Author's note: Hi all. Well, I promised you it wouldn't take me three months to get out a new chapter like last time, so here it is. Hope you enjoy it! Also, I finally got around to replacing chapters 1 through 6 on here with the revised and rewritten ones. Special thanks to Omnicron25 for helping revise chapter 6. Thanks again, and hope you enjoy chapter 50 and the revised chapters!
Chapter 50: Reunion
Captain Swordstorm quickly jumped to his feet as he heard Megan scream, forgetting that the roof of the chariot was too low for him to stand up in and banging his head. His armored helm took the brunt of the blow, although he still felt it.
He quickly spun around crouching and facing the rear door. But he had no idea how to open it! There was no time to try to figure it out. He turned around again, facing away from the door, then shot out with both of his hind legs. The glass window shattered from the impact, shards falling to the floor like rain; the metal door groaning, twisting, and popping as the latch yielded to the force of his kick. The rear door swung open, hitting its limits and bouncing back.
He was out of the door in a flash, his armor covered hooves crunching on the glass shards that had hit the ground. Megan screamed again, and he quickly rounded the side of the chariot to see the two attackers holding her on the ground. Both of them were facing away from him, and it appeared as if they were trying to remove her clothes. Between Megan's screams, and their struggling to keep her on the ground, it seemed they had not heard him break out of the back of the chariot. Moonlight caught the flash of the knife blade again. He covered the distance nearly instantly, stopping behind one of the men and speaking in a loud, commanding voice.
"I believe the lady has made it quite clear she wishes to be left alone!"
The two men stopped instantly, one of them visibly jumping at the sudden sound. Clearly, they had thought Megan had been alone in the chariot. The man he was behind began to turn around, speaking as he did so. Captain Swordstorm kept a constant eye on the hand that he knew wielded the knife.
"You should have stayed-"
The man stopped in mid-sentence, his eyes going wide in the light of the moon. He recovered from his surprise quickly, however. Much more quickly than he should have given what he had just seen. He spoke again.
"Whatever you are, you should have stayed out of it," he said, brandishing the knife and taking a step towards him. Captain Swordstorm raised an eyebrow.
"Do you really want to do this? Do you really want to pick a fight with the commander of Their Majesties' elite Royal Guard?"
The man only laughed at that, swinging the knife at him in an arc. Captain Swordstorm feigned backward, easily avoiding the slash, careful to keep one eye on the second man, who had forgotten about Megan and was facing him as well. The second man was also brandishing a knife now.
The man in front of him slashed again with the knife. This time, Captain Swordstorm swung his foreleg up, blocking the strike and hooking the man's arm with his fetlock. He wrenched the arm tightly, twisting the man around and securing the trapped limb firmly, causing the man to cry out in a mixture of pain and surprise.
Casting another glance at the second man, while keeping the first man trapped in the armlock, he frowned to himself. He wasn't one for brutality, and all of his training and morals told him to use the least amount of force necessary to subdue an opponent. But, given that both men were armed with knives, he also knew he needed to get one of them out of commission as quickly as possible to avoid being attacked from both sides.
He wrenched the trapped arm tighter, getting a sickening crack! in response as bone snapped, the man falling to the ground as he released his broken limb. He kicked the knife away, then concentrated on the second man. The first man, was now too busy cradling his broken arm to pose much of a threat. Even if he did mange to get back into the fight, he would be doing so without his knife, and with his dominant hand out of action.
The second man hesitated for a moment, glancing down at his companion writhing on the ground in pain. For a moment, he raised the knife, and Captain Swordstorm braced himself. But then, the man apparently thought better of it, dropping his knife and turning to run.
Briefly, Captain Swordstorm thought of letting him go. After all, this wasn't his mission. But if and when the local human guards or police captured him, he would tell the same story as the first man. That he had seen a talking, armor wearing pony. That wouldn't be a problem if only one man told the story. Clearly, no one would believe him. But if both of them told the same story, despite the fact that they had not had a chance before the arrest to talk with each other and agree on the crazy tale, it would make it more believable.
More importantly, the man had just tried to rape a woman. Rape was an extremely rare crime in Equestria, but he knew that those ponies who did commit such acts, or attempt to commit such acts, often did so more than once, and to multiple different ponies. But at the same time, he didn't really want to leave Megan alone with the first man, despite the man's injury.
