A silvery blue sky was filled with scattered white clouds. On the ground, swamplands were filled with exotic animals unique to the land, with trees bending over, framing the sky and surrounding a small bench, out-of-place in the alien world. Three bodies dominated the sky. One had a greenish hue, and stripes of various shades, it could be seen just hovering at the horizon, two-thirds of it hidden by the world itself. Near the green giant, was a smaller moon, which was orange and smooth. At best guess, it might be a world of sand, or liquid. With so little definition it was the only explanation. Directly above the land was a bright orange star. It bathed the land in an amber glow, and on the bench, in the middle, reading a book and enjoying it all, was a young man named Eli Wallace.
"MWAH!" A bird's call rang out. Eli lowered his book, and looked towards the source of the noise. He saw one of his favourite creatures: the Starbird. It was a dirty red bird, with white streaks extending throughout its plumage. In flight it looked like an explosion, with rays of white pointing outwards along the wings from the middle of the creature's body. The Starbird flew to Eli and landed on the bench to his left and Eli could see it up close. It's beak was sharp and black, sharp enough to be used for tearing apart small creatures. But in spite of this, Eli knew it was meant to be a herbivore, even though that term had no real meaning here.
Eli and the Starbird looked at each other. He knew there was no real intelligence there. But he made sure it would seem like there was. The Starbird would act friendly and kind to any human and act like it understood them. As Eli looked at the Starbird he knew it wasn't his best work, but it was his first, and that's why it was his favourite. Designing creatures was a hobby he picked up to pass the time, which he had plenty of. He give them minds and personalities, and learned to create worlds for these creatures such as the one he was on now. He called it Endobah. A moon in orbit around a gas giant. He made other simple moons that would occasionally pass nearby, but he would never visit them. They were only there to make the sky just a bit more interesting.
Endobah was a great place to rest, and that's what he did, rest. He patted the Starbird on the head. It looked at him and looked down at the book in his right hand.
"This?" Eli asked the bird. He flipped through the book, "just some medical information. Thought I'd go over it again. Might have missed something the first few times."
"MWAH!" the Starbird went.
"I know, but..." Eli responded. "Something might come to me, some idea I never thought of before. I need to find a way to help them." He looked back at the bird pausing for a minute before continuing, "you know it's almost time. It'll be a change...I'm so used to being alone...but I miss them...this is certainly a good thing."
The Starbird cocked it's head.
Eli laughed and responded. "I don't know either."
On Eli's right a black remote was lying. He set the book down and picked the remote up. He then pressed a few buttons and suddenly a loud noise came from behind him. Eli stood up and turned around, he saw a black Stargate before him spinning as it connected to his destination. The Stargate was built directly in the ground. He knew this made no sense in or out of context. But Eli didn't care, and he liked the appearance as two trees on either side bent towards the 'gate, framing it in a way. It wouldn't have looked as good on its stand.
As the spinning stopped, a silver energy wave emerged from the gate, settling into a flat puddle, which Eli recognized as the Stargate's event horizon.
"See ya," Eli said to the Starbird. Petting it on the head again.
"MWAH!" it responded as Eli walked towards the Stargate.
After he stepped through he ended up in a very familiar place, the Gate room of the Starship Destiny. Mostly empty, save for two consoles and two sets of stairs at the opposite end. The stairs led to a catwalk which allowed people to overlook the room from above. The 'gate shut down behind him as he walked through the room, and through the doors on the main level. He ended up on the Destiny's Observation Deck. As he looked out the large panoramic window, he could see streaks of blue extend over the ship as it proceeded to travel faster than light. He left Observation, and walked over to the Control Interface Room, which was dominated by the Apple Core. So named because it looked like a grey apple core that went from the floor to the ceiling in the centre of the room. It allowed Eli to control every system on the Destiny. Of course he didn't need to use this room, just like he didn't need to walk through the Stargate. But he did prefer it. It made everything feel more real.
He walked directly up to the main console, connected directly to the Apple Core. After pressing a few simple buttons, he read what was on the screen and then, simply smiled.
Far away, on another world, a young blue pegasus, with a technicolour mane and tail, and a picture of a thundercloud on her flank, was in her hometown's local library, a tree, lying face-down on the floor. A storm was brewing outside, a storm she helped create. Typically, during these events, she was up in her home high above the cloud layer, but during those times, other pegusi would small talk her to death. Normally she didn't mind this, but today was not a normal day. Today she didn't want to talk to anyone. Unfortunately, she has very caring friends.
"We could play truth or dare!" said an annoyingly cheerful purple unicorn with stars on her flank. Then again, at that moment, the pegasus found everything annoying.
