• Published 4th Mar 2012
  • 13,596 Views, 959 Comments

Of Steam Gears and Wings - RavensDagger



The CMC go against the Empire that is ruling over Equestria. A la Dieselpunk.

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Volunteering

Spray leaned over Sweetie Belle, his hooves twisting to keep balance on the shivering ship. “Look, Sweetie, you just need to be quiet. Don’t say a thing and keep your ears open. Sitting beside Princess Luna is an honour, act like it is.”

From behind them, Mira scampered forwards, her skipping hoofsteps circling the white unicorn. “Pfft, stop being so silly, Spray. Luna won’t mind Sweetie one bit!” The excited mare punched Sweetie Belle’s shoulder.

The white and purple unicorn shook her head, then looked down towards the centre of the massive room. Below, ponies in maintenance suits were quickly cleaning the ground floors of the airship’s immense stadium-like room. Brooms swept the floor with urgency while dusters guided by magic flew across every surface in sight, except for the large machine in the centre. “What I don’t get is why she wanted me here. I mean, I’m of no use to her, or to the rebellion.”

Mira giggled, hiding her mouth beneath a hoof. “No use? You’ve helped a ton already! And your sister is Rarity! That’s, like, super important.”

Sweetie Belle bowed her head, eyes intent upon the metallic floor. “I don’t want to be special just because my sister is some fancy, know-it-all pony industrialist. It wouldn’t be fair!” she huffed. Sweetie Belle began to walk in a tight circle, swaying her hips provocatively under the stares of Spray, Mira and a few members of the maintenance crew. “Ooh, I’m Rarity. I’m pretty and nice and I have ponies that do everything for me. The Empire is evil and mean and stupid and dresses are good.” The mare stopped her rant, and flashed a dagger-filled look at the drooling workers nearby, who resumed their brooming with renewed gusto and red faces. “I can’t stand her sometimes.”

Mira and Spray looked at her, surprise and shock displayed on their faces as their eyes twitched from Sweetie to the pony behind her. Sweetie Belle let a low, dread-filled sigh escape her. Slowly, she turned, trying vainly to hide the cringe that adorned her face as she looked up to Princess Luna’s tall indigo form.

“Hello, Sweetie Belle,” said the princess, her long neck dropping to Sweetie’s height as her calm, soothing voice washed over them. “We hope you won’t mind, but We asked that you be near us during this... meeting.”

Her mind filled with both dread and an unreal sense of deja-vu. “Oh,” said Sweetie Belle simply as she stared at Princess Luna.

“‘Oh’ indeed, Miss Belle,” replied the princess as she gave Sweetie a graceful smile. Luna’s attention then turned to the other two ponies in the elevated platform.

Spray gave her a quick, precise, and very formal bow, his expression only hinting at the irritation he felt welling within him. Mira was beaming widely, the muscles in her red limbs twitching sporadically as she eyed the new arrival like a dog given a new toy.

The Princess shared her smile with them, but didn’t speak, choosing instead to trot to the edge of the box to look at the stage below. The three other ponies shared a quick glance before Luna broke the silence. “So, Sweetie -may We call you that?- We have heard that you have some trouble with your dear sister, Rarity?”

Sweetie Belle blushed, hard. Talking about family issues with near-strangers was not on her list of priorities, especially not strangers who happened to be royalty. “S-sorta, I mean, things haven’t always been the best between us.” She twitched awkwardly as her face boiled.

The princess simply laughed, her booming voice startling the workers below. “Ah, We sense a great understatement there.” She turned, giving her back to the maintenance ponies who redoubled their efforts. Bending forward, the tall princess looked right into Sweetie Belle’s squirming eyes and smiled knowingly. “You might be surprised to hear this, but things were not always perfect between Celestia and Ourselves. In fact, over the many millennia We have known each other, We fought more than once.” Luna placed a hoof on Sweetie Belle’s shoulder. “Don’t worry,We are positive that everything will work out.”

