Sky Pirate Pip and the Dreaded Dreadnought
Die Großartige und Mächtige Trixieburg
Chapter 1: An eye for an eye, a life for the hay of it.
What a lovely day. The clouds were low and fluffy in the cool morning air of late winter, making for excellent concealment. The snow on the mountaintops reflected the morning sunlight, drawing stark contrast to the teeming jungle below.
"Captain, I found something."
The eastern everfree, between Equestria and Greif, had only gone everfree a few decades ago. The weather was usually a bit less chaotic than it was over the everfree forest that bordered Equestria to the west. The mountains and spring esque cloud cover made stealth vastly easier for prowling pirates.
A small wedge of geese flew far below the C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen. The soft, blissful song of long range scanning drifted aimlessly around the bridge. It was a perfect day to just sit back and rel-
“Captain!" The high pitched shout shattered his blissful revery like a buck to the gut.
“What?” the captain replied, a bit more harshly than he intended, straightening up out of his lazy slouch into a more proper sitting position.
"I found something," his slender, marshmallowy first mate reiterated.
"Where is it?" he asked, straightening his white visor cap.
“It's at... fifteen degrees to port...” his first mate said distractedly, amplifying the magic around her horn and gesturing with a hoof in the general direction of what she had found. “About two leagues out, eighty fathoms down... medium sized... can't tell the make yet.” She opened her eyes and looked to her pinto captain. “Your orders, sir?”
Hmm, a mid sized airship of unknown make over the everfree mountains... “Can you get a trajectory, Sweetie?” It could be a freighter, or it could be a cruiser. The last thought put him a bit on edge but an opportunity is an opportunity.
“Yes, Sir. Bearing... west by northwest, about seven knots.” She paused, shifting the resonance of her magic. “It has a strangely low mass... and I'm detecting a latent magic signature. It feels like an environmental control spell, maybe a weak force field too.”
Low mass, magical environmental control... a pleasure yacht? “Apple Bloom,” he called into the arcane echo relay connecting him to the rest of the ship, “bring us ten degrees to port, all ahead three quarters.” This demanded investigation, even if their only fighter pilot was still on an ammo run. If it was some poor sod out on a cruise this could be quite profitable.
“Aye, Capm,” came the drawling response, “ten to port and three quarter speed.” Before she had even finished talking, the C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen lurched forward and began to turn, moving through a cloud bank.
As the ship broke through the clouds the other ship came into view. It was a sky whale class yacht. Its envelope was designed to resemble an actual whale with the gondola, resembling a seafaring yacht, suspended below. Such open designs were not a common sight in any region of everfree. “Sweetie Belle, do you recognize the markings?”
“Yes, Captain,” Sweetie sneered, “it's the H.M.A.S. Glänzend Schicksal,” the hate in her voice was palpable. “Blue Blood.” This was the same aristocrat who Sweetie claimed ruined her elder sisters fashion career. She had been on a warpath for two months after he escaped their last encounter, and she would rather eat meat then let him get away again.
Pip walked over to Sweetie Belle and put a hoof on her shoulder. “We can't do anything until Scootaloo gets back,” he said, trying to reign in her spite a bit. “We just don’t have the firepower to compete with him on fair terms.”
It was true, that unassuming little yacht had the firepower of a frigate and the range of a dreadnaught. Its only major weaknesses were light armor and the fact that guns that heavy simply can't track fast enough for an ace pilot, like Scootaloo, to care.
“Capm Pip, Scoots' back,” came a crackling squawk from the malfunctioning hangar relay. The clanking of the catcher gantry announced the fighter’s arrival.
“Excellent timing. Get her refueled and ready to fly,” Pip commanded. “We’ve got a busy morning ahead of us.”
“Your scotch, Sir.” You can never sound like too much of a snob on the Glänzend Schicksal, not for Blue Blood.
“Took you long enough, Henry,” Blue Blood said condescendingly, snatching the drink out of the air with his magic.
“Very good, Sir.” One day, Blue Blood, one day you won't be paying somepony enough and they’re going to stab you in the face. Maybe today. And my name is not. Flipping. HENRY! Cosmic Odyssey thought to himself, feeling degraded and insulted again.
