• Published 4th Mar 2012
  • 13,631 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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Chessmasters

It was a perfect day.

Butterflies fluttered between their hooves and a gentle wind played with their manes and tails. An air of excitement filled the surroundings, carried through the voices and movements of hundreds of ponies enjoying their last moments on the earth.

The sun beamed down erratically, drawing Sweetie Belle’s attention to the sky. There, hundreds of airships lingered, all of them acting as shields to the bright sunlight as they tried to fit into formation.

More were joining every minute from the four cardinal directions as well as the ground. The young mare even recognized some retrofitted Imperial ships that just a week ago had been trying to kill them.

“Do we have to come here?” Pipsqueak asked, biting his lower lip as they neared the ramp that would bring them to their destination.

“Yes, Pip, we have to be here,” Sweetie answered. “But don’t worry; with all the bigwigs there, I’m sure you could just hide in a corner in peace.... Maybe you could spend it thinking about Apple Bloom?”

The mare's lips curled into a cruel grin as her companion sputtered and blushed madly, tripping over his hooves until he managed to regain his balance. “That’s, that’s.... How’d you know?”

She rolled her eyes, smile turning soft and friendly as she closed the gap between them. “Pipsqueak, both Scootaloo and I have known for a long, long time. Don’t worry, the secret’s out now. Just endure this and you can go back to the loving hooves of your little honey-bun.”

The unicorn’s giggling was drowned out by the clanking of their hooves on the metal ramp as both ponies reached the steel structure leading up to a cluster of tethers.

At the end of the chains was an old sightseeing ship. An oblong and sharply pointed balloon was mounted above an enclosed cabin, three sides of which were made of glass panes worked into the decorative supports. Not a speck of rust or grime showed on the old vessel and the propellers at the rear showed clear signs of recent repair. Hmm, nice vessel, Sweetie Belle thought as her eyes lingered on the balloon’s flank. The Stargazer, she read.

At the top of the ramp, a solidly built stallion in the dark-plated armour of a royal guard snapped a salute and drew the ship’s side door open. Soft music and cooled air escaped the large cabin, accompanied by a chattering of conversation.

“Come on, Pipsqueak, we get to meet the princess.” Sweetie Belle turned and climbed into the ship, noting the tiny shift of the vehicle as her weight pressed into it. Now what? We’re here, like they asked, but they could have been a little more specific on the why.

A waiter slipped by, lowering a tray filled with bubbling glasses of champagne until his eyes roved over them and the clearly discernible signs of their age. Both the young stallion and mare wore the new uniforms of the Lunar Republic. The clothing was notoriously difficult to obtain, but a quick flash of their newly acquired medals made it so that the requisition officers were more than willing to hoof the garb over.

“Can I get you something, esteemed guests?” he asked, his posh accent quickly grating on the mare’s nerves. “Perhaps a glass of... milk, or water, and I believe we have some apple juice; it looks like champagne.”

“No thanks,” she said sweetly, playing with the collar of the long midnight-blue jacket. “I would like to know who’s who, their status, and what the current topic of the day seems to be. Don’t bother going into too much detail; I just want a refresher.” Sweetie Belle smiled as the waiter blinked at her, fumbling with a loss of words. I guess getting dragged to all those silly high-brow events by sis was worth something.

“I, I see,” he said, pulling at his collar. “Well, if you look over there, you’ll see the, um, who’s who of this... party.” The waiter gestured to a group of ponies that had formed near the ship’s end, beyond the archaic wooden helm serving as the control system of the Stargazer.

There, Princess Luna sat surrounded by a dozen sycophantic ponies, all of them batting their eyes at the Princess, hanging onto her every word. This guy knows nothing. Those ponies are just suck-ups and nobles. The young mare’s eyes searched on, focusing on anypony she recognized.

Commander Right-Wing, one of the ponies who had been awarded during the ceremony, was leaning against a window, looking at the fleet above.

Nitro, the ace pilot, was chatting while gesturing wildly, the crowd of mares at his hooves looking at him with wonder-filled eyes. For a split second, his gaze turned to Sweetie Belle and he winked before returning to the mares.

