Ink Well's stare alternated between the darkness outside and the pony standing at his side. “Space? You mean like with the sun and the moon outer space?”
The Doctor smiled. “Yes!” He then tapped his hoof to his chin, looking around him. “Well, no, not really outer when you're in it. And technically you're on a space ship, a colony ship if I have to guess, Republic design?”
Ink Well saw The Doctor's calm and tried to siphon it, steadying himself and attempting to piece together meaning from everything said and seen. “So these ponies are sleeping on a metal boat sailing through space?”
The Doctor smiled again. “Yep!” Then it faded. “Sort of.” He shook his head. “Not really. The boat concept is a bit simplified, and technically it would be cryogenic stasis and not really sleep, and there's a number of gryphons in here too... but the overall description is,” he poked the air with his hoof and made a popping sound, “bang on!” He patted the metal floor happily. “This ship right under our hooves is hurtling through billions and billions of miles of empty space to reach a tiny bright pinpoint in the universe to land on a planet and expand the Equestrian race.”
Ink Well looked at the pods around him. “But why are they all frozen?”
“Stasis. Not frozen.” The Doctor corrected him before waving the point into obscurity. “Anyway, there simply isn't enough food for them all to be awake. The weight of that alone would never get off of the ground, so in order to make the trip all these ponies and gryphons around us put their lives in somepony else's hooves for who knows how long, trusting to awake on a distant planet and make their future there.” He spun around for a moment looking at the rows upon rows of pods sitting in the cold chamber. “All of these ponies willing to put themselves on the line for the better of their nation... Ah, you ponies are something else.”
Ink Well regarded him suspiciously. “You ponies. You say it like you're not one.”
The Doctor started to walk away. “I'm not.”
Ink Well looked at the brown earth pony standing in front of him, from nose to cutie mark quite clearly a pony. “You sure look like one.”
“Universal equivalence, very complicated concept, not important. Suffice it to say you ponies just happen to look a lot like me, not the other way around.” He stood at an intersection, turning slowly to survey the pods around him. “What is important is a very simple factor. Any guesses?”
Ditzy poked her head around a pod in which the lion tail of a gryphon sat frozen in mid air. “If these are the passengers, where is the crew?”
“Exactly! But if we are to find them, I doubt that this is the room they'd be in. So let's explore!” The Doctor turned on the spot, pointing before him like a compass before settling on an aisle and taking off at a quick pace. The walls of pods stretched off to a distant metal wall, hundreds of them lining this aisle alone while glimpses through crossways and other rows and even stairs leading to an upper level. The Doctor trotted along, ignoring these distractions as he forged ahead, trailing the pegasi behind him.
Ink Well looked over at Ditzy, who seemed to be fascinated in the environment around her as her misaligned eyes scanned both sides of the aisle at once. “Does he do this often?”
Ditzy's eyes returned to roughly center as she looked at him. “Do what?”
“Oh, pick up stray ponies and fly them to strange distant places, smiling all the while?”
Ditzy looked shocked. “The places he chooses aren't just strange. They're amazing! Think about it Ink Well! We are the first ponies to set hoof in space! Relativistically of course. This is a story to tell the grand foals! Oh, I can't wait to see the look on Dinky's face when she finds out!”
“But this is insane! One minute I was watching the opening of my play, and the next minute I was being whisked away while chasing an assassin that had come to get me through time and space!” Ink Well looked at the floor angrily. “There should be some decorum, or at least some warning! But no, here, there, no breaks and no warnings.”
Ditzy looked over at him. “Would you rather not be here?”
Ink Well was taken aback by the question. “Huh?”
Ditzy looked at him earnestly. “Given the choice to leave or follow him, what would you do?”
Ink Well thought back to the roof, how quickly he'd just gone along with it. Barely a moment of hesitation, instantly weighing his show, his career and his safety against some crazy earth pony... And The Doctor had won. Unquestionably. There was just something there... a sureness of motion and yet something infinitely deeper. “I'd follow.”
Ditzy smiled brightly at him. “I did too, and you know what? I've learned to stop questioning and have fun! This chance comes once in a lifetime, don't waste it all by worrying.”
Just then The Doctor made a sharp turn right, causing both ponies to scramble to follow only to almost run into him as he suddenly stopped at a door. He looked at it for a moment, frowning in the red glow coming from the light above it.
Ditzy walked up next to him, seeing his expression. “What's wrong?”