He walked off, nose in the air, and silently wished death on Blue Blood while pouring himself a glass of absinthe which he sipped in as poncy a manner as he could manage without sickening himself.
He noticed somepony obfuscated by some sort of invisibility spell sneaking by with a disappointing lack of snobbery. “Good luck,” he whispered to the phantasm. May your blade strike true and your nerves never faultier... and please don’t stab me.
“Henry! Where's that whore we bought?” Blue Blood was always a bit crass for an aristocrat.
Preparing to assassinate you, Sir. “Below decks, Sir. I'll go fetch her for you,” and I'll be taking your emergency escape pod for a spin.
Perched on a cloud overlooking the Glänzend Schicksal, a gray pegasus adjusted her polarized goggles nervously.
“Are you ready, Muffin?” she asked her daughter, a little lavender unicorn. “We only get one chance. I don’t want Ruby to get hurt.”
“Ready, Mommy,” Dinky replied, magically cocking her custom built, belt fed, hoof held, anti aircraft machine gun which she wielded as if it was a service rifle.
She settled herself into the tail gunner's saddle, also custom made, that was strapped to her mother’s withers, in front of her wings. With a spark of magic she activated the saddle's localized gravity and inertial damping glyphs. Without that magic her weapon's recoil would easily knock them out of the sky.
Out of the corner of her eye Dinky caught a glimpse of something behind another cloud bank. “Mom, wait; what's that?” she called, halting their takeoff before it could even begin.
Ditzy looked back again as a cloud gave way to another airship. This one was more traditional in design, having the gondola integrated into the bottom of the envelope. Relatively small and painted sky blue, it would have been difficult to spot if it had a height advantage.
What? Why can't anything ever be simple? “Send them a narrow beam echo,” she said urgently. “Say 'you are entering a battle zone. Please turn back. You are in danger'.”
“Okay, Mommy.” Dinky concentrated, her horn projecting an invisible thread of magic to the bridge of the new arrival. She silently mouthed the message and waited for a response before turning back. “They said there gonna help us.”
“Captain, we have a rogue agent,” Sweetie Belle said with urgency. “Somepony else is launching an attack on Blue Blood as we speak.” Hesitation filled the bridge for a long moment. “It felt like Dinky.”
It took a moment for that to sink in. Then Pip had a plan. “Scootaloo, we have allies in the field. Use discretion. Apple Bloom, take us up and over and get us a good vantage. Sweetie Belle, tell Dinky the C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen will be providing one fighter to act as cover while you execute your plan.”
“Alright!” Scootaloo shouted as she released the docking clamp and dropped out of the hangar. She flexed her wings in the control armatures to steal some of gravity's power for her own forward momentum. “Lets bring. The. RAIN!”
“Captain, Dinky says they have an assassin on board,” Sweetie Belle communicated.
“Scootaloo, we have a friendly on deck, I repeat, friendly on deck. Hold rockets, I say again, hold rockets.” Well, there goes the dang plan.
“You got it, boss!” Scoot replied, aligning herself for the first run.
If they have somepony in there then we'll have to get Ditzy in so she can get them out before we can drop the ship, Pip thought over folded hooves. If memory serves the Glänzend Schicksal has a directional force field. I can work with that.
“Sweetie, tell them our fighter is away,” Pip commanded. “Have them approach from the stern while Scoot diverts the force field.”
“Scootaloo,” he called into the echo relay. “begin your run amid ship and forward. We need to divert their attention.”
“Gotcha!” Scootaloo acknowledged, somewhat confused.
Be careful out there, Scoots.
Checking her surroundings, Scootaloo noticed a tiny gray speck approaching her target. That must be the ally Pip mentioned, she mused, pushing her goggles up so she could see better. How is one free flying pegasus supposed to help... Assassin extraction! Okay that makes sense; I'm supposed to be diverting the force field so she can get in, and again to get her out.
Satisfied with her new understanding of Pip's incredibly vague orders, Scoot pulled her goggles back into place and adjusted her secondaries, raising the lower wings of her biplane and drifting a bit to the side for a better angle.
Ditzy came in low and aft of the Glänzend Schicksal. Keeping one eye forward and one on the approaching fighter, literally. Since when did he have a force field? She silently grumbled to herself. If her timing was off by more than a second she would slam right into the field, and that would ruin her whole day. I'm glad they came by when they did.
