nx9100

Adventure Equestria: Legacy

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(edited)

Legacy

 

An all new adventure...

 

Eighty years after Twilight became a princess, Equestria is under control of a vicious alien species, called the Vectin.  The Unicorns are gone, Pegasus' are in hiding, and the Earth Ponies struggle to survive out in the wilds.

One day, the Vectin mysteriously attack a small Herd of Earth Ponies,  after years of leaving them alone.  Two young siblings will be sent on a great quest to find a way to free their world, by searching space for the only ones who have ever defeated the Vectin before.

The Terrans...

---------------------------------------------

 

New Chapters will be published each Wednesday, at 9PM, Eastern Time, both here, and on FimFiction

However, I might post sneak peaks right here on MLP Forums!  Feel free to leave comments right here on this thread!

 

As for now, it all begins below...

Edited by nx9100

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(edited)

Book One: Equestria

 

Prologue

 

Screaming.  There was screaming all around her.  Sounds of screaming, running ponies.

"Melody!  Melody!  Wake up!"

She opened her eyes, to see her mother standing over her, crying.

"Mommy?"

"Star!  Get your sister!"  Her father called from the front of the house.  "You have to leave now!"

"Come on dear," said her mother.  She struggled to rise, then was overcome with dizziness...

 

"Hurry!  They're coming!"

The dizziness passed, and she found herself running down the dirt road.  It was the middle of the night, and only the fires in the street lanterns lit the way.  The air was moist, and filled with the sounds of other ponies crying... screaming... running.  Turning to the voice, she saw the outline of her older brother running next to her.

"What's going on?" she tried to ask.

He turned his head and forced a weak smile.  "Just keep running Mel."  Then the dizziness returned...

 

When it cleared this time, she found herself crouched down in a bush, her brother hovering over her.  He was watching the sky, looking for something.  Then she heard it, the loud whine coming from above.

"Keep still!" he ordered.  She froze, and finally spotted the object, drifting slowly overhead, like a large predator looking for prey.  It looked like a flat wedge, with large spikes sticking out from both the top and bottom.  The tips of the spikes were glowing a bright orange.  Then, just as fast as it appeared, it drifted past them and disappeared into the darkness once again.

"Hurry!" urged her brother.  "We gotta get to the caves!"  He led her out into the open, and ran right into the scariest thing she had ever seen.  A large lizard-like creature, walking on two legs, standing twice as tall as her brother.  It hissed, and raised some sort of orange-glowing staff, pointing it at her.  From the corner of her eye, she saw her brother charge, then the orange flash took her...

 

She opened her eyes.  The sounds of the rain storm continued outside of their cave.  She shook her head, trying to escape the fright of the dream.  The same one she had been having for the past five nights.  Raising her head and looking around, she saw the other ponies still lying on the rocky floor, huddled around the remains of the camp fire.  A flash of lighting caught her attention, and she turned to the mouth of the cave.  There, as he was every night, was her brother, standing watch.  She smiled, and lowered her head back to the ground.  It was always easier to sleep when she new Star Gaze was protecting her...

Edited by nx9100

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Ch I: The Orchard


 


...BOOTING SOFTWARE


...BOOT SUCCESSFUL


...ACCESSING DATATRACKS


...ERROR...NO FILES FOUND


...DO YOU WISH TO OPEN A NEW FILE? Y OR N


...Y_


...LOADING


...LOADING


...READY...BEGIN RECORDING...


 


So, this is my new job.  I'm supposed to keep a record of what's happening to our group.  I don't know why they want me to, maybe just to give me SOMETHING to do.  Problem is… I don't know what to say.


                     I guess I should start with who I am.  My name is Sweet Melody, but everypony calls me Mel, or Melody.  It's been 6 days since we had to leave home, and I miss momma!  But Star Gaze (that's my older brother) says we'll see her and papa again.  But I thought they were going to meet us here?


 


Oh yeah, I should tell you where we are.  In a dark, scary, cave.  Yup, that's right!  We've been hiding here from the scary lizards, the ones who chased us from our home in the middle of the night!  I've never been so afraid!  At least I have my brother with me…


 


Let's see, who else is here?  Well, there's me and my brother Star.  Wait, I already said that!  Ummm... and Sparky Hooves is with us.  She's nice, and great at fixing stuff.  She's the pony who made this datapad-thingy work so I could use it.  Oh, and Apple Core.  He's a year younger then Star, but the others let him be in charge.  They say it's because he's part of the Apple family, but I think he's a bully!  At least he’s been leaving me alone, spending his time picking on the other dozen ponies hiding here (all kids, like the rest of us)…


 


Oops, Star wants me to get ready to go.  Guess we're finally getting out of here!


 


...END RECORD_


...SAVE FILE_


...SAVE COMPLETED


...POWERING OFF...


 


 


 


"Mel!" called Star.  "Come get something to eat!"


"Ok!" she replied, while putting the datapad back in her bag.  She got up, pulled the bag onto her back, and took a look around the cave.  The other dozen ponies were also starting to wake up, some eating, others rubbing their sore backs.  The cave floor wasn't the most comfortable of beds.  After stretching her own sore legs, she walked over to join her brother.


"Are we leaving today?" she asked, while taking the apple he was holding out for her.  She rubbed it against her side to wipe off some dirt, while Star looked back at the cave entrance, where the other ponies were gathering.


"I think so," he replied.  "Apple Core thinks we should head for one of the orchards, to get more food."


"But, whaf abouf...” she started to ask, while munching on an apple, small bits falling from her mouth.


"Chew first," Star sighed.


"Umf!"  She finished her bite.  “But what about mama and papa?  What if they come here looking for us?”


“Apple Core says the others were heading to the orchards,” Star replied, his voice strained.  It sounded like he didn't believe his own words, and his distress was rubbing off onto her.


“Will the other parents be there too?” she asked, worriedly, between bites of her apple.


“I don’t know Mel,” now he sounded sad, “I don’t know where they are, or what’s going on.  All I can promise is that I’ll keep you safe.”  He looked down at her, a soft smile on his face.  “You know that, right?”


She smiled back.  “I know.  I’m just scared.”  Her smile wavered.  He put a hoof over her shoulder and pulled her in for a hug.


“I know, but we’ll be ok.”  He moved away.  “Now, finish your apple.  It’s a long hike to the orchard.”  Reaching into his own bag, he pulled out an apple for himself and started to eat.  His grey coat and punk-styled black-grey mane appeared streaked with dirt, from too many nights sleeping on the ground.  Melody look at herself, and the dirt mixed into her own white-ish pink coat.  She started to shake out her long, blue-turquoise mane, wishing yet again that they were all back home so she could have a bath.  Reaching up, she found and adjusted the bow on her head.  At least I haven’t lost Grandma Tavi’s bow!


“Alright everypony!” called a whinny, male voice, “It’s time to get moving”!  Melody and the others all looked up at the green colt standing just outside the cave, and she saw the mud nearly covering the two apple cores on his flank, the leaves sticking in his red mane.  The other dozen ponies, mostly younger colts and fillies like her, started to get up and gather their bags.


                    


“Awl, keep it down, wou’d ya?” called a velvety voice from behind her.  Melody looked around, as a bright yellow mare still lying on the ground barley lifted her head from resting on her hooves.  “Some of us are trying to sleep ‘round here!”  She turned her head around, her spiky orange mane strangely dirt and leaf free.


“Sparky Hooves, you will listen to me!” cried Apple Core, almost whining.  “I’m the leader here so-“


“Yeah, yeah,” she grumbled, slowly rising to her feet, “but remember, just cause you’re one of them Apple family don’t mean ya’ll can boss everypony around.”  She marched right up into his face, a look of defiance in her eyes.  “Boo!”


“Quit it!” he said as he jumped back.  But Sparky’s tactic had worked, and he had to take a moment to compose himself after her defiance.  “Come on everypony,” he said while trying to save face, “we’re going!”  And with that, he turned and started to trot out of the cave, heading back into the forest.  Sparky just rolled her eyes.  “Well, ya’ll heard are Great Leader!” she said with sarcasm, “everypony comin?”  The rest started to follow her and Apple Core out, and Melody rushed to catch up to her brother.  As she walked beside him, he was watching the skies, always looking out for more of those creatures.


It was a cold, damp morning, and most of the ponies were huddling together to keep warm.  They moved slowly through the brush, trying to keep quiet so as not to alert any creatures out hunting for them.  Apple Core led the way, followed by two other colts, who seemed to serve as his friends and lackeys.  Melody remembered how they used to make fun of her and the other blank-flanks in school.  She didn't like Apple Core.


Suddenly, Star froze in his tracks, his eyes staring off into the distance.  Melody almost didn't notice and kept walking, lost in her thoughts, until a voice behind her caught her attention.


“What ya’ll see Star?”  It was Sparky, who had come up to stand next to him, a worried look on her face.  “Is it-“


“No,” he replied, eyes searching the forest.  “Not them, something else.  I’m not sure, but I thought I just heard somepony calling me.” He watched the trees, trying to find the source of the voice.   “Almost like a warning, or something.”


Sparky looked at him skeptically.  “Don’t tell me ya’ll er hearing voices in yer head.”


“Maybe,” he replied, glancing ahead of the group, before turning back to the trees.  “But maybe not.  I know I heard somepony call out.”


“Who was it?” asked Melody, having moved back to stand near him.  “Somepony we know?”


Star didn't reply, just continued watching the trees.  Maybe it was just in my head, he thought, and turned back to keep following the group.  But then, why do have this ‘doom’ feeling-


Suddenly, he raised his head.  “Apple Core!” he called, “Wait!  Stop!”  Melody and Sparky stared at him quizzically, while the green pony at the head of the line stopped and turned around, obviously annoyed. “What is it?”


“We can’t go that way.”


“Huh?” Apple Core replied, a confused look on his face.  “What do you mean?  This is the way to the orchard.”  He pointed back down the path he was following.


“I don’t care,” Star said, “we need a different way around.”  He turned to stare into the distance, as if watching something.  The others all stopped and looked around, confused as what to do.  Apple Core himself was wondering about Star’s behavior.  Finally, he made his choice.


“We keep going,” he ordered, “I know which way is right.”  And with a final glance at Star, he turned, and continued along his path.  The others, the choice made for them, all turned to follow.  A few of them had looks that suggested they would have listened to Star, if he put up more of an argument.  Only Sparky, Melody, and two other mares waited with him.


“So now what?” Sparky asked.  “We stick’n with the group?”


“I guess,” replied Star with a sigh.  He lowered his head, and turned to follow the others.  “But I have a bad feeling about this.”  He started back down the trail, followed by the girls.  The group continued in silence, as each pony was either too scared or confused to speak out.  They were all young, and not used to being away from their parents this long.  Since Apple Core was the son of their Herd-Leader, they listened to him.  But Star’s warning was on all their minds.


Especially Apple Core’s.  He led the way through the trees, seemingly knowing which way to go on instinct.  They would occasionally pause so he could look around, find a direction, and continue on.  The entire time, Melody watched as Star’s head kept moving around, his eyes always watching the trees and sky for any movement…


As the hours went by, and their silent walk continued, Melody listened to the sounds of the forest.  From the singing of the birds, to the crunching of branches under their hooves, she listened.  And, from watching her brother, it was clear he was listening too, but for something different.


Finally, they came upon a stream, and Apple Core signaled for the little herd to stop.  From the obvious sighs among them, many were relived for the break, and they all moved to get some fresh water from the stream.  Melody joined them, as Star approached Apple Core.


“We need to change our path,” he said, the strength in his voice causing Apple Core to pause.


“Why?” the green pony asked, as his two lackey’s moved to stand behind him.  “You think you know anything about these woods?” he asked, smugly, while his two friends snickered.  “Think again!  I’m the only pony here who knows where the orchard is.  And I’m the Herd Leader’s son!  So we go where I say we go!”  He leaned closer to Star.  “Got it!?”


The exchange wasn't unnoticed by the others, whom had moved nearby, waiting for Star’s response.  He simply turned away from Apple Core, and walked over to join his sister and Sparky.


“That’s what I thought,” Apple Core remarked, his voice full of arrogance.  “Alright everypony!  Break’s over!  Let’s keep moving!”  Followed by his two shadows, he started across the stream, heading deeper into the woods.  Grumbling to themselves, the others got up and followed.


Except for three.  Melody and Sparky held back, waiting for Star, who was still watching the trees ahead of them.  “Com’on Star,” Sparky said, tugging on his leg, “We don’t wanna get left behind!”


Resisting for a moment, he gave in and started across the stream, Melody right beside him.  “I still have a bad feeling about this,” he said, more to himself then the others.  Sparky just sighed, and moved ahead of him.  


They quickly caught up to the others, and about an hour later, finally spotted a cluster of apple trees just ahead.


“See!” cried Apple Core, “I told you it would be alright!  Now we just-” He broke off in mid sentence, as a familiar whine came from above.  If his mane could change color, it would have gone ghost white.


“EVERYPONY HIDE!” yelled Star, as he pulled Melody into a thick bush, while the others scattered, diving for whatever cover they could find.  And just in time, as the familiar spiked-wedge shape appeared overhead, hovering above the forest.  It was moving slowly, and in a few minutes, had passed over them.  Without stopping, it kept moving out of sight, until the whine faded into the distance.


It was several minutes before the first ponies crept out of hiding, Star and Sparky being the first two.  Melody waited until he signaled it was clear, before crawling out herself.  She noticed Apple Core was nowhere in sight.


“Think they were look’n for us?” Sparky asked, as the others gathered around them in a near circle, fear showing on their faces.


“I don’t know,” Star replied, still staring off in the direction the ship flew off.  “If they are, then they must want us bad.  But it’s been a few days since-” he glanced at Melody, “-since we left, so I’ll bet that was just a random patrol or something.”


“Let’s hope so,” said Sparky, and Melody could hear the relief in her voice.  “Hey,” Sparky looked around, “ where’d that Apple get off to?”


“I bet he ran away like a little filly!” snickered one of the others, and Melody found herself smiling at the thought.


“I’d hardly think so,” came a familiar whiny voice from behind them.  They turned, to see Apple Core walking up, a few extra twigs sticking out of his mane.  “I got stuck in that thicket back there, that’s all.”


“Good to know our fearless leader is still with us,” said Sparky, with a touch of dry humor, clearly not believing him.  The other pony snickered again.


“Stop it!” whined Apple Core, shooting a glare at Sparky.  “Look, I got us here safely, right?”  He moved to one of the apple trees, studying the branches.  “And look!  There’s plenty here for us to eat, and we can make a shelter in the thicket.  A good place to wait for our parents.”


“But what if the flyers come back?” asked one of the mares.  “What do we do?”


“We hide, like before,” he replied, and waved a hoof around them.  “They will never find us out in this forest.”


“That’s what my father said,” muttered Sparky, so quietly, only Melody heard.  She remembered hearing about how Sparky’s father, and a few others, disappeared a few months ago after going into the forest looking for food.  She looked into Sparky’s eyes, and saw the anger there.


Apparently, Star saw it too.  “Cool down, Sparks,” he said, “no use beating up Apple Core again.  Remember last time?”


