. Just from a glance he could tell what it was. An antithesis of logic and reason; a creature of the warp. Repulsion filled him as he looked the creature over. He quickly pulled off one of his gloves, his thumb touching the ring attached to his pointer finger.
  312. >The creature bowed in what seemed to be a mocking gesture. "I'll have to take your silence as awe," it said. "Not that I can blame you; many are blown away by my magnificent self. Discord, spirit of chaos at your--"
  313. >Anonymous steeled his mind, weighing his options. He could no doubt send this vile thing back to where it had come from himself, though there would be much damage caused as a result. His thumb moved away from his ring, and he looked up at the sky.
  314. "Cyrus, I have need of you," he said.
  315. >It paused. "What was that?" it said, pulling off its ear and wiping it against its chest. "Forgive me, I don't think I heard you."
  316. >The creature floated toward him. Anonymous took a few steps back, studying the creature. From the few beings of chaos that he had witnessed, this one seemed almost sentient. These were the most dangerous, so much so that they tainted the space around them where they moved. None of that seemed to happen however, even as he continued to retreat from the thing.
  317. >There was a frown on its face now. "You know, it's considered very rude to ignore somepony when they're speaking with you," it said. "I came all the way from the realm of chaos to say hello and you wouldn't even give me the time of day! I've met many creatures without manners, but you really take the cake!"
  318. >It let out a "humph!" a cake appearing in front of it as Anonymous received another ping. He looked up into the sky.
  319. "Silence. I have nothing to say to you," he said. "You are a foul thing. The darkness that my lord wishes to chase from this galaxy. You do not belong in this or any world, being of chaos."
  320. >The creature's muzzle scrunched up. "Well, I've heard a lot worse, but that still isn't very nice," it said. "And what was this about a lord? Are you talking about that golden fuddy duddy that you humans seem so enamored with? You know, I hear from the chaotic grapevine that the man isn't very pleasant to be around; especially when he doesn't have a need for you anymore."
  321. >Anonymous didn't bother to rise to the bait. This was simply a tactic used by these creatures, to confuse, beguile, and corrupt. He did not care for any alien he met, but he hated these things so much more; these things that played with lives and turned men into less than animals.
  322. >He was pinged yet again, this time in a code. He stopped his retread, which prompted the creature called Discord to halt as well.
  323. >"Are you done being a grumpy gus?" the creature asked, examining its misshapen claws. "I'm not going to hurt you, you know. I'm not that sort of chaotic entity. Not anymore at least."
  324. "You will not be given an opportunity to hurt me, or anyone else, creature. Cyrus, do your duty."
  325. >"Who in the name of me is--"
  326. >Teleportation was usually a thunderous, grandiose thing. A blinding rain of golden light hitting the ground, making a sound mightier than an artillery strike. All near it would most certainly lose their footing, if not by the impact then by those racing out of the light.
  327. >That was not the case here.
  328. >The Machine Gods' followers were able to make teleporters far more efficient than most on an imperial vessel. Their noise was quieter than a firecracker, and the light they would produce was softer than a candle's glow. Acquisition of such technology was costly and difficult, as the cult was difficult and tight-lipped when it came to anything so cutting edge. Aboard his personal craft, The Grim Tallyman, Anonymous had one such device; no doubt more efficient than even the cult could produce, as his lord had modified the device himself years ago.
  329. >The malevolent entity didn't seem to notice as a hulking figure clad in golden armor suddenly appeared twenty yards behind him. The giant seemed to glow in the dim light, the red plum jutting out of their helmet, swaying in the wind. In their hand they held a great spear, it's tip crackling with power.
  330. >The creature's ears perked up, and it began to look over its shoulder. Too late. Far too late.
  331. >One of his lord's companions, this great Custodes, disappeared in a blur. To see an Astartes moving at full tilt was an utterly terrifying experience for a mere mortal; with this golden giant there wasn't even an opportunity to fear. The eye refused to follow a being so swift. Anonymous did not see them close the distance, nor did he see the Custodes strike. The thing was whole one moment, the next it had been cut into a hundred pieces with the giant standing in front of him, weapon at the ready.
  332. >Discord, his pieces floating in the air, simply frowned. "Well I never! Fine then, I can take a hint. I know when I'm not wanted. I didn't even want to say hello anyway. I just wanted to be neighborly, and I see that it was a waste" He huffed, his bits forming into a set of hands and hips. He put the hands on the hips, bits quickly forming back into one piece. "I'm sending a letter. I don't know to whom, but I promise you it'll be very strongly worded! You mark my words young man!"
  333. >With that, the entity disappeared in a flash of pink smoke, burning a black ring into the ground. A flash of light engulfed the Custodes. Anon jumped back, servator flying in front of him to protect its master, but there was no need. The Custodes seemed completely fine, though their armor was no longer a radiant gold. It was now a shining silver, with the plum being a gnawish, sickly yellow.
  334. "Cyrus, are you injured?" the human asked.
  335. >Slowly, the giant settled into a parade rest. "I feel no different, lord," they said, voice strange and robotic like; a trademark for his kind.
  336. >Anonymous quickly pulled out his scanner. Rushing over to the Custodes, he waved it over the giant. Physical injuries were not his concern at that moment. Thankfully, with a quick scan, it appeared that no lingering corruption affected the giant. It appeared as if all the creature had done was change the color of their armor.
  337. >It did not make sense. He knew that it was a creature of the warp, he had seen similar creatures on his travels. It was supposed to be a thing of rot and corruption; it could not build, it could not create, only steal and mock. The thing should have attacked his body or mind, it should have retaliated against the Custodes once it was attacked, but it hadn't done either of those things. There had been no death or destruction, things which warpspawn seemed to revel in. It was as if such thoughts didn't even enter its mind.
  338. >Was this some trick, or did it have something to do with these ponies?
  339. >Anonymous stepped away from the giant. "Thank you for your help, Cyrus. Give me a moment and I shall return you to the ship."
  340. The Custodes said nothing. A mortal guard might have protested, insisting that they stay, but Anon knew if the companion wished to stay there would have been nothing to stop him. The human quietly wondered if they were just as puzzled about the entity. No doubt the giant would run his own tests on body and mind to see if corruption had crept into his soul.
  341. >Bowing his head, Anon walked around the Custodes, making his way to the other end of the market. He pinged his ship, ordering them to teleport the giant back. A ping was returned shortly afterward.
  342. >As he walked, he once again touched a thumb to one of his rings. A liquid metal sprung from the ring, forming into a pistol. He held tightly onto his weapon, keeping a wary eye out. The warp-thing did not return. There were no raving lunatics attempting to ambush him, as was often the case where these creatures were concerned. Even so, he kept his servator on high alert, ordering it to attack with non-lethal rounds, then lethal rounds as they left the small village.
  343. >A pack of wooden creatures were subsequently destroyed, a ruckus no doubt heard, but Anonymous was taking no chances. It was only when, as he came upon his landing vessel, still where he had left it all those days ago, did he relax somewhat. Not totally, as this would be the exact moment a foe could and should attack him, but somewhat.
  344. >He pressed a button on his pistol. It once again turned into liquid metal, settling back into the shape of a small ring. Straightening his robes, the human took a step forward. The red light of scanners settled on him, weapons snapping to attention. He stood perfectly still, waiting for the scanner to do its work. There was a ping of welcome, the vessel's weapons lowered, and the landing bay door lowered itself toward him.
  345. >Pinging his servator to stay on standby, he made his way up the black metallic steps. Another series of scans began as soon as he was inside the landing craft, identifying him.
  346. >"My lord?" A voice called, sweeter than honey.
  347. "I am here, Is'tele," Anonymous replied, searching through his pockets until he found the fudge that he had bought this morning.
  348. >He made his way across the vessel, where a tent of fine cloth had been set up, hiding the person behind them. It was a habit, bordering on tradition, to bring a little something for one of the most important people in his retinue, their relationship cultivated over nearly two hundred years. Walking over, he passed the fudge through a section of the cloth. After a few seconds, it was taken.
  349. "It's a treat that I bought this morning from the xenos," he said. "It's a sweet; made with real chocolate, I believe."
  350. >A squeal of delight could be heard. For the untrained, the sound would have brought a man to his knees with rapture.
  351. >"My most heartfelt thanks, my lord," Is'tele said, her voice muffled as she chewed. No doubt she didn't even bother to break off a piece of the fudge, rather stuffing as much into her mouth as she could. "How goes the study?"
  352. "These creatures are... strange," he said. "There is so much more data to collect before I could even think of bringing anything to our lord."
  353. >Lips smacked together, there was an audible swallow, which was followed by a throaty groan. "Oh... its been so long since I've had REAL sugar..."
  354. Anonymous just shook his head. " I am glad that you enjoy the gift. Tell me, have you been having trouble here?"
  355. >"None whatsoever, my lord," came the reply. "I've done as you asked, coordinating the fleet above the planet. Nothing will enter the system without us knowing."
  356. "Very good," Anon said. "I do not want the same sort of trouble that we experienced on Xiort-89. Is' tele, within a week I may need your assistance in testing something."
  357. >"Of course my lord. Might I ask what sort of test I will be participating in?"
  358. "I cannot confirm it yet, but these ponies are not resistant to the taint. It can still affect them, but not as it should. It's as if these creatures change it's very nature." Anonymous took a deep breath. "I would like to see if they can change it for us as well."
  359.  
  360.  
  361. >There were few things that Rarity loved more than good fabrics. As a seamstress, she would always go out of her way to explore the markets of any new place she visited, hoping to find something rare and exotic.
  362. >On a trip to Las Pegasus, she had found wool from a rare alpaca breed that lived on a specific mountain range far to the east. A trip to southern Equestria had produced cloth that was made from the silk of giant spiders. She even had a few yards of leather that she had gotten from Yakyakistan, made from some arctic beast, just in case it was needed for something.
  363. >The unicorn almost considered herself a collector, able to boast hundreds of different fabrics. Something for every and any situation. She thought she had seen it all in all of her years of collecting, but the gift that Anonymous had given her was something special.
  364. >This Toroeum, as he called it, was light and breathable, stretchable to the extreme, and so durable that none of her scissors or magic could cut through it. When she had brought that up to the human, she was given a pair of scissors, along with some new needles. She had tested both, and was positive that they could cut through and pierce an inch of steel without any effort on her part. Along with the gifts, Anonymous had told her that the fabric had been created with combat in mind, even able to adapt to whatever environment it was in as if it were a living thing. He even insisted that if it were torn it could repair itself in a limited capacity.
  365. >The material itself was beautiful, gleaming even in the moonlight as if it were made of the finest diamonds, but that beauty along with its practicality made her head spin. She could make anything with it. Yes, she could make most things with any fabric that she had, but with this she could fit a royal guard in a garment that might protect him better than a suit of armor! Dresses, protective clothing for the common pony, even undergarments and socks; with this Toroeum the fashion world could be her oyster.The only thing that she lamented was that she had so little of it.