He glanced down at the man, who was still cradling his mangled limb and wincing. He seemed to be in too much pain to pose a serious threat to Megan. He looked up at her next. She was standing now, holding on to the knife that he had taken away from the first attacker. She seemed to read his thoughts, or at least surmise his conundrum.
"Go after the second man! I'll watch this one. Don't worry. I'll be fine."
He turned on his hoof, galloping off after the second man, who hadn't gotten far in the space of the few seconds he had spent pondering whether he should chase him or not. It only took a few more seconds for him to catch the man and pull him down from behind. Quickly, he stepped over the man, sitting on the small of his back and pinning him firmly. He hooked the man's right arm with one of his forelegs, getting a yelp of panic from the man before he had even applied any pressure.
"Yield," Captain Swordstorm commanded. "Unless you want to end up like your friend back there."
The man instantly ceased struggling. "I give up! Just don't-"
"I won't as long as you cooperate," Swordstorm responded, quickly using his free forehoof to pat the man down, looking for any other weapons he might have on him. Finding nothing, he released the trapped arm and stepped off of him. "On your feet, and walk. Back the way you came. And no talking." he ordered. The man stood back up, shaking slightly as he turned, walking back towards Megan's chariot and his whimpering companion, who didn't dare move now that Megan was standing over him with his own knife.
"On the ground. Face down. Head on the ground, hands stretched over your head and on the ground." Captain Swordstorm ordered the man he had just herded back. The man complied quickly, a look of shock and fear in his face. But he said nothing.
Captain Swordstorm quickly searched the first prisoner now. Thankfully, because of the warm weather, they were only wearing t-shirts and light pants, so there weren't many places for them to hide any, and not a lot of padding to interfere with his ability to feel anything.
His hoof stopped on a bulge in one pocket. He used his teeth to tear the fabric covering the pocket, revealing a hinged container of some sort. Whatever it was, he decided it wasn't dangerous. Better to leave it right where it was and not tamper with possible evidence that the local guards or police might need. He turned his attention to Megan now, although he kept one eye on both of the prisoners.
"What would you have me do with them, ma'am?" he asked.
Megan blinked, looking at him as if she were confused. For a few moments, she said nothing.
"Excuse me?" she finally said.
"What would you have me do with them, ma'am?" he repeated.
Still, she seemed confused. But after a few moments, she looked down at one of the captured men and recoiled slightly, looking back up at him and responding.
"I ... I recognize one of these men. There's a nationwide manhunt on for him. He's wanted in connection with several ... rapes." She shuddered as she said the last word, and he knew she was probably thinking about just how close she had come to being the man's next victim. "We ... we should call the local police. I have a tow rope in the back we can use to tie them up. After we get them bound, you should hide yourself until the police have left. I'll have to talk to them for a while and ... come up with some kind of lie about what happened here."
"As you wish, ma'am," he responded, returning his full attention to the prisoners as Megan walked to the back of the chariot to get the rope.
"What the-" one of the men began. Captain Swordstorm cut him off abruptly.
"I said no talking!" he commanded. "Unless you want a broken jaw to go with your friend's broken arm."
He wouldn't have made good on the threat, but the man had no way of knowing that, and he quickly closed his mouth, not daring to open it again.
Megan returned a few seconds later, and he ordered the men to sit up facing away from each other, back to back. Then, Megan wound the rope around the two of them several times before tying it, leaving no room for them to attempt to squirm free. Not that it would have done them any good even if they had gotten free. Megan's eyes returned to him.
"You should go hide now. I'll call the police."
"I'll be close by in case you need me, ma'am. Don't worry. No one will be able to see me. Not even you. But I'll be within easy hearing distance. If you need me, just call out."
"Thank you," she said as he turned and trotted off a short ways before stepping into the forest, making sure he was well hidden. It was still dark out. Given his deep penetration background, and his Lunar Guard armor, no one would have any inkling he was there. A shadow in the night would have more chance of being spotted than he would.
Once he was safely hidden away behind some bushes, he lowered himself to the ground and tuned his ears forward, keeping both eyes on the bound men. They clearly weren't going anywhere. Megan got back into her chariot and turned on a light inside. Then she took out her communication device and made a phone call.