Sparky visibly calmed.  “Yeah, that was fun too.  Too bad his ‘ma is the Herd Leader, or I could ‘ave givin that little snot a real whoopin!”  She laughed, which finally brought the hint of a smile on Star’s face.


“Something funny?”  Apple Core asked, walking up to the three of them, his two lackeys right behind.


“Aw, just remember a little dust up I once had with a certain colt,” she replied, smirking at him.  Apple Core frowned, clearly remembering the same thing.  And the black eye he had after it.  “Just remember who’s in charge here,” he said, trying to sound tough in front of the others.


Now it was Sparky’s turn to frown, “Like I could forget.”  Apple then turned around, and leading his companions to another part of the orchard, started ordering the other ponies around him, keeping up the tough act.


They spent the next several hours gathering apples, while others collected branches, trying to bunch them together on top of the thickets growing around the trees.  It wasn't much, but at least would block them from view if the ships flew overhead.  Most of the ponies were complaining about the work, as they were still young, and had never had to survive like this on their own before.  Apple Core wasn't much help, wandering around and barking orders.  While he was next in line of the Apple family to run the herd, he still had much to learn about leadership.  At least Star, who finished his and Melody’s shelter, moved among the others, offering help and words of encouragement.


Soon, the sun started to set in the sky, and a new challenge presented itself.  The dozen ponies gathered together in the middle of the orchard, waiting for Apple Core to make his next big decision.  Or big mistake.


“But won’t the fire show them where we are?” asked one colt.


“But we need to keep warm!” cried another.  “It’s too cold out here!”


“We should have stayed in the caves!”


“Quiet!” cried Apple Core, before things got out of hoof.  “Let me think.”  He started pacing around one of the trees, while the others just sat and watched.


“Instead of one big fire, we each make a small one for just one or two of us to share,” said Star quietly, causing the group to all turn to face him.  “They would be easier to put out quickly and would make less smoke.”  It made sense, and they all knew it.  Everypony waited in silence for Apple Core’s response.  He kept pacing for another minute, before pausing to glare at Star.


“Fine.  Alright everypony, you heard him.  Pair up and make small fires.  But be ready to put them out quickly!” he ordered, doing his best to show off as the one in charge.  As they all started to spread out to settle in for the night, Sparky came over to Star, rubbing up against him.


“Great job putin Big Shot in his place,” she cooed, “care to share a fire?”


“Sorry,” he replied, a smirk on his face, “but I’m afraid I’m taken already.” He waved a hoof towards Melody.  “Little sister, remember?”


“Yeah,” Sparky sighed, her face betraying her disappointment, “I forgot.  Gotta play the good brother, huh?  But if you change your mind…” she trailed off, while trotting away, holding her tale high.


Star sighed as he watched her leave.  She’s cute, he thought, but I've got to keep my head focused.  “Mel,” he called, “wait here while I gather some firewood, ok?”


“Ok Star,” she replied, watching him wander off, before settling down in the thicket.  As the other ponies started to crawl into their own hiding places, the soft glow of small fires started to appear.  Taking off her bag, she pulled out the datapad, turned it on, and started a summary of the day’s events.  She didn't understand, but the writing was helping drive the fear from her mind.  As she worked, the sky darkened, and she listened to the others settle in for the night.  After a few minutes, she her eyes made the same choice for her.  No bad dreams tonight, she told herself, more of a wish then a command, as she switched off the datapad, pushed it back into her bag, and laid her down.  By the time Gaze returned to start their fire, she was already fast asleep…


Edited by nx9100

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Ch II: Ponyville


 


...BOOTING SOFTWARE


...ACCESSING DATATRACKS


...EXISTING FILE FOUND


...DO YOU WISH TO OPEN?    Y_


...LOADING


...READY...BEGIN RECORDING...


So, we made it to the orchard.  Seems like a nice place and all, but Star still looks worried, and that makes me nervous!  I think he’s afraid that the lizard ship might come back during the night!


Celestia, am I tired!  Apple Core had us marching all day to get here!  I know we made it alright, but I still think he’s a bully!  I wish Star was in charge!


Can’t stay awake any longer, time to sleep….


...END RECORD_


...SAVE FILE_


...SAVE COMPLETED


...POWERING OFF...


 


 


He was walking down a street, in the middle of a small town.  Ponies all around him, going about their business.  Up ahead, a large tree stood, taller than the buildings around it, with a door built into its base, windows on the trunk.  As he approached, the door opened, and a purple-colored mare stepped out.  She smiled at him, and then beckoned him to follow her as she turned and walked back inside.  Then, there was white...


He opened his eyes, straining against the morning sun that was shining in his face.  What a strange dream, he thought to himself.  I wonder who that pony was?  Never seen her before...  His thoughts were interrupted by the shouts of others around him, and his suddenly realized Melody was missing.  Alarmed, he scrambled out of the thicket…


...and right into Sparky Hooves.


"Whoa there buddy!" she laughed, as he caught his breath.  "What’s the matter?  Have a nightmare or some’en?"  Star froze, and looked around, coming fully awake.  The other ponies were wandering around the orchard, gathering apples, putting out fires, or enjoying breakfast, with no sense of urgency whatsoever.  If there was trouble, wouldn’t they be acting more frantic?  


"Where's Melody?" he asked.


"Down by the river with the others," she replied, pointing a hoof off to the side, "just getting herself cleaned up.  She's fine, don’t worry."  Sparky studied Gaze with her eyes, giving him a once-over.  "Matter oh fact; ya could use a bath yourself!"  And with another laugh, she turned and wandered away.  Star just sighed.  At least all was well, for the moment.  Looking himself over and spotting the patches of dirt mixed into his grey coat, he decided a bath in the river was probably a good idea.  A rumble in his stomach, however, convinced him otherwise.


"Hey Sparky!" he called after her.  "Hold on a second!"


She stopped and turned back to him.  "What's up?"


           


He trotted up next to her.  “Mind if I join you for breakfast?”


           


 “Not at all,” she said with a chuckle.  “Come on, let’s grab some apples!”  She led him over to a nearby tree, where another pony had already made a pile of apples waiting to be eaten.  They each picked one from the pile, moved to another tree, and sat down in the shade.


 “So,” he said between bites, “has Apple Core been bossing everypony around yet this morning?”


Sparky frowned.  “Not yet.  Haven’t seen ‘em.”  Finishing her apple, she tossed the core away.  “Why?” she asked, “Ya gonna knock some sense into him?”


“I thought that was your department.”


She snorted.  “Very funny.  But I don’t think-“ she broke off, as a familiar green pony came marching up to them, a determined look on his face, his two companions shadowing him.


“Speak of the devil,” she muttered, standing up to face the newcomers, “and he shall appear.”  She forced a smile on her face.  “Morning, Fearless Leader,” she greeted him, voice full of sarcasm.


With a roll of his eyes, he turned to Star.  “Listen, we need to talk about what happened yesterday.”


Star slowly stood up, and it wasn’t lost on the others that he stood almost a half a head taller than Apple Core.  “About what?” he asked.


Core stood his ground, trying not to tilt his chin up to look Star in the eye.  “I just wanted to make sure you remember who the leader of this group is.”


“Like we could ferget,” muttered Sparky, gaining her an angry glance from Apple Core.


“I’m talking about your actions on the way here,” Core said to Star.  “You don’t tell me what to do or where to go.  I’m the only one who knew the way here.  I’m the Leader.”  A smirk formed on his face.  “You got it?”


Sparky watched Star’s reaction, hoping he would get angry and simply deck the obnoxious colt.  But Star’s face remained neutral, and he took a few moments before replying.


“I only said what I thought was right,” he told the other, his voice firm.  “Something just felt wrong.  Like a feeling of danger.”


“Well, next time you have a ‘feeling’ or something, just keep it to yourself, ok?” Core asked, in a degrading tone.  “I know you just want to help, but I’m the leader, got it?”  And smugly lifting his chin, he moved past the two, grabbed an apple, and walked away, his companions trailing behind.


Star watched them go, and then noticed the angry glare Sparky was giving him.  “What?”


“Ya just gonna sit there at take that from him?” she demanded.  “Yer older and a better leader!  Stand up to ‘em!”


He lowered his head.  “Why should I?  His mother made him the leader.  Besides,” he looked away, “I have enough to worry about with Sweet Melody, without going around and challenging everypony I disagree with.”


Sparky sighed.  “Fine.  But I’ve been talk’en with the others.”  She gave him a stern look.  “Some don’t think we should be follow’in Apple Core.  That he’s just too young, immature and, well,” she glanced back at the green colt, “he’s just a bully!”


He shook his head.  “Doesn’t matter.  He’s the one in charge, so we follow him.  After all,” he waved a hoof around the area, “he did manage to get us here.”


“Yeah, but I still don’t trust him to make the right choices,” she said.  “His family pride controls him, not his brain.  He’ll lead us into trouble eventfully, ya just watch!”


“Enough!” he snapped, startling her and drawing the attention of a few nearby ponies.  “I’m not going to challenge Apple Core, got it?”


He could see the hurt on her face, a bit of tears forming in her eyes.  Finally, she stood up.  “Fine!  Have it your way!”  Turning away from him, she stomped off into the apple trees.


           


Star sighed again, and started off towards the river Sparky mentioned, to check on Melody.  As he walked, his thoughts kept going back to the dream, and the unknown pony.  He'd never seen a village like that one.  Ever since the Invasion, their herd had always lived in simple, quickly built huts, a life forced on them as the constant attacks by the lizards forced them to move every few months.  It was only in the past dozen years that they were finally able to live in peace.


At least, until now.


But that place… that place looked like a real village, or possibly even a town!  The kind of place his grandmothers’ used to talk about.  Where entire generations of ponies lived in harmony, unafraid of alien lizards coming for them in the middle of the night.


           


The sound of laughing brought his attention back into focus, and he watched two young colts enter the orchard.  Both of their coats were dripping wet, and mud clung to their hooves.


"Which way to the river?" he asked them.  They pointed, and he set off, following the muddy trail the others had left through the trees.  After a few minutes of walking, he started to hear the sound of the water flowing nearby.  Changing from a slow walk to a brisk trot, he moved through the trees, and suddenly found himself at the edge of the river.


           


Crystal blue water greeted him, slowly flowing downstream, with the occasional leaf or twig floating by.  Scanning the area with his eyes, Star noticed three other ponies relaxing in the shallow water along the river bank.  The only problem was his sister was nowhere to be seen.


         


"Has anypony seen Sweet Melody?" he asked, walking up to the edge of the river.  One mare turned and pointed upstream.


"Thought I saw her go that way,” she replied, the others nodding in agreement.


Star frowned.  “And no one went with her?  She just wandered off on her own?” he asked, slight anger in his voice.


The mare gave him an annoyed look.  “Hey, it’s not our job to fowlsit everypony,” she replied.  “She wants to wander off, that’s her problem.  Apple Core said to stay close to the camp, and if your sister can’t listen, who are we to stop her?”  One of the others snickered.


"Thanks a lot," he replied sarcastically, and headed off along the river bank in the direction she pointed in.  After a few minutes and no sign of Melody, he started to get worried.


"Melody!" he called, "Sweet Melody!  Where are you?!"  Worried now, he started to run faster down the riverbank, following what he hoped was her trail.  "MELODY!" he cried out.


"Over here!"


He stopped in his tracks, nearly tripping in the dirt.  Her voice came from the trees to the left.  Taking off into a sprint, he ran into the trees.  "Melody!" There was a large trunk in his path, and he curved around it-


-and nearly ran Melody over!


"Mel!" he cried, picking himself off the ground, having tripped trying to avoid crashing into her.  "What in the name of Celestia are you doin-" his voice broke off, and he finally noticed that Melody wasn't facing him at all, but was staring at the clearing in front of her.  As he took in the sight, he realized it wasn't a normal clearing in the forest, but a street or road, with old empty buildings on each side.


"What is it Star?" she asked, breaking the silence that had descended upon them, her eyes wandering over the scene before her.  Just beyond the trees, a few buildings followed the edge of the river, leading to what appeared to be a large, clearing, with the occasional lamp post marking the corners.


"I don't know," he replied.  "Mel, what are you doing out here?  You know better than to wander off on your own!"


"I'm sorry," she replied, turning to him and lowering her head, "I was heading to the river to clean up, when this cute old owl appeared.”  She started hopping on two legs, waving her hooves around in a circle.  “It was flying around and around, and hooting at me!  I started following it,” she glanced back at the empty buildings, “and I ended up here.  What is this place?"


"Haven't got a clue," he admitted, “some old town, perhaps.”  Getting a blank stare from Mel, he realized that, except in a few pictures, she’d never seen a real town in her life.  For that matter, nether had he!


         


One thing he did know: this place had been abandoned for years!  One could tell by how the forest was slowly growing into the village, vines crawling their way up the walls of the crumbling homes and shops.  He found himself torn between exploring, and going back to the others.


"Let's go see!" said Melody, making the choice for him.  She started down the road…


"Hold on," he reached out and grabbed her tail, making her squeak out in protest.  "Don't rush in, it might not be safe."  He looked around the sky.  And no trees to hide us from view, he thought.


"Well, then you go first," she said, yanking her tail free from his grip.  Star started forward, his head on a swivel as he tried to watch all directions at once, and led her slowly out of the safety of the trees, and into the open.  Together, they slowly wandered down the dirt and grass covered street, watching as the occasional breeze moved open window shutters and swung doors on rusty hinges.  Every house and shop featured broken windows, collapsed roofs, and crumbling walls.  He wondered how long the town had been empty.


"This is spooky," whispered Melody, as they crept down the road, "do you think there are ghosts?"


"There's no such thing as ghosts," replied Star sternly, "you know that."  Looking ahead, he saw the clearing at the center of the town, and what looked to be the remains of a large, round building.  A broken red-roofed dome sat atop the pile of debris, with broken glass and wooden railings lying all around it.


"I dunno," she said, looking into a broken window frame, "looks haunted to me!"  Turning to the left, they moved further down another street, when he suddenly realized this was starting to look familiar.  Almost like had been here before…


“Whooo!” came a noise from above the siblings.  Looking up, they both saw an owl flying above them far overhead.  Melody started jumping up and down in excitement.


“I take it that’s the owl you were following?” Star asked her, while watching it circle down in their direction.


“Yes!” she cried, still hopping around.  “He came back!”  They both watched, and the owl dove gently down in their direction, before swooping back up, coming in to land on the roof of a nearby shop.  Leading the way, Melody trotted over to look at it, Star slowly following.


“I think he likes us!” she decided, still watching the owl.  Moving up beside her, Star couldn’t help but wonder about this little creature.  The more he watched it, the more he felt it was studying them, following him with its eyes.


Suddenly, with a flap of its wings, the owl took off, heading down one of the side streets.


           


        “Hey!” cried Melody, “Come back!”  She took off after it, with Star running close behind her.


“Mel!” he called, pulling up alongside, “what are you doing?”


“Following him!” she replied, and started laughing as she ran.  He couldn’t help but smile, as it had been days since he’d seen her laugh like that.


The owl led them past rows of empty houses, all just as neglected at the first ones they had found.  And yet, all familiar to him somehow.  He was starting to wonder about this place, when Melody suddenly came to a halt.


“Hey, where’d he go?” she said, looking around in all directions, trying in vain to spot their winged friend.  Having stopped himself, Star also looked around for him.


