Chapter Sixteen - Moving Onwards
Solar One, The Citadel, Serpent Nebula
April 9, 2183
"Whatchya doin'?" The chirp of a voice over an omni tool cut through the darkness surrounding Twilight Sparkle's mind.
She woke with a groan, a small throb behind her eyes making the entire process far more painful than it had any right to be. It took her a moment to gather her thoughts together, and as she did that, she came to the realization that she was lying under the covers of her bed on Solar One. Looking over, she found Gilda laying next to her, watching one of the cartoon shows that she had come to love since coming to Equestria. They had been a wonderful find for her, and they helped keep the nightmares at bay.
When the griffin started to giggle, half trying to muffle herself to keep from waking Twilight, the unicorn couldn't hold her silence anymore and nuzzled close to Gilda's side.
"That's cute," she murmured, resting her head on the pillow next to Gilda's. The griffin startled, turning over to look at her marefriend.
"Twilight!" Show forgotten, she grabbed Twilight's forehooves. "You're awake! How are you feeling? Do you have a headache? Are you feeling sick? Do you need anything? I could go get you some tea, or maybe soup. Soup might be better. Do you want soup?"
Twilight blinked at Gilda, confused, her headache throbbing as if to remind her she had absolutely no clue what was going on. She looked around at their room, her brow scrunching up before she turned to look back at Gilda. "What's happening? How'd we get back here? What... what's happening?"
"What do you remember, Twi?" Gilda sat up, concerned, looking down at Twilight with gentle eyes.
"I remember..." Twilight blinked, struggling to recall... anything. Her eyes went wide when she remembered. "Oh Celestia, I remember..."
"What do you remember, Twi?" Gilda asked again, her voice gentle.
"You're not going to believe me." She wasn't sure if she believed herself.
"I don't know." Gilda shrugged, lying down so she was beak to muzzle with Twilight. "After everything we've seen so far, I think I'm pretty open to the strange and unbelievable."
"This though..." Twilight wasn't at all convinced by that.
"What? What's so unbelievable about you jumping from a balcony into a lake, being fished out of said lake by C-SEC and then passing out. What's so unbelievable about that?"
Twilight could only give Gilda a look.
Of course it's unbelievable, just like everything else that had been happening to them.
"Alright then." Gilda booped Twilight on the muzzle, making her scrunch up her muzzle. "Shoot."
"I wasn't just jumping into a lake." Looking down, Twilight frowned when she saw that she had been clutching the object she had found under the relay statue. She held it up for Gilda to see. "I found this."
"Where'd you get that?" Flaring her wings in surprise, Gilda blinked in surprise, clacking her beak.
"Under the statue of the Mass Relay," Twilight explained, turning it over in her hoof. It was prothean in design, just like she had thought. It wasn't very large, only a little bigger than the bottom of her hoof, and rectangular in appearance. It almost looked like it was designed to slot together with other pieces.
"No." Gilda shook her head, pointing at the artifact. "I mean where'd you get that?" She leaned closer, peering at it as if she had never seen it before. "You didn't have it with you when we brought you back to the ship."
"Then how do I have it with me now?" Twilight looked down at the artifact as a pulse of light spread across its surface, following the array of lines on its surface. She focused on the artifact, wondering how that could have happened.
"What did you just do, Twi?" Her voice was wobbly as she spoke. Gilda tensed, her eyes focusing as she stared at Twilight's hoof in surprise.
"What do you mean?" Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Where'd you make it go?" Cocking her head, Gilda looked around, the feathers on the top of her head raising.
"Go?" There was no end to Twilight's confusion. She held up the artifact, raising an eyebrow at Gilda. "It's right here."
"How'd you do that?" Gilda blinked in surprise, as if seeing the artifact for the first time. She reached a claw out to touch it, but hesitated and drew it back, unsure of herself.
"How'd I do what?" Gilda was making absolutely no sense. Twilight might have blacked out, but it seemed like Gilda was the one with a head injury.
"How'd you make it disappear?"
"Disappear? What in Equestria are you talking about Gilda? You're not making any sense."
"That... thing disappeared, then it just reappeared!" Gilda pointed at the artifact, looking at it like it was one of Twilight's experiments that tended to explode if toyed with. "What happened? What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything!" Twilight waved her hoof, wondering just what was wrong with Gilda.
"Do it again." Leaning closer, Gilda stared at the artifact, her rear wiggling, as if she was ready to pounce.
"I don't even know what happened in the first place!" Twilight huffed, more than a little frustrated. "Can we get back to the important issue?"
"You made that thing disappear. I'd say that's important."
"Gilda!" Twilight rolled her eyes. "Focus!"
