• Published 4th Mar 2012
  • 13,639 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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Remorse and Medals

The ship rocked lightly as another moved by it, casting broken shadows through the port-windows dotting the length of the corridor. Scootaloo ignored it, sighing as she walked forward with her head held low. Her leather jacket creaked rhythmically at every step, the noise only masked by the thumping of far-away engines and occasional boom of a stick of dynamite.

The mare moved to one of the windows and climbed onto two hooves, placing her forehooves on the cold metal on either side of the glass. Her grey-purple eyes reflected in the glass, staring into her empty soul. She blinked at her face, noticing the bags that had formed beneath her eyes and the puffiness of her cheeks. Shaking her head, Scootaloo leaned forwards, allowing her mane to cast a shadow over the glass and let her see the world beyond.

The Furtif was coasting hundreds of meters above Ponyville, her shadow mixing with the hundreds of dark shapes moving across the once gay little town. Other airships dotted the sky, some flying in tight formations, all with their Lunar Republic insignias flashing in the sunlight.

On the ground far below, the tiny shapes of ponies moved about, many of them gathering in the large fields around the town where the Moon, Luna’s personal flagship, was tethered to the soil. The massive vessel was covered in dents, scratches, and holes the size of the princess herself. Still, everypony seemed to be attracted to the blue form and the rows upon rows of chairs being laid out beneath it.

Scootaloo groaned in frustration and shifted her gaze. Further away, yet still within the sight of her pegasus eyes, was the plot of land where mere days ago they had fought. The wreck of the Sol Scorcher was still plainly visible, its framing raising out of the ground like the bones of a long-dead beast. Around it, often standing on end, were the carcasses of dozens of ships. The grey Imperial vessels were hardly visible in the horizon, while the gaudily-painted and disrepaired Rebel ships stood out like rusting sore thumbs.

She pushed herself away with a sigh, averting her eyes back towards the metallic floor of the Furtif as she kept walking down the tight corridor. What am I doing? she asked herself, her shoulders slumping and her tail hanging limply behind her as she marched.

Her hooves carried her to the left and down another corridor, this one lined with doors very familiar to her. On the wall was a painted sign pointing ahead and to the hangars. Scootaloo kept treading forwards until her peripheral vision caught sight of a dent-covered metal door, one riddled with bullet holes and a few scorch-marks. Kami’s room.

The mare paused, her head raising as she inspected the door, then moved towards it. Gently, she placed a hoof on its warm surface, the heat seeping up her arm. He’s gone, forever, isn’t he? She swallowed a lump in her throat before slipping her hoof to the handle and twisting it.

A rush of stale air flowed out of the room, carrying with it the musky smell of Kami Kaze, plastic explosives, and gunpowder.

Light from the hallway poured in, creating a rough triangle on the floor and wall of the short room and illuminating part of a bunk bed. Moving in, Scootaloo felt along the wall with a hoof until she rubbed against a switch. It clicked, bathing the room in the light from a single gem covered in wires glowing a steady blue.

Scootaloo inched in, her gaze sweeping across the room as she moved into it like an intruder waiting to be caught.

In one corner was a work desk covered in barrels, cartridges, and a few parts she recognized from run-of-the-mill aircraft. All of them were laid out in perfect rows and placed within labeled boxes. In the centre of the room was a tidy bed, the covers neatly folded and tucked beneath the mattress with the pillow lying forgotten in the middle of the floor.

Wow, he was actually... tidy? she thought as she pushed into the room, her curiosity getting the better of her. I didn’t think he was like that. The mare moved towards a dresser bolted into the wall and absently pulled one of the drawers open, revealing a stack of showy undergarments. With a snap and a massive blush, Scootaloo shut it. I didn’t know a lot about him.

Perched above the dresser was a framed image, one she picked up with her wingtips and brought into the light.

Standing tall and proud in the centre of the image was a short green-hued mare with a beaming smile on her face; beside her was Kami Kaze with most of his limbs in a normal state.

“He loved her.”

Scootaloo jumped, the frame sliding between her feather-tips before crashing onto the ground and spraying glass everywhere.

Turning, she faced Wrenches, the mechanically-inclined mare, leaning against the doorframe with one eyebrow perked at the mess Scootaloo had made. “Sorry about that,” she said, her voice lower and more gravelly than usual.

The orange mare looked down at the picture, now free from its frame, and picked it up, gently bringing the image back into the light. “Who was she?” she asked.

“Kami’s fiancée.”

Scootaloo snapped her head towards Wrenches, the question all over her face.