  366. >She was careful and methodical with any piece of the stuff she experimented on. A pair of socks were made, along with a lovely pair of underwear. The unicorn desperately wished to make a dress out of it, but she hadn't quite worked up the courage to use so much of the rare material. Maybe once she drew up the perfect design.
  367. >Anonymous, for his part, seemed unimpressed by the wonder material. When she had asked him why his robes weren't made out of it, he said he preferred wool. Humans had used wool since time immemorial, he had said, Toroeum was also a rare and expensive luxury item even to the rich of the empire, useful if one wished to show he was better than his peers, something which didn't interest her guest whatsoever.
  368. >This was somewhat of a relief for the unicorn. It meant that his tastes weren't so incredibly decadent any sort of clothing she made for him would be tossed out; and she would be making something for him. It would need to be a robe, such as the one he always wore. Form-fitting, durable as possible, simple yet stylish, with plenty of pockets.
  369. >It wouldn't be a dress that would set a fashion show ablaze, but Rarity was determined that it would be her finest work yet. By the Celestial sisters, she'd make something that the human could wear for the next thousand years!
  370. >"If you would, please raise your arm a little higher, dear."
  371. >Anonymous had been rather easy to convince when she had asked to take his measurements. He had been kind enough to set aside some time for her, even thanking her! As if clothing an alien was a kindness on her part and not an opportunity any fashionista worth her cutiemark would kill for.
  372. >It took the better part of half an hour for the human to fully set himself out of his robes, carefully setting everything he had in his pockets out onto a provided desk before he could do so. By the time those pockets were empty, her desk and some of the floor around it was covered in little knick-knacks. As she watched him, baffled so much could be set on the man's slender frame without him buckling, she made a note to reinforce every pocket she made for him.
  373. >When he was finally stripped bare, just a simple cloth covering hiding his privates and the mask covering his face, Rarity was able to fully gaze upon his form. Thankfully he wasn't too strange; rather close in figure to a minotaur. His body was mostly hairless, his skin pale with a greenish hue. There were bits of metal jutting from parts of his flesh, two in each of his forearms, one in the center of his chest, and two on each of his sides. On his shoulder was the twin-headed eagle.
  374. >Anonymous seemed to have no issue with her gawking, patiently waiting until she had gotten her fill and retrieved her extra large measuring tape. He was quiet throughout the measuring, obeying her commands whenever without question.
  375. >"Wonderful, wonderful," Rarity said, writing down measurements on the notepad she had floating next to her head. "Thank you ever so much for this opportunity, darling. It will take a few days of brainstorming, but I shall have something whipped up that I hope will be to your liking. Now, do you have any requests for this robe of yours?"
  376. "As I'm sure you've noticed, I require many pockets."
  377. >"I could tell, dear."
  378. The human nodded, walking over to retrieve his robe, which he had draped over a chair. "Much more important, leave the robe bare."
  379. >Rarity blinked. "Bare?"
  380. Anonymous tapped the eagle on his robes. "Under absolutely no circumstances are you to create this signal yourself. This is the imperial symbol; few have the honor of wearing it and even fewer can create it by my lord's leave. I will have it added later by the appropriate parties."
  381. >"Of course. I understand completely," Rarity said, touching a hoof to her chest.
  382. >In all honesty, she really didn't understand. She knew that there were some nobles out there that were fussy when he came to their livery, but one needed the emperor of the human's express permission to make his? It sounded a bit silly, but nevertheless she would honor Anon's wishes. The customer was always right after all.
  383. The human pulled his robes back on. "Thank you," he said, tilting his head toward her before he went over to his knick-knacks and began stashing them away once more.
  384. >"Now, with that whole business out of the way, was there anything else you needed MY help with today, dear?" Rarity asked, floating her notepad onto a work table.
  385. "I would like to see if I could interview a stallion today, or at least set up a meeting with one," the human replied, pulling on his gloves.
  386. >Rarity let out a hum. "I suppose we could go to Sugarcube Corner and speak with Mr. Cake if you would be so inclined."
  387. "I would prefer a stallion that wasn't him," Anon said, shaking his head. "Those shopkeepers said that he was an outlier when it came to your males. I need to speak with a standard, average male pony."
  388. >The unicorn frowned. That would be a little more difficult, but nowhere near impossible. In fact, after a few moments of thinking it over, she knew just the mare to speak to.
  389. >"In that case, it might behoove us if we went to Sweet Apple Acres sometime after lunch," she said. "I'm sure Applejack would be happy to lend you one of her workers for an hour or so."
  390. "Excellent."
  391. >"Oh, also, might I be so bold as to ask you something, Anonymous?"
  392. The human stopped what he was doing, looking over his shoulder at her. "You may," he said.
  393. >Rarity bit her lip. "Would you allow me to make you a new mask as well as a robe?" she asked. "I did not wish to ask, but--"
  394. Anon raised a hand, silencing her. "I appreciate the thought, but no," he said, shaking his head. "This mask of mine cannot leave my person. Think of it as a second skin, not a piece of cloth."
  395. >That answer only served to give the unicorn many more questions, but she resisted asking them, if only just. She nodded her head, chewing on her bottom lip.
  396. >"In that case, why don't I fix us up a nice lunch before going to the farm? I don't know about you, but I've worked up quite the appetite."
  397.  
  398. ~_~_~_~_~_~_~
  399.  
  400. "Tell me about these Apples. What kind of ponies are they?
  401. >Rarity looked up at Anonymous. The two had just finished their meal, and were making their way toward their destination. Ponies seemed to perk up as the human passed them. In particular, those that ran stalls were quick to call out to him as they walked through the market. Anon inclined his head to any that would call, but made no move toward them, which was just as well because if he did Rarity didn't doubt that they wouldn't leave the market until the sun had set.
  402. >"Applejack and her family have been in Ponyville since its founding," she said. "In fact, Granny Smith's mother was the one that gave this village it's name."
  403. >Rarity left out exactly WHY it was named Ponyville, as the long deceased matriarch had proclaimed that this place was built by pony hooves and would suffer no other creatures, a fact which was a story that Granny Smith herself was happy to tell to any that asked, much to the dismay of most townsponies. She could only pray that the aging mare wouldn't say anything to the human.
  404. >"They are a bit old fashioned, and sometimes they have... interesting ways to solve problems, but you won't find a family of harder working, honest ponies," the unicorn continued. "You met Applebloom the other day, but there's also Applejack, the mare who will take over the farm when Granny eventually retires, her brother Big Mackintosh, also known as Big Mac, and Big Mac's wife Sugar Belle."
  405. "They are apple farmers, yes?"
  406. >"Oh yes. Their farm supplies almost all of the apples from here to Manehattan, and from what Applejack's told me she wishes to continue to expand her farm. If I know the mare, and I believe I do, in a few years' time half the apples the nation eats will be coming from her orchards."
  407. >Anonymous asked her a few more questions as she led him down a familiar dirt road, one that she had traveled many times. Eventually, the familiar archway welcoming any passing through it came into view. As the wind turned, the smell of apples began to fill the air, and soon row upon row of trees could be seen. Rarity knew that this part of the orchard had already been picked clean, but it was still a sight to behold.
  408. >"Easy there sport! Easy! I don't want you hurting yourself!"
  409. >"WHOOOOO! Look at me Rainbow!"
  410. >A flash of orange zipped over the apple trees. Anonymous paused, looking up at his little skull friend. It let out a series of beeps, and he immediately began walking once again. Rarity, meanwhile, was trying to get a good look at the blur. After some looking, she was able to see Rainbow Dash hovering in the air. When the orange blur slowed down enough so she could get a good look at the flyer, she was floored. It was Scootaloo, soaring through the sky as if she were born up in the clouds.
  411. "Rarity, please keep up. I do not wish to become lost," Anonymous called over his shoulder.
  412. >Picking her jaw off the floor, Rarity trotted after the human, desperately hoping that the two pegasi would land as she had MANY questions.
  413. >Scootaloo continued flying through the trees, obvious to the two as they walked. Rainbow would call out to her to be careful, though the pegasus made no move to stop her. Rarity could see that Rainbow was grinning ear to ear as she watched her, nearly in tears.
  414. >She knew how much Scootaloo's disability affected her friend. The Wonderbolt was like an adoptive sister, and she wanted the filly to be just like her. That was supposed to be impossible however; a dozen doctors had said that Scootaloo would never be able to fly because of her wings. No therapy, hard work, or magic would fix her, as all three had been tried time and again, yet here was a miracle unfolding right in front of her very eyes.
  415. >As she led the human toward the farm, barely able to take her eyes off the happily flying filly, farmhands could be seen milling about. Some were mares, mostly Applejack's cousins that oversaw the day to day, but most were stallions. Again, many of them were of the Apple clan, but with them were many colts from town as well. She could see Caramel helping Loco Motion tilling one of the fields.
  416. >The field bosses—as the mares like to be called—kept things well looked after. They made sure the stallions stayed focused on their task and didn't wander off. Rarity could also see one of them taking ladles full of water to the workers. It was important, especially when the days were hot, to make sure the stallions were properly hydrated, as they could easily get so swept up on their work that they'd faint from overheating.
  417. >At this time of day, Applejack could have been absolutely anywhere on her farm, though today it looked as if Rarity had gotten very lucky. As she lead Anonymous toward the main barn on the property, she could see her friend overseeing baskets of apples being brought in.
  418. >"Yoo-hoo! Applejack dear!" she called with a wave.
  419. >She watched as Applejack turned toward her. The earth pony immediately smiled and said something to the two stallions carrying in the baskets before trotting over.
  420. >"Howdy there, Rarity. You here ta help?" Applejack teased, then turned her attention toward the human. "You must be that representative Twi talked about. Nice ta meetcha, partner. The name's Applejack, if'n Rarity hadn't told ya that already."
  421. >She offered Anon a hoof. He looked at it for a second before slowly, bumping his fist against it.
  422. "Well met, Applejack. You may call me, Anonymous. You have a lovely farm."
  423. >"Ha! Ya hear that, Rarity? An honest ta goodness alien likes muh farm!" Applejack said, taking off her stenson and slapping it across her leg. "Now I've heard everythin'. Thank ya kindly, Mr. Anonymous. I think it's a lovely farm too."
  424. >"Whoooooooo!"
  425. >Rarity looked up to see Scootaloo flying above the clouds. She turned toward Applejack, who raised an eyebrow.
  426. >"Ya shoulda seen it the other day, Rare. Scoots comes to the house an' eats enough for ten ponies. I had ta go out an' get more grub. Granny was beside herself." She looked over at Anonymous. "My sister gave me a big ol' bag of bits. She said somethin' about you payin' for all that there food."
  427. "I hope I gave you enough."
  428. >"Ya darn near gave me enough to buy a brand new plow. Rare, remind me to take this fella to the house; I still got his bits on the counter."
  429. "You won't accept my money?" the human asked.
