Life on Mars

Chapter 18

Earth – Unknown location (20th January 1981)

Robert West walked down the hall of the underground facility, briefly checking the time-piece he had strapped to the underside of his wrist periodically, as if in anticipation of an oncoming event. West pushed open a large set of double doors into a large open-area of the compound, revealing Project Gatekeeper to the young man. Project Gatekeeper was the result of the U.S.' arms-race with the now crumbling U.S.S.R., whilst the 'Great Bear' was seemingly tearing itself apart, talks with the Soviet Union in general had reached an all time low.

Their President, Ronald Reagan, had tried numerous times to come into contact with the Soviet leader: Leonid Brezhnev, but as of now the U.S. Was receiving no contact from the Kremlin, or even all of the U.S.S.R., they had seemingly closed all communications with the outside world. Project Gatekeeper was commissioned by Richard Nixon back in his first term in office in 1957, ever since then, it has been secretly kept under wraps by the government. People working on it day and night just to get the damn thing working, and now... 24 years after it's beginnings, it was ready.

West was greeted with salutes from the personnel on deck, despite at the relatively young age of 27, West had proven himself during the Vietnam war, and was subsequently hand-picked for a 'special assignment'. When West had arrived at the facility, he was handed some fatigues and told to simply report to the main chamber in 20 minutes. So when West found himself in the shadow of Project Gatekeeper, he couldn't help but stare in awe, he only snapped out of it when a man pulled him off to the side.

"Corporal West, I'm glad you made it." The men shook hands, "Frank Sanderson, CIA, I'll be overseeing this operation."

West was taken aback by the man's seemingly friendly attitude, "Sir, what exactly is this... Operation?"

"Operation Gatekeeper, not much more I can tell you until later." Sanderson waved over a worker,

"Would you mind escorting the Corporal here to the barracks?"

"Sir, yes sir!" The man replied.

"We'll send someone down to get you in the morning, get some rest for now." Sanderson nodded to the two men, "Dismissed gentlemen."

Equestria – Ponyville (Present Day)

Seeker grumbled as he fumbled with his rifle as he reassembled the hard resin frame of the F2000, the rifle was designed to be user-friendly, and as such did not require tools to disassemble. He hefted the rifle when he was finished and briefly inspected the sight-picture before placing it back down on the floor.

The mercenary hadn't slept much last night, partly due to the fact that he had to wear the obstructive suit during the night, and partly due to the previous day's events. Seeker rose from his place on the floor in the corner of the room, he'd made his way downstairs after a few hours sleep and spent a good few hours checking over his equipment. He raised his hand and gingerly pressed the area on his chest where his wound was located, a dull throb echoed throughout his chest in response, it would be a while yet before that would heal properly.

Seeker glanced briefly at the watch on the underside of his wrist, which read 4:30am, unsure whether the time-piece was correct or not, he stole a glance outside the nearby window. The sun was beginning to creep over the horizon, painting the sky a vibrant mix of oranges and reds, flecks of purple also graced the sky where the night still shone through. For unknown reasons, Seeker marched across the room, into the kitchen, unlocked the back door and stepped outside. He was confident that he wouldn't be seen, as he doubted any of the Ponies where up and about yet.

A small smile crept over Seeker's helmeted face as he watched the sunrise, marvelling at the beauty of the serene landscape. His smile faltered however when he drew his gaze downwards to see a large black splodge on the grass where the Creature had taken it's last breath. Seeker had dragged the corpse away from the property and buried it in the brush before washing the stains from the window of Bon Bon's house. He thought back to the prior day's events, the discovery of the small town 'Ponyville', the capture of Lyra, the death of his squad mates...

Seeker thought about his mission... Horowitz had said they had two days to prepare, and that they would send back-up early in the day.

Seeker went pale under his helmet.

Today was the day.

He leapt to his feet and stormed into the house, not caring whether he woke the sleeping occupants, he dashed up the stairs and into the room with his kit in it. He almost tripped over his bed-roll on the floor as he made a bee-line for his equipment. Lyra stirred under the covers of her bed as Seeker threw on his tactical vest, she rubbed her eyes with her hooves when she saw the mercenary pick up his rifle and insert a fresh magazine into the rear of the firearm.

"S-Seeker?" Lyra yawned, "What are you doing?"

