Two weeks had passed since the Mareitania completed and passed her sea trials. Ponies had been working round the clock to get the ship ready for her maiden voyage to Mareseilles, Prance. Chairs, beds, paintings, and crates containing various foods and drinks were brought aboard in preparation until the day finally came.
11:30 am (Manehattan)
The air was filled with excitement as hundreds of ponies gathered at the docks to catch a glimpse of the Mareitania before she departed on her maiden voyage. Ponies that already boarded were lining her rails, waving goodbye to their friends or family below. A band stationed by the main gangway leading on board was playing a joyful tune. Cranes were busy loading the last of the cargo into the holds and the sound of tug boats standing by for the scheduled noon departure just added to the excitement.
As all of this was happening, Steel sat in his cabin behind the bridge, reading a newspaper that was brought to him earlier in the day. While it contained mostly stuff that didn't really interest him, one article did catch his attention. It was an article about Princess Twilight Sparkle and her friends taking a two week vacation on board the royal clipper, Solar Wind. While it would have been nice to have them on board the Mareitania for her maiden voyage, he guessed that they probably didn't want to take the spotlight away from him or his ship.
After folding up the paper and putting it on his bed, he stepped out onto the bridge before walking out onto the starboard bridge wing. The brass buttons on his new white uniform shined in the light of the sun, which made him smile whenever he looked at it. Shifting his attention down toward the pier, he could see crowds of ponies lining the dock, with various camera flashes coming from reporters and newsponies documenting this historic day.
"Captain." Port's voice said from behind him, making him turn around to see his First Officer standing a couple of feet away with a clipboard being held in his green colored magic. "My check of the preparations is complete. She's ready for departure."
"Excellent." Steel replied. "Then all that's left is waiting for our departure time." He then levitated a pocket watch out of his jacket. "Which is in less than half an hour."
"Is there any other tasks for me to complete?"
"I want you to oversee the last of our cargo being loaded on board." He said. "Make sure nothing is damaged. We wouldn't want our maiden voyage to be tarnished by some passenger's belongings being destroyed."
"Yes sir." Port replied before saluting, earning one from Steel in return before he walked away to follow the order given to him. Alone once again, Steel turned to look back down the side of his ship toward the dock below just as a carriage pulled up. However, unlike the numerous other occurrences of this type of event happening, this carriage was swarming with members of the Royal Guard. This made Steel look on in curiosity as the door of the wagon opened and a white hoof could be seen extending out.
"Well would you look at that." Steel thought as he saw Princess Celestia, the ruler of all of Equestria, step out of the carriage. But she was not alone. Soon enough, seven other ponies and a little dragon stepped out before stopping beside the Princess of the Sun. Steel recognized six of the ponies as the bearers of the Elements of Harmony: Princess Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rarity. However, the identities of the light purple unicorn with the purple and cyan mane and the young dragon eluded him. But seeing them with the others made him shrug it off as just being their friends.
"Maybe they changed their minds and decided to come be a part of Mareitania's maiden voyage after all." Steel thought as he looked down at them. But then a memory of what the guards at the gate leading onto the pier flowed into his mind. "Or maybe....." He continued in thought while rubbing a hoof under his muzzle. "Nah. Come on, Steel. There's no way that they could be changelings. The detector would've gone off if they were."
He was still looking down at the ponies when the sound of hooves approaching made him look up and turn around to find Dotted standing in front of him with a big smile on his face.
"I'm glad to see that your uniform is fitting you nicely, Captain." He said. "I can tell that this is going to be a glorious day for the Red Apple Line."
"Yes it is, sir." Steel replied. "I will do my best to make sure that neither I nor this ship disappoints you or the company."
"I'm sure you will."
"And it looks like we've attracted some rather interesting passengers." He continued before motioning for him to look down. Dotted did as instructed and looked over the side before his mouth went agape at what he saw.
"Sweet Celestia!" The white unicorn exclaimed, making Steel quietly chuckle for a moment before acting normal when his boss looked back up. "This is so exciting!" He said in a joyful tone. "Never in our company's history have we had any member of royalty travel on one of our liners."
"First time for everything, sir." Steel said as the chairpony of the Red Apple Line danced around on the bridge wing like a young colt who just got an extra cupcake for dessert. This spectacle made the red unicorn chuckle softly again as Dotted quickly rushed off to most likely greet the special passengers. After losing sight of the chairpony, Steel levitated his watch back out of his coat pocket. "Twenty minutes til departure." He thought before making his way into the bridge. Once in, he noted how much the sunlight made the polished brass instruments shine. A feeling of pride began swelling up inside him as he looked around.
"I still can't believe that this is actually happening." He thought while placing a hoof on the helm. "Captain of the largest ship in all of Equestria."
"Captain.... Blade!" Dotted's voice said in an exhausted tone from behind. Steel turned around to find his boss panting heavily and sweating profusely in the doorway leading into the bridge, almost like he sprinted all the way from the pier to the bridge. "The Princess.... would like to meet you..... before we depart."
"Uh.... which one?"
"Celestia!" This response made Steel's pupils shrink. Never in his life had he ever seen the Princess of the Sun in public until today.
