• Published 24th Feb 2012
  • 4,231 Views, 78 Comments

Ponies in Space - Saphroneth



A fusion fic with various space opera, mainly Honor Harrington.

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Chapter 1

With a great flare of transfer energy, coruscating “wings” of force hundreds of kilometres across heralded the arrival in system of TMS Harmony. The light from the wings shaded from violet to blue, to yellow, and finally faded away as a deep red.

“Clean transfer, ma’am.” The ship navigator said. “Wings have charge reading at zero, and no warning lights on their status.”

The Wings were used for hyperspace travel, mainly to dissipate and harness the enormous energies common in the higher, empty dimensions. Jumping into a star system was routine compared to some of the things that ships could do within hyperspace, but it still imposed significant stress on the Wing generators if poorly handled.

“Very good, miss Drops. Configure the ship for sublight and take us in system.”

“Planetary orbit, Captain?”

“No thank you. We’re due a maintenance cycle, and that means heading to Epona station.”

The pegasus nodded, and her wings twitched slightly as she reconnected to the ship systems. Almost all navigators and fighter pilots in the fleet were pegasi, their natural sense for three dimensions giving them an immeasurable advantage, and the Commonwealth had invested a lot of time into developing neural feeds that let them use the sophisticated nerves leading into the wings for flying ships. It had clearly paid off, something very few who saw the contrast between pegasus-flown ships and others could argue against.

“I make it two hours and fifty minutes to parking orbit, Captain.”

“Excellent. XO, you have the watch.”

The bright pink earth pony practically bounced over to the watch chair, and Captain Rarity Belle, dame of the order of the Blue Diamond, gave a tolerant smile. Countess Pie was an… unusual Executive Officer, or XO as the colloquial went, but in their two years of experience together they’d become a good team. Rarity’s relatively aloof style and pedantic intolerance of flaws might normally have made the crew feel uncomfortable, but with Pinkamena running around making sure everything was shipshape it just meant they appreciated the contrast with the exuberant XO.

Her horn glowed briefly, and the lift doors opened. “I’ll be in my cabin, XO. Let me know if anything untoward develops.”

“Yes Sir!”


Rarity heard a muffled voice from outside with the high pitch of her XO, and sent the open command to the door without bothering to wait for her to ask.

“Aww… how’d you know I was there?”

“Your voice, XO. Specifically the unique, one might even say penetrating quality. Perhaps the admiralty should see if we can weaponize the pitch to cut right through battle armour.”

“Nah, silly! For that you need about two and a half thousand times the frequency, and to modulate it with a series of lower tones to build up stress on individual molecular bonds, with the motion at the right amplitude they don’t just reform!”

Rarity blinked for a moment. “Right, I forgot, you’re the heir to a mineral extraction fortune. I always seem to let that slip.” She’d once met the rest of her family, and they were all to a pony much less extroverted than Pinkie. Though they had mentioned that her life in the navy had mellowed her considerably, which made Rarity a little glad they hadn’t been in the same academy class. Imagining Pinkie more bouncy made her head spin.

And it lent credence to the rumour of the twenty-four hour party she’d held for the entire years’ midshipmen and -women. Or to the one that it had taken her two years to stop singing the solution for everything.

“Don’t worry about it. Besides, my sisters are the heirs – I’m just a minority stockholder.”

“Fifteen percent may technically be a minority, but – oh, never mind. I wanted to discuss our newest orders with you.”

“We’ve got new orders already? But we haven’t been docked for more than an hour!”

“Exactly.” Rarity floated the dataslate over to her second in command. “Take a look.”

Pinkie grabbed it in a front hoof and glanced through it. The manoeuvre still confused the technicians who had designed the short-range gravity manipulator that was theoretically necessary to hold things in hooves.

“Reassignment to Flagship? Ooh, that means more people on board! I can finally dust off the admiral’s quarters, and we’ll have to welcome them aboard, and-“

“Keep looking.”

Pinkie subsided and scanned through the documentation. “Uhhh… four star Admiral? Wow, I wondered if they’d left off a word when I read ‘Admiral’ but they didn’t… Oh, this Admiral was recently elevated from ONI.” Pinkie looked up, whimsy fading. “I see your concern.”

“Yes. It doesn’t have much about her earlier achievements, but she came up from Commodore inside the Office of Naval Intelligence. I don’t know why, and I don’t like the idea of someone without actual tactical expertise commanding my ship.”

“Only name given is Duchess of Green Ridge… oh! I think I met her once! There was a party, and she’d just been elevated to the peerage-“

“My goodness. She was elevated personally?” Rarity considered the information. “I thought I didn’t recognize the title. Well, that is interesting. And to a Duchy? Even more interesting. What’s she like?”

“A bit introverted. She didn’t really enjoy herself at the party, which is a pity even if it was more formal than I tend to prefer. She was a captain of the list, then.” Captain of the List was fairly prestigious in the ranking system of the Equestrian navy, indicating someone who was guaranteed with time to make Flag rank. “Hang on…” The pink pony scanned through her memory. “Sparkle. That was it. Twilight Sparkle.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Indeed? Wasn’t there some big news furore about her a few years back?” She picked up a second dataslate, and began searching. “Here we are. She was the senior surviving officer in a battle with the Dogs.” Diamond Dogs were a belligerent power in near space, who were perpetually in a state of almost-war with most others nearby.

