Holiday on the Day Star
by Victor Whiterock
The lavender unicorn placed the package in the desk drawer, closed it and began to concentrate. The magic from her horn suffused the wood with a shimmering purple glow. After a few moments the glow faded. She grinned at her companion.
“Go ahead, Spike. Open the drawer.” The small dragon reluctantly complied, resting a claw gingerly on the handle. He pulled it open to find that the drawer was empty.
“It’s still there.” She responded to her young assistant’s look of confusion. “I just cast an invisibility spell on it.”
Spike closed the drawer and fixed Twilight with a serious gaze. “So this thing’s that important, huh?”
“Yes, Spike.” she replied. “If this book were to fall into the wrong hands a whole bunch of pony’s lives could be ruined!”
The young dragon sighed and turned his gaze to the window of their cabin. They were supposed to be on vacation.
“You know, Twilight, all the crazy stuff that always happens to us?” He was still looking at the blue sky through the window. “I used to think that was just Ponyville. You know, always something crazy going on in that town…”
He turned to his mistress.
“But now, I’m pretty sure that trouble follows you around like it’s got a crush on you.”
Twilight gave a small snort. “Oh Spike, you’re so silly. It’ll be fine.”
Despite her assurances, Spike continued his dark thoughts. Why did they always get into these messes? They were supposed to be on vacation!
“Twilight, you are a marvel!” Rarity gushed. The four other ponies all nodded their heads in agreement.
“Oh, well it’s nothing major girls.” The lavender unicorn insisted. Her blush and downcast eyes betrayed the embarrassment she felt at her friend’s compliment.
Pinkie Pie gave a little hop and exclaimed, “Nothing major? Why this is the most major thing in a long, long, loooooong time! I mean, who else could get us tickets for a cruise on the premiere air ship in all Equestria?!”
“That’s right,” cried Rainbow Dash, “I mean when Pinky here figured out that all our schedules lined up and told us we should take a trip together, I thought it was gonna be lame!” A few of the friends nodded their heads in agreement. “But a flight on the Day Star? Man, that’s what I call traveling in style!”
At this, all the mares paused and looked around. They stood on the Day Star’s gently swaying deck admiring the view. Above them billowed the craft’s tremendous silk balloon. It was a long oval with pointed ends and was at least twice the length of the ship. Its crimson fabric contrasted dramatically with the blue sky that surrounded it.
The balloon suspended a vehicle that was almost a work of art unto itself. The six ponies stood on a deck made of finely joined wood. To the fore and aft were raised sections that could be reached by broad stairs. Surrounding the whole affair was a series of elaborate railings. These were at once functional and decorative as they were all heavily carved into elaborate and whimsical forms. The metal joints and fittings of the ship were fashioned out of brass which had been polished till it nearly shone like gold.
Applejack gave an appreciative chuckle. “I gotta agree with Rainbow on this one. It’s nice to get out of Ponyville every once in a while. And it sure beats the train. I mean I see ponies sittin’ over there havin’ tea like they were at a Manehattan café!”
Indeed, on the aft deck several refined looking ponies were sitting at a round table sipping from fine china and engaging in conversation.
Rarity’s face lit up. “I say, we should go meet the other passengers, doesn’t that sound like fun?” The others nodded their general assent and began to make their way to the aft deck.
Twilight noticed that a certain yellow pegasus was moving slower than the others. “Fluttershy, are you okay?”
Her friend looked down nervously. “Well, um, I know the ship is safe and all, but we are awfully high up, and I’m just, well…” she trailed off.
“I understand.” Twilight said, mindful of the winged pony’s ironic dislike of heights. “But you know the ship only moves at the speed of your average pegasus. If it didn’t the crew wouldn’t be able to maintain the envelope.” She pointed to the balloon above them. Sure enough, several winged stallions dressed in the Day Star’s official uniform were flitting about securing lines and checking that everything was as it should be.
“Well, I suppose…” The timid mare began.
“Come on!” Rainbow Dash yelled, flapping her wings in annoyance. “Spike’s already over there chowin’ down without us.” Twilight and Fluttershy hurried to join their compatriots.
The latecomers looked at their friends sitting at two of the small tables. “Where’s Spike?” questioned Twilight.
“He’s… entertaining.” Rarity responded with an amused voice. She nodded over to one of the larger tables. Four other ponies were seated all around on red velvet cushions. They were listening with intense amusement to a small purple dragon who was also sitting there, albeit on a stool so he could reach the food before him.