Arnaquer, the Prench pony, twirled his mustache as he inspected the Stargazer's controls, his brows furrowed in concentration.

Twilight Sparkle was at the fore, adjusting a pair of glasses on the bridge of her nose as she looked at a thick wad of notes and calculation-covered sheets.

Beside the lavender mare, Fluttershy was talking to a stallion wearing the typical garb of an Empathy Medical doctor. The long yellow coat sitting on his back bore the emblem of the medical company.

So, that’s that, she thought, sighing nervously before taking a few more steps into the cabin and circumventing the waiter. With a clatter of hooves, Pipsqueak followed, keeping to Sweetie Belle’s side as the unicorn crossed the room. “Um, what are we doing?” the colt asked, bowing his head low.

“We’re going to go with the flow, find out what we can, then follow orders. There’s not much else we can do.... Maybe once this is done—this meeting, not the war—the four of us can get together and find a goal.”

“A goal?” he asked, his nose sniffing as another waiter passed, carrying a platter filled with hor-d'oeuvres. “What sort of goal, and why?”

“Everypony needs a goal. Ours was to live a happy life and have some adventures on The Crusader. But now, we don’t really have any. Sure, we’re okay now, but we need something to work towards, or else we’ll fall behind.”

“That’s... sorta really wise,” he said.

The mare looked over her shoulder at him, smirking a little. “Thanks. For now, let’s just wait, and listen.” Both of them reached the far end of the vessel where a duct rose from the ground and blasted cool air into the room.

They did not have to wait long before an old grizzled stallion marched to the centre of the room, his greying mane and gentle hobble carrying him up to the ship’s command centre. There, he reached up, every joint cracking, and pulled on a bell’s string.

A single ding rang out, cutting through conversations and grabbing the attention of all. The old stallion smiled a toothless grin at them all and nodded. “Ladies and gentlecolts, we are about to take off. I hope you enjoy your ride onboard the Stargazer and I’d ask that you hang on as we release our mooring.”

Sweetie Belle turned her attention to the tiny balcony running around the ship and the pegasi undoing the tethers beyond. With a lurch, the ship was no longer anchored to the ground. The entire cabin wavered a little, the floor dipping and bobbing, before the engines rumbled to life.

Tall plumes of smoke sputtered out of the exhaust as the propellers began to spin wildly. Ever so slowly, the Stargazer began to rise, all of the ponies within flexing to compensate for the gradual movement.

“Where do you think we’ll be going?” Pipsqueak asked, his wide eyes searching the skies beyond the balcony.

Sweetie Belle shrugged. “I’m not really sure, but I’m guessing we’ll be visiting the main fleet. All these ponies need to be impressed and it would make a nice show for those on board the fleet ships to see their heroes parading around.”

The young stallion looked at her, appraising the mare with a quick and curious glance. “You’re really... on top of things today, huh?”

They locked eyes. “We can’t just be innocent anymore, Pip. These are serious times and this is serious business.”

“Yeah, but...”

She shook her head, puffy purple and pink mane bouncing from side to side. “No buts. This is a war, and until it’s over, our unique objective is to survive. What would you do if Apple Bloom died? What would she do if you died? We can’t play anymore, Pipsqueak. We can’t play anymore.”

The pegasus at her side looked at the ground dejectedly, the calm reality of their situation sinking into him as he sighed. “Yeah, I guess... I’ll-I’ll go find the loo.” Reluctantly, the colt turned around and walked away, eyes on the varnished wooden floor the entire time.

The Stargazer kept rising

Leaning against the viewport, Sweetie Belle looked up to the rapidly approaching ships. How many are there? How many ponies in each? How many will live to see the end of this? This war, she thought, how and when will it end?

We have support. Even the Crusaders and I were working for Luna, and I can’t imagine how many others want her to rule again. But Blueblood, he had a lot of support, too. In the few years he ruled, Equestria changed completely. We didn’t have that sort of ship. Her gaze lingered on the Moon, the Princess’ flagship, as it wheeled around, massive cannons shifting as they positioned themselves.