“I guess he took off somewhere,” he said, putting a hoof over her shoulder.  “Don’t worry.  I’m sure he’ll be back.”  He looked around the street, trying to decide which way to go.


A breeze blew through the air, carrying a handful of leaves past his face, blowing through his and Melody’s manes. Star turned, watching the leaves as they floated along, and around a corner.  Without thinking, he started walking along in their direction.


Melody, noticing his movement, trotted after him.  “Where are you going?” she asked.


“Don’t know,” he replied, “just had a feeling to head this way.”  She gave her brother a weird look, but followed him anyway.


 


They turned the corner, still following the wind, and he froze, catching Melody off guard.  


"What's the matter?" she asked.  But he didn't answer.  He couldn't move, talk, or do anything except stare at the site in front of them.  This wasn't possible!


Was it?


There, standing before them, branches still covered in the same green leaves from his dream, as the wind blew past him, around its trunk, and through the open windows.


It was the tree house.


Edited by nx9100

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(edited)

Alright, Chapter II is up!  I hope everypony likes it so far.  I know I'm new to writing, so please, bare with me!  If all goes well, I hope to have a full 12 chapters for the first Book, and have plans to continue after that.  I have this great story in my head, and really want to share it with you all!

Edited by nx9100

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Ch III: Past Prologue


 


...BOOTING SOFTWARE


...ACCESSING DATATRACKS


...EXISTING FILE FOUND


...DO YOU WISH TO OPEN?    Y_


...LOADING


...READY...BEGIN RECORDING...


                    


So, here we are, in the middle of the forest, and what do we find?  A spooky, empty, village!  Bunch of old buildings rotting away.  But that’s not the strangest thing!  Star says he had a dream about this place the other night, and that he saw the pony who lived in that old, hollow tree.  Strange, huh?


                    


He wants to go check it out, but I wanna look at the house just past it.  There’s something familiar about it…


...END RECORD_


...SAVE FILE_


...SAVE COMPLETED


...POWERING OFF...


 


Finally breaking free from his shock, Star started to head towards the tree house.  He didn’t know why, he just had to go inside.  The door was slightly ajar, with the wood starting to rot away from years of neglect.  Broken glass windows on the trunk reflected the sunlight, making it appear as if the whole tree was glowing.  Or, maybe, it was just a trick of his mind.  As they approached, the breeze blew past them again, catching the door, and blowing it open.


“I guess something really wants you to go in there,” laughed Melody.


“It’s just the wind,” he replied.  But privately, he was wondering the same thing.  Looking past the open door, they could see piles of old books, all scattered around the floor.  The rays of light from the broken windows lit up the main room, casting shadows all around.


They entered slowly, trying not to step on and damage the books any more then nature already had.


“Sure are a lot of books here,” Melody said.  “I guess who ever lived in this tree loved to read.”


“I think this was a library,” replied Star, and he studied the room.  Bookshelves carved into the walls were covered with rotting books, while more books and scattered papers were all over the floor.  Not sure what he was looking for, he moved further inside, hoping for some sort of sign or something.


“Wow!” exclaimed Melody, “Look at that!”   She pointed ahead, to a picture mounted above the fireplace, showing a group of 6 ponies all posing together.   Star recognized the one from his dream in the middle.


“I wonder who they were,” said Melody.


“I’m not sure,” he replied.  “Friends of the pony who lived here, I’d guess.”  While his sister studied the picture, he moved around the room, looking at the various books.  Most seemed to be about magic and science, but others had even stranger titles:


SLEEPOVERS: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO HAVING FUN!


PINKIE’S 101 CUPCAKE RECIPIES


THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO EQUESTIA


THE PERFECT STORM


He shook his head.  There had to be a book for just about everything in here!  They could spend days, and still not have read nearly a quarter of them.  I wonder if I can find one with our herd’s history.


Just then, a loud swoosh came from above.  As they both looked up, the old owl flew in from an open window above them.  It circled the room, and then landed on top of a cracked bookcase, watching the two below.


“Hey!  He’s back!” Melody said.  “Do you think he’s friendly?”


“I don’t know,” Star said.  The owl looked friendly enough.  It wasn’t attacking them, at least.  Bur somehow he had the impression that it lead them here.


“Was it in your dream too?”  Melody was moving forward, fascinated by their new friend, and finally able to get close to him.


“No, I don’t remember him,” said Star, “just the purple pony and this house.”


At the mention of the dream pony, the owl perked up, and took off into the air.  Star and Melody ducked as he swooped over them, seemingly excited about something.  Then suddenly, it came to a stop, hovering in front of Gaze.


“What does he want?” Melody was hiding behind Star, watching the owl as it studied her brother.  Star kept still, as the owl stared into his eyes.  Then, apparently satisfied, it waved a wing at them, and flew up the stairs to the second floor.


“Should we follow it?” asked Melody.


“Well, I guess we could,” he agreed, and led the way up the stairs, trying not to slip on any books or papers lying around.  When they reached the top, the owl was waiting for them, sitting on the back of an old bed, whose mattress has rotted away.


“Whoo!”


They approached, as the owl watched them.  Not quite sure why, Star moved over to the bed, and leaned down to peer underneath.


“What are you looking for?” Melody asked, a puzzled look on her face as she watched her brother.


“Don’t know,” he replied, “probably nothing-” he broke off, spotting a small box pushed off to one side.  Reaching out, he was able to pull it from under the bed.


“Let me see!” demanded Melody, pushing around him to look inside.  There wasn’t much to look at, just a small bottle and a rolled up scroll.


“Whoo!” said the Owl, as it pointed a wing at the bottle, then at Star.


“I think he wants you to drink it,” she said.  Star picked up the bottle, watched the white liquid inside slosh around.  I’ve got to be crazy!, he thought, as he pulled the cork off with his teeth.  Then, after a shrug, he drank it down.


“Well?” asked Melody, “does it taste good?”


“Not much taste,” he said, “I wonder what it was for-”.  But before he could finish, his body went rigid, eyes glowing white.


“Star!” cried Melody, “Star!”


Her voice faded away into darkness, and when the light cleared, he looked around, but Melody was nowhere to be seen.  Neither was the Owl.  In fact, the whole place seemed to be different somehow.  The mess of books and papers was gone, and everything appeared to be in place.  Even the windows were back to normal.  Like how it might have looked back when the other pony still lived there…


Voices came from the main floor.  He turned to look over the railing, and saw the purple pony again, pacing around the room.  Another pony was there, standing just inside the door, wearing golden-white armor, shining in the sunlight from the quite intact windows.


“It’s finished Twilight,” he said.  “The cave has been sealed.”


She paused in her pacing, turning to face him.  “And the visitor?” she asked.


“Gone,” was the sullen reply, “he passed in the night.  According to his wishes, we buried him in a quiet corner of the cave.”


“Such a sad ending,” she said, lowering her head with a sigh, “to think, being trapped so far away from one’s home, without any friends to comfort you.”


The armor-clad pony moved up to put a hoof over her shoulder.  “There was nothing more you could have done for him.  He made his choice.”


“I know,” she replied, “but it still doesn’t make any of this easy.  My first big job as a princess and it’s something like this!”  She pulled away from him, and started pacing again.  “I mean, shouldn’t Celestia have been in charge?  This was something nopony has ever seen before!”


“That’s why she asked you to handle it,” he said.  “You have a knack for handling the unknown.  Isn’t that how you became a princess in the first place?”


She paused, turning to him with a smile.  “You’re right.  And I guess I’ll just have to deal with it now.”  Another sigh.  “You’re sure the cave is sealed?”


“I moved the last rocks myself,” he answered.  “And put an alarm enchantment on it.  Nopony is getting in there without my knowledge of it.”


“Good,” she said, and visibly appeared to calm down.  “I’ll send Princess Celestia a message in the morning; let her know everything is under control.”


“I still think we should have studied it more,” he replied, “what about if the ones that were chasing him come here looking for it?  We could use it against them!”


“That wasn’t what I promised the Visitor!” she snapped.  “We keep it hidden, and that’s final!”


“Fine.  But at least leave a note or something.  If they ever come looking for him, future ponies may need her.”


Taking a deep breath, she tried to relax.  “Good point.  I’ll have Spike make a map of the location, and keep it here at the library.  Just in case.”


“Alright.”  He reached out and gave her a hug, which she returned.  “I’ve got to get back to the Crystal Empire.  Cadance is starting to worry about what’s going on.”


“I understand.  See you soon!”


“Take care little sister!”  And with the goodbye, he turned and left the library.


She stood there, watching the door close behind him.  “At least this part is over with,” she said to herself.  “I just hope that Shining Armor is wrong, and that keeping the Star Princess sealed away is the right choice.  Because if he’s right,” she looked up, and Star could have sworn she was looking at him, “she could be Equestria’s only hope…”


Suddenly, everything faded to white…


... And when it cleared, he was back where he started, standing in the remains of Twilight’s library once again.


“You’re alright!” Melody said, jumping up to give him a big hug.  “I was worried something happened to you!”


He hugged her back, and shook his head to clear his mind.  “How long was I out?”  He looked around, and saw the mess that once again covered the floor.


“Oh, just a few minutes,” she replied.   “But I was still scared!”


“Sorry.” He paused, looking at the scroll still sitting in the box.  Didn’t she mention something about a map?, he thought, while picking it up and moving over to one of the broken windows for more light.  Pulling the string off, he unrolled the scroll.


“It is the map!” he cried out, making Melody jump.


“What map?” she asked.  “What are you talking about?”


“This,” he showed her, spreading it out on the floor.  “Look, here is where we are,” he pointed to a spot labeled ‘Ponyville’.  “And here’s the river we were walking along.  And here,” he followed a line that led to an area labeled ‘Crystal Mountains’.


“Here what?” she asked, confused.


“I don’t know,” he said, not sure how to tell her about his vision.  He had never heard of anypony experiencing something like that, getting a look at the past.  That’s what he had seen, wasn’t it?


A sudden noise nearly made him jump.


 “HaHaHaHaHa!”  Melody was laughing, as the owl flew circles around her, swooping down and around her head, while she jumped up, trying to catch him.  As Star watched, his thoughts keep going back to what he had seen.  


“I wonder who the Star Princess is?” he said out loud.


Suddenly, the owl stopped circling Melody, and flew over to Star.  It landed on the floor next to the map, watching Star with its eyes.


“Whoo,” it said, “Whoo!”


“What is it?” Melody asked, watching the owl.


“I don’t know,” Star replied.  The owl was staring at him, and he could feel its eyes, almost like they were looking straight into his mind.  Then, a thought occurred.


“Do we need to go there?” he asked, pointing to the end of the line on the map.  “Is that what you’re saying?”


“Whoo!” it replied.


“Why?  What’s there?” he asked the owl.  It didn’t answer, just kept staring at him.


“Star …” Melody pressed her hoof against his side.  “You ok?  What’s going on?”


He looked away from the owl, back to the map.  If his guess was right, the mountains were a long trek away.  But why should he go?  Who was the Star Princess?


And, if Twilight was right, how could she help them?


“Come here,” he said, grabbing the map and placing it into Melody’s bag.  “Hold onto that for me, ok?”  Then he turned to head back outside.


“Where are we going?” she asked, looking back at the owl while following him outside, into the warm sunlight.  “Don’t you want to look around the library anymore?”


“I don’t know,” he admitted.  “Let’s just walk around here a bit.  I need to think.”  As they walked away from the old library, he kept thinking about the owl, the map, and his vision.  He knew that they were all important, but didn’t know what he should do next.  If his parents were here, he would ask them.  Or one of his grandparents.  Or-


“Hey, what’s that?”  Melody asked, breaking his concentration.  He turned back, to see her pointing a hoof at a nearby house.  Like the others, it was slowly falling apart, with a collapsed roof, broken windows, and crumbling walls.  He didn’t understand why it caught her attention.


“It’s just an empty house Mel,” Star replied.


“I know that!” she pointed again at the roof.  “But what’s THAT?”


He followed her gaze, and finally saw what she was pointing at.  Where the roofline ended at one side of the house, a decorative pole was mounted, slightly bent to one side.  And sitting on top of the pole was what looked like a fancy wind vane.  His eyes traced its outline, trying to remember where he’d seen the design before.  It looked like a pair of music notes connected to a trouble clef…


“It looks like Grammy Scratch’s cutie mark!” cried Melody.  “And Grammy Tavi’s too!”  She was hopping up and down with excitement, and Star had to admit it was a remarkable match.  He thought back to the pictures of his grandmothers back home, and remembered them telling stories about the town they used to live in, back before the lizards came.


“Watchya think Star?” Melody asked, “Doesn’t it?”


“Yeah,” he agreed, “It does.”  He studied the house, trying to recall the stories his grandmothers had told him as a little colt.  “Hey Mel,” he turned, and placed a hoof on her shoulder, “do you remember the stories that Grandma Tavi used to tell us?  About when she and Grandma Scratch were younger?”


“Not really,” Melody admitted, while they walked together towards the house, avoiding a pile of broken carts as they went.  Both her grandmothers died when she was younger, and her memories of them were patchy.  If not for the pictures her mother had, she wouldn’t have recognized their cutie marks on the house.


“Well,” said Star, as they approached the front steps of the house, “they lived in a town called Ponyville, which I guess is where we are now.”  They walked up the steps, and he pulled open the door.  Creaking on its rusty hinges, the door slowly swung open, revealing a front room covered in dust, dirt, and weeds.  Sunlight shown down, through were the ceiling had caved in.


“Ponyville?” asked Melody “Isn’t that where our Herd is from?”


“I see somepony really WAS paying attention is school,” laughed Star.  “And yes, back during what Grammy Scratch called ‘the good ‘ol days’.  When Equestria was filled with harmony, and everything was peaceful.”


“So what happened?  Why did they leave?”


Star looked at his sister confused.  “I thought you knew the story?”


“Our teacher hasn’t gotten that far in class,” she explained, “History was going to be next week.  Or this week I mean, if we didn’t leave.”  She looked down, eyes starting to water…


“It’s ok,” he said, with a comforting hug, “Not many ponies like to talk about what happened.  About sixty or seventy years ago, Equestria was attacked by creatures from the sky.  They came in bigger versions of the flying ships that we see today.”


“You mean the ones looking for us?”


“Yes.  They came down from the sky by the dozens, each one carrying a thousand lizard soldiers inside.”  He paused, trying to remember the whole story as his grandmothers had told him, while attempting to leave out certain details, so as not to scare Melody.


“The creatures attacked everypony, and drove them out of their homes.  That’s when all the unicorns disappeared.”


“Where did they go?” she asked, her tears forgotten as she listened.


“Nopony knows.  Some say the princesses combined all their magic and teleported them away somewhere.”


“Why just them?”


“Because the Vectin were hunting them.  The story says that magic energy was our only defense, so the lizards decided to get rid of all the magic users.  The unicorns.  After that, they took over all of Equestria, and supposedly, everyplace else too.  That’s when the survivors of Ponyville banded together in the forest, and formed our Herd.   They’ve been moving around ever since, to keep from being captured by the lizards.”


“Moving?” she asked, “I don’t remember moving.”