“So there we all were, sopping wet. You want to know the worst part?” Spike leaned forward. “We still had to eat dry oatmeal for breakfast!” At this his audience started laughing and guffawing. Twilight just rolled her eyes as she approached the group.
The purple mare cleared her throat and said in an apologetic voice, “Please excuse me, I hope Spike here isn’t bothering you folks.”
“Nonsense,” spoke one of the four. He was a grey earth pony stallion with a pair of round spectacles and a pill shaped cutie mark. “Young Spike here has been regaling us with his many adventures. I take it you are one of his friends?”
“Why yes, I am.” She gave a small curtsy. “Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Twilight Sparkle, and Spike here is my faithful assistant.” She put special emphasis on that last word, knowing that Spike sometimes liked to overemphasis his role in things.
“…Sparkle, Sparkle.” One of Spike’s audience mused. She was a peach colored pegasus with a fluted glass for a cutie mark. “I know I’ve heard that name… Oh well, where are my manners? My name is Peach Nectar. It is a pleasure to meet you and your delightful little assistant.” Spike blushed at the blandishment.
“Oh, that’s right.” The grey earth pony exclaimed. “I hadn’t introduced myself. How rude of me. Name’s Dr. Pusher. Dr. Pill Pusher at your service.”
By this time all of Twilight and Spike’s friends had joined them at the larger table. One of the seated ponies, a light brown unicorn with a dark mane nodded to them. He was dressed in a smart green jacket that obscured his cutie mark. “My name’s Hired Gun. I’m a trouble shooter out of Canterlot. I suppose it might interest you all to know that Miss Sparkle here is the personal student of Her Highness, Princess Celestia.” There was a small gasp from the other seated ponies. “Not only that,” He continued, “But she along with these other five lovely mares are the Elements of Harmony.”
“I knew I had heard your name somewhere before.” Peach Nectar exclaimed. “It looks like we have celebrities on board!”
At this, all six of the Ponyville mares got a little flustered. Twilight was the first to get over her bemusement and changed the subject by introducing her companions to the seated audience. When she was done there was only one pony in the group who hadn’t introduced themselves.
“I suppose I should chime in as well.” The other seated pegasus ventured. His coat was cream colored with a yellow hued mane. His build was slight and his flank had a cubic shaped cutie mark with some circular marking on it. “I’m Steel, H. Steel.” He glanced to his left and right sides quickly.
Peach Nectar jumped in. “I’ve been meaning to ask you, Mr. Steel. What does the H stand for?”
“Ah.” He glanced around with a nervous grin on his face. “It stands for Hard. Hard Steel.”
Rarity let out a small snort of laughter. Her friends looked at her, silently chastising the ivory unicorn for her gaffe. Never mind that they too were barely containing their mirth. She composed herself as best she could and said in an apologetic tone, “I’m sorry sir. It’s just that, if you’ll forgive me, your name denotes a certain, iron fortitude. And, well…” She trailed off, unsure of how to continue.
“And you look like you could be made out of lemon meringue!” interjected Pinkie Pie.
“Yes, thank you, darling.” Rarity said, aiming a brittle grin at the pink earth pony.
Mr. Steel just chuckled. “Oh, it’s quite all right. I get that all the time. Although, I’ve never heard the pie comparison before.”
“Well, I think it’s a fine name.” Peach Nectar stated. “Besides, I happen to like lemon meringue.” She smiled and shot a glance toward Mr. Steele. The cream pegasus coughed and cracked a hesitant smile.
Hired Gun, an amused look on his face, got up from his cushion. “Well, if you will excuse me. I need to attend to some things. It was a pleasure meeting you all. I hope we can talk again soon.” At this, he looked at Twilight Sparkle and nodded. Again, she found herself flustered by the unexpected attention coming from the black maned unicorn.
“Yes, this has been a lovely chat, but I think I’m going to go take a stroll around the deck.” Dr. Pusher sighed as he stood up. He bid the other ponies and Spike farewell and headed towards the front of the ship.
“I’m glad I got to meet all the other passengers on our flight.” Mr. Steel said. “Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to familiarize myself with the lower decks of the ship before it gets too late. Never know when you might need to find something in the dark. Heh, heh.” He nodded to the Ponyville contingent and then to Ms. Nectar, again cracking a small smile, and ambled away.
“Are you four the only other passengers?” Rarity queried.
“That’s right.” Peach Nectar replied. “The trip from Canterlot to Trottingham is usually pretty sparse. I take it that’s where you seven are going?”