Even ships like this old thing were rare, she thought, ears perking at the rhythmic thump of the Stargazer’s engine.

That wasn’t the only thing Blueblood did... No, not Blueblood; he’s dead. The Empire. They pushed new medicines and better housing and more work, patriotism, and something to build one's life around. Even if Luna wins, the Empire will still survive, only under a different flag.

She turned, eyeing the nobles, the generals, the high-ranking soldiers and officers. All the ponies that surrounded the one leader: Princess Luna. Do they realise every little decision they make now will either kill thousands or lose them this war? They won’t see it themselves, for the most part.

For a moment, the Princess looked above the heads of the ponies surrounding her, her deep cyan eyes locking with Sweetie Belle’s for a mere second before moving on. Still, the unicorn felt herself grow smaller at the sheer power and wisdom those eyes contained. Eyes that had seen a thousand battles, countless deaths, and had faced despair. No, she can lead us. The Princess is not our problem.

The little tourist boat rumbled as a massive warship flew by, drawing the attention of leaders and nobles as the emblem of the New Lunar Republic flashed through the glass walls.

The Princess smiled sadly at the emblem, then cleared her throat, the simple sound perking many an ear. “Hello,” she began, not forcing her voice into the loud baritone she used in formal occasions. “We are here for a simple reason. No, we are here for many reasons.” The tall dark alicorn moved forwards, tearing herself away from those crowding around her.

“War is not a simple thing. There was never one reason or any single battle, for any single fight or any single war. We fight for a hundred reasons, each one unique.” She turned around, her translucent mane fluctuating in a non-existent wind as it twirled around her.

“Some, fight for their loved ones; others, for revenge. Some ponies want a better future, be it through new leadership or by using this war as a basis to make more bits. Whatever the reason, we are all here for a common cause. Do you know what that is?” she asked, gently sitting on the ground as she looked down at those in front of her.

“To defeat the Empire!” one of the nobles shouted, beating his forehoof in the air while others joined in his cheer.

Luna shook her head, the simple motion turning the stallion’s face red before he shrunk into the crowd in shame. “No. The Empire is not our enemy. The Empire is made of countless ponies. Some innocent, some not. But all worthy of our forgiveness. No, our enemy is ourselves.”

Murmurs of confusion filled the room, even Sweetie Belle furrowed her brows, questioning.

“Ponykind has changed. To have ponies accept the reality of war, to use it as an opportunity....” She looked at some well-endowed ponies, most of whom cringed away. “We don’t want that. We want the things we have developed, the things we have built with our labour and our sweat, to be used for good. And that is why we must win. The Empire’s war-machine needs an enemy, else it will stagnate. And so we must stop it, and all wars.”

Arnaquer raised his hoof, like a colt in a classroom. Luna nodded at him. “Equestria is not alone. And other nations would love our land and possessions and ponies...”

“We shall see what happens when it happens. But first, we must make diplomacy an option.”

All ponies agreed, either with quick nods or an uncertain ‘yes’, but all agreed.

“Now, onto the second matter of the night.” The Princess stretched, popping her hooves as she bent her back like a cat. “We refuse to allow any fleet movements towards Canterlot—”

A dozen commanders and generals spoke out at once.

Hmm, Luna might be good, but if this many of her staff disagree with her, we might as well surrender now.

“Be still!” Luna shouted, the voice overpowering in the confined space. “This is not a matter We are willing to discuss. Canterlot is a precious target, one the Empire will defend with hoof and nail. If we assault the capitol, this will become a war of attrition. We don’t want that.”

“What about a scouting party?” Arnaquer asked.

The princess’ brows furrowed for a few moments. “Yes, We concede that knowing the exact movements within the capitol would be of some use. Do you volunteer, Mister Arnaquer?”

The stallion played with his moustache. “Oui, I think I can do it. My ship is more than ready... although I won’t lie, I could use some... back up. Si vous... if you wish for there to be more than just scouting done?”

“Do you speak of sabotage? Subterfuge and the likes?”