“Yes, he had a wife... or was going to,” Wrenches said before stepping in, gingerly avoiding the sharp pieces of glass. “They were both young... or at least younger. She was the daughter of some up-and-coming officer in the navy, before the Empire. Quite the bubbly personality, if I remember correctly. She had this thing for making everything... work.” Wrenches barked a bitter laugh. “I guess if she could make a relationship with Kami work, she could do anything.”

“What happened?”

“The Empire happened. When Equestria changed hooves... well, the aid and support groups trying to help our then enemies weren’t as appreciated. Kami Kaze was the son of two ranking members of the army. Mechanized commanders. But, he somehow managed to get work piloting, instead. So, he flew escort for some of the early aid missions, covering and scouting from above as the army brought help to poor villages.

“Then, when the Empire shifted camps, Blueblood ordered a full-frontal assault. Those villages were in between.”

Scootaloo looked at the smiling mare, then at the background of the image, a tiny straw-housed village filled with injured ponies and doctors. “Then what?”

“The Empire fired. An entire mechanized division assaulted the village from afar, raining shells and whatever new weapons they had brought with them. Kami got to his plane and took off. The mare stayed behind. Apparently, he saw the shell that killed her arc through the air before exploding.” Wrenches sighed. “He did what he was named for; he brought his aircraft around and attacked the Empire. Brought down seven mechanized units, including two anti-aerial platforms, before running out of munitions. Then, he rammed into one. Didn’t matter; she had still died.”

Scootaloo blinked back tears. “Is that how he... his legs?”

Wrenches nodded somberly. “Yeah, they recovered him from the wreck; weren’t sure what to do with him. By then, they knew their target was friendly. I guess being the son of those officers paid off. He was treated in what was left of the village, before any of the injured there got treatment.”

“Is that why he hated the Empire so much?”

“Yeah. He left right after, visited the mass grave where his would-be wife was, then galloped away on the rusty prosthetics he had. Eventually, Arny picked him up...”

Scootaloo folded the image carefully, then gently placed it within one of the inner pockets of her jacket.

“You should get going; you have a ceremony to attend. I’ll take care of this.”

She shook her head. “No, too many died to make a fuss about honour and things like that.”

Wrenches didn’t protest. Instead, she simply sat down and perked her ears. Down the corridor, they could hear the rhythmic tapping of hooves on the metal grating. Moments later, Arnaquer poked his head into the room, eyes wandering over the two mares until they rested on Scootaloo.

The pegasus stared back unblinkingly, her expression daring him to speak against her. Finally, he sighed and inched forwards. "We all miss him. No pony will ever be able to take his place. Mais, sitting here and crying about it, sa ne changerait rien. We may have won a battle, but the war is a long way from being over. The best way to honour him now, is to move on, get back out there, and kill as many of those filthy bastards as we can."

Scootaloo sniffled, then wiped a hoof past her eyes before glaring at them. “But that ceremony...”

The noble pony scoffed at her. “You are young and inexperienced; you don’t understand the trivialities of war. It’s about morale. Something Kami Kaze understood very well. Why do you think he was always armed to the teeth? To strike fear.”

Breathing hard, Scootaloo nodded and stepped out, casting a last glance at the room before exiting. Within, Wrenches gave her a tiny, sad smile.

Alone, Scootaloo marched down the corridor.

I guess they’re right; there’s nothing I can do. With a sense of foreboding and finality, the mare lifted her head up tall and stared ahead, ready to face anything that came at her.

She spun around the corridor and almost came face-to-face with Sweetie Belle.

The periwinkle-maned unicorn let out a high-pitched squeal and fell onto her rump with wide eyes. “Ah, Scootaloo?!”

Scootaloo forced a jovial smile onto her lips, one that her eyes refused to emulate. “Hi, Sweetie. I wasn’t expecting you here!” she said with false cheerfulness, one that the unicorn immediately caught on to.

“Uh-huh, I came to pick you up,” she replied, a slow, comforting smile making its way across her lips.

“Yeah, we should get going.” Scootaloo stepped around her friend and attempted to march ahead. Sweetie Belle’s extended hoof stalled her.

The unicorn slid up to her side, never breaking eye contact. “Look, Scoots, I know that what happened to your friend—”

Scootaloo shook her head, her purple mane flopping limply from side to side. “No, let’s not talk about it... please.”

For a moment, both mares stood in silence, only the ticking and occasional grinding of the ship’s metal baking in the sunlight filling the void.

“Okay,” Sweetie finally agreed. “But, we’ll talk about it later, when things are smoother. I don’t want my best friend going around with that sort of burden on her back, okay?”