“You’re too young.  The last time the Herd moved was just after you were born.  The elder ponies say the lizards finally decided to leave us alone, but” he looked towards the sky, “I guess they changed their minds.  Come on.”


They entered slowly, looking around and wondering about their grandmothers, and what their lives had been like.  Had they really lived here?  The house was filled with dust and old, broken furniture.   A few sheets of paper were scattered around, each one covered in barley readable music notes.  They moved in slowly, nervous in the strange quiet of the place.


“Star,” whispered Melody, looking around the room, “this is weird.”


“Tell me about it,” he replied, having moved over to a mantel, and lifted the broken picture frame that was laying there.  “Check this out!”


He turned to face Melody, holding out the frame.  Inside, was an old photograph of two young mares, posing on a blanket in a meadow.  One was a very pale yellow, almost white, with a punk-style blue-turquoise mane (almost identical to his black-grey one), with purple glasses hiding her eyes.  The other almost looked like an older version of Melody, but with a grey coat, and a beautifully brushed dark mane, and a familiar pink bowtie around her neck.


“Wow!” said Melody, leaning in for a better look, “they look beautiful!  Is that really Grandma Tavi and Grandma Scratch?”  


“Yeah, I think so,” he answered.  “Back when they were younger.”  He passed the picture to her, and wandered into the next room.  From the dust-covered table, sink, and counter, he figured it was the kitchen.  Nothing too out of the ordinary, except for the giant speaker mounted on the side of the dishwasher.  Wait, what the- he thought, doing a double-take.  Who uses noise to clean dishes?  Then he remembered something his grandmother once said, how his other grandmother used music to clean, along with almost everything else.  No, not music, what did she call them? he thought.  Dubs… no, Wubs!  He shook his head with a smile, wishing he could have known Grandma Scratch back in her prime.  She even claimed she used to have something called a ‘Bass Canon’.  She must have been on heck of a roommate, he thought.  Turning to head back to the front room, his eye caught a stained, white cloth lying in the corner.  Pulling it out, he realized it was a kitchen apron, with the works ‘Wub the cook’ printed on it.  Smirking to himself, Star put it on the table, and went back to find Melody.  She was looking at a framed record still hanging on the wall.


“Look at this!” she said.  “It’s one of Grammy Scratch’s albums!”


“Are you sure?” he asked, stepping over for a look.


“Well, it’s signed by her,” Melody answered, matter-of-factly.  “Who else’s could it be?”


Reaching up, Star wiped the dust off the label on the bottom of the frame.  “SELF AWARE” he read.  Then, looking at the hand written note across the record, “To my best friend – love Vinyl.”


“Awe, that’s so cute, “said Melody.  “Can we take it back home with us?”


Suddenly, a familiar high-pitched whine came from overhead.  Melody dropped the picture frame she was still holding, as Star suddenly darted to the closest window.  Looking out, he saw the spiked-wedge ship floating past the house.


Meanwhile, Melody had picked up the broken frame, and removed the picture from it.  This was something she wanted to take with her.  Reaching back, she slid the picture into her bag, next to the datapad and her brother’s map, while he continued watching the ship.


Dammit!  Not here, he thought, while trying to decide what to do.  Not now!  As he watched, to his horror, the spiked-wedge ship descended to land on the ground just down the street from the house.  A door on its side opened, and two large lizard creatures appeared.  Unlike the ponies, they moved on only two legs, with scales covering their bodies from snout to tale.  Each one was holding some sort of long, greenish-brown staff, while smooth black-green armor covered their torsos.


“What are they?” asked Melody, and Star just realized she had crawled over by him to also look out the window.


 “They’re the ones hunting us,” he replied, “the ones who attacked our home during the night forcing us to run away.”        He turned back to the creatures.


“They’re called the Vectin…”


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Ch IV: First Encounter

 

...BOOTING SOFTWARE

...ACCESSING DATATRACKS

...EXISTING FILE FOUND

...DO YOU WISH TO OPEN?    Y_

...LOADING

...READY...BEGIN RECORDING...

So, here we are, trapped in my grandmothers’ old house, with a group of alien lizards outside looking for us.  Now I really wish we were back home with mama and papa!

 

Whatever Star found at that library, I hope it was important!

...END RECORD_

...SAVE FILE_

...SAVE COMPLETED

...POWERING OFF...

 

.

 

 

 

 

“Now what do we do?”

Star watched the two Vectin, as they scanned the street with their eyes, searching for anything that moved.  He kept still, head down low, hoping they wouldn't notice him through all the dust on the window.

“Star,” Melody tried again, “what do we do now?”

“Quite,” he ordered, and with one hoof, he slowly pushed Melody back from the window, eyes never wavering from the aliens.  They stood out in the street, clawed hands grasping their staffs, razor-sharp teeth poking out from the ends of their snouts, slit-like eyes darting around, as if searching for something.  He watched, trying to figure out what they could possibly be looking for.

Then, suddenly, he saw it.

“Our tracks!” he whispered sharply.

“What tracks?” Melody whispered back, confused.

“In the dirt outside,” he answered, while staring at the offending marks in the dirt leading up to the house.  “If they look over here, our hoof-prints will give away that somepony was out there.”  He started to worry, for while he might be able to knock out one Vectin, two of them were a different matter.  Especially, since they were armed.  What he needed, was a plan.

Then, a though occurred.  “Hey, wasn't there a back door in the kitchen?” he asked.

“I dunno,” Melody replied.  “I didn't go in there.”

“Never mind,” he slowly and quietly led her back down the hallway, into the kitchen.  There wasn't a door, per say, but a hole in the wall that they could fit through one at a time.  Either way, it would do.

Provided he could move the two broken chairs in front of it.  Star sighed.  There was no way the two Vectin wouldn't hear the noise.  Maybe, if we had some sort of distraction, he thought.  But what could they use?  He was sure they wouldn't fall for the toss-a-stone-so-the-noise-gets-their-attention trick.  That would be too easy.

Then, with a flash, he remembered where he was.  His grandmothers’ house.  His musically talented grandmothers’ house.

“Melody,” he whispered, “stay as quiet as you can, and help me look around.”

“For what?” she asked.

“Anything that would make noise,” he replied.  “I don’t know, maybe a music box or instrument or something.”

She gave him a skeptical look.  “I thought you said to be quiet.”

“Yes, but we can use something to make enough noise to distract them, while sneaking out the hole in the kitchen wall.”

“Oh.”  She looked around the kitchen.  “I don’t see anything.”

“Well, check the other room,” he said, following her out, half expecting to bump right into the lizards when they stepped through the door.

But no, the front room was just as quiet as they left it.  He scanned the dust-covered furniture, looking for anything he could have missed before.  But the room had nothing to offer him.

“Whoa!  What’s that?”  He turned, to see Melody had opened a small door, starring into the closet behind it.  He moved over to her, trying to see what had caught her attention.

“Let me see,” he ordered, and she moved over, revealing…

… a large, black box, partially covered by a dirty, white sheet.

“It’s a box,” he said.  “What’s the big deal?”

Melody reached out and pulled the sheet off, which fell to the floor in a cloud of dust, causing her to cough.

“Easy,” he said, glancing back towards the front window.  The two Vectin were not it sight, but he had no idea just how good their hearing was.

“Look!” said Melody, and he turned back to the closet.  With the sheet gone, he now saw what had caught her attention before.  Four depressed circles, looking like speakers, covered one side, with a large red button on the top.

“What do you think it is?” she asked.

“Well,” he replied, “it could be our distraction.  Assuming, it still works.”  He reached past her to get a hold on the speaker box, and tugged it forward.  “Great!  It’s on wheels,” he exclaimed.  “That should make this easier.”

“Make what easier?”  Melody tried to ask, but he was already moving the speaker-box towards the front door, trying to be as quiet as possible.  Watching him try to push past a chair, she got the idea and moved around him, pushing the chair out of the way.  With a nod of thanks, he moved past, and positioned the box right in front of the door.

“Ok, you ready?” he asked

“Ready for what?”

He pointed back towards the kitchen.  “Go wait in there,” he said, “assuming this works, when the music starts, knock the broken chairs out of the way and dive through the hole.”

She looked worried.  “What about you?”

“I’ll be right behind you,” he said, “Now go!”

With a worried look, she returned to the kitchen, leaving Star alone with the silence of the abandoned room.  He moved to the window, and saw that the Vectin had moved.  A quick glance around, and he found them, still in the street, but directly in front of the door.  It was a miracle they hadn't noticed his and Mel’s hoof prints yet.

But the reprieve came to an abrupt end, as one of the lizards turned around, and finally noticed the tracks not four feet away from where he stood.  His head slowly lifted up, and Star could have sworn it stared right into his eyes.

It’s now or never, he though, and looked down at the speaker box.  Come on Grandma Scratch, don’t let me down!  He reached back, and with a mighty swing, slammed his hoof onto the button.

 

The front panels slid open, to reveal a single, large speaker underneath, which started glowing with a bright, blue light, with a sound like it was charging up for something.  Star had but a moment to wonder what it was doing, when…

BOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!

With a flash, a column of blue/white energy lashed out from the speaker, accompanied by a blast of music.  It blew straight through the front door of the house, hitting the two Vectin soldiers, and kept on going.  Star watched in amazement and the blast went clean through the house across the street, taking the lizards with it.

But after just a few seconds, the energy and music died down, fading to silence once again.  He stood there, frozen in shock, starring at the remains of the front door.

“What was that!” cried out Melody, looking out from the kitchen, and bringing him back to reality.          

“Uh…” was all he could say.

“STAR!!” she screamed, pointing out the window.  He turned to look, as another of the spiked-wedge ships came down to land outside.  Finally, his brain started to wake up.  While the blast did manage to distract the Vectin, it also got the attention of even more.

“Run!”  Grabbing her front leg, he led her back to the kitchen.  A quick buck and the broken chairs crashed to the side.  There was no time for silence now.  Pointing a hoof at the hole, he quickly turned to his sister.

“Go now!  Run behind the next house over!”  She scrambled to the hole, and he ended up shoving her through.  Ducking down, he pulled himself through the wall, belly scraping the dirt on the way out.  Standing back up, he took off; running after Sweet Melody’s fleeing shape, as she banked around the corner of the next house.  He turned the corner to follow-

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

-just as a bolt of orange energy hit the wall behind him.  That was too close! , he thought, turning to check on his sister.  Melody was standing there, waiting for him.

“Come on!” he shouted, “Keep going!”  They ran together, keeping along the wall of the collapsing home.

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

Another bolt of orange flew past them, narrowly missing his tail.  Melody screamed.

 Knowing they couldn't stay out in the open, Star began looking for something, anything, they could use for cover.  A glance ahead told him they were approaching an intersection with another street.  On the far corner, was a building with its front door hanging off the hinges.  That will work, he thought, and turned to lead Melody to the building, as two more orange bolts few past them.  They ran across the street, up the steps, and dove through the doorway.  Without stopping, he led her across the room, and leaping behind the counter at the far end.  He reached out, and caught Melody as she ran past pulling her behind the counter with him, causing her to cry out.

“Quiet!” he said, holding a hoof over her mouth.  They remained still, waiting for the lizards’ next move.  Star glanced around, wondering how he was going to get them out of this.  Melody was panting heavily, tears running down her cheeks.  She was more scared then she’d ever been in her life, and he knew it.  Somehow, he had to get her to safety.

           

Looking around, he saw the doorway leading to the back of the building.  “This way,” he whispered, getting up to run, and with Melody following, they ran into the room.  Shelves lined the walls, some still holding various bags and cans.  But the siblings didn't stop to see what they contained, as they kept running.  Thankfully, the room had a collapsed wall at the far end, which led them back outside.  Finding themselves behind a row of buildings, they continued on, dodging the occasional piece of debris lying on the ground.  Leaving a cloud of dust in their wake, they ran…

 

----------------------------

 

There were four of them, walking slowly down the street, staffs held out in front, ready to aim at anything they could find.  Each walked on two legs, their forked tongues occasionally poking out of their mouths, sampling the air around them.  Eyes darting around, looking for any signs of their prey.

Star watched the Vectin soldiers from the window of the old shop they were hiding in, waiting for them to move further down the street.  He looked at the sky, and the setting sun in the distance.  For the past few hours, he and Melody had played a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the lizards, running from building to building, looking for any way to sneak past them.

But the Vectin were efficient hunters.  Each time they found a place to hide, it didn't take long for the lizards to follow them.  Whether by smell, footprints, or some other means, they followed…

“Hey, look at what I found!”

He turned away from the window to look back into the shop.  Sweet Melody was standing at the far side of the room, next to a now open chest.  She was trying to pull out some kind of cloth from it.

“What are you doing?” he asked, quietly.   “What is that?”

“Looks like a dress!” she replied, and, fully removing it from the chest, held it up in front of her.  The dress was a light blue, with several jems sown into it, though one could see where some were missing.  “Wachya think?”

“I think you should leave it alone,” he replied.  “We can’t take it anyway; it would just slow you down.”

“Party pooper,” she whined, folding the dress back up and putting it back into the chest.   “But it looked so pretty.”  Closing the chest, she started to wander around the room, poking her hoofs into other boxes and chests that lay around.  “Oh look!” she exclaimed, “There’s more dresses!”

Star rolled his eyes, and turned back to the window.  We’re being hunted, and she’s going nuts over some rags!  But at least she wasn't crying or scared.  Well, for the moment anyway.

Looking out over the dirt road, he watched the Vectin soldiers continue past their hiding place.  They still had their staffs held out, as if expecting an attack at any moment.  We can’t hide here forever, he thought.  Surely the lizards would check the building soon.  But where could they go?

… the station…..”

“Huh?” he nearly jumped.  “Who said that?”

“Who said what?” asked Melody, giving him a weird stare, dropping the cloth she was holding.  “I didn't say anything.”

“Not you,” he replied, looking around.  “Another voice, saying something about a station.”

She tilted her head to one side, her face showing confusion.  “Star Gaze, what are you talking about?”

Stepping away from the window, he started pacing around the room, while his sister watched.  He knew he heard something.  But what station?  Where was it?  And why did the voice want him to go there?  He kept pacing, frustration growing inside him.   It didn't matter where they went, the Vectin would just follow them.  All the streets were made of dirt, and anywhere they ran, they would leave tracks-

He froze mid-stride.  Of course!  The train station!  They could walk along the metal train tracks, which would keep them from leaving hoof prints in the dirt!  Why didn't I think of that!

Turning to Melody, “Come on, I know where to go.”

“Where?” she asked, but he was already pulling her towards the door.  Peeking out the crack, he saw the four Vectin farther down the street, looking like they were getting ready to turn around.  It was now or never.

“Let’s go!”  He led her out the door.  Clinging to the wall of the shop, the two ponies moved around the building, heading away from the aliens.  And not a moment too soon, as one of the lizards turned around just after Melody followed her brother around the curved shop, just out of sight.  Once they were around the back of the building, Star turned to his sister, and pointed a hoof away from them.

“That way!  Run!”  They took off, heading away from the round shop building, and headed back across the town.  Having a vague idea of which direction to go, Star charged down the street, Melody right behind him.  They passed a few more deserted buildings, dodged abandoned carts and carriages, and jumped over broken boxes, furniture, and other random junk.

