• Published 23rd Oct 2016
  • 607 Views, 29 Comments

Onward to Tomorrow - SpartanD014



When a saboteur strikes during Equestria's first long-range space mission, Twilight Sparkle and the crew find themselves fighting for their survival, all the while searching for the saboteur in their midst...

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Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1


As was the case with most mornings, the town of Ponyville was quiet in the few hours before dawn. Time passed, the sky changed from black to a mixture of warmer hues, stars twinkled out of existence, and night turned to day as the sun rose on Equestria yet again. The grassy fields and acres of apple groves surrounding Ponyville were cast in the sun’s warm glow, and slowly but surely, the world began to wake.

Unfortunately, the process of waking was not quite so peaceful for some. For one Princess Twilight Sparkle, the morning ritual of waking up consisted of hearing an obnoxiously loud alarm with a disabled snooze function, and being forced to cross the room in order to turn it off. And as Twilight performed the ritual for what felt like the millionth time, she longed for the days when she could still wake up naturally; the days before becoming a princess, before assuming duties more important than she had ever imagined, before she had taken the responsibility of helping to run an entire nation.

At least there’s one good part to waking up. Twilight’s hooves carried her through the corridors of her castle, her body entirely on autopilot as she struggled to fight off the call of sleep. And the closer she got to her destination, the stronger the smell of her favorite part of the morning became.

“What’s the blend today, Spike?” Twilight called as the kitchen door swung open in a lavender glow. The Princess ignored the main features of her kitchen; the many ovens, the hanging pots and pans, and the sizzling griddles on the stovetops. Instead, her destination lay at the back of the room, next to her number-one assistant.

“Zebrican,” Spike answered, turning around to present Twilight with a featureless white mug. Steam rose from the liquid within, and Twilight accepted the warm mug with a smile. She carried it with her to a nearby table, and happily took a seat.

“Sleep well?” the dragon asked, his attention focused on a nearby griddle, on which were several golden-brown pancakes.

“Mhm,” Twilight replied, taking a sip of the coffee. “What do I have on my schedule for today?”

“Uhh…” Spike reached for a piece of paper next to the griddle, and held it in front of him with one hand, while the other managed the breakfast. “Four meetings before noon, you have to attend an event after lunch in town, two more meetings, and you’ll probably have some things to sign. I haven’t checked the mail yet.”

Twilight sighed, taking another sip of her coffee. It was not as busy a day as she had expected, but for a Saturday, she had been hoping for more of a break. Twilight stood, stretching out her wings and eliciting several satisfying pops. “I’ll be out in the foyer if you need me,” she said, stepping out of the kitchen. The scent of breakfast was cut off as the door closed, and Twilight trotted to the foyer, once again allowing her body to move on autopilot.

The winding corridors of the castle blurred together throughout Twilight’s walk, and she arrived at her destination after only a few minutes. Her hoofsteps echoed throughout the foyer as she entered, the sound only becoming muffled when she stepped onto the carpet running down the center of the room. Twilight stifled another yawn, took another sip of her coffee, and stared at the front door a few meters away. It would still be at least an hour before it opened, and her first guest would arrive. In that time, Twilight knew there was work to be done; reports to read, documents to sign. She sighed as the coffee flowed through her, warming her and bringing energy to her body. It was not that she disliked the work, but Twilight did sometimes find herself daydreaming, longing for the days when adventure lay around every corner. The days where she could lose herself in a book, or simply go off and explore with her friends.

But those days were gone. She was a Princess of Equestria, and she accepted her responsibility. Though, just because she had many more responsibilities now, that did not mean she was not allowed to have a few small fantasies.

“Breakfast is served!” Twilight swung her head to one of the corridors branching off of the foyer, and found Spike entering with a tray, upon which were two small plates. Each one held a small stack of pancakes, with rather generous amounts of syrup applied to them. Twilight smiled and took one of the plates in her telekinesis, floating it over to her along with a fork.

“Thanks, Spike,” she said gratefully, watching as the dragon took the second plate and wasted no time in digging in. But behind her smile, she felt a small amount of guilt. Spike was young, and still growing. He deserved more breaks than she gave him.

Before she could even take her first bite, Twilight noticed a peculiar look cross Spike’s face. He swallowed his breakfast slowly, before his eyes suddenly grew wide, and he let out a loud belch with a long stream of dragonflame. Contained within the flame was a single letter, wrapped with a red ribbon and marked with the seal of Celestia’s office. Twilight raised an eyebrow as she retrieved the scroll, and unfurled it with her magic. It was not often that she received a letter from Celestia so early. So, with some apprehension, Twilight brought the letter closer.

Dearest Twilight,

I apologize for sending this letter so early, and I hope I have not disturbed you in any way. I will keep everything brief, though I do request that you come to Canterlot at your earliest convenience after reading this.

I imagine you have been keeping up with the planned Harmony mission. Luna has been busy at work these past few months completing the final preparations, and we will be ready to launch within four months. The reason for my sending this letter is that I wish for you to join the Harmony team. In addition to serving as a direct representative of the Crown, your skills with magic and science will be quite useful on such a risky and groundbreaking mission.

I anticipate you will have many questions. All will be answered upon your arrival in Canterlot.

Sincerely,

Princess Celestia

“Well… What does it say?” Spike asked, regarding Twilight with an expression of confusion. Only when Spike waved his clawed hand in front of Twilight’s eyes did the Princess realize she had been standing still for several minutes, simply staring at the letter. Finally she snapped back to reality, and rolled the scroll back up, transporting it to her office with a quick spell.

“Celestia… wants me on the Harmony mission,” she answered after another short pause. This had not been expected.

Harmony? That long-term space mission?” Twilight responded with only a nod. Everypony knew what the Harmony mission was; ever since it had been announced over five years ago, it had been on the minds of everypony with at least some interest in space travel. A brave crew would board the most advanced ship ever created by the Equestrian Space Administration, and would embark on a six-month-long mission to the nearest terrestrial exoplanet. And now Twilight would be joining them. The thought excited her, but it also terrified her. This had not been expected.

