Green Hoof pawed the ground nervously. "Not jus' anypony can meet with Lord Sunset, not if you're part of the regular citizenry, not even if you're a foreign power," he said anxiously to Match. "'Sides, he's more likely t'lock you up than listen to what you have t'say. And then lock me up and do 'orrible stuff t'me in case I'm one o'those darn rebels. He's one o'the more notorious nobles, that one is. Why don't we just get you out o'here, eh?"
"W-What do you think we should do?" Star whispered to the guard. He just wanted to go home, but he didn't want to get locked up either. Maybe there was a chance that they could escape using his special power, but it might not work, or worse, it might work and leave them stranded somewhere else.
The dark grey pony looked at Match in even more confusion. "What in Tartarus...? How do you not know that we dwell in the Equestrian Empire? 'Tis the grandest empire to grace our world!"
He continued, "I don't know what's goin' on, but apparently there's something wrong with' your memory, so good ol' Green Hoof will fill you in. Right now, we're in the glorious capital of the empire, called Pneuham. Lord Sunset's estate is in the Inner District, where all the rich and noble ponies live. Ring any o'your bells?"
"Where you are?" the earth pony echoed Match quizzically. "Are you touched in the head? This is Lord Sunset's estate! Mind you, 'tis somewhat grander than what you'll see among the other Nobles, so I can understand why you would be a mite confused."
The pony looked closer at the pair before continuing. "I ain't heard of the term 'RoyaIl Guard' before, nor seen that style o'armour, but maybe it could be part of those secret military projects I've heard about before. Is that how you got here?
"Y-Yes," Star immediately bobbed his head rapidly from behind Match. "I-It's very top secret stuff indeed."
"I-I suppose so," Star muttered, not at all confident that he'd be able to do it. Nevertheless, he nodded in assent to Match's declaration; they'd probably ended up halfway across Equestria, or something of the sort.
"Oi! What are you lot doin' here!" a voice called out to the pair. Star turned towards its direction, and a fair distance away a dark grey Earth pony wearing a blackened flat cap was running towards them.
"Blimey, how in Tartarus did you get here?" he demanded as he arrived, sizing up both guard and civilian. "There's guards and such at Lord Sunset's estate, and lots o'fancy teleport wards guarding it. Don't see how you could 'ave gotten past all that."
Star nervously hid behind Match. Right now he was feeling out of his depth, and preferred to let the guard handle the situation.
Star slowly stood up, wincing at his sore limbs. He stretched until he felt slightly less sore, then wandered around, looking for Match. Within a minute of eye squinting and getting used to the light, he spotted the charcoal unicorn laying still beneath a distant tree. He trotted to the guard, hesitated, then began shaking him gently.
"M-Mistern Match," Star called out to the guard. "Y-You need to wake up, my portal b-blew up, and we're in this strange p-place, and I don't know what we're go to d-do!"
All the stars crowded Star's mind at once. Shining, burning cold, near and far, now and then, here and there. He wanted to scream, but he had no mouth. He wanted to think, but he had no brain. Stretching and compressing, big as the universe, tiny as an atom.
The feeling of grass on his muzzle, and the warm sun upon his face, gradually brought Star back towards awareness. His head was pounding, and his body felt heavy, like he had had to little sleep. Blinking his eyes open, he pulled himself into a sitting position, and took in his surroundings. A wide, green field dotted with trees here and there surrounded him as far as he could see, punctuated by smog rising in the distance. A light breeze swept over him, and he realized just where he was since the first time he had woken up.
"T-This isn't the shed," he muttered, stunned with the realization. "I-I'm not even sure if this is Equestria anymore."
"O-Okay, I'm ready," Star announced after checking and rechecking his calculations one final time, then maneuvered himself to the edge of the shed. He hadn't tried to use his special power this way in a long while; in fact, not since the first days. The unicorn inhaled and exhaled slowly, then began to concentrate on the description that he had been provided with, attempting to open a gateway. Nothing happened at first, though Star had been expecting that to happen. He circulated more of his mana, and after a minute of intense concentration, felt a small pull towards the space in front of him.