“Yeah, I promise.”

Sweetie Belle turned and, with a tiny smile adorning her lips, lead her friend to the awaiting transport.

She never noticed the single tear rolling down orange fur.


Thump, Thump.

Apple Bloom focused on that constant thumping, the rhythm of it keeping her mind off other things. Instead, she paid attention to the movement of the four triple-jointed legs of the enormous steel walker they were in; the panoply of other ponies jammed onto the double row of seats; and the burping and groaning motor at the machine’s back, the smoke it bellowed forming a pseudo tail behind them that was quickly whisked away.

She leaned her head back and looked over the side, noting the large distance between herself and the ground that had been trampled by another such vehicle. The marks on the ground created a trail leading up to the Moon where the other transports were unloading their precious cargo.

All of that failed to distract her from the warm-blooded stallion sitting right next to her who had recently confessed his love to the mare. No! Ah need to think of other things. Apple Bloom shifted her bright red face away, eyes focusing on the destination they were slowly navigating towards.

The Moon was gently moving from side to side under the prevailing wind, making the lives of those hanging onto its side difficult. They wore welding torches and tools strapped around their bodies as they rapidly repaired the vessel.

Below the flagship was a raised platform surrounded by a massive semicircle of chairs and open grass, enough room for every pony in the fleet and more. There, thousands were congregating, smiling at their victory or crying at their personal losses.

One of the transport’s legs jammed, rocking the entire platform she was on and sending Pipsqueak crashing into her, one of his white hooves slipping between her thighs and rubbing against the fabric of her jumpsuit.

She glared at him, her eyebrows meeting together as she practically seethed anger and embarrassment. “Pipsqueak, what in Celestia’s mane do you think you’re doing?” she screeched, instantly gaining the attention of the dozen-odd other ponies reclining on the vehicle’s benches.

The mechanized transport took another step, one of its four massive and rust-covered legs thumping forward. At the head was an open cockpit where two ponies sat, fighting with the controls until they got the transport moving once more.

“I-I, um, I’m sorry?” he muttered, his face almost catching fire as it reddened. The other passengers mumbled and laughed discreetly, the words “young love” echoing in his perked ears more than once.

“Well, you can prove you’re sorry,” she began, “by taking your hoof out of there!

The colt whipped his limb away as if it had caught fire, then cradled it uncertainly, before inching away from her. He sat at his end of the bench, casting the occasional furtive glance her way.

Darn it. It wasn’t his fault. Her gaze went to one of the faulty legs as it climbed up, pulled by massive hydraulic pistons. Somepony ought to oil these things once in awhile!

Blinking, the mare looked behind her. Between her own cumbersome transport and the now bustling town of Ponyville were hundreds of such vehicles, all of them shifting from side to side, marching forwards within their lines. Most showed signs of use: from rust covering their exteriors, to missing limbs, to a few with gaping holes in their armour. The sure-fire proof that they had been in the earlier battle.

“Ah’m sorry,” she whispered, edging towards him slightly. Gently and with unnerving slowness, she moved her own hoof towards him.

The transport bumped again, followed shortly by a shout of “sorry, my bad” from the co-pilot.

Apple Bloom tumbled towards Pipsqueak, her cheeks squishing against his shoulder as she practically fell onto him.

“Um,” they both said as one, their eyes meeting and widening even as their breaths quickened until they were almost panting.

“Oi, git a room!” whinnied an old, weather-beaten stallion sitting across from them. He rolled his eyes, then barked a laugh, before tapping an equally old mare on the shoulder.

Apple Bloom and Pipsqueak moved away from each other, coughing and averting their gazes to anything but one another.

“Oh, Herb, you idiot,” grumbled the old mare before she slapped the stallion’s hoof away. “You ruined their date... and they were so cute, just like us when we were that age.” She chuckled, covering her toothless grin with a hoof. “Remember that time, under the hanger of the princess’ ship? Oh, you were such a ruffian.”

Apple Bloom turned and looked at the row across from her. There, half a dozen ponies were sitting around the old couple, all of them covered in grease, oil, and grime. The stench of burnt wiring and metal permeated the air around them, wafting to the mare’s nose at every step of the machine.

The old stallion sitting in the center, Herb, squinted at her as he leaned forward. “Wait jus’ one second. I know you!” he exclaimed, pointing right at Apple Bloom.

“Huh?”

A few of Herb’s comrades pulled their attention from the surrounding countryside and dragged it onto Pipsqueak and Apple Bloom, dull eyes inspecting them drowsily.