“Spike…” Twilight began, piecing together a short-term plan in her mind. “Go ahead and cancel my plans for today. Take the most important ones and reschedule them, but completely cancel the rest. I’m… going to Canterlot.” Not waiting for a response, Twilight activated her horn, and was gone in a flash of lavender light.


From Princess Celestia’s office balcony, the view of Equestria was unrivaled. The city of Canterlot sat beneath her, still held in an early-morning serenity. The lower levels were concealed by clouds that had drifted around the mountain, offering much-needed water for the city’s few high-altitude farms. Beneath Canterlot lay the expanse of Equestria; plains, forests, and mountains presented themselves before the Princess, the most distant features barely visible even from her high-up perch. The world was waking, and they were one day closer to launch.

Celestia heard a shimmering pop from behind her, and smiled as she realized who had just teleported into the office. “You’re earlier than I expected,” she said. The Princess turned around and stood, re-entering her office from the balcony. Twilight Sparkle stood across the room, near the office’s closed door. Celestia kept her warm smile as she approached the younger Princess, trying to allay the concerns she knew Twilight held.

“Your letter sounded urgent,” Twilight explained sheepishly, averting her violet eyes. “I… wasn’t expecting anything like it. Sorry.”

“There is no need for apologies.” Celestia took a seat behind her desk, and motioned for Twilight to sit in one of the chairs opposite her. The younger alicorn did as she was instructed, though she still avoided looking Celestia in the eyes. “You are nervous.”

“Overwhelmed, mainly,” Twilight said, lightly nodding her head. “I am truly honored that you want me on the Harmony mission, but it’s… just a bit to take in, I guess.”

“I understand,” Celestia said. “But the launch is still months away. Plenty of time to brief you on everything, have you meet the crew, and run through some of the simulators. We will need to give you some crash-courses on working in space. You also have plenty of time to make whatever personal preparations you need.” Opening a desk drawer with her telekinesis, Celestia produced a single manila folder, and stood up. “Come, let’s go for a walk.” The Princess crossed the room to her office door, then opened it and ushered Twilight out. She joined her former pupil a moment later, after closing the balcony doors with her magic. Finally ready, Celestia lead the way down the hall, still carrying the manila folder with her.

“There is somepony I wish for you to meet,” she said. “He is in the armory right now. In the meantime, here.” Celestia passed the folder over to Twilight. The younger pony took it in her own telekinesis, idly examining the writing on the outside.

“Six months…” Twilight whispered. “That’s a long time in space.”

“I want to get one thing clear, Twilight,” Celestia began. “You are absolutely not being forced to go. If you do not want to join the mission, you do not have to.” Twilight quickly began shaking her head, her eyes widening.

“Oh, no!” she insisted. “That’s not what I was saying at all! It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to someday go to space. I’m still just wrapping my head around this.” Celestia nodded, fully understanding. She had thrust this responsibility upon Twilight rather suddenly, and it was not like the Princess of Friendship’s previous tasks. This was not an extra meeting to pick up, or a request to attend a formal event. This was much, much more.

Twilight opened the folder and began scanning over the first document contained within, her eyes moving back and forth as she read each line. Celestia guided her through the corridors, knowing that their destination was coming up soon. She hoped Ace was ready to meet the newest addition to his team…

“Here we are,” Celestia said, stopping outside of a reinforced wooden door. A single guard stood outside, his gaze constantly focused on a point at the end of the corridor. Aside from lighting his horn to open the door, he did nothing to acknowledge the presence of the Princesses. Celestia stepped inside, followed by Twilight, and scanned over the scene that presented itself to her. The guards present in the armory had frozen in place, all of them settling their eyes on the unexpected guests. Celestia smiled in greeting, though her magenta eyes were looking past the guards, searching for a specific target. And finally, at the back of the room, she found him.

He had found her as well. The stallion at the end of the room stood up from his chair, his tired yellow eyes meeting Celestia’s. His age showing through his hardened expression, he slowly maneuvered through the crowd of guards, all of whom were still focused on the Princesses. After making it halfway down the length of the armory, he became fed up, and grunted to make his presence known. The remaining ponies parted, startled, and the stallion walked the rest of the way to Celestia.

“I was wondering when you’d show up,” he greeted, allowing a small grin to form. His eyes flickered away from the Princess of the Sun, and landed on the younger alicorn at her side. “Princess Twilight, it’s a pleasure.” The stallion bowed, lowering his head all the way to the polished stone floor.

“Rise, Ace,” Celestia commanded. “I thought I told you you could stop bowing for me.” The stallion sighed as he stood, and shrugged.

“Must have slipped my mind,” Ace said. He turned around, observing the guards who had yet to move. “Perhaps we should go somewhere a bit more private?”

“I was thinking that same thing,” Celestia agreed. “Come, this way.” The Princess turned and lead her two companions back out into the corridor. She began walking, headed in no particular direction. The castle would be quiet for a few more hours, and in that time, she hoped that Twilight’s mind could be put at ease.


As she walked next to Princess Celestia, Twilight took the time to examine the stallion at her side. He was tall, even for a stallion, and had a faded white coat, decorated with scratches earned over a long career. His blue mane was cut short, much shorter than her brother’s. He kept his eyes forward, never looking away from the end of the corridor.

“So, Princess Twilight,” he began, “I understand you’ll be joining us on the mission.”

“That’s right,” Twilight replied with a nod. “And you are…?”

“Ace. Captain of the Harmony, and of the mission.”

“Ace has been serving in the military for…” Celestia paused, thinking to herself. “It’s been around thirty years now, hasn’t it?”

“Thirty-five,” Ace corrected. “My service record should be in that folder you’re carrying. If it’s not, I’ll make sure you get it. Any questions for me, your highness?”

“I’m sure I’ll come up with a few soon enough,” Twilight said. “First, what can you tell me about the crew?” Ace paused for a moment, contemplating the question.