“No, they won’t,” said Sweetie Belle, a note of defiance clear in her voice. She surprised herself as well as the Princess, who arched an eyebrow. She heard the echo of her voice coming back to her from across the room, somehow reaffirming what she had said. “Rarity is a horrible sister. She loves her work, her fame, and her stupid little friends more than she’s ever loved me.” The white unicorn stomped the ground with a hoof. “Ooh, I’m Rarity,” began Sweetie Belle, her voice expertly mimicking that of her eldest sister. “I like clothes and fashion. The Princess chose me as an Element of Harmony, and I have thousands of workers who do everything for me.”

She ‘harrumphed’ as she sat down hard on the metallic grating, tilting her head up in a final act of haughty defiance. Part of her wondered if she was still imitating Rarity, or if it was genuine.

Giggling, light and childish, broke through Sweetie’s demeanour. The Princess held a hoof to her face as one of her wings wiped a small tear from the edge of her eye. “You are so much like her. It’s incredible,” she said between giggles.

Sweetie Belle frowned at her; that was far from the answer she expected. Behind the princess, Spray was making desperate motions with his hooves across his throat as he mouthed the words ‘shut up.’

The Princess calmed herself with a tiny sigh. “Yes, very much like your sister. You remind Us of Ourselves when We were much, much younger.” The Princess glanced at the soon-to-be-filled room out of the corner of her eye. “I think the solution lies, not in fighting with your sister, but in searching your own heart.”

Sweetie Belle’s frown deepened. Just as she was about to answer, a guard in well-used but well-maintained armour walked into the alcove, announcing the arrival of the final guests to the ship.

Spray took the opportunity to grab Sweetie Belle and bring her to a corner of the platform. “Are you mad?” he whispered in a hiss of hot, minty air. “You back-talked the Princess; you could get court-martialed for that sort of thing!”

“Nope, she couldn’t,” said Mira as she joined them, her face contorted into a wild grin with just a hint of concern showing as she looked at Sweetie Belle. “That was brave, a little silly and completely pointless, but brave. The Princess likes it when ponies act natural around her. Hay, it’s the only reason I’m still around!”

Spray grunted at Mira. “That was stupid, utterly and totally stupid. Had her royal Majesty decided that Sweetie was being rude, she could have ruined quite a bit more than the relationship with her sister. The Princesses can send ponies to the moon, don‘t forget that.” His gaze returned to a now severely admonished Sweetie Belle. “And don’t do it again.”

Mira shook her head. “Sweetie Belle isn’t part of the rebellion. At least, not officially. The Princess wouldn’t do anything like that.”

Sweetie Belle regained a bit of composure, sweeping a hoof across her chest to clean off some non-existent dust. “Thanks guys… I guess.” She faced Spray and opened her mouth, only to lose her nerve as suddenly as she got it. “I-I was just…”

With a sigh, the older stallion gave her a sudden hug. Sweetie Belle’s eyes widened in shock, but she relaxed after a few tense seconds. It felt right and, somehow, brotherly. “Don’t worry, I understand. You’ve been through a lot recently--” he never finished his sentence as Mira crushed them both from above.

“I love you guys!” she declared quite loudly.

“Ladies and gentlecolts.” A voice over the intercom demanded attention as it echoed around the room. The three friends broke apart, two of them awkwardly scratching the back of their heads as they turned their attention back to the entire room.

The maintenance ponies were gone, replaced by well over a hundred ponies bedecked in what seemed to be their finest attire. Sweetie Belle blinked twice; she had never noticed their arrival.

Military outfits, old and worn yet still gleaming, seemed to be the main theme as the captains, admirals, and generals of the rebellion took their seats around the circular amphitheatre. Still, the room was filled with the bright colours she dreadfully recognized as she sister’s designs. A quiet murmuring filled the room, most of it composed of the well-meaning ‘hellos’ and ‘how-do-you-dos’ of the ponies present, but all of the voices silenced as a tap echoed over the intercom.

“Ladies and gentlecolts,” the voice repeated, insistent upon quiet this time. “We would like to introduce you to the beginning of what may prove to be one of the most arduous task ever faced by pony-kind: the reclamation of Equestria into the just hooves of our Royal Alicorns.”