"P-Princess Celestia wants to m-meet m-me?" He stuttered. Dotted just nodded in response before quickly motioning with his hoof to follow him. Steel obliged and the two unicorns set off toward the main boarding lobby where the Princess and the bearers of the Elements of Harmony were presumably waiting. Along the way, Steel couldn't help but be extremely nervous. This would be the first time he would be conversing with royalty and thus wanted to make a good first impression.
"If their experience on this voyage goes well, who knows how much the Red Apple Line could benefit from it." Dotted said excitedly as the two rushed through a corridor. "We could be the most prestigious line on the Equestrian Ocean!"
"That would be very nice, sir." Steel replied just before they went down a stairway. "But let's focus on right now instead of the future."
Dotted's cheeks turned slightly red when he heard that. "Yes." He said before clearing his throat. "I uh... suppose that is the proper thing to do." After saying that, the two turned a corner before entering the hallway leading into the main boarding lobby. Even from where they were, Steel could make out the unique mane of Princess Celestia. He gulped a bit as they approached.
"Just play it cool, Steel." He thought as they entered the room. "She's just another passenger. No different than anypony else."
"Princess Celestia." Dotted said, gaining the alicorn's attention along with the respective attentions of Twilight and the others. "I'd like for you to meet the stallion who is in command of this glorious vessel, Captain Steel Blade." Celestia's eyes fixated themselves on Steel, who shook slightly. All around the room, ponies gazed on as she held out her hoof.
"It is an honor to meet you, Captain." She said in her calm and soothing toned voice. "I must say that you have a beautiful ship here."
"T-Thank you, your highness." Steel replied before shaking her hoof. "But the honor is all mine. To have you all here is a pleasure."
"Quite so." Dotted added.
"And I must say." Steel continued before looking over at Twilight and her friends. "It certainly was a surprise to see you all here. I guess you decided to cancel your planned vacation to come be a part of this historic voyage instead. Hmm?"
"What?" Twilight asked as a confused look appeared on her face. "Oh! Yeah. We uh... definitely thought that this was a much better way to relax than what we had planned." She then looked toward her friends with a sheepish smile. "Right?" Each one of them quickly nodded their heads while agreeing with the lavender alicorn. But the look of nervousness plastered on each of their faces caught Steel by surprise. Before he could do or say anything though, Dotted cleared his throat.
"Well it is a delight to have you on board." He said before pulling a watch out of his coat pocket. "Now if you'll excuse us, we must be on our way. The beginning of our company's flagship's maiden voyage is just minutes away." With that said, Dotted turned and walked away. "Come along, Steel."
"Yes, sir." He replied before turning to follow. But as he walked away, he could faintly hear whispers coming from behind. "Is there anything else you needed?" He asked before looking back toward the group of ponies who were still smiling at him.
"Nothing that I can think of." Twilight quickly replied. "We'll just uh.... be on our way now. It was nice to meet you, Captain." Soon, they all turned and walked away. Steel did the same, but occasionally looked back at them before he had to turn a corner to get back up to the boat deck. As he walked, he couldn't help but think about the reaction they displayed when he mentioned their planned vacation. It was certainly one that he was not expecting. Almost like they didn't even know what he was talking about.
Once back on the boat deck, Steel made his way over to the port side bridge wing just as members of the crew were tying up the tow lines from the tugs. Pulling out his watch again, he saw that the time had come for departure.
"Port." He called out, gaining his friend's attention.
"Sound the whistle. It's time to make some history."
"Aye aye, sir." He replied before grabbing the whistle lever with his green colored magic. He then pulled the lever down, sending a long blast from Mareitania's whistle across the city. Once done, the sound of the tugs' whistles tooting in response could be heard before they started pulling the massive liner away from the dock. The crowd of ponies on the pier cheered and waved at the ponies up on main deck as the liner was slowly pulled backward into the Hoofson River.
"Looks like the tugs may need our help again." Steel said before grabbing the engine telegraph levers with his magic. Soon, he pulled them back into the 'dead slow astern' position. Down below, the engineers soon brought the turbine engines to life as two of the bronze propellers began churning in reverse to aid the tugs.
"45 degrees to port." Steel calmly ordered to the helmspony.
"45 degrees to port." He repeated before turning the helm counter-clockwise until he couldn't turn it any longer. After a minute or so, the bow of the ship was facing down river.
"Straighten out the rudder." Steel said. "And dead slow ahead."
"Dead slow ahead. Aye sir." Port replied while pushing the telegraph levers forward with his magic.
"Rudder at 0 degrees." The helmspony added.
After hearing that and sensing the engines go from astern to ahead, Steel took hold of the whistle lever in his magical grip before pulling down on it, sending another long blast from the massive whistles across Manehattan. Soon after, the large vessel slowly started to move as now all four propellers were slowly rotating, pushing the massive liner forward.
"Mareitania is under way." Port said as he joined Steel on the port bridge wing. As the two looked out at the crowd of ponies lining the shore, both of them waved as they passed by. Looking down at the boat deck, Steel could see Princess Celestia and Princess Twilight along with the rest of her friends as they all waved toward the ponies on shore. They all seemed delighted as the ship moved down the river. Seeing this made him remember the conversation he had with them. Upon making a mental note to keep an eye on them whenever he could, he turned his attention back toward the waving ponies and waved at them again.
"Let's hope that everything goes according to plan." He thought before glancing down the river as the mouth approached. From there, it was nothing but open ocean for five days until Mareitania would arrive at Mareseilles, Prance.