  430. >"I sure as sugar won't," Applejack said, shaking her head. "I don't know what the hay ya did to that lil' filly, but she can use ‘er wings now, and it looks like she can use ‘em real good. That's worth a heck of a lot more an' some food."
  431. >"Anonymous, darling, you had a hoof in that?" Rarity asked, motioning toward Scootaloo.
  432. "Yes," the human replied. "While I was examining your sister and her friends I discovered an... illness in Scootaloo. I took steps to correct it, and it seems to have worked."
  433. >Applejack took off her hat. "Partner, I don't care if'n you an' yours are brain eatin' weirdos like some folks keep insisting. Yer a mighty good feller, an' I'd buck anypony that says otherwise right in the face."
  434. >The human said nothing, simply looking up at the orange pegasus. He lifted a hand, making some strange symbols with his fingers. His skull friend let out some beeps, rolling up its scroll and handing it to him. Anon took it, reaching into his pockets to produce another scroll, which he handed it to the thing. It beeped a few more times before unrolling the scroll and starting to write once again.
  435. >"That's a mighty strange thing," Applejack said.
  436. "That is a Servator. It's called many more things in my language, but that's the closest term I could come up with in yours," Anonymous said, putting the scroll into a pocket. "May I ask you to humor me for a moment?"
  437. >"'Course," Applejack said with a smile.
  438. >He pulled out a small black box, waving it over the earth pony. He looked at a small green screen, nodded, then put it back into his pocket.
  439. >Applejack didn't seem too interested in what the human had done. Rarity, on the other hoof, was extremely interested. She was about to ask when a set of wings sent a wave of air at her with such force that it nearly knocked her over.
  440. >"Mr. Anon!" Scootaloo shouted, awkwardly landing a few feet from them and striking a pose. "Look! LOOK! My wings!"
  441. >As if to prove her point, she flexed her wings, giving them a hard flap. The flap caused a gust of wind, sending up a cloud of dirt. This sent the excited filly to go into a coughing fix.
  442. >Rainbow, landing beside her, flapped a wing as she rolled her eyes, sending the cloud away. "Easy there sport."
  443. >Scoots blushed, looking down at the ground. "Oops. Sorry..."
  444. Anon walked over, getting down onto one knee to examine her. "Very strange," he murmured to himself. "A simple drop of soulless blood has such a drastic effect..."
  445. >He placed his hands on either side of her neck.
  446. "Cough," he commanded.
  447. >Scootaloo did so, only slightly embarrassed as he poked and prodded her. The other mares looked on. In most cases, a strange stallion examining a foal could be cause for some concern. Most colts around here were sweethearts, but it wasn't unknown for a stallion to hurt filly and colt alike, especially when estrus came around. Even so, mostly due to the fact that he had a hand in helping the young mare, they let the alien do as he liked.
  448. >He asked some odd questions. Had Scoots had any strange nightmares lately? Had she been hearing voices when she was alone? Has food tasted strange? Has her urine or bowel movements been discolored or particularly foul smelling. These caused some alarm amongst the mares. They all exchanged glances, and Rarity made a mental note to ask Anonymous about them. She didn't know if it was something BAD per se, but at the very least she wanted to know what in Celestia's name he meant when he was talking about soulless blood!
  449. >By the end of Anon's interrogation, Scootaloo was more red than orange as Anon finally rose back to his feet.
  450. >"It appears that your wings will continue to grow," he said. "Not much more, but they might grow by half. I would recommend that you cease flying until they've stopped."
  451. >"But--!"
  452. "Keep eating as well," he said, cutting her off as he nudged her side with a boot. "This sort of growth can be dangerous, especially when you aren't eating to keep up with it."
  453. >As if to prove his point, Scoot's stomach let out a loud growl.
  454. >Rainbow, with a chuckle, draped a wing over the filly. "I was just about to take her to get some hay burgers," she said. "Don't worry big guy, she won't starve when I'm around."
  455. "She'll eat double what you do," the human replied. "She'll be hungry by the time you take her home no doubt, so order double again."
  456. >"Hear that Scoots? I should put your orange butt in an eating contest!" Rainbow said, nuzzling the filly. "Come on. Hey Applejack, thanks a bunch for letting us use the orchard."
  457. >"Ain't no problem," Applejack said, tipping her hat at her. "Ya'll can come around anytime you'd like."
  458. >Rainbow grinned, looking back toward the human. "You have season tickets for the Wonderbolts coming your way as soon as I can get them," she said. "Thanks... for whatever you did for the little squirt here."
  459. >With a wink, the pegasus herded Scootaloo away, leaving. Rarity watched them go, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief she had gotten from somewhere. Applejack, seeing this, rolled her eyes.
  460. >"Will ya quit with the waterworks? I swear yer worse than Fluttershy sometimes," she said, shaking her head. She looked over at the human, clearing her throat. "Now, as I was askin' 'fore all that, what can I help ya'll with?"
  461.  
  462.  
  463. >After some deliberation, Applejack went off, leaving Rarity and Anonymous. A few minutes later, she returned with a stallion. Rarity had seen him working on the farm for many years; a second or third cousin that went by the name Appleseed. He was nearly the size of Big Mac, with a chestnut coat and a pair of deep green eyes. Very dependable, but somewhat clumsy if the gossip around town was true.
  464. >Applejack had asked the human to sit, as standing, while standing might not outright send the stallion running, someone so much bigger than him might put him on edge. Anon had done as he was told. He had also sent his little skull friend away, now holding a notebook and pen himself.
  465. >The apple farmer had brought the colt to around thirty feet away from Anon. She let him look at the human and sniff the air a bit, the whole while quietly talking to him. Rarity knew you couldn't just throw a stallion into a new situation. Doing that would always end poorly for everyone involved. They needed to be coaxed, gently, calmly, with patience in mind.
  466. >Over the next few minutes, Appleseed made his way toward the human, taking a few steps then stopping, then taking a few more steps, and so on, the whole both of his ears trained on him. Applejack was right behind him while Rarity stood next to Anonymous to show that he meant no harm. The stallion eventually stopped a few feet from him, to Anon's side so he wasn't directly facing him.
  467. >"Mrs. Applejack said you wanted to talk with me," he said, giving his head a nervous toss.
  468. "I do, if that's alright with you," Anon said, bowing his head.
  469. >Appleseed looked over at Applejack, who made an encouraging gesture. The stallion pawed at the dirt, before taking a few more steps forward.
  470. >"I've never talked to an alien before," he said. "What could you want with somepony like me?"
  471. "Just to ask you a few questions. I wish to learn more about you stallions."
  472. >"Oh. Okay," Appleseed said, a small smile coming to his face.
  473. "May I ask your name?"
  474. >"It's Appleseed, mister. A pleasure to meetcha."
  475. "The pleasure is mine, Appleseed. I've been told that you stallions are very important on farms like this."
  476. >"Course we are!" Appleseed said, his chest puffing out in pride. "Ain't nopony better with a plow or harvestin' than a stallion."
  477. "Tell me, do you enjoy your work?"
  478. >"I do," Appleseed said with a bob of the head. "I don't like diggin' out rocks or pullin' tree stumps all that much, but I really, really like plantin' new apple trees." He pointed to his cutiemark, a small sprout that was about to bud. "It's my callin', meaning I'm pretty good at it."
  479. Anon nodded, scribbling into his notebook. "Appleseed, can you read and write?"
  480. >"I know my letters and numbers alright. I ain't one of those scholarly mare types, but I can scratch my name pretty good."
  481. "Have you ever desired to improve in those fields?"
  482. >Appleseed stared blankly at the human for several seconds before looking at Applejack.
  483. >"He meant have ya'll ever wanted to read an' write better, sugar," she said.
  484. >"Oh! Well, not really, no," the stallion said with a shake of his head. "I ain't one for book learning. Working in these here fields and looking after some little ones is more than enough."
  485. "Do you have children, Appleseed?"
  486. >"Not yet, but Celestia willin' I'll find the right mare someday."
  487. "If you do have children and one of them was a stallion like yourself, would you want him to get into "book learning" as you call it?"
  488. >The colt just blinked. "What for?"
  489. The human just stared at the stallion before slowly nodding. "Forgive me. Forget I asked the question."
  490. >The next ten minutes or so continued much like this. Anonymous asked the stallion many questions, more than a few needing to be dumbed down by Applejack. It was clear that the human wanted to really grill the colt, but soon Appleseed began to get disinterested, eyeing the fields and inching his way toward them. Eventually, Applejack excused him, allowing the stallion to trot happily away.
  491. >"Ya get whatcha needed?" Applejack asked.
  492. "I had thought those mares in the marketplace were exaggerating, Rarity," he said, looking over toward the unicorn. "It does not appear that way. The stallion was obviously less intelligent; almost beastial."
  493. >"Appleseed is sorta a few apples sort of a bushel, but he's one o' the smarter ones on the farm," Applejack said. "He don't need ta be all that bright doin' what he does; just like most stallions."
  494. >"Stallions are also known to be more in touch with their... baser instincts," Rarity said. "It's why they're so much happier doing things like this, letting us mares do all the work behind the scenes."
  495. Anon stood up, dusting himself off. "Very interesting..."
  496. >"Ya mind if I went an' asked ya a question, partner?" Applejack asked.
  497. "You may," came the reply.
  498. >The farmer's eyes narrowed slightly. "What was with all them strange questions you were askin' Scoots? Could your alien magic you used to cure ‘er end up hurtin' ‘er?"
  499. >"I believe I also heard something about soulless blood," Rarity added. "Could you please explain that as well."
  500. >Anon was silent for nearly a minute. Neither mare could see his face, but it appeared as if he were thinking their request over.
  501. "There are a very rare type of being in the universe. Out of uncountable trillions of humans, there might be less than a million of them by best estimate. So rare that I doubt one has been born amongst your kind ever. They go by many names; the official term for them is blanks. They are beings without a soul."
  502. >Rarity and Applejack looked at each other, alarmed.
  503. >"...Why in Equestria's name did you give Scootaloo the blood of one of these creatures?" Rarity asked.
  504. "A blank has some very particular properties. One is that they are usually reviled, as any with a soul will find their very presence disgusting on an instinctual level. Most civilizations would go out of their way to... do away with. My lord recognizes that while they may be hated by many, they can also do things that most can't; what a drop of one's blood did to the filly for example."
  505. >"But why the hay would somepony else's blood do somethin' like that? Applejack said. "I don't care if'n it's alien blood. It seems mighty strange."
  506. "The answer to that question would also explain your other questions," Anon replied. "But those I cannot answer."
  507. >The farmer's eyes narrowed. "An' why not?"
  508. The human looked around before leaning down. "There are things in this galaxy that are beyond imagination," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. "Some of these beings see us as nothing more than play things to do as they wish. They are so dangerous that if I were to tell you of their nature this entire planet might succumb to things too terrible for words."
  509. >He stood back up, allowing both mares to process this information. Applejack was the first to recover.
  510. >"I hate ta say yer makin' a mountain out of a mole hill, sugar, but we see our share of villains ‘round these parts pretty often," she said.