“Y’re the one that stole the Tombstone! Ah remember you! You just upped and took off with that flying death trap... and y’re still alave?”

The ponies around him straightened, ears perking and placing their hooves on the rotten wooden flooring as they stared attentively.

The bow-wearing mare glared back at them. This sounds like trouble. “Yeah, Ah’m the one that took the plane, but Ah returned it!”

“Well, that’s even more impressive!” Herb said, smacking his thigh as he chuckled. “In the twenty years Ah’ve been with the navy, Ah’ve never seen anypony come outta that thing alave! Why’d ya think we call it the Tombstone? Those kill marks on the side aren’t the planes it brought down, it’s the pilots that’ve died in ‘er!”

Pipsqueak shot a glance at the mare at his side, one that spoke volumes. “Wait, you used that sort of thing to come ‘save’ me?” he asked, his tone someplace between chastising and impressed.

“Well, what did you want me to do?” she hissed back. “There weren’t any other planes around. What could Ah have done?”

Pipsqueak shrugged, his voice rising above a whisper. “I don’t know, stay in the ship? You were safe; you didn’t have to come and get me!”

Apple Bloom huffed, crossing her hooves over her chest as she leaned back into the bench. The transport bumped again as it crossed a tiny stream, the massive steel hooves crushing the ground beneath with an impact sounding like thunder. “Since when do you think you can boss me around?” Ah liked him better when he was all quiet.

The mechanic ponies watched the exchange in the same fashion one would watch a plane wreck: they know it won't end well, but they can't bring themselves to look away.

Pipsqueak rounded on her. “Since I started caring about you, you big doofus!” he yelled, waving his hooves around above their heads. “I don’t want to see you get hurt. I love you too much.”

Every pony in the vessel sighed contentedly; even Herb managed some sort of awkward groan.

Tears sprang to Apple Bloom’s eyes before she blinked them away. “Yo-you’re the doofus!”

“I-I, uh, what?” he asked, uncertain as to how to proceed.

Apple Bloom looked ahead of their transport where a steel structure of tubes and supports was firmly rooted on the spot. Out of it, a few different types of ladders and ramps extended, all of them preparing themselves to welcome the oncoming ship.

The passengers and crew remained quiet as they approached the structure. Beside it was an entire row of similar devices, all of them filled with ramps and steps leading down to the trampled-upon grass. Further off, the preparations around the raised platform were nearing their end, filling the air with a palpable excitement and an eagerness to begin.

The co-pilot of their transport stood up on wobbly legs and turned around, a dopey grin on his face as his horn glowed alight. He coughed, his voice magnified by his magic to bounce around the confines of the vessel. “Ladies and Gentlecolts of the Lunar Republic, I’m glad to announce your imminent arrival to the first Remembrance Ceremony of the Republic. Please stand up and prepare yourselves to disembark... to, uh, attend this monumentally historic occasion!” he said before the pilot stood and hit him upside the head.

Apple Bloom hopped out of her bench and stood in the wide alleyway, followed moments later by Pipsqueak. Above, the framework of the ramp system deployed itself in time with the jolting of the transport freezing to a stop. Out of the structure came a steep staircase that thumped in the middle of the passenger compartment.

Soon, everypony was lining him or herself up to step out of the behemoth, patiently waiting in a single file. Pipsqueak gestured to Apple Bloom to take the lead with a wave of his forehoof. She shook her head.

“Nu-uh. Ah ain’t letting you walk behind me,” she said, flashing an embarrassed glare at him. “You’ll look at my flanks while Ah’m climbing the steps!”

The few ponies who had overheard giggled to themselves, adding to the jovial aire of the open cabin. Blushing and grumbling to himself, Pipsqueak dejectedly trudged ahead of Apple Bloom, his tail slipping between his legs.

The lines dwindled as pony after pony climbed up the ramp, then down the spiral staircase to the ground below. Eventually, Apple Bloom had her turn up the steps, her hooves clicking on the metallic surface as she followed Pipsqueak.

“So,” the colt began, stretching the syllable, “what do you think of all of... this?” He waved a free hoof over the assembly of soldiers and ponies.

He’s acting weird, she thought, casting a furtive glance of her own to his backside. “Ah don’t know; Ah think it’s a little overboard. Probably just some speech, then some political stuff about defeating the Empire. Ah’d rather stay at home.”

They climbed down the staircase, the bottom of which clear save for a single unicorn, who held a clipboard up with his magic, ticking off names as everypony passed. The lime pony looked up at Pipsqueak and smiled like a predator, his overly-white teeth flashing in the sunlight.

