Zenith Part 1: The Odd Arrival

Sep 14th, 2012
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  1. Zēnith
  2. Author’s Note: Second person perspective is for psychological reasons, which means if you get confused, you probably didn't miss or skip anything. Just remember you're (mostly) reading from the point of view of the character, so (most) everything is subject to his perceptions of reality.
  4. TL;DR: no narrative god mode for you, silly reader.
  5. Also, it’s said Zee-nith, hence the ē, since everypony always seems to want to say Zen-ith. It’s my proper noun, I can dictate its pronunciation it however I want. =P
  7. P.S. I make references, which are owned by their respected copyright holders yadda yadda don’t sue me. The setting is after the end of the most recent episode, unless specified, cause I wanna be able to use the newest episodes whenever I want to, and yes that means the show exists in this universe. That being said, I mean to it be -This Universe-, so expect quasi scientific accuracy, with a sprinkle of futuristic and and a pinch of magic.
  9. Part 1: The Odd Arrival
  11. Hot.
  12. Why is it so hot?
  13. Holy hell, it’s hot. You’re sweating buckets here!
  15. “Gaahhh!”
  17. You gasp, sitting up quickly, and flinging the heavy blankets from your bed as you stumble to the window, throwing it open to let in the cool breeze. The midmorning sun glares in at you through the trees, making you squint.
  19. “What the hell. Why was the room so...”
  21. You trail off as your gaze finds your quietly humming beast of a computer sitting on your desk.
  22. On.
  24. “Oh, right.”
  26. You must have accidently left it on again; last night had been a long one. There was a big order to process for some office building in town — 20 brand new workstations — and you really needed the cash.
  28. You had been trying to save up to move out of this one-horse town since you got your hands on your very first clunker of a computer at age 10. It’s not that you didn’t love your parents, but they were the simple type, and awfully wary of new technology. Five years ago, after your 18th birthday, you got your own den, trying to make a living on what you saw as a growing industry, though to date it still hasn’t let you escape “the sticks,” as “them city slickers” call it.
  30. This place has little appreciation for technology, so the fact that you have any business at all is only because big banks and the like were pushing the local stores to go digital, at least in part. Checkout systems, inventory terminals, and the occasional cubicle station were all you could sell. All mundane to the extreme compared to what you were interested in, with low-end hardware to match. Thank god for the fact that they -always- needed tech support, or you probably couldn't afford to eat. The only thing that makes you think twice about leaving is the mountains.
  32. Breathing the cool air of the Sierras as you hike, taking in the vast glacial valleys that stretch for miles from the very tip of a dizzying peak, or even just sitting by a lake and drinking a fresh snow margarita on sun-warmed granite... there really is nothing like it. That stark openness of nature was a calming break from all problems, electronic and financial. It was a way to escape the endless error codes, bluescreens, and incompatible drivers; the bills, invoices, and bank statements. It was easy to pack up the backpack and leave for a few days, maybe a week, if you had the time, and just walk. You could walk as long as you cared too, and sleep where you chose, enjoying the scenery along the way. It gave you plenty of opportunities to take notes on all sorts of fantastic aspects of nature, or just free time to record your own musings. It was a fantastic hobby, and it soothed your soul like almost nothing else, but there was no money in it, and one has to eat. All too soon the other half of your life would reel you back in to resume all the day to day tedium required to keep some little number stored on some server from running negative. It reflects your power to acquire food, water, and shelter, along with everything else, and while most people call it an account balance, you prefer to think of it as more of a mana pool. With life being in hard mode, it of course wouldn't just refill itself.
  34. Speaking of which...
  36. You notice you’ve been staring out your open window at the distant mountain peaks in nothing but boxers for a while now, and you’ve got work to do today. One good thing about this shack of a house: not many neighbors this far out on the back roads.
  38. You gather some fresh clothes from the dresser and take a quick shower. Clean from the heat of your rude awakening, you sit back down at your computer, ready to finish what you’d been so busy with the night before that you’d completely forgotten to turn it off. Shaking the mouse, you see a shutdown dialog box, stating that notepad.exe wasn’t playing nice, and asking if you wanted to force a shutdown anyway.