He nodded, a cruel twinkle in his eye.

“We see. Yes, Commander Right Wing will accompany you, as well as...” The Princess searched the crowd. “Miss Belle and her vessels. I believe that includes the young ace, Mister Pipsqueak.”

Pipsqueak gulped and nodded. “As well as Nitro.” The charming stallion blinked at the Princess. “He has much talent in the air and We believe he will be of use in filling in the losses of Miss Belle’s squadron.”

Everypony nodded and consented to the Princess’ word.

From her side, Sweetie Belle noticed Pipsqueak cutting the distance between the two of them until he stood right at her side. “What’s going on, exactly?”

The young mare tore her attention away from the politics to look at her equally young friend. “We’ll be together, and I’m sure I can get Arnaquer to assign Apple Bloom to his Furtif. Don’t worry.... Actually, I think we’ve been lucky. I don’t know where the main fleet will be going, but we’ll be skimming the capital. You know, checking out what the Imps have done there. Then, we’ll report it all. We should be some of the safest ponies out there.”

But why do I have the impression it’s going to be a very, very long...voyage?


The sun’s light crawled across the varnished wood floor of his cabin, its movement made rapid by the slow wheeling of the airship. Gently, the warmth of it spread across the unicorn stallion’s body until it touched his face, caressing the sharply-honed features passed from generation to generation.

Ah, morning already. It’s going to be a glorious day!

Stretching, Bunnyhelm pushed out his limbs in every direction, allowing muscles and tendons to pop and pull before he slid out of his velvety covers.

Hooves clacking on the ship’s wooden floor, the stallion trotted over to the gigantic window taking up an entire wall, the thick metal plating meant to protect it having been slid back into the wall by the serving staff.

He smiled, not a sardonic, cruel grin or a sheepish look of innocence, but a genuine smile of contentment. In the privacy of his own room—on a ship that he, for all intents and purposes, owned—he did not need to act.

Dark eyes roamed over the scenic display playing out for him.

The clouds held the silver lining of the bright dawning sun as they gently blew by, often broken apart by the sharp noses of Imperial ships. His ships.

The stallion fell into a game he had played as a foal, looking from ship to ship and counting, remembering everything he could about them. From the Interdiction-class vessels, the backbone of the Imperial navy; to the massive Obedience-class battleships, made to strike fear in all.

He knew them all: their weight, air-displacement, the speed at which they could turn, and the way they were armed. He had to know; he was the Emperor.

Blueblood didn’t know a darned thing about any of this, Bunnyhelm thought. But Blueblood is dead. This time, when he smiled, it was sardonic, meant to freeze the blood of those who saw it.

The room’s door opened, the sound almost non-existent as it swung on well-oiled hinges. Bunnyhelm shifted his attention to the glass pane and the reflection on it, in particular the blue shape gently trotting towards him, hooves making nary a sound. “Hello, Inky.”

The blue pony stopped, nodding to his master. “Hello, Comm... Emperor Bunnyhelm. I do hope you had a pleasant night’s rest?” Bunnyhelm nodded, taking the time to stretch once more. “Your Majesty, I believe Commander Iron Hoof of Canterlot has been on the line, waiting to communicate with you.”

“That’s fine,” the noble said, his tone dismissive yet firm. “He can afford to wait a little more.” With a huff, Bunnyhelm sat, staring at the horizon beyond and at the dark puffy smoke lining it. We’ll be there within hours. Home. “Inky?”

“Yes, Your Majesty?” the butler and secretary responded immediately, just as a thick grey and white jacket landed on Bunnyhelm’s back.

“Do you know what... empathy is?” Bunnyhelm asked, fitting his forehooves into the sleeves of the jacket. Hmm, an admiral’s uniform, he thought to himself, looking over the form of the white lapels and the golden trim. Ah, but with the symbols of the higher court. A good choice, he noted, shrugging into the coat.

“Do you... do you mean Empathy Medical’s potion? The stuff that can cure almost everything?”

“No, no, I mean actual empathy. The feeling, the emotion.” The Emperor snapped around, cold eyes boring into that of his servant. “I understand the principle of it, but I can’t find its... place. Its place in this dark world.”