Rarity found a reference on the article, and continued reading. “And a year after that her first command, the Bluebell, lost the sublight engines in an engagement with pirates. I don’t see how… ah!” Rarity was silent for a moment. “My word. She is unusual.”

“Waaaait. If she lost the engines, how’d she get home?” Pinkie asked.

Since the Wings were generated somewhere completely different to the sublight drive, the loss of one without affecting the other was entirely possible. However, to get past the limit around every star that disallowed hyperspace travel, ships had to have some means of moving in normal-space – the sublight drive. The most common form was also known as a drive wedge for the placement of the invulnerable planar force discs it generated. Other drive systems were more efficient, but none offered that kind of ancillary protection.

Hyperspace was a different matter, of course. Waves of focused force crossed it, allowing a ship’s Wings to catch them and coast as if on thermals.

“She used her telekinesis to drive the entire Bluebell outside the hyper limit, and then in system once the ship got back to Equestria. Lucky there was a hyper wave to use for propulsion, though – I can’t imagine she had much energy to spare to build up speed in hyper itself.” Rarity frowned. “It doesn’t necessarily say anything about her tactical competence, but at least she’s very strong magically. She even got the Golden Horn for it, and it looks like it let her make list as well.”

Pinkie whistled. The Golden Horn was a unicorn-exclusive decoration representing achievement in magic beyond what was normally possible. Equivalent decorations existed for pegasi and earth ponies, and all three were awarded rarely.

“Well, I suppose we’ll have to make the best of it.” Rarity said. “Do you want to stay for a cup of tea?”

“Nah, I should get over to engineering. There’s a petty officer I have to review, to see if she’s viable to go to get training for a commission or a warrant.”

“We also serve who push pens.” Rarity chuckled. “Makes a welcome change from combat, anyway.”


“Ah, Twilight. Come in.”

The newly minted Admiral walked nervously to where one of her Diarchs was reclining. “You asked to see me, your majesty?”

“Please, Twilight, we’ve known one another long enough. Call me Celestia.”

“Very well, Y- Celestia.”

“Tell me.” The Alicorn turned to give Twilight a penetrating stare. “Do you think that my assigning you to a field command was a mistake?”

“No, of course not!”

The Pincess sighed. “Let me rephrase. Is it what you want to do? And don’t be afraid of speaking your mind. I have few enough Admirals that I choose them carefully. I want your opinion.”

“Then… I’m not sure it was a good idea, no. I’ve not commanded more than one ship in an actual fleet… well, ever. I keep track of the theory, of course, and I occasionally run the odd wargame in the sim tanks at Shetland, but… I don’t know if I’m ready for it.”

“Thank you for your honesty. And in truth you won’t be commanding a fleet in the conventional sense. Your ONI background actually gives you a lot of what I want in you. I need someone who can act as a roving troubleshooter, with the authority to take command of the situation and a good team to go along with them. That’s part of the reason I got you reassigned. Another part is that, well, you sell yourself short. I’ve seen those “odd wargames” you mentioned, and your record is very good.”

“I’ve never beaten Storm Wing.” She protested, before adding “Well, not in an even fight, anyway.”

“Dear me. There’s a reason he’s assigned to the Shetland Island academy tactical simulator, and that’s because he’s the best fleet tactician to come out of the Principality and Commonwealth in hundreds of years. If you could beat him in an even fight with any sort of regularity, you’d have his job.” Celestia straightened up. “In any case, you’ve entirely failed to convince me you have anything more than nerves. The personnel bureau has already assigned you a staff, though of course the final choice is yours. And before you ask, the reason I’m handling this personally is because you are going to be my personal representative, as my admiral without portfolio. I’m going to need you to be used to a certain… closeness, to the levers of power.”

A chime sounded. Celestia levitated her comms unit out of a dish. “Ah, I see the Perilune has just come over the hyper wall, so my sister will be returning in a few hours. You’re with Sixth fleet officially, though the core of that formation’s only eight fast dreadnaughts, most of them the hybrid-carrier variant. Take a while to get them worked up.” Twilight began to leave, recognizing the dismissal, but Celestia continued. “Oh, and Twilight?”

The young duchess turned. “Yes?”

“Stay safe. I’ve invested a lot of time and care into your career, and into you personally.”


“Spike?”

Twilight’s draconic flag lieutenant looked up. “Yes, Twi?”

“Mind giving me a rundown on the staff that personnel decided to give me?”

“Oh, of course. Hang on a moment.” He flicked through his files. “First off, your flag captain is Dame Rarity Belle, Order of the Blue Diamond. The Harmony has been her ship for the last two years, and she’s done some good things with it – they were in the fleet action last year at Perchhek, and she managed to come out of that with only a bit of superficial armour damage. She’s credited with partial kills on three enemy capital ships and completely gutted another one in that battle, and in an earlier chase action she forced two enemy battlecruisers into the rings of the local gas giant. Apparently her affinity for crystals helped her plot a course through the debris field, because TMS Harmony must have been half again the size of those enemy ships…”

“Thank you. What about her personality profile?”