“This is a horrible design. Nothing to open it, no motion sensors, the door locks from the other side. It makes no sense.”
Ditzy shrugged. “Makes sense to me. It's not like any of the sleeping ponies are going to need to go anywhere.”
The Doctor looked at her, still irked. “But that's not the point. Why-”
Ink Well chimed in simultaneously, cutting off The Doctor. “Why is this door locked at all? If anypony on the crew needs to get in, then a lock is a hindrance, and if the door were to close or if somepony were to wake up, they'd be stuck inside.”
“Exactly! Horrible design! I thought bugs like this would be ironed out of the system early, but they stick around for centuries.” The Doctor sighed, pulling his blue tipped pen from his collar with his teeth and pointing it at the door. It whined loudly, and a few moments later the red light turned green, the door sliding open of its own accord with a muted 'whoosh'. With a smile he tossed his pen in the air, letting it land back in his collar as he walked through the door, the other two following behind.
The space behind it held a solid metal corridor two ponies wide with a fair bit of headroom, electric lights above keeping the whole area well lit. There were three doors set far apart along the right wall and two intersections splitting off to the left. Very far opposite was a door matching the one they came out of, though closed. Every door was topped with a red light, a small panel to the right of each door having a matching light set above a horizontal slot.
The door slid shut behind them with the same muted sound, the light switching back to red and sealing the ponies out. Taking that as a cue, The Doctor walked to the nearest door, pulling a little brown leather book from his collar that he flipped open, sliding it through the slot. The light above it blinked green, the door to its left sliding open to let all three ponies peek in. Metal crates were packed into the room, which stretched both high above and back a fair ways. The Doctor nodded, walking away as the door slid shut. “Storage, good to know. You'd think they'd label these things.”
“Well the crew knows its way around,” Ditzy chimed in brightly, “while we get to find out!” Ditzy hopped into the air, going into a spinning turn as she flew ahead and ducked down the first hallway.
“Well said Derpy!” said The Doctor as he followed her, slipping into the corridor behind his companion and leaving Ink Well to trail behind them again as he placed a hoof on the smooth metal wall.
What was this stuff? It wasn't the familiar brass and wood finish of everything back home, it wasn't even the cold steel of the newer buildings. The pods, the halls, the storage space, all the same brushed metal that felt so cold and... sleek. Even the new hospital felt homelier than this place... Ink Well shook the thought from his mind, rounding the bend the others had taken.
The connecting corridor had a curve to it that slipped to the right and out of view, a single door set in either wall. With Ditzy hovering excitedly around him, The Doctor slid his flip book through the slider next to the door on the left, the door immediately sliding open and letting the trio see inside. It was a library, all the walls were lined with dark wood bookshelves filled to bursting, a balcony around the edge creating a second story in a similar state. Hanging from the center of the ceiling was a banner, a silver star set within a crescent moon, two silver-edged blue wings extending from the moon's edge and all sitting on an alternating navy and blue field. Beneath it was more shelving, filling the center of the ground floor and resting upon blue and silver carpeting that ran the entire room, all of it radiating from a stone statue that dominated the space. It was an aged stallion in royal finery posed nobly, chin held high, wings outstretched. Within the crook of his foreleg was a book, within his mouth a fountain pen, and on his face was determination, his eyes seemingly bright and boundless despite his age. Upon his head was perched a tattered fedora, far out of place from the rest of his clothing.
All three entered the room, Ink Well and Ditzy awe struck by the statue while The Doctor seemed far more interested in the literary splendor around him. “Books! Actual paper books, in space! And is that carpeting? Oh I like whoever built this ship!” He sprinted off to the side, walking excitedly down the bookshelves and immediately lost among them.
Both pegasi ignored him for the moment, instead approaching the statue. Ink Well looked up at the face while Ditzy focused on the writing carved around the base.
“One Source, Endless Possibilities.” she read aloud, causing Ink Well to look at her curiously. She smiled, looking up at the statue again. “Inspiring words.”
Ink Well walked over to the plaque at the bottom, reading it for himself. “How does he...” Beneath the first phrase there was more, which he read aloud. “In memory of the First Arbiter, bringer of peace between the nations.” He looked puzzled. “Who is this pony? Is there a name written anywhere?”
Ditzy circled the statue, examining it carefully. “Nope. Just that. And his clothes cover up a cutie mark, so we don't even get that for a hint.”