The fighter was unusual to say the least. Painted in a garish red, it stood out in the sky like a sore hoof. Its four fully articulated wings, set near the rear, gave it a distinct silhouette. The lack of any vertical stabilizers, like a tail fin, gave it a sleek, birdlike profile.
Its oversized, rear mounted engine made it incredibly vulnerable if you could get behind it, but if the stories were to be believed (which is a hotly debated topic among R.A.N. trainees.) getting behind the Baron von Awesome was almost as dangerous as being in front of her.
Before the crew of the Glänzend Schicksal had time to realize something was awry Scootaloo opened fire, the sextet of nose mounted machineguns peppered the force field, making it shimmer bright blue and, more importantly, divert energy toward her and away from Ditzy.
The moment Ditzy passed through the fields standoff distance Scoot pulled up into a totally unnecessary roll, skimming the zeppelin’s envelop close enough to see her reflection on the force field's surface.
Down on the deck of the Glänzend Schicksal Ruby Pinch was startled almost enough by the sudden barrage to make her drop her obfuscation spell. She watched briefly as some unknown fighter, presumably an ally, assailed the ship and Ditzy popped up over the stern. Evidently the plan was moving forward faster than projected. Dang it, dang it, dang it! I need to move faster!
She dropped her stealth and sprinted through the shocked and confused crowd of ponies on the deck propelled by pops and snaps of kinetic magic.
Leaping off of a table for extra attitude she finally caught a glimpse of her mark, Blue Blood. With a kinetic snap she launched herself over several intervening ponies and a railing, only to be intercepted by a guard pegasus. Another pop sent him careening into the bottom of the envelope and Ruby shot back toward the deck. She wrapped herself in an antifriction shell, glanced off a hapless bystander, and slid past another guard. One last snap and she vaulted over her final obstacle.
Blue Blood looked up at Ruby with the most classic 'oh horse apples' expression conceivable: one foreleg raised in a futile and somewhat girly attempt at defense, mouth hanging open, and wide, slightly misaligned eyes. Ruby twisted through the air to face her target and cast her final spell, Flash-bang.
A wall of blinding light flooded the front half of the Glänzend Schicksal and a thunderous boom shook the air. Some of the ponies unlucky enough to be near the edge stumbled blindly over the railing and a couple pegasi careened into the deck and force field. Those within a small radius of Ruby, however, fell to the deck; crippling brain seizures rendering them completely immobile.
Scootaloo rolled into a split-s, flipping upside down and pulling up (down) into another run, peppering the shield once again. Barely a second into the run a bright flash erupted from the prow of her target, temporarily blinding her and forcing her to veer off to avoid colliding with the ship.
Ditzy folded her ears back and cupped them with her hooves to protect them from the bang, which mostly worked, and her eyes were saved by her polarized goggles. That, at least, had gone according to plan.
She snatched Ruby out of the air with her forelegs and banked into a wide circle around Blue Blood, giving Dinky a good three seconds of concentrated machine gun fire, nearly drilling a hole through the ship. After the deed was thoroughly done Dinky raked the inside of the field, diverting it to make their escape.
When her eyes finally cleared, Scootaloo found herself plummeting toward the ground. Spinning and pulling up she managed to turn the dive into a spiral, then a circle, and finally a wide, arcing climb.
From her new vantage Scootaloo could see Ditzy flying down and under the Glänzend Schicksal, trying to make her escape through its blind spot. She could also see that two fighters had launched and were now turning to engage her and that the hulking guns of the zeppelin had begun to move. Aw crud.
She twisted her wings back in the control armatures, sweeping the fighter's wings back, and hit her favorite button. It was a little red button with a rainbow lightning bolt painted next to it, the turbo button.
With a metallic bang and a thunderous roar Scoot's fighter surged forward, closing the distance between her and the other fighters in moments. She managed to catch one of them by surprise, cutting the tail off with a stream of machinegun fire before she overshot it.
As she passed, she finally got her first good look at her mysterious ally. Ditzy, of all ponies, was carrying Ruby in her legs and had Dinky sitting on her back wielding a huge gun. Now that she looked, the other fighter had some scattered bullet holes in it, presumably from Dinky who seemed to be having a bit more trouble aiming now that the enemy was in front of them.