“Yes, indeed.” Pinkie Pie stated. “We’re going to see the sights! And the lights! And if there are any good bakeries we’ll get some tasty bites!”
“Well, despite Trottingham’s culinary reputation they do have some excellent restaurants there.” Ms. Nectar opined.
“You sound like you’ve been there before.” Rarity posited.
“Oh, yes. I get around, that’s for certain.” the seated mare agreed.
A thought struck Rarity, her fashonista brain kicking into gear. As she took a seat at the table she asked, “Tell me, are you familiar with what’s popular there this time of year?”
It turned out that Peach Nectar knew quite a bit about fashion. As Rarity and the pegasus discussed trends the other mares soon lost interest. Even Spike began to get a glazed look on his face. Rainbow was the first to take off, with the others soon following. The sun was low on the horizon and, at several hundred feet in the air, it was quite a breathtaking view.
Eventually they all made their way below deck. There was a game parlor right next to the dining room which Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie just had to try out. So after dinner all the other mares and Spike split from the two fun seeking ponies and retired to their cabins.
The first room they reached was that of their new acquaintance, Ms. Nectar. She bid them good night.
As they walked down the narrow hall, Rarity suggested that everypony having their own state room was the only way to travel. Applejack agreed with her whole heartedly. Soon, it was just Twilight, Spike and Fluttershy walking down the hall. Fluttershy got a thoughtful look on her face and looked at the mare walking beside her.
“I didn’t get a good look at it. Um, not that I go around looking, but, um… What’s Mr. Steel’s cutie mark supposed to be?” Fluttershy asked.
“Ah, well. It’s a safe. You know. The kind of thing you lock treasure in to keep it, well, safe.” the unicorn explained.
“Oh, ok. Thanks, Twilight.”
“No problem, Fluttershy.”
They came to the pegasus’ state room. “Well, good night.”
Both Twilight and Spike returned the sentiment and headed to their own room.
With that, the ship settled down, and cruised on into the night.
Later that evening, Pinkie and Rainbow made their way towards their cabins, having finally been kicked out of the game parlor by the night shift.
“Man, what kind of game room closes at 2:00 in the morning?” Rainbow Dash lamented.
“Don’t worry Dashie; we’ve got all day to play tomorrow. And the next day. It takes three days to get to Trottingham remember?” Pinkie consoled her cyan friend.
“Yah, I guess. Hey, who’s that?” Rainbow stopped. Down the hall they saw a small form slinking through the shadows.
Pinkie, heedless of decorum, bounced up to the mystery pony and called out a cheerful greeting. The form stopped and, after a moment’s consideration, walked into dim light of one of the hall lamps. It was Hard Steel.
“Hey Mr. Steel, what are you doing?” Pinkie began to rev up. “Could you not sleep? Were you hungry? Were you after a midnight snack? But you know the dining room is closed. Oh, maybe you wanted to get some night air? I hear that’s good for you. But some ponies say that’s it bad for the throat. And if it’s bad for the throat, then that means it’s not good for singing. And that would be terrible, ‘cause if I couldn’t sing I don’t know what I’d do. And…”
“Pinkie!” Rainbow Dash came to the bewildered stallions rescue. “He’s was probably just taking a walk, you know.” She looked at the other pegasus.
“Um, yes.” Mr. Steel responded. “Just, um, taking a little stroll.” His eyes shifted from side to side.
Rainbow Dash noticed his nervousness. “Are you ok?”
At this, his eyes snapped back to the rainbow maned mare. He studied her for a moment, and then did the same with Pinkie Pie. It was the most intense look either of the mares had yet seen from the mild stallion. He soon concluded whatever internal deliberations he was having and gave a small shake of his head.
“I’m fine. Just, um, fine.” He stated, falling back into his high strung mannerisms. “You didn’t…?” he trailed off and then seemed to think better of his question. “Well, never mind. Good night ladies.” He headed down the hall a little ways, opened the door to his state room and went in.
“Huh.” Rainbow Dash stated with her usual eloquence. The two mares headed back to their own cabins and called it a night.
The next morning was as lovely as one could have expected on Equestria’s premiere sky liner. After a fabulous breakfast the group from Ponyville made their way above deck to enjoy the view, get some sun and play some games.
The fore deck had all kinds of amusements. Twilight, Spike, Rarity, and Fluttershy tried their luck at Shuffleboard. Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack lined up at the putting green. Peach Nectar came up the stairs a little while later and greeted the two groups enthusiastically.
“And how are you all, today?” she asked.