It struck Sweetie Belle as odd that nopony whistled or cheered. A few smiled, but the majority remained in a quiet, sombre mood. She set about trying to recognize some of the faces within the crowd as the voice over the intercom went on and on about the mundane titles that Luna had cultivated over the years, from ‘The Queen of the Night’ to the ‘Vanquisher of Chaos’.

All three pony races were represented in fair numbers as she scanned over many faces that she didn‘t recognize, and yet were somehow familiar. Celebrities and wanted ponies, she realized. She froze on a pale yellow pegasus to her far left. Sitting between two burly pegasi, both of whom wore the attire of Empathy Medical proudly on their broad shoulders, was a tiny form, only her head poking out of the shadows cast by her guards.

Sweetie Belle felt a small wave of surprise well up within her, but it was quickly drowned by cold logic. Of course Empathy Medical would show up; they were an important player within the rebellion. But if Fluttershy was here, maybe… Sweetie Belle continued her long-range snooping.

Fluttershy was searching the crowd as well, her wide-eyed stare shifting from pony to pony and twitching timidly every time she made eye contact. She fidgeted nervously until an orange hoof reached out of her alcove’s shadow and touched her shoulder.

Her nervous squeak startled many, but Sweetie Belle just smiled at the nostalgic sound. She leaned forward, squinting at the darkened pony behind Fluttershy. Slowly, Applejack melted out of the shadow and sat beside her friend as the two guards moved to the outer edges of the spacious platform.

“Is something wrong?” asked Spray in a low hush, his own gaze following hers.

“No, I just saw Fluttershy and Applejack.”

Spray hummed in agreement as he too found them below. After a moment, he leaned towards her and asked, “Wasn’t one of your friends Applejack’s sibling?”

All colour flushed out of Sweetie Belle. “I’ll have to tell her,” she whispered in realization.

“Tell her what?”

“That Apple Bloom…” Sweetie Belle gulped.

Far below her, Applejack moved to one side, looking into the darkened entrance before motioning her head towards the centre stage. Out of the shade, Apple Bloom’s cream and cheery shape moved forwards, head bowed low dejectedly as she walked to her sister’s side.

Sweetie Belle watched her friend, mind reeling as her mouth fell agape. Spray said something that was lost in her reverie, but It didn’t matter, Apple Bloom was alive.

The pony in question looked about, face turning red as she took in the massive, elitist crowd. Her searching stare wove around the theatre, naturally attracting towards the Princess’ personal position.

Their eyes locked

Princess Luna stepped forward, her indigo body cutting in between their breathless gaze and, with a gentle flourish of her wings, commanded attention as she glided to the centre of the room. “Ponies,” she said, her voice amplified by unseen magic. “We shall not waste a moment more of your precious time. As you well know, the Empire that Our nephew now controls has sprawled out of control. It is expanding, growing in a manner unfit for a proper Equestria. And with this expansion, comes the loss of morality, the very thing that makes a pony, a pony.” The princess paused for effect, and both Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom had their attention divided. “Days ago, Blueblood ordered the ruthless massacre of thousands of ponies. He does not plan to stop.”

The princess vanished in a blink, only to reappear at Sweetie Belle’s side. “Miss Pie, please show them what you know,” Luna ordered.

The opposite end of the atrium lit up, revealing a straight haired Pinkie Pie who sat at the edge of her own balcony, in plain view of everypony present. “Thank you, Princess Luna,” she replied, her usual bubbly voice muffled by a sombre tone.

Leaning forward, Pinkie Pie nodded towards the ground below the large machine that Sweetie Belle had spotted when, which had begun to hum and shiver slightly.

The machine lit up, panels slowly sliding open on the hinges of powerful magic. A stream of light poured out, twisting and sculpting itself in mid air to the astonishment of many.

Slowly, the clouds of multi-hued light took shape, flattening over the ground to become a landscape. Canterlot’s mountain rose at one end, tiny pinpricks showing where the city’s many towers lay. Towards the centre, more were appearing: thick green swaths for forests and snaking blue lines marking rivers and other bodies of water.

