• Published 6th May 2012
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Space Captain Pinkie Pie - terrycloth



Rainbow Dash reveals the little-known fact that pegasi can survive in outer space.

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19: Mass Transit, Moon Style

“This is just like a camping trip!” Twilight Sparkle said cheerfully, over a cup of the strange brown tea the moon ponies brewed. They were all gathered in the central chamber of the ‘ruins’, although after seeing them Twilight felt a little embarrassed that she’d assumed they’d be in poor repair, just because they’d been abandoned for thousands of years. The only part of them that was in ruins was the part Chance had destroyed getting her and Pinkie out of jail.

“A what?” Tess asked, sipping her tea.

“Oh! It’s where you get tents and sleeping bags and a camp stove and marshmallows and corn on the cob only you don’t cook them on the camp stove you use a campfire but we don’t have a fire here I mean I guess we could light one of the couches on fire but that probably wouldn’t make a very good fire for cooking and it might set off some sort of alarm because just because there’s no traps in here for ponies moving around and sleeping on their couches I’m sure there’d be some sort of alarm if we started setting fires although there wasn’t an alarm when Chance started blowing holes in the floor so maybe –“ Pinkie Pie bounced around and waved her arms to illustrate the various camping-related actions.

“It’s where you do this,” Twilight said, sipping her tea. It was pretty awful and bitter, although it smelled nice at least – par for the course for tea, really. “Usually in the woods, though.”

“Right! Because in the woods you can make a fire and tell scary stories.” Pinkie Pie moved her hooves around spookily. “Although this is more like a camping trip morning, when every pony’s tired from sleeping in a sleeping bag or I guess on a couch.”

“You’re tired, Pinkie?” Rainbow Dash asked, groggily. She’d waved off the tea, and was watching Derpy try to cook breakfast. She probably should have offered to help, but Derpy seemed happy to keep trying on her own, no matter how many packets of dehydrated pancake batter she accidentally spilled all over the floor.

Twilight and Pinkie had brought enough cakes for every pony to eat, but Derpy was adamant that no pony should eat any more ‘moon muffins’, hovering over them protectively when any pony tried. It was almost enough to make Twilight wish she’d left the pegasus out in the cold, instead of teleporting her in (to the jail, where Rainbow had to fly down and let her out). But soon there would be pancakes, and all would be forgiven.

“I’m exhausted!” Pinkie Pie said, leaping onto a couch and sprawling on her back, putting a hoof to her forehead like Rarity often did when she was being dramatic. “I couldn’t sleep after that nightmare with Nightmare Moon.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t get back to sleep either,” Rainbow Dash said. “I think some pony was messing with my dreams – they were using words I didn’t know. Ellayetio or something like that.”

“It’s probably just a coincidence,” Twilight said, smiling. “I mean, I had some pretty strange dreams last night, but there’s no reason to think that they were caused by outside interference. We were exposed to some pretty strange things yesterday, so of course our dreams are going to reflect that.”

“My implants woke me up last night,” Chance said. “Outside interference. Could just be a glitch, but with three of us –“

“Four,” Derpy said. “Luna saved me from the muffins!”

Twilight looked around at every pony. “Well. That is suspicious, and I’d be pretty foolish to insist that Luna couldn’t visit us in our dreams if she wanted to. No pony really knows what the limits of the princesses’ powers are. I don’t suppose she had any sort of message for you?”

“Not really,” Rainbow Dash said. “She was just mad that Chance hadn’t fixed the – thingie. On the ship. And tried to contact her. And I’m not sure it was Luna, it looked more like Tess actually.”

Tess frowned, trying to remember what Rainbow had tried to pronounce earlier. “Radio?” she asked, carefully pronouncing the word so as not to inadvertently translate it.

“Yeah!” Rainbow Dash said. “That!”

“She told me to blow up the moon temple!” Pinkie Pie said. “But she also killed every pony and stabbed me with her horn, so I don’t know if I want to.”

“Let’s hold off on blowing things up,” Twilight said, cringing. “Luna already told us how to get off the moon while we were awake. We just need to get to the back of the red-orange wing and… well, she was cut off before she could explain what to do then, but hopefully it’ll be self-evident. A teleport pad to the surface, maybe?”

“And leave the Here to Help?” Chance asked, frowning.

“We can always come back for your ship later,” Twilight said, “when we’re better prepared. Maybe with enough pegasi to move it cleanly, instead of using some crazy plan where we fling it off the edge of the moon.”