“Pretty good.” responded Applejack. She took a small swing with her putter. “Did you have a good night, last night?” the orange earth pony inquired.
“Yes, last night was very… interesting.” Ms. Nectar responded, a small smile on her face. “Oh, nice shot!” she enthused as Applejack’s putt landed in the hole.
“Thank ya’ kindly.” Applejack replied. “Have you seen any of the other passengers this mornin’?”
“Yes, when I left the dining hall Dr. Pusher was just sitting down to breakfast. Actually more of a brunch at this time of day.” Ms. Nectar giggled. “I haven’t seen Mr. Steel or Mr. Gun yet this morning.”
They all played the rest of the morning, the peach pegasus joining the three mares at the putting green. Just before lunch, one of the staff approached Twilight Sparkle with a note. She thanked the white jacketed porter and stepped off to the side. The envelope was blank. Curious, the purple unicorn used her magic to remove the letter and unfold it. The writing was a neat black script.
Dear Ms. Sparkle,
I have a matter of some importance I wish to discuss with you. If you could meet me at my state room during the lunch hour, I would be most grateful. This is a matter of some delicacy so I would appreciate your coming alone. My room number is 104.
Twilight was a bit stunned. The letter was direct but very ambiguous. A matter of some importance... She didn’t know what to make of that. All Twilight knew was that a rather handsome unicorn had asked to see her. Alone. She couldn’t let her friends know. They would want to butt in and, though she loved them dearly, she didn’t even know what the situation was yet.
Making her excuses to those present, Twilight headed below deck.
She made her way to Hired Gun’s cabin. The mare paused a moment, taking a small breath to compose herself, and knocked. The brown unicorn answered the door. He smiled formally and said, “Ah, Ms. Sparkle. Thank you for coming. Won’t you please come in?”
As Twilight walked to the center of the room, the stallion gestured for her to have a seat at a small table. He walked over to the state room’s desk and turned to face her. She noticed that he had on a blue coat today. She also noted that it rather matched his handsome blue eyes. Mr. Gun paused for a moment and then spoke; a grave look on his face.
“What I’m about to tell you,” he began, “is confidential. But given your relationship to the Princess, I’m sure I can count on your discretion?”
“Of, of course.” Twilight responded, her countenance becoming more serious.
The stallion seemed to relax a little. He reached down to the desk and picked up a note. Depositing it on the table in front of her, Mr. Gun asked Twilight to read it. Twilight did as she was asked and studied the piece of paper. The writing was in a florid and practiced script.
My Dear Prince Blueblood,
It seems that we all have secrets. Of course, I’m not one to talk. I do wonder, however, at the wisdom of writing those secrets down. Say, in a little black book? I wonder what some ponies would pay for such a thing.
Let’s find out, shall we?
Lowering the letter, Twilight asked, “Quicksilver?”
“He’s a notorious thief,” Mr. Gun replied. “Actually, no one knows if Quicksilver is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’, or even if it’s just one pony, actually. In any case Quicksilver’s been active for years, pulling off some pretty crazy heists.”
“Wait.” Twilight had a thought. “Was that the pony who stole the Ice Opals from Princess Luna’s tower at Canterlot Castle last year?”
“It was. They’re still not sure how he pulled that one off.” The dark maned stallion agreed.
“Ohmygosh! That was in all the papers.” She exclaimed. “But what does this letter mean?”
Mr. Gun explained. “One of Quicksilver’s quirks is that he always announces his capers. Sometimes he’s oblique, but sometimes he’s quite direct, like with this letter. You see Princess Celestia’s nephew, Prince Blueblood, is a notorious philanderer. And unbeknownst to most of the populace, the Prince keeps a record of all his, um, female friends and contacts in a little black book.” He gave Twilight a moment to let that last bit sink in. “The problem is that some of those listed are married to some rather powerful members of the aristocracy, and if that book ever became public, well…”
“Oh, dear.” Twilight agreed. “So where is this ‘little black book’ now?”
Hired Gun reached his head down to a coat pocket and pulled out a small package wrapped in brown paper and bound in twine. He gingerly set it on the table before Twilight and gave her a cocky grin.
“It’s right here.”
That evening all five of Twilight’s mare friends along with Spike listened as she related what Mr. Gun had told her earlier.
Rarity was the first to respond. She was nearly livid. “So that boor has the unmitigated gall to keep a list of all his conquests, and then he forgets that list when he heads to his summer palace in Trottingham?!” The pale unicorn had never quite gotten over Prince Blueblood’s poor treatment of her during the Grand Galloping Gala.
