Author: xxShonaNinjaxx PM
Wake up. The Magix has you. Rainbow Dash is not what she seems. The Element of Loyalty has a dark side. A secret. The alias of a hacker. On the night of the fall equinox she receives a strange message. Suddenly nothing is the same. Her life is an illusion. There is another Equestria- the real Equestria. And she may be the only one who can save it. Welcome to the real world.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - & Rainbow Dash - Chapters: 19 - Words: 84,243 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 03-08-13 - Published: 01-22-13 - id: 8935524
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
THE MAGIX: CHAPTER 4: The Real World
Rain was floating. She wasn't sure what had happened, where she was, or how she'd gotten there. She felt drowsy and weak, like a small animal waking from hibernation. Rain shifted lazily. Something about the space around her felt strange. She moved again and felt that she was surrounded by a thick fluid. It was warm, a perfect temperature, like a hotel pool. She relaxed, simply floating in place, absorbing the euphoric warmth. And then a thought came to her. If I'm underwater, then how am I breathing? The back of her throat felt a little itchy. She Ran her tongue along something round, smooth, and plastic. There's a tube in my mouth, she thought. There's a tube... IN MY MOUTH?
Rain forced her eyes open. All she could see was red. Her vision cleared, and she saw where she was. She was encased in some sort of pod filled with thick pink fluid, surrounded by tubes and wires. Rain began to panic and lashed out wildly. She pushed forward with her legs, easily breaking the pod's soft casing. Rain pulled herself upright, her movement spilling sludge over the pod's sides, and dragged the tube out of her mouth. It was longer than she'd thought. Pulling it up made her throat hurt. Coughing, she looked at herself to make sure she was okay. She never expected what she saw. Her formerly shoulder-length, perfectly messy mane was now shorter than Scootaloo's and slick with the slime she was covered in. Plugs protruded from her legs, chest, and spine, all connected to a mass of different metallic wires. There was a strange, numb feeling at the back of her head. She reached behind her head, and her hooves collided with another plug. This one was huge, much bigger than the others, sticking backwards from her head and linked to a thick silver cable, which connected with the others to a metal wall behind the pod.
Rain was becoming more and more panicked and confused. She looked to her left. There was another pod, exactly like hers, with a dark, pony-like shape inside, tangled in wires, motionless, as if it were asleep. To her right was the same sight. Gulping back fear, Rain looked at her surroundings.
Her pod was one of hundreds, maybe thousands of pods, organized in a grid fashion along an endless wall. There was another identical wall directly across from her, no telling how far along it went. She looked up to see a dark, smoky sky. It was impossible to tell what time of day it was. She couldn't even see the sun!
Rain dropped back into her slimy pod, stunned. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be. It was impossible. She held her head. "Wake up," she told herself. "Wake up. You're dreaming. Wake up, dammit! Wake up!"
A mechanical beeping brought her out of her trance. She looked up from behind her hooves. A small, spherical robot was hovering in front of her. Other than the propellers that held it aloft, it seemed to be made entirely of a camera lens. It made a buzzing noise and the lens flashed red. It flew away, leaving Rain baffled. What was that thing for?
Suddenly, Rain was overcome with pain. The several wires she was connected to all began to jerk backwards and unplug themselves. The pain was intense, burning through her, making her feel as though her entire body were on fire. She flailed and screamed, spilling even more sludge over the pod's sides. The large plug in the back of her head heated up and began to work itself out of its socket. It whirred loudly and forcefully unplugged itself, frying Rain's nerves and leaving her weak with pain. A valve at the back of the pod opened, and the fluid drained out, taking Rain with it.
The next thing she knew, she was falling. Rain landed with a cold splash in frigid water. She appeared to be in some kind of giant storm drain. The air and water around her were freezing, cold to the point of pain, leaching her strength and making her muscles go numb. Her hooves couldn't find the bottom of the storm drain. There was nothing to stand on. The helpless pegasus splashed frantically, but her muscles ached and were too weak to be useful. It was over. She was sinking. The last thing Rain saw before her head went under was a blinding white light, and the shadow of a huge mechanical claw reaching down to pull her out.