“You’ve got their dossiers in that folder as well,” he finally answered. “I can tell you they’re all the most qualified ponies on this planet. I hoof-picked them, and they’ve been training together for years. A few are military, like me, but most are civilians we’ve worked with in the past. They work well together, under heavy stress or no stress at all. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.” Twilight nodded satisfactorily. Celestia clearly trusted Ace, and Twilight saw no reason to disagree with the elder Princess’s judgement. He appeared quite qualified for the job.

“I will arrange for you to meet them at some point before the launch,” Celestia said. “Luna is keeping them busy with drills and simulations over at the Bay, but I think it is important that you at least introduce yourself to them.”

“Alright,” Twilight agreed. She knew unit cohesion was going to be an important aspect of this mission. Six months was not a short time, and a crew that could not work together would only lead to ruin.

The trio continued on, walking past ponies just arriving at the castle for work. Guards changed shifts, maids cleaned the already-immaculate surfaces of the castle, and servants scurried about, performing tasks given to them by nobles and officials in other parts of the castle. Each corridor was busy, and Twilight knew from experience that it would only be getting busier. She had a few not-so-fond memories from foalhood of dodging between the legs of adults, ponies seeking an audience with Celestia or visiting the castle for some other purpose. Twilight looked over the groups of ponies just arriving, glad that her own castle was usually much less busy.

“Another question, Captain,” Twilight asked, trying to ignore the stares of the castle guests. She walked past them with some vexation, wishing for privacy once again. “I’m sure this is addressed in the folder, but I’d like to know sooner rather than later: what sorts of personal items am I allowed to bring?”

“No more than four kilograms,” Ace answered. “Nothing flammable, and nothing dangerous. All items will be cleared by security teams prior to being allowed aboard.” Twilight nodded, thinking to herself what she would bring. Real books were out of the question, given that paper was very flammable, but she could make do with downloading some.

As the trio turned another corner, Twilight began to recognize their route. They were taking the scenic route, but if Twilight was right, Celestia was leading them back to her office. They would arrive soon, and the questioning session would most likely end. Twilight scanned her mind, trying to think of any more questions. Any she had would probably have their answers in the folder given to her by Celestia, and Twilight had determined rather easily that Ace was not particularly talkative. So, when they arrived back at Celestia’s office door, Twilight turned to the Captain with a smile.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Captain,” she said, turning to Celestia. “I should return to Ponyville. I’ll read through the folder, and I’ll be in contact.”

“I will let Luna know to schedule a meeting for you with the rest of the crew,” Celestia said. “She’ll send you something when the time has come.”

“Thanks, Princess.” Twilight turned back to Ace, smiling once more. “And thank you as well, Captain.” The stallion responded with a bow, turning and leaving once he had stood back up. Twilight watched him go, observing his rigid movements and perfect posture as he moved down the hall. She had no trouble believing his lengthy service record.

“I know it’s all a lot to take in,” Celestia said once Ace had rounded the corner and was out of sight. “But thank you for coming today. The maiden voyage of this ship will be an important one; for the first time, living ponies will be leaving the solar system and journeying to another planet. Much can go wrong, and I feel safer knowing that you will be there to look after the crew and the ship.”

“No pressure, then?” Twilight smirked, and wrapped her wing around the thick manila folder. “Well, it looks like I’ve got some reading to do. Have a good rest of your day, Celestia.”

“Same to you, Twilight.” The Princess of Friendship lit her horn, and disappeared in a flash of light. She rematerialized inside the bedroom of her own castle, the noises and ponies of Canterlot now many miles away. The silence was welcome, and Twilight hoped it would persist as she looked again at the folder tucked beneath her wing. She carried the folder to her desk, where she cleared some space for it to rest. Sitting down at the desk, Twilight opened the folder, and for the second time got a look at all of the documents within. Her eyes widened as she pulled the documents out and made a rough count. There were hundreds, consisting of dossiers, ship schematics, supply manifests, mission statements, funding reports, simulation data, and more. This would not be a quick read.

“Twilight?” A knock sounded upon the Princess’s door, and Twilight turned around in her chair. “Did I hear you teleport in?”

“Come in!” Twilight called. The door opened, and Spike entered with the morning mail tucked under an arm. He jogged to the desk, but slowed as his emerald eyes noticed the new documents resting upon the surface. He looked between Twilight and the papers, making the connections in his mind.

“That’s all the Harmony stuff, huh?” Twilight nodded as she began to sort the documents by subject matter. “So you’re really going, then?”

“That’s right,” Twilight said. She turned to face her assistant, and noticed the expression he wore. He was looking away, but Twilight could still see the sadness in his eyes. She smiled sympathetically, and placed a hoof under his chin, turning his head to face hers. “Everything will be alright. Think of it as something of an extended vacation. While I’m away, you’ll hardly have any work to do. You can enjoy yourself, and you’ll have an entire castle to yourself for six months.”

“It’s not me I’m worried about, Twilight,” Spike began, frowning. “Space is dangerous! I mean… what if something goes wrong? What if… what if you…” He trailed off, unable to finish his sentence. Twilight stood from her desk and wrapped her front hooves around the young dragon, her sympathy for him growing. And for a moment, she considered denying the mission, telling Celestia to find somepony else. There were plenty of skilled magic users in the world, and Twilight was sure many of them had scientific skills rivaling her own. But as her eyes once again glanced across the folder lying on her desk, she knew that this mission was one she would have to accept. Among all of the skilled mages and organizers in Equestria, Celestia had chosen her. This was Twilight’s mission, and it was not one she could pass off.

“I’ll be okay,” she whispered, holding Spike tight. When she finally let go, she kept a hoof on his shoulder and looked him in his eyes, offering a comforting smile. “I know six months sounds like a long time, but I promise, it will fly by. I’ll be back before you know it.” Spike nodded, but did not seem any more confident.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful,” he said.

