Chapter 4: The Arrival
Rarity… Rarity… Are you all right?
“But I don’t want to go to school today, mother. I want to stay home and bake cookies with you.”
Rarity’s eyes fluttered open as she tried to get up. Ever fiber of her being was in extreme pain, the likes of which she had never experienced before. It felt like she was being stabbed by hundreds upon hundreds of knives, set on fire, and kicked in the head several times over. That was not describing the incredible pain in her horn, which was far, far worse.
Getting up onto her hooves was proving difficult. Every time she tried to stand, her knees would buckle and she would fall over in pain. It was not until she felt the gentle hooves of Fluttershy helping her up that Rarity was able to stand under her own power. It stung to open her eyes as the bright morning sun shone through the windows and directly onto her face, only exasperating her migraine.
Despite the pain, her memory was clear and vivid. There was that magical typhoon the Harmony had encountered, the fact that it would have sunk the airship if it were not for Twilight’s idea of a magical bubble, and that she along with Rarity and Sweetie Belle contributed the magic through the Chrysalidas to make the bubble successful.
“Sweetie Belle!” Rarity shouted, looking around frantically for her little sister, “Sweetie Belle? Where is she? Is she safe?”
“Rarity, you need to calm down and get some rest,” she heard Rainbow Dash say, “Everypony is fine, just banged up. You took a nasty fall after we shot forward.”
“Where. Is. My. Sister.” The edge in her voice was unfortunate but necessary. Rainbow was beating around the bush, and this was simply not acceptable. Her little sister was untrained in the use of magic, never mind taking part in one of Twilight’s extremely advance and dangerous spells. Bless her soul; Sweetie Belle’s intentions were good, but at what cost? No filly should have to endure the pain Rarity had felt.
“I’m sorry Rarity,” Fluttershy said, “Sweetie Belle was hurt really badly. Twilight is looking over her in your room, and—”
Rarity didn’t listen to another word, galloping as fast as she could out of the command deck towards her quarters. Nothing mattered right now except Sweetie Belle. Why hadn’t she listened when Rarity warned her not to attempt any Cutie Mark Crusader heroics? Why had she tried to dive horn first in a spell she would never have been ready for?
To help me, Rarity scolded herself; all she ever tries to do is to help me. I am a poor excuse for a big sister. If anything happens to Sweetie Belle, I could never face my parents again. I could never face myself again.
Rarity opened the door to her quarters to see a bruised and battered Twilight looking over the still, yet breathing body of Sweetie Belle tucked tight in Rarity’s bed. Twilight looked over at Rarity and shook her head, her horn glowing faintly over the sleeping filly.
“I’m sorry, Rarity,” Twilight said, “I don’t know what happened. I was concentrating on the bubble to protect the Harmony, the next thing I know I could feel Sweetie Belle’s magic helping us. It wasn’t enough to protect the Harmony but it did condense the shield. Still, she overloaded from the magical feedback. She’s in a coma, Rarity.”
“Is there anything you can do?!” Rarity all but screamed at Twilight, “She’s my sister for Celestia’s sake! You’re the smart one! Don’t you have a book of spells to heal her, or some other magical nonsense?”
“I’m searching every book I brought with me,” Twilight replied, not looking Rarity in the eye, “I’ll see what I can do, but she’s going to need a unicorn doctor. Until then…”
Rarity sobbed as she fell against the bed. It’s all my fault! Her guilt was eating her up from the inside as that one thought repeated over and over. We were supposed to see Mechanon together. We were supposed to explore together. How did things go so terribly wrong so quickly?
“I… I have to get back to the command deck,” Twilight said, “The engine needs to be checked for any damage, and we need to know how far off course the arcane storm threw us. Rainbow Dash is going to be scouting the area, Applejack is going about the ship making repairs, and Fluttershy is taking care of Scootaloo and Applebloom.”
Rarity made no reply as she kept her gaze on Sweetie Belle. As Twilight left, Rarity held one of Sweetie Belle’s hooves in her own, slowly stroking the white coat of her sister and sniffling away the tears. A coma was better than the alternative, and Rarity had to have faith in Twilight. When Rarity did not give Twilight a reply, she heard her fellow unicorn sigh and turn away, closing the door gently behind her.
She stayed with Sweetie Belle for a while, keeping watch as the Harmony continued on its way forward. When the sun was around noon, Rarity found herself looking out the window of her quarters to the ocean below, watching the waves cascade over each other while great schools of fish could be seen through the clear water.
As long as Rarity sat still looking out the window or watching over Sweetie Belle, little else mattered to her. Time passed by absently, but she did not notice. Her stomach growled, but she did not comply. Nothing else mattered but Sweetie Belle’s recovery.