“A map?” whispered Sweetie Belle, her voice filled with wonder and awe. She had seen holographic maps before, she had even used them herself, but this was beyond the scale of anything she had ever seen.

More cities appeared: a tiny replica of smog covered New Appaloosa, a weather beaten Cloudsdale. Ponyville sprouted out of the green ground, marked by an arrow shaped symbol that stretched across the map, and away from a floating doughnut. Sweetie Belle recognized it. It was the Speedway.

Pinkie Pie broke the momentary reverie as she spoke up. “The main Imperial fleet is moving.” A red circle formed half-way above the arrow, and the entire map jumped forward as it zoomed in. Well over a dozen long, grey forms appeared. Sweetie Belle shuddered as she saw the Sol Scorcher leading them all.

“They are heading towards Ponyville, a known rebel camp, and to many of us, myself included, the place we call home. The Sol Scorcher is amongst them. I have little doubt as to their goal in heading towards that location. They want to annihilate its population, and cut off our means of survival.” A quiet murmur of anger spread across the ponies.

“Of course, we won’t let them,” interjected the Princess.

Pinkie Pie smiled, almost cruelly, as she eyed the scaled down Scorcher. “Rebel ships from across Equestria are heading here.” The map zoomed out, and a hundred green arrows flung themselves across the map to a point not far from the town. “We plan to create a blockade, bring down the Sol Scorcher’s defence fleet, then destroy the ship itself. Then, we start to retake Equestria.” The green lines circled the red, then the vanished one by one.

Sweetie Belle thought it a nice plan, but she knew the real cost of such an endeavour. The ponies present were captains, leaders, representing only a fraction of the population of the rebellion. How many were going to die before it was all over? She glanced towards her long-lost friend below. Apple Bloom sat at Applejack’s side, attention riveted on the projection.

Pinkie Pie interrupted her thoughts as she went on. “We need help, we need supplies, and we need willing ponies.”

Immediately, a cacophony of voices rose, adding their support to the cause and pledging both ships and ponies. Princess Luna smiled.

Pinkie Pie signalled for quiet with a raised hoof, and, within seconds, the clamour died down. Her blue eyes roved the crowd, finally stopping on Applejack and Fluttershy below.

“Um, Empathy Medical is ready to help you in any way possible.” Fluttershy shrugged self-consciously under the stares of the assembled strangers.

“And so are we!” declared Applejack at her side. “The Apple Family, as well as everything we’ve got, is ready when you’ll need us!”

Pinkie Pie smiled once more, but this time it was different. She no longer had any traces of anger, only hope, and an odd giddiness tinged her voice as she next spoke. “And I’ll provide the fireworks! Now, if only…”

As if on queue --and Sweetie Belle suspected that it might very well have been the case-- a guard pony ran up to Miss Pie and whisper something into her perked ear. A grin spread across her face as she whispered back.

For a moment, nothing happened as all eyes intently followed the guard while he ran backstage. A short time later, the map vanished, splitting into the giant squares that hovered over the far wall of the amphitheatre behind Pinkie Pie.

The squares fizzed and the air filled with a static screech before two images formed. Sweetie Belle recognized both instantly.

Twilight Sparkle held the screen to the left, face set in the determined frown she always wore while working on an experiment. The other screen had a face that Sweetie Belle really, really didn’t feel like seeing.

“Hello, everypony,” chimed Rarity, her voice filling the room and grating on Sweetie’s already tense nerves. «Princess Luna,» the white-and-purple unicorn gave the princess a half-bow before wielding a dazzling smile. «And Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Fluttershy! My goodness, we’re almost all here!»

Twilight Sparkle rolled her eyes, a gesture not lost on Sweetie Belle. «Princess Luna, on behalf of the Sparkle Society, I’d like to extend all the aid we possibly can in your following ventures.»

«Oh my, I almost forgot,» said Rarity before she laughed her tittering laugh. Sweetie Belle ground her teeth, while Mira placed a comforting hoof on her shoulder. “Combat Couture would also adore to give what help we can. The Empire, after all, has done some horrible things, not to mention the amount of that dreadful grey they keep splashing all over.”