"Alright..." Gilda straightened, trying to get back into the right frame of mind. She blinked several times, focusing on Twilight. "We can deal with the disappearing thingy later... Okay. Go ahead."
"Alright." Taking a breath, Twilight centered herself before beginning to explain. "I jumped into the lake and I found this. When I touched it, I saw... Something strange."
"Okay." Gilda was trying her best to be a supportive marefriend, no matter how much she wanted to try and figure out what was up with the artifact. "What did you see?"
"I think it was a vision... a memory, maybe." Shaking her head, Twilight frowned, trying to recall what had happened perfectly. Twilight's brow scrunched up, and she looked at Gilda, her eyes burning intensely. "I think I saw the Elements of Harmony."
"What?" Gilda perked up, finally focusing on the moment. "Where?"
"I don't know, but I think the protheans had them..." Frowning, Twilight looked back down at the artifact.
"The protheans..." Gilda cocked her head, following Twilight's gaze.
"I know what I saw."
"I didn't say I didn't believe you," Gilda protested.
"Oh..." Twilight didn't have a response to that. "Well... The protheans somehow had the elements, and they were in a war with something that was wiping them out..." Frowning, she whispered to herself. "... A coming darkness..."
"What did you say?" Gilda asked, not quite hearing.
"The dream!" Twilight took Gilda's claw in her hoof. "It was the dream!"
"The dream!" Twilight stomped a hoof on the bed. "We all saw it. Celestia said it herself. A storm is coming and we're trying to find the elements to fight it. What if the protheans experienced the same thing?"
"A... storm?" Gilda raised an eyebrow, not following Twilight's logic.
"Well... It's not actually a storm. It's obviously symbolism." Twilight had to stop herself from jumping up in excitement. It would make her headache even more unbearable.
"Obviously." Gilda nodded her head sarcastically.
"Oh Celestia, I think I know what the map means!" Twilight scrambled out of bed, her eyes open wide.
"What?" Gilda stared after Twilight before her brain kicked into gear and she followed after Twilight. "Wait! Twi, you really shouldn't be getting out of bed."
"I feel fine." Waving a hoof, Twilight kept going towards the door.
"Really! Tiny Berry said you needed to take it easy."
That made Twilight pause. She looked back at Gilda, confused. "Tiny Berry?"
"Yeah. Apparently as well as the time she spends working in the kitchen, she's also the ship's doctor."
"Huh..." Twilight blinked before shaking her head. "Whatever."
"I'm fine." Twilight winced at the ache in her legs, but she pushed it off. "There are more important things to do than bed rest."
Gilda rolled her eyes, knowing that there was nothing she could say to make Twilight stop. They both left the room, emerges into the ship proper. Twilight started to trot towards the comm room, only to trip and fall.
At the surprising young, squeaky voice, Twilight looked down, finding herself sprawled over a dazed looking Sweetie Belle.
"Oh..." She blinked owlishly. "I'm sorry... Didn't see you... Huh?"
"They came onboard after you passed out." Gilda walked up to the two of them. Leaning down, she pulled Sweetie Belle out from under Twilight and set her on all four of her hooves. "Remember, Twi? That's why we were meeting with them before you-"
"Before you jumped into a lake!" Sweetie Belle hopped, smiling as wide as she possibly could. "It was funny."
"Ah..." Twilight blushed, getting to her hooves. "Right. Sorry."
"Why?" Sweetie dropped back onto her haunches. "It was funny."
Twilight blushed even harder, her ears laying flat against her head.
They all turned to look as Rarity emerged from around the corner.
"Sweetie Belle! There you are." She cried dramatically, trotting over to join them, taking in the situation. Rarity winced when she saw what must have happened. "Sweetie Belle! What did I tell you about bothering Ms. Sparkle?"
"She's not a bother," Twilight assured her, rubbing a hoof on the top of Sweetie Belle's head, making the filly giggle.
Rarity didn't quite know how to take that. She had for so long built up the elite of Equestria in her mind that she wasn't quite sure how to take the idea that Twilight just wanted to be treated as a normal mare.
"Please forgive me, darling." Rarity pulled Sweetie Belle closer to herself.
"It's fine." Twilight rolled her eyes. Politely, but urgently, Twilight excused herself from the situation and trotted to the bridge, an awkward smile on her muzzle as she sidled past Rarity.
Gilda and Rarity shared a glance, before looking after Twilight's retreating form.
"She looks determined," Rarity murmured.
"You get used to it." Gilda shrugged.
"Really?" Rarity raised an eyebrow.
"No." Shaking her head, Gilda followed after Rarity.
"Oh." Rarity blinked.
"Isn't your anniversary coming up?"