Everything was a blur. Rain heard voices, felt hooves on her skin, hot water washing over her coat and mane, warm towels being wrapped around her shivering form.
"Make sure she's covered. She could freeze."
"Try to get this stuff out of her hair before it dries out."
"Look! She's opening her eyes!"
Rain finally scraped together enough strength to pry her eyes open again. Everything was so bright. All her blurry vision could see was light and shadow. Gradually, the world came into focus. The amber mare was leaning over her. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"Where am I?" Rain murmured dizzily. "Am I dead?"
The mare smiled. "No. You're awake."
Then Rain passed out and everything went black.
Images and sounds faded in and out of Rain's mind. She wasn't sure how long she was there, drifting around somewhere between sleep and consciousness. She felt that it was for a very long time, several hours, even. So this was the real world. Sad that she couldn't see it.
When she finally did wake up, someone had placed her in a bed. She felt as if she had been there for a while. The sheets were twisted around her, the soft, foamy top of the mattress had conformed to her shape. Her cheeks were cold, still exposed to the outside air. She remembered how it was so freezing outside of the safe, gooey warmth of her pod. The rest of her, buried beneath layers of blankets, felt blissfully warm. Rain pulled the blanket up around her face. She was almost asleep again when she heard voices outside the room's closed door.
A mare and stallion were joking and laughing with each other outside in the hallway. She heard the mare's voice first. "I still can't believe you, Neon!" she laughed. "Flirting with the subject? You are ridiculous!"
"Hey, quiet down." The stallion. He spoke in a hushed whisper. "She's trying to sleep, you know."
The mare's incessant giggling quieted. "Okay, okay, keep your horseshoes on. She's my roommate after all. You think I don't know she's in there?"
"I just think you should let her sleep. You know, let her stay in dreamland a little longer before she has to face the truth. She's almost at the age limit. You know we don't usually take ponies much past 18."
"I know. They spend too long in the Magix and have trouble letting go."
"Exactly. She's 21, Amber. This could be a bigger shock to her than it was to any of us."
"Alright, I'll try to keep it down while I'm in there. I just wanted to write a little."
"Okay. Sorry, I'm- I'm just worried about her. See you later."
"Worried? And why is that?"
Rain heard the stallion walk down the hall and the mare giggle once more. The door opened. Rain opened her eyes a slit, so they would appear closed, as if she were still asleep. She watched through a narrow slit between her eyelashes as somepony entered the room. It was the unicorn mare, the first one she saw after waking up. She lifted a pen and notebook off of a small table and placed them on a bed on the opposite side of the room. The mare took a long look at Rain's sleeping form and left. She returned a few minutes later carrying a tray. She placed the tray on the small table, sat down on the bed, opened the notebook and began scribbling her thoughts away. Seeing that the mare was now distracted, Rain fully opened her magenta eyes and took a good look at the room around her. It was very plain and simple. Pale blue-gray walls, two beds, a small table, two small closets set into the wall, and a single door leading outside into the hallway. The side where Rain currently resided was completely blank. Nothing hanging on the wall, the closet open and empty, even her sheets and blankets were all the same shade of off-white. The unicorn's side was a bit more elaborate. A printed poster of a band Rain had never heard of hung over the headboard. A few drawings were tacked to the wall, creative and colorful. Rain guessed that the unicorn was some sort of artist. The sheets of her bed were tie-dyed purple, and her blanket was covered in a Victorian black-tie pattern.
Rain finally decided to make her presence known. She rolled onto her back, stretched herself out, and extended her forelegs over the blankets, and pulled herself upright.
The unicorn looked up to see that her roommate was awake, confused, and looking at her. She shut her notebook, jumped off the bed, and trotted excitedly over to the room's other side.