The Princess stepped forward, face set in a smile, yet her eyes were deadly serious. “Thank you all for your support. We are both honoured, and incredibly thankful, to have such noble subjects. Now, if none of you mind, We would enjoy it if We could go over the remainder of Our plans.”

The map re-appeared, this time only showing the region in and around Ponyville. “The Apple Corporation’s forces have been reinforcing the outer regions of the town, hiding pre-Empire artillery units in the nearby forests and preparing large groups of mechanized units for battle using the equipment donated by Pink N’ Heimer Co. In the air, we have the Rebellion’s main armada, led by this ship, the Moon.»

Hundreds of tiny green pinpricks appeared and spread out across Ponyville and the valleys surrounding the town. In the air, an enormous fleet popped into view, the names of each ship written above the corresponding marker. And yet, the entirety of the green was only just an even match to the oppressive red that covered the outer edges.

“The Sun,” Luna continued, “will be arriving shortly, hopefully within the next twenty-four hours. With it, is a very large number of fighter craft owned by Spectrum Skies, piloted by loyal ponies.” More green swept in, a few large airships with many smaller escorts. Amongst them all, was a swarm of tiny points.

“Finally, we have the ships belonging to Miss Rarity, Miss Sparkle, and Miss Pie. Most of them are converted cargo haulers and transporters, but they are all sound of crew, weaponry, and mechanics.» From the flank of the large red swath, a veritable army of mid-sized airships appeared, slowly gliding toward the enemy’s rear.

“Our plan is simple. In twenty-eight hours, once the Imperial fleet has reached point alpha" the red ships moved forward to a pre-designated point- "the group led by the Moon and the Sun will converge, driving a wedge through the Imperial formation.”

Both green shapes crashed together, becoming an arrow-head that ripped the red formation in half. “Once beyond this point, we will split, form up with the third fleet, and push the Imperial fleet forward.”

The three green forms became one thick formation that swept the red ships forward and towards Ponyville. “The greatest weakness of ground troops is that they lack the range and maneuverability or airships, but this way, the very powerful cannons that we have salvaged will be put to good use battering the fore of the enemy formation while we pick at them from the aft.”

The ground around Ponyville seemed to flash a dazzling array of colours as red ship after red ship blinked out of existence. Sweetie Belle hought the display was rather pretty, but deep down, she knew that the real battle would be much bloodier and messier. How many of the ponies standing around here would be left? What about those they represented? Her eyes drifted towards Apple Bloom once more.

Twilight coughed from within her screen and the image flickered, becoming larger. “I believe that the plan is sound, goddess-knows that anything too complex would mess up seconds after first contact. Still, the greatest variable is the Sol Scorcher.” The lavender pony looked down and the sound of intermittent tapping filled the room for a few seconds. “This is all the information our network was able to squeeze off of it.”

The images pumped out by the projector shifted, the green and red merging to form a gigantic ship. Beside it, a to-scale model of an Interdiction-class patrol ship appeared beside it.

For once, the crowd reacted; murmurs and whispers spread like wildfire, and nopony acted to quell the tide. Sweetie Belle almost joined them as she looked at the vessel. She recognized it from her trip to Canterlot, but here, to scale and so detailed…

Grey, grey was everywhere, from the two fang-like protrusions along its side, to the edge of the gaping maw that ended its cannon. Little informative pop-ups pointed to the dozens of tiny holes along its edges. They were ramps, ramps for fighter planes.

Soon, the murmurs died down as the ponies took in the vessel. “Should I show the video?” asked Twilight Sparkle, she cringing slightly when the Princess sighed.

“Yes, it’s only fair that they know.”

Twilight nodded and the room filled once more with her intense tapping. The three dimensional image became flat and attached itself to Twilight’s side. A small count-down timer at the corner of the screen began counting down from five.

A ship, the same they had just seen, was floating in the centre of the screen, while at the opposite end, the flying doughnut of the Spectrum Skies Speedway was visible. The Sol Scorcher’s cannon began to glow a deep red like that of burning embers. The timer had reached two seconds when it fired.