  40. Well, that would explain it; you’d been so tired you didn’t notice the prompt and fallen straight asleep. Odd, though; you don’t remember doing anything -in- notepad. Must have been a parts list or something.
  42. You move the shutdown prompt off to one side, and pull up the offending note. It looks like a postal order confirmation, like you get for computer parts, marked “Delivered” at the top. But this one is oddly blank, it’s missing the package tracking number, the price, and even the company that shipped it. In fact, aside from the long strings of #INTERNAL_USE_ONLY numbers, the only information it has is the weight (1 kg), your address, and the delivery date and time, 9:30AM... today.
  44. You glance down at the computer clock just in time to see it flip from 9:29 to 9:30 as you hear the sound of tires throwing gravel in front of your house and a car motor roaring. You jump at the noise, right hand jerking the mouse wildly across the screen... and right onto the OK button of the shutdown dialog.
  46. “Fack, no! Wait!”
  48. The computer calmly proceeds to do exactly as you told it, and starts shutting down, the sound of the motor outside moving away from your house and down the hill.
  50. “Dammit! Stupid gorramn piece of —“
  52. You finish telling the walls what you think of your computers blind obedience as you jump from your chair and leap out the front door into the driveway, seeing dust settling on the dirt road as the engine fades off with distance down the hill.
  54. “Who the hell...”
  56. You turn to stride back inside, ready to dismiss whomever it was as having been late, or lost, or something, and catch your foot on a small wooden crate, sitting right in the middle of your front step.
  58. Your bare toes jam into the hard wood painfully as it catches on the doorway, sending both you and it tumbling through your front door and across the cheap linoleum of your entranceway.
  60. “Ohfackmytoejesusthathurts—“
  62. Mystery visitor forgotten, you get up and limp to the kitchen, yank open the freezer, and snatch a cold pack from the ice shelf. You limp back past the entranceway into your living room, which almost doesn’t merit the title. It’s not much more than some milk crates of junk, a crappy old couch, and a TV that gets two channels, both of which are fuzzy. You limp around a few bins of old or spare computer parts, and sit down heavily on the couch, holding the ice pack to your aching foot.
  64. You inhale sharply as your foot cools. “Ahh, schhhh... gah, that hurts! The heck was that thing doing there, anyway?”
  66. You wait a minute or two, then, inhaling again, you gingerly lift the cold pack from your toes to check the damage. Not as bad as you expected, only a little bleeding and still plenty painful, but it should be better in a few hours. You turn your head back over the couch toward the front door, and see the tiny crate lying where it had landed, not noticeably cracked or dented, owing, as your foot attests, to its durability.
  68. “What the hell box. Not cool man.”
  70. In apology, the wooden crate does a five star impression of a wooden crate.
  72. “Fine, be like that.”
  74. You stare at the crate for a few more moments before getting up and limping over to grab it, taking it with you back to the couch. You set it down on a convenient box, and balance the cold pack back on your foot. Turning the ~15cm wooden cube over in your hands you see it’s made of thin planks, four to a side, all nailed together, and doesn’t weigh more than a kilo, all told. On one side is a piece of paper, stapled to the wood on both ends, with your address written across it in astoundingly neat handwriting. A gentle shake hints that it’s filled with straw-like packing material and a soft-ish object. You attempt to pry off the labeled end with your nails, but the box resists your efforts.
  76. Grumbling you go grab a flat-head screwdriver that was lazing about with some dusty floppy drives nearby and limp lightly back to the couch. Jamming the screwdriver between the planks along the edge of the crate gains you a small gap, which you work at, moving around the lid, until the small nails finally pop free and the side comes loose. Inside is a mess of tan straw, packing the crate from wall to wall, and cushioning its still unseen cargo from any run-ins with rouge toes.
  78. You dig into the rustling straw and your hands quickly meet with a minky velvet soft fabric object, slightly squishy to the touch, and shaped like a... pony?
  80. You slowly pull your prize from the box, its orange coat and multi-hued blue mane and tail in stark contrast with the dull tans and browns of the couch where you place him, your hands trembling slightly. His blue eyes are expertly sewn, as are the small marks on each of his flanks; a tiny pair of snow-capped mountains with a trail leading away between them.