“Something of a perfectionist, which has come back to bite her on occasion, but she’s got the talent to work around it and it’s lessened since she got her current XO.”

“Okay, we’ll move on to her. Who’s the executive officer, then?”

“Countess Pinkamena Diane Pie, of that Pie family. The mineral one. Apparently she had less talent for the family business and her mark indicates that – she’s highly extroverted, and… well, it says ‘hyperactive’ here.”

“I shudder to think.” Twilight looked out of the viewport, hoping to catch a glimpse of Epona station, the hub of the Commonwealth’s navy. “What of the ponies assigned to my staff?”

“Well, you’ve got an outsized one thanks to your unusual position. Ah – staff xenobiologist? That’s a new one… anyway, that position’s taken by one Lt. Lyra Heartstrings. Quite a talented musician, but her true passion is in the differences between cultures and races. She apparently sometimes acts bipedal just to get more of an insight into such a different way of thinking and acting.”

“I’d say she was strange, but I can hardly talk.” Twilight observed drily. “Tactical?”

“Pegasus, Commander, specializes in stealth systems and detection. Good scores from Shetland and been involved in a few independent actions. The only note here that might be a problem is that she’s not very assertive. I think you might have to prod her for solutions that other tac officers might volunteer. Oh, sorry. Name of Fluttershy – just the one.” Spike tapped a claw on the screen. “Next is fighter ops. Wow, this is a real jackpot. Colonel Rainbow Dash.”

“I’ve heard of her!” Twilight said, startled. “Wasn’t she the one who broke the airspeed record on academy review day?”

Spike chuckled. “Yep, she’s the one. Right through the sound barrier, no powered assistance at all. She’s lived up to it, too, despite a string of demerits and comments almost as long as my arm for insolence and brashness.”

“Fighter jocks. Good thing we use the flying commander system, or she’d go nuts.”

The head of the flight ops of a fleet was originally intended to be on their mothership, coordinating their tactics from the position of relative safety, but in practice so many highly skilled fighter jocks had deliberately avoided promotion that instead a dual command system was set up. Dash would be the one who spoke for the pilots at planning meetings and at the highest levels, and she would also fly her command fighter in the attacks themselves. Instead, the assistant tactical command officer, or ATCO, for the fleet would provide the distanced view.

The system had been copied from the fighter’s inventors and most enthusiastic proponents, the Gryphons. One wit had said that the only reason the Gryphon Nation had ships larger than sixty metres in length was that, push came to shove, something had to carry the fighters.

“Out of curiosity, what’s our fighter complement going to be like?”

“Uhhh… here we are. Jeez, I think the Princess was sincere about wanting you as a troubleshooter. She’s certainly got to have pulled some strings for this kind of flight deck. Spitfire, Surprise, Echo, Soarin’… not a one of them who’s not an ace, and one of them has a special note…” Spike paused. ”What.”

“Spike?”

“The evaluator put a comment here – “We don’t know how she does it, but she does.” Apparently one of the pilots runs two fighters at once.”

“You’re kidding.” Twilight floated the dataslate over to her. “You’re not kidding. Her eyes are exotropic, and she flies a different fighter with each one. I didn’t know that was possible.”

“Nobody did. Sort of like breaking the sound barrier, or taking a Dreadnaught through a ring system, or… say… moving an entire ship around under telekinetic control?”

“Right, point made.” She gave an embarrassed smile at the memory of that situation. At the time it had been desperate, more a case of acting than thinking… but with years between then and now, the idea of a single Unicorn pushing her own ship around like a bicycle was almost amusing.

“Oh, look. There’s the station.”

Spike had managed to distract her long enough that they were almost docked. “Well, we’d better get ready.”


“Next, Countess Pinkamena Diane Pie, my Exec. I’m sure she agrees with me that it’s lovely to have you on board, Admiral. Simply lovely.”

“Yeah! And we’ll have to hold a party to let everyone get to know each other!”

Twilight frowned for a moment. “I didn’t know an Alicorn-class had enough, well, room for an event hall.”

“Weeell, there’s a small one on Flag deck, but there’s a much bigger one right here! The boat bay is built to accommodate pinnaces from other ships bringing captains over for conferences, so without them there’s easily the room to fit all but a station watch in here! I’ll get one organized right away!”

One of the Harmony’s officers waiting to be introduced rolled her eyes as Pinkie bounced off. “She’ll calm down eventually, never you mind.”

“That’s something of a relief, ah…”

“Name’s Applejack. I’m the chief engineer on this bucket o’bolts. Hope you never need to speak to me professionally, ‘cause if you do, something’s gone wrong.” The earth pony nodded amicably. “Nice to meet you. And I’ll introduce my brother when I can. He’s the head of the Marine contingent.”

Twilight glanced at her flag lieutenant, who consulted a slate. “Major Macintosh?”

“Yep. Big Mac, that’s him.” She peered at Spike. “Well, can’t say I’ve seen a dragon before. Oh, sorry, I’m being rude again.”

“No, it’s no trouble. Ah, Captain? Is that everyone?”

