"I always do hate coming here." Steel thought to himself as he stood on a sidewalk across from the main office of the Red Apple Line, one of Equestria's most successful shipping companies. "This city isn't like Des Mane at all. At least the ponies there treated each other like neighbors." As soon as he said that in his head, a pony wearing strangely shaped sunglasses bumped into him.
"Watch where you're going, you fool!" The pony said before walking away. Steel would've said something back, but he chose not to this time due to more important matters. He then sighed to himself before using his magic to levitate a paper out of his satchel.
"What exactly does Dotted Line want that required me to come to HQ?" He asked in thought as he read the message again.
To Steel Blade,
I know that you've only been with the Red Apple Line for a short period of time. But I would like for you to come to RAL Headquarters in Manehattan to discuss something that would be better for a face-to-face discussion rather than being written. Come as soon as you receive this letter. I look forward to speaking with you.
Red Apple Line Chairpony
"Well..." Steel said to himself as he straightened up his clothes and put the paper back in his satchel. "Lets get this over with." With that said, he began making his way across the street, being careful to stay out of the path of any oncoming carriage. Once across, he looked up at the main entrance to the building and gulped before slowly making his way up the steps to the twin glass doors. He then used his magic to open up one of them before stepping inside.
"Welcome to the Red Apple Line Main Office." A unicorn mare said while sitting behind her desk. "How may I help you?"
"Uhh.... hi." Steel replied as he slowly made his way over to the desk. "I have a meeting with Dotted Line."
"I see." She replied before looking down at some papers on her desk. "And can I get your name?"
"Ah." She said. "Mr. Line has been expecting you. His office is just down the hall. Last door on the left."
"Ok." Steel replied. "Thank you." With that said, he started making his way down the hall, thinking of what exactly this meeting would be about. "What if I did something wrong and he wanted me to come here just so he could see my face when he fires me?" He thought as the door to Dotted Line's office drew closer. "Come on Steel. Keep it together. You've done nothing wrong. At least as far as you know."
Soon, Steel stopped directly in front of the door to Dotted Line's office. He breathed in a large amount of air before slowly exhaling as he tapped on the door with his front right hoof three times.
"Who is it?" A voice asked from inside the room.
"Dotted Line?" Steel asked in a nervous tone. "It's... Steel Blade. You sent me a letter to come and speak with you here?"
"Yes." Dotted's voice replied. "Please come in. This is a very important meeting that needs to be taken care of right away." Steel did as he was told and slowly opened the door and stepped inside before closing it behind him. He then looked over toward his boss, a white colored unicorn stallion with a light blue mane, who was sitting behind a desk with several different colored binders stacked on one side.
"So what exactly did you need sir?" Steel asked as he made his way over to a chair in front of Dotted's desk. "Did I do something wrong?"
"You think I'd bring you here if you did something wrong?"
"Exactly." Dotted said. "You needn't worry about anything Steel. You've done nothing wrong during your time here."
"That's a relief." Steel thought as Dotted levitated a red colored binder, almost the same color as Steel's coat, from the stack of binders.
"I'm sure that you're aware of our newest company flagship being completed just a few days ago. Right?"
"The Mareitania?" Steel asked. "Yeah I heard about that before I came here."
"Good." Dotted said before opening the binder. "Now the reason I've asked you to come here is because I've been looking at potential candidates for who will be in command of her when she embarks on her maiden voyage." Steel's pupils shrank as he heard this. "Bear in mind that there were quite a few who would be great Captains." He continued. "But however, I'm looking for one who I know will be with her for many years."
"Many years? Where exactly is this going?" Steel thought as Dotted flipped through a few pages in the binder.
"So a few days ago, I just so happened to come across your file and decided to give it a look." Dotted continued. "And I must say that I was impressed by what I saw." Steel raised an eyebrow as the white unicorn continued flipping through pages. "Graduated at the top of your class from the Equestrian Merchant Marine Academy. Skilled in sword fighting. Good vision and hearing. And according to your former teachers, very mature despite being so young."
"Woah." Steel said in his mind. "I didn't think I left that good of a reputation there."
"That brings me to where we are now." The white unicorn said. "I understand that you're currently the Fourth Officer of the Celestia."
"So you have at least some experience out at sea."
"I suppose you could say that." Steel said while rubbing his hoof against the back of his head. "But I'm not so sure that what experience I have qualifies me as even a potential candidate for the Mareitania. I've only been with the Celestia for about 6 months now."
"Well under normal circumstances, we here at the Red Apple Line would have our most experienced Captain take a brand new ship out on her maiden voyage." Dotted replied as he put Steel's binder on top of the stack. "But he's due for retirement next week, so we'd then have to find another pony to succeed him. So this time, I wanted to find somepony who would be with her for quite a long time." After saying that, Dotted got up from his chair and proceeded to look out a window that was behind his desk. "That is why I've decided to name you as Captain."
"What?!" Steel exclaimed in shock. "Me?! Captain?!"
"I know it sounds ridiculous." Dotted said as he looked back toward the surprised stallion. "An employee who's only been with us for not even a year is now Captain of our newest liner. But I'm sure you'll do fine."