“Empathy.... Empathy is to care for others, even when that might not be the best thing for you to do... for yourself.” Inky walked over to an open travelling chest in one corner, head and upper body disappearing as he dived in. When he came out, two things were held in his mouth: a tiny tiara-like crown adorned with jewels set to the symbol of the Empire, and a vial filled with a viscous blue liquid that seemed to glow and pulse gently. Rearing up, he placed the crown on Bunnyhelm’s head, before placing the vial at his hooves.

“That’s Empathy, the magical cure-all. It’s not for nothing that Miss Fluttershy called it Empathy. This tiny thing can cure just about anything, and it costs next to nothing. Did you ever wonder about that, Your Majesty?” Inky’s hoof tip played with the vial’s neck, twisting the contents in a small circle.

“I’ll admit that I have not.”

“It’s the definition of empathy. Miss Fluttershy understood the suffering of others, understood pain. And despite being rich enough and influential enough to hide away from any problem, she used everything she had to create this... this miracle.” He lifted the vial, holding it between them and allowing the liquid to catch the rays of the sun. “And it’s free.”

“A foolish move,” the Emperor scoffed. “With the right marketing and the right demonstrations, she could have sold it for millions of bits.”

“But then it wouldn’t be empathy, but greed,” Inky whispered as Bunnyhelm trotted by him.

“It matters not. Let’s go.” Reaching the door, the Emperor paused. “How long has Iron Hoof been waiting?”

The secretary fumbled after his master, quickly passing him and holding the door open. “It has been three hours since contact has been established. Commander Iron has been waiting ever since.”

Bunnyhelm nodded, yawning as he crossed the room’s threshold and started walking down the corridor, immediately heading toward the nearby communications room.

Ponies, all of them in the garb of the Royal Navy, slid to the walls and bowed with respect as Bunnyhelm crossed the ship. Often, he would stop and compliment one or mention some by name. Ah, the game of leadership.

Two guards, shoulder-mounted weapons at their sides, peeled out from connecting hallways and walked at the Emperor’s side, managing to pass almost unnoticed despite their heavy armaments and heavier armours.

The doors of the communications room opened on automatic hinges and allowed the Emperor to enter. As they shut, a single muffled thump sounded out, followed by a pure silence. The sealed room blocked out everything: the movement of rudders, the drone of the engines, the constant hum of the Sparkle Generator. It was as if he had been teleported to another world, one where silence was truly golden.

“This way, sire,” Inky whispered unconsciously as he walked ahead, hoofsteps turned into thumps by the carpeted floor.

Dozens of ponies were lined up in front of massive and complex machines, all of them pressing in codes or rewiring boards with quick and efficient movements. The Rebels would never be able to achieve this kind of dedication and sophistication.

In the centre of the room was a cubical, the semi-sphere obviously meant to give the pony within some form of privacy. Adjusting his jacket and clearing his throat, Bunnyhelm marched into the room within a room.

A single microphone was poking out of the ground, already adjusted to the Emperor’s height. “Hello?”

“Emperor Bunnyhelm?” came the immediate response from a deep, baritone voice.

“Indeed.”

“It is Commander Iron Hoof, my lord. At your command.”

A slow smirk crossed the Emperor's lips. “Is everything in place, Commander Iron Hoof? Are your ponies ready to evacuate, your ships ready?”

“Indeed, sire! Some were... reluctant, but all are waiting for orders. Soon, Canterlot will be abandoned and given into the hooves of that despicable Luna.” The voice paused for a moment. “Ah, and your... discrete messages to the populace, those about the glories of our old Emperor Blueblood, have been spread according to plan. All will remember his good deeds, and many will be saddened at the news of his death.”

“Perfec—”

A single low boom sounded out through the room, stalling the motions of each and every worker as all focused on the blue mare standing in the entrance, her star-studded cape billowing out as she strode forwards. Trixie’s face was twisted into a mask of loathing and anger as she marched across the deck, purposefully stomping, though it was to little use.