Ink Well took a few steps back, taking in the entire piece. “How did he quote what's carved on the bottom of my ink pot?”
The Doctor came back at that moment, a pillar of books piled unsteadily on his back and another gripped in his mouth while yet another book was balanced on one forehoof as he attempted to read and walk at the same time. “Look at this!” he said, dropping the book betwixt his teeth. “Actual analogue books in space! Such a waste of energy for such a noble cause! There's nothing like a good book on a long trip. The smell, the feel, the adventure, nothing like 'em.”
Ink Well kept looking at the statue in puzzlement, his mind on other things than books. “Doctor, who is this pony?”
The Doctor looked at the statue as though noticing it for the first time. “Oh! Him? Well what does the plaque say?”
Ditzy shrugged, landing next to him. “It doesn't give a name. Just says he's the 'First Arbiter,' whatever that is.”
“Then that's who he is!” The Doctor tossed the book on his hoof to the side, picking another off the pile and flipping through it quickly.
Ink Well wasn't satisfied with the answer. “But peace between the nations? What nations? Do I know him? Because why else does he-?”
The Doctor cut him off, tossing his latest read aside. “Ink Well, when you read, do you skip straight to the last page?”
Ink Well's brain skipped a thought, jarred by the sudden topic change. “Of course not, but what does that-?”
“Asking a time traveler about the future is like skipping to the end of a book: all that's there are spoilers and words that ruin the experience.” The Doctor took the last book off of his back, flipping through it in one swoop before placing it in the pile he'd made beside him. “Besides, you'll know soon enough. He springs up in your lifetime.” The Doctor looked around the room, eyes tracing the spines of the many books surrounding them. “But we aren't here for a history lesson, we're here for a crew! Come on, next room!”
Ink Well motioned to the room around him. “I think I'll just stay here for a moment, try to-”
“No you won't.” The Doctor grabbed him up like a tornado, whisking both he and Ditzy from the room and back into the hallway. “Books are wonderful on a trip, but we're not traveling yet, we're on a mission! There will be plenty of time for reading later.” As if to emphasize his point the door shut behind him, blocking the view of the mystery stallion with solid metal once more. As soon as that happened The Doctor stepped up to the door opposite the library one, opening it and offering the pegasi entrance. Flustered by his denial Ink Well entered, jaw dropping at the sight within.
Within the sleek interior was what could only be described as a park, the metal walls giving way to vines and flowers while the center of the room became filled with trees and bushes of all sizes and types, some perfectly recognizable while others were quite alien. Metal flooring instantly became smooth stone and dirt and grass, taking with it all the previous accusations of coldness. The room itself was tear shaped, a door set into the point and two opposite each other while the walls curved around the perimeter, each lined with small glass containers containing delicate looking flowers and ferns, most unlike any Ink Well had ever seen. Set into the center of the room was a beautiful marble statue of Princess Luna reared up and mid-declaration. Beneath it was, standing free from the stone of the rest of the statue was a silver version of her cutie mark with an added star in the center and wings extended form the edges, matching the crest hanging in the library. She was scarcely changed at all from how he'd seen her back at the opening, only a slight change in the princess regalia suggesting a raise in status to that of Celestia's wear. Yet even Luna's impressive visage couldn't hold a candle to the sight behind it.
It was a tree of solid crystal with a brown-tinted angular trunk that grew nearly fifty feet to the ceiling, a glass dome showing the passing stars and asteroids outside. The tree was set on its own island, crystal clear water surrounding the hexagram base. Triangular branches led to green-tinted perfectly square leaves adorning the tree's crown, with pentagonal flowers coming in every every shade and tone of the rainbow, varying from perfectly clear and see-through to an almost black fully opaque violet. Shining down from the edges of the dome were lights, each of them pointing through the slightly transparent leaves and bathing the entire room in a light green, while the lights that fell on flowers spotted the floor with color. Within the trunk swirled a rainbow liquid, flowing like water from the leaves throughout the entirety of its body. From the canopy hung rainbow vines of varying length, from the ends of which grew spherical bulbs that glowed with their own light, radiating a golden sunny light that suffused the room.