Twilight had said they would need a proper unicorn health professional if one of her books did not have the spell they needed. She prayed that there was a doctor or a specialist or anypony with the knowledge to help in Mechanon.
A knock on her door broke Rarity out of her stupor. On weak legs, she made her way to the door to find Applejack waiting for her with large saddlebags hanging from her sides filled with food and tools. Not exactly Fluttershy, but a friend is a friend, Rarity decided. She said nothing though, just turning away and walking back into the room. Applejack coughed before heading over to the bathroom.
“Just gonna wash my hooves,” she said, “Been working on fixing up some holes caused by the storm. Applebloom and Scootaloo tried to help. They thought hammers can fix anything. Don’t rightly know how they got to that conclusion. I brought you some breakfast.” Applejack bit on her saddle bag, placing it on the table. Rarity turned and almost smirked. The bag held apples, of course. There were days when she wondered if the entire Apple family ate the same fruit morning, noon, and night. Her stomach told her in no uncertain terms to stop thinking and to start eating.
The sound of running water and hooves scrubbing each other to remove the dirt did make Rarity thankful that Applejack was being conscientious about proper hygiene. “Use the violet soap, dear,” she called to Applejack, “It smells of lilacs.”
There was a grunt of acknowledgement, but then Applejack gave a slight murmur of approval. A moment later she was out and placing her saddle bags next to the door before joining Rarity at her table. “Not usually into the frou-frou stuff, but that soap did smell nice.”
Applejack looked over at the comatose Sweetie Belle before letting loose a heavy sigh. “Things really went downhill fast,” she said, “What with that doozy of a storm and all. How’s Sweetie Belle holding up?”
“Twilight said we need a real doctor if she can’t find a remedy,” Rarity said flatly. Applejack nodded.
“It wasn’t your fault.” There it was. Rarity was wondering when one of her friends was going to tell her that. “She went into that magic doohickey you and Twilight were wrapped up in on her own. You’re a good big sister. You can’t blame yourself—“
“Oh but I can,” Rarity replied, “I warned her it would be dangerous to come aboard this flying deathtrap, but she didn’t believe me. I should have been more convincing! I should have been adamant, put my hoof down and said no! I should never have come along! If I wasn't here, she wouldn’t have come!”
“And then she would have followed Applebloom and Scootaloo on board anyways!” Applejack had raised her voice, and it was almost frightful when the earth pony showed real frustration in her words. “Those three are as thick as thieves, and you know that if two were on board, the third would have found their way on the Harmony lickety-split. I know if I stayed behind and told Applebloom not to go, she would have done so anyway. You know how those three go on.”
“Applebloom isn’t the one in the coma.” She immediately regretted those words, looking at Applejack’s downcast face with remorse. “I’m sorry, Applejack. I’m just scared for her. I hope we can find somepony to help her in Mechanon, but that is still days away.”
“Rarity, I…” Applejack cleared her throat, looking away for a moment before pointing a hoof at the window. “Look outside. Not down, but straight across. That bubble thing… Whatever it did, it sent us forward really fast. I mean… Just look.”
Rarity took a deep breath and moved over to the window and looked where Applejack was pointing. On the horizon was land, the green shades of forests clearly visible against a backdrop of high mountains. She could scarcely believe; just the other day they were getting aboard the Harmony for a week long voyage across the ocean. How did they encounter new lands so quickly?
When she voiced her surprise, Applejack only shook her head. “I didn’t rightly understand Twilight’s explanation of things, but as far as I’m concerned, we moved faster than Rainbow’s sonic rainboom. You should come to the deck with me and see it for yourself. You won’t believe your eyes.”
Rarity looked to Sweetie Belle one last time before kissing her sister’s forehead. You should be seeing this with me, Rarity thought as she slowly left the room with Applejack, We’ll find help for you soon, I swear it.
Applejack was right. As she entered the command deck where the others were waiting, the sight through the glass was something she could not believe. Lying ahead of the Harmony was a shining city that blazed like gold in the sun. High towers of brass and bronze broke the skyline, and dotting the skies were numerous flying contraptions much smaller than their airship. The fact that there were so many of them was amazing in and of itself.
Massive gears clicked away in the towers and waves of steam rose from stacks everywhere, and the city was filled with quaint little houses and apartments of stone and brick. There was also a wide harbor and many ships resembling old steam powered boats from Equestria’s history texts sailed across the water.
“This is Brasseldorf,” Pinkie said, “Capitol City of Mechanon. We’re here. We made it.”
With slight nudge to the speed dial, Pinkie brought the Harmony on a slow approach to Brasseldorf, the great airship heading towards the bustling burg of bronze. Everypony stood in amazement of the city ahead, until Rainbow pointed out that something was heading towards them, and quickly.