"No!" she replied.
"Game of Life!?"
"I said 'no' dammit!!" The pegasus snapped at her friend, who recoiled. She suddenly felt bad. "I'm sorry Twilight, I just don't want to do anything right now," the pegasus said as she put her face down on the floor.
Twilight sighed. "Fine. Fluttershy, what about you?"
A yellow pegasus with a pink mane and tail, and three butterflies on her flank, responded in a soft and timid voice. "Oh, no, I'm fine."
"You sure? How 'bout we make smores?"
"OO! Smores are delicious! I love smores!" Fluttershy replied.
"Great!" said the purple one. "Rainbow Dash!?"
"What?" replied the blue pegasus, her voice muffled by the floor and her legs, which her face was buried in.
"We're making smores!"
Twilight paused before continuing, "Do you want smores?"
Twilight was visibly concerned. "Hey Fluttershy, why don't you start without me, Graham crackers are in the cupboard."
"Oh, um, okay," The quiet pegasus replied.
She disappeared into Twilight's kitchen, so Twilight turned her attention back to her other winged friend.
"Rainbow?" she asked cautiously. "Are you okay?"
"No," the pegasus responded, her face still hidden.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Well, I'm not going to push it," she said. "But I am worried about you, we all are, and whatever is wrong, it will get better. I mean it's not like anyone died!" Then Twilight realized something, "no one died right?!"
"See! Just please, try to enjoy yourself. This can't be good for you."
Twilight was no expert on psychology, and Rainbow knew it. "How do you know?"
"I don't," she replied. "But I know you've been wallowing in self-pity for the past week and you're not getting any better. Anything that's not that, is going to be an improvement. Just try to have a good time. Pleeeaaase! Not just for me, but for yourself as well."
There was no reply for a few seconds, then Rainbow lifted her head and looked at her friend. She sat up, glancing around the room, appearing a bit drowsy, and said, "you said something about smores?"
Twilight smiled. Just then, Fluttershy asked in a soft voice from behind, "um...where are the marshmallows?"
"Oh," she disappeared again in the kitchen.
Twilight turned back to Rainbow, "you okay?"
"No," Rainbow replied. "But I'll try to be."
At that moment, Fluttershy flew out from the kitchen with smore supplies. A box of chocolate and a box of crackers in her forehooves, and a bag of marshmallows and a metal skewer with a wooden handle in her teeth. "Ooo ants snores!?" She asked with a smile.
Deep within the Starship Destiny, were rows upon rows of pods, containing the only humans alive on the ship, sleeping in a form of suspended animation. Over 60 people were in the pods, unaware of the outside world.
Just then, at the end of one of the banks, a pod began shutting down. The door on the front raised into the ceiling and a man walked out dressed all in black with a name tag that read "Young". He looked around the room, puzzled.
Just then, an odd sound emanated from the rear of the ship, followed by an odd sensation, as if everything distorted itself and quickly returned to normal. He immediately recognised it as the ship's FTL drive shutting down...or powering up. There was no way to know for certain. He noticed almost directly across the hall, one of the pods was completely offline. No lights whatsoever were coming from it. Young stepped down from the raised platform in front of the pods and walked up to the damaged pod.
"Damn," he said.
Then, from his left, he heard a familiar voice say, "Problem?"
Young looked towards the source of the voice. It was Eli, the man who Young knew was supposed to be in the broken pod, he was leaning against a console at the end of the room. "Eli," he said, smiling. "For a minute there, I thought you were dead."
"Hmm?" Eli was confused, then he looked at the pod in question. "OH! Yeah, that, well..."
"Doesn't look like you got it to work."
"Yeah, about that...um...I didn't."
Suddenly, Young was confused. "Oh...okay. Then how are you still alive?"
"Well...technically I'm not."
"Ah! So I'm hallucinating again," Young said, smiling again.
Eli chuckled a bit. "No, not really," He responded. "Come on, let's go for a walk, I got a lot to tell ya. Plus, there's a great view outside the observation deck."
Eli was smiling as he crossed the room and passed Young, walking right out the door of the stasis hall. Young followed.
As they walked down the hallway, Eli shared his story.
"So, I had two weeks to repair the pod and get in before I had to shut down life support," Eli explained. "I knew that whatever the problem was, I had figure it out well before then."
"...and you didn't," Young added.
"No, I did...that was the problem."
Young gave him a curious look.
"It was a week and a half after you entered stasis when I figured out the problem: A few overloaded circuits. Couldn't repair them, and had nothing to replace them with, so--"
"--you couldn't fix it."