Pipsqueak shrugged. “I don’t know; I think that it’s rather nice Luna and the high command organized something like this. Lots of ponies died, and we ought to be respectful.”

Apple Bloom snorted. “Yeah, but Pinkie’s the one that organized this Ah heard. It’ll probably end in a part—”

“Excuse me!” the lime unicorn said as he stepped up to Pipsqueak. “Are you Pipsqueak?” he asked, once more glancing at his clipboard. On it was a dated image of the colt in question.

The stallion looked back at Apple Bloom, eyes filled with worry and uncertainty. “Um, yeah?”

The unicorn shifted his weight, his predatory smile only growing. “Perfect, follow me.”

“Um, why?”

The unicorn froze halfway through his turn. “Pardon?”

Placing a hoof on her temple, Apple Bloom stepped forwards. “He said, ‘why?’ ”

He blinked, gaze shifting between the mare and the colt, before he pointed at his pristine uniform and the tags on his shoulders. “I’m a sergeant of the Lunar Republi—”

“And we’re not part of the Lunar Republic. Now, why do you want my Pipsqueak?” The colt at her side blinked at her, mouthing the word ‘my.’

“Look, missus, just shut up, all right? Your coltfriend here is needed at the medal-giving ceremony; he’s one of the delegates.”

Pipsqueak stomped forwards, roughly jamming a hoof into the sergeant's chest until the unicorn stumbled backwards. Around them, a crowd of ponies made up both of passersby and the passengers of their transport gawked and stared. “Don’t you dare talk to Apple like that! And- and she’s not m-my fi-fillyfriend!” he screamed before turning to Apple Bloom and staring at her.

The mare took two wobbly steps forwards, her legs almost giving out beneath her. Closing her eyes, she sighed, then took two hurried steps forward and pressed her lips on his burning cheeks. “Don’t you dare do that again!” she chastised, her own face matching his in shade. “Ah can take care of myself j-just fine.”

“Um,” the unicorn began, lifting a hoof as if he was a foal in school, “I still need Master Pipsqueak to come...”

They both broke eye contact, then looked at him. “Why?” they asked as one.

He sighed. “He’s to be medaled during the ceremony. I’m to get him there. Now, can we go? We’re going to be late!”

Pipsqueak blinked dumbly, his gaze going from the pretty mare that had just kissed him, to the soldier ordering him on. “I-I, uh—”

Apple Bloom shook her head, some of her short mane falling in front of her orange-red eyes. “Go on, Ah guess... but be careful. Ah don’t want to have to run after you!”

“But—”

The mare slid forwards again, their bodies almost pressing as they exchanged heat. “Just go...”

He blinked, blushed, then swallowed hard before backing up slowly. “I, uh, I’ll see you later!” he said before spinning around and trotting to the unicorn’s side.

The unicorn huffed and smiled. “All right, come on... sir. We need to get you into a uniform of some sort.”

Hesitantly, and with an uncertain but giddy smile on his face, Pipsqueak followed the unicorn, quickly disappearing into the dispersing crowd. The last Apple Bloom saw of him was his tail as it slipped into a motorized cart along with the unicorn.

Herb and his wife moved to either side of her, their hooves gliding gently over the few blades of grass still standing. For a moment, they stood in quiet, allowing the other passengers to begin the short trek back to the stands and seats laid out around the platform.

“C’mon, sweetie, we should get going; I’m sure your little coltfriend will be back in a moment,” the older mare said, patting Apple Bloom on the back while wielding a large smile.

“He’s not my coltfriend,” Apple Bloom grumbled, then sighed. “Right, Ah guess there’s nothing else ta do, huh?” The mare looked around, inspecting the world around her while trying to tear her mind from what had just happened. Did Ah really just kiss him?

The patting hoof became insistent as it pushed Apple Bloom forwards. Reluctantly, the mare took one step, then another, as the old couple sandwiched themselves around her.

“Now, Ah know of the perfect place to wait in one of these event thingies,” Herb boasted.

“And where would that be, honey?” the old mare asked, her voice distracted as she searched the crowds.

They marched on, gently aligning themselves off to the right of the gathering place and towards a crane set off to its side. There, dozens of ponies in rough and tumble uniforms and jumpsuits were gathered, all of them reeking of oil and grease as they traded hoof bumps, tall tales, and quick jokes.

“Where are we going?” she asked, looking between the two ponies at her sides.

The old mare chuckled. “Just to see some friends. I think you might like them.”