“Rarity, let me use your opera binoculars.”. Rarity levitated the heavily damaged glasses to Rainbow’s eyes, making slight adjustments so as to see well. “Looks like a small boat on propellers just like the ship,” she continued, “A pegasus just jumped off and is heading this way! Wait… no way…”
They all stared in disbelief as the pegasus flew towards them at incredible speed. Though not as fast as Rainbow, this pegasus was noticeably different by having a pair of giant brass wings with small exhausts near her flanks. She was also able to stop suddenly, hovering in front of the glass of the command deck and observing the passengers within. Pinkie brought the ship to an immediate stop, as the pegasus with the brass wing system regarded them all.
Dressed in a large coat that flapped in the wind, the pegasus mare watched them through blue eyes, her bright blue mane being swept black by the air. From her hooves and under her jacket, Rarity could see the newcomer had an indigo coat. Her cutie mark was a pair of wings with a gust of wind underneath. She also had a very cross expression while tapping on the window with sharp raps.
“Oi!” said the pegasus, “This is Captain Hurricane of the Mechanonian air patrol, first squadron, requesting permission to board. I need to make sure you lot are friendly.”
“Very friendly!” Pinkie replied, pointing towards the lower decks, “We’ll open the door for you! Then we can have a party, and have cake and... oh I should get the door now!”
Pinkie ran off to let their guest in leaving the others to watch as the small steam-powered skiff came ever closer. There were three other ponies were dressed like Captain Hurricane, two earth ponies and a unicorn, who kept their patrol boat steady next to the Harmony.
When Pinkie returned with Captain Hurricane, Rarity was able to get a closer look at her attire. The coat was a deep brown and lined with golden trim and bright buttons, with a hat belonging to an officer bearing a crest sitting on her head. Her massive brass wings were tucked away and folded neatly, with a large contraption of sorts set on her back, likely a source of energy to power the wings. They appeared to be coverings, as Rarity could see the natural wings of a pegasus jut from her back.
Hurricane looked at the assembled ponies as if they had all grown second heads. “What kind of ship is this?” she said as she looked around, not at the Harmony but at the ponies, “Is this one of them ‘love boats’? I should reprimand the lot of you for indecency, and with little fillies no less.”
“I beg your pardon?” Rarity said, offended by the Captain’s remarks, “I do hope this isn’t how you treat every guest! There is nothing crude or immoral going on in this boat at all.”
Hurricane propped up her jacket’s collar in response. “Clothes, you bint,” she growled, “Don’t you all wear clothes were you come from? For that matter, where do you come from? This isn’t a Zephyr class airship! It’s too big!”
“This is going to take a while to explain,” Twilight quickly added, “We should start from the beginning…”
“Well blimey, if I wasn’t sitting here as I am now, I’d say you were all stark raving mad.” Hurricane had spent most of the time looking out the window, giving slight gestures to her squadron still parked in the skiff while the rest of the ponies told the tale of their journey. “Oddly enough, I believe every word of it thanks to the fact that I’m standing on physical proof, that you know Artificer Cogworks, and that nopony would ever tell a lie about an injured filly.”
“I’m willing to help you out as best as I can, but the law of Mechanon is still the law that must be obeyed,” Hurricane said, “I have room on the skiff for three if I fly alongside it. Room enough for the filly and two others. To make sure I’m able to keep an eye on you, I request that the pegasi stay here on the ship. I mean no offense; I just don’t want anypony flying off before we get through proper guest channels. Also we can get you lot some attire. You can’t roam Brasseldorf like that, you can’t.”
Rainbow was about to object, when Rarity quickly moved in. “That will be fine, Captain,” she said, “I would like to go and make sure my sister is under proper care. I also have a critical eye for fashion, and I’m sure my friends would appreciate what I could find for them.”
“Some maybe, but I’d like to choose for myself, thank you very much.” Applejack stepped forward, joining Rarity much to her barely hidden contempt. Hurricane nodded before heading back down to the Harmony’s entrance.
“Good. I’ll meet you below then when you’re good and ready.” With that Hurricane left, leaving the others to mull about their first meeting with a Mechanonian.
“Did you see her wings?” Rainbow immediately blurted, “I bet those babies can ride the wind like noponies business! What I wouldn’t give to have a pair of those.”
“I have to say I am intrigued by the level of technology Mechanon is boasting,” Twilight added, looking out to Brasseldorf, “It seems similar to olden machines from Equestria's past, yet capable of doing what modern tech can do. I also couldn’t sense an ounce of magic, not from the skiff or Hurricane’s wings.”
“Are you two going to be OK going to Brasseldorf on your own?” Fluttershy asked, “I don’t like the idea of splitting up.”