“You say ‘crazy’, I say ‘awesome’,” Rainbow Dash said. “Still, it’d be a little more awesome if I didn’t have to worry about my friends riding down with it.”

===

“This is really an amazing place,” Chance said, as they headed down the wide main concourse of the red-orange wing. “Air and water recycling that’s still working after at least a thousand years, technology – sorry, ‘magic’ – hundreds of years in advance of anything on the surface even now, and a security system designed by an eight year old.”

“Hey, some of those traps would have been nasty if you hadn’t had me around,” Rainbow Dash said. She was flying upside down and backwards again, so that the others could keep up. “Like that thing with the –“ she moved her hooves around in a scissoring motion, then waggled one of them behind her head as she rotated upright. “You know. The green thing?”

“The door to the main security station was locked with a puzzle,” Tess said, fingering the glowing red and orange checkerboard amulet that each of them had acquired from the station in question, which testing had confirmed made the traps inside the wing ignore them. “A puzzle that we figured out using clues written on the door itself.”

“Is that unusual?” Twilight Sparkle asked, horn glowing as she analyzed the amulet the moon ponies insisted on calling a ‘key-card’. “I’ve never been that interested in ‘security’ magic beyond the standard locking and force field charms.”

“Well, when you lock, say, your private diary, do you write the pass-phrase to unlock it on the cover?” Tess asked.

Twilight laughed. “No! I wrote it on a scroll that I hid in the –“ she paused, and chuckled nervously.

“Exactly.” Tess said. “Even a random pony off the street knows not to write the password on the thing it’s protecting.”

“Twilight isn’t a random pony, silly,” Pinkie Pie said. “She’s a super-special magical unicorn pony!”

“Pinkie’s the random pony,” Rainbow Dash added.

“Right!” Pinkie Pie said, bouncing happily. “And I keep the key for my diary under my pillow. Or at least I did until Gummy ate it. But that’s okay, I never actually wrote anything in my diary anyway.”

Chance and Tess looked at each other. Chance turned to the ponies. “So, what’s your biggest secret, that you don’t want any pony else to know?”

“Um…” Twilight Sparkle said, considering it. “Probably that I secretly fantasize about being the next Nightmare Moon? I don’t think I could actually hurt any pony, but you know how it’s fun to pretend sometimes. And Equestria could be so much more organized!”

“I’ve kind of given up on the Wonderbolts,” Rainbow Dash said. “I mean, I’m still a big fan, but I think I want to go into archeology. Dodging traps is way more fun than just showing off in front of a crowd. Although if there was some way to combine them…”

“Oh, are we playing Truth or Dare?” Pinkie Pie asked. “Dare!”

“Pinkie Pie passes,” Chance said. “Rainbow, Twilight, you fail. Derpy – you completely ignored the question, which either means that you’re even more on the ball than Pinkie Pie, or you’re off in your own little world and aren’t even listening to a thing I say.”

“Fail at what?” Twilight asked, pouting. “It wasn’t a good enough secret?”

===

At the end of the main concourse there were three major routes to take, each blocked by a large door labeled in Old Equestrian, which no pony could understand, except for possibly Twilight Sparkle. She did her best to translate them, at least.

“Alright,” she said. “I wish I had a reference book here to look up some vocabulary – I’m not actually fluent in the language, but I think I’ve got a partial translation.”

“Hopefully it’ll be enough to work with,” Chance said. “I don’t suppose any of them say ‘teleporter’?”

“No,” Twilight said. “The one on the left is ‘big bubble something something moon’. It’s the modern rune for Princess Luna, but in Old Equestrian, it just meant ‘moon’.”

“Bubbles!” Derpy said, pouncing on the door and staring at the runes close up. “I like bubbles?” she said, glancing back at the others with a sheepish smile.

“I don’t think bubbles are going to get us home, Derpy,” Rainbow Dash said.

“I don’t either,” Twilight Sparkle continued. “The middle door is ‘something something every little pony belonging to the moon something outside’. At least, I think this rune means ‘little pony’ – it’s a variant of the standard pony glyph. Old Equestrian liked to use ad-hoc glyphs like that – it’s one of the most annoying parts about translating it. No pony alive today, except possibly the princesses, knows exactly what the variants were supposed to mean, and no pony who spoke Old Equestrian wrote down the translation because every pony who used it knew what it was referring to.”