  511. Anon turned toward her. "I promise you, they are an entirely different beast, but I fear I might have already said too much. Rarity?"
  512. >Rarity perked up. "Yes dear?"
  513. "If it's not too much trouble, I would like to return to your home." He snapped his fingers, and his skull friend flew back into sight. "There is much I need to document and record. Applejack, thank you very much for your time."
  514. >"Happy ta help," Applejack said, tipping her hat. "Ya seem like an alright fella. I hope fer yer sake that you ain't pulling our tails with all that strangeness ya'll were talkin' about."
  515. >The human paused, cocking his head to the side. He stood there, quietly, his robes swaying as a breeze began to blow.
  516. "In a few days I would like you both to meet someone," he said. "If you have the time, Applejack."
  517. >"I might be able ta find a minute somewhere. Who ya want me ta meet?"
  518. "Someone very important to me that suffers like Scootaloo did," he replied. "Though worse so. I would like to see how you both react in her presence."
  519. >"I would be delighted, darling," Rarity said. "Though, may I ask, if she's in a similar state as Scootaloo was, why don't you cure her as well?"
  520. "That is an extremely complicated question," Anon said carefully. "I'm beginning to believe the ability to help my companion and many people in the empire is on this planet, and why my lord has sent me here."
  521.  
  522. ~_~_~_~_~_~
  523.  
  524. >The walk back into town was a quiet and thoughtful one. While Rarity was pretty sure her guest wasn't actually some horrible necromancer that wanted to take over the country she decided that she would speak with Twilight about what had occurred. At worst, Twilight speaks with the other princesses and they decide whether something needs to be done, and at best her friend might be able to talk the human into helping other ponies.
  525. >She looked up at Anonymous. "I think I'll order us pizza for dinner today."
  526. "Piz-za?"
  527. >"It's bread, tomato sauce and cheese. I would call it a fast food; something a family might buy when they don't want to cook. It's greasy, and bad for you, meaning it's delicious. I believe you'll enjoy it."
  528. >Anon nodded, turning his attention back toward the road in front of him. His shoulders slumped ever so slightly. If one wasn't looking carefully, they wouldn't have noticed, but Rarity was and she did.
  529. >"A bit for your thoughts, dear?"
  530. >The human paused midstep, looking off into the distance. His little skull friend began beeping in a rhythmic code. Anon's head cocked to the side as he listened.
  531. "It seems as if the princess finally discovered some communication systems on her servator," he said as he once again began to walk. "Rarity, it seems as if Twilight wishes to speak with me. I know she lives in a rather unique castle, but I would very much appreciate it if you were to escort me."
  532.  
  533.  
  534. >A very anxious Twilight was waiting outside of her castle. Her own little skull friend floated right next to her, its cables swaying as it hovered back and forth. The alicorn was pacing, ears folded against the sides of her head as she muttered to herself.
  535. >Rarity bit her bottom lip as she and Anonymous made their way toward the mare. It had been months since she had seen Twilight so worked up; not long after these humans had appeared, in fact. She could only hope that it was nothing too serious. As they drew closer, Twilight’s ears perked up, and she looked over at the pair. A moment later, she was all but galloping toward them, her skull friend right behind her. She had to dig her hooves into the dirt to keep from colliding with the human.
  536. >“Anonymous, there’s been a… situation,” she said, fidgeting. “I just received a letter from Princess Luna, and since you’re the one overseeing all the humans on this planet I thought you deserved to know.”
  537. “What is the situation, your highness?” Anon asked, before raising a hand. “Wait. Before you answer, why don’t we speak somewhere more private?”
  538. >Looking around, Twilight nodded. “Of course. Please, follow me.”
  539. >Twilight led Anon toward her castle. Rarity, very interested in learning what happened, followed. Sure, it was a teensy bit inappropriate to follow along, especially if it had something to do with diplomatic matters, but the unicorn figured if they wanted her to leave they’d ask her. Thankfully, neither Twilight or Anon dismissed her. Anon even held the front door open for her while Twilight led them all to her small office.
  540. >It was a cramped and dusty little space. Twilight almost never used it, as the alicorn preferred to work in her library. Nopony came by this part of the castle that often, and even if they did the walls, ceiling, and floor were enchanted with so many sound-proofing spells that you could fire off a cannon in here and no one would hear, making it the perfect place to discuss delicate manners.
  541. >“Last night, a human named Marcus Corvas went missing in downtown Canterlot,” Twilight said. “It seems like his escort wasn’t paying attention, and somepony coltnapped him. There shouldn’t be anything to worry about, as Princess Luna assured me that she has the entirety of the royal guard combing through the city--”
  542. “Marcus is not in Canterlot. He was taken by a gang of… gryphons I believe they’re called?”
  543. >For what felt like an eternity, one could have heard a pin drop in the room. Twilight just stared wide-eyed at Anon as she stared calmly back. Rarity could see the gears in the mare’s head trying their hardest to turn.
  544. >“I… pardon?”
  545. “Marcus is an acolyte of mine; I made sure to send such people to some of the more important cities in Equestria, as I wanted experts, not fools in this operation,” Anon said. “He reported his kidnapping to me sometime after one in the morning.”
  546. >He waved a hand at his little floating skull. One of it’s red lenses lit up, sending a cascade of light toward the floor. The light twisted and distorted until a picture could be seen. There was a human in robes, tied up. Not too far away were a group of rough looking gryphons around a campfire.
  547. >“—Who the hay do you even talk to about a coltnapping?”
  548. >“You’re supposed to send a letter!”
  549. >“No you’re supposed to throw a rock through a window like in the movies.”
  550. >“What? That doesn’t make any sense, you dummy. What movies are you even watching?”
  551. >“Shut up! I was just trying to make a suggestion!”
  552. >“Don’t tell me what to do!”
  553. >“Don’t tell ME what to do!”
  554. >The human could be seen sighing as the group of hens began cawing at each other with puffed out chests. Eventually he looked over, perking up.
  555. >“My lord,” he said, bowing his head. “I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.”
  556. “Are you well, Marcus?” Anon asked as Twilight trotted around the moving image, a mixture of delight and confusion on her face. “Do you need a team sent to fetch you? I could have a ship to your location within the hour.”
  557. >“There’s no need to go through such efforts, my lord,” Marcus said. “I’m just bound by hemp, and these creatures don’t seem to be overly malicious—”
  558. >“SAY ONE MORE THING ABOUT MY FEATHERS, YOU DIRTY DYKE!”
  559. >“—I fear that they might be more of a threat to each other than to me if I may be so frank. I will do as we discussed this morning and study these gryphons for a day or so before calling a ship and returning to the capital.”
  560. “Very good, Marcus,” Anon said with a nod. “Keep me updated if the situation changes.”
  561. >“Of course my lord.”
  562. >The light dimmed, then blinked out. The floating skull beeped, settling itself near the human’s shoulder.
  563. “If you could, please send word to Canterlot that there is nothing to worry about,” Anon said. “And please, send them my sincerest apologies. I had meant to send word this morning, but it must have slipped my mind.”
  564. >Twilight plopped her rump right onto the ground, relief washing over her features. “Oh. Okay. Very good. I’ll make sure to do that.”
  565. >“Are you certain that that young stallion will be okay?” Rarity asked. “If you know where he is, perhaps a unit of royal guards could go and collect him?”
  566. “There is no need. He is more than capable of taking care of himself, especially since the gryphons didn’t even bother to strip him of any of his belongings. At the moment, he has enough munitions on his person to take care of his captors and then some. This is nothing more than an irritation for me, and an adventure for the young man.”
  567. >Rarity looked over at Twilight, whose relief was slowly beginning to morph into something else. >“Anonymous? Are there more humans armed like that stallion was?”
  568. “Yes. Every Alogologist currently on the planet has something to adequately defend themselves.”
  569. >“You as well?”
  570. “Myself as well.”
  571. >Twilight opened her mouth, then closed it. “That is… a little disconcerting, if I’m being very frank.”
  572. “How so?” Anonymous asked.
  573. >“For a few reasons actually. One, what would happen if one of you loses a weapon and somepony comes upon it? I don’t want a foal blowing up a building with some disintegrating ray!”
  574. “Disintegrating rays are actually extremely rare in the empire,” Anonymous replied without skipping a beat. “A very old and specialized weapon. I myself have only seen them a few times, but I understand your concern. Any weapons I or my underlings carry have been purposefully concealed and made difficult to activate. Even if you would find a weapon or ours, it wouldn’t look like a weapon upon inspection, nor would you be able to fire or use them.”
  575. >“But why bring weapons here in the first place?”
  576. “The galaxy is a dangerous place, and our profession makes it more so.”
  577. >Anon made his way over to a chair, taking a seat. Rarity trotted over and took the one next to him. Eyebrows furrowed, Twilight walked behind her desk and took a seat in her large, comfortable looking office chair.
  578. “I’ve been to planets where xenos have tried to blow my ship out of the sky the second I’m in orbit. Creatures have tried to eat me, capture me, invade my mind, or just rip me apart for their sick amusement. I do not bring weapons to threaten; I simply see them as tools that can be used if the need arises. Unfortunately, you might meet others of my race that have different views, but none working under me will harm any pony or other creature unless no other option is given.”
  579. >Twilight took a deep breath, sinking into her chair. “I apologize, Anon. It’s just… colts usually aren’t given weapons, and while I know you aren’t a stallion, even so the idea of it makes me uneasy.”
  580. “There is nothing to apologize for, your highness.”
  581. >“You just said that we might meet other humans,” Rarity piped up. “Are you referring to your emperor?”
  582. “Perhaps, as he seems to have a special interest in your ponies, though I very much doubt it,” the human replied. “My lord is an extremely busy man. Everyday he must oversee his legions, planets being returned to the empire, balancing politics from a thousand solar systems. If this world is going to be brought into the fold, you might have ships come to acquire supplies. Some Terran noble might make an appearance and bother you for a few years. At most we might see to it that some of the planets in this system become terraformed for your kind and perhaps ours.”
  583. >A notepad and quill was in front of Twilight in a flash. The mare had a look in her eyes that Rarity didn’t particularly care for.
  584. >“Is that sort of thing common? Making planets livable, just like that?”
  585. “It is… difficult, but it can be done. I am not exactly familiar with the process, as it was very recently rediscovered; my lord has expressed interest in beginning to seed desolate planets for future colonization.”
  586. >The princess let out an excited squeal, wiggling in her seat. “Just think about that, Rarity. Only one pony has ever left the planet for an extended period of time safely, and here humans are making planets habitable for life! Ponies living on other planets in our solar system that shouldn’t be able to house life whatsoever!”
  587. “You have three planets in system that are suitable,” Anon said. “There’s also a rather large asteroid belt not far away that some members of the mechanicum are interested in. If nothing else, they might set up a shipping yard.”
  588. >Rarity couldn’t help but smile at Twilight’s enthusiasm. “Goodness, I hope you treat everypony as nicely,” she said.