“We’ll be fine, sugarcube,” Applejack replied, “That Hurricane seemed like a nice enough gal’, just one that does her job honest like. Me and Rarity will be back before you know it. Then we’ll be in Mechanon together.”
“’Rarity and I’, dear.” This was going to be a long trip if she had to spend it with Applejack. “Come, we need to get Sweetie Belle and bring her to the skiff. Don’t worry about us, darlings. We’ll be in good care, and when we return I’ll have the best outfits for you all.”
Ignoring Rainbow’s “Nothing too frilly” comment, Rarity lead the way to her quarters where she levitated Sweetie Belle onto Applejack’s back. She was thankful for Applejack’s strength; lifting bushel’s of apples was hard compared to a filly. Together they headed down to the ship’s entrance where Hurricane was waiting.
“We ready then?” Hurricane asked, receiving nods from both Rarity and Applejack. She opened the door and flew out into the sky, returning a moment later with the small air boat. The other members of her squadron began their work in earnest, lowering a small gangway for the three Equestrians to cross over. Rarity looked at the think bridge connecting the skiff to the Harmony with trepidation, slowly making her way across until she was onboard. Applejack followed, careful to make sure the unconscious body of Sweetie Belle remained on her back.
“Right then,” Hurrican said as she hovered near the boat, “We’ll be making our way to Brasseldorf proper. Bring us about, Mister Slighthoof, three quarters power. Careful with the filly.”
“Aye aye, sir.” Putting hooves to the speed dial, the green unicorn named Slighthoof turned the skiff towards the city. Applejack laid herself in the center of the boat as Rarity took in their new surroundings. They were moving at a quick pace, something of which Rarity was thankful. A city as large as Brasseldorf had to have a doctor that would help Sweetie Belle.
The members of Hurricane’s squadron were largely silent during transit, with the unicorn maintaining control of the skiff while the earth pony with the brown coat took notes with a pad and pen. The other pony simply stared ahead of them towards the city, being completely still and silent all along. He was tall like Big Macintosh, but as Rarity tried to get a good look at him, his coat and hat made it impossible to tell exactly what was underneath, and most of his body was shrouded by cloth.
“It is eleven-hundred hours,” he said suddenly, surprising Rarity, “Mister Noteful, ready the flags for communication. Flags whiskey, zulu.” The brown earth pony nodded before tucking his pen back into his jacket pocket, opening a compartment on the skiff with his mouth and readying flags. The tall officer’s voice was a deep baritone, but as he spoke, Rarity tried thought it was hollow, or that it had some kind of echo.
“Aye aye, Commander,” Noteful replied, “Reporting to harbor for medical aid and a tug to be brought out, whiskey zulu.” The young earth pony bit down on the wooden handles of two flags, one a series of squares within squares from blue, to white, to red in decreasing size and another square flag divided into four coloured triangles: yellow, blue, red, and black.
Noteful took to the fore of the boat next to Slighthoof, waving both flags in his mouth towards the harbor. The Commander turned his gaze towards the harbor of both sea and air based vessel before nodding and turning towards Hurricane. “Captain, alpha flag confirmed. We will be docked in three-hundred seconds.”
“Very good, Commander Steele,” Hurricane replied as she flew in close, “I’ll meet you all at the dock.”
Steele raised a hoof in salute as Hurricane’s thrusters ignited, propelling her even faster towards the city. They remained quiet until a much smaller skyboat being piloted by an earth pony zoomed over to them. Once both skiff and boat were settled, Steele turned to Rarity and Applejack. His eyes were covered in dark glass, and his overall demeanor frightened Rarity.
“Please load the injured into the tug,” he said, “Once we are in dock, the tug will take the young lady to First General Hospital in District Two. The tug only has room for two I am afraid. In the mean time, we must go about due process of article twenty-four, paragraphs one to seventeen for all foreign guests of Mechanon as well as article two, paragraphs six to twenty-five for all new technology entering Mechanon. Do you understand the following procedures?”
“Sounds like we should have come with a lawyer,” Rarity muttered, only to nod to Commander Steele, “We understand. I just want my sister to get some proper care.”
“Affirmative. You will be reunited with Captain Hurricane soon. She will act the part of your liaison during your stay. Please wait as we dock. Please wait.”
The small tug boat fired a hook that gripped the skiff’s hull and with precision piloting, both skiff and tug flew in unison into onto to the dock. Once both miniature airships were docked, Applejack and the other air patrollers loaded Sweetie Belle into the tug. Rarity gave one last look to her sister before the tug ascended, flying off towards the city.
“Will she be well taken care of?” Rarity asked. Steele made no movement, but a slight nod.
“She will be under excellent care. First General Hospital is often described as one of Mechanon’s best healthcare facilities. The doctors are all educated in District One University in the latest in medical care and provisions.”