“Bunnyhelm?!” she shouted.

“Yes, Admira—"

“What did you mean, by this?” she asked, whipping out a long, narrow sheet from the insides of her jacket with her magic and levitating it in front of the Emperor’s face. “This is crazy. You just want to give them Canterlot? Are you crazy? After all that work with Blueblood? That’s mad!”

Once again, she fails to understand, Bunnyhelm thought, resisting the urge to lose face and glare back. “Admiral Trixie, perhaps we could talk in a more... private, setting? If I remember correctly, this type of vessel has a war room?”

The mare grumbled, flashing her magic once more before the note disappeared into the fold of her coat. “All right, big boy, but you’d better have a good reason for this,” she seethed.

“I always do,” he replied aloud, stepping around the admiral before trotting to the doorway, boisterous mare in tow. “Could somepony connect Commander Iron Hoof to the war room comm?” he asked before exiting, knowing that many would jump to the order.

The walk from one room to another was uneventful, most they met choosing to turn tail upon seeing the unadulterated wrath on the admiral’s face. One of his guards ran ahead to open the thick mahogany door leading to the one room dedicated to conferences and tactical meetings.

Three ponies entered the room before the door was shut. Two found seats for themselves at opposite ends of the long rectangular table. “Admiral Trixie...” Bunnyhelm began.

“Bunnyhelm,” she replied.

“No, no, the full title is: His Royal Highness, Bunnyhelm the First, Emperor of All Equestria and the Crystal Empire, Head of the Realm, Defender of Harmony” That ought to cow her a little.

She swallowed appropriately hard.

“Do you understand the orders?” he asked.

She pulled out the slip once more, slamming it onto the table as her wrath returned. “Of course I do! You want all the fleets, all of them, to pull away from Canterlot and go to this... that, dump! How can you do that?! It’s stupid; it’s just idiotic!”

The Emperor sighed, turning his attention to the ever-loyal Scribeswell. “Inky, describe to me everything you can think of, off the top of your head, that Canterlot provides for the Empire.”

The secretary blinked, stumbling over the first few words he pronounced. “W-well, it’s the, the capital, and it’s where all the politics are, and the fashion industry is really strong there. And I think it’s the place with the most retired soldiers and all that....”

“Perfect! Now, what does New Appleloosa give the Empire?”

“Um, iron works, some textiles; it’s where most of our research is done.”

“And Cloudsdale?”

Inky scratched at his nape. “Isn’t that where most of the Empire’s ships are built?”

Bunnyhelm nodded. “And Manehattan’s our largest port to the outside world, Baltimore holds the largest mineral and mining operations, Las Pegasus holds the most food production sites. Every city in this Empire has a purpose. But Canterlot, Canterlot’s the jewel.” He leaned forwards. “A useless jewel.”

“What do you mean?” Trixie asked, the gears behind her eyes turning.

“Of all the cities in our Empire, Canterlot’s the one the Rebels want the most. Of all the cities in our Empire, Canterlot’s the one we need the least.” He leaned back into his seat. “We will give Canterlot to the Republic, and do you know what they will do? They’ll parade, they’ll sing and dance and be happy, and then, only then, will they realise that Canterlot’s worth nothing.”

Trixie nodded reluctantly.

“Canterlot has nothing more than politics in its favour, and in a war of attrition, lawyers and nobles serve little purpose. The enemy can have them; they can try to defend that city. In the meantime, we have our forces stationed all around them, ready to pounce. How long will they last with no true supply lines? With limited resources and a massive city to feed?”

“Trixie sees the reasoning behind your actions... but that place, of all places?” The mare pouted, crossing her hooves over her chest. “Trixie would rather go to Manehattan.”

Bunnyhelm smiled sardonically. “I have my reasons. Please, Admiral, trust me.”

“Indeed,” came Iron Hoof’s voice, distorted by the cheap speakers placed in the table’s centre. “I firmly believe Lord Bunnyhelm wants nothing but the best for our glorious Empire! The Rebel threat will be crushed, and victory will be ours!”