A little while later, maybe ten minutes or so, he swiveled one ear to the left, hearing a whining noise, like that of some bird alternating between a high and low pitch. Sirens, he realized after a moment. More than one of them. Moving red and blue reflections danced off tree limbs and bushes. The sirens stopped as four chariots, smaller than Megan's but with official looking symbols and flashing red and blue lights on them pulled up near Megan's chariot and stopped. In addition, two much larger chariots pulled up and stopped, both with flashing red lights. Ambulances, he surmised, based on the symbols on the side of the vehicles.
As soon as they had stopped, he watched several uniformed men get out of the smaller chariots. Megan also stepped out of hers. Two of the uniformed men kept watch over the bound prisoners, while two others went over to talk with Megan. Despite the noise of the of the engines on the chariots, he could hear the conversation with Megan clearly.
She explained to the police that a man had just happened to drive by while the two others were dragging her out of her chariot. He had stopped and fought with the two men who were now tied together. A skilled martial artist, she told them, explaining how the one man had ended up with a broken arm. The man was a hero, she said. But he had not wanted any such recognition or publicity, and that was why he had left before the police arrived. She hadn't gotten his name, or a good look at him in the dark.
A woman who had stepped out of one of the ambulances, also wearing a uniform but of a different type than the police officers, asked her if she needed medical attention. She declined and told them she was in a hurry. An important business meeting the next morning, she said. And she still had a long way to drive.
Once the police had finished talking with Megan, all of them turned their attention to the two bound men, arresting them quickly. He heard one of the men mumble something, slightly incoherently, but enough for him to make out the gist of it.
"It was a talking pony with wings ... wearing dark colored armor."
"I'm sure it was," one of the police officers responded in a tone that said he clearly didn't believe the man.
The uninjured man was loaded directly into the back of one of the small police chariots, while the one whose arm he had broken was loaded into one of the ambulances. That one would get a few hours reprieve from a jail cell, spending them in a hospital emergency room instead. Two of the police officers climbed into the ambulance after the injured man had been loaded in. Then the ambulance left, but this time without the siren blaring.
The remaining officers walked back over to Megan, talking with her for a few more minutes, asking once again if she was certain she didn't want medical attention. Once again, she declined, insisting she was fine and in a hurry. Then, they returned to their chariots as well, disappearing inside of them. One by one, they also left the scene, driving off into the night with no sirens and no flashing lights this time. All was quiet once again, except for the sound of crickets chirping, and a light breeze blowing through the trees. Once he was sure they were gone, he stood up, stepping out of the grove of bushes and walking back towards Megan.
"Are you certain, you're alright, ma'am?" he asked, feeling genuine concern for her.
"I'm ... fine ... You ... You saved me ..." she said, looking to be at a complete loss for words, and still somewhat overcome by the situation.
"I'm the one that got you into this situation, ma'am. After all, you wouldn't be out here in the middle of nowhere if it weren't for me. I'm truly sorry, ma'am," he said, lowering his head almost as if making a slight bow. She was probably having a much harder time dealing with it and processing it than he was. For one, they hadn't been after him. For another, as a Royal Guard, he had dealt with situations far worse than what had just happened, and subdued much more dangerous opponents.
"But you didn't get me into it. I was the one that insisted on coming with you, remember?" she responded looking at him.
He started walking towards the back of the chariot again. "All the same, it's because of me and Her Majesty that you got involved in this situation."
He stopped when he reached the back of the chariot. In the heat of the moment when he was trying to get out to come to Megan's aid, he hadn't realized just how much damage his kick had done. The window from the back door lay shattered on the ground and on the floor of the chariot in thousands of pieces, resembling ground salt or sugar. The inside panel of the door had two large holes in it where his hooves had punched through the plastic. A large piece of the plastic had broken off and was lying on the ground outside. Near the latch, the door frame was twisted and bent into a contorted shape, as was the back of the chariot itself where the door's latch engaged. Also, the door hung at an awkward angle now, one of its hinges having broken free from the side of the chariot from the force of his kick. He turned back to Megan, and lowered his head slightly again.
"I'm sorry I destroyed the back door of your chariot, ma'am."
"You have nothing to be sorry about," she said, sounding surprised that he had even apologized for it. "I'm not worried about the door at all. It can be easily replaced. As long as we can make it stay closed, we'll be okay."