  82. A unicorn.
  84. Your Unicorn.
  86. “... huh?”
  88. He sits there, a slight smirk across his muzzle, while your mouth hangs slightly ajar, your brain not quite able to reason how in the world you came to be looking at what is quite clearly a fluff-and-stuff rendition of your very own pony-shaped creation: Zēnith. You barely browse MLP merchandise — well, maybe more so recently — let alone order a custom made plushie, — though the pictures from people who did -were- pretty awesome — but for one of such especially good craftsmanship to just show up...
  90. “How in the world did you get here, my little pony?” You can’t but chuckle at the reference as you contemplate your quandry.
  92. Well, there -were- the forum posts, but that was mainly for finding awesome pics and discussing episodes. And you suppose you -did- originally create Zēnith because you wanted to have a unique pony for your avatar instead of just using one from the show— as awesome as Twilight was. And you -guess- you might have gone a tad overboard with the details (In hindsight a cutie mark and explanation behind it wasn’t really required for a picture of his head, but it had been fun to do).
  94. All that aside, you had never told anyone online more than your timezone, and certainly no one in town knew you watched the show, never mind what Zēnith looked like. And what the hell had been up with that notepad with the delivery info on it? It must have been open when you ran shutdown last night for it to interrupt it like that, but it already had been marked “Delivered”, and the time was for this morning. It was even accurate to the second! And on top of all that: who the hell was it from?
  96. The show, like your hikes, was a welcome break from the tedium of life, but you hadn’t got much more into it than that. ‘Suppose you had just been forced further into it than you’d planned, but surely a present like this couldn’t be anything but good in the long run. It’s not like someone who was out to get you would go through all the effort of making you such a nice plushie, especially someone who appreciated the miniature equine form, right?
  98. Carefully placing plushie Zēnith back in the straw, you limp him and the box back to your desk, tossing your hot compress — a sock filled with lavender-scented rice — in the microwave to warm up.
  100. Your ever obedient computer comes online with a quick press of its the power button, and setting aside the crate you lift Zēnith for a closer inspection while it boots.
  102. “Alright little guy, where are you from..?”
  104. You turn him over, looking for any tags.
  105. None.
  107. You check the box for a card, packing slip, return address, or anything.
  108. Nope.
  110. You see if the address paper yields any clues.
  111. Nada.
  113. Hm, well, there is the writing... maybe it can be identified? But without access to some giant police database or something your hopes of finding a match are slim to none, it sure doesn’t look familiar to you...
  115. Actually, it kinda does; the exact spacing, the even lines... The computer now on you pull up a new word document, type out your street address, highlight it, and in the font drop down select Monotype Corsiva. Well damn, that’s it. Somebody probably just traced it with ink onto a new paper.
  117. You blow out a long breath as you sit back in your chair, staring at the crate with little Zēnith smirking back at you from the pile of straw beside it, his tiny orange horn poking up through the cobalt blue fabric of the mane right beside one of its lighter, sky blue, stripes. A quick glance at the clock shows it’s just past 10am.
  119. Just for kicks you pull up the recent file listing for notepad, and much to your pessimistic expectations, it doesn’t contain anything like what you saw just half an hour ago. Even a search for .txt file extensions in the temp cache doesn’t turn up anything but logs and config files.
  121. You pick up Zēnith and lean back again, gazing off into the distance in thought, and gently stroke his coat and mane. It’s oddly therapeutic, the material is indeed of superb quality, and you resign yourself to the fact that the mystery will have to wait. You still have to finish that order from last night.
  123. Several hours of price hunting, review reading, and spec-checking later, you have what you pray is a list of compatible hardware for the order, and enough copies of the needed software packs to cover them all. You steel your resolve and press “Submit Order” on no less than seven different websites order forms. Oh to have a wholesale account, what a wonder it would be! A quick phone call to the office manager who placed the order with you and it was done. Until the parts get here there was nothing left to do, and by the shipping forms he had at least 4-8 work days. And since today was Thursday, they probably wouldn’t get here until almost a week from now, enough time for a most excellent trip!