Applejack jumped in. “And Hired Gun’s been paid to deliver this ‘little black book’ to the Prince. Only now this Quicksilver fella’s found out about it and wants ta’ steal it.”
“That’s right AJ.” Twilight agreed. “Mr. Gun told me he thinks that there was already an attempt last night. He heard rattling at his window and saw a shape that could have been a pony. He said the only reason they didn’t get in was because he took precautions and sealed his window with a locking spell.”
“Well that makes sense.” Rainbow Dash nodded her head. “The only thing everypony agrees on is that Quicksilver’s gotta be a pegasus.”
“Humph. You almost sound proud of that, darling.” Rarity sniffed with some disdain.
“Actually, the authorities aren’t a hundred percent sure. But some of Quicksilver’s thefts seem like they could only have been accomplished by a pony that could fly.” Twilight explained.
“So, um, what does this have to do with us?” Fluttershy muttered.
“You see,” the violet mare responded, “knowing that we can be trusted, Mr. Gun asked me to hold onto the book. At least until we disembark. That way Quicksilver won’t know where it is, even if he manages to get into Mr. Gun’s room.”
“You mean that THING is in here?!” Rarity gasped.
“Shhh!” hissed Twilight. “For all we know Quicksilver could be someone we’ve already met here on the ship.”
“Well, there are a lot of pegasi on board.” ventured Fluttershy.
“Oh, oh!” Pinkie Pie squealed. “We should totally figure out which one’s Quicksilver. Then we could arrest him!” She zoomed over to Rainbow Dash and pantomimed slapping a pair of hoofcuffs on the light blue pegasus. “You’re going down, buster!” the pretend pink cop proclaimed in a gruff voice. All the mares and Spike giggled.
“Yah, and I’d start with that Steel character.” agreed Pinkie Pie’s pretend captive. “Last night when we were coming back from the game room we saw him creeping around.”
“I don’t know, he seems harmless enough. Besides, ain’t chasin’ after criminals a might dangerous?” reasoned Applejack.
“Ah, you’re no fun.” pouted Rainbow.
“Applejack’s right.” They all listened as Twilight explained. “The whole idea is that this Quicksilver character doesn’t know we’re involved. But,” she grinned, “if we were to keep our eyes open for clues, then perhaps we could figure out who the mystery pony is.” Her eyes began to twinkle. “Just like Miss Mareple!” she could barely contain her excitement.
“Who?” asked Applejack.
“She’s a detective.” responded Spike drolly. “In a series of books. That are fiction.” He looked at Twilight severely and she gave a small cough at his withering gaze.
“Yes, well, I can’t help it if I like mystery novels.” the mare defended herself.
“That’s right.” Rarity agreed. “I too like the occasional who-done-it.”
“Yah, but Twilight practically devours the things.” the little dragon muttered.
“So you’re really going to hang on to that book?” Fluttershy asked her friend.
“I say we do the world a favor and burn it.” pouted the white unicorn.
“Now, now Rarity. We can’t just go around burnin’ other pony’s things.” Applejack admonished. “But you be careful Twilight, ya’ hear. This is some mighty funny business you’re mixed up in. I don’t like it.”
“Thanks, if I need any help I know I can count on you girls.”
“Absolutely!” Pinkie said. All the other’s nodded in agreement.
They talked a bit more until a porter came by and announced dinner.
Before she left Twilight cast a locking spell on her window per Hired Gun’s instructions. After that she locked her cabin door and the party from Ponyville made its way to the dining room.
They were the first to arrive and seated themselves at the long tables. Before the first course was served, Dr. Pusher and Ms. Nectar joined them. Shortly after that Mr. Gun came in. He walked over and took the seat across from Twilight.
“It’s a pleasure to see you this evening Ms. Sparkle.” he said smoothly. Her cheeks grew warm under his gaze.
“Um, l-likewise” Twilight stammered. Rarity had a devilish smile on her face as she observed the pair of unicorns but eventually turned away and focused her attention on Peach Nectar.
“Have you seen our final traveling companion yet this evening?” the white mare inquired of the peach pegasus.
“No, I can’t say that I- Oh, wait! Here he is.” She motioned for the late arrival to come and join them.
Hard Steel looked awful. His eyes were bloodshot as though lacking sleep, and he looked in bad need of a shave and shower.
“I say, darling! You look dreadful!” Rarity exclaimed. “Are you quite alright?”