“I promise,” Twilight responded. “Now go on, there’s still work to be done. I’m not leaving for another few months, and we have much to do to prepare.” Spike wordlessly turned and exited, the sounds of his claws echoing down the corridor just outside Twilight’s room. The Princess watched the door, hoping her words had done something to comfort Spike. The two were close, and for Spike, Twilight had always been there. That she was leaving would no doubt have an effect on the young dragon.

Twilight turned back to her desk, and realized she would need to tell her friends of the development as well. Starlight Glimmer would be without a teacher for a few months, but her other friends were just as well-versed in matters of friendship. They would serve as excellent substitutes. Still, Twilight hoped they would all take the news better than Spike had.

Taking a seat at the desk, Twilight pulled the first set of documents toward her. They were detailed mission plans, complete with timetables, contingencies, and supply usage breakdowns. Rubbing her still-weary eyes, the Princess sighed, and set herself on reading.


TWO MONTHS LATER

From Princess Luna’s perspective, the Phoenix Reusable Ascent System seemed to pierce the very sky, sitting on its launch platform near the coast of the Horseshoe Bay. The rocket was hundreds of feet tall, and at its tip was the capsule that would soon carry a crew of eleven to the Harmony, floating somewhere in orbit. Engineers and technicians scurried about around the base of the rocket, checking fuel lines and making sure there were no leaks. In only a day the rocket would undergo its final flight test, to ensure it could reach Harmony safely. All of the previous tests had been successful, but Princess Luna was nothing if not thorough.

She turned away from the rocket, focusing her attention on the space center sitting a few hundred meters away. The collection of buildings reflected the afternoon sun, clearly illuminating the “Equestrian Space Administration” logo. And even from her distant position, Luna could see more engineers and technicians wandering around the outside of the complex, all of them at work to ensure the launch would go off smoothly. Lighting her horn, Luna teleported herself away in a flash of azure light, and reappeared just outside the training building, a massive hangar near the edge of the complex. A guard opened the door for her, and the Princess stepped inside, happy to feel the cool air conditioning on her coat.

A constant hum filled the large hangar, emanating from the various pieces of machinery currently in use. Flight simulators spun in their cages, while other ponies practiced walking in bulky EVA suits. They wore patches for numerous missions; moon landings, research missions, and more were recognized by the Princess of the Night. But right now, there was only one mission with which she was concerned. The ponies involved in the mission were at the very end of the hangar, in a replica of the Phoenix capsule, where they were refining the process of docking with the Harmony.

As Luna drew closer, she began to hear the sound of a voice elevated over the sound of the machinery. And the closer she drew, the more she realized that the voice was not very happy. Growing concerned, Luna broke into a trot as she closed the distance and arrived outside the replica capsule. On the stairs leading to the capsule door stood a terrified technician, his hooves rooted into place as he accepted the verbal onslaught coming from the spacesuit-equipped pony across from him.

“And how in the world does a pony like you land a job like this!?” the stallion yelled, his green eyes wide in rage. He closed his mouth, waiting for a response that did not come. The technician remained where he stood, trying to avoid looking anypony in the eye.

“... What is going on here?” Luna finally asked, making her presence known to the ponies. The angry stallion immediately dropped his expression as his training kicked in, and he turned to the princess, bowing clumsily in his suit. The technician did not move; rather, he remained staring into the capsule, his eyes wide.

“Sorry you had to hear that, Princess,” the stallion said. He stood up, and shot an angry glance at the technician by his side. “This idiot changed the sensitivity on the control stick, and decided not to tell anypony. So when I ordered Flash to initiate docking, instead of gently sending us into the docking port, he sent us flying into the side of the ship.”

“I… I’m sorry, sir,” the technician stammered, speaking at barely above a whisper. “It… it was negligence on my part. It won’t happen again.”

“See that it doesn’t.” The stallion pointed away from the capsule, and sternly looked the technician in the eye. “Now go.” With a frantic nod, the technician nervously jogged down the stairs and disappeared behind a nearby doorway, slamming the door shut behind him.

“A little harsh, don’t you think, Skychaser?” Luna said as she climbed up the stairs and looked into the capsule. She peered inside, looking over the crew sitting at their positions. Lightning Flash sat in the pilot’s seat, while the two seats next to him were vacant. One belonged to Skychaser, who now stood on the stairs, and the other was Ace’s, who was away in Canterlot. On the side near the hatch was Star Step, sitting at her comms station, and next to her sat Cobalt, who was monitoring the capsule systems. In the back sat Doctor Quick Fix, the two engineers, Golden Bolt and Vibrant Flame, and next to them were the security personnel, Sharp Sight and Astral Breeze. An empty seat rested next to them, and on it was a label with a name tag: Twilight Sparkle.

“Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t,” Skychaser answered as he re-entered the capsule, struggling to move in his bulky spacesuit. “We can’t afford to have mistakes like that during the real launch. I don’t intend to die by burning up in this capsule, or getting sucked out into space before we even get aboard the ship.”

“Yeah, let’s save the death until we’re aboard,” Astral Breeze joked from the back of the capsule. “Way more fun that way.” The ponies in the capsule chuckled quietly, with the exception of Skychaser, who grunted as he got back into his seat. He secured his safety harness, then turned his head to look at Princess Luna.

“Any idea when Captain Ace is getting back?” he asked. “I’m a good XO, but I’m no replacement for Ace. And with how many of these sims he’s missed, he needs to get here and get caught up.”

“Tomorrow,” Luna replied. “He’s scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning, and he’ll be bringing Princess Twilight with him.”

“We finally get to meet the Princess?” Star Step asked eagerly, turning away from her station. The mare was difficult to see with her full suit on, but her light purple eyes shone brightly beneath the glass of the helmet.

“That’s correct,” Luna nodded. “I know she’s a rather late addition, but please, treat her like one of the team. Speaking from experience, I know that she is a very friendly mare, and I have no doubts that you will all get along well. But tomorrow will be her first real experience in a simulator with all of you. So be patient, and make her feel welcome.”

“We will, Princess,” Cobalt said, grinning. “In no time, she’ll feel right at home among us.” Luna nodded satisfactorily, and withdrew her head from the capsule.