"No, I couldn't. Now I knew I had to find a way to survive, and my first thought was the shuttle. It had its own life support system, which would have needed less power. But unfortunately, it didn't have enough power to last me three years. I was going to transfer some of the power from Destiny, whatever wasn't needed for the jump, and that would have worked...if I did it a week earlier."
"So it was too late."
"Yeah. So I thought I was out of options, then I realized...the chair."
The two of them arrived at one of Destiny's elevators, Young pressed the call button and the door opened up. "The chair?"
"Yep!" Eli smiled as the two walked right in.
Young pressed one of the buttons on a console on the right side of the elevator. The doors closed in response.
"I used the chair to upload my entire consciousness into Destiny's data banks and I let my body die," the elevator door opened, signifying they reached their destination. They both walked out. "Brilliant huh? By the way, someone might want to do something with it. I just left it there."
"Yeah, well I could have disposed of it, but I figured we might need it. Not that I could go back in, I mean it's dead, it's useless, but an old DNA sample might come in handy," Eli smiled.
"Huh..." There was a pause as they continued walking. "Sorry, Eli."
"For what?" Eli asked with a chuckle.
"Well, you had to die for the rest of us," Young responded. "Plus, you had to spend all that time alone." Then Young looked like he had some revelation. "Did you ever get Ginn and Doctor Perry out of-"
"-No! No, they're still stuck in there, so yeah. I spent all that time alone." He sighed. "Kept myself busy, though. Looked through the database searching for something that might help TJ and Doctor Park."
"...and?" Young asked, hopefully.
"Nothing...sadly. I tried to pass the time, wrote a few books, created some virtual environments with Destiny's simulation software."
"Great." Just then, the two of them arrived at the Destiny's observation deck. "Maybe I'll check 'em out sometime."
"Yeah, I'd love to see if I can get people into them through the neural link. I haven't gotten a chance to test anything yet."
"Because you haven't had anyone to test on."
"Yeah." Eli chuckled.
They both walked up to the railing at the front of the observation deck, and looked out the large window. The Destiny was pointed directly towards a red dwarf star. Both men knew the ship was going to dive into the star to refuel.
"So you turned life support back on?" Young asked.
Eli shook his head, "No...not yet, there's plenty of oxygen left from when I uploaded."
"Hmm, well I assume the stones were where we left them," he started walking away. "I'm gonna go contact Homeworld Command, they're probably waiting for me."
"Um!" Eli got very nervous. "Actually Colonel!"
Young was already halfway to the exit, he turned around. "Problem Eli?"
"Huge, actually...a few days after I uploaded myself, we were knocked out of FTL."
Young suddenly became very interested. "By what!?"
"A supernova. We were near the edge of the galaxy, a star somewhere exploded and we were forced out of FTL." Eli was hesitant to continue. He didn't want to tell Colonel Young because he was afraid of his reaction. But he knew he had to. The Colonel would have discovered eventually, and he was the best one to tell the rest of the crew. So Eli had to tell him first.
"A few seconds later, we were hit by the supernova itself...it did a number to the shields. On a hunch I opened the solar collectors and was able to get some fuel, but it wasn't enough. We didn't have enough fuel to complete the jump to the next galaxy. Plus we couldn't refuel at a star because of the drones."
Young began to realize what Eli was trying to tell him and wanted him to skip to the end. "How long have we been out?"
Eli either didn't hear him or wasn't listening. "So I began to look through the FTL manual and found out how to throttle down the drives, but it turns out a small drop in power meant a large-"
"-Eli!" The Colonel said, growing frustrated with the young genius. "How long have we been out?"
Eli paused for a few seconds, before looking Colonel Young right in the eye and saying, "Twenty-seven years."
Young nodded...he understood.
"Could be worse," Eli said, pausing for a second. "Listen, I did the best I could."
"No, no, it's fine," he responded with a reassuring smile. "Not your fault Eli."
"That's why I woke you up early. I thought you should be the one to tell everyone."
"Well then, Homeworld Command can wait." He walked up to the railing. "After twenty-seven years it's unlikely they have someone on constantly anyway. Or that their device is even on, so..."
There was an awkward silence between the two for a minute before it was broken by Eli. "Sorry, Colonel," He said.
Young looked out the window...looked back at Eli and said quite simply. "For what?"
"Well I...oh!" He chuckled.
"We're alive Eli, that's all that matters...we're alive."
In a tree-shaped library, a storm was still brewing outside, and two little ponies were playing a game.
Fluttershy moved a piece across the checkered board with her teeth. "Checkmate," she said with a smile.