“Almost. There’s still one of the marines, who seems to be late. I wouldn’t normally mention her specifically, but in your case it’s a point of special interest.”

“Oh?” Twilight frowned. “I can’t think why…”

With a BANG, a large cloud of blue smoke appeared to Applejack’s left, in a clear area of the boat bay. Several ponies twitched to their side arms, and Twilight’s horn lit with a wide-area stun spell, before she realized that the magical signature felt… familiar.

“Behold! The Great And Powerful head of the magic support company, battle mage without peer, Major-“

“Trixie!” Twilight said delightedly. “I haven’t seen you in years!”

The smoke evaporated, revealing a blue unicorn in field harness (marked with a Captain’s insignia, not that of a Major, but the ancient tradition of courtesy promotions still held – there could be only one captain aboard a ship) and with a standard-issue combat staff on one flank. “And look at you, Twilight! Who would have thought that you would ever make Admiral back at Shetland?”

“Yeah, about that. Why did you switch to the marines?”

“You know my talents have never been in anything particular.” Trixie explained. “Except misdirection. So I realized that the place where that would be most use is on the battlefield, and they were delighted to have me because I can do pretty much anything. As one might expect of the Great and Powerful Trixie, of course.”

“Of course,” Twilight echoed, remembering the spectacular derailment of a graduation ceremony. “Still setting up fights with Ursas first and working out plans later?”

“Oh, shut up.” The blue unicorn blushed in embarrassment. “It all worked out.”

“Only because Princess Luna was giving the main speech!”

The two stared at one another for a moment, then burst out laughing.

“Thanks, Trixie, I needed that. Well, I’ll try to invite you to my Admiral’s Table one of these days.”

“Nice seeing you again, Twilight.”

The magic-support officer vanished with a second loud BANG, and Twilight settled herself. “Well, thank you all for meeting me. As I understand it, much of my staff have yet to embark and I’ll be tied up for the next few days with paperwork, but hopefully after that we can run some simulator exercises. Even if the ship’s refit keeps it out of space for longer.”

“Sounds interesting. Tell me, dear, do you know much about the fleet of which you’re our Admiral?”

“Oh, well, I know it’s going to be smaller than normal formations – that is, the permanent core is going to be four divisions of Dreadnaughts, and other forces attached on an as-needed basis. We’re going to be more of an on-call force, really… I’m not sure what more I can tell you than that. Oh, I did find that parts of your refits are going to involve some of the more recent innovations in technology, so the Engineering department’s going to be kept busy.” She nodded at Applejack. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go get started on that paperwork.”


“What th’ hell happened to my ship!”

Applejack stared at the schematic. She’d gone to sleep last night with the idea that the changes to the ship itself would be fairly minor, and woken up to find that every single weapon mount was being removed and replaced. The chase armament was being revamped entirely to replace it with a pure energy loadout, and the broadsides were mostly missile with six each of the larger hatches that indicated bays for fighters.

“And how in tarnation am I supposed to get a hold of fighter engineers? We’re already over establishment…”

“I heard it was a change because of the new off-bore missile launchers we’re getting.” One of her engineers commented. “Notice how the missile cells are in sets of six, with all the support gear in the middle? That’s saving space, and it lets us pack in the fighters as well as a more sophisticated engineer’s shop. And we can get off a full and very heavy salvo, in any direction you care to name, from both broadsides at once.”

“Suppose.” Applejack allowed grudgingly. “And suppose all the extra point defence and heavier shields are going to make sure damage control has less work, as well…”


“Welcome aboard, Colonel Dash. I hope you find Sixth Fleet to your liking.”

“It seems like I will. I got a look at my squadron and fighters, and I think I can say. Awesome. Those the new Auroras?

Twilight glanced at Spike, who nodded. “Yes. First wing in production.”

“Great! Oh, I noticed we’re one below establishment strength on the roster – I have twelve fighter bays on the Harmony, and two spare fighters in flat-pack, but only eleven pilots. Is that right?”

“Yes. One Derpy is part of your command group.”

“Oh, her. Right, makes sense.” Dash shrugged her wings. “Let me know when the rest of the pilots are on board. I want to get drilling! The kinds of moves these fighters can pull take practice!”

“Of course. Oh, my ATCO should be arriving on the next shuttle, you might want to meet her. She’ll be your below-deck coordinator.”

Dash grinned. “And I’m grateful for it! Can’t imagine me trying to sit behind a desk all the time, I’d go completely mad!”

Twilight returned the grin. “With all due respect, Colonel, you’re already mad. You broke the sound barrier on review day.”

“Hah! You heard about that, then…” Dash rubbed the back of her neck with a hoof.

“Everyone on that side of the planet either heard or saw it, and most of the rest of the Commonwealth population saw the news articles.” Twilight chuckled. “Still, I suppose anyone who can steer at that kind of speed must be a great pilot.”

“You bet!” Dash crowed, confidence back in spades. “I can take out an entire Gryphon squadron in only a minute!”

“Er, yes.”

A young voice rang across the deck. “Oh, wow!”

A purple and orange blur skidded across the boat bay at about torso height and resolved itself into a pegasus Ensign with the insignia of a tactical track officer. The newcomer saluted both senior officers, her short wings at attention.