“Oh yes.” the cream stallion assured her as he took a seat next to Ms. Nectar. “Just haven’t been sleeping well, is all.” the smile he offered his fellow travelers was tired. He gestured to the waiter and asked for a black coffee.
“That’s not good for you if you haven’t been sleeping.” Peach Nectar said with concern.
He waved a hoof. “Heh, well nothing I’m not used to. But please, don’t let me interrupt what you were talking about.”
“No, worries there.” Dr. Pusher chuckled from down the table. “They were talking about you.” The other ponies laughed politely at his small joke.
Dinner continued, and afterwards the passengers retired to the game room. All except Mr. Steel who offered his apologies and explained that he was going to try to catch up on his sleep.
The ponies split into several groups with Rarity, Applejack, Dr. Pusher, and Spike deciding to start a card game. After a few minutes Rarity started to shiver.
“You ok, Rare?” Applejack asked.
“Yes, just a little cold. I suppose that’s to be expected on a ship soaring through the night sky.” she joked. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get something warm to put on.” Dr. Pusher, ever the genltecolt, stood as the mare departed.
“Your friend Rarity is quite the lady.” the doctor said as he sat back down. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a mare quite like her.” Spike nodded his head in enthusiastic agreement. He continued, “Makes me wish I were a few years younger…”
Just then the grey stallion was interrupted as a blood curdling shriek echoed down the hall.
Hired Gun was on his feet in a flash. “That came from the passenger cabins!” he exclaimed.
The guests and several of the ship’s staff rushed to where the scream originated. They came to Rarity’s cabin and found the door ajar. Inside, two ponies were on the ground locked in struggle.
One of the two was Rarity herself. She was wailing and crying for someone, anyone to come and save her. Underneath the blubbering mare, held fast in an expert headlock, was the slight form of Hard Steel. His cream colored muzzle was slowly turning blue as the fashionable unicorn slowly deprived him of oxygen.
“Yes indeed.” Dr. Pusher muttered with an appreciative gleam in his eye. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a mare quite like that one.”
“Oh, it was awful!” Rarity moaned. “I came back here to my cabin to get my cashmere sweater. You know, the rose colored one? Well, I got here and the door was slightly ajar. I thought I had locked it before I left but really didn’t think much of it. Anyway, I opened the door and saw him,” she pointed to Mr. Steel, now in crew custody, “just rifling through my things! Well, I cried for help and the brute rushed towards me and tried to silence me! So, I did the only thing I could and tried to defend myself. It’s a good thing you all came when you did. I don’t know how much longer I could have fended him off.”
Applejack just shook her head. “Whatever you say Rarity.” She turned to the captive pegasus. “Well? What have you got to say for yourself?”
“Yah!” Pinkie Pie cried, jabbing a hoof at the cream stallion. “What have you got to say for yourself Mr. Steel? Or should I say Qui-”
“Pinkie!” Twilight barked. The pink mare looked at her friend in confusion. Twilight just shook her head slightly.
“Look. This is all a big misunderstanding.” Mr. Steel said. “I-I need to see the captain. I’m sure I can clear this up in a jiffy.” He looked hopefully at Peach Nectar, but the pegasus mare just turned her head away and looked sadly at the floor.
“Yep, I’m sure the captain will want to hear all about it.” the night steward said. “I didn’t think you could even pick one of these locks with hair pins.” He gestured to the thin bent strips of metal on the floor by Rarity’s door.
“C’mon lets go.” one of the crew members grunted as they hauled Rarity’s attacker away.
“Man, that was crazy!” Rainbow Dash sighed. “I don’t know about you all but after that excitement I’m up for a late night snack. Who’s with me?”
Most of the ponies agreed to join Rainbow. Even Rarity headed to the dining room after Applejack convinced the frazzled unicorn that a late night hot fudge sundae would do her good. Peach Nectar however decided to return to her room. She still had the same sad look on her face from when Mr. Steel had been taken away.
As they all made their way down the hall, Pinkie Pie motioned for Twilight to hang back a bit. When the two were out of earshot of the main group the pink mare leaned over to her friend.
“Why did you stop me? We caught the bad guy right? I mean, Rarity is really the one who caught him, but why didn’t you want me to say his real name?”
Twilight stopped walking. She fixed Pinkie with a look that the bubbly mare didn’t see her friend use very often. It was a look of quiet confusion. “Because… I don’t think Hard Steel is Quicksilver.”
Pinkie gasped. “Well if he isn’t Quicksilver, then what’s going on?”
“I don’t know. But I’ve got until we reach Trottingham tomorrow to find out.”