"Good, you're awake," she said, kick-starting a conversation. "Did you sleep well? I hope you did. Jacking out for the first time is always exhausting. Have any dreams? Speaking of dreams, that was one crazy transition, right? You really are a fighter. You didn't even hesitate, just WHAM! Show me the truth! Sorry if we scared you. The whole evaporating-body thing, it's all necessary. We didn't have any time to explain. But we will, I promise."
Rain stared at her, confused. "Ummm... Who are you?"
The unicorn slapped a hoof to her forehead. "Stupid! I'm sorry!" She stuck a hoof out to Rain. "I'm Amber."
Rain nervously took her hoof. "Rain," she said. "But I'm sure you already knew that."
Amber grinned. "Of course. How do you feel?"
"Okay, I guess." Rain checked herself over. She remembered before that she had several plugs embedded into her flesh. She looked at the sites where they had previously been imbedded into her flesh. Most of the places where a plug had been were covered by sterile white bandages. The only plugs that remained were two on her forelegs, two at her ankles, and two small ones on the back of her neck. She reached around to the base of her skull. Yes, there it was. Just where her mane ended and her coat began, there was a large metal plug. Rain ran the tip of her hoof along its grooves.
"Spiro can usually remove most of these," Amber informed the newcomer, reading her wonderstruck expression. "A few of them are attached to vital nerves or veins. Removing those would cause serious damage. As for this one," she lifted her dark mane up and turned her back to Rain, showing her that she too had a large socket in the back of her head, "It's a direct connection to the brain. You'll need it for missions. We'll talk about that later."
Rain ran a hoof through her short, still-wet mane. "How long was I out for?'
"Well, you arrived at around eleven this morning, and you've been asleep since then, sooo... About 10 hours?"
Rain's eyes widened. "10 hours?!"
"Hey, when I showed up, I was practically in a coma for 12. You're actually doing really well." She placed the tray she'd brought in on Rain's bed. "I bet you're hungry," she said, tossing Rain something wrapped in foil. "Just about everything there is to eat here is either frozen or reconstituted. It may not be the best thing you've ever eaten, but it'll do."
Rain unwrapped the thing. It smelled like preserved spices and was wrapped in a soft white tortilla. It appeared to be some sort of burrito. "Works for me." She shrugged. Rain bit into the soft tortilla. The taste of seasoned rice ran into her mouth, and she realized she was starving. Rain swallowed the first bite and tore into the food, half of it gone in about 30 seconds.
Amber stared. "Slow down, you're going to hurt yourself."
Rain laughed, embarrassed. "It's just... I'm starving! How do ponies even stay alive in that place? Don't they need to eat?"
"Technically, no. You get tube-fed pure energy. They get it in a pretty disgusting way."
Rain giggled. "Then I'm guessing I don't want to hear it?"
Amber grinned back at her. "No... Unless you want to lose everything you just ate."
"Hay, no!" Rain said, tearing into the rest of the burrito. It was history in less than a minute. She looked back at Amber. For a moment, they just stared blankly at each other, completely silent. Then somepony snickered, and they both burst out laughing.
"What are we even laughing at?" Rain asked, cutting through the fit of giggles.
"I don't know!" Amber squealed back, and it started all over again. Well this is going better than expected.
It was 2am. Both Rain and Amber had long been asleep. No one on board the Firestar was awake. Except for Ash, that is. The dust-gray unicorn was standing by Rain and Amber's dorm room door, his horn propping it open just a crack. He stood ominously still, so quiet he barely breathed. He was peeking stealthily into the dorm, watching Rain as she slept. It was as if her found something soothing in her stillness, the gentle rhythm of her breath. He'd known that the subject would be a girl, but he hadn't expected her to be so... so... beautiful.
From the first time he had been chosen to keep watch over her, he had been starstruck. There was something special about her. Something nopony else had. Something he wanted. He wanted it all for himself.
Ash watched the sleeping pegasus as she stirred peacefully. Maybe she was dreaming about him...