“So, technical jargon?” Tess suggested. “Only marked with a variant glyph, instead of just re-using an existing word and trusting people to know what you meant? That actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.”

“I suppose when you put it that way,” Twilight Sparkle said. “It’s still a challenge to translate. At any rate, that door doesn’t sound like the one we want either. In fact, it sounds downright dangerous, at least for those of us who can’t breathe outside.”

“And the right door?” Chance prompted.

“Right. ‘Moon motion towards dirt something something something’. I actually recognize the variant ‘dirt’ glyph – it specifically refers to the entire planet that Equestria resides on.” Twilight paused. “So that’s probably the door we want. I hope we can figure out how to target Equestria specifically, though – if we end up in some random corner of the world, it could takes days or even weeks to get back, even if we could find or build a chariot to ride in.”

Chance held his key-card up to the door, which slid aside, and the group proceeded down a narrower corridor, which curved further to right. They passed two more security checkpoints, and while none of the traps activated, Tess was still feeling very nervous.

“Something’s wrong here,” she said. “All the security is facing the wrong way, if this is where they keep teleporters to the surface.”

“It could just be the outgoing gates,” Chance said. “The incoming gates might be elsewhere.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Tess said. “Who would design the system that way?”

“The same 8 year old who designed their security?” Chance suggested.

Tess wasn’t done. “And if this was specifically for some sort of combat drop, where are the weapons and supplies? There are lots of rooms with maps in them…”

“…the sort you’d need if you were planning an invasion,” Twilight Sparkle pointed out.

“Yes, but not the sort of thing you’d need if you were carrying out an invasion,” Tess said. “This is also a very narrow accessway if you’re expecting to send an army of soldiers through here. And it’s carpeted.”

“We’ll be careful, okay?” Twilight said. “No pony touch anything unless we know what it does.”

They reached the end of the hallway, and pushed through a set of double doors into a massive room full of incomprehensible enchanted devices – glowing pillars, all bright red, with rune-inscribed pads sitting next to them, a console covered with glittering gems for buttons, and a large, dark magic mirror dominating the far wall.

They stared at it for a bit.

“Okay,” Twilight said, “new plan. We’ll touch one thing at a time until we figure out what all this does.”

===

Shining Armor woke up from a wonderful dream about his wife and his sister, as the cold winter air cut through his naked fur. Celestia rotated him until his hooves pointed downwards, then released him from her magic.

“Put up your shield, Shining Armor,” she said. “Now.” He noticed vaguely that she was naked, and her mane in disarray, as if she’d just woken up herself. He also noticed that the two of them were standing on her balcony, overlooking the Equestrian countryside. Far to the west, the setting moon loomed large on the horizon.

Without thinking too much about it, he gathered his energy and cast the spell she’d requested. A ray shot upwards from his horn, exploding in midair and spreading horizontally into a massive spherical purple dome, protecting the capital of Equestria from pretty much anything.

“What’s going on?” he asked. Suddenly, he realized that he’d just taken a very suspicious order from some pony who might only physically resemble Celestia. “Also, I’ll need to authenticate your identity, since this was unscheduled.”

“Not now,” Celestia said dismissively, staring at the moon intently. “I fear that your sister’s reaction to Nightmare Moon’s crimes may be more serious than I thought. Stand ready to reinforce your shield.”

===

“ARGH!” Twilight Sparkle said, as the image of Canterlot on the magic mirror was suddenly shrouded in purple. “This piece of JUNK! Not only does it take forever to aim the teleport, not only is it limited to six ponies at a time, not only can I not aim them closer than fifty feet from each other, but apparently it gives away its destination. Why would it do that?”

“To be polite?” Pinkie Pie suggested. “Knock knock! Can we teleport in?”

“Not with my brother’s shield up,” Twilight said, pulling the view back to show all of Equestria again. Although by this point, it was hardly all of Equestria – the moon was setting, and they had little time if they wanted to end up anywhere near home, since yet another inexplicable limitation of the ancient moon teleporter was that it required line of sight. “If we’re lucky, we’d end up teleported into the castle dungeons.”

“That would work,” Rainbow Dash said.

“If we’re unlucky, we’d end up teleported into the sun,” Twilight said.

“I don’t get it, though,” Rainbow Dash said. “They have to know it’s us. I mean, Princess Luna told us to come here. Why would they put up the shield?”

“Girls?” Chance said, watching the image of Equestria in the mirror get closer and closer to the horizon. “Clock is ticking.”

“Right,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Retargetting. Manehattan. At least the controls are simple.”