“Good. Then I will leave you to your work. Best of luck, and I will see you all tomorrow.” Luna turned and walked down the stairs, the capsule door closing shut a moment later. The simulation restarted, and Luna hoped they would be ready. The team was incredibly talented, but there was always the possibility of error.

Crossing through the large training hangar once again, Luna came to the exit and stepped outside. Ponies still moved about, but the atmosphere of the space center had begun to settle down. The Phoenix rocket sat on its launch pad, the engineers now absent from its base. The fueling had likely been completed, and the rocket would be ready for its final test launch tomorrow. After that, it would be checked for damage, and put into storage until the real launch, still two months away.

It was hard for Luna to believe that the mission was happening so soon. Work had begun five years ago, upon the completion of the first functional Interstellar Teleportation Device, known less formally as a “jump drive.” The team had been selected three years later, construction of the Harmony had begun, and the funds were collected. Five long years of work, and it was all coming together. Luna was proud, but worried. She had dedicated herself to this mission, if something went wrong… Luna shuddered to think about what could happen.

Luna wandered through the complex, observing the various buildings; research labs, construction bays, living areas, and more populated the coast of the Bay. A few decades ago, this had not existed. Upon Luna’s return from banishment, the Equestrian Space Administration was hardly worth anything. Even after existing for decades, all they had to speak of were a few satellites, and two ponies who had been to space. But under her guidance, the Administration had flourished. She had put ponies on the moon, she had coordinated the creation of space stations in orbit. They had been great achievements, but to her, they were no more than tests. The tests had been passed, and Harmony was the culmination of their achievements.

The sun was beginning to set on the space center. Soon Luna would have to return to her duties as a princess and raise the moon, then prepare for the events of the following day. From experience, she knew tomorrow would be stressful. Launches always were, tests or not. With a quiet sigh, Luna teleported away, reappearing far from the Bay and the space center. Instead of seeing the water glistening in the setting sun, she now observed Equestria from a much higher perch. Clouds covered Canterlot below her, while stars started to twinkle into existence above.

“I was wondering when you were going to get back.” Luna turned away from her window, and found Celestia waiting in the open doorway of the bedroom. She politely remained in the threshold, waiting to be formally invited before entering.

“Come in, sister,” Luna said, trotting to the elder Princess. Celestia stepped inside, closing the door behind her. “How long have you been waiting out there?”

“A few minutes,” Celestia replied. “Your schedule is becoming more predictable, I have noticed. You are at the space center all afternoon and evening, and you teleport back here almost each day at sundown. And with your nightly duties… have you even been sleeping, Luna?”

“I have a few stretches here and there.” Luna crossed to her desk, where a stack of papers rested haphazardly in the center. She straightened them out with her telekinesis and sorted them in the desk drawers, before drawing out a few new documents. “It’s not like either of us truly need sleep, anyway. I can get far more done if I am awake more.”

“That’s not something you would have said a thousand years ago,” Celestia jested, trotting to Luna’s window. She peered outside and lit her horn, nudging the sun beneath the horizon and completing her final task of the day. “A thousand years ago, you very much valued your rest.”

“A thousand years ago, coffee was not nearly as readily available.” To prove her point, Luna summoned a fresh cup from the castle kitchens, prepared just the way she liked it. Clearly the cooks had noticed the Princess’s more predictable schedule as well. “Not that I don’t appreciate seeing you, but is there a reason for this visit, Celestia?”

“I just wanted to check up on you,” Celestia admitted, turning back to the door. “I won’t keep you any longer. Just, please promise me you will try to get some rest tomorrow? You need to be entirely yourself for the test launch.” Luna did not respond, though she knew her sister was correct. She trotted to the window, sipping her coffee, and lit her horn to bring the moon into the night sky. When the task was complete, she turned back to Celestia.

“I will get a nap or two in,” she agreed. “Is there anything else tonight, sister?” Shaking her head, Celestia opened the door and stepped outside. Before taking another step down the hall, however, she paused.

“Good luck with tomorrow’s launch, Luna,” she said. “And tell Twilight ‘hello’ for me.”

“I will. Good night, ‘Tia.”

“Good night, Luna.” The door closed silently behind Celestia, and Luna found herself alone in her room. Her eyes darted to a clock on a nearby wall; the Night Court would begin in a few hours, which gave her some time to go over the rest of the work she had scheduled for tonight. As the first few rays of moonlight entered through Luna’s window and cast her room in a soft pale glow, the Princess took a seat at her desk, and got to work…


Call Started

“Is your line secure?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Good. The launch is coming up. Less than a week until you depart. Do you have any lingering questions?”

“No. I know what to do.”

“Very good. We will contact you some time after you dock with the Harmony. Have you had some time to acquaint yourself with the items we sent you?”

“I have. They’re all disassembled and hidden among my personal items. I don’t anticipate any trouble getting them aboard.”

“If any questions come to you before launch, contact us. You are doing your country a great service, the least we can do is be on call for you. Best of luck.”

“Thank you.”

Call ended.


TWO DAYS BEFORE LAUNCH

Twilight Sparkle squinted her eyes as the blindfold was removed, and her retinas adjusted to the sudden influx of light. A grin instantly broke out on her face as she took in her surroundings, and feelings of absolute joy filled her. With all of the party decorations, the foyer of her castle was hardly recognizable. Banners, streamers, and balloons seemed to cover every surface, and one large banner was hung at the end of the room, reading “HAVE FUN IN SPACE, TWILIGHT!”

Her smile only widening, Twilight turned around to address her friends, all of whom looked at her with expectant grins. She looked to Pinkie Pie, who stood in the middle of the group, and approached the earth pony gratefully. “Thank you so much,” she said. “I can’t imagine how much work must have gone into this!”

“Aww, it was nothin’,” Pinkie said, waving a hoof dismissively. “Besides, I’ve never held a going-away party for a friend who is going to space!”