Waiting for them on the wooden moorings was Hurricane, standing with two extra jackets draped over her back. Applejack quickly donned the vestment with a few choice tugs of her mouth. Rarity harrumphed as she levitated the jacket and put it on. Not exactly her first choice, but she always did have a thing for how sharp military uniforms were.
When she turned to Hurricane, the captain’s only response was to stand still with her mouth agape. “You can use magic?” she asked. Rarity returned Hurricane’s look of surprise with one of her own.
“Of course I can,” she said nonchalantly, “Can’t every unicorn use even the most basic of magic?”
“No.” Hurricane shook her head, pacing a bit as she looked the two over. “The only wizards we have in Mechanon are graduates and guests from Icekierka. Besides them, there isn’t a spit of magic from Mane Street to Lash Row.”
“What seems to be the problem?”
Hurricane was chewing her lip, before going back to a smile. “It’s nothing. Never mind that I mentioned it. Commander Steele and I will be escorting you into the city. All I ask is that you refrain from casting. Some folks may get… frightened.”
“Slighthoof, Noteful,” Hurricane said, snapping the two officers to attention, “Inform the needed departments for a slew of paperwork. Foreign guests, technology, magic, the works. We’ll also need a message sent to Artificer Cogworks, since they claim to know him. I’ll write up the last report myself once I have them settled.”
A collective “aye aye” from the two youths sent them on their way, and both Captain and Commander lead the way for Rarity and Applejack to follow. It was now that they were able to take in Brasseldorf from the ground up. It looked like a city from another time and place, similar to Canterlot in scale but closer resembling the more antique looking areas of Manehattan. Besides the military ponies who milled about, there were also several ponies going about their business, whether it was making ships, receiving shipments of goods, or getting ready to set sail.
Everything was being controlled by steam-powered contraptions, whether it was large loading cranes or powered mooring chains. There was something about the aesthetic of Brasseldorf that was pleasing to Rarity; the old fashioned with a modern twist. Her mind was already buzzing with the possibilities for new lines of dresses.
Applejack’s amazement matched, as she kept her head on a swivel while looking about at the brick and brass of the city. They came upon a large building where several air patrol officers were entering and leaving, until Hurricane stopped and turned to them.
“I hope you two know how to behave yourselves,” Hurricane said, though when Rarity looked she was sporting a smile, “Mechanon prides itself on keeping tight ship, as it were. We’ll just stop by the barracks for a moment so we can change out of uniform. This is no longer a military venture after all, but a diplomatic one. No need to look like a soldier when with guests. Come, Steele.”
The two left for the barracks leaving Rarity with Applejack. Letting out a sigh, Rarity sat on her haunches and looked about. Brasseldorf was a very impressive city, but something was lost in being here. The lack of their friends not enjoying the fruits of the journey was one distressing aspect. Sweetie Belle brought over to a strange hospital was another.
The door opened to reveal to Rarity something straight out of a science fiction novel. Standing in front of her would have been an immaculately well dressed stallion in a three piece suit, spats, and a tall top hat. That is, if Rarity could have called him a pony at all. His entire body was made of silvery metal, the rivets clearly visible in the midday sun as jets of steam exhaust left his “nostrils”. His “eyes”, for lack of a better term, were simply black glass inside the sockets. His mane and tail were incredibly detailed pieces of bronze metalwork, and he even had brass welded onto his face to resemble a handlebar mustache.
“Is something the matter, madams?” Steele asked. Rarity kept silent, still in shock at what she was seeing. Applejack was less discrete.
“You’re a robot!”
“We prefer the term ‘automaton,’” Steele replied, “Robots are serfs with no free will of their own. Capable workers yes, but no sentience, no thought. They require input to operate. Automatons are, for lack of a better term, autonomous. We can move about freely. We can choose our own actions. We think, therefore we are. For example, I like my top hat, I choose to wear my top hat, and I think a top hat is a fine piece of attire. No robot can determine that.”
“Are you giving them the ‘top hat’ lecture?” Hurricane stepped out of the barracks looking like a completely different mare. She was dressed a long frilly gown of sky blues with the lace resembling clouds, and a small hat perched slightly off on the side of her head lined with roses. Her hooves were clad in small cloth shoes, and Rarity almost squealed in delight at the ensemble. Because of the dress, Hurricane's wings were completely covered, giving her the appearance of a simple indigo earth pony.
“I hope Steele hasn’t been going on for too long,” said Hurricane as she joined her partner, “He does like to go on about social issues when not in uniform. He is, in the end, all business. Hardly a gear of pleasure in that steel frame of his.”
“Dear Captain, you look incredible,” Rarity said, “The stitchwork is of your dress is exquisite, and the choice of colours! I can’t wait to find something for my friends and myself!”