Ink Well was drawn to the bulbs like moth to a flame, entranced by the glow as he slowly hovered towards it. The Doctor gently grabbed his hoof, pulling him back to the floor. “Like it? Flora Arbor Pomum Crystallinus, The Crystal Apple Tree. Well, 'plant tree fruit of crystal' if you want to translate directly, but that doesn't flow nearly as well. It operated by splitting magic from light. The magic is stored within various parts, different components of spectra used in different parts of the tree, while the light passes through, creating rainbows from saplings while older ones create the leaf and flower patterns like this one. Excess magic is stored in the fruit of the tree and can be used as a light source, a power source, or a spell in the right hooves.” He smiled, jumping over to the island and tapping the tree trunk appreciatively with his hoof. “Marvelous bit of nature there. A worthy symbol of the New Lunar Republic nearly as important to them as their crest.”
Ditzy piped up from next to the Luna statue where she was reading the plaque. “In the name of The New Lunar Republic? Who are they?”
“Ah! That's a good question, though...” The Doctor thought about it for a moment, casting a furtive glance at Ink Well before continuing. “Ah, a bit of history wouldn't hurt. In the future there will be an Alliance comprised of two nations: the New Lunar Republic, led by Princess Luna, and the Solar Empire, led by Princess Celestia. When the world became full, both nations expanded to the stars, the Lunar Republic having an edge because they started sooner, but both claiming millions of planets in their name throughout multiple galaxies on colony ships like this one. For the Republic the tradition is to plant a crystal tree at the start of the voyage and center the new colony around it when they land, helping with atmosphere both within the ship and on the new planet if the air isn't quite right. Judging by the size of this one I'd say they started... ten years ago?” He looked around the room, slightly puzzled. “That's a fairly long trip for a ship at this tech level. Most land within two...”
He jumped back from the island to the main part of the room, landing next to Ditzy. “You know, there is a funny story about the crystal tree. It's the only one to be found on two separate celestial bodies, one on Earth and then many older specimens on the far side of the moon. It's believed that they originated there as a construct of Nightmare Moon, then migrated on a meteor to...” He and Ditzy walked around the room, The Doctor talking and Ditzy listening in fascination as they moved around the rest of the room examining the other plants.
Meanwhile Ink Well was left behind once more, eyes locked on the tree as he pulled out his notebook and tried to somehow sketch the beauty before him in simple ink, even words failing him at the moment. As he did, a fragrance caught his nose, sweeter than anything he had ever smelled, with notes of complexity that boggled the mind with their sharpness, an almost angularity to the scent. It was beautiful, the smell of pure air through the filter of floral nature, somehow far more alluring than even perfume. If only Rose could recreate this she would...
“Rose...” Ink Well's mind stopped mid thought, his pen dropping onto his notebook as he stared at the incredible plant before him. Here he was in the future on an amazing adventure, seeing something nopony had ever seen before, and who was he with? Was it the pony he loved, the one who'd been by his side for a year now supporting him through both good times and bad? No, it was a walleyed mailmare and some alien, if that was to be believed. He hadn't even thought of her once before now, left behind in the assault and forgotten in the strangeness of everything. And it was a smell that brought her back to him, like she was just some perfumer, nothing more...
Ink Well kicked himself inwardly. What was wrong with him today? First the time change without even asking her and now missing all of this? Well, he could never bring it up. It was a story nopony would believe, one that would have to be sold as a fiction even without any embellishments. But that was the beauty of it! Something like this should have been shared. Now it'd just be some wild tale of his, not even a souvenir except for his little notebook...
Unless... He looked up at the tree, the many flowers high above glittering in the ambient light. While it wouldn't change the situation, perhaps a fragrant little piece of proof could provide the evidence needed and the inspiration missed. It wouldn't begin to make up for her missing this, but it could at least be a start.
Ink Well looked around, seeing The Doctor happily pointing out the various plants to Ditzy while she looked truly fascinated and supplied little inputs and queries. Neither had seemed to notice that he wasn't with them, not for the first time, either. But, seeing they were distracted, Ink Well stealthily flapped to the back of the tree, out of sight of the pair. He flew around the pointed base, marveling how the crystal seemed both so lively and so solid, gnarled like a tree while maintaining somehow the smoothness and crispness of a gem. Reaching the top he scanned the crystal canopy, smiling as his eyes fell upon what he was looking for: a single perfectly clear flower glistening in the light, it's pentagonal petals emitting the sharp, titillating smell directly to him. This close it was amazing, so strong that he was sure he'd be overwhelmed had he not been living with the constant smells of the distillery. For all the pleasantness of the result, it was sometimes amazing the levels of stench that room could reach...