A slight smile tugged at Star's lips; he gradually began to increase his output. The mana building up started to fluctuate, so he gently moved it into the calculated patterns. A minute passed, and it began to settle into overlapping waves.
'The hard part is mostly over,' he thought. 'Time to began the final phase.'
Internally preparing himself, Star connected his mana pool to Match's mana well, and steadily increased the output.
"Alright then," Star answered Match, taking him through the cottage and into the backyard. A fair sized shed, painted white with a tiled roof and sporting flowers at its sides, stood in the corner. "It shouldn't be an i-issue if that happens. Worst case scenario, I have an idea or two that might h-help."
The unicorn opened the door, revealing the shed's interior. Mostly empty shelves ran down its length, sporting a tool here or there. A table and a chair were set up at the entrance; there were sheets of parchment filled with equations and notes that littered the table's surface. All of the heavy equipment had been moved to the far end, leaving a nice, clear space in the middle that could just about hold two average-sized ponies.
"S-Sorry about that, I'll just clean that up," Star mumbled, cleaning up the mess of parchments.
"I-In the backyard shed," Star answered. "The Captain wanted to do it in a secure t-testing facility, but we couldn't due to...er, c-complications. Missus Weather wouldn't allow it in the house, so that just l-left the shed."
"I should think not!" she sniffed. "I'm very fond of you Star, but I don't want my home zapped away in a teleportation accident."
"R-Right," Star mumbled. "We should get going," he added, rising from the table and leaving the kitchen.
Well, attempting to leave the kitchen.
"Oh no, you don't," Weather said fiercely, holding on to Star's tail quite firmly. "You're not leaving until you've helped clear up this mess."
The teal unicorn tried to escape her grasp, but it was futile: the mare was quite strong, despite her advanced age. "O-Oh, alright," he said glumly. Weather released him, and the pair started to clean up the kitchen.
(basically, the Guard wants Star to replicate his 'power', since it's an invaluable asset to have).
"I-It's not so simple as that," the unicorn answered Match. "I've been working with Professor G-Gauss on developing mathematical equations that d-describe the portal, and there seems to be a difference in the amount of e-energy required for a regular portal that relies upon memory, and one that needs a d-description."
Star paused for a moment to catch his breath, then continued. "I-I can field a fair amount of mana, but the requirements for transportation field which relies upon a d-description are far beyond the amount I can provide. That's why we n-need you."
He looked at Match straight in the eye, though it took much nerve. "A regular p-portal is fine, but it's a whole different story when o-opening one based on a description. T-This power...it's not related to my cutie mark at all."
Star hurriedly finished his muffin, and drank the last dregs of his orange juice. Though it looked like Match was trying to be gentle about this as possible, it was also the case that the moment of truth had arrived. So he answered the guard, trying to keep his nervousness down as much as possible.
"M-Mana provision and regulation, s-sir," he stammered, sweat breaking out on his forehead. "I-I'm to open a portal to a private r-room in the P-Prancing Pony. You're supposed to give me a d-detailed description of the p-place, and assist me in creating and m-maintaining the p-portal. That's what the C-Captain t-told me. Didn't he t-tell you?"
Weather stared at the guard for a moment, the shrugged.
"Suit yourself," she grunted, taking a sip of orange juice. "Personally, I think you're missing out on some mighty tasty food. But that's your choice."
Meanwhile, Star was contemplating what would happen after they finished eating. The anticipation of having to work with a guard again on his 'special talent' was wringing his stomach onto knots (but he still finished the wonderful blueberry muffin that he had been chewing on). Yesterday had worked fine, powering up a portal from one side of the cottage to the other. Today, he was required to open a portal to a private room rented by the Royal Guard for this specific purpose.
Their request, however, that he do it while relying on description alone was absurd. He always needed to see the place in person, or at least a photograph of it. Even he could see the benefit of being able to do such a thing, but there was just no way of it happening. The few times that he had experimented with it, when he first awakened this power, proved it!
Okay, maybe he hadn't known what he was doing then. But still!
"G-Good morning," Star called out to Weather as he marched down the stairs. Stifling a yawn, he walked into the kitchen, and came face to face with Match, the guard that had been assigned to him. He froze, then remembered the reason for the the coal unicorn's assignment.