“It is! Colonel Dash, I’m so glad to be working with you!”

Twilight glanced again at Spike. “This is Ensign...”

“Scootaloo. Late bloomer.” He murmured back. “Doctors say she should get her mark and her wings in fully in the next couple of years, but she hasn’t had a chance to develop proper flight instincts yet. She wants to be a pilot and worships the Colonel.”

“Oh, joy. And we have one of them working with the other.”

“Yes. She’s Fluttershy’s assistant.”

“I thought as much.” Twilight checked that none of the crew were close enough to overhear, then bent down to whisper to Spike. “Sound out the schedules of the home fleet and administration bureau admirals, would you? I think it’s time to get those exercises going.”


Twilight sipped some of her tea. “Thank you, Admiral Star, for agreeing to this. I know you have a busy schedule.”

“Oh, it’s nothing, Sparkle. Or should I call you Admiral Green Ridge?” Magic Star replied. “Truth be told, after so long in weapons development I’d like to see how some of these toys do from the other side. I can use the preparation for my next meeting with Storm Wing.”

“Just Twilight, please. And we all know that any preparation anyone can get is fully worthwhile.” Twilight volunteered.

“Spike?”

The dragon handed over some paper files, and a pair of dataslates. Magic Star took them in her telekinetic grip and began reading them over. “I see, fortified base attack. Interesting… highly useful against Dogs, of course, those escort ships they have fight like fortresses sometimes… and it highlights a strength of the new design philosophy. Though of course,” the two Admirals shared a wry smile, and finished the aphorism together. “No strength survives a smart enemy.”

“You’ll note I’m letting you plan without having to pretend you don’t know anything.” Twilight pointed out. “I’m a little concerned that the command crews might have premature victory disease with all the new technology, so I won’t object if you cut them a little down to size.”


“Right.” Twilight looked around her conference table at the eight ship captains, two tactical officers, three marines and single fighter commander.

“Now, that exercise didn’t go quite as planned, did it?”

A few of the captains winced. The exercise had been performed in a mined-out section of the Crown Belt asteroids, and the intent had been for the dreadnaughts to deliver precise time-on-target fire to “defensive satellites”, the fighters to clear out “weapon emplacements” as well as handle enemy fighters, and the marines to perform a full brigade drop to capture a mock base built for just this sort of training exercise on the largest local asteroid.

Instead… well, Twilight kept reminding herself that each individual ship, and each individual fighter, and each individual Marine battalion had performed well. The problem was their lack of coordination.

Entire fighter squadrons only managed to hit a few “emplacements” while their covering units got caught up in individual dogfights and let the simulated enemy take out the ones in the bomber role.

The missile salvos had come in over an inexcusable thirty second spread, giving the simulated point defence ample time to handle them and then, with the time available to them, begin firing back. For unknown reasons, Stellar and Brindle had undergone pattern reject and began their own private point-defence war against the base salvoes. Neither ship had “survived” the barrage.

The marine units had done fairly well, all things considered, but the winnowing dealt to their assault shuttles by the active base defences had left the chain of command full of holes, five of the eight battalions lacking an officer above the rank of Lieutenant. Macintosh’s unit, kept relatively safe by Trixie’s spectacular illusion of an entire false shuttle squadron, had tried to organize the remainder - but failed - and the resultant casualty counts didn’t really bear thinking about.

Oh, well, at least it happened in simulation.

“Right, first things first. The barrage. Now, I know that most of you are good captains, with good ships. And that’s part of the problem, you’re all used to calling the shots yourselves. But in this situation, as soon as one ship unmasks, the clock is ticking. And it’s the role of the Flag captain to act as tactical deputy. Dame Rarity, in short, is who should have been calling the shots.”

She spared a moment to look over at Sparkler, the only other captain to sequence her fire correctly. “And well done to those of you who remembered that.”

“Next, Pierce and Star. I understand that your ships are the newest in the squadron, so they have the best canned routines for antimissile defence. But any canned routine has a counter, and the simulation notes did say that a previous attack had gone in and failed. Make sure that your tac officers work up some variations on the theme, because without them a skilled enemy will do exactly what the simulation did – they’ll send in a barrage calculated to confuse your computers.”

Canned routines were the “default settings” for a missile defence network, or an attack, or almost anything. But they were there not as doctrine but as a resource to work from – using the exact same routine that had already been shown to the enemy was like playing cards with a marked deck.

“Colonel Dash. I think you need some more emphasis on teamwork between squadrons. And Ensign Scootaloo, your rank doesn’t mean all you can do is give suggestions to the squadron commanders. You’re in charge of fighter ops coordination in battle, act like it.”

“Finally, I think we need to establish something regarding the marine units. As of now, Macintosh is breveted to Brigadier, and will be the field commander of all marine operations from this fleet. Caramel from Hyacinth is breveted to Colonel, and is second in command. Both will retain their battalions, and their brevet ranks will only take effect in large deployments.”

A fairly blunt way of solving the problem, true, but Mac and Caramel had been the ones whose units had shown the most initiative in the exercise. Giving them brevet, or temporary, ranks was an effective promotion that didn’t let them hand off their old units to another. Under the circumstances it had to be the two who could handle the extra workload.