“The best place,” Herb continued, “has to be close enough that you can see what’s going on on that stage, yet far enough that ya won’t get deafened by the end of the show. ‘Specially with Luna around! I tells ya, that princess has got a set of pipes on her.”

Apple Bloom shook her head, tuning out the stallion as they approached the crane. Along its side, ponies were climbing up the slight incline and finding themselves seats on the metal rigging and cords making up the machine. At the base of the device was a group, half of which was slowly heading towards them. A tall and lanky colt ran out, a dopey grin on his face as he led the way. “Herb! Grandma G! How’re you guys doing?!” he asked before skidding to a halt on the muddy ground.

“Grandma G?” Apple Bloom asked, one of her eyebrows rising as she looked at the old mare.

Grandma G hid a knowing smile, a twinkle in her eye as she leaned in. “The G’s for Grease. Got it with my cutie mark, but it’s not all that becoming for a young mare. I’d rather not be called as such, if you see what I mean.”

“Well, ya don’t seem to mind me screaming it while spanking y’er flank,” Herb said aloud.

Rather than blushing, the old mare tittered a laugh and stepped ahead of them, quickly enveloping the colt in a tight hug. “Sprocket, how’re you doing, my boy?”

Apple Bloom gave the colt a quizzical look, comparing his pale blue coat to the two old ponies’ bright orange. Herb answered the question that was on the tip of her tongue. “No, he’s not really related, but the whole of us—” He gestured at the group engulfing them that was tossing “hellos and good days” to Grandma G. “—are sorta like a fam’ly. You know, ‘cause we’re all mechanics.”

“Oh.”

Sprocket detached himself from Grandma G and walked over to her, extending a hoof in welcome even as his eyes hungrily ran up and down her body. He’s checking me out! she thought, uncertain as to whether or not to hit him or to be flattered.

“Hi,” he said, a blush creeping onto his puffy, foal-like cheeks. “I’m not familiar with you, which is odd. I thought I knew all the pretty mares around here.”

Hit him, definitely. The crowd of mechanics settled around them, patient smiles on their dirty faces as they waited expectantly for her answer. “Ah, uh, Ah’m...”

Herb grabbed her shoulders, shaking her lightly. “This here filly’s the one who piloted the Tombstone.” Eyes widened all about. “And she’s still alive!” An ahh of wonder spread through the mechanics as they doubled their efforts to look at her.

“Oh, Herb, you’re making her shy. Now, sweety, how about you tell them all your name, then we can go find ourselves a seat.”

She swallowed hard. Why am Ah so nervous? she wondered as she scanned the crowd of curious looks. These ponies look nice enough, and it ain't like me to be like this... damn Pipsqueak; he messed with my mind. “Mah name’s Apple Bloom,” she said while smiling.

“Oh! You’re from the Apple family?” Sprocket asked, an easy smile on his lips. “Any relations to Applejack?”

“Yup, she’s my sister.”

In a split second, every mare and stallion hushed, the quiet thick as it took over the group, even Herb and Grandma G staring blankly at her. “Um, is that wrong? Somehow?” Apple Bloom asked, her voice setting them all back into motion.

“N-no, of course not,” Sprocket replied, something between fear and admiration in his eyes as he took a half-step back and gave her a curt bow.

“Argh, not this.” The bow-wearing mare slumped to a seated position. Didn’t see this coming. “Ah’m not some magical, all-powerful pony just ‘cause mah sis is... famous. Ah’m the same as all of ya. Ah know that the type four Sparkle Gen is the best on the market and that if you don’t tune the carburetor on the Spectrum’s six cylinders just right, it’ll buck you off mid-flight. Ah know that some of the guns made by Pinkie have to be clicked twice when installing them or else they’ll jam... now just treat me like any other mare and let’s watch this... thing.”

Guiltily, the crowd smiled and slowly dispersed under her glare before heading towards the crane and the few seats spread around it. Under Apple Bloom’s watchful glare, she could see the message and rumours spread from one to another as ponies glanced her way.

“Well, why’d you not tell us?!” Herb whined as he pouted, then winced as his wife cuffed him behind the head.

“Nevermind that, Herb.” Grandma G turned a beaming smile to Apple Bloom. “Shall we find ourselves a place to sit, sweety?”

She nodded. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

With that, the couple marched on, Sprocket following at their heels like a puppy after a steak. The crane loomed ahead and above them, its towering crisscrossing beams leading up to a singular metallic arm hefting a massive hook dangling from the end. On it, droves of mares and stallions sat, all of their eyes focused on the stage hundreds of meters away.