“Over there!” he called out, and banked into a new direction.  A quick glance behind told him Melody was still keeping up, but was clearly getting tired.

A howl in the distance told him that their hunters new they were moving.  It was now or never…

They rounded another old shop, and there it was!  Just down the path, a ragged old building with a sloped roof.  And sitting next to it, rusting away was a train.  With a final grunt, he charged down the path to the building, and ducked around it, taking cover next to the old engine.  Before he could even catch his breath, Melody crashed right into him, sending both of them tumbling down the platform, landing into a pile of forgotten luggage.

With a moan, Star picked himself up, an old bag falling off of his back.  A cough made him turn around, to see Melody lying on the ground, a suitcase resting against her side.

“You ok?” he asked, reaching out to push the offending luggage away, and then helping her back to her feet.

“I think so,” she replied, shaking the dust out of her mane.  “Sorry about that.  I wasn't watching where I was going.”

“No problem,” he said, resting a hoof on her shoulder.  He looked down the platform.  It was covered with random bags and suitcases, with the empty train sitting alongside.  One of the cars still had an intact roof.  “Let’s hide in there.”  Melody helped him pull the door open, and they entered, to find a car with dust covered benches, a few newspapers, some more boxes, and a single crate.  Approaching it, he read the label on the side.

“Sweet Apple Acres:  Canned Apple slices,” he read.  “I wonder how long these have been here.”

“Can we open one?” Melody asked, “I’m starving!”

“You do realize that those cans are at least sixty years old, right?” he said, giving her a puzzled look.

“Only one way to find out!” she replied, and reached for a can.  After a few moments of tugging, she was able to pull off the lid, only to find…

…”Dried apple slic-“she cried out, before Star put a hoof over her mouth.

“QUIET!” he snapped, while looking back over his shoulder.  He couldn't see any movement outside the windows, but he did hear something.  Sounds of hissing and growling, coming closer…

The two siblings kept as quiet as possible, hiding under one of the car’s benches.  Clutching her brother tightly, Sweet Melody squeezed her eyes shut.  Star listened to the sounds, waiting for them to either move on or storm the train.

After a few minutes, the growling slowly faded away.  Star held onto Melody for an extra ten minutes, before he decided the Vectin had moved on.  Releasing her, they crawled out from under the bench.

Melody squirmed free, and, retrieving the can, started pulling out apple slices.  Cramming a few into her mouth, she offered the can to her brother.

“Wampf somf?” she asked, talking with a mouthful.  He sighed, and taking the can, poured the remaining slices into his own mouth.  He chewed for a few moments, before swallowing.

“Hmm, not too bad,” he said, while Melody was busy trying to open another can.  He watched as she pulled the top off, and dove right in.  Turning to look out the window, he noticed the sun fading in the distance.  We might have to spend the night here, he thought.  As if to encourage his decision, a loud whine came from above, as another of the creatures’ ships flew past overhead, heading deeper into the abandoned town.  “Yeah, we’re definitely staying put.”

“Huh?” asked Melody, finally putting down the now empty can.  “What did you say?”

“I said, we’re going to stay here for the night,” he replied.  “The soldiers are still out there, but they can’t find us in the dark.  We’re better off waiting here until morning.  Hopefully, they’ll have moved on by then.”

She sighed, and looked out the window, towards the setting sun.  Tears started to appear in her eyes.  “I wish we were back home…”

“Me too,” he agreed, and reached out to pull her close.  “But don’t you worry.  We’ll get back there eventually.”  He gave her a soft smile.

Melody weakly smiled back, then leaned into her brother’s side.  “You promise?”

Giving her a light squeeze, “I promise.  Get some rest now.”  Melody lowered her head to rest on her front legs, and Star laid down beside her, to help keep her warm.  He looked up out the window, watching the sun set in the distance, and contemplated what happened earlier.  Something had lead them to the train.  Something, or somepony.  Who are you?, he thought, asking the mental silence.  But there was no answer.  Perhaps one day, he just might find out…

Edited by nx9100

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Ch V: Anger and Betrayal


 


...BOOTING SOFTWARE


...ACCESSING DATATRACKS


...EXISTING FILE FOUND


...DO YOU WISH TO OPEN?    Y_


...LOADING


...READY...BEGIN RECORDING…


It’s so quiet out here during the night.  So empty, and peaceful.  I can see the stars through the windows, and I imagine that they are watching us.  I wonder if Princess Luna is out there too, on the moon right now, watching what those lizards are doing to her world.


Sleeping in an old train car isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  There’s hardly any smell, and the seats are comfortable enough.  Still, I wish I was back home, in my own bed.


Ok, have to go now.  Star wants me to get some sleep.  He says if we walk along the train tracks tomorrow, we can get away from the lizards, cause they won’t be able to track us.  I hope he’s right…


...END RECORD_


...SAVE FILE_


...SAVE COMPLETED


...POWERING OFF...


 


 



 

 


                    He stepped out of the library, slightly ducking his scaled head under the doorway, and watched as the ship hovered in the air above him.  Attempting to contain his anger, Hunt Leader Thrakish continued outside, moving over to approach his troops.  As he walked, the sunlight reflected off his scales, casting a greenish-brown hue on the limited armor he was wearing.  Throwing a look at the group of Vectin soldiers standing at attention in front of him, his tail twitched in irritation.  How could two, small Questrins outsmart them, he thought.  They bring disgrace on our unit!  He continued to fume, as the ship began to descend towards them.  Throwing up a cloud of dust, it finally settled to the ground, resting on the lower pair of spikes poking out from the bottom.


After a moment, a circular portal along the side opened up like an iris, allowing a wave of steam to flow out.  As the group of Vectin watched, a figure emerged from the portal.  Standing shorter than Thrakish, his armor clung tightly to his more rounded belly.  As he stepped out of the ship, a short, green cape flowed behind him.


Thrakish bowed.  “Sphere Leader Kessish,” he began, his voice a deep growl, “we greet you, and honored by your-“


“Stop!” commanded Kessish.  “I do not bring honor.  I am told of your failure.”  He flashed his teeth.


           


        “T’was not I,” Thrakish began, while waving a clawed hand back towards the others.  “They failed to capture-“


           


        Kessish raised his hand, and Thrakish stopped talking.  “I do not hear it,” Kessish replied, sounding like a high-pitched hiss.  “They serve under you.  Their failure is you own.”  He walked past the Hunt Leader, and inspected the other soldiers.  They all stood rigid, waiting for the Sphere Leader’s criticism.  He walked down the line, and then turned back to Thrakish.


           


        “You will find the Questrins that escaped!” he shouted.  “They somehow caused an energy signal, one we not seen since we annexed this sphere.  There was no evidence of it at the little village.  The ones who make the signal must have fled.”  He looked over the soldiers.  “You will catch and terminate.”  He walked up to look Thrakish in the eye, an almost comical sight, as he was a head shorter than the Hunt Leader.  “Do not fail.”


           


        “I will not,” Thrakish vowed.  “They will be mine.”


           


        With a nod, Kessish stepped past him, and returned to his ship.  Pausing at the opening, he half turned his head back to Thrakish.  “That what your clan-father said about Terran ships above Sphere Ethos.  Do not follow his mistake.”  And with that last, he boarded his ship, the iris door closing behind him.


                    


Thrakish watched as the ship lifted into the sky, before turning to head off into the distance.  He hated Kessish!  How dare he insult his clan-father, one of the best Vectin Ship Leaders they ever had!


                    


“You will see, Kessish,” he said to himself, “One day, I be War Leader, and you be dead!”  He turned to face his troops.  “Go!  Hunt the Questrins!  Bring me them!”  The soldiers bowed their heads in respect, before heading off into the deserted town.  For his part, Thrakish just stood there, staring at the rising sun in the distance.  Suddenly, he reached over his shoulder, and grabbed a short bladed staff.  Swinging it around, the staff extended to match his height.  He slashed to the side, and the bladed end sliced through the sign in front of the Library, cutting it cleanly in half.  As he retracted the staff he again wished for the millionth time that he was assigned to a Battle Nest fighting Terrans, instead of being sent to this pathetic little sphere…


 


 



----------------------------------------------------

 


                    It was a new day, and Sweet Melody found herself enjoying the game of balance-on-the-rail she was playing.  Giggling to herself, she carefully moved one hoof in front of the other, almost dancing, as she moved along.


                    


Walking on the opposite rail, Star Gaze watched his little sister, a big smile on her face.  He was glad she was in a better mood this morning.  After running for their lives the day before, this was a welcome change of pace.  Even so, he kept his eyes open, and every so often glanced behind them, just to make sure they weren't being followed.  Turning back, he saw Melody almost trip over her own hoof.  “Careful Mel!”


                    


She recovered quickly, a big smile on her face.  “I’m ok,” she replied, “its fun!  You should try this game!”


                    


He smiled back, but kept walking along the rail normally.  “I’ll leave the fancy moves to you, ok?”


                    


She shrugged.  “Suit yourself,” and continued on with her game, the possible danger momentarily forgotten.


                            


They kept up the pace for almost an hour, not really talking much.  Sweet Melody wanted too, but every time she looked at her brother, he seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.  She pretended not to notice him glancing around, either.  She knew why, but also knew that Star didn't want to scare her.  So, with each sibling putting on a front for the other, their silent walk continued…


                    


Finally, she couldn't stand it any longer.  “Where are we going?” she asked, watching him.  After a minute of no reply, she tried again, a little louder this time.  “Star, where are we going?”


                    


He paused, and turned to her.  “Sorry,” he replied, “kinda of got lost in thought.”  He looked ahead, down the tracks.  “Honestly, I’m not sure.  I was hoping that this would lead us back to the others.”  A thought occurred to him.  “Hey, do you still have that map I gave you?”


“Huh?” she reached into her bag, fumbled around, and managed to pull out the old parchment.  “You think it will help us?”


“Maybe,” he replied, taking it and sitting down between the rails.  As Sweet Melody moved to sit next to him, he opened up the map and held it under the sunlight.  “Yup, just as I thought,” he said.


                    


“What do you mean?” she asked, leaning over for a better view.


           


        “Look,” he pointed at the map, “here is Ponyville, where we just were.  And here is the river we followed getting there.”  He moved down the paper, as she watched.  “See?  Just below the town, is the forest where the others are hiding.  And running along the other edge of the forest-“


           


        “The train tracks!” Melody exclaimed, cutting him off.  “I get it!  So if we just follow these, we’ll get back to the others!”


           


        “Just about,” he agreed, folding the map back up, and handing it to her.  “Here, keep it safe, ok?”  She nodded, took it and pushed it back into her bag.  With a nod, he stood up, and began to walk along the rail once again, Melody hurrying to catch up, humming a little tune to herself, while Star lost himself to his thoughts again.  He looked into the sky, eyes searching for some sort of answers.  She could be Equestria’s only hope…  The phrase played over and over again in his mind, but what did it mean?  Who was this ‘Star Princess’?


           


        And, more importantly, why did he have the impression that Twilight was telling him about her.


           


        “When are we going to find them?”


           


        Melody’s question broke him from his thoughts.  He stopped to face her.  “I don’t know”, he said.  “I was hoping that we might-“


“THERE Y’ALL ARE!!”


           


        The shout startled both of them, with Sweet Melody crying out in excitement, and he needed a moment to compose himself before turning to face the bright yellow mare that was running up to them.  “Sparky-“


           


        Before he could get another work in, she jumped and tangled him in a bear bug.  “I’m so glad y’all are safe!” she cried, “We heard a whole bunch of those flying wedges passing nearby, and thought ya might have been caught!”  Finally, she released him, and almost as an afterthought, turned to Melody, picking her up in a gentler hug.  “Are you ok darl’in?”


           


        “Of course,” Melody replied matter-of-factly.  “Star Gaze was with me, how else could I be?”


                   “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Star replied.  “But let’s get into some cover.  Are the others nearby?”


           


        “Yup.  And I reckon some’ll be curious about where ya’ve been,” Sparky answered.  She put Melody down, and waved them on.  “Come on, I’ll lead ya back.”


 


 


As the trio headed away from the tracks and into the trees, Sparky kept glancing at Star and Melody.  Thank Celestia they’r alright, she thought, as her thoughts went to the other ponies she’s lost over the years.  Her best friend when she was still a filly, her neighbor several years back….


           


        Her father…


           


        She shook her head, trying to clear the thoughts away.  Star and Sweet Melody were back, and that was all that mattered.


           


        “Something the matter?” Star asked.


           


        “Aww, I’m just glad you ponies are al’right!” she replied, forcing a smile.  “I’ll bet y’all are hungry, so let’s get something ta eat!”  She lead them back through the trees, to the familiar orchard.  The rest of the small group was there as well, most huddled in the bushes of the thicket, some sitting out in the open.


           


        Sparky led the siblings over to one tree, picket a pair of apples for them, and then took a seat.  “So,” she said, while handing them the fruit, “where’v ya been the past two days?”


           


        “Well,” began Star,” it’s kind of a long story…”


           


        Melody started bouncing with excitement.  “I got lost!  Then Star found me!  And then we found a spooky village!  And a library!  And my grandmothers’ house!  And-“


           


        “Whoa there!”  Star reached out to put a hoof over Melody’s mouth.  “Slow down, Mel!  Let me explain.”  He turned back to Sparky.  “Anyway, when I left to look for Melo-“


“Well, look who decided to come back after all!”  All three of them turned, to see Apple Core trotting over to join them, but only one of his usual followers trailing behind.  “Couldn’t handle one night on your own, could you?” he smirked.


           


        Sparky jumped to her feet, ready to fight back, but Star stood up and blocked her.  “It’s alright,” he said to her, before turning to face the green colt.  “And for your information, I didn’t decide to leave.”  He pointed a hoof at Melody.  “My sister had wandered off, and I went to find her.”


                  


 “And that took over a day?” Apple Core said with a smirk.  Sparky noticed that the exchange was drawing the attention of the others, as they started moving closer to watch.


           


        “When one is being chased,” Star replied, “one has to find cover.  Hence, we had to hide out for the night.”


           


        “Chased?” Apple Core asked, “Chased by what?”


           


        Star looked around the group, and hesitated before replying.  “The Vectin.”


           


        A collected gasp went around the ponies, but not, Sparky noticed, from Apple Core.  He just stood there, still looking annoyed by something.  What’s got him all tied up, she thought.


           


        “So, they’re nearby,” Apple Core responded, but something was missing from his voice.  Then, she had it.


           


        “Ya don’t sound too surprised, Core,” she said, glaring at him.  The group all turned to face their ‘leader’.


           


        “Of course not,” he said, “we’ve all seen and heard their ships flying past us all night.  Obviously they were nearby somewhere.  And if you were stupid enough to go into Ponyville, then you should have been-”


           


        “Wait!” Star Gaze cut him off, startling the others.  “How did you know where we were?  You interrupted me before I could finish telling Sparky?”


           


        They all turned to face Apple, who was starting to look a bit nervous.  “Well I…” He stammered…


           


        Suddenly, Sparky realized the truth.  “You already knew,” she said, her voice ice cold.  “Somehow, you already knew where they were.”


           


        “But that’s impossible,” Star Gaze replied, still watching Apple.  “How could he know where we were at?  Unless…”  He paused a moment… “Unless you knew Ponyville was nearby all along.”