“Yeah!” Rainbow Dash added, excitedly leaping into the air. “Wish we could be going with you…”

“But we’ll all be here when you get back,” Rarity said. “We’ll be right at the landing site, ready to welcome you back to Equestria.”

“Thanks, everypony,” Twilight said, feeling her eyes start to water. Before her stood her best friends, the ponies who had stood at her side for years. Against every foe, during every trial, her friends had been there. Now that she would be without them… Twilight’s anxiety only started to grow.

“You’ll be fine, Twilight,” Starlight Glimmer comforted, trotting to her obviously-troubled mentor. “If the Harmony crew is half as good as we’ve heard, you’ll be in good hooves. Besides, you’re the Princess of Friendship. If you’re worried you won’t get along with the crew, you’re selling yourself short.”

“It’s not that,” Twilight began, turning away. “I’ve met the crew, and they are great. They’re all very friendly, and they were accepting of me the first time I met them. What I’m worried about is something going wrong. Space isn’t the most cooperative place, and if something happens, if somepony accidentally messes up--”

“Uh, this crew’s been trainin’ for how long?” Applejack interrupted, placing a hoof on her friend’s shoulder. “They know what they’re doin’, sugarcube. You’ll be fine.” Twilight nodded, breathing out heavily, and tried to focus her attention back on the party elements. Food was set up all over the foyer, and Twilight had to admit that it all looked quite appetizing.

“Thanks again for all of this,” Twilight said, turning back to her friends. “And since this will be my last party for six months, let’s not let any of it go to waste!” The Princess trotted to the food, her friends close behind her. Twilight was glad Pinkie had not invited anypony else; a quiet evening with her friends sounded like just the thing she needed to calm her nerves. Levitating a cupcake to her waiting mouth, Twilight allowed herself to feel comfort in the presence of her friends. For now, she focused only on being with them. No thoughts of the launch or the mission crossed her mind. In this moment, she was simply at peace…


LAUNCH DAY

The scene outside the Equestrian Space Administration’s complex at Horseshoe Bay could best be described as crowded. Scores of ponies waited behind a long fence, standing the minimum safe distance away from the launch pad where the Phoenix Reusable Ascent System stood. Many held cameras with them, while others were content to simply spend the day with their families and watch the impending launch.

Inside the Control Center, the atmosphere was very different. Ponies scurried about, running the final checks on each and every launch system, ensuring the launch would go off without a hitch. Princess Luna stood at the back of the room, wearing a headset and trying to focus on the sound coming through. With the noise permeating the rest of the room, her attempts were mostly failures. However, she was able to catch a few key points: the rocket was fully fueled, technicians were clearing the launch area, and the crew was entering the elevator to board the rocket.

Luna sighed, rubbing her eyes. This was it; in a few minutes, the Phoenix would launch, the crew would dock with Harmony in orbit, and they would jump to a nearby star system, becoming the first ponies ever to do so. The work of several years and countless ponies was reaching its close. But after the launch, new work would begin. Harmony was a delicate mission, and it was going to take considerable effort from the team in Equestria to keep everything running.

“Princess.” Luna turned around, coming to face a pegasus mare approaching her. “Harmony team is waiting at the gangway. The inspection teams have confirmed the capsule is ready to receive them.”

“Understood,” Luna said. She turned back around, focusing her attention on the massive set of screens dominating the far wall of the Control Center. Each screen showed a different feature; some showed diagnostics, others showed flight plans, while the ones in the center showed different camera views. One camera was located within the gangway, showing the open hatch of the capsule and the closed door of the tower. “Let them in.” The mare nodded and trotted away to carry out her orders. Luna looked below her at the ponies at their stations; they had quieted down, and the tension in the room was palpable. Taking a deep breath, Luna stepped forward, and spoke.

“Alright, everypony,” she began. “This is it. All of your innovation, your collaboration, your sleepless nights… it is all coming to a close. But our jobs are not over yet. The future of ponykind awaits, so let’s get this done. Let’s send our ponies onward to tomorrow. Start our countdown.” One of the screens switched its view to a clock, reading five minutes. A different screen, this one with a camera view, showed the crew crossing the gangway and entering the Phoenix capsule. They were joined by several assistants who carried their helmets and a few other pieces of gear.

“Marking time,” a stallion at the front of the room said. “Beginning final countdown for PHX-05. It is eleven forty-five AM on May seventeenth, year two-thousand and fourteen FD. We are at T minus five minutes to liftoff.”

Phoenix, this is Control. Confirm radio operational, over.” There was a pause. Finally, the speakers in the room crackled.

“Control, this is Phoenix, confirming radio operational, over,” the voice of Lightning Flash replied. Luna smiled, looking out over her ponies as they worked. A few more ponies took their turns speaking to Phoenix, ensuring everything was ready for launch. Through it all, Luna felt her anxiety growing. She had been present for dozens of rocket launches, and yet it never got any easier. Any number of things could go wrong, and Luna knew that every launch she witnessed was another where ponies could die.

“Hatch closed and secured, reading normal cabin pressure,” the same stallion said. “We are now at T minus three minutes, eight seconds to liftoff. Phoenix, please confirm flight plan loaded, over.”

“Confirmed, Control.”

“Reading weather conditions nominal at T minus two minutes, fifty-four seconds.”

“This is it,” said a voice. Luna turned, and found Celestia standing just behind her. She smiled, and motioned for her sister to come further into the room.

“This is it,” Luna repeated. “Are you ready?”

“As I will ever be,” Celestia replied. “I worry for them, even though I know everypony here has worked day and night to make this as safe as possible. What about you? Are you ready?”

“My feelings are the same as yours.” Both sisters watched the screens as each pony in the Control Center went through their checklists. The engines were gimbaled, the crew reported their conditions, and the various fuel tanks were pressurized. Luna took another deep breath as the final moments of the launch preparation approached.

Phoenix, everything is good on our end,” the stallion at the front of the room reported. “Tanks pressurized, engines ready. Request confirmation from command crew.”