The lavender unicorn spent the night tossing and turning in her bed. It was true that Mr. Steel had been caught red hoofed, but something just didn’t add up. What was she missing?
Rainbow and Pinky had seen him sneaking about the night of the first attempted theft. She knew that if the thief was going to strike, then this cruise would be the perfect opportunity. But would the master thief Quicksilver really get himself nabbed so easily? Twilight had a hard time believing that.
It wasn’t like there weren’t other pegasi on board. She even considered Ms. Nectar for a few moments. Then of course there was the crew. They were made up almost entirely of pegasi, but she didn’t have time or the means to run a background check on any of them.
She cast her mind back to the letter that Mr. Gun had showed her. She just couldn’t reconcile that note with the poor pathetic pegasus that was being held down below.
He’s rather the opposite of the dashing Mr. Gun, Twilight silently mused. The handsome stallion had seemed most grateful for her assistance but in the end it hardly seemed necessary. What had prompted him to send that letter asking for her help?
Another letter. Letters, letters, letters. She supposed she would have to compose one to the Princess about this whole adventure. Almost unconsciously she sat up in bed and reached out to the night stand with her magic for a quill and parchment. As she studied the feathered writing implement hovering before her something clicked.
“Aha!” she cried, leaping out of bed. Then, realizing what time it was, she put a hoof to her mouth and looked around sheepishly. Fortunately Spike, in his basket at the foot of her bed, could sleep through anything. She rushed out of her room, being careful to lock the door behind her. Searching until she found the night porter, the mare charged up to the uniformed stallion.
“I need to see the captain at once!”
The Day Star came to a halt as the air ship settled into its landing berth. The gang planks were lowered into position and the day porter announced that the guests were now free to disembark for Trottingham.
The passengers were all up on deck with the exception of Mr. Steel. They had been informed that a squad of royal guards would be along shortly to deal with him.
As the Ponyville contingent bid their new acquaintances farewell, Hired Gun approached Twilight Sparkle. He looked just as he had the first day they met with his smart green jacket on. Relief was written on his face.
“Ms. Sparkle I am forever in your debt. I have to go now, but I hope that I get to see you again. Perhaps I’ll come visit you and your friends in Ponyville?” he smiled.
Twilight face grew red. “Per-perhaps.” she said simply. She visibly collected herself and continued. “I suppose I need to return this.” She levitated Blueblood’s troublesome book out of her saddlebag and started to float it towards Hired Gun.
The stallion reached out a hoof for the package, when the unicorn mare suddenly jerked it back out of his reach. Mr. Gun looked at her in confusion.
“Oh, no.” she said brightly. “You’re a unicorn. You can just reach for it with your magic.”
The brown stallion looked stymied. “Um, well, Ms. Sparkle. I…”
“But you can’t do that, can you Mr. Gun?” She looked up and nodded.
Quick as a whip, Rainbow Dash swooped down, caught the male unicorn’s jacket in her teeth and whisked it away.
There, strapped to Mr. Gun’s sides, were two fluffy light brown wings.
Twilight had replaced the wrapped package in her saddlebag. She reached a tendril of magic over to the shocked stallion’s forehead. “I don’t think you’ll be needing this anymore.” She deftly plucked the fake horn off the false unicorn’s head.
Mr. Gun looked at the ponies surrounding him and then at his bound wings. Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to get them free in time he took a slow step back.
“When did you realize who I was?” he asked, stalling for time.
Twilight sighed. “Not until last night. See, a few things just didn’t make sense. If Mr. Steel really was Quicksilver, then why had Rainbow Dash and Pinky Pie seen him in the hallway on that first night? You said that the thief had tried to get in from the window. Mr. Steel could have just flown back to his room outside the ship without anybody being the wiser.”
“The thing is, it would be hard for a thief to enter a room at night without waking the victim up. But during the day everyone would be outside and away from their cabins playing. Easy pickings. However, the thief had a problem. Flying to the victim’s window in the day time was still a bad choice, because during the day the ship’s crew might spot him. But Mr. Steel obviously knows how to pick the locks on our doors. So why would he want to sneak in through the window when the door was the better choice?”
“Okay, so you knew it wasn’t him.” Mr. Gun said, eyeing the burly porters that were slowly moving in on him. “But how did you figure me out?”
“You gave yourself away during our meeting in your cabin. I just didn’t realize it at the time. When you showed me Quicksilver’s note and gave me the package you didn’t use magic to move them. I’ve never met a grown unicorn who handles papers and things with their mouth.”