           


        Now Apple was looking nervous and defensive.  “So what if I did?” he asked.  “It doesn’t change anything-“


           


        “It changes EVERYTHING!” Sparky shouted, cutting him off.  She was close to losing her temper.  “You lead us all here, KNOWING that there were Vectin nearby the whole time!”  Suddenly, she leaped at Apple Core, knocking him back.  They rolled on the ground, limbs flaying around, as each struggled to get the other under control.  Dirt was kicked up, apples knocked over... and a single piece of paper fluttered to the ground, where Star Gaze picked it up.  He looked it over, and surprise came over his face.


           


        “What is it?” asked a colt, who had stepped over to see.  Two others moved towards Star to look as well.


           


        “It’s a map of Ponyville,” Star replied, holding it up for all to see.


           


        “A map of what now?” asked Sparky, sitting on the ground holding Apple Core in a headlock, struggling to break out.


           


        “Of Ponyville,” Star replied, “and, it looks like the area around it.  See,” he pointed to the map, “Here’s the town, in the center.  And this line that goes around…”  He broke off, studying the map.


           


        “That’s where our village was!” said a mare, pointing at a marked spot.  “And there’s where we lived before that!”


           


        Releasing Apple from the headlock, Sparky moved over to look herself.  “She’s right!  This line going around the town connects all the places our Herd’s been!”


           


        “More precise,” Star said, “every place we've tried to live at for the past 30 years.”  That sent a collective gasp around the group and, as one, they all turned to face Apple Core.


           


        “Well?” asked Sparky, “Y’all care to explain?”


           


        “You should not be looking at that,” Apple replied, struggling to stand up.  “It’s a Apple Family heirloom, passed down from Babs…”


           


        Star moved to stand in front of him.  “No wonder your family has always been in charge,” he said, “making it look like they were leading everypony to safe places to live, far away from the Vectin.  But in reality, we've spent the past several decades just circling the same place, never leaving the danger behind.”  Watching the exchange, Sparky noticed that Star’s anger was suddenly mirrored on the other faces around them, herself included.  “Your family has been lying to us all for decades.”


           


        “So what?!” Apple shouted back, startling the others, “We've kept you safe!  Kept you and your families alive!  Who cares where we've been going-“


           


        “Because it is all based on a lie,” Star replied, his voice stern and forceful.  “We trusted you.  Believed in you.  And look, here you are, again leading us to danger.”  He stood a bit taller.  “But no longer.  I found something back in that empty town.  Something that even you didn't know about.”


        “Oh,” Apple said, “and what would that be?”


“A chance for freedom,” Star replied, and waved a hoof around the group, “for all of us.”


“Freedom?  From what?” asked Apple.


“From the Vectin,” Star replied, and Sparky saw the determination in his eyes.  He’s planning something, she realized, something big.  She moved over and put a hoof on his shoulder.


“What’r ya saying?” she asked him, voicing the question the others wanted to ask.


“I have to leave,” he replied, and took a moment to look everypony in the eye.  “Back in Ponyville, I had a, well, I don’t really know what it was.”  He looked into the distance.  “All I know is that I have to go.  If there is a way to free Equestria from,” he glanced at Apple Core, “being controlled, we have to find it.”


“Fine,” Apple replied sarcastically, “go off on a wild goose chase, if that’s what you want.  The rest of us are going to stay right here until our parents arrive.”  Half-closing one eye, he gave a cocky smile to Star Gaze.  “Guess getting back to your own family doesn't matter to you, huh?”


“Why you-“ Sparky moved to jump at him again, before Star reached out to grab her leg.


“Relax,” he said, “it doesn't matter what he says.  I know what I’m doing.”


Apple Core gave him another smirk.  “Well, good luck to ya,” he replied with sarcasm.  “Hope you make it back alive!”  And with a laugh, he turned to the rest of the group.  “What are you all looking at?” he challenged them.  “You want to go with him?  Or stay with the Pony who’s kept you alive and safe?  You want to get home?” he glanced at Star, “then stay with me.”  Holding his head high, he marched off into the bushes.


           


        The others in the group gave Star looks of worry and confusion, but, one by one, they all turned to follow Apple Core back into the camp.  A lie his family may have used, but one thing was true, and they were still safe, for the moment.  Besides, waiting for their families seemed a lot safer then wandering the world alone…


After a few minutes, only Star, Sparky, and Sweet Melody remained.  His sister had remained strangely quiet the whole time, but now decided to speak up.


“Star,” she said, with fear on her face, “Are you really going to leave?  What about me?”  Tears formed in her eyes.


“I’m sorry, Mel,” he said, drawing her in for a hug, “but I have to do this.”


“But why?”


“Because nopony else will,” he replied, breaking the hug and looking into her eyes.  “Because as long as the lizards are here, we will never be safe.  I have to find a way to free Equestria from their control.”  He forced a smile.  “But it’s too dangerous for you to come.  I want you to stay here, ok?  Wait for mom and dad.”


“But…” she started, before he out a hoof over her mouth.


“Just promise me you’ll be alright,” he said, “and listen to Sparky.”


“Um Star…” Sparky asked, suddenly not liking where this was going.


He turned to face his friend.  “Sparky, promise me you’ll watch over Melody.  Stay with her and keep an eye on her.”  His eyes pleaded with her.  “Promise me!”


“I promise,” she replied softly, Star smiled weakly.


“Alright.  I’ll wait until morning, before I leave.”  Breaking into tears, Melody ran off back into the camp.  He moved to follow, but Sparky blocked his path.


“Best leave this to me,” she said, “she’s hurting, and you’ll only make it worse.”


“Alright,” he agreed, and she turned to follow Melody.  Oh Star Gaze, Sparky thought, what have you done to that poor filly?


 


 


 


He watched Sparky leave, and just stood there, alone, for a while.  What am I doing?  How can I just leave Melody like this?  But deep down, he knew the truth, new why he had to go.  Somewhere in the mountains, he had to find the Star Princess.  I just hope Twilight was right, he thought, and that she can help us get rid of the Vectin.  Looking up into the sky, and realizing there were many hours left until nightfall, he decided to quietly gather some supplies for his journey.  This had better be worth it.  Whoever the Star Princess is, she better be worth it…

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Ch VI: All On Our Own

 

...BOOTING SOFTWARE

...ACCESSING DATATRACKS

...EXISTING FILE FOUND

...DO YOU WISH TO OPEN?    Y_

...LOADING

...READY...BEGIN RECORDING...

           

        I know that Sweet Melody has been keeping a journal on here.  But since I’m leaving the group, I thought I should take it with me, and update it myself.

           

        Melody, if you are reading this, I’m sorry.  This is something I know I have to do.  Somewhere in those mountains is a way to free us from the Vectin, and I have to find it.  Celestia knows why, but I have to.

           

        My name is Star Gaze, and I’m on a quest to find the Star Princess, and save everypony I know…

...END RECORD_

...SAVE FILE_

...SAVE COMPLETED

...POWERING OFF...

 

           

        Putting the datapad back into his bag, Star paused to check the rest of his supplies.  Several apples, two bottles of water, a small towel (always useful to have), and nestled next to the datapad, was Twilight’s Map.  The most important item he possessed.

           

        It was still early yet, and the sun had barely begun to creep over the horizon.  Knowing that Sweet Melody was still asleep, he decided that it was time to go.  She hadn't spoken to him all evening the day before, and he couldn't blame her.  After all, first she was forced to leave her parents, and now her own brother was taking off.  It hurt him, but Star knew he had to do this.

           

        Rising up, he slung the bag over his back; where it slid down to cover his star-constellation cutie mark.  Picking a direction, and after one last sigh, he began to walk…

           

        …about five steps, before a bright red mane jumped into his path.

           

        “Star Gaze,” Apple Core said, “I really didn't think you were serious.  But you really are leaving, aren't you?”

           

        “Yes,” Star replied, “now get out of my way.”  He started to walk around the younger, green stallion.  But Apple Core again moved to block him.

           

        “You know what this means, right?” Apple Core asked.  “What abandoning the Herd means?”

           

        “Yes,” Star replied, stepping around the green stallion.  “Abandon the Herd, and be abandoned yourself.”  He continued on, leaving Apple standing dumbstruck behind.

           

        “Oh yeah!” the other called after him, “Well good riddance to ya!”  But Star ignored the remark, didn't look back, and continued down the path, alone…

 

                    

           

        The sun was rising in the sky above, the sounds of birds singing filled his ears, and leaves crunched beneath his hoofs.  And still, he walked silently, continuing on the old trail he had found.  The first hour was the easiest, as he could simply ignore the thoughts of his sister and friends, and focus on the trail and forest around him.  But as the day wore on, it was becoming more and more difficult to ignore the regret.

           

        Eventually, Star came to a clearing in the forest, and decided to stop for a rest.  Noticing a fallen log, he took off his bag, and sat down.  What have I done, he thought, I left Melody all alone.  Sure, Sparky is there, and will keep an eye on her, but… what will mother and father think of me leaving like this?  He shook his head, allowing a few specs of dirt to flutter free.  Oh Mel, I hope you can forgive me!

           

        “Star!!!”

           

         It’s almost like I can hear her voice, calling me.  A tear began to form in his eye…

           

        “Star Gaze!”

           

        “Huh?”  He looked up.  That wasn't in his mind at all!  “No, it couldn't be…!”

           

        The rustling of the bushes was all the warning he had, before a mound of white and blue shot out and landed on top of him, knocking them both into the dirt.  It was several moments before his mind processed the tangle of white limbs and blue mane into the image of his sister.  “Mel…”            

       

 “Sweet Mel!” a silky voice called out.  “Where’d ya get off to- oh.”  Sparky Hooves stepped out from the bushes, but instead of jumping on him, simply leaned against a nearby tree.  “I figured ya hadn't wandered too far, Stary,” she said, a grin on her face.

Star struggled to break free from Melody’s grasp, before finally giving up, and just let her hold onto him.  “Mel,” he tried to speak, but words wouldn't form.

           

        She looked up at her brother, tears running down her face.  “I’m sorry Star,” she began, “I know I was supposed to stay with the others, but I wanted to be with you, so I followed you out here, and-” He stopped her with a hoof over her mouth.

           

        “It’s alright,” he said with a smile.  “And I’m sorry I left you behind.”  He gave her a squeeze, and then looked up at Sparky, the un-spoken question all over his face.

           

        She got it, alright.  “Yeah, I know.  Ya wanted us to stay with the group.  But the little darl’in wouldn't listen.  Insisted on following after ya.”

           

        “Well, thanks for coming with her,” he replied, finally breaking free of Melody’s grasp.

           

        Sparky shrugged.  “What can I say?  I did promise to stay with her, right?”  She cocked an eyebrow at him.  “Besides, ya think I would let you go off on yer own without me there for company?”

           

        Star chuckled, and reached out to pick up his bag.  “Here,” he said, reaching in and removing the datapad.  He held it out for Melody.  “Since you’re coming along, might as well have this back.”

           

        She smiled and took the pad.  “Thanks Star Gaze,” she replied, a few remaining tears leaking out, as she reached back to slide it into her own saddlebag.

           

        “Well now,” Sparky broke the momentary silence that had descended on the group, “what’s next, Star?”

           

        Reaching into his bag, Star pulled out the map he found in Twilight’s Library.  He unfolded it onto the ground between them.  “Let’s see,” he said, studying it for a moment.  “We’re about here.  I was heading towards that mountain.”  He pointed into the distance, where a tall peak could be seen just above the threes.  “It’s right in the middle of Equestria.  And from there,” he looked back to the map, “We head north.  To a place called the ‘Crystal Empire’.  After that,” he hesitated, “we go into the mountains.”

           

        “The mountains?” asked Melody, “but don’t scary creatures like dragons live there?”

           

        “I don’t know,” he replied, “but that’s where the path ends.  So that’s where I’m going.”  He stared to fold the map back up

           

        “Well if you’re going,” Sparky said, “then we’re going with ya!”  She gave him a nudge on the shoulder with her hoof.  “After all, somepony has to keep ya outta trouble!”

           

        Star laughed, and pulled his bag back on.  “Alright.  It looks like there are some foothills about a day’s trot through the forest from here.  So,” he started looking around, trying to decide which direction to head.

           

        “Which way sugarcube?” Sparky asked, while adjusting her own saddlebag.  But Star didn't answer, as he was still trying to get his barrings-

           

        Thiswaythiswaythiswaythisway….

           

        It sounded like a faint voice in the back of his mind.  Star turned to stare off into the trees, and almost felt something pulling on him.  “This way,” he replied, and headed off, Sparky and Sweet Melody following behind.  This is it, he thought, a smile coming to his face, we’re really doing this!  He glanced back, his smile getting bigger at the sight of his sister and friend trotting along behind him.  He wanted Melody to be safe, but he was still glad that they were both with him…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As he leaned down to study the marks in the dirt, his nostrils flared, taking in the scents.  So, they pass this way, he thought, nor more than a cycle ago.  He looked up, his eyes following the lines of the metal tracks as they stretched out before him.  You are clever, but not clever enough.  I WILL find you.

“Hunt Leader!” called a gravelly voice, “we have detected a signal!”

Bringing his body fully upright, Thrakish turned to face the soldier approaching him.  “What signal can be detected here?” he asked, and waved a hand around in a circle, flexing the four clawed fingers on it.  “The energy field covering this sphere blocks all scans and messages.”

“The signal is the Unknown Energy,” replied the soldier.  “It last a moment before stopping-“

“Where?!” Thrakish demanded, reaching over his shoulder for his staff.

“Six drocs distant, from inside forest.”  Using his own staff, the soldier pointed past Thrakish into the trees.  “We can head there with Attack Flyer when ready.”

“No,” the Hunt Leader replied, after glancing at the wedge-shaped Flyer sitting on the ground a short distance from where they stood.  The two-pilot craft were commonly used by his troops to patrol the skies just above the treetops, but he knew from experience that the loud engine noise, which sounded like a high-pitched whine, could be heard well before the craft arrived, giving his prey plenty of time to escape.

“We hunt from ground,” he ordered, his voice a deep growl.  “Send Flyer back to Crystal Nest with report for Sphere Leader.  Then we begin.”

Holding his staff up in a salute, the soldier turned and headed back to the group of Vectin waiting by the Flyer.  Turning back to the marks in the dirt, Thrakish reached up to scratch a scale on his snout.  You not hear me coming this time!  Soon, I have you, and earn my way off this reached sphere….

                    

With the familiar whine, the Attack Flyer lifted into the sky, and veered away.  Watching it fly into the distance, Thrakish noticed a line of dark clouds approaching.  “Come,” he called to his troops, “we must begin now, before storm arrives.”  Beckoning his hunting party to follow, Thrakish lead the way into the trees, taking care to move briskly yet quietly through the branches and bushes.  While he wanted to take care not to reveal himself to his prey, the threat of the storm quickened his pace.  A heavy rain could wash away scent markers and foot prints, which would make tracking the Questins that much more difficult in the large forest.  The rain should arrive by mid-cycle, he thought, pausing to glimpse the sun through the forest canopy.  If we not find by then, will have to nest until storm passes.  Glancing back at the other six hunters following him, holding their staffs close, eyes watching everywhere, he continued on.