“Fear not, mate,” Hurricane said with a smile, “We’ll be heading off to get you all some proper dresses right this instant.”
“Begging your pardon and all,” Applejack interjected, “But me and my friend Rainbow aren’t exactly dressy ponies.” She quickly shot a glare at Rarity, who looked away as if the sky was the most interesting thing in the world.
Hurricane laughed, saying to put all fears away as she lead the way towards the heart of Brasseldorf. Walking away from the harbor for both boats and airships, known as District Five as Hurricane called it, they continued into the city center proper. Filled with shops and merchants as far as the eye can see, Hurricane mentioned that this was District Three of the city. The
center of trade and commerce within Mechanon, District Three was Rarity’s dream come true. It seemed every second shop was tailored for her. Dresses, jewelry, and the selection of hats made her gasp in delight.
“We should have come here sooner! Applejack, this place is incredible!” As Rarity gushed, Applejack merely rolled her eyes.
“Everything looks all fancy and metallic and all that. Just wondering if you ever thought on how we are going to pay for all these goods.”
“Well, I’m sure we can trade something. We do have bits,” Rarity answered, “Except they are on the Harmony. Oh, Captain? I do hope we can be able to pay for new clothes and such. We have money on our ship. Gold coins, to be exact.”
“Gold you say?” Hurricane’s ears perked up at the mention of the precious metal, “Steele, what is the current price of gold these days? I haven’t kept up on the tickers for a while now.”
“Current mark-to-ounce ratio is as follows: two-hundred Mechanonian marks per ounce of gold. All questions of gold and gold-to-currency transfers should be directed to the Bank of Mechanon, District Two.”
“Is two hundred marks good?” Rarity and Applejack were both savvy business ponies, and they took a moment to consider how much wealth they had brought with them. Hurricane nodded, before pointing a hoof towards one of the stores with a rather appealing violet gown.
“That there dress is about one hundred marks,” she said, “So add that, some silk stockings for your legs, and a nice hat, and you’ll still have enough marks to buy lunch at ‘The Ivory Chalice’.”
Four bits to an ounce, Rarity calculated, I brought well over a hundred bits, so add that up, carry the two… oh…
“…my goodness,” she squeaked before looking to Applejack. It was as if her eyes had rolled up into money signs. Money was not going to be a problem in the slightest. Now if only they could go back to the ship and get some.
“By the looks of on your faces, I’d say you two are well off with plenty of dosh.” Hurricane smiled at them, then gestured to a small building in the corner. “That’s my favourite store in District Three. The shopkeep always knows exactly what suits me best. Steele?”
“I’ll busy myself at the mechanics emporium, as usual,” the metal pony said, another couple streams of exhaust exiting his nostrils, “I could use some oil maintenance in my hoof-joints.”
“Don’t forget to polish the brass!” Steele snorted again before he left, leaving a giggling Hurricane in his wake. “Come, come! I saw a scarf with my name on it the other day, and we still need to get you and all your friends properly dressed.
Rarity quickly dashed inside the establishment into what was essentially a more antiquated version of her own Carousel Boutique. Mannequins were adorned in all sorts of wonderful clothes, and it took all of Rarity’s willpower to not take and try them all on. In the back of the main boutique there was a large bronze machine, resembling an impressive loom. She fidgeted on her hooves with indecisiveness until a tall, elderly unicorn mare stepped from backroom to the counter.
“Ah, Lady Hurricane, how good to see you again,” the storekeeper said, “And I see you brought more friends from the air patrol?”
“Not quite. These are foreigners from a land called ‘Equestria’” Hurricane replied, “They have a few strange customs, but for now what they really need are some new clothes. Go on, luvs, tell her what you want and she can make it in a jiffy. I’m going to take a look around as you three get aquainted.”
Rarity looked at the elderly unicorn with a mix of excitement and hesitation. Ever since she became a dressmaker in Ponyville, she had always made her own clothes. She knew her size, her likes and dislikes, and exactly what colours went well with her mane, her coat, and her eyes. To ask for another to make her attire was territory she had not tread since she was small and her mother made all the decisions.
Rarity shuddered at the thought of those dark, unfashionable days.
Still, Hurricane trusted the proprietor, and the captain’s dress was something to behold. It would be nice to have somepony make her clothes for a change. Just so long as they listened to the instructions to the letter, of course.
“I’ll start with something simple,” Rarity said, “Something akin to what Lady Hurricane is wearing. For the colours, magenta with dark violet lacing, a pink petticoat, and one of those lovely wide brimmed hats with little red roses on the side. It has to say ‘me’ but also ‘look at that mare and all her well dressed friends’.”