Seeker stopped in the doorway and looked over his shoulder at her.

"Today is the day we where supposed to get reinforcements..." He dead panned.

"You're... You're not going back to them are you?..." Lyra asked as she slowly climbed out of her bed.

At this point Bon Bon walked out onto the landing in a night-gown, a look of tired annoyance across her face. She marched, bleary eyed, towards Seeker.

"What in Equestria do you think you're doing? In this house-..." She faltered when her vision cleared and she noticed him stood there in his combat gear.

Seeker ignored Bon Bon's outburst, "I'm... conflicted." He answered Lyra's question, "I'm not sure at the moment."

"But you can't!" Lyra gasped, "After everything we've done..."

"I said I don't know!" Seeker snapped, causing both Lyra and Bon Bon to step back from the Human, "They're my only chance at a way home!"

"Is that it?..." Lyra asked, feeling the onset of tears in her vision. "You only... used us..."

"What?" Seeker turned to her, feeling hurt and angry at Lyra's accusation, "Is that what you think? That I used you and Bon Bon for my benefit?"


Seeker looked dumbfounded behind his helmet, "I don't believe this shit..." He turned away from her and began descending the stairs.

"Don't you close me off Jason Cooper!" Lyra shouted after him.

Seeker halted in his tracks at the use of his real name, he turned about face and marched back up the stairs towards Lyra and Bon Bon.

"What did you say?..." He asked quietly.

"You heard me!..." Lyra fought back the tears.

"How did you find out my name?..." Seeker asked, keeping eerily calm.

"I er... may have read them off the metal things hanging around your neck when you were sleeping..." Lyra sheepishly rubbed the back of her head, whilst reviving raised eye-brows from Bon Bon. Seeker meanwhile raised his free hand to his neck and grasped the chain which held his circular dog-tags in place, just to make sure they where still there.

"But that's besides the point!You said to me yesterday that you wouldn't let anything happen to anypony here, and yet here you are, ready to go join them in invading our kingdom!" Lyra stomped a hoof as she felt tears rolling down her cheeks, "You promised me... Jason... You promised us. Are you really going to go back and join them?..."

"Lyra.." Seeker hung his head, "You said your Princess might be able to get me home, correct?"

".Y-yes..." Lyra sniffed.

"If that you can guarantee to me, that she will be able to send me home and that she will, I won't join the rest of the forces coming here." Seeker folded his arms.

"How can you say that?" Lyra yelled, "How can you stand there and blatantly tell us that you are going back to them, just so you can kill us?"

"I never said that!" Seeker raised his voice again, "I said I will go back to them! I never said anything about continuing with the attack! We didn't know whether or not the inhabitants of this realm where peaceful or not, never mind sapient like us, the firearms." Seeker nodded to his F2000, "Where for our own protection! The only reason we came here is for resources! Oil, Coal... Fossil Fuels! We can have talks between our leaders and yours, we can share technology.."

"Seeker..." Bon Bon interrupted him, "I think we all know that's not going to happen..."

Seeker hung his head as the truth hit him hard.

"Then how do I stop them!" Seeker turned to her, "How do I stop at a battalion of soldiers all on my own?"

"You have us." Lyra looked up at Seeker, Bon Bon shook her head rapidly in response. "Well... Me, you're not on your own Jason, we're your friends."

Friends?... Seeker thought.

It struck the Soldier as very odd that these Equines, well one of them at least, would consider him their friend after less than a day of interaction. It was obvious that this species was much more trusting than humanity... Seeker looked into Lyra's reddened eyes. He tore his gaze after a few moments and steered it towards Bon Bon, who was staring at him with equal amount of worry, albeit with a less teary face.

"Lyra. Ward please."

Lyra raised her head at her name, and cast the ward spell on the Soldier as he took off his tactical vest. Seeker waited until she nodded her head at it's completion, before releasing the clasps on his suit. He quickly ripped the suit off, revealing his bloodstained T-shirt and combats. Seeker threw the suit into the room he slept in before placing the boots back on, followed by the tactical vest. Swiping up his F2000 he disengaged the safety and racked the charging handle, he looked up at the two Ponies.

"I'm sorry... Both of you, for what I said. If there was anyway to take it back I would..." Seeker grinned slightly, "Now if you excuse me, I've got an army to stop."