“You stole the package from the real courier that first night and gave it to me the next day to deflect suspicion.”
“And who was this real courier?” The brown pegasus sneered, still looking around desperately for an avenue of escape.
“Why, Mr. Steel of course.” The sleuthing mare heard Rarity gasp in the background.
“Why else would he be breaking into random ponies rooms? The real thief would know that six mares on holiday from Ponyville were probably not working for Prince Blueblood. But if the victim of the theft didn’t know what was going on, he would likely suspect everyone, and act to try to recover his stolen property. He probably went through you and Dr. Pusher’s rooms first and only started going through the rooms of us mares later when he got desperate.”
“All right, let’s say you’re correct.” Mr. Gun conceded. “The thief would still have the same problems you described earlier. But anytime Steel was out of his cabin I was with you all. So how would I have pulled the original theft?”
Twilight just smirked. “I only said that flying in through the window at night was a problem if the victim was there. But you knew exactly when Mr. Steel was going to be absent that night. All thanks to your assistant.” She looked over to Peach Nectar, whose face suddenly went pale.
“Is that true, Peach?” a voice choked out. Several of the crew stood aside to reveal Mr. Steel who had been standing there the whole time. He looked shocked.
“I-I…” the pegasus mare couldn’t look at him, a hangdog expression on her face.
“When Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie saw Mr. Steel that night I suspect he was on his way back from Ms. Nectar’s cabin having spent the night, um, er…” Twilight blushed.
“Canoodling?” Spike offered helpfully. Someone gave an embarrassed cough.
“Yes, let’s go with that.” agreed Twilight.
She stood up strait and pointed a hoof at the two winged criminals that stood before her. “In any case, your plot has failed Mr. Hired Gun, or should I say Quicksilver! Take them away!”
The thief whirled about and tried to run. A circle of tough looking sky sailors surrounded him. With his wings still bound, Quicksilver bowed his head and gave up without a struggle.
“…Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle. Did you get all that Spike?”
“Sure did.” her assistant responded cheerfully.
“Great. Send it.”
The other Ponyville mares came around the corner and joined Twilight and Spike just as the latter finished incinerating the newly penned letter. They all watched as his dragon flame sent the missive to Princess Celestia in Canterlot where it would soon magically reconstitute itself for the reading pleasure of Her Highness.
“Well, we cleared up everything with Mr. Steel.” Applejack informed Twilight. “He was plumb grateful too. Said ol’ Prince Blueblood would probably give us anything we wanted for helpin’ him get his little black book back.”
“Humph. He can keep his favors.” Rarity sneered. “I still say we should have burned it.”
Twilight grinned and was about to say something when a hoof tapped her on the shoulder. It was Fluttershy.
“Oh, so sorry to interrupt, but I had a question. I saw Mr. Gun’s cutie mark as they were taking him away, not that I was really looking or anything, but I’m confused. It was a stethoscope. Why would a notorious thief have a doctor’s cutie mark?”
Twilight began to answer when Rainbow Dash butted in.
“Safecracking.” the cyan pegasus said bluntly.
“Huh?” Fluttershy looked confused.
“You know. Hold the stethoscope over the right spot on the safe and listen as you spin the tumblers and get them to click into place?” She looked at her friends’ blank expressions. “What?”
“And just how do you know about that?” Applejack inquired.
“Um, well,” Sweat began to bead up on Rainbow’s forehead. “Never you mind!” The orange earth pony just rolled her eyes.
“Still, the notion that we did that Blueblood a favor. Ugh!” Rarity wouldn’t let it go.
As if on cue Spike gagged and then belched up a great green gout of fire which coalesced first into smoke and then into a rolled up parchment complete with the royal seal of the Sun Princess.
“What’s it say?” Pinkie asked after Twilight had a chance to read through it.
The lavender unicorn looked over at her jilted friend and grinned. “I wouldn’t feel too bad Rarity. You see in my letter to the Princess I told her all about our trip here. I also told her all about a certain little black book and how it almost caused a really big problem. The Princess assures me that Prince Blueblood won’t be using that book for much longer. In fact, according to this he’s being recalled to Canterlot at this very moment.”
“Ouch,” said Rainbow Dash. “I’d hate to be him right about now.”
The rest of the companions laughed at the thought of the stuck up Prince being dressed down by Her Highness. When they finished Rarity fixed an admiring gaze on the mare that had saved the day and brought down the infamous Quicksilver. As she spoke, all the others simply nodded in agreement.
“I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Twilight Sparkle, you are a marvel!”