  589. “It very much depends,” the human replied. “Which is why myself and my underlings are here. Each time a new xenos race is found we are usually brought in to examine if they are suitable to be brought into the fold.”
  590. >“Usually? Not always?” Rarity asked.
  591. Anon nodded. “Sometimes a race is so violent and savage that they don’t bother. There are other times a planet is found where an alien race has human slaves, or we find a planet where humans had lived on and were wiped out.”
  592. >Twilight shivered. “That sounds horrible…”
  593. “There is far worse than that, but those instances are the most common I’ve found when visiting planets with alien life. Very few races treat us as equals, which is very much to their detriment whenever one of my order appears.”
  594. >Rarity frowned. “Anon, dear, if it isn’t too much trouble, could you tell us exactly what happens if you find a, um, alien race that’s done these horrible things?”
  595. “In most cases a fleet will be called in and troops will be dropped to begin total extermination.”
  596. >The relaxed, calm demeanors of both mares vanished. They looked at each other in alarm, then at the human.
  597. >“...Extermination?” Twilight whispered.
  598. “Yes, extermination. If the planet is habitable to humans efforts are taken to keep damage to a minimum, though if xenos resistance is fierce sometimes there is no helping it and extreme steps are taken,” Anon said. “Once a planet is cleansed a population is left behind to begin rebuilding.”
  599. >“You kill entire SPECIES?” Rarity asked, horrified. “Just come in and destroy them? Mares, stallions, foals?”
  600. “If they or their ancestors harmed humanity in any way, yes.”
  601. >“The foals as well? When they didn’t do anything?”
  602. “Even them. None can be left alive when an exterminatus is called.”
  603. >“Exterminatus? You have a TERM for something like that?! That’s… I don’t…” Rarity began, only to taper off.
  604. >The unicorn was a peace-loving mare of nature, as were most ponies. Just the thought of an entire race of thinking, feeling critters being killed made her stomach do flips. A quick glance over to a slightly green Twilight told her that she wasn’t the only one being affected by something so horrible.
  605. “There are things that have done far worse,” Anon said. ”My lord does not explicitly wish to exterminate and kill. He takes no pleasure in such things, even if some of those that lead his forces might. His work, this empire that grows day by day. It is a shining beacon in this heartless galaxy.”
  606. >The human brushed a hand across his mask.
  607. “Darkness, corruption of the body or mind, or anything that would wish to diminish our light and progress deserve nothing less than total annihilation.”
  608. >Twilight swallowed. She placed her notepad down, pushing it away as if recording what she had just heard no longer held any appeal.
  609. >“...Thank you for the explanation, Anonymous,” she said, bowing her head.
  610. Anonymous bowed his head in return. “I was happy to help.”
  611.  
  612. ~_~_~_~_~_~
  613.  
  614. >All manners and decorum went right out the window. Rarity had all but pushed the human out of Twilight’s office, saying that she needed to speak with her friend about pony things. It was a terrible excuse, but Anonymous didn’t seem interested in pressing her any further. The unicorn barely heard what he said before walking out of the room and going to Celestia knows where.
  615. >The office door was closed, then locked. Rarity forced herself to sit back down, breathing through her nose and out of her mouth to keep from having a panic attack.
  616. >Extermination. Killing whole species. Then saying it as if one were reading off their grocery list.
  617. >Rarity had seen a lot of things since becoming an Element of Harmony. Dozens of creatures trying to take over the world or some other such thing. Many had been crazy, and some were downright evil, but she couldn’t remember any of them wanting to destroy the planet. Even Nightmare Moon had wanted to rule and not kill everypony.
  618. >There, however, was a whole race--an advanced, massive race--that had killed races and planets. She didn’t know if that sort of terrible thing was rarely done or happened all the time, but they did it.
  619. >Twilight suddenly stood up from her chair. “Sparkle Jr. Call Princess Luna please,” she said, looking over at her little skull friend.
  620. >Were she not shell shocked, Rarity would have teased the mare on the silly name, but as it was she just sat there, watching as the skull hung motionless for several seconds. One of its eye lenses flickered, producing a beam of light as Anonymous’s skull friend had done. Within seconds, Princess Luna could be seen in the ray of light.
  621. >“Twilight? Is that Rarity I see as well?” she said, a smile coming to her face. “It’s wonderful to hear from you. These fancy gizmos are delightful, are they not?”
  622. >Her smile slowly left her face as she looked at Twilight, then at Rarity.
  623. >“Has something happened? You both look as if you’ve seen a specter.”
  624. >Licking dry lips, Twilight took a step forward and began to speak. She told her fellow princess everything that Anon had said, as well as her thoughts on the matter. Luna stayed silent the whole time, only nodding her head every so often. When Twilight was finished speaking, she turned to Rarity and asked her to put in her two cents. The unicorn mostly parroted what her friend had just said, eying the door as if she expected to Anonymous’ silhouette through the tinted glass on the top of the door. He wasn’t there of course, but she couldn’t help but feel as if they were being watched.
  625. >“What do you think we should do, Luna?” Twilight asked. “I’m trying to think of something, but I still can’t fully wrap my head around what Anon told us.
  626. >Luna said nothing for a good long while. Through the moving picture, Rarity could see the princess deep in thought.
  627. >“I will be quite frank with you, Twilight, Rarity, I had a very similar conversation with the representative that is stationed in Canterlot. Like you, I was overwhelmed and concerned, and spoke with my sister about it. Celestia then brought in some officials to hear their views. We discussed long into the night and early into the morning, for almost two days, wherein we came to the same conclusion.”
  628. >The Princess of the Night sighed.
  629. >“What could Equestria honestly do if these humans wished to harm us? Fight? How would we do such a thing when they can attack us from the safety of their ships? Do we banish them from the kingdom and refuse to negotiate whatsoever? If we do that they might go to the Gryphons or, harmony forbid, the Changelings, or worse, they simply take what they wish and ignore our views on the matter entirely.”
  630. >“But isn’t there SOMETHING we can do?” Twilight asked.
  631. >Again, Luna was silent. When she next spoke, each word seemed slowly, carefully selected.
  632. >“Anonymous did not go in depth to how precarious our situation is, how easily our existence and our way of life could be extinguished by outside forces,” she said, shoulders slumping. “The Canterlot representative was extremely detailed, which I suspect was under Anonymous’s orders, and while some of the things I was told were no doubt embellished, there is enough to give me pause.
  633. >There is much to be weary of in regards to this Empire of Man, but things are so much bigger than Equestria, bigger than even this planet we call our home, as I’m sure you’re beginning to understand Twilight. Celestia and I are doing our very best to set things in motion with these humans. If we are smart, we needn’t worry about the terrors they can bring to bear. We can negotiate as equals, or as close to equals as can be managed.”
  634. >“But—” Twilight began, only for her muzzle to snap shut when Luna raised a hoof.
  635. >“Do not think you don’t have an important role in all of this, Twilight. In fact, I believe you and your friends will play the biggest role,” she said with a smile. “You are the Princess of Friendship, and for very good reason. Show these terrifying, awe-inspiring creatures the magic of friendship. I have a feeling that they’ve had a severe lack of it for a very long time.”
  636.  
  637.  
  638. >The next few days were a flurry of activity. Twilight had privately spoken to some ponies around town that were known to gossip, letting them know that it might be in the planet’s interest to be as nice to their guest as possible. Within the hour, the entire town had been informed and steps were taken.
  639. >While it was true that Ponyville had some history with being frosty to outsiders, the threat of total annihilation really made one friendly. Ponies that had been doing their best to avoid the alien went out of their way to strike up conversations with him when they could. Every time Anon entered the market, stall owners were practically throwing their wares at him. Everypony was all smiles and hellos and good day sirs.
  640. >If this blatant rump-kissing did them any favors, Rarity couldn’t honestly tell. Anonymous didn’t seem to react positively or negative toward it. What he did do however was become much more active around the town. As soon as the sun came up he’d be out the door most days, and wouldn’t come back to the boutique until after sunset. If a pony did stop to say hello he’d stop to speak with them for up to an hour. He’d knock on random ponies’ houses to talk to families, he’d go to places of business and speak with the workers and owners. Some days he’d just sit in the market, watching ponies writing notes down on a notepad or piece of paper.
  641. >Surprisingly, he also started to go out of his way to help with any needs in town. He had a device that would grind wheat in seconds made and brought down from his ship that he gifted to some farmers. He had some healers brought down as well to help those sick in Ponyville General. If a roof needed to be fixed or a pipe dug out a pony could simply ask and he’d send strange machines to do the work. One day, he even went to the elementary school to speak with the children.
  642. >The enthusiasm the town had for the human became much more genuine after all of this help. Cheerilee had said that the foals had listened to him for the whole day as he spoke and even taught. She went on to say that she'd take him as a teacher's assistant in a heartbeat if she could. That or a husband, though thankfully she had the tact not to say that to him.
  643. >With this help, as wonderful as it was since Rarity had found herself with a metal roof that would have cost a FORTUNE had she gotten it done herself, the unicorn could feel the ulterior motive behind all of it.
  644. >Any conversation had with ponies that came up to speak to him eventually turned toward the stars, and something greater than Equestria, something that ponies might participate in. Leather bound books written in perfect Equish about the history of the human empire and humanity in general somehow found themselves in ponies houses. These were the same books that the foals at the elementary school had been given.
  645. >Rarity had read a few pages from one of the books. She would never consider herself an expert on social engineering or propaganda, but it felt as if the author of the book were trying to put humanity in a very good spotlight. The unicorn had a feeling that this had something to do with the humans wanting to integrate the planet into their empire, or at least begin planting the seeds. This came both as a relief and even more anxiety. Relief because it must have meant that Anonymous was telling the truth about his empire’s interest in not harming anypony, and it made her anxious simply because they were so interested, and the planet as a whole had absolutely no choice in the matter.
  646. >Still, if it were with a light touch, being under the yolk of an interstellar empire might not have been horrible. If they received more of those fancy mills and the humans helped make ponies lives better it would be a positive. There was also the undeniably succulent fruit that was having the opportunity to sell her wares all over the galaxy hanging right in front of the mare. She was still worried, very much so, but it was beginning to get harder and harder to stay consistently worried as the days passed. She was no weak-willed mare, but if Anon happened to gift her a fancy alien sewing machine, or more fabric, that worry might disappear completely.
  647. >Could this have been a possible ploy to make them all drop their guard for some nefarious purpose? Possibly. However, Rarity was just going to push that thought into the back of her mind and do as Princess Luna suggested.
  648. >“Is there anything else you need, dear?”
  649. >Anonymous slowly looked around the market. Rarity did as well, noting that the ponies walking around seemed happier than usual. Her gaze turned from them to the roofs of the buildings above. Nearly every one she could see had a human or some robot on top of it, installing some device or fixing something. She looked toward her own boutique, looking at her brand new roof and the skull-shaped device sitting at the very top, which blinked with a red light every few seconds. It was a “signal beacon” as her guest called it.