A single beam, white and intensely hot, shot out, and before the timer reached zero, the beam had cut through the Speedway.

The quiet that filled the room was different, not the quiet of a waiting or impatient crowd, but one of awe, pure and fear-filled awe. Fluttershy cried lightly from within her booth, Applejack awkwardly patting her back.

“Dear Celestia, what have they built?” whispered Spray at her side.

“That’s it. Should I replay the video?” asked Twilight.

“No, no, this will be sufficient,” said Luna, her own royal voice shaky. The princess took a deep breath, then searched the crowd. “Does anypony, anypony at all, have a solution to this?”

Nopony spoke.

“Um, Princess?” asked Twilight as she bit her lower lip. “I just received a transmission from the Furtif…”

Luna nodded, and Twilight’s image fizzled out of sight, followed shortly by the recording of the Sol Scorcher.

Only Rarity’s image remained, and even she looked mollified.

A minute went by, then two, but the room remained quiet, save for Princess Luna’s quiet words with various ponies within the crowd. They exchanged information, tactical data, and good wishes.

Suddenly, Twilight reappeared with a static spark. She was smiling a little, her previous worried frown gone. “I have good news, Princess!» she said in a hurry.

Tension filled the room once more, an odd contrast to the announcement.

Another screen appeared. In it, were three ponies, two in the foreground, and one peeking silently from behind them. It was Scootaloo. Sweetie Belle gasped, and was surprised to hear it emulated by many of the ponies around her.

Quickly, she glanced towards Apple Bloom. She too, was riveted on the screen, mouth slack.

«Hey, everypony! Anybody miss me?» said a haughty voice, only slightly disturbed by heavy static. Only then, did Sweetie Belle focus on the other two ponies.

One, the one who had still remained quiet, was a tall, thin, moustache-wielding unicorn. The other was a cyan blue and rainbow-maned mare.

Rainbow Dash spoke again, over the happy squeals and joyful laughs of her friends. Sweetie Belle could sympathize with their feelings as she watched a curious Scootaloo peek at the screen. «I got a little something you guys might like…» she said. The pony disappeared for a second, then reappeared holding a round, metallic disk.

“I, thanks to my sheer awesomeness, happened to get my hooves on this copy of the Sol Scorchers blueprints.”

“What? How? Where were you?” Twilight shotgunned questions at her.

Rainbow Dash lifted a hoof towards her friend, gently motioning her to calm down. “We don’t have time for that, I’ll explain it all later. Suffice to say, I have some really important things here, and you’ll need them.”

Twilight nodded firmly. “Start sending them over then.”

Rainbow Dash slipped the disk to the male pony who immediately got to work. He frowned, then spoke.” Sa marchera pas, the connection is too weak.”

“Where are you? We wish to know,” asked the Princess, her voice urgent.

The male answered, an incoherent stream of numbers and data that went above Sweetie Belle’s head. Twilight calculated aloud for a moment. Then, the map reappeared.

Both armies were present: the red slowly advancing and the green placing itself. A blue dot was blinking, a dozen kilometres away from the two armies and Ponyville.

“You’re too far out. We’ll need a ship to head over and act as a relay.” A green dot detached itself from the formation, heading towards the blue one before stopping mid-way.

Luna nodded. “We cannot spare any of our bigger warships, perhaps one of your converted freighters?”

“Sorry, Princess, but they’re too slow, and none of them have the required equipment to deal with this sort of thing.”

“We see. Mayb--”

“I volunteer!” Sweetie Belle couldn’t resist it. She needed to say something, anything. She needed to to show up her sister, who was now polishing a hoof. She needed to see her friends, talk to them, live with them. She took a step forwards and into the cone of light that made up the centre of the room. She called out. “I volunteer. I have the ships necessary to accomplish this mission, as well as the equipment and experience.”

All eyes were on her. It was priceless.


Rush, rush, rush...


Edited by:

Staple Cactus

Your Antagonist

Proofread by:

Cpl Hooves

Fred the Saiyan

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