Chapter 3: Road to Canterlot
Before he left for Canterlot, he stopped by the Silver Stable, his favorite restaurant, and bought some hay fries. He figured he'd get some food while it was still cheap in Ponyville. He also stopped by Sugarcube Corner to pick up some sweets for his trip to the royal city.
The trip to Canterlot wasn't too long. The city was on a mountainside near Ponyville, and climbing up the mountain took only 3 hours. For a trip on foot, that wasn't long at all, but still no delight. Fortunately, he had packed snacks.
On his way up the mountain, he searched for a spot where no one would see him. He eventually found the cover of some bushes on the side of the road near the top of the mountain, which he hid behind as soon as he found it. Inkblot was determined to learn at least something about the laptop, and where else would be better than hidden away on the side of a road, and judging by the number of people he had seen, it wasn't a very busy road.
When he was surely hidden behind the bushes, he pulled the laptop out of his black saddlebag. The area behind the bushes was an enclosed space that seemed to be an air bubble in a sea of bushes. The unicorn opened the box to reveal the familiar black screen. In response, Inkblot gave it a couple shocks to bring it to life.
The screen showed Gmail again, with the same walls of text he had read before. Nothing new. No message "To the Pony on the Laptop." Just the same text he had seen earlier. While he looked at this page, he had to wonder if the laptop he held could do more than deliver a message.
Suddenly, Inkblot noticed an area of the screen he hadn't noticed before. There was a bar on the bottom containing a series of words. There was "Gmail", "Untitled-Not...", "CamSystem", and"HLRS" (another confusing acronym). Gmail was darker that the rest of them, so he assumed that meant he needed to click on another one of the bottom words to get anything different.
He started by clicking on the "Untitled- Not.." button. A box appeared on the screen that was labeled "Untitled- Notepad". The box featured another wall of words, except Inkblot could understand. It seemed to be a list of some kind, sorted into different sections. The top part of it said:
Possible Episode Titles:
New Pony In Town
The Best Around"
"Episode"? As far as Inkblot knew, an episode was like a part of a journey or something. It wasn't exactly a common word. Maybe it was some sort of slang in the human culture. He continued reading.
Outline. There was a word that clicked with the pony. He knew an outline as the framework for a story or an article. His dad made him use outlines when he was making his earlier articles for the Post. Maybe an episode was like a story. As he read on, his thoughts were confirmed. Underneath it was a list of events that made a story:
"Twilight hears about Trixie via Snips/Snails
Main 6 challenges her and all lose
Twilight is afraid of looking like a braggart like Trixie
Spike tries to convince Twilight to use her magic
Snips/Snails worship Trixie
Spike talks to Snips/Snails
Dummy Duo wakes up the Ursa Major
Trixie admits she couldn't vanquish the Ursa
Twilight takes out Ursa (Was a Minor all along)
Letter to Celestia"
Inkblot's heart dropped when he read the outline. That was only a couple days ago. He knew that they had apparently seen what happened, but they knew about it more than he did. It was almost scary how they were making a story out of the chaotic day in Ponyville.
Anxious to learn more, he continued down the page, using the scroll bar as if he had been using the laptop for years.
TownSquare 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 13, 15, RC1, RC3
Sky 3, 6, RC2
Library 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, RC1
EverfreeForest 13, RC1
GeneralPonyville 3, 5, 6, 7, 14, 15, 16, 19, 24, 28, 45, RC3, RC5"
Inkblot's stomach dropped again. Cameras? Judging by the list here, they were everywhere, and this was only a partial list. How did he know there wasn't a camera looking at him right now? How many cameras were there and how much could they see? Considering the next buttom on the bottom bar was called "CamSystem", he had a feeling he was going to find out. Inkblot clicked on the CamSystem button.
The screen was suddenly full of rectangles. Each rectangle showed a different sort of video. He recognized every single place shown on the cameras. He saw a pair of foals talking around town square. He saw a lavender librarian reading a book. He saw a couple animals creeping around in the Everfree. He even saw Snapshot getting a cupcake from Sugarcube Corner. It was scary how much he saw, and this was only a small percentage. Each video was labeled with a name and number, like "Town Square (23)", "Sugarcube Corner (17)", and "Everfree Forest (69)", which he assumed meant the area and the number of cameras. Not to mention there was an arrow visible on the side of the screen, which he guessed opened up more group, and more cameras.
Before he could take in the camera system further, Inkblot heard a "Ping!" The Gmail button on the bottom was blinking orange. The pony moved the cursot to the icon and clicked on it, reopening the page.
Gmail hadn't changed much given the exception of a small box that appeared at the bottom right. The unicorn read what it said:
"You: Just put up the cameras in Canterlot. I don't think any of the ponies noticed."
For a second, Inkblot was confused since the message implied that he had written it. Then again, everything else was confusing him, so he decided to assume it was someone who wasn't him. Another message popped up, followed by another "Ping!"