Clearing his head of the wonderful scent he tilted forward carefully, wing beats steady as he tried to keep his body motionless in the air. It looked as though a single would shatter the delicate beauty before him, so sudden movements were being avoided at all costs. But in the back of his mind he felt the duo could miss him any second, and this caused him to urge himself past his care. Gently he let his teeth close around the stem, a small amount of the surprisingly spicy-sweet sap slipping onto his tongue as it gave way to the pressure, both soft like a normal plant but rigid and brittle like glass. Would it snap if he pulled, or would it gently give? A cut mouth was not something he was looking forward to. Slowly he changed his wing's motion, hovering backward and hoping for the best.
Through the vast emptiness of space floated the colony ship, twisting slowly as it approached the dark little yellow and green planet orbiting the nearest star. It was still millions of miles away on a relatively slow approach, but in a few hours they would converge, it's decade long mission finally ending. Surrounding the strange ship were thousands of asteroids, ranging in size from the smallest pebble to the largest continents as they pirouetted through the void, each moving in a seemingly chaotic pattern that the ship's path managed to thread between, its spin keeping a comfortable space between it and the rocks.
It would have been impossible for the ship's sensors to see the electromagnetic spike against the radiation pouring off the blazing star, the blip of light on the asteroid easily attributable to a million different causes. And the slight variation in the path of the room-sized rock seemed normal enough, despite the lack of any impact seeming to cause it. Yet on the face of the celestial boulder, standing firm within a crater, there seemed to be a tiny metal figure, its eyes firmly affixed to the fast approaching hull. Were it alive there would have been a slight tingle as it passed through the shields. Instead a satisfied whirr traveled through the newly entered atmosphere, the sound suddenly appearing from the vacuum moments before rock and ship collided.
The entire ship rocked, the tree itself jumping to the side. Ink Well's heart skipped as he reached for the suddenly free falling flower, grabbing it gently by the stem out of the air. He quickly placed it in the pocket of his jacket, dodging the still shaking tree branches and the tinkling leaves as he bolted to the floor below. By the time he landed the entire room was bathed in a red glow, a klaxon blaring in the distance. He rounded the tree, running to The Doctor and about to ask him a question when a voice echoed throughout the room seemingly from nowhere.
“Would the three stowaways in the terrarium kindly report to the north exit?” the mare's voice calmly asked. “You are to be escorted to the bridge. The captain has some questions for you.”
When the voice was silent and the only noise was the distant klaxon, Ditzy interrupted Ink Well to ask his question. “Doctor, what's going on?”
The Doctor looked not confused, but not entirely sure of the situation. “It felt like we hit something.” He grinned happily. “I suppose we'll find out more once we get to the bridge now won't we Derpy?”
Ditzy grinned back, nodding. “I suppose we will, Doctor.”
Ink Well saw the knowing smile they gave each other and just felt out of the loop, these two ponies oddly grinning in the face of danger just adding to reasons why he wished for additional company. “So... we're complying?”
The Doctor nodded, walking to the door set at the point of the tear and opening it while he talked back to the inquiring pegasus. “Of course! What kind of doctor would I be if I didn't help ponies in need?” He turned around, stopped short by an olive green earth pony in a sharp navy blue jacket outfit with gold bar epaulettes. “Oh! Hello. We were just going to-”
An electric whine pierced the room, focused from a set of small, wicked looking cannons strapped to the pony's sides. She gave the trio a stern look, going over them individually with red eyes protected by the black brim of her kepi. “No sudden movements you three. You're coming with me.” Both her lapel and the front of her hat were emblazoned, her chest with a multicolored array in a block and her hat with the New Lunar Republic crest. On each of her front shoulders were two silver point chevrons, gleaming in the harsh corridor light.
The Doctor took a step forward. “Well we were abo-”
The earth pony leaped back, adjusting the aim on her weapon. “I said no movements!”
The Doctor froze in place, his hoof mid-step. He frowned. “It's going to be very difficult to go with you if we can't move.”
The armed pony huffed, settling down slightly. “Right. Then come out slowly. No. Sudden. Motions. Got it?”
The Doctor nodded and walked calmly into the hall, followed by Ditzy, who, despite her best efforts, just couldn't seem to quite get her hooves in line, weaving slowly to the side and stepping in a cadence that visibly put the earth pony further on edge. Ink Well was last to exit, taking great care while falling into line behind the other two. The door slid closed behind him and he watched with nervous interest as the earth pony strafed behind behind them, her body never orienting in a way that aimed the cannons even a sliver of an inch away.