The storekeeper nodded then moved over to the machine in the back of the buildings. Rarity and Applejack watched the proceedings with interest as she pressed several buttons on the machine before stepping back with a knowing smile. The machine suddenly came to life, moving several arms previously hidden as more devices pulled several lines of material as it loomed cloth for Rarity’s request.
The machine worked quickly, clanging and hissing steam exhaust as it worked, spinning together the dress Rarity had asked for. While Applejack watched the machine work in amazement, Rarity watched with trepidation. Whatever this contraption was, it was working much faster than any dressmaker ever had, Rarity included.
There was a loud ding and the dress was done, held in place by a large metal claw and waiting to be looked over. What would have taken Rarity four hours of straight uninterrupted work took the machine all of ten minutes. She regarded the dress with a critical eye, only to determine that the piece was exactly as she requested it.
“Boy howdy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any dress made so fast,” Applejack said. Rarity couldn’t help but agree. It was frightening in its own way. Where was the labour? The artistry? The soul of the dress? A marvel such as an elegant gown or a finely tailored suit was supposed to take time, dedication, and hard work. That was how she was taught. Yet with only a few button presses, she did not have to wait a week or two for the ensemble of her desires. Just ten minutes.
“I’ll go try it on,” Rarity said, though a little deflated as the machine just as quickly made her hat, “If I may use the back room?”
“Of course, madam,” the proprietor said, “Lady Hurricane should also be in the back. I hope it won’t be too much of a problem.”
Rarity shook her head, leaving Applejack to decide what she wanted out of the machine. When she opened the door to the change rooms, Hurricane was sitting on her haunches in front of a mirror, trying on various tea gowns.
“Need something for casual affairs at home,” she said when she saw Rarity in the mirror, “Well? Have you found anything you like? Did the storekeep use her wonderful machine?”
“She did,” Rarity said flatly. When she placed her new dress on a stool nearby, she looked over to see Hurricane struggling with the strings of her girdle. With a flick of her magic, she loosened the strings of the girdle until it could be comfortably taken off without aid.
Oddly, the lights seemed to flicker when Rarity used her magic, and Hurricane twisted her head to look at Rarity while shaking her head and mouthing “no”. There was suddenly a loud clang and a much louder curse coming from the main showroom. Hurricane leaned in close.
“Thanks for the help with this blasted girdle, luv, but I did tell you not to use magic,” she said, though not in a harsh tone, “I’ll explain why when you and your friends are reunited. For now, just stop with the magic.”
Rarity nodded, silently taking off the loaned military jacket and beginning the process of putting on the new clothes that made up Mechanon’s fashion. Silk stockings, petticoat, girdle, until finally she was able to put on the magenta dress. Dressing without magic wasn’t a hassle, and when she looked in the mirror, Rarity was pleased with what she saw. Something out of an old storybook, she decided. When she turned to get Hurricane’s opinion, she was already dressed and ready to go.
“Petticoat helps add more poof to the dress, I feel,” she said, “How about you? How do you like the dress?”
“It’s… quite nice,” Rarity said, channeling her inner Fluttershy, “I’m just hesitant about a machine made dress. I’m a dressmaker back home, you see, and I like to think I put a bit of my own, how should I put it, essence into every work. Seeing a machine do it all is just a teensy bit like cheating.”
Hurricane explained, “Most everything in Mechanon is mechanized. From the textile industries, to farming, everything. There have been protests against the industrial revolution, but some of it has done wonders. Steele and the other automatons wouldn’t be around without the advancements.”
“You do seem quite close to Steele,” Rarity added, “Has he been part of your squadron long?”
“Quite long. He’s the longest serving automaton in the military and for good reason.” Hurricane turned around with a new hat on, posing a bit for Rarity who gave her an approving nod. “He has been my second-in-command for well over four years, and he has never disappointed. There are few I would trust other than Steele, even if he is a bit cold. I think I’d be lost without him.”
Both mares left the change room to find Applejack waiting for them in new clothes of her own. The shop keep said it took some doing to work something around “that ridiculous hat”, but eventually they settled with a sharp looking brown blazer and trousers. Applejack had also gone ahead of Rarity and helped the machine make something for rainbow, a simple shirt and jacket with holes for her wings and trousers.
Rarity quickly took over the process of having the machine work on new clothes, requesting all manners of fancy dresses only to be reined in by Applejack. In the end they left with a casual tea gown for Twilight, something a bit more fancy yet subdued for Fluttershy, and as the shopkeep put it “the most raucous and loud party dress ever conceived” for Pinkie.
“That just about does it,” Applejack said, “Though we didn’t bring any money with us.”
“Don’t worry about a thing, I’ll take care of the tab,” Hurricane replied as she fetched some paper money out of her bag. Once she placed a stack of marks on the counter, she turned to speak. “I saw the glint in your eyes when Steele talked about gold. You can treat me to lunch at the Ivory Chalice once we get you and your friends settled.”