As Apple Bloom arrived, the ponies filling the base moved away, allowing her and the three accompanying her to pass. She rolled her eyes. It’s not worth arguing at this point.

Apple Bloom climbed up the impromptu ramp, then onto the beam, then gingerly went from bar to bar until she found a place for herself on a cold, metallic support.

They all sat, hooves dangling off the edge and waving in the tiny breeze even as the sun played across their manes. The Moon moved despite the thick ropes holding it in place, swaying gently back and forth as its broad sides caught the wind.

Apple Bloom allowed her eyes to wander over the crowds and the stage below. On the platform were chairs, a long row on the far right and seven on the left; six of them simple, yet gilded pieces; while the seventh was a monstrosity, enormous in size and weight with more gold on it than the heft of most ponies.

“Oh, I feel like it’s about to start!” Herb said as he jumped on the spot, the entire beam bouncing. He earned himself a dozen glares.

Grandma G rolled her eyes, then leaned in towards Apple Bloom. “I’m warning you, Herb’s a peanut gallery all on his own.”

Before Apple Bloom could comment, a single horn bleated a tone. As the sound carried out and waved across the assembly, every single pony hushed, the few still standing rushing towards their seats.

The Moon creaked, the entire vessel shivering as a panel opened up along its side, revealing the hangar made to hold hundreds of fighters and planes. Out of the darkened cavern came a single sleek vehicle, its four sparkle generators flaring as it hovered towards the ground.

Within its open back were seven mares: the six Elements of Harmony, all of them wearing their regalia and decorative dresses, and Princess Luna. The noble pony was bedecked in a simple flowing cape beneath an intricate, but tiny, tiara.

The platform came to a rest on the stage, billowing clouds of dust puffing out around it and washing over the crowd. Luna stepped out, one decorated hoof at a time, followed shortly by the six mares accompanying her. A dull screech rang out, emitted by dozens of stacked speakers and magical devices laid out across the grass. On centre stage, a single pegasus dropped from above with a pole, the top of which held a circular microphone.

From the far right, over a dozen ponies climbed onto the stage: some injured, others limping, but all proudly wearing the regalia of the Lunar Republic.

Apple Bloom’s eyes narrowed on three in particular: Sweetie Belle; Scootaloo; and lastly, Pipsqueak. The stallion stood awkwardly with the tight-fitting uniform as he found his way to a designated seat. “Well, isn’t he cute?” Grandma G asked.

The Princess took another step forwards, her head raising as she inspected the crowd with ancient, all-knowing eyes. She coughed into the microphone, the gesture somehow reminding all that she, too, was nervous. “Mares and gentlecolts, thank you for gathering here today, for today is a momentous occasion. Years from now, when your foals or grandfoals ask you about this day in history, you will be able to say you were there at the beginning of the end.

“The end of tyranny, the end of this horror story called war, the end… of the Empire!”

A single cheer erupted from the crowd, the noise and screams and stomping of hooves deafening. Luna lifted a hoof, and they immediately quelled.

From her vantage point, Apple Bloom watched in awe. So much power, she thought as her gaze focused on the Princess and the semi-circle of mares behind her. She both felt and knew that they alone could be an army.

“But take heed, my little ponies, such a wonderful conclusion cannot be obtained without a toll, and a hefty one at that.” She shook her head, hanging it a little in both a sign of respect and solemnity.

“Today, we have lost some of the bravest, most courageous, ponies who have ever lived, willing to pay the ultimate price to see the rest of us live in a world free from oppression. If you are one of the many to have suffered such a loss, you have Our deepest condolences, as well as a promise. A promise that although they are no longer here, they will never be forgotten. A promise that their sacrifices will not be in vain. A promise that we will see them avenged as we pave the way to a better tomorrow!”

Once more, the crowd erupted into cheers, though now they were mingling with the sobs of the weary.

“While we show our respect for the dearly departed, we must also show it to those who remain, continuing to fight for the freedom of all. We honor those who fought bravely in the fight, as there will be many more where such exemplary ponies are needed.”

A group of bat-winged pegasi fell from the side of the Moon, all of them wearing the dark indigo livery of Luna’s Guard. They carefully carried ornate plates bedecked with bright crimson cushions on which bright medals were placed. Gently, they lowered themselves, revealing silver medals gleaming a deep blue in the day’s light.

At Apple Bloom’s side, Herb began to fidget, a nervous smile crossing his wrinkled features as he leaned towards the mare. “This is the best part!” he almost squealed.