Trixie eyed the speakers, then the Emperor, her uncertainty and will to protest slowly fading. I have her now. I cannot afford to have her, of all ponies, scheming behind my back. “Admiral Trixie, once we have landed, I’ll have some...' He touched his hooves together. "...work for you. A series of missions that will require the utmost attention and ability on the part of a certain leader. I would like that leader to be you. Be certain the reward more than lives up to the task.”

A sparkle flashed in the mare’s eyes, one that encouraged Bunnyhelm to smile and nod. “I’ll be off, then.”

With that, Bunnyhelm slipped out of his seat and made his way to the door, not bothering to excuse himself or say goodbye as he shoved the door open with a burst of magic and began trotting down the corridor.

Behind him, Inky Scribeswell followed, the smaller pony galloping to catch up to his master.

It’s so glorious, Bunnyhelm thought to himself as he walked through the familiar corridors, noting the hums and thumps of the ship around him. This game of war and propaganda and politics. Like chess, only so, so much more.

Each and every tiny decision, every spoken word and placed look, all of it communicates so much, all of it shaping and affecting our future. My future.

The noble pony marched on, climbing a shallow incline leading upwards in the massive vessel. Ah, the risks and the stakes, the combat of minds, wills and sheer brute strength, the constant rolling of the dice.

A slow smile twisted the edge of his lips as he crossed another grey corridor and beelined for a wide double door, one that opened with a whisper and allowed him into the command room.

And this, this is why we will win. Bunnyhelm felt pure pride welling up within him at the sight of the room.

Two furrows were built into the floor, each wide enough to hold two stallions abreast. Along the edges of those trenches were computers, screens, tactical and communication readouts, and every control mechanism for the ship and the fleet around it.

Puffing out his chest and straightening his back, Bunnyhelm marched down the centre of the room to the raised platform between the canyons where he could look down at every technician and engineer.

The attention was not what he sought, but rather, the view.

At the fore of the room was a multi-paned glass: a viewport from the very front of the ship, the farthest point. From there, Bunnyhelm could see in three directions.

To the left, he could see the majestic ships of the Empire, all of them piercing and cascading through the clouds in a perfectly coordinated ballet, one that would freeze the hearts of any meant to face them.

Twisting his head to the right, the Emperor caught sight of more vessels, these from a distant garrison that were gently sliding into position along the fleet’s side, weapons bristling in every direction, while squadrons of agile Vanquishers and hardy Requisitors flew in wedges.

He smiled to himself, the feeling of power weighing in his chest like a massive stone, a child growing more and more as he watched the awesome power of the Empire at work.

His Empire.

Ahead of him was the city of New Appleloosa. Tall spires of smokestacks rose out of the ground, spewing dark fumes into the cloudy sky that obscured the sun. Within the fortress of toxic gasses was the city proper, a maze of industrial buildings reeking of chemicals; thousands of apartment complexes sandwiched together; and skyscrapers rising like daggers, the bit of light there was glinting off their metallic sides.

Our new home, he thought as he sat on the cold floor, vaguely aware of a dozen eyes on his back.

His sharp, trained eyes picked up on something, an opportunity that sent chills down his spine.

From the city below, five ships were flying: three long white cargo vehicles with a familiar butterfly emblem on their yellow-gold sides and two obsolete cruisers, their archaic guns pointing in every direction but that of his fleet, as if paying their due diligence to his might.

“Scribeswell?” he asked, expecting an immediate answer.

His faithful servant did not disappoint. “Yes, Your Majesty?”

“I want those ships, the Empathy medical ones. I wish to talk to their leader.” Spinning on one hoof, Bunnyhelm stared right at Inky, blinking his impatience.

“Of course, sire, right away!” Turning, Inky charged away, hooves stomping on the raised platform, until he skidded to a stop at a nearby control station where he conversed with the ponies within. Moments later, he was returning, a long pole-mounted microphone held in his jaw. “Here, Your Majesty.”

“Is it on the right frequency?” he asked as the servant stallion installed the microphone in a pre-made hole.

“It should be. Those in the communications room should be taking care of it right now.”