"What the heck are you doing?"
Ash whirled around to see Neon, staring suspiciously at him.
"Uh," Ash stuttered weakly in reply, "W-what are you doing?"
"I couldn't sleep, so I'm just taking a walk," he sighed. "Why are you even out here at this time of night? You usually sleep like you've been sedated."
"I- I just wanted t-to make sure Rain was okay. You know, that she's sleeping okay, not having a meltdown or anything."
Neon stretched out his velvety black wings. He pretended to believe Ash's lie. "Well, we should probably get back to bed. Before someone thinks we're stalking."
"O-okay." Ash loped down the hall, looking disappointed.
Neon stayed put, frozen in fear. It couldn't be. it just couldn't be possible. Ash had never shown this much interest in a new arrival. He was always so shy... something was wrong. Neon's mind began racing. Ash had been for almost ten years, but he'd always seemed so resilient. But then, Ash had always been so timid. He never talked to anyone. Practically quarantined. And all he'd seen and suffered in his whole life... This wasn't good. Neon knew what would happen. He knew the symptoms. First Ash would become obsessed, completely addicted, controlled entirely by what he wanted. Then he would start trailing Rain, acting like her second shadow. He would try to move in on her, bring her in, make her his forever. And if Rain rejected him... he would attack.
Neon's heart pounded. He looked into Rain's room. He had to know that she was really okay. In the gloom, he saw the spiky rainbow mane, a relaxed blue wing laid out over the blanket, Rain curled up peacefully, asleep. Completely unharmed. Neon sighed with relief. He couldn't let her get hurt. Because, no matter how much he denied it, he knew what had happened, and what would come next. The Possession Sickness had infected Ash. And he had latched onto Rain.
The next morning, Amber gave Rain the grand tour of her new home. She had made it into the real world, and was now aboard a hovercraft, a ship named the Firestar. It was fairly large, and its construction amazingly complex. Rain could barely remember half of what Amber had told her about the mechanics of it. Other than the science of its construction and systems of functioning, its architecture was fairly simple. Basically, it was made up of just two levels for living quarters and some storage space. Rain would still need help navigating for a few days. The entire ship was packed with loads of futuristic technology that Rain had never even heard of. Only the name of one has stuck in her head: Electromagnetic Pulse. Amber called it the EMP, a type of superpowered electrical shock wave. It was the ship's one defense against things called predators. Amber talked about them as if Rain already knew everything about the real world, but she had no idea what they were. She hoped she'd never have to find out.
When the tour was finally over, Amber led Rain into a room that they had passed before, but was previously empty. The dining hall. It was nothing much, just a long cafeteria table, a few cabinets set into the wall, and a door leading to the kitchen.
Seated at the long table were 6 ponies, conversing casually with each other. There was also a dragon. It was a small one, probably just a baby, like Spike. A female one, Rain guessed, judging by her high-pitched laugh and voice tinged with sass. Her face was more catlike than Spike's though, with a pair of orange, almond-shaped eyes and delicate fangs instead of rough, serrated dinosaur teeth. A fishlike, fringed golden fin ran over her head and down her back, rather than Spike's bony plates. Her small, shimmery scales shone a bright cerulean blue. Rain took a look at the ponies sitting around the table. She guessed this was the Firestar's crew. Some of them she recognized from the transition, and a few were new.
"Sorry we're late," Amber said, trotting in ahead of Rain. "I had to show her around so she wouldn't get lost."
The ponies all turned to face the two mares. "Look who's still alive," laughed one, a cream-colored unicorn stallion with long, dark brown dreadlocks.
Cherrybomb hopped up from her place and scampered over to Rain. "So you saw the whole place! What did you think?"
"It's pretty nice. Not exactly home, and it'll take some getting used to, but I think I'll learn to like it."
The dragon, who had been ignoring the happenings around her, looked up from her food. "What's up?" she said. She looked at Rain. "You're the new member, right?"