  650. >She turned her attention back toward Anonymous, who shook his head. “I believe I’ve gotten everything that I needed,” he told her.
  651. >“Very well,” she replied, settling her groceries onto her back. “Could you be dear and grab that bag filled with bread?”
  652. “Of course,” Anonymous said, reaching down to grab said bag of break.
  653. >Rarity wasn’t the biggest fan of carbs, as her unicorn biology made it extremely difficult to lose weight quickly, but the bread had been on sale, and Pinkie had introduced her to a recipe that she had been dying to try. At worst, she’d give whatever they didn’t eat to the birds in the morning.
  654. >The two began the short walk back to Rarity’s boutique. Anon was nice enough to open the door for her, as well as help her put her groceries away. With that done, Rarity set the bread on the counter and tied her apron around her waist.
  655. >“I’m going to begin making dinner dear. If you need anything just let me know.”
  656. “Remember that the children will be coming for dinner,” the human said, stepping out of the kitchen and into the living room.
  657. >“That’s why I bought so much of everything,” Rarity replied with a smile.
  658. >Every night for the past few days, Sweetie and her friends had come over for dinner. Rarity thought it was only fair, as Applejack had been feeding her sister for the better part of a week. Usually, there’d be some form of dread that would come with having the Crusaders over. She loved her sister, she really did, but if left unattended, her and her friends would leave her boutique a smoldering ruin. Even when she watched them they could destroy a room in an instant if she wasn’t at the ready. Lately, however, that hadn’t been the case.
  659. >What had happened the last few days was the fillies would eat their collective body weights in food and they’d huddle around the human until it was their bedtime. After what Anon had done to Scootaloo, the Crusaders seemed to consider him a hero of sorts. They hung on every word that he said, and obeyed his commands without much hassle. When Sweetie found out that he had no cutiemark, a vote was called amongst the three girls, and in a unanimous decision Anonymous was made a Cutiemark Crusader; even though colts were icky and should stay in the fields.
  660. >Surprisingly, Anonymous seemed flattered by the title, and had taken the Crusader patch that Applebloom had gotten from somewhere and promised that he’d have it sewn somewhere on his person. He took on a warmer tone with the fillies, reading to them from some of the books he had in his many pouches, as well as told them stories about the Empire of Man. He even regaled them with stories about himself, which made Rarity stop whatever she had been doing at that moment to listen.
  661. >He had been from a planet called Pluto. He said that it had been a bad place when he had been growing up. A race of giant crabs had been treating the human populace very poorly. He said poorly to the girls, but the tone in his voice told Rarity that it had been far worse than that. He had never known his mother and father, and he had been living as a servant to one of the crabs. It was obvious that he left a lot out of his many stories, but from what she had been able to gather, the “Emperor” as Anon called him had come to the planet and freed the humans from the crab creatures.
  662. >It was all very interesting, and tonight, if they were lucky, they all might hear more interesting tales of their guest. Rarity in particular wished to know how he became acquainted with this emperor of his. That had to be quite the story in itself.
  663. Anonymous once again poked his head into the kitchen. “After dinner, I would like you to come with me to my ship,” he said. “Applejack is coming as well, as I spoke with her about it this morning. I apologize for the suddenness of this, but the one you’re to be seeing requested that it be today. I have asked Spike to come over to watch the little ones for the hour or so this meeting should take.”
  664. >“Oh?” Rarity said. “Well, if you have Spikey Wikey coming over then it should be no issue. Should I wear anything special for this guest?”
  665. “You need not,” Anon replied, shaking his head. “This is not a formal meeting, though I do ask you to be as respectful as possible, and if they ask you to do something try your best to accommodate them.”
  666. >“Of course, though, if I might ask, who exactly am I meeting? Some noble perhaps?”
  667. “She is from a very old and noble house that can trace its ancestry to Terra, but I would not call her a noble in the sense you are thinking of,” Anon told her. “Her name is Is’tele, and she is the navigator of my ship.”
  668. >Rarity’s face scrunched up. “A navigator? Forgive me, but is that a similar role to a navigator that works in a wooden ship on a body of water?”
  669. “Somewhat, though her task is far more taxing and dangerous,” the human replied. “It is through her power that my ship can somewhat safely travel the stars. She is very important to the ship’s functions, as well as a very old companion of mine.”
  670. >The unicorn’s ears perked up at the work companion. Mayhaps he was introducing them to his fillyfriend, or whatever was the equivalent to humans? Maybe someone that would tell her and Applejack some juicy details or embarrassing stories about the tall, imposing stallion looking at her.
  671. >She bit the inside of her lip, her tail swishing side to side in excitement. “I will make sure Applejack as well as myself are on our best behavior,” she said.
  672. Anon nodded. “Very good. I will make sure to keep an eye out for the children.”
  673. >“Thank you very much, darling. Do remember to make them wipe their hooves on the mat outside. I JUST cleaned the carpets this morning!”
  674.  
  675. ~_~_~_~_~_~_~
  676.  
  677. >Dinner was nice, if a bit slow. The Crusaders were disappointed that Anonymous wouldn’t be able to tell him any stories tonight, but that was quickly forgotten when Spike walked through the door with the ingredients for s'mores. When Rarity and the human walked out the front door, Spike was roasting the girls some marshmallows with his own fire. A tad dangerous to be sure, but the unicorn trusted the dragon.
  678. >Applejack was already waiting for them as they walked through the market, simply tipping her hat to the two before falling in line next to Rarity. The two quietly conversed, Rarity letting her know who exactly they were meeting, and Applejack grumbling about meeting someone so “fancy pants.” Being as it was later in the day, the streets were mostly empty, meaning that the three made good time crossing town and coming upon the landing site Anon’s ship still sat at.
  679. >Applejack whistled when she looked at it. “Golly. Ain’t that something? Y'all fly through space in them things?”
  680. “This is simply a landing craft,” Anon replied. “It can travel in space for a short time, but no longer than a day or so at most. The ships we use to navigate the stars are much, much larger. Perhaps someday I can take you to my personal ship if you were so inclined.”
  681. >Applejack paled at the offer. “Thank ya kindly, but this ol’ earth pony wants to keep her hooves on Equestrian soil.”
  682. >“I wouldn’t mind, if such an offer were also extended to me,” Rarity said quietly. “I’ve always wanted to see what it would be like looking down on our planet.”
  683. “I’ve had reports of other unicorns sharing your mindset, Rarity,” Anon said. “Your tribe seems fixated on the stars. An admirable trait. Now, please, for your safety, do not move.”
  684. >He walked closer toward the ship, stopping twenty or so feet from it. Parts of the ship snapped toward him. A beam of red light scanned his body. The ship itself began to make a deep humming sound.
  685. >Applejack fidgeted, obviously nervous about the strange machine. Rarity was quick to tap the farmer’s shoulder with her own, giving her a wink, which seemed to calm her down somewhat. A sudden sharp hiss made both mares jump, their heads snapping forward as a set of stairs somehow came out of the ship.
  686. “Please follow me,” Anonymous said. “Mind your step.”
  687. >“...He ain’t gonna eat us or nothin’, right Rare?” Applejack murmured in Rarity’s ear.
  688. >Rarity patted her friend’s back. “We’ll be fine, dear. I heard he only likes to eat pegasi anyway.”
  689. >“Har har. Yer real funny, ya know that?”
  690. >“Intimately.”
  691. >Rarity took the lead, making her way toward the steps with Applejack right behind her. Anon, seeing that they were both coming, began to make the ascent.
  692. >The steps were made of some sort of blackened metal. They were a bit steep for a pony, but both mares managed to get up them with relative ease. At the top of the steps, Rarity’s bravado disappeared as she looked into the dark, strange inside of the ship. She would have paused, if not for Applejack, bumping her rump with her head, urging her onward.
  693. >As she entered, she noticed that, despite the summer heat, it was chilly inside the vessel, almost shockingly so. The interior was made of a shiny metal, covered in buttons and little glowing bulbs. There was also a constant, continuous humming sound coming from everywhere.
  694. >Out of the corner of her eye, Rarity could see some of the robed humans she had seen wandering the town for the last few days. These were the ones with metal tubes and too many arms. They had their hoods covering their faces, even in this dim light, so she couldn’t see what they actually looked like, though she did recall something that Lyra had said.
  695. >The unicorn, ever the adventurous and nosy type, had gotten as close to these particular humans as possible, just so she could look up at their faces. She insisted, to anypony that would listen, that their heads were all metal and tubes and too many eyes.
  696. >Rarity shivered at the thought, watching the humans. One was swinging a ball attached to a length of chain bellowing what smelt like incense back and forth. Two others were on their knees, hands clasped together. All three were chanting in a strange tongue. Not the language Anonymous spoke to himself absentmindedly. It seemed faster, high pitched as well.
  697. >A hand touched her back. Rarity barely held back a yelp, tearing her gaze from the trio to look up at Anonymous, who was now standing next to her.
  698. “Pay them no mind. They are simply making sure that the ship is functioning properly,” he said. “Please follow me.”
  699. >He turned, making his way deeper into the bowels of the ship. Applejack was right behind them, looking all around in child-like wonder. Rarity stood right where she was until the two were just about to turn a corner. Thinking about those three humans and their metal tube-y heads, the unicorn scurried after them.
  700. >Anon led them down dark, smoky, barren hallway after hallway. They went up and down stairs, turned corners, and became so thoroughly lost that neither mare would have been able to find their way out without assistance. The ship on the outside was large, but on the inside it seemed impossibly so. Perhaps it was some magic these humans used?
  701. >Whatever the case, eventually the three found themselves in a small room. It was much brighter and warmer than any they had come across yet. Silk, purple curtains were hung everywhere, and a sweet, lingering scent hung in the air.
  702. >Anonymous cleared his throat. “Is’tele, we are here. I hope we’ve arrived at an opportune time.”
  703. >“Oh! There you are! I was wondering when you’d come!”
  704. >A shudder ran up Rarity’s spine, while Applejack sharply sucked in a lungful of air. The voice both mares had heard was beautiful. More beautiful than any music, any noise that either had heard before. Even Princess Celestia’s renowned angelic tone paled in comparison.
  705. >“Come in. Please,” the voice continued. “Have you brought the… um…”
  706. “Ponies,” Anonymous replied. “And yes, I have.”
  707. >A squeal was heard, followed by clapping. “Have them come in. I’ve been so excited to finally meet the adorable little creatures!”
  708. >While Rarity felt slightly put out being called “adorable” and “little,” the voice that said it was too lovely to really be upset at.
  709. >Anon walked over toward the silk curtains, lifting it up, revealing a deeper section of the room. He motioned for them to enter.
  710. >Applejack took off her hat, running a hoof through her mess of a mane. After that she began to tug at her tail, and straighten out her fur. With some alarm, Rarity realized that the earth pony was trying to make herself presentable. Applejack, the mare that wouldn’t wash her hooves before meeting Princess Celestia, attempting to make an effort for this Is’tele. Now the unicorn could say she had seen everything.