“Perfect!” Bunnyhelm exclaimed. Now, to give a little show to all the wonderful crew members watching. I must secure my position as the leader right now.

A crackle filled his portion of the room, followed by the booming voice of an old mare. “Hello, this is the captain of the Nature’s Guardian. Why am I being hailed?” the captain asked.

“Right to the point, aren’t you?” Bunnyhelm asked, putting an ounce of humour into his voice.

“I’m a busy mare,” came the curt reply.

“And I’m a busy stallion. I’ll get right to it, Captain. I have a few questions as to the origins of your ship’s content and its current destination.”

A sigh filled the intercom. “Damn Imp pigs. You guys can’t mind your own business can you?”

Across the control room, a dozen ponies gasped quietly as murmurs and wide-eyed stares spread. Ah, were I Blueblood, that mare and her entire crew would be dead.

Instead of losing control, Bunnyhelm laughed, the sound bouncing off the walls and gaining him another mixed reception from a hundred perked ears. “Quite right, Captain, quite right. Still, you’ve piqued my curiosity...”

“All right, you seem the okay sort. What do you want to know? Oh, and make it fast, will you?”

Bunnyhelm nodded to nopony in particular and sat down, shifting his weight until comfortable. “I’ll start, then. First, what’s your goal, where are you heading, and what are you carrying?”

The mare huffed. “I thought you were going to go easy on me. Fine, my duty is to escort these three Empathy Med ships heading to Pon— Canterlot. There are pirates out there, although most have enough decency to avoid a medical transport; we heal them too, after all. As for where we are going: to Canterlot, to deliver a decent supply of goods there.”

He hummed to himself. “Captain, I would hate to stall you, but there are some fears that I have concerning your small fleet.”

“Well, that sounds like a fat load of croc to me! You guys just want to mess around with me!”

“Captain, we have just suffered some considerable losses to the rebellion, losses that we don’t want repeated. The only reason they were able to muster enough strength to stand up to us is because of their web of smugglers and lies. If you are carrying something hidden, or if there’s a real reason behind that transportation, tell me now and the consequences will be minimal.” Bunnyhelm smiled inwardly, knowing that in the short exchange he had with the Captain, the mare would fall into his trap headlong.

“Who in the name of almighty Celestia do you think you are! I’m not doing no such thing. You deserved those losses as far as I’m concerned!”

Bunnyhelm shook his head, forcing his tone to become saddened. “Many ponies lost their lives, on both sides. I don’t want that sort of thing happening again. A small inspection fleet will be boarding you and searching your vessels. I guarantee it will take little time.”

Through the radio, the clear sounds of the mare kicking at something and swearing under her breath was heard before she returned to the microphone, panting in anger. “Who are you? I’ll report your flank to your superiors for this tomfoolery!”

“I see.... My name is Bunnyhelm Chronos, Second Emperor of the Grand Empire of Equestria, Admiral of the Seven Fleets, Monarch of Canterlot and Ruler of the Noble Houses.” He cleared his throat, the tiny sound carrying across the entirety of the massive room. That had its desired effect. This is rather amusing. “I’m also the one in command of the fleet far above you. Need I name the amount of capital ships held aloft?”

Silence filled the radio waves, broken only a few seconds later by a single “Huh.”

“Captain?”

The mare sighed into her microphone once more. “Yeah, yeah, I see your... little fleet. Fine, send your inspection team over; they won’t find a gorram thing.” The mare clicked her intercom off, the subtle sound resonating of defeat.

A small victory, but a grand one. I won nothing but the attention of this crew. Now, they know of my personality.

“Inky,” he said in a low voice, meant only for the ears of the servant. “Make sure the inspection team finds something, stall the delivery by a few days at the least. Mayhaps you could flood them with paperwork; nothing too obvious, though.”

Ah, what a wonderful day! “Now, let’s go; I’m hungry.”

Author's Note:


Edited by: (in no particular order)
-StapleCactus
-Fluttersyke
-Frederick the Saiyan
-Cpl Hooves
-JustAnotherTimeLord

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