“Confirmed,” came Captain Ace’s voice through the speaker.

“Confirmed,” said Skychaser a moment later.

“Confirmed,” Twilight finally said. As the young Princess spoke, Luna allowed herself to breathe out. Now it was her turn to speak.

Phoenix, this is Luna,” she began. “Pre-flight checklist complete. You’re on onboard power and computers now. You are go for launch, over.”

“Roger, out.”

“Beginning launch countdown: T minus ten, nine, eight…”

Luna regulated her breathing. For her, this was always the most stressful part.

“... Seven, six, five…”

The rocket began to tremble as the engines activated, and the cables securing it to the tower swayed.

“Four, three, two, one…”

The engines ignited. A massive cloud of smoke erupted from beneath the launch pad, and the rocket lifted into the air, carried skyward by a bright glow of orange flame.

“We have liftoff!” The Control Room erupted into a chorus of cheers; ponies stood from their seats, shaking hooves and clapping each other on the backs. Only a few ponies remained seated: the ones whose jobs were not yet done.

“Tower has been cleared,” a pony said, barely containing the smile on his face. “Stage one propulsion is nominal, speed is exceeding two-hundred kilometers per hour. All reports are nominal.”

“This is Phoenix, all good on our end,” Lightning Flash reported, his voice barely audible through the speakers.

Phoenix, begin throttle down, prep for max Q.”

As the Control Center staff continued their jobs, Luna could not take her eyes away from the live feed of the rocket in the air. A smile broke out across her face, and she pridefully looked to her sister. Celestia had her eyes glued to the screen, wearing a similar smile. Despite all of the anxiety, there was nothing more rewarding than seeing a successful launch.

“T plus three minutes, two seconds: main engine cutoff, prepare for stage one separation.” On the live feed, the orange glow that had been trailing the rocket disappeared as the back of the rocket disconnected from the rest. It drifted away for a few seconds, before its engines reactivated and it started the automated return procedure.

“Stage two activation… now.” The second engine initiated, and the rocket continued onward. Luna glanced at another display, this one showing Phoenix’s position relative to Harmony. All was going according to plan, and Luna allowed some of her anxiety to fade.

Phoenix, your ETA to Harmony is two minutes,” a nearby mare said, checking her display. “T plus six minutes, eighteen seconds, prepare for stage two deactivation and separation, over.”

“Roger, Control. Stable orbit achieved, over.” Luna watched as the second stage disconnected, leaving the capsule floating freely in orbit over Equus. The camera attached to the outside of the capsule was pointed downward, showing the green and blue planet below. Luna smiled; it was always a view she welcomed.

Engines on the capsule activated, and Equus started moving much faster beneath the ship. Glancing at another display once again, Luna tracked their progress. The capsule was nearing Harmony, and soon it would begin docking procedures.

“Control, this is Phoenix. We have visual of Harmony. Beginning approach, over.” The camera view switched to a different camera, this one placed on the nose of the capsule, where a second hatch was placed. This one would dock with Harmony, and the crew would use it to board the larger ship, which was now coming into view.

“They’ve been training for this…” Luna whispered to herself, drawing the attention of Celestia. The elder Princess regarded her sister with a raised eyebrow, wondering what she meant. “Docking is in their hooves. All we can do is watch, and hope they make it…”


When the shaking finally subsided, Twilight Sparkle found herself feeling much lighter. The crowded capsule was silent, the only sound coming from vibrations created by the stage three engines activating. The Princess struggled to turn her head, a difficult task with the bulky helmet on, and peered out the capsule hatch’s window. Outside, all she could see were stars. They shined brightly, each one a radiant diamond in a sea of black. Even through the small hatch window, the view was spectacular.

“Control this is Phoenix,” Lightning Flash said from his position in the pilot’s seat. “We have visual of Harmony. Beginning approach, over.”

“This is it,” Star Step whispered to herself excitedly. “Everypony ready?”

“I just want to get out of this cramped seat,” the chief security officer, a stallion by the name of Sharp Sight, said. “Flash, mind putting the docking camera on the display for everyone?” Though he did not vocalize a response, Lightning Flash did flip a switch on his control board, turning on a screen above the seats of everypony else. Twilight squinted to see clearly, trying to make out shapes through the low-resolution camera. She could clearly see Equus on the lower half of the camera, shining a bright blue as the oceans reflected the sunlight. Ahead was a glowing white dot that grew larger with each moment. And as the Phoenix capsule came closer, Twilight began to make out details.

It became clear to her rather quickly that the dot was Harmony. As shapes became more clearly defined, Twilight noticed similarities between the ship and the diagrams she had been given by Celestia. Her eyes widened as the capsule grew ever closer, and for the first time, Twilight got a true sense of scale of the ship.

On paper, three hundred and ninety meters did not sound particularly massive. There were buildings in Manehattan that were much taller, but in space, with nothing but Equus for scale, the ship appeared huge. The first two thirds of the ship were composed of several cylinders, each one with a diameter of twenty-one meters. Set into the cylinders, Twilight could see light streaming from several windows. On the centermost cylinder were two sets of solar panels, each set nearly as long as the ship itself. The final third of the ship was dedicated to various inaccessible systems; the engines, the magic reactor, and another pair of solar panels. Twilight stared in awe as the capsule passed the back of the ship, slowing down as it approached the docking port.

“Control, we are beginning docking procedure,” Flash reported through his microphone. “Is Harmony ready to receive us?”

“That’s a yes, Phoenix,” a stallion’s voice said through Twilight’s headset. “We’re showing that Harmony’s docking mechanism is functional and waiting. You are clear to dock, over.” Flash took a deep breath, and slowly inched his control stick forward. From the docking camera, Twilight could see them coming closer and closer to a receptacle on the side of Harmony. Several lights lit up as the larger ship detected the capsule’s approach, and Lightning Flash released his breath as the nose of the capsule slid gently into the docking port.

“Control, Phoenix,” he began. “Docking successful. We are locked on and ready to board, over.”