  711. >Taking a deep breath, the farmer placed her hat back on her head and trotted toward the opening. She stepped through, disappearing out of sight. Rarity quickly trotted after her. As she walked toward the opening, she noticed that one of Anonymous’s gloves were off. In that bare hand, he held what looked like a baton. It was thin, incredibly shiny, with a strange head. She only glanced at it for a few moments, but the sight of it made her stomach tighten. Hopefully it was nothing nefarious.
  712. >Any worry Rarity felt quickly dissipated, as she nearly collided with Applejack’s rump. She turned her attention toward the mare. Applejack’s jaw was practically on the floor, her green eyes as wide as saucers. She wasn’t too much as looking as staring; something which was incredibly rude, doubly so in the presence of nobility. Following Applejack’s gaze however, Rarity could instantly see why the farmer was reacting this way.
  713. >She was sitting on a large pile of pillows, staring at them with a smile. They weren’t the same species, and Rarity herself had never seen a female human, but at a glance she knew this had to be one. She also knew, without a doubt in her mind, that this human female was one of the most beautiful beings that she had ever laid eyes on.
  714. >Her skin was a dark olive, and her eyes were deep, sparkling black pools. Her curves seemed to have been carved out of marble by some great master. There were no blemishes, no imbalances, nor flaws that her artists’ eye could see. The only curious thing was that there was a third eye sitting in the middle of her forehead, currently closed, though it did absolutely nothing to diminish her beauty in anyway.
  715. >The female leaned forward, the movement enchantingly fluid. Her smile widened, eyes twinkling with delight as she looked at the mares.
  716. >“Good afternoon. I am Is’tele, and by the Emperor you both are the cutest things I’ve seen in the last hundred years!”
  717. >Rarity was by no means attracted to the same sex, but with this woman she felt she might be talked into acts of sexual congress. Repeatedly.
  718. >The unicorn loudly cleared her throat, which broke Applejack out of her trance. The two bowed in sync, their noses almost touching the ground.
  719. >The woman let out an outraged shrill. “No, no, no. None of that,” she chided. “This is not some banquet hall. There is just myself and Anon here. Now please, one of you come closer.”
  720. >She beckoned them forward with a hand. Before Rarity could so much as lift a hoof, Applejack bounded forward, practically leaping into the woman’s lap. Is’tele began to giggle, pulling the earth pony’s face between her worryingly large teats.
  721. >“You have a little hat!” she said, looking over at Anonymous. “Do you see this Anonymous? A HAT!”
  722. “I see, Is’tele,” Anon replied as Applejack practically went limp in the woman’s grasp. “Applejack there is not overstepping her bounds, is she?”
  723. >Rarity gave her head a shake. “Oh my goodness, I’m SO sorry,” she said. “Applejack, you get away from that mare this instant! You’re a fully grown mare, not some rambunctious foal!”
  724. >“It’s… quite? I believe that is the work. Quite. Quite. Anonymous, dear, is that the correct word?”
  725. “It is.”
  726. >“Then it’s quite alright,” Is’tele said, nuzzling the side of Applejack’s face. “I could just eat you up!”
  727. >Though Rarity didn’t see it, Anonymous’s grip on the weapon he had been holding went slack. It dissolved into liquid metal, once again forming into a ring around his finger. His body, which had been tense since entering the chamber, relaxed.
  728. “That went far better than I had hoped,” he said.
  729. >Rarity turned toward him. “Far better than you could have hoped? To be frank, darling, if Applejack trying to climb into her lap as if she were a dog was better than you were expecting, I shudder to think what was the worst case scenario.”
  730. >Is’tele giggled again, catching Applejack’s hat as it fell off from the farmer’s aggressive nuzzling. She placed it on top of her own head, looking very proud of herself. Applejack let out a neigh, rubbing her muzzle against Is’tele’s throat. The woman responded by peppering the earth pony’s face with kisses, accompanied by babytalk, which Applejack didn’t seem to mind at all.
  731. >While Rarity was a tad jealous at the deluxe treatment her friend was getting, she pushed that aside, looking back at Anonymous. Anon was staring at the two intensely while his little skull friend wrote on a scroll. She cleared her throat, then cleared it again when it didn’t appear as if the human had heard her.
  732. >“Anonymous, dear, are all of the females of your kind like… this?” she said, gesturing toward the woman, who appeared to be in her own little world as she ran her fingers through Applejack’s mane.”
  733. “Like what?”
  734. >“So… beautiful? Pardon me for being so frank, but goodness me if I don’t make a comment about it I feel as if I’ll EXPLODE.”
  735. >She glanced back at Is’tele. Oh, the wonderful dresses she could make this alien mare…
  736. >As chance would have it, she managed to catch the woman’s eye. Is'tele beckoned her with a finger, still petting Applejack. It might have been foalish, it might have been extremely unladylike; goodness, it might have made her the laughingstock of Ponyville, but the second Rarity saw that finger inviting her she didn’t hesitate. Not waiting for an answer from Anonymous, she launched herself at the woman, burying her face in those very large teats, breathing in deeply.
  737. >Answers could wait. What she really needed was to be petted by this magnificent creature. Hopefully Applejack wouldn’t try to hog those hands.
  738.  
  739.  
  740. >Anon watched as Is’tele played with the ponies. To say that he was relieved would have been an understatement. It had been a gamble bringing the two here, one that might have overturned his lord’s plans for this world and its inhabitants.
  741. >Navigators were a rarity in the universe. A genetic marvel crafted by mankind countless millennia ago. Only they could peer into the warp itself with some sort of safety. Only they could guide the ships of the Imperium to where they were most needed. It was why his lord had made the Navigator clans’ housing on mother Terra. It was why he made allowances for them that would have gotten any other turned into a servator, or worse.
  742. >Despite all the power and luxury they had achieved, the warp was still very much a danger to these abhumans. For them, mutation was only a matter of time. Days, years, centuries; eventually the warp would have its due.
  743. >Anon had personally seen monsters beyond horror dragged out of one of the clan’s mansions to be burned. Putrid, squirming, screaming mad things that none would dare call human; and those were the ones he had been allowed to see. There were tales of far worse hidden deep within the bowels of their expansive estates.
  744. >Where most Navigators became twisting, horrid things, the opposite had happened to Is’tele. With each mutation, she had become more and more beautiful. This had been fine at first, better than fine as her beauty had been leveraged for her family, but what was considered a legendary beauty became maddening.
  745. >If a mortal man, woman, or beast saw her they’d lose all sense of reason. Some died, their hearts exploding as her beauty overwhelmed their senses. Others would fall to their knees, whimpering and shaking. Those that did neither often went mad and would attempt to harm her. It became so bad that just the sound of her footsteps could bring about madness in others.
  746. >Is’tele had been banished to the deepest, most secluded part of her family's estate, and when that was no longer enough her entire household went completely mad. The Great Enemy took root, and he and his lord’s golden companions were sent in. Common sense said that all were to be killed, their names scrubbed of all records, but Anon had taken pity on the terrified, bloody, shaken woman.
  747. >He had taken her to his lord. The two had conversed; about what he did not know. When Anon had been called upon, his lord had gifted him the woman as a navigator, a title that she’d held for over a century. Though they spoke, and his lord no doubt did something to Is’tele, he knew the woman’s presence was still very dangerous to most. This was why she was in his landing ship, surrounded by those of the cult Mechanicus, who saw the flesh only as a weakness and something to despise, instead of his ship in orbit. Even now, she was too dangerous to be left unattended.
  748. >These Equestrians had not become raving beasts by the sight of her. They had not fallen to their knees in worship, or died. Were they enchanted by the woman? Absolutely. Were they about to tear her apart and try to eat her flesh to take her perfect form into themselves or some other horrible thing? It did not seem so.
  749. >They saw that she was beautiful, but it did not consume them. They could look upon the work of the Great Enemy with more safety than any human. Not only that, but their very presence seemed to actively diminish the Great Enemy’s power. It made him think back on that Discord creature. It was a being of chaos, one that by rights was powerful enough to turn this planet into a hellscape beyond imagination, but it hadn’t. Was that because it didn’t choose to, or because it couldn’t? After being amongst these ponies, he felt as if it were the latter.
  750. >There was also what had happened to Princess Luna. From the reports he had heard, Nightmare Moon was a possession by a powerful warp entity. Had it happened to a human, the soul would have been obliterated, the body a warp-seeping husk driven by the foul being, but with Luna the warp spawn had been exorcised from her body. Scans from his acolyte in Canterlot revealed that there was absolutely no trace of taint in her. She was clean in body and soul, something which should have been impossible.
  751. >Anon was a man that would never guess the machinations of his lord’s grand design, but he was beginning to understand why his lord had taken an interest in these xenos and not just killed them all outright. They not only resisted chaos, but seemed to change it.
  752. >He stroked his chin, watching as a laughing Is’tele began peppering both mare’s faces with kisses. The woman had very little contact with others, and she seemed to be enjoying this to the fullest. The way her eyes shone as she sat there made Anon’s heart ache. It had been a long time since he had seen her so happy.
  753. >Despite the danger she posed others, Is’tele was a true daughter of the Imperium. She had ferried his ship through warzones, uncharted tracks of space, and places impossible to comprehend without a word of complaint. She did not curse her luck, nor try to appease false gods that attempted to pull her strings. She was a kind, sweet, and thoughtful woman; one that he cared very much for.
  754. Clearing his throat, Anon took a step forward. “Is’tele?” he said.
  755. >The woman didn’t seem to hear him, holding both ponies close so that she could nuzzle their cheeks with her own. He had to call her two more times before her brown eyes flicked up to him. He smiled at her under his mask.
  756. “If you could do what we discussed please.”
  757. >For several seconds, confusion settled on Is’tele’s face, until her eyes widened. Confusion was replaced with trepidation as she looked down at both ponies, then back at him.
  758. >When she spoke, it was in High Gothic. “Are you sure? I truly do not wish to hurt these cute creatures.”
  759. “It must be done,” he replied. “Please.”
  760. >Is’tele took a deep breath, giving the ponies one last worried glance before closing her eyes. The temperature in the room dropped, the lights flickering. The eye on her forehead slowly began to open, revealing a pure black orb. This was what many considered the most important part of a navigator; the thing that allowed them to gaze into the warp with their minds intact.
  761. >The eye pulsed, emitting a nearly invisible purple glow. This continued for nearly a minute, with the ponies none the wiser. They continued to nuzzle and rub themselves against her, not a care in the world. Is’tele’s two eyes suddenly snapped open. She blinked, a look of utter confusion on her face.
  762. >“I do not feel them,” she croaked in High Gothic.
  763. >Anon’s eyes widened. If he had been holding something he would have dropped it. He had asked her once how it felt to look upon pure, unbridled chaos. Is’tele, after much coaxing, had explained it felt as if thousands of hands were touching her. Some stroking, some squeezing, some pulling, some trying to choke and harm. It was an unpleasant, nerve-wracking sensation that always put her on edge, as well as reminded her that while she was looking into the warp, many things were looking back, hungry and hateful.