'I guess I'm just going to have to get used to him,' Star thought dolefully, acknowledging the guard's presence with a tiny nod. He sat down at the kitchen table across from Match, and sighed. The last thing he had wanted was to be in the public eye and be taken note of by a certain group. He'd said as much to the Captain of the Guard, who thankfully had arranged for the incident to be kept on the down low. At the very least, the nature of his special...power was something that the military would want to be kept hidden from the other factions that dominated Equestria.
The smell of fresh orange juice, eggs, and blueberry muffins halted his musings in their tracks. Star looked at the veritable mountain of food awaiting them, and he began to salivate heavily. For now, he would fill his belly with the delicious fare set before them.
"Dig in, boys," Weather said warmly as she set down the tray of muffins, orange juice, and eggs upon the table. In short order, she placed table settings for the three of them; once finished, she sat down between Star and Match, and began to load up her plate with food.
"Darn right it is," Weather removed a tray of blueberry muffins into the oven, then put up the frying pan on the stove. She gathered some eggs, cracked them and laid them over the fire. "Lot of younguns complain about it being too cold. Bah! They wouldn't know what cold was if it smacked them in the snoot! Why, in my day, we had to fly in fifty miles-per-hour winds at 10 degrees Marenheit, just to get to school!"
She puttered around the kitchen, and started to squeeze oranges into a glass pitcher. "I'm a born and bred Cloudsdalian, but it's been years since I last visited. It has great sights, don't misunderstand me, but there's nothing left for me there. Besides," she sighed, "once you've reached my age, there isn't a whole lot that you haven't already seen."
Upstairs, the smell of freshly baked muffins wafted into Star's nose. He breathed in deeply, and sighed, a smile on his face. He constantly proclaimed to her that her cooking was the stuff of legend, and nothing she said could convince him otherwise. After one last look in the mirror, he left the bathroom, and made his way downstairs towards the kitchen.
"Urgh...t-that was embarassing," Star groaned, untangling himself from his sheets and standing up. He'd been having a lot of funny dreams lately. The cyan unicorn, more than anypony else, took dreams extremely seriously, but he was also having a hard time doing that, given their recent content. They had to have some meaning, but it was lost to him, buried underneath the non-sequiturs and nonsensical scenes that he was constantly subjected to.
"B-Better than my other dreams," he muttered to himself as he stepped into the bathroom to wash his face. "At least I've got a break from those." --------------------------------------- "Is there anything you'd like to eat?" Weather, the old pegasus mare, asked the guard once they'd reached the kitchen. She took out a frying pan and a small pot, and began removing various ingredients from different cupboards. Just because she disapproved of the whole situation, didn't mean that she would be a poor host.
Star backed away slowly from the slobbering monstrosity that filled his vision. He would have hopped away, except that the blue Breezy hovering beside him kept making 'tsk' noises every time he tried. This was the end.
"C-Can't we do lunch!?" he yelled at the monstrosity, who simply roared with such ringing force that he jumped back, his hooves scraping against the edge of a cliff.
"Gah!" Star sat upright in bed, the alarm clock ringing incessantly beside him. For a moment, he took in his surroundings, then sighed with relief. "I-It was only a dream," he murmured. His vision started to tilt, as if he was falling. He flailed wildly, dragging his blanket with him as he fell off the edge of his bed with a loud THUMP!
After the oak door was thumped a few times, it opened, and an old pegasus mare stuck her head out. She glanced at the guard for a moment, then withdrew slightly.
"You may come in," she said stiffly, and headed inside towards the kitchen.
It was a beautiful morning in Ponyville. The birds were singing, the trees were swaying, and a gentle breeze wafted through the air. Inside a thatched cottage on the second floor, a sleeping cyan unicorn slumbered, dreaming of unpleasant things and places where he'd rather not be. An alarm clock on a nearby bedstand ticked away, the minute hand sweeping ever closer towards 8 o'clock. He shifted a bit, wrapping himself up in his bedsheets, just a pin drop away from waking.
"I-I...b-but...," Star started, then gave up; at this point, it wouldn't make a difference, if Match stopped, since the damage was already done. He resigned himself to watching the white-hot metal of the hatch begin to catch fire and melt.