"Uh!" responded Twilight. "How are you so good at this?"
"Oh, Angel bunny loves chess," she replied. "So I get lots of practice."
"The rabbit plays chess?"
On the other side of the room, Rainbow Dash was eating a smore, taking small bites. Dozens were made before the trio ran out of chocolate, at which point Fluttershy and Twilight began a game of chess.
Twilight wanted a rematch, so the two were beginning their second game. Apparently forgetting the winner was supposed to play against Rainbow Dash. Not that Rainbow cared. She only agreed to it to make Twilight happy. Her mind was focused on what happened a few days earlier. An event she would have rather forgotten.
Rainbow was looking around the library, trying to find something to take her mind off things. Eventually her attention drifted to Twilight's bookshelf. Normally Rainbow wasn't that interested in books, but today was not a normal day, and she was bored.
One book grabbed her attention, it was called "The Battle of Mote." She flew up to grab it in her forehooves as Twilight and Fluttershy began arguing over the rules.
"Wait, you can't do that!" Twilight exclaimed.
Fluttershy set down the pawn she had in her mouth. "No, you see, it's called en passant," she explained with a smile. "Just because you move your pawn two spaces, doesn't mean you can escape my pawn."
"I'm going to look this up," Twilight began walking across the room.
"Be my guest," Fluttershy responded in a smug tone.
Then Twilight noticed Rainbow holding one of her books, looking at it. Twilight recognized the spine.
"OOO!" She exclaimed. "That's a good one."
"You've read it?" Rainbow asked.
"No, but I've heard good things. Though if you want to read it, you might want to read this one first," she levitated a book off the shelf with a purple glow. "It takes place earlier."
Rainbow looked at the book, it was called Starland.
"It's about the exploration of a strange new world, very far away," Twilight explained, her left forehoof pointed towards the sky.
Rainbow grabbed it in her forehooves and flew down to the floor, dropping the books. "Thanks Twilight...I'll check 'em out," Rainbow said. She grabbed Starland in her mouth and walked over to the other side of the room, near the door.
Twilight then found her chess rule book and opened it up. After a few seconds she declared, "Okay, you were right, that's legal," as she walked back to the game.
Rainbow flipped open the book with her nose and began reading, as Twilight and Fluttershy continued their game. Time went on, as Rainbow continued to read, and Fluttershy and Twilight continued to play. Moves were made and pages were turned.
Rainbow sometimes reacted to what she was reading, as if she was actually there. A look of shock would appear on her face, a gasp, as characters were placed in danger and exiting twists were revealed. She got deeper and deeper into the book, and soon enough, it was like no one else existed.
Eventually, Fluttershy and Twilight's fifth game was drawing to a close. Fluttershy moved her bishop forward, halfway across the board with her hoof, when Twilight said, "You know you act like a different pony when you play."
"I do?" Fluttershy responded as Twilight moved a piece.
"Yeah, you act a little more aggressive than normal."
"I'm sorry," Fluttershy responded, cowering just a bit.
"Don't be sorry Fluttershy," Twilight responded. "In fact, I approve. It's good to have a worthy opponent, one who's aggressive in the right circumstances. We should do this more often."
"We should," Fluttershy responded with a smile as she grabbed her queen with her teeth and moved it along a diagonal.
Twilight then moved her rook to the other side the board with a purple glow. "Check," she declared.
Fluttershy began to focus on how to get her King back into safety when suddenly there was a knock at the door. Both turned to Rainbow Dash.
"Rainbow," Twilight announced.
Rainbow Dash was still focused on her book.
Twilight got louder, "Rainbow!"
Rainbow Dash looked up, her attention finally broken. "Huh?" she said.
"Could you get the door?"
"Oh!" She stood up and walked towards the door as the others turned their attention back to the game board, which neither wanted to leave.
Things were getting too intense on the game board for either pony to move. Fluttershy was winning, but Twilight thought she might be able to catch up.
Rainbow opened the door with her hoof and looked outside. In the rain was a purple dragon with green scales. He was soaked in water, but he didn't seem to care. He just stood there...
"Checkmate," went a soft voice from the other side of the room.
"Arg!" Twilight cried in frustration.
"Spike?" Rainbow said inquisitively.
At that moment Rainbow heard hoofsteps behind her before the two other ponies appeared next to her. Then Spike sniffed and Rainbow realized, not all that moisture was from the rain. The young dragons eyes were bloodshot. He was crying.
"Spike, what's wrong?" asked Rainbow Dash as she got closer.
Spike sniffed a few more times before saying three simple words that shocked all those in attendance.
"I hate her!"