  764. “Are you sure?” he asked as tears began to well in her eyes. “There is nothing?”
  765. >“N-Nothing,” she managed to say, her third eye closing. “Nothing is touching me. I am… safe.”
  766. >She held both mares as tightly as she could, tears making their way down her flawless cheeks. Anon made his way over to a chair and, with a sigh, he sat.
  767. >That truly was interesting…
  768.  
  769. ~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~
  770.  
  771. >Rarity hummed a tune to herself, pushing her red-rimmed glasses up her muzzle.
  772. >It had been a few days since that fiasco at Anonymous’s ship. She still felt terribly embarrassed about the whole thing, acting like she had. Applejack both refused to talk about it and wanted to visit that absolutely enchanting woman again. Embarrassed or not, Rarity did as well; though not just to let the human mare pet her. The moment she had stepped off that landing craft her mind had been awash with ideas.
  773. >She was attempting one such idea at that very moment; a lovely one piece dress that would look wonderful on Is’tele. Frankly, a wagon full of manure would have looked good on her, but Rarity hoped this particular dress would accent her beauty just a hair more. When she was finished with it, she would need to ask Anonymous to take her back to his ship, if she were allowed to return that is. While she didn’t expect there to be a problem, she didn’t want to step on any hooves where her guest was involved.
  774. >Speaking of her guest, Anon had been holed up in his room for days. She hadn’t seen him leave it, even to eat. Being the good host that she was, she did bring him food on the second day. He was preparing his report for his lord. Ten terabytes of information; photos, recordings, notes, all of it in a device the size of one of the human’s fingers. She had no idea what any of that meant when he told her, but it seemed like a lot. In a few days’ time, he’d be leaving to go to the human capital planet personally to deliver it. A thousand or so humans would stay planetside, continuing the work he had begun, which put Rarity somewhat at ease. Who would go through the trouble of healing ponies and building in infrastructure if they were going to just destroy everything?
  775. >With his announcement of his departure, the human had offered the unicorn a gift. If it were within his power and within reason, he would grant it to her. An opportunity like that could go to a mare’s head, make her ask for some absolutely outrageous things in the heat of the moment; but, while Rarity might have been theatrical occasionally, she knew when not to go overboard.
  776. >It was a wish unicorns had had since their tribe had formed. She wished to see what the planet looked like from orbit, see Luna’s stars and Celestia’s sun up close. To her absolute delight, Anon had said yes.
  777. >They would be making the trip to Anonymous’s landing craft very soon. Rarity was so excited that she had forced herself to work on the little number in front of her, otherwise she would have been a giggling, frolicking mess.
  778. “Rarity?”
  779. >Rarity looked up from her work to see Anon standing by the doorway. “Yes, dear?” she said.
  780. “Are you ready? If we leave now we can pick up the others and make it to the ship before the sun sets.”
  781. >As calmly as she could, Rarity set the dress down. Plucking her glasses off her muzzle, she set them down as well, flashing the human a bright smile.
  782. >“I don’t believe that I’ve ever been so ready for something, darling.”
  783. >Rarity had asked her friends if they would like to partake in this once in a lifetime opportunity as well. Applejack had been a firm no thank you. Pinkie had also declined, saying that she needed to watch the Cake Twins, though she insisted that Rarity somehow get her a “space rock”. When she had asked Fluttershy, the poor dear looked like she was ready to hide under something. Surprisingly, Rainbow said no as well, saying that while she loved the sky more than anything, space really, really freaked her out. Twilight, of course, said yes. In fact, she was so excited about it that she went ahead and invited somepony to come along as well; Princess Luna herself.
  784. >Both Rarity and Anonymous stepped out of the boutique, the unicorn so giddy that she almost forgot to lock the door. The two made their way toward Twilight’s castle, where the purple alicorn herself and Luna were waiting outside.
  785. >The second Twilight saw them her face lit up. Luna’s reaction was much more reserved, as if she were nervous. Even so, both mares trotted over to them.
  786. >“I can’t begin to thank you for bringing us, Anon,” Twilight said with a hop. “I can’t wait to see space!”
  787. Anon inclined his head toward her, then towards Princess Luna. “Your highness. It’s lovely to see you again.”
  788. >Luna inclined her head as well. “Lord Anonymous. My sister sends her greetings, and apologizes that she wasn’t able to come with us.”
  789. “There may yet be more opportunities in the future, your highness. Now, let us be off.”
  790. >As they walked, Twilight took the time to talk everypony's ear off. She had two saddlebags filled with devices, charts, paper, and ink. Her little skull friend also hovered near her, an overly large scroll at the ready in one of it’s metal limbs.
  791. >The walk seemed much quicker than it had any right to be. Twilight and Rarity practically skipped up the metal steps, while Luna hesitated for a few moments before climbing up after them.
  792. “Are you well, your highness? Anonymous asked as the ship's doors closed behind her.
  793. >“I am,” Luna said with a slow nod. “Though, I must admit, I am a tad nervous. The last time I was able to gaze into the nothingness that was space I was trapped upon my moon.”
  794. “I see. Well, I can assure you that no one will be trapped on any celestial bodies. Please, follow me.”
  795. >Anon led them deep into the room. They ended up in a smallish room covered in buttons and dials. The three very strange humans Rarity had seen on her last visit were there, looking very busy. They bowed as Anonymous entered the room. When the ponies followed in after them the three went into a bit of a fit, pointing and gesturing wildly while making strange metallic noises. Anon simply said something in his human language. There was a short argument before, none too happily, the three went back to work.
  796. >“We haven’t upset anything, have we?” Rarity asked.
  797. “There is nothing to worry about,” Anon replied. “They simply did not expect me to bring you to the bridge. The senior technician is a tad upset, as she doesn’t like many outside of her order, nevermind a group of xenos.”
  798. >Rarity looked at the hooded figures, brow furrowing. “One of them is a woman?” she asked, incredulous.
  799. “Two of them are actually female, or as female as one of their order can be. If you three could, please brace yourselves. We should be lifting off momentarily.”
  800. >A deep, bellowing rumble came from somewhere in the ship. One of the hooded humans began a throaty chant, rocking back and forth and beads in their hands. The mares froze as an eerie sensation washed over their fur. It was strange; almost as if they had been dragging their hooves against a carpet and touched a piece of metal, but all over the body.
  801. >Luna was the first to recover, making her way over to some seats. They were large and metallic, with lots of straps and bolted to the floor. It was also obvious to see that they were not made with the comfort of equines in mind. Nevertheless, the alicorn hopped up into one of them without complaint. Twilight was able to work up her courage, then Rarity followed right behind her. Anon helped each mare strap themselves in before making his way over to a panel of buttons.
  802. “Your highnesses, the sensation you will feel shortly might be familiar to you if you’ve ever dived while in the air. Rarity, you may become sick. There are some bags in a compartment on the left side of your seat. Were I you I’d collect one.”
  803. >Rarity did as he suggested, grabbing a small plastic baggie and setting it in her lap.
  804. >Anonymous nodded, then turned toward the panel. He looked toward one of the hooded humans, who nodded, then at another, who made a hand gesture. Reaching down, he pressed one of the many buttons. There was a rumble, then a series of dull thuds. What followed was as if they were riding a wagon times a thousand as the ship lifted into the air. Anon looked at a series of screens up near the roof of the ship, making sure not to damage the surrounding area too much.
  805. >“This is a very quiet craft, my lord,” Luna called to him. “Those that I’ve seen in Canterlot can cause such a ruckus.
  806. “It was designed for quiet in mind, your highness,” Anon replied, reaching for a lever. “It is a good thing too. Were this a normal craft the thrusters might have deafened us in a ship this size.”
  807. >“...Is that a common thing?”
  808. “So common that there isn’t a Mechanicus cultist I know that doesn’t have knowledge on how to implant bionic ear drums.”
  809. >He pulled the lever, and the ship surged forward, picking up speed. It was as fast as a normal pegasus, then faster than a Wonderbolt, then nearly as fast as Rainbow in the middle of a Sonic Boom, all in the span of a few seconds. Each of the mares found themselves sinking back into their chairs. Twilight and Luna weren’t too affected, but for Rarity it took some considerable effort not to use the barf bag in her lap.
  810. >The ship went up and up, shaking slightly as it passed through each ozone layer. There were no windows in the ship, meaning the mares had to strain their eyes looking at screens above. They could see the sky becoming a deeper and deeper blue until it took on a tint of black.
  811. Anon looked back toward them. “Oh, forgive me. You no doubt wish to peer out,” he said, reaching for a button. “I have flown so many times the novelty has worn off, but I believe I can give you a better viewing.”
  812. >There was a hiss as soon as he pressed the button, a section of the wall somehow pulling back, revealing a giant window. It was thirty feet long, and went from the bottom of the floor to the top of the ceiling. More importantly however, it gave a perfect view of space outside.
  813. >There were constellations, planets, their world itself, clearer than any telescope could show. Things she had read about as a foal, things she had peered at through devices, through magic, through anything she could get her hooves on. The mare felt her heart pounding in her chest as excitement gave way to a quiet awe. It was one of the most beautiful things that she had ever seen.
  814. “We can travel to any part of the sector that you’d like,” Anon said, suddenly standing next to her. “Any farther and it will take days to return planetside.”
  815. >He reached into one of his pockets, pulling out a handkerchief. Without saying a word, he offered it to her. It was only then that Rarity realized that she had been crying. With a quiet thank you, she took the piece of cloth, dabbing her cheeks.
  816. >“I would like to… see everything. If that isn’t too much trouble,” she said.
  817. “That can be done,” Anon said with a nod.
  818. >It might have been wildly improper, and she would no doubt be horrified with herself in the coming days, but Rarity really couldn’t help herself. Without a thought, she reared up onto her hind legs and wrapped her hooves around the human’s waist.
  819. >“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you so much.”
  820. Anon, obviously surprised, gave the mare a few awkward pats on the back. “There is nothing to thank me for. Your service to me was a kindness that I felt needed to be returned.”
  821. >“Even so, you’ve helped complete a lifelong dream…”
  822. >Anon said nothing. Rarity looked up at his face to see his head cocked to the side. Through his mask, she swore she could see a smile on his face.
  823. “Yes, well, there’s still much for you all to see. Your highnesses, you may leave your seats. Just mind your footing; walking in a moving ship can be hazardous, especially to those who’ve never traveled the stars. Now, why don’t we make our way to the planet with all those rings...?”

[Archive] Sleepiness in Ponyville

by MrSkeltal

[RGREqG] Sirens + Sunset Herd

by MrSkeltal

[RGRE] Anon is Deathly Afraid of Anthros

by MrSkeltal

[RGRE] Anthroshy has Dreams of Domming Anon

by MrSkeltal

[RGRE] Trixie (with Starlight) Tries to Bang Anon

by MrSkeltal