"Thiessen: Great. How about the laptop? And Franklin?"
"You: The laptop is gone. The pony apparently took it. Franklin dashed away about two hours after my last email to you."
There was a pause, giving Inkblot a while to organize the few facts he had. "You" was that Hopkins guy. Thiessen is the guy he sent the email to and his boss. If Hopkins is bad and taking orders from this guy, then Thiessen was bad.
"Thiessen: Alright, well in that case, you'll have to wait it out in Equestria for a while. We'll put you on the IV."
"You: Sounds good. And what about Franklin?"
"Thiessen: He will be put on the IV, too. We cannot legally take him off of the IV until he returns. Murder is still illegal."
"Thiessen: By the way, I've been meaning to tell you this. There's been an explosion on the internet. A bunch of older men (ages about 16 to 30) seem to adore the show."
A pause from Hopkins gave the pony another opportunity to think. The "show"? So their lives were being recorded for some sort of entertainment for humans. A little sick, but maybe that was normal for them. And as for the IV, Inkblot made the decision to not even think about it. He just added it to the melting pot of confusion.
"You: Don't take it too seriously Jayson. The internet is full of jokesters who'll poke fun at anything they can get their grubby little hands on. They're probably playing it for kicks. After all, it's a girl's show. There's no way they're serious about it."
"You: Wait a sec... I think the laptop is nearby."
A chill charged through the unicorn's spine. Did he know where it was?
"You: I can hear it!"
Of course! It was the "Ping!" coming from the laptop! Hopkins was using the laptop as a bell of some sort to track down the pony carrying it. The chimes came from the laptop and echoed through the space, seeming to be louder than his own thoughts.
"Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!"
Constant messages were sent, each one containing gibberish, but emmiting the cursed "Ping!", which drew Hopkins closer to the laptop. Inkblot's hairs stood on end. He had to think quickly or else who knows what would happen to him. He'd lose his memory of that kiss! He'd get in Celestia knows how much trouble. He had to act quick.
When Inkblot heard a rustling through the bushes behind him, he slammed the laptop shut, put it in his bag, and immediately ran for his life. He hadn't a clue where he was going, but as long as it was away from there, he would be fine.
The unicorn galloped through the bushes, each little branch stinging his face as he sped by them. Behind him, he could hear the heavy footsteps and unsteady grunts from the pursuer. Occasionally, he heard Hopkins saying things like "Gotcha." or "You got this." to himself. Inkblot didn't dare look behind him.
The two ran through the bushes for at least a minute and not a foot of ground was gained or lost. The pony had a feeling this would last forever unless he did something. He instinctively used his magic to throw anything he could into the path behind him, hoping that it would slow the human down, but the branches and leaves didn't even seem to break Hopkins' stride.
After a few tries of mindlessly throwing derbris behind him, Inkblot threw a rock about the size of an apple behind him. He could tell it hurt based on the yelp given by the one following. Inkblot felt bad hurting him like that, but he was slowed down, and that was vital to his escape.
The pony ran out of the shrubs and found the road to Canterlot again. There was an old moss-ridden stone bridge that went over a stream coming from a waterfall only a hundred feet away. Despite his hurting haunches, he continued to dash away, knowing that a little stone wouldn't stop Hopkins.
The unicorn galloped full stop across the bridge, feeling the sensation of mist of the waterfall on his coat accompanied by the waterfall's roar. Halfway across the bridge, he finally had the courage to take a look behind him. During his glimpse, he couldn't hear the human's groans and heavy footsteps over the waterfall, but he could see the staggering figure coming out of the brush. There was a problem. They were out in the open. Inkblot would be identified in seconds if Hopkins got a good look at him. Panicking and searching for something to do, he decided to once again rely on his gut, which had done a good job of keeping him out of trouble so far.
He could feel his magic push over a huge object behind him. An object so huge that the unicorn had to stop in his tracks and clamp his eyes shut. His horn was pushing this thing so hard, Inkblot clenched his teeth. Whatever it was, it seemed stuck. Normally there would be no way he could move it, but the adrenaline seemingly multiplied his power.
Suddenly, the unicorn felt the release. He moved whatever it was he tried to move. Before surveying what he did, he searched for a spot to hide. In the twitch of an ear, he found a rock and hid behind it. When he poked his head out, he let out a gasp.
The bridge was gone! Completely gone! The only sign showing that it used to be there were two ditches on the riverbank. All it took was a look downstream to see where the bridge (or at least what was left of it) went. The bridge was in at least ten parts tumbling downhill, following the river.
The pale pony couldn't watch for long since he still had to hide. He ducked behind the rock and made sure to leave nothing exposed. He had no idea how long to stay there, since Hopkins could always still be watching. He could be waiting there for hours. At least he had some time to think.
Did he really just unearth a bridge? Granted it was an old bridge that was probably older than Celestia herself, but did he really just do that? Was he THAT powerful? It must've been the adrenaline, but either way, moving an entire bridge is impressive to say the least.