A black pegasus with a neon-rainbow mane and glowing green eyes rolled his eyes at the little dragon and sighed. "Yes, Saph McForgetterson. And her name is Rain, which you probably also forgot. Jeez, is there anything you do pay attention to?"
Rain realized she'd seen this pegasus somewhere before. She studied him. Velvet-black, neon mane, bright green eyes... Friday night came rushing back at her. She lunged at him before she knew what she was doing. "You!"
The pegasus jumped backward, looking surprised. "You remember me?"
"Hay yeah, I do!" Rain shot back at him. "You were that pervert from Glitterati! What was up with that creepy message? Why did you hack me? Who are you, anyway?"
The dreadlock unicorn looked confusedly at the two pegasi. "You two know each other?"
The black pegasus shrank back. "Um, not exactly."
Rain flared up again. "What? So now we're best friends all of a sudden?"
"You're certainly excitable today." Finally, a familiar voice broke through. Rain looked toward the source. Horus had stood up, and was walking towards her. She noticed his cutie mark, a golden hourglass, which his trench coat had hidden when they first met. She began to calm down a little.
"Well, you see, I met that guy at this place, and he was kind of being a creepy stalker pervert, and it all sort of went downhill from there."
Horus turned back towards the black pegasus, who looked slightly ashamed now. "What exactly were you trying to accomplish? I told you to notify her of our existence, not make a new enemy."
"I was just trying to blend in. I've never done this before, and I was just trying to seem unsuspicious, and then... you see."
Horus shrugged, seeming nonchalant. "Next time, try a little less." He looked back to Rain. I don't think you've met the entire crew. Welcome to the Firestar. Name of the ship, I'm captain." He walked around the room, nodding toward each pony he passed. "I'm sure you've met Amber. She's your roommate. This is Misty, my first mate." The dark blue Earth pony with frizzy purple mane, raindrop cutie mark, and piercing grey eyes. "You've definitely met Cherrybomb." He playfully ruffled the red filly's short blue mane. She giggled in response. "This is Ash, and Spiro, the tech crew." The two unicorn stallions sat side by side. Ash was the dusty grey, dark-eyed one with the scarlet mane that Rain had seen at her transfer. She hadn't seen Spiro yet. He was the creamy off-white one, with long, seal-color dreadlocks, amethyst-purple eyes and a quartz-crystal cutie mark. "And this is our dragon, Saph. Still young. She can be a bit much sometimes, but don't mind that. Her bark is worse than her bite." Rain heard the words drama queen in her head.
The indignant little dragon glared at Horus and snorted. "Implying that I actually bark. What do you take me for, a dog?" She picked up her bowl and walked out. "I'm going. I've got better things to do."
Horus looked at Rain, exasperated. "This isn't one of her better days." He now stood by the black pegasus with the bright mane and eyes that Rain had attacked earlier. "This is Neon. You seem to have already met."
Neon went silent for a second, then gave an annoyed expression. "Thanks," he mumbled sarcastically.
Rain stared. Does everypony here hear voices in their heads? she wondered.
It's telepathy. You'll get used to it. Horus's voice. Rain turned to him, shocked. He looked back at her, smiling. It's a gift. Every free pony has one.
Oh, Rain thought. She sat down with the rest of the crew.
"So," Spiro said, eating from a bowl of what looked like milk-soaked cereal, "Since you're new, you'll be starting training soon."
"Training?" Rain asked. "For what?"
"For missions," Amber answered. She took small white packet from a container on the counter, tore it open, and poured a reddish powder into her bowl of cereal. "It's essential. You'll need everything you learn." She telekinetically stirred the powder into the food, tinting it bright orange.
"How can you stand to eat it like that?" Neon said, staring.
"Acquired taste. Chili powder is the food of the gods."
Rain cut in again. "What kind of training is it?"