He paused at the top of the stairs, looking back to the two dumbfounded Ponies.

"You coming Lyra?"

The Pony in question looked to her cream coloured friend, a look of horror across her face, Bon Bon stepped forward and whispered in her ear.

"Lyra, you aren't really going to go with him are you?"

The musically gifted Unicorn looked to the Human who stood patiently at the top of the stairs, almost moments ago she was furious with him, she was also hurt, at how quickly he could forget their friendship... But he'd came to his senses eventually... Lyra looked back to Bon Bon, a quizzical look gracing her features.

"Sorry Bon Bon." The Unicorn whispered back to her friend before trotting off past the human on the stairs, "C'mon tough guy."

Seeker shook his head, mouthed a quick 'sorry' to Bon Bon, before following Lyra downstairs. Bon Bon sat down on the landing before rubbing her temples with her hooves, muttering something about "Living in a mad-house."

The sun had risen further in the sky by the time Seeker and Lyra had retraced their respective foot and hoof prints back to Charlie-Three-One's camp site. Much like Seeker had anticipated, had been trashed by the last stand of the remaining members of Charlie-Three-One, the AST and been removed from it's hidden position and crushed, forcing it to shut down. It was strange, there where no bodies...

Well, if their suits where ruptured... There wouldn't be.

The remains of tents fluttered in the gentle breeze as Seeker motioned for Lyra to get behind a fallen tree. Seeker checked his wristwatch, 7:00am, he shuffled impatiently as time trickled along at a snails pace.

"We might be too late.." Lyra murmured.

"No," Seeker replied, "There'd have been signs that they'd arrived, by the looks of things, nobody's been here since us..."

Seeker settled lightly on the floor, getting ready for the long haul, Lyra followed suit, seating herself next to the Human.

It was going to a long wait.

Equestria – Somewhere in the skies between Canterlot and Ponyville (30 minutes earlier)

Gaz didn't realise it was possible to be chariot sick.

He had hung himself over the edge of the chariot as it soared through the air being pulled by Celestia's Pegasai guard. The Mane 6 had seated themselves into orderly rows: Twilight, Pinkie, and Rainbow Dash in the front – and Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy in the rear, whilst Gaz had squeezed in behind the lot of them in the back. The cramped space combined with the gentle sway of the carriage eventually caused Gaz to bring back his, frankly, delicious breakfast within a few minutes of the journey.

"H-how much further?..." Gaz croaked over his shoulder.

"Not far," Twilight shouted back to him, "Another 10 minutes or so!"

"Oooh" Gaz hung his head over the edge when he felt another surge in his stomach, just wishing it would end.

Gaz staggered off the chariot, feeling a little weak in the knees (as well as being a little green in the face.) The Pegasus Guards pulling the chariot snorted, before taking to the skies once more, presumably to return to Canterlot Castle. Gaz breathed in deeply, taking in the fresh countryside air, he patted his satchel, glad to have the bag back in his possession. A slight jingling sound emanated from the bag as he patted it, before their departure, Luna had stopped Gaz and handed him a sum of Bits, (which Gaz didn't bother to count, the bag's weight spoke for itself), as a way of saying sorry. Gaz did make a snide remark at how you can't "Throw money at your problems to make them disappear." to which Luna had joked saying that she "Would've thrown it at all of the bureaucrats and busy-bodies if it worked." More importantly however, both Celestia and Luna had drafted up some documents for Gaz; effectively granting him Equestrian Citizenship, Celestia had promised him that she would find him a way home as soon as possible.

A small grin crept over Gaz's face as he remembered the-

"You must act quickly, as the end is drawing near, all I can say to you is this: help awaits you in Ponyville."

Gaz frowned as Discord's words echoed in his mind, he'd mentioned that there where more Humans here... Where they the help in Ponyville he mentioned? Of course they where... Gaz still had a problem though, after last night's events, he had gone straight to bed, and as such, not told any of the Mane 6 what had happened, and rightly so, he doubted that they would take kindly to 'conversing with the enemy'. Nevertheless, Gaz felt he would have to inform them of his and Discord's 'exchange' the night before, he cleared his throat slightly in trepidation.

"Girls?..." They turned to him, Gaz suddenly felt rather nervous, "L-last night, I may have had a... 'chat' with one of your old friends."

"Who sugercube?" Applejack spoke up.

