TIMELINE - 2155 CE
"Are you sure this is a good idea, Chel?" East's voice crackled through Chelsea's earpiece, sounding flat from inside her sound proofed helmet. "We have no idea what's out there. It could be dangerous."
"We don't really have a choice," Chelsea said through the mic around her throat. They didn't have a choice. All attempts that they had made to restart the ship's drive core had met with failure and red warning lights. They had tried for over five hours to find a solution to problem, but nothing presented itself. There was no other choice than to suit up and head out onto the object to make a visual inspection of the Rusty Bob's hull. If there was something external that they needed to fix, they needed to know about it now, when there was sill time to make repairs. "You know that as much as I do, now cycle the airlock."
East didn't say anything, but the door to the ship shut behind her and she could faintly hear the rush of air as it was sucked out of the small room. Moments later, the airlock door cycled open, just in time for Chelsea to watch the exit ramp extend out from her ship and lower to the metal surface of the ground below.
"I'm heading out, East." Chelsea rechecked the air supply meter projected on the inside of her helmet. It still read at 99%, and she took a deep breath, an uncomfortable feeling settling in her chest. "Tell me if anything changes."
With those final words, Chelsea stepped out of the airlock and into the blackness of space.
Twilight Velvet hummed happily to herself as she finished packing a picnic basket for her date with her husband that night. Celestia's sun was just beginning to make its descent towards the horizon, the sky above darkening as great rays of light spread out, painting the sky in brilliant purples, oranges, and pinks. She set the bottle of wine inside the basket before closing the lid and then set the entire thing on her back.
Walking to the front door of her house, she stepped out onto the streets of Canterlot outside, locking the door behind her. Fall was rapidly approaching, and Twilight could taste the change in the air, an excitement that coursed through the heart of the city at the changing of seasons. Each new season brought holidays, and more time to spend with family and friends in celebration.
"Hello Mrs. Velvet!" A group of fillies shouted at her as they scampered past her, eager to get in a few more hours of play before their bed-time. They were gone before she had a chance to return their greeting, around the corner and out of sight.
With a rueful laugh, Twilight began the short journey to her husband's observatory. It was nestled above the rest of the city, high enough above that the lights never affected their view of the stars. It sat on the opposite side of the city from the Royal Castle, the largest source of light pollution at night, something to which her husband had spent a long time explaining his annoyance at to her.
Walking through the streets of Canterlot, Twilight let her thoughts drift wherever they might, enjoying the fresh air and the smiling faces around her. The ponies around her didn't have a trouble in the world, at least not ones that weren't easily fixed with a soft apology and a bouquet of flowers.
It was one of the things that she absolutely loved about Canterlot. Problems always seemed so much smaller here, forgiveness more readily available. In a very real sense, the city itself was the beacon of everything that Equestria strived to be, with the elements of friendship and love mirrored back to the residents by the very rulers of the world itself. What point was there in holding a grudge against a rashly spoken word when the immortal sisters had forgiven each other for matters a thousand fold worse. To be able to set aside their differences to hold the struggling nation together those thousand years ago had left a large mark to strive towards for the inhabitants of Equestria, one they tried their best to live up to every day of their lives.
It was so different from Baltimare, where she had lived her entire life before meeting Night-Light. There, ponies fought and squabbled over such little matters, letting friendships fall apart over so many trivial things. She had thought that everypony acted that way, at least until she had met Night-Light.
Twilight first laid eyes on him just outside the garden of her families small home. She hated him instantly, dismissing him as just another stuck up son of some noble family. It was the small horn-ring that gave him away as belonging to nobility. He walked right by her, nose buried deep in an absolutely massive tome, so engrossed in his reading that he never even saw the pole in front of him.
He had walked right into it, crashing to the ground with a tremendous thud and Twilight simply hadn't been able to stop herself from giggling. She had instantly stopped, not wanting to bring a noble's ire down upon her, expecting the colt to fly off into a rage like she had seen so many others do.
When he had started to laugh, a warm sound that tickled Twilight's emotions, she found herself sticking around to watch him with plain curiosity. He was... different. Unlike the colts of Baltimare, who swaggered around bragging of anything and everything to anyone who would listen, picking fights with anypony who they thought might have slighted them, this colt had just sat there, laughing at his embarrassing fall like it wasn't a big deal.
She would learn later that it simply wasn't a problem for him. He had long since grown used to walking into walls and other things because of his simple ability to lose himself completely in whatever he was reading.
When he had noticed her staring at him like he was an alien that had descended down from the sky, Night-Light told her later that he had instantly fallen in love. He had introduced himself, a student astronomer attending a conference with his teacher, and it was a whirlwind ride from there. Only a year and a half later had seen them married and moving to Canterlot, to a modest house in a quiet district full of young families and cute bakeries.
Life was perfect.