Twilight Sparkle took the lead, stepping up to the podium even as she unrolled a thick scroll held aloft by her glowing magic. “Commander Right-Wing,” she said.

The princess moved to the side of her nearest guard and, with her magic, grabbed hold of the first medal.

From the group of twelve ponies, a grey-maned stallion stood and hobbled across the stage, hundreds applauding his efforts and thousands joining in as the medal encircled his neck. He bowed to the Princess, then waved at the crowd, before returning to his place.

“That Right-Wing fellow. He almost died in the battle. Then, he hooked his ship onto another that was sinking; saved hundreds of lives, too,” Herb whispered. “He also made all of our jobs difficult.” Some of the other mechanics hummed in agreement.

The lavender unicorn leaned into the microphone once more. “Scootaloo.”

From among the seats, Scootaloo stood, smoothly making her way across the stage. She didn’t wave. She didn’t laugh or smile. She just walked with her back straight and fierce determination in her eyes. The few who dared to cheer gained bitter glares that froze them mid-movement.

With the shortest of half-bows, Scootaloo accepted the medal and returned to her seat.

“I hear she got enough kills to get ace six times over, and she’s the one that dented the Sol Scorcher enough to bust its massive canon-magigy.” Herb snickered to himself. “She’s also pretty hot.”

His wife hit him, sending his head crashing into one of the metal posts and ringing loudly. He stared back, properly chastised as he rubbed the growing welt.

“Sweetie Belle,” Twilight said from the stage, immediately recapturing Apple Bloom’s attention.

The unicorn beamed at Scootaloo as she visibly restrained herself. She crossed the stage in an anxious blur and scooped up the medal with a toss of her head, the silver pendant tapping against her breastbone.

Sweetie Belle turned, flashing her sister an incomprehensible grin that was met without expression, before returning to her seat.

“I heard she’s the one that found the Sol’s weaknesses, and she’s the one that got that ship to ram into it, and she won the Republic some fighters, and she personally angered Bunnyhelm somehow,” Herb said in a ramble.

Next, came a slew of names and quick grabs for the precious medals, each one met with fewer and fewer applause. Finally, a red and black pegasus stood and strutted across the stage, the heartbeats of every female doubling as his long sensuous wings gave a single beat.

He lowered his shades to the tip of his nose and winked into the crowd, dozens of mares fainting at the sight.

Luna looked at him quizzically while levitating his medal, only to have the stallion bow in front of her, grab one of her forehooves, and tenderly kiss it.

“Uh, Herb?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Yeah?”

“Who’s that?” she asked, cringing in disgust as the leather-clad stallion pranced back to his place.

“That, would be Nitro. He’s some hotshot pilot. He doesn’t even know how to treat a plane right. Keeps bringing them in with all sorts of dents and stuff.” He shook his head, a motion imitated by many other mechanics. “He’s also sort've a jerk.”

“Huh, right...”

“Pipsqueak,” Twilight called before rolling up her scroll and tucking it within her dress.

The nervous stallion stood and made his way across the stage, drenching sweat across the already-sleek floor. The stiff-legged Pipsqueak reached the princess and almost fainted when the medal dropped around his neck.

“I gotta say, he looks okay in uniform...” Apple Bloom contemplated. Grandma G. and Herb traded a look and a quick smile. Pipsqueak made his way back to his chair, blush deepening for every added cheer.

Luna walked back to the podium and attempted to smile at the gathered. “On behalf of the Rebellion, and Equestria at large, We thank you for your courage and strength in such troubling times, and pray you would continue to fight for the good of our country.”

The Princess bowed, once to the assembly, then to the medal bearers. A pin could have dropped and been heard by all as a shocked silence spread. “We could not ask for a better group of ponies to work with. Once more, We thank you all for coming today, but while we have won the day, the next is still being contested. We will need to tend to the wounded, reorganize, and plan our next move. We will need everypony to give Us one hundred percent tomorrow, so We can feel better about letting everypony have the night off.”

Every single pony within a few kilometers cheered, screamed, and hollered their joy to the heavens. The sound went on and on, broken only by the childish giggle of the princess herself. “Enjoy yourselves tonight, for tomorrow is another day, and another battle to be won.”


Edited by:
-Staple Cactus

Pre-Read by:
-Cpl Hooves
-Frederick the Saiyan
-FlutterSyke



A huge thank-you to Staple Cactus who aided me well past a reasonable bedtime just so we could have this up on time. Go say hello! (Completed at 2:45 AM. You’re welcome!)
And the folks that helped me outline this story and threatened to beat me if I didn’t get to it!

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