"Er... Discord."

"WHAT!" They yelled, causing Gaz to wince, they where about to continue, but Gaz put up a hoof.

"Wait, wait, wait!" Gaz cut them off, "Look, last night I went for a walk... just.. to clear my head, I may have fallen asleep in front of the statue of Discord and I may have shared a glass of chocolate milk inside my mind and he may have told me some important information."

A stunned silence gripped the group, it was almost frightening.

"Go on..." Twilight urged.

Gaz sighed, "He warned me, some thing's coming, he didn't really tell me what it was... He just said 'If you think I'm evil? Wait till you get a load of this... Thing!'..."

The girls exchanged worried glances.

"There was more." Gaz closed his eyes, "He said there was more of me, as in Humans, here in Ponyville." Gaz re-opened his eyes to find the Girls staring at him curiously, "He said they could be our best allies or bitter foes depending on how I handle myself from now..."

Gaz scuffed a hoof on the ground, Why does it have to be my responsibility? It feels like I'm in a really bad fan-fiction!

For a brief moment, somepony's cough echoed around them and Crickets chirped quietly. Gaz shook his head indecorously, and began walking off towards Ponyville.

"I-er, need some time to clear my head..." Gaz licked his lips deep in thought, "... Twilight I wish to have a look at something in the Library later, is that okay?"

"Y-yes." She replied hesitantly, exchanging glances with the girls.

"All right... Well... I'll see you later." Gaz gave each of them a swift nod and disappeared into Ponyville, leaving the Mane 6 alone and very, very confused.

It wasn't long before Gaz found himself aimlessly wandering the streets of Ponyville, his subconscious seemed to detect his lack of purpose, and directed his body to where he secretly wanted to go.

A Pub.

A few minutes later Gaz was sat at the bar in the 'Pony and Trap', coincidently the same Pub Big Macintosh had tried to coax him into days before, a glass of hard cider sat in front of him; untouched. He was unsure how the added salt would affect him, having a quick glance around, Gaz noted the place seemed like any Pub back home; obviously minus the coloured talking Horses.

Shrugging his shoulders, Gaz swiped up the glass, placed it to his lips, and tipped his head back. Gaz grimaced as the sickly-sweet taste graced his taste buds as he put the glass back down, he hated Cider; it usually reminded him of... well, urine. However, this particular brand, 'Hard Apple Cider', seemed to be tolerable, whether it was the added salt or some other special ingredient he'll never know.

"Ah thought ah'd find ya here."

Gaz turned his head to find the Element of Honesty; Applejack, stood behind him with a smirk on her face.

"Human or Pony, the first place ya go ta drown ya sorrows is the bar." She chuckled as she pulled up a stool and sat down next to Gaz. "What's botherin' ya Sugercube?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Gaz took another swig, not even looking at Applejack.

"Ah'm tha Element of Honesty, Gaz." Applejack lightly hit him on the shoulder, "Ah can see right through ya."

"All right, I'll tell you.." Gaz went to take another drink, but found the glass empty, he must've been drinking absently mindedly, he shoved a hoof into his bag and produced the bag of Bits, "Want a drink?"

Applejack shifted in her seat, "Ah might as well, ah do have today and tomorrow off at tha Farm," She smiled at him, "Ah'll have 'Sweet Apple Acres Original'"

Gaz chuckled as he tried to catch the bartender's attention, "Keeping up the brand image, ey Applejack?"

She laughed, "Ah guess you could say that."

Eventually, two cool glasses of Cider where placed in front of the two; Gaz ordering the same as Applejack, he tossed an unknown amount of Bits at the bartender before bringing the glass up towards Applejack, she eyed him curiously.

"Now what're ya doin' that for? I got ma own right here!" She nodded to her drink.

"Wait, you don't do this here?" He gently waved his glass, "Aha, well, just tap your glass against mine before drinking... It's a Human thing."

Applejack paused, raising a brow at Gaz's inept explanation, before gently tapping her glass against Gaz's, causing a definite 'clink!' to ring in the air. Gaz uttered a "Cheers!" and took a swig of his drink, while Applejack just laughed at the eccentric gesture.

"Now, you were gonna tell me what's eatin' ya?" Applejack inquired.

"... Well, it's just... Fluttershy." Gaz mumbled, drawing circles on the bar with his hoof.

