It was not long after departing the Highlands, mushrooms in tow, that you made landfall in southern Equestria. The wilds between cities, it reminded you a lot of the wilderness in which your old den lay. In many ways you had come full circle, in the most obvious: literally. With your arrival back in Equestria, you have officially circumnavigated the world, meeting all sorts of individuals along the way.
Old Ram MacMeal has called for a meeting - mandatory. Everyone's going to be there, except Professor Steve, who is still working on the filters made from the mushrooms for the final design. That still leaves you, Flapjack, Gunny, and the Ram himself, though.
And I accomplished that in a young age too! Though stopping by other places like Saddle Arabia would have been nice
Oh well, who knows, maybe next time
Let's see what Old MacRam wants then
MacMeal shares a glance with Gunny as the two of you youngsters enter, but after a moment to get settled and pour some hard liquor, the mood grows even more serious as the ram addresses the two of you, "The rocket is almost ready. Gunny, being our chief engineer for the project, has christened this model Toffee's Legacy
. I've spoken to Professor Steve just today and he believes that final testing will be done in two day's time. It's time we talk about the future of NASA."
I find a place to sit down, looking up at the old goat
"That's real early" I comment, but let him keep going
"Yes, which is what makes this conversation important. We're deciding the crew."
Clutch the seat a little as my ears perk up involuntarily
"Blackpaw remains in good standing with NASA in spite of our personal differences, he will continue to contribute to our efforts, though obviously he will not be involved in this launch. Professor Steve has volunteered to oversee ground control, communications, logging, and all the very important logistics of staying here on the ground. We are greatly indebted to him for his service: I don't mind sayin' that not the least of those services is arrangement of wills and assets in the likely case that one or all of us do not make a successful re-entry. On that note, the two of us are old, so we're ready to die if that's what happens. Gunny and I will be the primary flight crew for this venture."
Flapjack tilts his head, uncertainly, "It's that risky? And… what about us?"
Glance at Flapjack, he took the words out of my mouth
"Yeah, what about us, mister MacRam?"
"I know this won't be a popular decision, but I've consulted with the other members of NASA and we've decided to bring Flapjack with us to assist on the voyage. Rhanna will remain here to help the Professor, however that may be."
Flapjack cheers, "Yes!"
"WHAT?!" I Bark out loudly, leaning foward
"Why does he gets to go? I'd be much more useful in the ship than him!"
MacMeal pounds his hoof on the table, demanding quiet, "I have come to this decision after much deliberation, with the counsel of each adult member of NASA."
I sit back down, scratching the wood of the chair, biting my tongue as the tears of frustration start coming back
"Why?… Why him then and not me?"
"Because that was the decision that we collectively arrived at. You'll understand when you're older, I know."
"T-thats stupid! That's… Not fair" sniffle, and hold back the crying, I'm not gonna storm away again
I lower my voice "You knew I always wanted to go"
"Not where we're going. You wanted to go to the moon, I told you the truth of that. The technology isn't there yet. We're going to complete an orbit. To achieve Toffee's dream."
Keep my gaze low "Still, it was supposed to be my opportunity, you know how much I wanted to be part of the voyage crew"
"The Professor is in the workshop, runnin' air tests on the filters. I'd like you to join him while I discuss the preflight operations."
So he's gonna be like that huh
I hop off my seat without a word, resist the urge to stomp my feet as I walk, and make my way to the workshop, avoiding looking at at Flapjack
"What's up, Little Dog?" Professor Steve greets you, not looking up from his task. He has some sort of electric-powered fan rigged up, blowing air onto a filter.
"Old MacRam says I'm staying here in ground control while stupid Flapjack gets to go on the ship with him" I find a place to sit down and cross my arms
"Hmm, and you haven't figured out the reason why yet, is what I gather. Is that more or less the crossroads you're at right now, Little Dog?"
He has a weird way of talking which gets my attention, I stand up and join him, standing besides the stallion
"Yeah, pretty much, I mean it's so dumb, Flapjack is so dumb, why would they take him?"
Steve is a Donkey Jack.
"There are multiple reasons, Little Dog. But I'd be interested if you can piece it together yourself. I'll nudge you in the right direction, see if you can puzzle it together like mayo onto rye. First, think about the size of the crew. Then, about what this implies about the size of NASA ten years ago when Toffee launched her rocket. Consider your ages, relative skillsets, the risks, what each of you represent symbolically, and what MacMeal said about the Future. That's a lot to take in, huh, Little Dog? Better bring your 'nocs to this crossroads if you wanna scope out all the truths there are to be scoped."
I stay silent through his whole lecture and then for a few seconds longer
"I… Think I get it"
"Then let's hear it, from the start."
"I don't really want to say it, professor…"
Rub my arm "But what I think is that MacRam thinks I'll be more useful here in the ground control and probably in the future, when we do get to set sail for the moon"
"Good, Little Dog, but not good enough. That's only half the answer. The fact is that Flapjack is a fine assistant, but he doesn't have the brains to be part of NASA. He was always kept on symbolically as a token to his mother, and if MacMeal dies, he doesn't have anything to live for anyway. The truth is there's a very good shot this rocket goes down just like the one ten years ago, Little Dog. What then? For those on the rocket, they have nothing to live for anymore but this one dream. Old age or lack of potential. You've got something more. You can help build NASA for tomorrow, with me – and Blackpaw, of course. That's where we're at Little Dog. A terrible confrontation of the reality that there are not always happy endings, and there's still a very high chance that rocket blows up. You're the first young mind with potential NASA has recruited in a long time. Someone has to carry the torch, Little Dog. It can't be me. It can't be Blackpaw."