Twilight paused for a moment outside the Royal Academies observatory, looking up at the great domed building where her husband spent so much of his time. It was something that could have torn them apart, but Night-Light was always careful that he never put his work ahead of her. It had led to a few arguments, but they were always quickly resolved and life continued on, better than before. They both wanted to make their marriage work, and they were willing to do whatever it took to ensure that it did.
She walked in, giving the observatory's guard a warm smile as she passed him. He let her through without a problem, because Twilight had long ago become a fixture of the building. She could often be found in the small kitchen beneath the telescope room, testing out new recipes for her own work. The other astronomers had learned not to strike the hoof that fed them and had granted her the right to come and go whenever she pleased, something that she took full advantage of.
Twilight found her husband napping on one of the couches in the observatories common room, a book fallen on the floor beside him. She giggled at the sight, knowing just how strange his sleep cycles were. She set her basket down and crept over to him on the tips of her hooves.
As quietly as she possibly could, Twilight leaned down and kissed her husband. She kissed him again, and again, until he started to murmur, ascending out of the realms of unconscious to the waking world.
Cracking an eye open with a groan, his grumpy frown turned into a smile when he saw just who had awoken him.
"Hey there," he said tiredly, sitting up. Leaning forward, Night-Light kissed her back. "You're early."
Twilight giggled, shaking her head. "No, I'm right on time. You fell asleep and lost track of time."
Night-Light glanced at the clock across the room and saw that he had indeed lost track of time. He smiled back sheepishly at Twilight, who rolled her eyes before giving him another quick kiss.
"It's going to be dark soon." She picked up her basket and set it onto her back again. "When did Princess Luna say the show was going to start?"
"She didn't," Night-Light said with a shrug. "I was thinking we could set up in the telescope room, play some music, and watch what happens."
"Sounds good." Twilight smiled up at him, then followed him out of the common room.
The observatories lights had been turned off, with only soft red lights on to preserve night-vision while also making it easier for everypony not to trip over everything. Twilight saw that Night-Light wasn't the only one who had the idea of making it a date night. Scattered around the massive room, other pony couples had set up their own meals, some more elaborate than others. She did have to admit, a star show from Princess Luna was definitely worth the effort, and it just made everything so romantic.
Night-Light led her over to a spot that had gone unclaimed by other couples. Twilight set down her basket, pulling out the thick, warm quilt that she had placed on top between the two handles. Unfolding it with her magic, she laid it down on the cold floor, placing the basket on one corner before sitting down herself. Night-Light sat down next to her, and she leaned into his side.
"I love you," she whispered to him, staring up at the night-sky above them. The ceiling had been drawn back to allow the astronomers within to view the night sky.
"I love you too," Night-Light whispered back. Turning his head, he kissed her.
Closing her eyes, Twilight kissed him back, melting into his side. Everything was perfect, and Twilight wished that the moment would last forever.
Maybe it did.
As Chelsea stepped her first foot down onto the metal surface, she could swear that she heard a metallic ringing echoing through her head, almost like a tuning fork was ringing. She activated her comms. "Are you picking up anything strange, East?"
"No." The comms crackled, but East's voice still came through relatively clear. "Nothing. It's the same as it was when we first started scanning."
"Alright," Chelsea said, unsure but trusting her own ships sensors. "Keep me informed."
Kneeling down, Chelsea took a moment to study the ground beneath her. It was a dull metal, burnished, with deeply engraved lines that stretched out as far as the lights of the Rusty Bob reached, disappearing into darkness. She was sure that if the entirety of whatever it was that was beneath her was ever illuminated, it would form some sort of image, or maybe writing, miles long, maybe longer.
She shook her head to clear her thoughts. She had other things to worry about. Standing, Chelsea turned to look at her ship. It was lit up by the flood lights, and she could see every bolt and rivet. Stepping under her ship, she wondered for a moment how her ship's landing gear had managed to extend, or how the ship had managed to land on the construct without crashing while they had been unconscious. There simply wasn't enough information, and she pushed it out of her mind for now.
"I'm heading to the engines now, East," Chelsea said into her comms.
She got no reply, only static.
"I'm heading to the engines now, East. Respond."
There was still only static. Chelsea bit back a curse, shaking her head. She started walking towards the rear of her ship, but stopped as the metallic ringing grew louder in her head. It stopped as soon as she stopped moving, and she cocked her head in confusion.
Experimentally, Chelsea took a step forward. A single ring echoed through her head. She was still for a moment, and all she heard was silence. Another step forward, another ring. The pitch changed in the last ring, and it seemed to echo through her entire body. "What in the world..."
The ground erupted in a brilliant blue glow, the engravings in the ground lighting up with such intensity that she had to raise a hand to cover her eyes to keep from being blinded. "East! East! Talk to me! What the hell is going on?"
There was no response, not even static. The ringing grew louder and louder, until it was so painful that she screamed, dropping to her knees as she clutched at her helmet.
The ground fell away from underneath her, and then everything went black.