After getting over his disbelief, he started to come up with a plan for how to escape. First of all, how did he know Hopkins couldn't just swim across?
"You're lucky these holograms can't get wet, otherwise I'd turn you to glue!" Hopkins threatened over the rumbling waterfall.
Well, there was the answer to his first question. Second, he had to know how much Hopkins saw. If he knew every last detail of what Inkblot looked like, he might as well walk in front of his enemy's face and pose for pictures. Recalling all of the information he knew about the human, he inferred that Hopkins would send a report to his boss. Inkblot opened the computer.
The unicorn was back at the Gmail page, ready to continue reading the conversation between Hopkins and Thiessen. It appeared that during their chase, the boss sent a message to his employee while he was giving chase.
"Thiessen: What's going on, Hopkins?"
Inkblot wasn't worried about pings anymore. Hopkins couldn't get to him. In fact, he enjoyed it considering how much they tortured his new enemy.
"You: Found the pony with the laptop. Didn't get a great look, but I know that it's a white unicorn and no cutie mark."
Inkblot's heart skipped a beat as a chill zipped down his spine. His blank flank would be a dead giveaway. Aside from that, it's still pretty vague, so the white unicorn concluded that Hopkins didn't get a good enough look to identify him.
"Thiessen: No cutie mark? So that means it's just a little filly or something, right?"
"You: Not a girl. It's a male. And a strong one, too. Never seen a unicorn move a bridge before."
That was a problem. At first he was given the benefit of the doubt and was considered to be younger, which would take them off the scent, but with power like that, it was obvious he was more grown, and there aren't a lot of adult blank flanks, so he'd stick out like an Ursa Major in Ponyville.
"Thiessen: Holy cow! Do we know where he's going?"
"You: For now, nowhere. My guess is he won't come out from behind the rock until I'm gone. I don't know where he was going in the first place, but I found him on the road to Canterlot from Ponyville. Since he's a Ponyville resident, he's probably gonna go to Canterlot."
"Thiessen: Well you're gonna have to leave soon, cuz we need someone to set up some cameras on a mountain north of Ponyville. Celestia says a dragon might be staying there soon and may stir up some problems."
Inkblot nearly gasped. The princess was working with the humans? She was helping them out even though they're spying on our lives and showing it to their world for their amusement and profit? It was despicable! But he didn't have any more time to think about one of the many things on his catalog of confusing questions. Another message appeared with a "Ping!"
"You: If I do that, he'll get away. When's the latest I can leave?"
"Thiessen: Have them set up by Sunday morning, so judging by the process, I'd recommend leaving tonight."
"You: Judging by the process? I can take a simple shortcut that'll literally take less than an hour to get there. How long does it take to get there and set up cameras?"
"Thiessen: Pretty long considering that we can only drop off the cameras at the last recorded location, which was in Ponyville. They would be dropped off where you are right now, but as you said, we don't have the laptop. Stay the night in Ponyville. It's an order."
"You: Fine. I'll just stay here until then and keep an eye on the rock."
Well, it was good news for the hiding unicorn that Hopkins was going to leave before the night was over, so he didn't need an epic plan to escape unnoticed. But he needed a plan to wait behind the rock for a while, because Hopkins wasn't gonna budge for a while.
It was nighttime in Equestria. Luna's moon was up in the sky and darkness enveloped a majority of the land. There were a few lit places found in Equestria. Most of these areas were towns and cities. One of them was the fire made by Hopkins next to what used to be the bridge. He had been sitting there, watching the rock intently, waiting to identify the white unicorn behind it. The eerie part is that the human didn't move unless perturbed by the world outside his focused mind. He never ate. He never drank. He never went to the bathroom. He just sat there.
Inkblot was still hidden behind the rock, tinkering with the laptop and how the internet worked. Around him were the discarded wrappers of snacks he had used as a substitute for supper. During his prolonged wait behind the boulder, he had learned about how to type and what all of the letter keys did. He wasn't spectacular, but it was a new skill. The pony also learned about websites and the whole "www" thingy. He also found a pinball game, which he played to pass some of the time.
At around midnight, the pony realized that he was starting to feel tired. Even with the bright screen shining in his face, he still felt sleepy and had to fight to stay awake. If he were to fall asleep, then maybe Hopkins would use that opportunity somehow to take away his memory. He couldn't forget Trixie's kiss, so he had to find a way to stay awake. He figured he would try writing a journal entry on the computer using his new half-baked skills. Exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before, he wrote his half-awake ramblings in the Notepad.
today was very interesting to say the least. i had a wicked encounter with the hopkins guy. i think he still might be trying to take my memory, but i put up a good fight and he still doesnt know who i am. but the weird thing is that i moved a whole bridge with my magic, which waa really cool. so long as he isnt there tomorrow ill be off for canterlot. i dont know what ill do w"