I squeeze my legs "I knew that"
"I thought MacRam would want to take him along because he's toffee's kid and it'd be his legacy or something dumb like that, it's stupid, all of it" turn to the donkey "No potential? As if, Flapjack is a big dumb but that doesn't mean he has no potential. He could do great things too, just like me, and you want let him come to a suicide mission unknowingly just for some stupid simbolysm?" I bare my teeth, tears running down my cheeks
"You want me to just sit here and accept that, Professor?!"
"Just a moment ago you were crying because you wanted to go. In this world, there's nothing so obvious as right and wrong, is there, Little Dog?"
"Well I don't want him to go either! It's not fair! I bet you haven't even told him that did you? What right you think you have to kill him?! Who are you to say he doesn't have potential?!" I'm pratically barking at him now
"Who do you think you're talking to, Little Dog?"
Keep sniffling, slowly trying to swallow my tears as I realize I'm throwing an uproar again
I don't aswer
You're in a wet, dark, and slimy place. And in more ways than one, you're entangled. In a fumble, you accidentally shrunk Horosha, who you were riding on, and now the two of you have helplessly tumbled into the maw of a river salmon which is bounding up the waterfall. Your goal was to seize the salmon in order to travel upward, but not like this! There's not a lot of space to maneuver here in the gullet, and your whole little breezy body is pressed up into Horosha's – face buried in the chest of her ninja suit. You feel her squirming, trying to work her hooves around your body.
"Can't… reach my sword. What happened?"
"The potions slipped, and.
" Pull my face up as best I can to speak clearly and look apologetic. "You're shrunken and we're inside the fish.
The muscly prison contorts and squeezes around you, forcing the two of you together in sweltering heat. You can't see her expression, given the total lack of light - only that she tenses up and starts squirming more to try and get at her blade – but can manage nothing but to sort of awkwardly hug you. "There's not enough space in here for me to get it out of the sheathe.
"Guide me to it.
" I say and scoot my hoof along her side trying to reach her sword.
She forces her own arm down the slick walls of your prison – shoving your arm down so that your breezer settles on her butt. Around your 'wrist' you can feel something strange, like broken material. It then dawns on you what must have happened.
Horosha uses a metal sword. You can only shrink organic material. So that sword is still full size, it probably bust straight through the scabbard and is sitting on the bottom of the river.
"Your sword isn't there.
" I tell her sadly.
She groans audibly, twisting and turning – though it does neither of you much good in the dark. The loud heartbeat of your captor drowns out thought and the prison bars of its ribcage allow only the slightest movement.
"What are we going to do?
" She asks, a little hopelessly. Roll reflex with your reply.
Roll #1 10 = 10
"Let's make it feel sick.
" I reply, and start trying to tickle the creature.
'1d10' reflexesRoll #1 5 = 5
A gush of water suddenly splooshes in from the creature's maw, and a wild thrashing throws your world out of order. The wild swinging would probably snap your neck if you could move it much at all. You'd get a mouth full of water, but in a dashing display of critical reflexes, Horosha covers your mouth with her own in a breath-saving kiss (10)! As a result, you don't get dazed
by sputtering water.
After a brief, sudden splash, the water drains from the fish – its thrashing has ceased and its heart is weak. Its jaw hangs limply open, and you can see the sky above. With some effort even against the totally relaxed muscles of the dying fish, Horosha slides a hoof up along your body, finally freeing it, so she can point upward at a wickly sharp looking metal instrument above you. Part of a hook.
"I think we've been caught.
W-what a heroic horse.
"That's great, let's climb out as soon as they put the fish down.
Horosha squirms a little bit upward, planting her haunches on your shoulders for a boost as she gains enough elevation – consequently giving you more room to maneuver as she stops being parallel with you. With care to avoid the hook, she pokes her head out. Then she darts back in. "Trouble.
" I ask her, using the fish itself to help support us.
"I think we're being carried back to their lair. And it's one of those ninja dogs!
I gasp in distress.
"No, not a ninja dog!
"If we try to escape now they might see us, but if we wait until they set the fish down we'll have to escape their lair…
At this I blink and nod.
"I hear you. You're saying. We have to go now.
" Adjust myself and flex my bug like wings to be sure they aren't hurt!
"Once you pull me up I'll hold you, you jump and we'll use my wings to glide down.
Roll once for sneakiness and once for gliding! (also don't forget you can collect your pirate dice, 3d10 choose two)
'1d10' sneaky breezy
'3d10' yarr diceRoll #1 3 = 3
/ Roll #2 5 = 5
/ Roll #3 4, 6, 4 = 14
I'll just take the 6 and 4 and use a six to help sneaking.
Roll #1 6 = 6
Critical! With the added weight of Horosha, though, you glide down and land at the giant paw of the diamond dog that looms above you. They seem a lot bigger and scarier when they're ninjas instead of shopkeepers! Fortunately you manage to go unseen, and the dog hurries onward up the mountain trail, leaving the two of you behind, lost in the forest of grass, to catch your breath with a sigh of relief.
Unfortunately all your stuff is soaked. You can't fix Horosha's size until all your gear dries out, that means the two of you are spending the night as two tinies in a scary jungle.
I better look for a nook to hide in, let's just hope there are no spiders or mice!