Scootaloo wrenched her wings forward, giving the fighter's wings a strong forward sweep, and leaned her body back, tilting the canards up and snapping the fighter around to face down again, achieving a moment of weightlessness before she began to dive.
Unfortunately, the other aviator was now aware of her and wouldn’t prove nearly as easy as his wingpony. Fortunately, that was just how Scootaloo liked it.
Her target had turned away from the zeppelin, flying in a lazy arc towards the optimal range of its heavy guns. Too bad for him Scootaloo had no intention of falling for such an obvious trap.
She banked away from the zeppelin then back in, getting an easy shot at the gondola. She fired a feedback rocket at the mid deck, turned and fired another at the fore deck.
The rockets hit their marks, hazy purple clouds of magic spreading out from the glyph covered spikes embedded in the ship. Any unicorns unfortunate enough to be using magic in the clouds caught bolts of dark magic to their horns and fell to to their knees, screaming from the magical overload of returned spells. More importantly, all the magitech was similarly assailed, catching fire or simply exploding from the rapid charging and discharging.
The escort fighter seemed to notice that his plan had failed when he heard the thunderous detonation of the force field generator. Looking out the side of the cockpit he was treated to an unobstructed view of the Glänzend Schicksal's gondola being split in half by the full force of the magical battery overloading with the magical re-feed from the fully charged mane guns. For the love of Celestia's naughty lingerie! How can pirates afford feedback nails!?
Scootaloo banked away from the blast, bringing herself back around to face her opponent. Her target seemed to notice this and accelerated, flexing his plane's more rigid mono wings slightly up and forward in a vain attempt to make up the disparagement in maneuverability.
They both opened fire at the same time, and both dodged every bullet. They passed at blinding speed, the silver fuselage of the escort reminded Scootaloo of a big fish.
Predicting an Immelmann turn, Scootaloo banked hard right. She was almost right, rather than pulling straight up he had pitched up and left, putting the less maneuverable interceptor on the outside of their double loops and high enough to stay out of her field of fire.
Scoot rolled over, banking hard left. The interceptor continued his arc, decelerating and tightening his turn, bringing him into a close pursuit.
Scootaloo rolled back to a right turn, descending slightly to gain speed. Knowing he couldn’t outmaneuver her, the interceptor pulled up and right into a high yo-yo, just like Scoot wanted.
She subtly tilted her primaries and secondaries in opposite directions, twisting the leading edges of her plane's wing towards each other just enough to make a bit more drag, slowing her almost imperceptibly, but enough to put her behind her adversary as he finished his turn.
Suddenly aware of just how thoroughly outmatched he was the interceptor broke off into a series of defensive zigzags heading back towards the Glänzend Schicksal at full speed. Scoot turned to pursue but she had a lot of air to cover of she wanted to catch her much faster opponent.
The interceptor flew around behind the zeppelin, using it as cover. Scoot knew his game, he was faking an escape attempt but was really using the obstacle to limit her maneuverability.
Not today, Scoot thought with a grin. The shield was down and she had an incendiary rocket just begging to be put into the envelope. She was a good bit closer than was generally recommended but she still had plenty of space with how maneuverable her plane was.
The rocket pierced the side of the envelope and delivered its payload: hundreds of tiny, burning shards of magnesium. When detonated inside a zeppelins envelope this model of rocket would almost always take it down. What Scootaloo hadn't counted on was the wall of ghostly, blue fire and burning zeppelin that slammed into her with huge explosive force, very nearly knocking her out of the sky.
“Scootaloo!” it was Pip's voice “Scootaloo, are you okay!?” Scoot tried to wipe the ash off of her goggles, managing enough to watch as the wind extinguished the fire from her hoof. “Scootaloo, please respond!”
She found the echo button after some searching. “I'm-” she was cut off by a short coughing fit, “I'm here,” she wheezed. “Where are you? Everything’s all blurry.”
“What the hay just happened?” Apple Bloom's voice assaulted Pip from the echo.
“Get us down there!” Pip commanded. “Scoot's in trouble!”
“General hail. This is the C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen. We require immediate medical assistance. Any medical vessels please respond... General hail. This is the C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen. We require immediate medical assistance. Any medical vessels please respond... General hail...” Sweetie Belle droned on, as she had for the past... however long it had been. Time seemed vague when shock set in.