Honey Dawn looked up from her maintenance of the ship's systems to find Little Hoof, one of her copilots, inquisitively looking at her. "What?"
"Your anniversary?" Little Hoof had a small blush on his face, wondering if he had misheard something.
"No..." Shaking her head, Honey Dawn did her best to let Little Hoof have his dignity. "That's next week."
Thankfully, at that moment the door to the bridge slid open and they turned to find Twilight entering.
"Ma'am!" Honey Dawn saluted jokingly, but faltered when she saw the look of determination on Twilight's face.
"Commander, I'm ready to leave." Her voice was completely serious, and she had the look of a leader.
"Two crew members are still on the Citadel, but I'll order them to return." Honey blinked, but nodded in understanding. Straightening, she watched Twilight, falling easily into her role as Captain of the ship. She looked at Twilight expectantly. "What's our destination, ma'am?"
"Thessia." Twilight nodded to herself, satisfied. "I know what we're supposed to do."
"I'll start logging the flight plans immediately." Honey Dawn nodded, glancing at her copilots.
"Good." Twilight sagged ever so slightly as the moment passed, and Honey Dawn could see the excited child in the unicorn again. "I want to leave as soon as everypony is onboard."
"Yes, ma'am." Even as she was speaking, Honey Dawn could hear Little Hoof and Fancy Steps, her other copilot, getting started on preparations.
"Alright then..." Twilight nodded, then paused, not really sure what to do next. "I'll be... I don't know."
Turning, Twilight left without another word, and the three pilots all shared a look.
Honey Dawn started giggling, shaking her head. "That filly hasn't changed a bit."
The door to the bridge sliding shut behind her, Twilight loitered just in the entrance, not really sure what to do next. She was so confident a moment ago, but now she wondered just what was happening.
What had she gotten herself caught up in?
"You okay there, Twi?" Gilda asked as she, Rarity, and Sweetie Belle caught up to her.
"Yeah." Twilight shrugged, looking up at her marefriend.
"You sure?" Gilda nuzzled up against Twilight's side, placing a wing comfortingly over the unicorn's back. "You don't look too fine to me."
"I'm fine, Gilda." The words didn't even sound convincing to her own ears. She looked over to Rarity and Sweetie Belle, offering them a shaky smile. "We're heading to Thessia. I hope that it isn't too inconvenient for you."
"Thessia? You mean the home to the best fashion designers from across the galaxy?" Rarity blinked in surprise, an excitement growing in her chest. She almost swooned, having to keep from drooling at the thought. "Why on Equestria would that be an inconvenience. You are in fact, doing me a favor. I've been saving up for such a trip for years!"
"Well..." Twilight glanced at Gilda, who shrugged, before turning back to Rarity. "Good. We should be leaving soon."
"Come along, Sweetie Belle." Rarity looks down at Sweetie Belle. "Let's get out of our hosts' mane."
Rarity led Sweetie Belle away from Twilight and Gilda, back towards their room.
As soon as they were gone, Gilda turned to Twilight.
"What are you thinking?" She asked, setting her wings back against her sides.
"The map." Twilight frowned, sitting back on her haunches.
"What about it?"
"It wasn't showing us where to find the Elements." Twilight chewed on her lip, staring down at the floor, following the patterns in the wood with her eyes. "There's more going on here then I ever imagined, and we're caught up in something bigger than either of us."
"I couldn't imagine being anywhere else." Gilda sidled up close to Twilight, nuzzling her cheek.
"Me neither." Twilight kissed the side of Gilda's beak, thankful, and not for the first time, that she wasn't alone.
"What do you think we're going to find?" Gilda asked, glad that her feather's helped to hide her blush.
Twilight had to think about that for a moment.
"I think... I think we're supposed to find more of these." Twilight held up the artifact. A moment later, she blinked in confusion when she couldn't remember how she managed to bring it with her after leaving their room.
"Do you think they're safe?" Gilda asked, pointing a talon at the artifact, seeming to take its appearance a lot better than Twilight was.
"I don't know." Twilight shrugged, and she turned the artifact over in her forehooves. It hummed with an otherworldly power. "I don't even really know what it is."
"Hey, don't worry." Gilda put a foreleg around Twilight's shoulder. "We'll figure it out together."
"You're just saying that." Even as she said that, Twilight leaned back into Gilda's touch.
"Yeah... I'm not really great at this comforting bullshit."
"You don't say." Giggling, Twilight enjoyed feeling the strong heartbeat of the griffin through her back.
"Don't be an ass," Gilda scoffed.
"Hey!" Twilight gasped, taken aback in a completely joking manner. "I'm not a donkey!"
"Maybe not, but you can be an ass."
"You watch too many human shows."
"Meh." Gilda simply said, shrugging.