Misty leaned in from the other end of the table. "It's mainly fight training. Going without it is a practical death sentence. Those agents may look calm and composed, but they get pissed quickly and fight like dragons." She turned back and continued her conversation with Horus.
"Fight training. Okay. So how much am I going to need to learn?"
"Just about everything you can," Neon said.
Rain gasped. "Everything? How soon do I need to know this by? That could take months!"
"Actually," Spiro cut in, "it all gets downloaded directly into your memory. And, yes, we have technology that can do that. The entire process only takes a few minutes."
"That's only half the procedure," Neon continued. "You also need to learn how to use the skills. There are all these tutorial missions that we use for practice. Breakout is my favorite. I've finished faster than anyone on this ship." He grinned, as if he had someone to impress.
Amber laughed at him. "No way! Quit bragging."
"I will when you can prove me wrong."
"Is that a challenge?"
"You think you can beat me?"
"I know I can!"
Neon put a hoof down on the table. "Fine. You're on!"
"Challenge accepted!" Amber snipped back. She turned to Ash, who sat directly next to her. "I could totally take him, am I right, Ash?" He said nothing. She looked quizzically at the gray stallion and waved a hoof in front of his face. "Um, Ash? Hellooo?"
Up until now, nopony had noticed that Ash hadn't said a word. He'd just sat there, silent, staring longingly across the table at Rain. She noticed his wistfully blank expression. Something about it really creeped her out.
Ash suddenly realized that everypony was looking at him. His shyness finally kicked in. "Huh? Oh, um... What were we talking about?"
Spiro studied his friend suspiciously. "Where have you been this whole time?"
Ash looked nervously from pony to pony. "I- I just remembered that- uh- I have t-to go- do something. See you guys later." Without another word, he picked up his tray and left. Everypony stared after him. What was wrong with him?
About half an hour later, everypony had left the dining hall. Only Neon was left. Mopping the dining hall floor had been on his list of chores for a while. He needed to get it done sometime. He heard hoofsteps approach the doorway. "Hey," a voice said.
Neon looked up. It was Rain. "Hi," he answered back.
"I kind of got lost trying to get back to my dorm. Mind helping me out?"
"Sure. I can finish this later." Neon leaned the mop against the wall and trotted over beside Rain.
As Neon guided Rain back through the corridors, he apologetically explained himself to Rain. He hadn't meant to make a bad impression on her. He'd had to hack into her laptop to contact her at all. His message had to stay vague to keep from being caught by the agents. And he had only acted so arrogant when they had first met because he was trying too hard to blend in with the other ponies at Glitterati. He never meant to come off as a jerk.
Rain's reservations about him slowly began to melt away. Neon genuinely seemed like a nice stallion. Wait. Maybe he had a thing for her and was just trying to get on her good side. No, he seemed too honest for that.
"And here we are," Neon announced as they reached the dorm Rain shared with Amber.
"Sorry about overreacting earlier," Rain said. "I thought you really were... well, you know. But you're not. I see that now."
Neon smiled at her. "Hey, it's okay. It wasn't your fault."
"So... friends?" Rain said, putting a hoof out towards Neon.
"Friends," he said, gladly taking it. Oddly, he found it a little hard to pull his hoof back.
Leaving it at that, Rain entered the room and closed the door. Satisfied that he had cleared everything up, Neon, turned to leave. Ash was standing right in front of him.
"Ah!" Neon shouted, startled. Seeing it was only his friend, he calmed down. "Didn't see you there. What's up?"
Ash glared daggers at him. "What was that?"
Neon shuddered and tried to back away. "We were just talking-"
"It had better be just talking!" Ash stalked closer to Neon, backing him up further and further and cornering him against the wall. He leaned into the pegasus's shocked face.
"What do you mean?" Neon choked out.
The unicorn growled. "Listen up. Keep your hooves off of Rain or you'll regret it. She. Is. MINE!" He eased up, but only a little. "Got it?"
Neon nodded shakily. Ash turned and galloped off, leaving his friend slumped against the wall, alone.