Megan spent the next few minutes covering the rear window with a blanket from the emergency kit she had in the chariot, ensuring that no one would able to see inside. The front window that the two men had broken, she left as is. It was warm out, so driving with no window there would not be a problem.
The moon was beginning to set, and the night sky was beginning to give way to gray by the time they got back on the road. For a while, they rode in silence. A faint blue began to push out the gray sky in front of them. The sun would be rising behind them soon. It felt very strange to him, knowing it would happen without Princess Celestia doing it, and the moon would set without Princess Luna's aid. How could anything be so unnatural?
"How did you ... You seemed to know how to subdue those two men easily," Megan finally said, breaking the quiet.
"Sparring with James has been useful, ma'am," he responded. "I've been able to learn a lot about human anatomy and how best to subdue human opponents."
"You could have just abandoned me ..." she said, in a quieter voice. "You could have gone the rest of the way yourself instead of risk being seen and compromising your quest to find your Princess."
"Had I done that ma'am, the first thing I would have had to do when I found Her Majesty is bow before her in shame and tell her I am no longer worthy to be called one of her Royal Guards. Neither my sense of duty, my code of chivalry, or my sense of morals, would allow me to abandon you to that fate, ma'am."
"But what about your duty to your Princesses? You serve them and only them, don't you?"
"Right now, I serve you, ma'am."
"And your Princesses?"
"In serving you, I serve them, ma'am."
"I don't understand," Megan responded, sounding just as confused as her words indicated she was.
"To serve Their Majesties is to serve Equestria. And to serve Equestria is to serve Their Majesties," he responded, repeating part of the initiation ceremony that every Royal Guard initiate and every Royal Council Member had heard for more than a thousand years.
"I'm not from Equestria, though."
"To protect and defend, especially those who cannot defend themselves. This is the duty of every Royal Guard," he responded, reciting another part of the oath. "Wouldn't a soldier from your military have done the same thing?" he added.
"If it meant they might compromise their mission objective? ... I suppose some would still do it anyway, yes. But they'd probably get in trouble for it later. It's not something their commanders would condone if it compromised the mission."
He thought about that for several moments. The idea of someone being punished for doing the right thing; for helping someone whose life was in danger. It wasn't something he could understand. He responded after several more seconds.
"Being a Royal Guard is more than just being a soldier, ma'am. It's an oath-bound way of life. It's believing in and practicing a moral code, and a code of behavior. A code that requires you to come to the aid of those who need it, for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do."
"... Thank you ..." was all she said in response. But she had said it very emotionally.
"It is my honor to serve, ma'am."
His thoughts returned to the two men he had subdued. Their reactions to him had been ... strange was the best word he could think of. Most men would have likely run in fear at seeing a talking, armor-wearing pony. It's certainly what Megan did. And James had even been afraid of Fluttershy when he had first arrived in Equestria. But these two had only seemed momentary surprised, then confronted him as if it were routine. He might as well ask Megan about it.
"Those two assailants ... They seemed less frightened of me than I thought they would be. Certainly less frightened than James was of us when he first arrived in Equestria."
"The police said that container you found on one of them contained methamphetamine," she responded, glancing back at him in the rear-view mirror. "It's a type of mind altering, illegal drug. Meth can make men behave that way. Confront things they should run away from. Feel no fear at all of extremely dangerous situations, and so on."
He said nothing in response, accepting what she had said. He had half-expected they were under the influence of some substance himself, given their seeming initial lack of fear and surprise at seeing him.
They drove on in silence now, the flat country giving way to snow-capped mountains. They were close now, Megan said. But still, she had not been able to get a hold of Eric ...
"The Pliocene extinction event. Two million years ago," Michael was telling Eric and the others as they all sat in a circle on the floor in the cabin's main room. "It fits our time frame perfectly. And it may have been caused by a gamma ray burst."
Eric nodded once. "Good work. Any progress on -"
"Someone's coming up the road," Wendy interrupted. "In a black SUV with tinted windows."
"Your Majesty, hide yourself!" Eric called out, jumping to his feet. For a moment, he let his fear run wild. Government officials of the type he definitely did not want around often drove black SUV's with tinted windows. There was a brief flash as Celestia teleported herself away.