She sat back. “Now, shall we discuss things in more detail?”

Trixie raised a hoof. “I think we should try to get greater coordination between the mage units in the different marine battalions. That ‘dragons’ teeth’ illusion was effective, but it only provided a dozen or so false targets – with more mages feeding it, I think I could have managed to outnumber the real shuttles.”
“Good. Perhaps…”


Ensign Scootaloo looked around at the rest of the Admiral’s Table. There was an interesting selection of other ponies here, and not only from the Harmony.

Her Admiral had only held a few dinners before, most of them fairly small affairs, but with Harmony now entirely ready for space she’d been persuaded to jointly host a larger one with the Captain.

There were three or four fighter pilots, including Spitfire (Brindle’s squadron leader) and Rainbow Dash; the head of the engineering department on Harmony, Applejack; both the Captain and Executive Officer, the latter of whom was holding two enthusiastic conversations at once; her own superior Fluttershy; Lyra and Scratch from the flag deck; herself; the Admiral of course and her flag lieutenant – who had his own plate, loaded with a mixture of pyroxene, garnet and some sheets of mica; and a rather nervous looking midshipman on his first deployment.

As she reached him, he steeled himself and raised a glass. “Ladies and gentlecolts, Princess Celestia!”

Scoots’ mind flashed as she repeated the toast, flexing vestigial muscles in her foreleg to cue her short-range gravity manipulator implant and hold the wine glass. Okay, we’re in the home system and Princess Celestia returned from her visit to Cloudsdale yesterday. That means that she has precedence, and since I’m the second most junior officer-

She waited until everyone had finished, then raised her own glass. “Ladies and gentlecolts, Princess Luna!”

As she lowered the glass, she saw Twilight nod slightly in approval.

Right, now all I have to do is avoid making mistakes during the meal.


The dinner went down well. Twilight’s steward, an unprepossessing stallion by the name of Whooves, had laid out a magnificent spread. The wine, meanwhile, was an old vintage provided by Rarity.

As the meal wore on, those around the table gradually relaxed and conversations began to flow.

“…telling you, it’s no coincidence!” Dash confided loudly to Lyra. “Every time I do it, all the cameras pointed at me just white out for a couple of seconds!”

“And your theory is that it’s too awesome to be on screen.”

“Yeah. Once might be chance, but five times in a row?”

Meanwhile, Rarity, Pinkie and Spike had got into a conversation about gabbroic versus eclogitic rocks. They were all enthusiastic, though none of them could really relate to the criteria the others were using. Rarity’s focus was on the beauty of the crystals, Pinkie approached it from a commercial standpoint and Spike waxed lyrical about the taste.

The usually quiet Fluttershy was arguing with Applejack about electronic countermeasures and their best uses, the rest of the fighter pilots were discussing their days at flight school and Pinkie was giving encouragement to the young middy.

“Kinda loud, aren’t they?” Scratch asked with a grin.

“Music to my ears.” Twilight said. It was the sound of a command crew that was comfortable, and she felt she was getting their measure.

“Heh, talking of music, you ever listen to some of my friend Tavi’s stuff? Bit stuffy for me, but you seem like the kind of pony who’d like it.”

“I’m afraid not, I’ll have to give it a go.” Twilight replied, then frowned. “Hang on, Tavi?”

“Yeah, well,” The unicorn shrugged. “It’s my nickname for her, we’ve been friends for years. Octavia.”

“Oh, I hadn’t realized!” Twilight said, delighted. “She’s my favourite classical composer. I had her Salute to Spring on, when…” she paused, suddenly sad. “When I nearly lost Bluebell.”

“Oh? Heard about that on the news, but I didn’t know you were listening to Tavi’s stuff.”

“Yes, well, I decided that since we probably weren’t actually going to survive the clash we should go out in style.” She smiled weakly. “Sounds a bit strange, talking about it now.”

“I go in more for electronics myself. Have to admit, though, that cello concerto of hers is quite the piece of work.”

“I have noticed you’re quick off the mark with the comms, so I suppose the same principle applies.” Twilight allowed. “I’ve been very pleased with your work.”


“Goodness…” Twilight sighed. “I’m glad that Rarity and her executive officer were able to help me with the social side of things. Working up the fleet has been just exhausting.”

Spike nodded. “Well, at least now they’re doing a lot better than before.”

“It’s the weapon diversity. Means a lot of time invested getting used to them, but the load out has a lot more potential once the crew are used to it-“

Three rising notes interrupted the Admiral’s speculation. Spike hurried over to the console. “Message arrived under Equinox seal. No originator, just three words.”

Equinox was the second highest classification in the Commonwealth and Principality, after Solstice. Both were above ‘Top Secret’, and Twilight happened to know she was one of five people in the entire star system with Solstice.

She leant over, and blanched.

Case Ribald, Smartypants.

“What does it mean, ma’am?” Spike asked, noticing his Admiral’s reaction.

“Case Ribald was the codename of a scenario we gamed out at ONI – an attack on one of our weapons research and development labs in one of the outer star systems. Co-ordinate with the rest of the staff the details of picking up the fighters and the ship’s company on relief, we’re going to have to leave as soon as possible!”