Following his hunter’s instincts, he studied the sights, smells, and sounds of the environment around him.  Many hunts on different spheres had all helped him hone his skills, and gave him a strong reputation as one of the Ventin’s best hunters.  He’d tracked the near invisible rock-shades of Sphere Ractoss, trapped the stratosphere-flying krell birds on Sphere Tronna, and even subdued a monstrous Vectana lizard on his own home-sphere, a creature known to prey upon Vectin.  A few small, four-legged Questrins should prove an easy challenge for him.  And once I solve Sphere Leader’s problem, I finally leave this place…

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

                    

“Are we there yet?”

           

        The simple, age-old question caught Star Gaze off guard, nearly causing him to trip over a large root sticking out of the ground.  “No,” he replied, twisting his head to face his sister, “not yet.  Don’t tell me you’re getting tired already?”

           

        “Of course not,” Sweet Melody replied, taking care to avoid the same root.  “And I’m not getting bored either.”

           

        “Sure,” Star teased, turning back to face the little trail they had found.  It seemed to lead the same direction they wanted to go, and it made avoiding pushing through bushes much easier.  But secretly, Star wondered if he was getting lost in the maze of the forest.

           

        “Um, Star…” Sparky Hooves said with a note of concern in her voice, “I’m thinking we might want to find us some shelter soon.”

           

        “Huh?”  Star paused and turned to face her.  “Shelter from what?”

           

        

RRRUMBLE!!!

           

        The crack of the thunder rolled over the three ponies, sending Melody jumping onto Star’s back.  It took only a moment for him to dislodge her.   “Oh,” he replied, looking up at the dark clouds peaking down through the canopy, “that.”

           

        “Yep,” Sparky replied with a laugh, “Reckon we should find some cover soon, unless y’all want to hang out in the rain!”

           

        “But where can we go?” Melody asked, looking around for some place to take shelter among the trees.  But there wasn't anything around other then the trunks and bushes.

           

        Star made his choice.  “Come on,” he said, and started off again down the trail.  “Maybe this will lead somewhere before the rain starts.”  They set off, but it was only a few minutes later that the first drops of rain started to fall through the trees.  Together, the tree ponies broke into a sprint, heading down the trail, hoping to find somewhere to hide from the coming storm.

           

        Following a curve in the trail, Star suddenly slid to a halt, followed my Sweet Melody bumping into him.  “Owff!”

           

        “What is it Star?” asked Sparky, coming up next to him, while Melody picked herself off the ground.  He pointed ahead, where a rather large tree stood, almost as large as the library tree they found in Ponyville.  And like that one, it too featured a door and windows built into its trunk.  But where the library’s door and windows had nicely carved frames, this one appeared more rough-built, with a pair of antlers mounted above the door.  Star approached, and with a push, the door creaked open.

           

        “Inside you two!” he ordered, as the rain started to intensify.  He followed them in, and swung the door closed again.

           

        “Hello!” called Melody, her voice echoing across the empty room.  Well, nearly empty, as a few dozen paintings surrounded them, a few hanging, but most just sitting on the floor leaning against the walls.  Most of the paintings featured various ponies, with a grey Pegasus with a short-black mane showing up in several of them.  Brushes and bottles of dried paint lay scattered around, and a broken easel lay off to one side.  “Anypony home?” Melody called again.

           

        “I think it’s empty,” Star replied, wandering up the stairs that wrapped along the wall.  The second floor was smaller, and mostly empty, leading to a window and small balcony.  Looking out, he noticed that the storm was getting more intense.  “I think we’re stuck for the night,” he said.

           

        “Storm’s getting bad, huh?” asked Sparky, joining Star at the window.

           

        “Yeah,” he replied, “could last all night.”  Turning around, he spotted a small bed in the corner.  “You and Melody should use the bed tonight.”

           

        Cocking her head to one side, she gave him a puzzled look.  “Oh, and what about you, mister chivalry?”

           

        He reached back and patted his saddlebag.  “I’m covered, don’t worry.  Come on, let’s head back downstairs.  I could use some lunch.”  They returned to the main floor, where Melody was looking at all the paintings.  As Star and Sparky settled in the middle of the room, she kept moving around, fascinated by all the images.

           

        RRRUMBLE!!!

           

        The thunder was louder this time, as the rain starting rattling the windows.  “Good thing we found this place,” Sparky muttered, as a flash of lightning lit up the room.  Star simply watched the rain; hoping nopony was still stuck out there…

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

                    

                    He stood silently, as the rain poured down over his scales and armor, staring out into the forest.  Are you still out there? He thought, or have you found shelter?  He watched, ignoring the water running down his body.

           

        “Hunt Leader!” came a gravelly voice behind him, “your shelter!”  Thrakish turned, to find one of his soldiers holding out a small, greenish-brown disk to him.  He reached out to take it, acknowledging the soldier with a grunt.  Sitting down cross legged, he held the disk above his head, and pressed in on the center.

           

        Quick as a flash, several green vines sprang out from the edges of the disk, jutting into the ground on all sides of him.  He released it, and watched as more and more smaller vines grew out of the first ones, quickly filling in the space between them.  After about a minute, a greenish-brown, slightly transparent dome had formed around Thrakish, shielding him from the storm.  He sat there, listening to the rain, marveling at the fast growth of the bio-shelter.  Much better than our old shelters, he thought, growing three times as fast!  Perhaps the growers on this sphere not as stupid as thought.  He lowered his head, and crossed his arms over his chest.  Yes, the bio-growers seemed to be making breakthroughs while working on this sphere.  Most Vectin technology was based around bio-matter of different kinds, all grown on different spheres that their Empire controlled.  But Sphere Questra was the most fertile one they had ever found.  Bio-matter grew here at astounding rates, faster than anywhere else in the Empire!  And all kinds of matter, from the simple material used in tech like his bio-shelter, to the more complex used to construct ships like the Attack Flyers, even large space-going Battle and War Flyers.

           

        All this meant that Sphere Questra must remain under Vectin control, as it now grew almost a third of the Vectin’s total bio-matter.  And with strong workers already living here, Thrakish thought, means less Vectin needed to grow!  So more can be warriors, instead of growers!  After taking over the sphere, they were able to subjugate the indigenous species to work the bio-farms for them, unlike other spheres, where Vectin had to perform such tasks themselves.

           

        But such an operation had its drawbacks.  The occasional escapee had to be hunted down and caught.  Hence the need for a Hunt Leader, which in this case was Thrakish himself.  If only clan-father had not returned disgraced from battle, instead dying with honor!  Then I not been sent here!  Could be out fighting REAL warriors, not hunting puny Questrins!  His anger was punctuated by the thunder of the storm, and he sat there, fuming in his dome, letting memories of the past and dreams of his future clash together in the depths of his thoughts….

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

 

           

        “Ditch me now, but it’s you, who’ll have lost it all,

Lost now, and bleeding love…”

           

        Star woke up, pushed the towel off his body, and looked around the darkened room.  What is that? He thought, slowly pushing himself back up on all four legs.  The singing was coming from above, and after a moment, he realized it was Sweet Melody’s voice.

           

        “Rain it pours, but I won’t let it bring me down, no!

I’m playing now, won’t wait on love…”

           

        “Beautiful, isn't it?” asked Sparky, and Star just realized she was sitting down a few feet from him.  “She couldn't sleep, and is just sitting by the window, singing that sad song.”

           

        Sitting down next to Sparky, Star looked up, but couldn't see melody from where they were.  “It’s our Grandmother’s song,” he told her, “Grandma Tavi.  She was teaching music to Melody before she passed.”

           

        “Oh,” Sparky replied, looking down, “sorry.  Didn't mean to bring up sad memories.”

           

        “It’s ok,” he said, resting a hoof on her shoulder.  “Melody was closer to her then I was.  Gram taught her all about music.  Well,” he chuckled, “about her kind of music, anyways.”

           

        “I’m resonant, won’t stop for you,

            Playing away, playing away,  

         You play you games, you bring me pain,

            Playing away, playing away…”

           

        “What do you mean?” Sparky asked, while still listening to Melody’s singing.

           

        “Well, Grandma Tavi and Grandpa Frederic were always into more classical music,” Star explained, “which they taught both our mother and Melody.  But Grandma Scratch,” he smiled, “she had more, interesting tastes.  You know, remixes, heavy bass-boosts, etc.  They were always competing when they were younger, but I guess they finally found a way to get along and became great friends.”

           

        “What about your father?” asked Sparky, “which kind was he into?”

           

        “Well, dad never was that musically talented,” he replied.  “But then, Grandma Scratch didn't play much for us.  Dad never said why, but Grandpa Frederick told me once it was because she missed her old colt-friend, my dad’s dad.  She lost him the night the Vectin came.”  He sighed.  “That’s why my dad’s name is Neon Glow.  She named him after his father.”

           

        “Oh,” Sparky looked back up, as Melody’s voice continued to ring out.  “My family ain't as colorful as that.  Just me, ma and pa."  She yawned, and stretched out next to Star.  "That filly’s going to put me to sleep!”  He chuckled, and just sat there, listening to his sister’s song, and remembering all the stories his grandmothers had told him about the old days…

           

        “You hurt me now, but I won’t cry,

             I am Octa-vi-a!

         You hurt me now, but I won’t cry,

             I am Octa-vi-a….”

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Ch VII: Hunter and Prey

 

...BOOTING SOFTWARE

...ACCESSING DATATRACKS

...EXISTING FILE FOUND

...DO YOU WISH TO OPEN?    Y_

...LOADING

...READY...BEGIN RECORDING...

           

        Sweet Melody is sleeping, so I thought I’d add another entry to our journal myself.

           

        I know I meant to go on this quest alone, because it is too dangerous.  But she decided to follow me anyway, and even brought Sparky Hooves along for the ride.  Part of me still thinks they should go back, but honestly, I’m glad my sister and friend are here.  At least I can keep an eye on Melody now.

           

        We found an empty house in the forest to take shelter from the rain, but we lost a lot of travel time.  Not sure why I’m in a hurry to keep moving, just have a strong feeling….

...END RECORD_

...SAVE FILE_

...SAVE COMPLETED

...POWERING OFF...

 

The morning sunlight was shining through the window, sending bright rays of warmth across the room, and over the bed.   The light over her face finally forced her eyes open, and Sweet Melody slowly looked up, raising a hoof to block the sun from her eyes.  She sighed, slid off the bed, and reached up to adjust her mane.  I hope Star and Sparky aren’t waiting for me, she thought, and moved over to the edge of the balcony.

Peering down at the floor below her, Melody smiled.  She didn’t have to worry about Star Gaze and Sparky Hooves waiting for her.  Both of the older ponies were still fast asleep, lying on the floor and leaning against each other.  With her ear-to-ear grin, Melody hopped down the stairs that wrapped around the far wall, and slowly approached the two.

“Wake up sleepy-heads!” she called out, jumping back when Star opened an eye to glare at her.

“Must you be so loud this early?” he grumbled, earning a laugh from Melody.

“Well,” she replied with a smug grin, “I could let you get back to sleep.  You two look so cute together like that!”

Now with both eyes open, Star took a moment to glance at his ‘pillow’, and sighed.  Slowly, he started pulling away from Sparky, letting her body slide to the floor, and finally causing her to stir.  As Star got to his feet, she stretched and yawned.  “Aaaahhhhh!  What time is it?”

“Time to keep moving,” Star replied, stretching out his front legs.  “We lost time yesterday thanks to that storm.  Gotta make up for it today.”

Melody was already half-way through an apple.  “Why?  Are we in a hurry or something?” she asked between bites.

“Ah, your bro’s just anxious to get where he’s going,” Sparky answered, he voice a bit dry, yet still silky-smooth.  “Toss me one of them apples, would ya?”  Melody rolled one over to her, and Sparky took a big bite, letting the juice quench her thirst.  “Ah, that’s better…”

While the two girls munched on their breakfast, Star decided to take a look outside.  Walking up the stairs, he found the windows where Melody was singing the night before.  I wonder how far I can see from here, he thought as he pulled them open, and stepped out onto the balcony.

The view was amazing!  From where he stood, Star could see nearly over the treetops, at the sun rising in the sky, clouds floating past, birds flying overhead.  Off in the distance, was the mountain.  He squinted, and could almost make out something on the side…

 

FLASH!!!!!

There was the mountain, closer now, with a ruined castle built along the side, with half a tower, the top broken away…

 

FLASH!!!!!

A field, in the shadow of the mountain, littered with broken pieces of the missing tower from the castle…

FLASH!!!!!

A shadow moving among the ruins, jumping around, hopping, almost as if…

 

FLASH!!!!!

The bright white faded, and Star reached up with a hoof to rub his eyes.  “What was that?!” he asked.  But no answers came, no more visions.  He just stood there, looking at the mountain in the distance, and wondered.

“Hey Star Gaze!” Melody called from below, “We’re ready to go!”

“Coming,” he answered back, turning to head back down.  He paused, to one last glance at the mountain, before entering the windows and headed for the stairs…

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

 

 

        Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!

                    

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!

           

        Stirred from his slumber, Thrakish growled, and rubbed his claws over his snout.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!

           

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!

           

        Reaching into a pouch on his armor to find the source of the buzzing noise, he pulled out a small, round, and green object, that was covered with lumps.  It was vibrating, and several of the bumps flashed in different colors.  After several moments of studying the color patters, the Hunt Leader smiled.  So, using your strange energy again, my prey?  Excellent!  Now I have your location, and will hunt down!  Reaching up, he dug his claws into the bio-shield and pulled it apart, ripping it open from the inside.  He stood up, and was greeted by the sight of his hunters also rising from their nests.

           

        “Leader,” one of them greeted him, holding up his spear in salute, before noticing the device Thrakish held, “a signal?”

           

        “Yes,” Thrakish replied.  “Prepare yourselves!  Spread out, and search for our prey!  You,” he pointed a claw at one of the hunters, “Take point, and lead ahead.  I go to the point of signal.  The Hunt begins now!”

 

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

           

        The water on the ground was making the dirt stick to her hooves more than usual, which was annoying Sparky.  For the millionth time, she tried shaking it off her hoof, with the same result.  Finally, with a sigh, she gave up, and consigned herself to having dirty hooves for the rest of her life.

           

        “La lala la, la!  La lala la, la!” sung Melody, as the three ponies trotted along through the forest.  Star smiled, watching Sparky yet again try to fling debris off her hoofs.  They were making good time today, and he guessed they might just make it to the foothills by nightfall.  He continued on, listening to Melody’s song.  She always was a good singer, he thought, while wishing that her voice could be complimented by the birds.  Gramma Tavi would be-

           

        A sudden realization came to him.  Wait, where ARE the birds?  Looking around, he realized he couldn’t hear any birds singing, chirping, or calling.  For that matter, the forest was strangely quiet.  Pausing in his tracks, he started to get a bad feeling.  Forests only went quiet when a predator was around.

           

        At least, that’s what his father told him once during a camping trip.

           

        “Hey Star, something wrong?” asked Sparky, having come up to stand beside him, and recognizing the look on his face.  Melody too stopped singing, looking a bit confused.

           

        “Listen,” he replied, “tell me what you hear.”