  125. The clock reads 2pm, and your stomach makes a strong point in favor of it being lunchtime. Hurt Foot complains that it’s still in pain, and that sitting is fine, but Other Foot to agrees to carry more of the load, and Hurt Foot begrudgingly agrees. You stand, stretching your arms above your head, as something falls from your lap to the floor. Looking down you see Zēnith, legs a bit askew, laying on his side. You reach down and pick him up, dust him off, and set him back on the desk. You go check the fridge, pulling out sandwich fixings as they catch your fancy.
  127. As you move ingredients to the counter you notice the “End” on your microwaves display. You click the door open to find your not-so-hot compress. Right, so much for twenty minutes cold, twenty minutes hot. You set it to reheating as you compile your sandwich.
  129. Mustard, tiny bit o’ mayo, turkey slices, avocado, provolone cheese, lettuce, pepperoncinis; the works! You mangle together your sandwich and bring it back to the computer to eat, planning on browsing the MLP forums to see if you recognize the handiwork of one of the plushie makers there.
  131. Funny comics and reaction images abound, but no leads on the source of your mysterious plush. By about 5pm you call it quits. Lots of people make plushies, but none that look quite like yours. You even checked your credit card’s recent purchases to see if you could spot any that might have been a sleep-deprived good idea, but no luck there either. That and your “high-speed” internet connection speed is driving you crazy. They just don’t offer anything better out here, and it -still- takes forever for pages to load.
  133. A bit tired of all the ultimately unfruitful runaround of today, you decide to make good on the idea of a trip up the mountain. Practiced hands find all your gear and furnish it snugly into your trusty backpack, leaving the bear canister empty for food shopping early tomorrow morning It’s getting too late to go all the way to the store tonight, and it’s on your way to the mountains anyway. As you finish stuffing away your clothes little Zēnith catches your eye from his roost near your keyboard. You walk over and bring him up for inspection once again, admiring the level of detail paid to his cutie mark.
  135. “Somebody really spent a lot of time on you, didn’t they?”
  137. His blue eyes silently regard you with that same warm, lopsided, smile.
  139. “Well why not bring you along? Your special talent was exploration, and I’m feeling adventurous!”
  141. You carefully tuck him into a side pocket of the pack, making sure not to pull any stitches or tweak any joints, then sit down to plan out your route for tomorrow.
  143. Perhaps you’ll go up that valley on the north side of the range? It had the most fantastic waterfall, and feeding it was a crystal blue lake, perfect for swimming. It was a bit farther from home than you normally go, but you -did- have the time to spare. You decide to go for it, and print out a travel itinerary to file with state parks. Thirty kilometers or so on day one was harsh, but powering up to that lake would be worth it. That way you could enjoy a few days swimming, doing day hikes, and generally lazing about lakeside. By now it’s almost 8 o’clock, and you’ve got an early morning tomorrow if you want to be on the trail on time.
  145. You fetch some leftover pasta from the fridge and go to microwave it — discovering your now twice forgotten hot compress, and give up on it; deciding the food takes precedence. Your foot hardly hurts anymore anyway.
  147. Settling down in front of your computer with your hot pasta, you look over the topographic maps of the lakes surrounding terrain. There are several good paths from it leading farther up the mountain that would make some pretty fun day hikes. One leads up to the saddle to the next valley over, and switching to satellite view (augh, so long to load!) reveals a wide, gently sloping plain, awash with wildflowers, and some small buildings off to one side. An old pioneering cabin perhaps? What a view they must have had!
  149. Satisfied, you close the maps, and shutdown the computer. Dishes washed and drying, window closed, and your clothes stripped off; you’re ready for bed. You climb between the sheets and lay on your side, your gaze landing on your pack.
  151. Feeling a little self-conscious you get back up, go over, and remove Zēnith from his side pocket. You haven’t slept with a stuffed animal in forever, but today had been long and weird, and he is ever so -snugly-soft-, yes he is~! Ahem. Back between the sheets you curl up, Zēnith’s tiny form tucked in your arms, his horn and ears tickling your cheek.
  153. You speak quietly to the darkened room,
  154. “Goodnight Zēnith, tomorrow will be a new day, full of exploration and adventure!”
  156. With that, sleep lightly creeps over you, warm and comfortable, and whisks you away to the land of shapeless thoughts and pleasant dreams.
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