===

To the unaided pony eye, the faint trails of coherent light emerging from the moon were invisible. Celestia had long since forgotten the reason that she’d had the spell to see them permanently enchanted onto her eyes, but one glimpse of the flickering rays out her window had brought it all crashing back.

For a second, she thought the danger was over – the trails vanished, the crazed unicorn at the controls apparently unwilling to test Shining Armor’s shield. Then, to her horror, they reappeared, aiming not at the capitol, but at Equestria’s largest metropolis. “No!” she gasped, in helpless terror – at night, without the sunlight to ride, her options for long-distance travel were severely limited. She could teleport to Manehattan in a series of hops, even with her Captain of the Guard in tow, but they would arrive too late.

Also, he’d certainly insist on going through the authentication process before being removed from the castle, and she certainly didn’t have time for that.

Manehattan was doomed.

===

“Okay, it looks like this’ll drop every pony on a rooftop, aside from Rainbow and Derpy who’ll end up in the bay,” Twilight said, satisfied at last with her targeting. “When I push this button, we’ll only have a few seconds to get on the teleport pads. You’re going to feel very weak, since judging from those runes, the whole process is going to be powered by your life energy –“

“Life energy?” Tess asked, looking scared.

“It regenerates!” Twilight snapped. “Does every pony understand? Because I’m pushing the button –“

“Twilight, stop!” Pinkie Pie said. “Twitchy tail!”

“What?” Twilight asked, turning to look at the panicking pink pony.

“TWITCHY. TAIL,” Pinkie Pie said, suddenly in Twilight’s face, hooves hooked over her shoulders. “This isn’t a teleporter! If you push that button, something’s going to fall!”

“Drop ships,” Chance said. “The pads probably teleport us to the ships, and then we get dropped out of the sky. You probably want to aim somewhere other than a major city.”

Twilight looked like she was about to explode, then drooped. “Pinkie, you know how to aim it, right? Put us somewhere in the western desert. We can take the train back from Appleoosa.”

Pinkie Pie watched Twilight dejectedly drag herself onto one of the pads, then turned to the controls. “Okay!” she said, cheerfully, and started retargeting.

“I still have a really bad feeling about this,” Tess said, getting on a pad herself. Aside from Pinkie Pie, she was the last.

“So you think we should just walk away, and check one of the other doors?” Chance asked.

“Oh come on,” Rainbow Dash said. “We’ve been here for hours…”

“Twelve minutes,” Tess said. “We’ve been here for twelve minutes. And I don’t know, Chance. I feel like we’ve already kicked the hornet’s nest. We might as well jump all the way into the fire.”

“Hee hee, fire,” Pinkie Pie said. The screen was showing the open desert now, with six target markers scattered loosely across the sand. “That’s what the big red button to turn it on says.”

“What?” asked Twilight, Chance, and Tess simultaneously.

“Fire!” Pinkie Pie said cheerfully, pushing the button. “It was really faint,” she added, hopping onto one of the pads.
The pillars behind the pads flashed red, and all six ponies felt themselves being drained of all energy. As their bodies hit the floor, it felt like the moon was shaking in sympathy.

===

Celestia and Shining Armor were not the only ponies staring at the light on the horizon – like the sun, rising in the west. They were, however, the only ponies with any clue as to what it might mean.

“That could have been Canterlot?” Shining Armor asked, staring at the distant explosion. “I don’t know if my force field can hold up to a power like that, princess.”

“Canterlot, Manehattan, anywhere in Equestria that the moon shines, the Moon Cannon can destroy,” Celestia said, grim. “That horrible machine should never have been built! Not even Nightmare Moon was insane enough to actually fire it.”

“It looks like it hit somewhere in the western desert,” Shining Armor said. “Too far south for any of the major settlements. Maybe Twiley – maybe whoever fired the cannon was just… curious?”

“She targeted Canterlot first,” Celestia said. “And then Manehattan, although thankfully she changed her mind. No, Shining Armor. I’m afraid that this was not mere curiosity – this was a warning shot, and a declaration of war.”

Shining Armor frowned. “You can’t be serious.”

“At a time like this, I find myself unable to be anything but,” Celestia replied. “As of this moment, Equestria is at war with Twilight Sparkle.”

The two ponies were silent for several minutes, and then Shining Armor spoke. “I’m really going to have to get that order authenticated,” he said.

“Of course,” Celestia replied, and they headed inside to find an abacus.