Pulling the fighter into the hangar's suspended gantry had been relatively easy with three unicorns, but getting Scootaloo out of it was far more difficult; the fuselage was extremely hot and the copper control armatures clamped to Scootaloo's wings were actually glowing.
Ditzy had had to lift Sweetie Belle over the fighter so she could telekinetically detach the buckles and straps and lift Scoot out of the smoking cockpit.
Now Scootaloo lay on a blanket at the base of the Gravity lift, no longer smoking, but unconscious.
“...This is the C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen. We require immediate medical assistan-” Sweetie Belle was cut off by a crackling from the echo.
“Attention C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen,” a stern voice began. “This is Captain Red Heart of the Equestrian Royal Air Navy vessel Flattern Schüchtern. We have received your distress call and are willing to help.”
This could get uncomfortable fast, the R.A.N. isn't exactly fond of privateers, but we're out of options. “Attention Flattern Schüchtern, this is Captain Pipsqueak of the C.M.C. Regenbogen Flitzen. We have a burn victim who is in need of urgent care. We are prepared for docking.”
The ship came into view, slowly rounding a nearby mountain. A massive yellow zeppelin floating in a cloud of what must have been thousands of birds. A big red cross was painted on the side behind a trifecta of pink butterflies. Windows dotted the lower third, and the upper portion seemed to glow from within. It was like a vision from Dream Valley, the great plane in the sky.
“Captain Pipsqueak, we have your vessel flagged as suspect.” Red Heart announced. “Will you submit to an inspection?”
“Ma'am, we need help fast. Do as you will.” The huge ship closed in, looming over Pip's much smaller vessel and eclipsing the sun, casting everything in its yellow luminance.
“Acknowledged, we are sending the doctor ahead to collect the patient.” A team of four pegasi emerged from the bottom of the colossus, flying quickly to recover the patient.
Luna, let it be Fluttershy, Pip prayed, Oh Luna, please let them be friendly.
Almost as an answer to his silent plea the legendary pegasus flew up through the hangar bay door. She looked like a buttery angel wrapped in sunlight. Though that could have just been Pips relief.
“Oh my goodness, what happened?” she asked rhetorically as she set down beside the now long unconscious Scootaloo. “Oh dear. Sunny Days, Rain dancer, get the stretcher ready, we need to get her to intensive care. Mister Hammerhead, these are personal friends of mine, the inspection won't be necessary.” The nurse pegasi already had Scootaloo on the stretcher and halfway out by the time Fluttershy finished speaking.
“Thank you, Fluttershy. Thank you so much,” Pip said emphatically, desperately trying to hold back his tears. “I can't express my gratitude enough.”
“Mister Pipsqueak, you can thank me when she can breathe again.” And with that she was gone, and Pip was crying, hooves over his eyes.
“How could this happen? How could I let this happen!?” Pip yelled at the walls of the hangar. “I'm the captain, the bucking captain! It's my job to-”
“Pip, it's not your fault.” Sweetie Belle cut him off, putting a hoof on his withers. “There was no possible way you could have known that would happen. It was just bad luck.”
“Yeah, ya' can't blame yourself for the explosion,” Apple Bloom chimed in waveringly. “If ya wanna blame anypony, blame Blue Blood for being too cheap to buy helium.” The stress was clear in her voice but she stood strong.
“I appreciate what you're trying to do girls, I really do, but I can't just say it was luck. Do you see this wheel on my hip?” Pip said, pointing to the helmsman’s wheel that formed his cutie mark. “This means that everything that happens on this ship, my ship, or to my crew, is my responsibility, no matter who’s 'fault' it is. I can't just walk away, ever.”
“Well there’s nothing we can do now but wait,” Sweetie Belle said in the most soothing voice she could muster while worrying that one of her best friends might be dying today. “Apple Bloom, why don’t you get us docked with the Flattern Schüchtern. I'm gonna go run a bath for Pip.”
“Thank you Sweetie, I think you can be captain for today,” Pip said, feeling completely defeated, and followed Sweetie Belle to his quarters.