"None of you know anything, do you hear me? Nothing!" Eric said loudly, getting glances of uncertainty and nervous fidgeting from his students as he felt his own heart threatening to beat out of his chest. He composed himself as best he could, then opened the door and stepped outside, prepared to meet whoever got out of the SUV.
The vehicle stopped, but Eric could see nothing through the tinted windows. The driver's side door opened, and a woman wearing bluejeans and cowboy boots stepped out.
"I brought one of your friends ... Or one of Princess Celestia's friends, I should say," she said.
"Megan?" he asked in astonishment. Despite his relief that it had not been a government official, his heart didn't slow at all. If anything, it beat faster. One of Princess Celestia's friends?
"When you said you were working on something secret, I never quite imagined it would be anything like this," she said, walking around to the back of the SUV and grabbing the door. She had to give it several yanks before it finally opened, thanks to the damage from Captain Swordstorm's kick.
Captain Swordstorm stepped out, coming around to the front of the SUV and looking around. Eric just stared, still astounded to see one of Celestia's kind here. Celestia! he thought to himself now, realizing he hadn't yet told her she could come out from wherever it was she was hiding.
"You can come out now, Your Majesty!" he called out, looking behind himself as he did so.
"Captain?" Celestia said, surprise evident in her voice as she stepped out from wherever she had been hiding. The armored pegasus bowed deeply as Eric looked on in confusion.
"It is good to see you again, Your Majesty," the pegasus said.
Celestia trotted toward him, a smile on her muzzle. Her horn glowed, and the pegasus' eyes went wide as he was literally lifted from his bow and pulled toward her. She raised a foreleg, wrapping it around him, apparently forgetting any form of royal protocol. Tears shown in her eyes and she seemed overcome with emotion. The armor-wearing pegasus seemed surprised for a moment, not quite sure how to respond, but then wrapping one of his own forelegs around his Princess.
"It is good to see you again, Your Majesty," he repeated.
"And very good to see you," she responded.
For several long moments, the two ponies-or Equus sapiens as Eric had dubbed them in scientific terms-embraced each other, while he simply stood watching, confused as ever. Finally, they stopped hugging and Celestia turned to Eric, a slightly sheepish look on her muzzle.
"Please forgive my lack of manners. This is Captain Swordstorm, Supreme Commander of my Royal Guard. Captain, this is Doctor Eric Thompson, the man who has done so much to help me since I arrived here."
The pegasus inclined his head in a slight bow. "It is an honor to meet you, Doctor Thompson. And thank you, for ensuring Her Majesty's safety while I was unable to do so."
"The honor is mine, Captain," Eric responded, matching the pegasus' bow with his own head, not that he knew whether he had been expected to or not.
Celestia's look of joy over seeing her Captain was quickly replaced with one of worry now as she addressed him again.
"Captain, what you doing here, though? Something must have gone terribly wrong if they sent you here to find me," she said, the worry as evident in her voice as it was in her eyes.
"I have a very important message for you and Doctor Thompson, Your Majesty. One we determined must be delivered to you personally to ensure you received it."
He reached into his saddlebag now, removing the package containing James' notes, and magically sealed by Twilight Sparkle to ensure only Celestia would be able to open it. Celestia's horn glowed again as she magically took it from him. She didn't bother to inspect the seal before magically breaking it and pulling out a thick stack of papers. She looked at them only briefly, turning to Eric.
"I think they are intended for you. They are written in your script, and contain several diagrams and a lot of mathematical formulas."
"Thank you, Your Majesty," he responded, taking them from her and thumbing through them quickly, trying to get a birds-eye view of what they contained.
"This is good," he said, feeling his heart lighten some as he came across some formulas that he knew would be very useful for helping them solve the mystery of how to open the dimensional portal from their side of it. He flipped the page again, his lightened heart instantly felt like a ton of ballast had been added to it, causing it to sink into an ocean.
He turned around, opening the door to the cabin again, all eyes of his students inside turning to him, no doubt catching his alarmed and dismayed expression.
"We're on a time schedule now. A short one," he said as he placed the stack of papers on the coffee table in the middle of the floor where all his students could see them. The students looked at the diagram he had left on the top of the stack. Within seconds, all of their expressions were mirror images of his own ...