"What about her?" Applejack's expression hardened, "Y'all better no-"

"No, Applejack no! That's not what I meant..." Gaz interuppted, sensing where the conversation was heading, "It's the fact that I will have to go home one day, next week, next month, next year? It doesn't matter! Because one day, I will have to leave her and... I'm not sure either of us will take it well..."

Applejack rested a hoof on Gaz's shoulder comfortingly, "Oh sugercube... While you may have to leave one day, don't let that not let ya enjoy the time you're havin' with her now!"

Gaz nodded, slowly getting up off his stool, "Yeah... I guess you're right..."

"H-hey! Where ya goin'?" Applejack asked as Gaz started walking to the exit, drink half empty.

"I need a smoke, I'll be back in a second..." Gaz reared his head and flashed a cheeky grin, "You're a big Mare now Applejack, I'm sure you can take care of yourself for a second."

Applejack shook her head in disbelief, a grin evident on her face.

Earth – Unknown location – (Present Day)

"We need to give them more time Sir!" Shaun Adams protested.

"Request denied," Horowitz shook his head, not raising his eyes from the papers on his desk. "Orders are orders, the Chairman wants us to mobilise at 1800 hours," He stole a glance at his watch, " That's 4 hours you've got to get ready Private, I suggest you get moving."

Adams saluted with a quick 'sir' and left the room, tracing his steps back to the barracks, once outside the office he vented his frustration in the form of a loud sigh. A lot had changed since Charlie-Three-One departed through the CDG, since the project was now 'complete' all of the physically able Science team where drafted into the main force; Adams included. The last 2 days had been non-stop hell, crash courses in weapon safety and discipline, and enough drill routines to make basic training seem like a walk in the park.

Stepping into the Science team's quarters (now a secondary Barracks for troops), Adams found his cot and flung himself down on it in the manner of a frustrated Teenager. He had no desire to go fight, even if everyone was told "We're only here for resources!" and "The weapons are a safety precaution!" all of the staff knew something was out there, through the CDG, whether it was hostile or not was another story entirely.

Looking off to his left, he saw a group of three soldiers, well he presumed they where soldiers, for all he knew they could be former techs like him. Impossible to tell from behind their helmets, as they where kitted out in an, arguably, more advanced version of the suits Charlie-Three-One donned to travel safely through the CDG. Adams used the term 'advanced' lightly at best, as they were merely the exact same suits at heart, however these where hard sealed using plates of was complex polymers and ceramics, with a flexible body suit interwoven with thermal-dissipative membranes and bulletproof material. It was initially designed to protect key sections of the human body from ballistic trauma with hard armoured plates and keep the suit intact in heavier engagements. Adams frowned as he observed the three men in the clunky DPM camouflage suits, what they traded for in strength, they lacked in mobility, they where nowhere near as flexible as the 'prototype' SE suits as the former Techs used to call them (SE standing for Safe-Entry), and while the older suits could be easily thrown on and off, the newer, armoured versions sometimes required at least two people to get it off one man, due to the amount of seals that needed to be broken.

Adams sighed and lay on his side, buried deep in thought. He thought about how the CDG's pylons had been moved to a larger area of the compound, more specifically, near the vehicle depot. They wanted to try and get larger objects through, Jeeps, ATVs, Tanks even. Hell! One of former scientists said it was perfectly feasible to get a Jet through the CDG, provided there was enough room on the other side and that the pilot was properly protected. Adams muttered something about the foolishness of men and toys before sitting up and placing his hands on his knees, tired of wallowing on his cot.

God dammit Jason, wherever the hell you are... If you're still alive... I hope you're alive buddy.

I'm not dead.

No, I have merely been sat on the sidelines for a while... For two reasons actually.

To get my creative brain back on track

To watch new and interesting stories develop.

Noteworthy examples of number 2 are "The Memoirs of a Reality Jumper" by Techogre (or Daniel Gallant to those reading on FF . net and not FiM fiction!) and, the now complete, "Whiplash" by Molotov Cocktail. Both fantastic stories in their own right; I can only hope to emulate their storytelling prowess.

One can dream can't he?


PS: youtube .com/watch?v=s7Jq1xbQwqw

This is for you guys, for being patient, just pretend Mr. Morrison is singing about you. 3