           

        Sparky’s ears perked up, and she looked out into the trees.  “Notta thing,” she replied, “why?  What do you hear?”

           

        “I don’t hear anything,” Melody chimed in.

           

        “Exactly,” Star replied, “and a quiet forest usually means…”

           

        “Trouble,” finished Sparky, taking a defensive stance.  Star searched around with his eyes, trying to spot what could be spooking the creatures around them-

           

        There!  A slight rustle among the bushes to his left, behind Melody.  He tensed up, slowly bent his hind legs….  And with a mighty leap, sprung himself past Melody…

           

        Right into the Vectin hunter’s chest!

           

        The lizard, who had jumped towards the young filly from his position in the brush, was knocked onto its back, the grey stallion right on top, its staff falling to the ground.  With a growl, it reached out to grab onto Star and force him off, but the pony had other ideas.  He pressed down on the lizard’s arms with his front hoofs, trying to trap them on the ground.  But the solder was strong, and forced Star over his side.  The two rolled over each other multiple times, each trying to get a better grasp of the other.  Hisses and growls came from the Vectin, while Star simply grunted under the stress.

           

        Suddenly, he found himself pinned to the ground, the hunter poised above.  It opened its mouth, showing rows of razor-sharp teeth, and tilted its head slightly.  Star had just a moment to realize it meant to bite his throat….

           

        WHHAAACCKKKK!!!!

           

        The hunter suddenly went rigid.  A moment later, tongue rolling out of its snout, it leaned to one side and collapse on the ground….  Revealing Sparky standing behind, gripping its fallen staff in her teeth, a slight greenish mark at one end.

           

        “Sparky…” he stammered, still frozen in place.

           

        She spit out the staff.  “Ewu!  That thing tastes nasty!  Ya need a hoof, sugarcube?”  Reaching out with one leg, she offered him her hoof, which he grabbed out for.

           

        “Thanks,” he replied, getting back up with a pull from Sparky.  “You might have just saved my life there.”

           

        “Aww, ain’t nothing to it,” she said with a grin.  “Ya would have done the same for us.”  He looked past her, and saw a nearly terrified Melody staring at the unconscious Vectin hunter.  Moving over to her, he reached out to touch her shoulder, making the younger pony jump nearly into the trees.                    

           

        “Come on, we have to move.  If one of them was here, others could be nearby.”  Approaching the staff, he bent over to try to pick it up.

           

        “What if he was alone?” asked Sparky, watching Star struggle to get a leg around the staff.  “Why are you taking that?”

           

        “Well, it is a weapon, and might come in handy if we run into more of them,” he replied.  “And I don’t think the Vectin are stupid enough to send a single hunter out here by himself.  So come on,” turning back to the trail they were following before, he started off, the two scared and confused mares trailing behind…

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

           

        Thrakish stood in front of the hollowed out tree, studying the door and windows carved into it.  The tracking node had indicated the signal he picked up came from this location, where his sense of smell confirmed what he already knew had to be true.  They were here, he thought, looking around the tree.  At least three different scents.  Two female, the other male.  Not long past, so could not go far.  Glancing around, he noticed a trail leading away from the tree, towards the distant mountain.  Good thing I already send hunters that direction.  They may find prey before I can subdue.  Deciding to follow the trail himself, he started off, before pausing when his clawed foot caught on a flat piece of wood lying on the ground, half covered with moss.  Curious, he bent down and pulled the moss off, revealing the words:

           

        SYCAMORE STUDIOS

           

        While most Vectin didn’t bother to learn the Questrin’s language, Thrakish had taken the time.  Knowledge of one’s prey was the first rule he had been taught as a fledgling, and it never failed him.  “So, what bring you to this place?” he asked, looking over the broken sign.  “Someplace special to you, perhaps?”  Deciding there was nothing more to find, he stepped past the sign, and headed back into the forest…

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

 

 

There were two of them, moving slowly through the brush, trying not to make a sound or give away their position.  Holding their staffs close, they crept alone, not disturbing even a leaf.  Eyes looking everywhere, nostrils flaring, trying to find a trace of their prey.

From his position atop the small hill, surrounded by berry bushes, Star Gaze watched the two Vectin as they slowly came closer.  Upon reaching the edge of the woods, his companions took refuge on the far side of the hill, while he crawled back here to keep watch.  Sure enough, a pair of the lizards came along, seemingly following an invisible trail that led right to the ponies.

They’re better hunters then I thought, he decided, while keeping still within the bushes.  Must be following our scent.  If we could get some distance from them out here in the open, the wind should help mask us.  But how to distract them- His thought was interrupted by a sudden idea, and a grin formed on his face.  That should keep them busy long enough for us to escape!  Very slowly, he backed up out of the bush, and made his way back down the hill.

At the bottom was a group of boulders, sitting almost in a circle.  As Star approached, a spiked orange mane poked up to greet him.  “They still following us?” Sparky asked.

 

“Yes,” he replied, “at least two.  Maybe more.”  Walking past the rocks he joined her and Melody in the middle of the pile.  A quick glance around, and he found it.

“So, what are we going to do now Star?” asked Melody, as he picked up the Vectin staff that he claimed earlier.

We doing nothing,” he replied, studying the staff. “You and Sparky are going to head towards the mountain,” he pointed at the looming peak in the distance, “as fast as you can.”

“Wait a minute now!” Sparky called out, “Me and Mel?  What about you?”

Still fiddling with the staff, he finally found what he was looking for.  A small raised bump about half-way down the length.  “I’m going to set up a little distraction,” he explained, “then take off after you two.  It should by us some time to get away and find a route to the mountain.”

“Distraction?” Sparky looked puzzled, “How?”  As Star help up the staff, she gave him a questioning look.  “Do you even know how that doo-hickey works?”

Standing up on his hind legs, Star cradled the staff with one front leg, and using the other, pressed his hoof against the bump on the staff.  The blade on the end suddenly split open, the inner edges started to glow with orange light.

“Yup,” he replied, and dropped back to all fours, holding the staff up with his front-right leg.  “Now get going!  I’ll be right behind you.”

Both girls looked at each other, then at Star.  With a sigh, she gave Sweet Melody a tug.  “Come on, Mel,” she said, “let’s take off.  Leave your brother to his heroics.”

Melody gave Star a worried look.  “It’s alright,” he reassured her, “go with Sparky. I’ll be right behind you.”  She slowly turned, lowered her head, and began to follow the yellow mare.  Star sighed, gripped the staff tighter, and headed back up the hill.  Upon reaching the bushes at the top, he gently placed the staff on the ground next to him, and getting down onto his belly, pulled himself into the bush.

The Vectin had reached the edge of the trees, and seemed to be studying the open ground before them, almost as if they weren’t sure if they should leave the cover of the woods themselves.  Very carefully, Star pulled the staff up to him, aimed it at their position, and propped it up on the bush branches.  Glancing around, he found a weed-vine, and pulled it free, using it to tie the staff in place, with one loop wrapped around the staff just below the trigger-bump.  Tossing a look back at the Vectin, he took a deep breath, and pushed the loop over the bump…

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

The flashes or orange energy flew out from between the blades of the staff, singeing the leaves and branches between the two hunters.  With a shout, they dropped to the ground, their own staffs glowing, as they searched for a target.

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

Hesitating just long enough to make sure the staff was secured in place, Star pushed himself back out of the bushes, turned, and started to run back down the hill, when…

CRASH!!!!

Catching his hoof on a root, he tripped and rolled down the hill, crashing headfirst into one of the boulders.  Sliding to the ground, his vision went black….

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

His soldiers were holding their position at the edge of the trees, firing back at the sniper in the hills just beyond.  Thrakish approached, watching the incoming fire coming from the top of the hill.  The beasts must have taken weapon from hunter.  I will punish him for that!  He watched as their return fire seemed to land on target, but the incoming fire continued.

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

KZZZEEEERTTT!!!!

Something not right, Thrakish thought, as he studied the enemy’s pattern of fire.  It was perfect, the same interval between shots, hitting the same place in the trees each time…

With a snarl, Thrakish charged out of the trees, leaving his hunters dumbfounded.  Either their leader was suicidal, or the bravest Vectin they ever saw.  He stomped up the hill, staying off to one side of the enemy’s fire, which amazingly, didn’t change direction to target him.  Upon reaching the hilltop, he kicked into the berry bush, knocking the staff to the ground and out of the tangle of vines, which, no longer holding the trigger down, stopped the fire as well.

The other hunters peered out from their cover, and found the Hunt Leader glaring at them.

 “Incompetents!  Fools!” he shouted, his deep, growling voice full of rage.  “It was a simple trap!  A distraction!  You have allowed the prey to outwit you!”  Reaching down to pick up the staff, he held it out in front of his chest with both hands.  “Hunt them down!  No stop until they found!”  The embarrassed hunters seemed to melt back into the trees, fearful of Thrakish’s wrath.

Still standing on the hilltop, Thrakish looked down at the staff he held, at the few vines still hanging off of it.  He glanced at the bush, and the tangle of more vines wrapped around the branches.  “You smarter than I thought,” he growled, “more than my own hunters.  You give me a challenging hunt.”  He turned to look back down the hill, noticing the trail of dirt leading down to a bolder.  “Ah, so you pass this way,” he said, taking a knee to reach down and study the marks.  His eyes moved along the path, to where it ended at a boulder, a slight spray of dirt on the side of the rock.  “Did you make mistake?” he asked into the air.  “Perhaps fall down and hit rock?  If so,” he looked past the pile of boulders, “you not get far, injured maybe?”  Standing back up, he considered calling out to his troops, but decided against it.  They had their chance.  Now I will carry on the hunt….

 

 

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

 

 

His head still a bit dazed, Star managed to keep upright, while quickly trotting in the direction Sparky and Sweet Melody had run off in.  He allowed himself a slight grin.  His plan worked, and none of the Vectin were following, pinned down as they were by the energy shots he could still hear in the distance.

Then, silence.  He paused, cocked his head and listened, but couldn’t hear any more fire.  “Guess they finally figured it out,” he muttered, and turned to continue running.  But his throbbing forehead limited his pace.  That was faster then I hoped.  Not sure if I got far enough away yet.

A distant roar answered his question for him.  Turning, Star saw a single large Vectin standing far behind him, and starring right at his face.  “Oh Celestia….” he muttered, and turned to run.  Ignoring the pain in his head, he ran as fast as he could.  After a moment, he spared a glance behind…

Sure enough, the large Vectin was charging after him, but not as quickly.  But it didn’t matter, for the lizard raised its staff, already glowing with orange energy.  Star knew he had but moments before it would fire-ZZZZZIIIPPPPP!!!  - when something flew right past his head, continuing on, and striking the blade of the Ventin’s staff.

           

        BANGGG!!!!!

           

        The bright flash caught the hunter off guard, causing him to drop his staff, which miss-fired into the dirt at his feet.  With a howl, it raised its hands to wipe its eyes, and Star suddenly realized the flash-bang had, at least momentarily, blinded the lizard.  Taking full advantage of this new distraction, he took off, running away from the hunter as fast as his legs could carry him.  The howling in the distance behind his back was disturbing, but he kept going, faster and faster…

           

        Until a sudden flash of blue and green jumped past him.

           

        “Come on!” called a voice, “This way!”  Star took a moment to realize the voice was coming from a young light-blue stallion, a light-green curly mane covering his head.  Without questioning, he banked to the side and followed the newcomer, who was running ahead, leading him somewhere.  Who cares where he’s going, Star thought, as long as it’s away from those hunters!  They continued on at a full gallop, across the grassy hills, until they came upon a set of rusting railroad tracks, just like the ones Star and Melody had followed outside of Ponyville.  It was then that his rescuer finally slowed down and came to a stop.  Star did likewise, panting a bit to catch his breath.

           

        The light-blue pony came up and help out a hoof.  “I’m Davie Pie, and boy, am I glad I found you when I did!  Those nasty lizards would have taken you prisoner to the bio-fields and made you a slave!  But good thing I was able to get him with a flash-shot, yes indeed!”  He finally paused from the fast talking, his high-pitched voice was filled with excitement.  

           

        “Davie Pie,” Star responded between breaths, “Have… you seen… my sister…. and my friend?”

           

        “Oh yeah!” the blue pony replied, jumping up and down, his curly light-green mane bouncing along with him, “I already found them, and can take you there right away!  They are hiding in my train, just around the bend from here.  I can take all of you away from the lizards that are chasing you, if you want!”

           

        “Train?” Star asked, having finally caught his breath.  “You have your own train?”

           

        “Sure do!  Built it myself!  I know you are going to love it!  Come on!”  Beckoning Star to follow, Davie began trotting down the tracks.  With a shrug, Star went after him, hoping this hyper pony was telling the truth about Melody and Sparky.  I wonder if he’s from another herd, he thought, trotting alongside Davie Pie, or maybe, he’s alone out here.  I would explain why he’s so excited to see somepony.

           

        They continued on following a curve in the tracks around a small hill.  Star was beginning to wonder about the Vectin not giving up their hunt, and almost walked into a metal wall blocking the tracks.

           

        “Hey, watch out buddy!” Davie called out, and Star looked up to realize it wasn’t a wall, but the back of a train engine.  Moving around it, he heard a familiar voice call out.

           

        “Star Gaze!” cried out Melody, leaning out from the cab of the train, “you made it!”

           

        “Yeah,” he replied, “Thanks to Davie, here.”  Studying his new friend, Star noticed the small slingshot sitting in a holster on Davie's left-front leg.  Well, it matches his bulls-eye cutie mark.  And explains how he was able to hit that hunter with perfect aim.

           

        “It’s no problem at all!  Glad I could help!” Davie replied.

           

        Suddenly, they all looked up, as a distant howl filled the air.  Melody ducked back into the cab.

           

        “Time to go!” called out Davie, jumping up into the train.  “Have you been able to figure it all out yet?”

           

        Star paused, about to climb up himself, wondering what Davie was talking about, when he heard Sparky’s silky voice from inside.  “Heck yeah!  Lets fire this baby up and see how she runs!”  He climbed in, to see Sparky up on her hind legs, fiddling with a wall of knobs and levers.  “She’s already got some steam, so…”  Reaching over to her side, she grasped a long lever, and pulled it back.

           

        With a lurch, the train engine started moving forward.  Star looked around, and noticed the heat coming from a grate at Sparky’s feet.

           

        “We’ve got enough steam to make it back home!”  Davie called out, “I can’t wait to show you all!  We can even have a little party when we get there!  It’s been a long time since I’ve had new friends to party with!”  The train lumbered on, leaving Star wondering about their new friend.  A shadow jumping among the ruins…  That’s what he saw in the vision.  Could it have meant Davie Pie?  And who was sending him these visions anyway?

 

 

 

 

 

------------------------------

 

           

         He watched the line of smoke fade into the distance, silently fuming to himself.  The other hunters stood lined up, a respectful distance away from the Hunt Leader.  Thrakish was in no mood for further disappointments.  The Questrins had eluded him yet again, and without a Flyer to pursue them with, they would gain great distance on him.  No matter, he thought, gripping his staff even tighter, I don’t care how far they try to run!  They will never escape me!  I will capture and earn my way off this sphere, I swear it!

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