Apple Bloom brought the ship in alongside the aft quarter of the massive zeppelin, connecting with one of the civilian docks as directed by the Flattern Schüchtern's flight control officer, and trotted out of the bridge, back to engineering.
Entering her workshop she glanced up at the scale model of Scootaloo's fighter which hung from the ceiling. It was a bit redundant with the real thing hanging from the gantry in the adjacent hangar, but the real thing wasn’t always there. After a moment's revery she trotted onward.
The door at the back of the shop gave way to the boiler room, the first part of Apple Bloom's personal wonderland. A jungle of pipes, cables, crawlspaces and catwalks entwined and suspended the vital systems of the Regenbogen Flitzen, making it difficult to tell which direction one was facing. One could even lose track of up and down at times.
Apple Bloom walked between the gravity lift's thaumaturgical stabilizer coupling and the oversized main battery, ducking under the cable cluster connecting them. Passing the pipes leading from the main water tank to the steam boilers she paused again to look at a small bunny ear headband on one of the pips. She and her friends used to wear them while singing to the water during zap apple season back home, but this one was special.
Rounding a corner she had to squeeze between some water pipes and the the ammo boxes for one of the side guns to get to the starboard engineering annex. A persistent come to life spell marked the guns as the only elements of unicorn engineering on the ship.
She climbed up the ladder to the mid deck and walked down the corridor toward the valve room, pausing one last time. A tiny blue jacket with red trim hung from a seldom used valve, she never did manage to find the hat that went with that costume.
Finally she arrived at her destination: the valve room. A bank of monitors and gauges displayed pressure readouts as well as power and water levels from around the ship. What was once an open area for conferences amongst the engineering staff, intended to be at least six ponies, was now filled with a mountain of pillows as tall as a pony and twice as wide. The door that once lead from this room to the cargo bay had been welded shut long ago.
Nopony had seen Apple Bloom cry since her Granny Smith passed away, natural causes of course, but that didn't mean she never did. And in the loud, dark confines of engineering nopony could see her, nopony could hear her, nopony else existed. It was just Apple Bloom and a framed photo of Scootaloo in the cockpit of her SJ-21 Firestorm, smiling at the camera with her goggles up and rainbow scarf hanging from her shoulders.
She had never mustered up the courage to tell anypony how she felt, Scoots least of all. That day was the closest she ever got, the day she gave Scootaloo a 3,073,000 bit, top of the line, heavily customized SJ-21 for her birthday. She had actually been building it, piece by piece, in secret, for the better part of two years, tooling everything to be absolutely perfect, and on the dawn of Scootaloo's 17th birthday, while she was on her way to the party, a bright red steel falcon darted across the sky, landing on the road to Sweet Apple Acres. Scootaloo was so stunned she didn't even move until Apple Bloom had climbed out, walked over and bumped rumps asking. “So, d' ya' like it?”
“Ah'm gonna tell her,” Apple Bloom declared, out loud, to the tiny room. “If that filly wakes up, the first thing shes gonna see is mah face saying 'Ah love you Scootaloo!'” She kissed the hoof sized picture before hanging it back on the wall, beyond which was Scootaloo's room, and trotted purposefully to the gangplank leading from the hangar to the Flattern Schüchtern.
“Is the temperature okay, Captain?” Sweetie Belle asked as Pipsqueak settled into the bath.
“Ya, ya it's good,” Pip replied quietly, the stress of the day diffusing into the hot, faintly lavender scented water, “and you're the captain today. I'm just Pip.”
“Well then, Pip,” Sweetie said with a mock air of authority, “as acting captain I'm issuing you a shoulder massage.”
Pip closed his eyes and smiled as Sweetie reared up and began to rub his neck and withers with her wonderfully smooth hooves. “Thanks, sweetie, I think I needed this. I think I've needed this for years now and just never realized it.”
“Your welcome, Pip,” Sweetie replied, leaning in to whisper in his ear. “I think I did too.”
“Sweetie, could you sing me a song, that one you sing when you're doing the long range scans?” Pip mumbled, his ears drooping as he sank into the hot water. “I love that song.”
“Of course, Pip.
Hush now, quiet now,
it's time to lay your sleepy head.
Hush now, quiet now,
It's time to go to bed.
Drifting off to sleep,
the exciting day behind you
Drifting off to sleep,
let the joy of dreamland find you...”