She levitated a screen in front of her face. “Admiral Sparkle to all Sixth Fleet captains and senior officers.” A grid of fifty or so cutie marks appeared before her as her communications officer began acting as relay. “Everyone, we need to get moving as soon as possible. Get downloads on the Eastern Rim out-systems, and I want the hyper engines ready for the Theta band!”

Hyperspace was arranged in “bands” of higher planes, each of which was about the same maximum speed. The groups were separated by walls of energy, each one more powerful than the last, which heavily strained the wings of starships that crossed them. The Theta band of hyperspace was the highest ever visited. Some physicists held it was the highest it was possible to visit – certainly nothing that had ever attempted the Iota wall had made it back to tell the tale.

Most of the marks blinked acknowledgement at once and disappeared. Among the ones that remained unlit were those of Dash and two of her other flying officers. “Break. Fighter wing, all officers. Return To Base, pegasi! We’re leaving as soon as we can, don’t delay us. Break. Ensign Scootaloo, what’s the ETA of the wing?”

The amber pegasus appeared on her screen. “They’re mostly running dry fires on some of the mobile beacons in the crown belt. Should be an hour before they’re all docked, assuming we sit here to wait for them – if we make way as soon as possible, the last of them will catch up shortly before the edge of the system.”

“Thank you. Break. Epona station command.” The screen resolved itself into a rearing white horse on a green field. “Epona control, I formally request clearance for full power to engines as soon as possible.”

Normally, since drive wedge stress bands could instantly shred anything physical they hit, there was a safety perimeter around important locations like Epona of one full light second. Inside it the activation of the main drive was forbidden except for the small, powerful tugs that towed ships around near the station.

“Authorization?”

“Admiral Sparkle.”

The line went dead for a moment, then the emblem of the station became the compass rose of Vice Admiral Blueblood. “What’s the problem?”

“I need to depart from the station parking orbit as soon as possible, I don’t have time to wait for tugs. We’re outside the minimum safety perimeter, but still inside the official one. I’m acting under Equinox authorization, so I’m formally requesting clearance for full power.”

“I… see.” The duke considered for a moment. “I’ll accept it, though of course if you’re making this up…”

“Feel free to check in with Zenith flag, I won’t even be out of the star system by the time it comes through.”

Zenith flag? You think her-“

“I got assigned to this fleet by Zenith flag in person, and the letter references something she only called me once, in private, back when she met me after my investiture.”

“Well, it’s not the most normal of signatures, but then neither is aunty. I’ll let her know you got the order.”

“Thanks, Blueblood. Sparkle out.”


The vice admiral looked at his com screen for a moment, then chuckled. “I have to say, I’ve not heard Zenith flag as a codename in a while. I suppose it makes sense, Zenith and Perilune are both technically flagships, but… ah, well.” He tapped the screen with a hoof. “Hello, comms? Get me a line to the Diarch of the Day.”

“At once, sir!” The hasty reply came back, then his screen lit with a sun emblem.

“Just to confirm, aunty, that was you who sent Green Ridge tearing out of here as if her tail was on fire?”

Celestia chuckled. “Yes, but the simile breaks down for her. She’s actually set her tail on fire before, did you know? First time I saw a rage-charge in years.”

“Remarkable.”


Two fighters wobbled unsteadily towards the bays of Harmony in tandem, almost spun out of control and landed in their bays having flown in backwards at full normal flight speed.

Applejack cantered out to one of them, surveying the bay with astonishment. “Well, ah’ll be… not a scratch.”

A grey-coated, blonde pegasus fell out of the cockpit. “Nice flyin’, Derpy! Who was yer wingmate?”

“Me.” She replied simply, disengaging the extra set of neural links and folding away her custom doubled HUD. “Muffin time!”

The orange earth pony stared after her as she headed for the cafeteria. “Don’t that beat all…”

“Attention everyone!” Countess Pie’s squeaky voice sounded throughout the dreadnaught. “Hyper limit in five minutes, hope you all got your luggage ‘cause we don’t have time to go back for it!”


Twilight looked over at Fluttershy. “We did manage to get everyone on board, right?”

“Er, yes. All ships report full complement and Derpy’s fighters were the last to dock.”

“Good.”

Silence reigned for the next few minutes, until Dash came through the lift door. “Okay, sorry I’m late. Not used to being on Flag bridge…”

“Not a problem. You might want to take a seat, Miss Drops is about to take us into hyper.”

The forward screen lit, and Twilight lost herself in the spectacle of a Hyper translation.


Each of the eight ships spread invisible lines of force, unfurling out from the sides like vastly oversized pegasus wings. They began to glow a faint red as the hyper generators cycled up, then slowly changed through the entire visible spectrum to a blinding sky blue.

For almost a second, the entire squadron held position, and then one by one they crossed the invisible plane in space that marked the hyper limit and blinked out of the normal universe entirely.

Harmony, on account of having to stay back to let Derpy catch up, was the last to jump, and the ship entered the Alpha bands of hyperspace to find the rest of the fleet holding company with her.