"I uh....." Steel said, still stunned by his new rank. "I don't know what to say. You really think I'm the best one for this job?"
Dotted simply nodded his head. "Now if you'll come with me..." He said before walking over to the door. "We have a ship to take out on her sea trials."
"Yes sir." Steel said before getting out of his chair to follow his boss.
The carriage ride from Red Apple Line HQ to the harbor didn't last long, only about fifteen or twenty minutes. On the way there, Dotted was telling Steel all about the specs of his new liner, her length, beam, draft, tonnage, etc. Steel was amazed by what his boss was saying. If what he was saying was true, the Mareitania was going to be the largest and fastest ship on the trans-equestrian route.
"So we'll be testing her maneuverability and speed today as well as how quickly she can go from full speed to a stop." Dotted said. "These tests will take a few days to complete. But if she passes, her maiden voyage will be in a couple of weeks."
"But what if she doesn't pass?"
"Then we'll have to see what needs to be done to make sure that she will pass." He replied. "But I'm quite confident that the scenario you're thinking of won't happen."
"Lets hope not." Steel thought as the carriage came to a stop outside the main gates to the Red Apple Line's largest pier.
"Take a look out the window." Dotted instructed as he slowly pointed his hoof toward the glass. Steel did as he was told and turned his head only for his eyes to widen and his jaw to drop at what was out there for him to see.
"Sweet.... mother of Luna...." He said as he just stared at the vessel that was currently tied up at the pier.
"Captain Blade...." Dotted said before opening the door of the carriage, allowing Steel to step out before he joined him. "Allow me to introduce you to your new ship. I present to you...." He then slowly raised one of his front hooves to point at the ship. "The EMS Mareitania." All Steel did in response was just stare. The first thing that caught his attention were the four giant red and black funnels. It was certainly a change of pace from the Celestia, which only had one. "Step lively now, Steel." Dotted said, snapping the red unicorn out of his self induced trance. "We're on a very tight schedule."
"Yes sir." He replied before following his boss toward a strange metal arch with some kind of green field of magic inside. Standing on each side of this thing was a pony from Manehattan's local police force. "Uh.... Dotted?" He asked before the chairpony went through the arch. "What in Equestria is this?"
"It's a changeling detector." One of the police ponies, a unicorn mare, replied. "In order to prevent changelings from disguising as passengers or crew ponies, the scientists at the research facility up in Canterlot created a way for us to detect any disguised changelings. Now anypony entering in or exiting through the harbor must pass through one of these checkpoints."
"Does it work?"
"Well, we haven't caught any yet." Another one replied. "But the scientists said that if a changeling tried passing through, the field of green magic would turn red. Now please move through if you're wanting to enter."
Dotted nodded his head before walking through the arch, passing right through the green magic like it wasn't even there. Once through, the police mare on the left waved her hoof to signal Steel that it was his turn. He nodded in response before slowly making his way through the wall of magic.
"Have a good day now." She said after Steel emerged on the other side. Both unicorns nodded in response before turning their respective attentions back to the ocean liner that was tied to the dock. It looked enormous from the pier as they gazed directly up the side. As they did this, Steel noticed smoke rising out of the four massive funnels.
"The tugs should be here any moment to take us out for the trials." Dotted said before he turned and started walking toward a gangway leading onto the ship.
"And the Maritime Safety Inspector?" Steel asked as he followed.
"She should be here anytime now."
As both of them walked aboard, Steel's jaw dropped once again. Only this time, it was because of the luxurious interior. From highly decorated wood paneling to beautiful paintings, everything he saw could rival the finest hotels in all of Manehattan.
"Pretty nice, eh?" Dotted asked after noticing his companion's expression.
"How much.... did all of this cost?"
"Quite a lot of bits." He replied. "So please be extra careful with her."
"Good afternoon, gentlecolts." A mare's voice said from behind them, making both stallions turn around. Standing before them was an earth pony mare who was wearing a dark purple business outfit. "I am Ms. Harshwhinny, the Maritime Safety Inspector assigned to this ship."
"I know you." Steel said, making her raise an eyebrow. "Aren't you the Games Inspector for the Equestria Games?"
"I am a mare of many hats." She replied as she looked at Steel. "And who exactly would you be? This activity is restricted to crew and company ponies only. No passengers allowed."
"He may not look like it." Dotted said. "But this is actually the stallion who will be in command of this liner."
"Is that so?" She asked in an unimpressed tone before looking at the red unicorn. "Well if he's the Captain, then why isn't he in uniform?"
"He uhh.... just got promoted." Dotted replied sheepishly. "He'll be sure to be in uniform by the maiden voyage."
"Putting quite a lot of faith and trust in somepony so.... inexperienced." She said before looking at her watch. "Well even though I'm having a wonderful time chatting, we do have tests to conduct. That being said, the tugs should be arriving right.... about.... now." As soon as she finished speaking, a chorus of small whistles erupted from outside. "Right then. Now let us make our way to the bridge so the tests can begin."
"Of course." The white stallion replied. "Follow me everypony." With that said, Dotted began walking down the corridor toward the bow with both Ms. Harshwhinny and Steel in tow.