“March!” The order was resolute and commanding, which made it that much more noticeable when the trio didn't move. Ink Well shifted unsteadily, mentally urging The Doctor to let him walk away from the weapon he could feel itching to fire at him. He glanced back, seeing a very disgruntled face glaring at him. “What's the hold up?”
The Doctor looked back, a worried look on his face. “It appears I don't know where we are marching to. I can't very well lead the group if-”
The olive pony was having none of it, shouting loud enough to make Ink Well wince. “It's the door at the end of the hall, now MARCH!”
The Doctor held up a placating hoof. “Okay. Settle down, I got it.” He began to trot forward, keeping a steady pace that the others were able to fall in line with, creating a parade down the metal corridor. There were a number of doors set into either wall, the ones on the right very close together, almost more like access hatches than proper doors. Each step fell in unison with a muted 'clink' apart from those of the blonde pegasus, marching out a syncopated rhythm all their own.
Despite the calm radiating off The Doctor, Ink Well was feeling none of it. Perhaps it was the weapon he could feel aiming for the back of his head, but this didn't bode well for him, and he didn't like it. He couldn't help but wish himself back at the theater in the nice comfy cushion, the applause wafting up from below as the second act started, the whole attempt on his life forgotten. Nothing worthwhile would have been missed. Not even a good story. What kind of story starts with being taken prisoner on a ship anyway? Actually, that's a bad question, a lot of them do, but those all called for a daring escape he really wasn't equipped for, and something told him the guard behind him wasn't the kind to leave the keys on a nearby table and fall asleep.
The footstep's echoes altered as they neared the end of the hallway, the acoustics changing with the upcoming wall. As they approached the double doors set into the back wall they slid open, two ponies rushing past them and down the hall, an orange earth pony and a zebra, both with tool saddlebags and navy blue caps and ascots, the hats emblazoned with the NLR crest. They ran past the marching quartet, only acknowledging their presence by being sure not to collide with them. The four continued on, traveling through the newly vacated frame.
The view before them was dominated by the void outside. Asteroids tumbled every which way around the ship, each lit by the glaring sun that filled the left side of the window, while in the center rotated a small yellow and green sphere. Around the edges of the window ran numbers and calculations, red arcs appearing and flickering on screen for mere moments before turning green and disappearing.
“Starcall. Atmosphere still holding up?” The voice came from a grand, high backed seat upon a raised platform in the center of the room. A dusty red mane flowed around the edge, but the chair back was all that was visible.
“Yes captain. The hull breach is minor, the shields can hold it while repairs come. Small asteroid collision, one the computer must have missed.” This voice came from a pony in a navy blue shirt on the right side of the room, two long, thin violet ears poking from a shocking blue mane.
A deep rose red hoof clad in a black shoe extended from the chair, pointing to a collection of ponies on the left side of the room. “Right then! Fi, you take over support. I believe the visitors are here.”
“Yes ma'am!” said a yellow unicorn in a navy neckerchief, a tool saddlebag, and a soft hat similar to the olive pony's hat if it were to relax. She saluted, turning to a panel in the wall and speaking into a grille in it.
The door closed behind the entering party. “Halt!” called the pony behind Ink Well, causing the three to stop. The armed pony continued. “Captain! I have brought you the saboteurs!”
“Oh, they are hardly saboteurs, but they are stowaways, so for them I have a simple question.” The chair in the center of the room swiveled, revealing a large deep rose red pony that filled the entire seat. She surveyed The Doctor and his companions with emerald eyes, a stern look coming from beneath a navy blue peaked cap, the NLR crest displayed proudly amongst silver trimming. Around her neck was a matching ascot, a silver four bar chevron at the tie point. However, all of this was overshadowed by a very important detail.
Sitting in the chair before them was an alicorn, the only one Ink Well knew of that wasn't either of the princesses. Her wings were folded carefully at her side, her horn glowing a soft green, though what her magic was focused on seemed unapparent. She had a dusty orange mane with swirling patches of dark red and light yellow collecting and dispersing, waving from its own mystic breeze. Within the long amorphous mane were brilliant points of light, bleeding through the dust from at once a million miles away and a hair's breadth away. Upon her flank shone a pink dust cloud in the shape of a pony's head.
The alicorn leaned forward in her chair, raising an inquisitive eyebrow. “What are you three doing on my ship?”