Once they were back in the busy streets, Steele rejoined them and offered to help carry their goods back to the harbor. As they made their way back to harbor, the ponies of Brasseldorf were all staring towards District Three as the Harmony drifted slowly overhead. They all spoke in surprise as something so massive came closer to their city.
“Wonderful. Another wretched contraption.” Rarity turned her head to see a pair of unicorns dressed in something she would have called completely avant-garde. They were clad in black robes with incredibly high collars, adorned in jewels and glowing thread that made them appear like powerful sorcerers. While she was interested in their choice of attire, their scowls as they spoke with such disdain to Pinkie’s prized project made her suspicious.
“Excuse me,” Rarity interjected, “But that ‘wretched contraption’ was made by our dear friend. It is a marvel of technology.”
“We don’t need another piece of technology choking up the natural order of the land,” said the stallion of the pair, “Bad enough Mechanon expands without thought, but even the very magic of the land is disturbed by their need for ‘progress’. But you wouldn’t understand, would you, traitor?”
Applejack immediately reacted to the insult, putting herself between Rarity and the unicorns. When Hurricane put a hoof against Applejack’s chest and Steele moved in, all Rarity could do was look aghast at her accusers. She was many things, but traitor was not one of them. Why would they call her that? What was so different about them to her?
“Go about your business, Icekierkans,” Steele said, “There is no need for confrontation here. This message shall not be repeated.”
The Icekierkans glared at Steele before turning around wordlessly, until naught but their trailing capes and their high collars could be seen. Rarity looked to Applejack then to Hurricane, confused. Once Steele rejoined them, the captain could only shake her head.
“Unicorns from Icekierka,” she explained, “A city state to the north. It’s the finest magic academy in all the land, but it’s also ruled by a despot named Cold Snap. Icekierka and Mechanon have never gotten along, and they blame the progress of our science and industry for near everything. I’m sorry, you two. There is a lot to explain, and I’ll be sure to help where I can. First let’s reunite you lot with your friends.”
While the streets of Brasseldorf was nice to travel in, there was something about being back on the Harmony that filled Rarity with a sense of “home away from home.” Her friends were all waiting for her and Applejack as they boarded the vessel, hugs and questions being passed around as they crowded over the bag filled with new clothes. They quickly donned their new attire as Hurricane and Steele busied themselves with looking over the Harmony in detail.
Rarity did find their reactions to an artificial pony quite amusing, if not unexpected. Twilight wanted to study Steele’s intricacies in detail, much to the automaton’s dismay, while Fluttershy spent most of the time staying out of eye contact. Rainbow declared automatons “way past cool”. Of course, Pinkie simply wanted to know if Steele would come to a party. He politely declined, saying that it was not within his “function” to party.
They also received Hurricane quite well, especially Rainbow, who immediately set herself to try to make the good captain a rival of sorts. Already Rainbow was besieging Hurricane with either challenges to a race or questions about her brass wings. The challenges were accepted, but questions about her flight apparatus were seemingly dodge or deflected to some other topic.
Hurricane had managed to secure them a larger airboat than the patrol skiff she and her squadron originally arrived in, and one by one each Equestrian pony boarded the boat as they stared on at Brasseldorf in the same awe and amazement Rarity and Applejack had. With a quick nod to Steele at the controls, Hurricane turned to her nation’s guests and smiled.
The airboat drifted down towards the dock where a crowd of ponies stood and stared at the Harmony above them. Rarity found it amusing that they were more interested in the airship than they were with the guests from Equestria. With several bags of golden bits hanging from their sides, they disembarked to find themselves with a new land lying before them.
In the distance there was a loud pop that surprised everyone in the dock. From the distance came a roving locomotive that appeared rickety, rusty, and just plain old. Despite the popping of the engine and the fact that the contraption looked like it was going to fall apart any minute, the earth pony stallion handling the machine was not what Rarity was expecting. He was middle-aged with a tan coat and blond mane but he was also very clean, well dressed, and well groomed. He had three cogs for a cutie mark.
Pinkie’s eyes lit up immensely until she galloped right towards the locomotive. “Cogsworks!” she yelled, until she bounded into the waiting gentlecolts forelegs. The two embraced until sure enough one of the wheels of his jalopy fell off and sent them spiraling onto the cobblestone roads. Despite being flat on their faces, the two laughed and laughed.
“I always knew you were the smart cookie, or pie as it were,” Cogworks said as he helped Pinkie up, “And you brought friends, excellent, how excellent! Pinkie, we need a party at my place, stat! Quick, get the spare wheel, the wrenches, and the jelly donut from the back of my lunch tin, I’m hungry. But not the maple one, that’s for later! Welcome! Welcome all to Mechanon!”