They’ve come a long way, Twilight silently thought, then raised her voice. “All navigators, we are headed to the Palomino system. Please set your courses. We will be travelling in the Theta bands, so be ready for a rough ride. Sparkle out.”


AN:


Polities and Star Nations.

The Equestrian Commonwealth and Principality

Almost entirely populated with ungulates, of whom the overwhelming number are one of the three sub-races of pony.

The government is an administrative diarchy ruled over jointly by Celestia and Luna, two immensely powerful Alicorns. An intricate system of etiquette governs the relative positions of primacy of the two, though the average Equestrian citizen will hardly notice. They are sisters and close friends, and have ruled over their nation for thousands of years – though only in the last few hundred has it spread beyond the capital world itself, as the ungulate diaspora has gradually aligned itself with them.

Owing to differences in the preexisting governments of other planets upon incorporation, some areas are referred to as the “Principality” officially (those for which the princesses are technically liege lords, such as the demesne of Cadence), and others are the “Commonwealth” (those where the government is nominally independent, such as Stalliongrad). Despite this, most citizens simply refer to the entire polity as “The Commonwealth”.

At least one princess is in residence at all times at Canterlot Palace, with the other often to be found touring the other systems – a duty the two trade off regularly. It is for this reason that Equestria has a far smaller Home Fleet as a proportion of its’ total strength than most nations would consider, for the princesses rule their domain in more than one sense. Celestia can literally control the sun, creating flares and prominences capable of destroying an invading fleet, while Luna’s range of telekinetic control is so vast that every uninhabited body in the star system is a potential weapon.

The various inborn abilities of its’ citizens provide the Commonwealth with a vibrant economy and strong tech base.

The Equestrian navy is fairly generalist, with a broad spread of weapon systems and philosophies. Recent trends are towards a missile-heavy approach, since it is here that technological advantages have the greatest effect.

The army and marines are primarily defensive, with a predominance of static heavy equipment such as railguns and lasers over mobile vehicles, though this is also being re-evaluated in the new technological environment.


The Gryphon Republic

A republic in the classical sense, the Gryphons have a system of lifelong senators drawn from an upper class and elected officials from these senators. The Republic occasionally participate in exchanges of students with other star nations when relations are cordial – Gilda being among the most recent of these. She was educated at the Shetland Island naval academy alongside a class of pegasus fighter pilots, something that suited her right down to the ground.

The Republic were the original inventors of the “fighter drive”, a completely different system to the more conventional drive wedge, and are its enthusiastic proponents. Gryphon Legion fleets tend to consist of a number of pure fighter platforms, the light and fleet carriers, along with much more heavily armoured assault carriers which take the brunt of any missile fire.

On the ground, a Gryphon Legion army will operate using large numbers of small, fast ground-effect vehicles which do not slow their infantry too much. Their forces are almost universally equipped with copper plasma guns, known as “powerguns”, and rocket artillery using sophisticated bursting shells laden with sub munitions.


The Khanate/The Diamond Dogs

The Diamond Dogs are a much less cohesive political unit than the other powers, existing in a kind of constant state of low-level war between factions and with the outside universe. The leader is the Khan, who theoretically has absolute authority, but since between one and five Khans are in existence at the same time this is self-evidently problematic. Most outsiders simply refer to them as the Diamond Dogs, instead of remembering the increasingly complex series of titles used to denote different dynasties.

Their tech level is somewhat lacking compared to other star nations in general, thanks to their lack of common direction, but their preferred weapons are ones that scale especially well when increased in size. A Dog heavy assault brigade is a sight to behold, equipped as it is with multi-kiloton armoured vehicles sporting plasma cannons with bore diameters approaching a meter.

Their navy lacks fighter support, since the Dogs are unable to fly them nearly as well as the winged species, but this is partially compensated for by their gunboat squadrons.


The Dragons

Very little is known about them.

They occasionally participate in exchange of fosterlings with other powers, notably the Equestrian Commonwealth in recent years – Spike is the most recent, and is receiving an education in the military with Duchess Green Ridge, as her flag lieutenant.


Okay, so I saw this: http://kampzvono.deviantart.com/art/A-Pony-in-the-Future-279865756 and basically got hit with an inspiration shaped baseball bat.


For David Weber fans and science fiction watchers in general: The technology in this fic is almost but not quite Honorverse. If you spot a deviation, then chances are it's deliberate. Battle Screen is much more like the BOLOverse version thereof than the traditional Honoverse Sidewall, the Wings are not quite Warshawski Sails, Fighters are taken as much from the Stars at War as they are the Honorverse, Equestria has no wormhole network, and so on. Similarly, the Gryphon Legions are a combination of the Khanate of Orion (space forces) and Hammer's Slammers (ground forces).

For those who can't follow all the sci fi terms all that well, don't worry. It took me a while to get all the terms in the Honorverse... like, say, the third reading...

This is the updated and revised version of the first chapter. Since I posted the original versions of the chapters on DA and FF.net, FIMfiction gets the updated version straight away.


Oh, and someone was awesome and rendered TMS Harmony for me.
http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=54eddde58e112e36e7259da38af0e0fb

His other stuff's cool as well, go check it out.


Feel free to ask questions about this setting if there's something you didn't understand, so I know what has to be improved.