“Roger that,” the stallion from Control said. “You are cleared to begin startup procedure of Harmony systems, and shutdown of Phoenix. We’ll see you in a few minutes, crew.”

“Alright everypony,” Captain Ace started, “once we’re aboard, you know what to do. Star Step, Lightning Flash, Cobalt, with me to the bridge. Golden Bolt and Vibrant Flame, go with Skychaser to engineering. Astral Breeze, help Quick Fix get the medbay set up, and Sharp Sight head to security. Princess Twilight, I’d like you to join me on the bridge.”

Cobalt was the first to remove his safety harness, and he floated out of his chair to the capsule’s nose hatch. His horn glowed a pale green beneath his helmet, and the locking wheel was wrapped in his telekinesis. He reached out his spacesuit-clad hoof and tapped a nearby button, and Twilight began to hear a hissing in the capsule.

“Equalizing our pressure with Harmony,” Cobalt reported. “... Done. Let’s go on in.” Using his telekinesis, Cobalt turned the wheel, unlocking the nose hatch. Twilight undid her harness and floated up next to him, her heart pounding in her chest. Inside, different feelings collided; excitement, anxiety, joy, even sadness. As Cobalt finished turning the locking wheel, Twilight looked back to the capsule’s small window. Equus was below them, lights beginning to blink into existence as the sun set on the visible hemisphere. Twilight smiled, knowing today would be the last day she saw her home for a long time.

Cobalt pulled the hatch open. Light flooded the inside of the capsule, and Twilight raised a hoof to shield her eyes. Cobalt floated inside first, and was quickly followed by Star Step and Lightning Flash. The rest of the crew slowly floated inside, until only Ace, Skychaser, and Twilight remained. Shrugging, Skychaser floated in next, while Ace stared at Twilight.

“After you, Princess,” he said, motioning to the hatch. Nodding, Twilight took a deep breath and placed a hoof on a handle by the hatch. She pulled herself forward, and with no reservations, entered into Harmony’s airlock. The lights guided her through a short tube, which emptied into a larger cylindrical chamber where the rest of the crew floated. Ace joined Twilight after a few seconds, and he turned around to close the inner airlock door.

“How are we on life support, Cobalt?” Skychaser asked from his position near the main door. Cobalt pushed himself to a display and scanned over the information it displayed, reading the report on life support.

“We’re good,” Cobalt answered. “Air throughout the ship is breathable. We’re clear to get these suits off.” His helmet beginning to glow, Cobalt undid the seals and lifted off his helmet, allowing it to float freely for a few feet before grabbing it again. He stowed it on the hook of a nearby locker, then got set on removing the rest of his suit. Twilight did the same, as did everypony else, and in a few minutes the crew was free of the restrictive suits. Twilight smiled as she rolled her shoulders and flexed her wings, still trying to be considerate of others in the cramped space.

“Let’s not wait any longer, then,” said Skychaser, wrapping his hooves around the locking wheel of the inner door. He grunted as he spun it into the open position, then pulled the hatch inward, revealing the entry corridor of the ship. Sharp Sight and Astral Breeze entered first, looking down at the ends of the corridor. Each end held a bulkhead with a label above, indicating where the bulkhead lead. Next to each bulkhead was a small ladder well, leading to additional floors of the ship.

“Alright, everypony,” Ace said. “You all have your jobs, let’s get to it.” Ace pushed himself into the ship, floating down the corridor to a bulkhead labelled “BRIDGE ACCESS.” Twilight followed, as did Lightning Flash, Star Step, and Cobalt. Everypony else went in different directions, heading to their destinations.

As she floated down the corridor, Twilight took in its details. No wall was bare; every inch of space was taken up by a pipe, wire, console, or switch. The only entirely unoccupied area of the corridor was the floor, which was marked with multicolored lines leading to different sections of the ship. Ace lead the group to the nearby bulkhead, where he stopped and pressed a button. The door slid apart with a hiss, and the next section of the ship became visible. It was an identical corridor, though this one had several different doors along the sides. Each door was labelled with a different storage complement, from food, to medical supplies, to research equipment. Twilight floated past them all, following Ace to a ladder well at the very end of the corridor. The group of ponies floated up the ladder, and finally they came to the bridge.

The room was dark, lit only by a few red emergency lights. Twilight was barely able to make out the shapes of computer stations and chairs, though she had no difficulty floating over them. Only when Cobalt flipped a switch and the lights came was Twilight finally able to make out details.

At the front of the bridge was a slanted wall with a set of blinds, no doubt covering the main viewport. Directly in front were two computer stations, one labelled as “navigation” and the other as “XO.” A few feet behind the stations, and in the center of the room, was a single chair labelled “captain.” Along the sides of the room were more stations with various labels, from “communications,” to “diagnostics,” to “remote engineering.” Overall, Twilight was very impressed with the setup.

Lightning Flash floated over to his station, trying his best to sit down in the chair with no gravity. Star Step navigated to the comms station, while Ace lingered at the back, watching everypony at work. The computer stations were switched on, and with the press of a button from Lightning Flash, the blinds came up. More light flooded the room as the sun’s rays were allowed access, and Twilight lifted a hoof to shield her eyes. She smiled at the view, now able to see far more stars than she could inside the capsule.

“Cobalt, get us up and running,” Ace ordered, pushing himself off the wall and over to his chair. “Star Step, get into contact with Control, be ready to receive status reports from the rest of the crew. Lightning Flash, check the nav computer and make sure the coordinates are correct. Princess Twilight, I’d recommend strapping yourself in.” Nodding, Twilight pushed herself to the nearest chair and sat down, pulling the harness over herself. Everypony else did the same, and Twilight looked around, confused.

“Golden Bolt, have you reached engineering yet?” Ace asked into a microphone on his chair.

“Yes, sir,” Bolt said, her voice coming through a speaker in the ceiling. “Reactor is now fully online, and we just confirmed life support is working at max. We’re about the check the jump drive, and I’ll let you know when the gravity generator is ready to start up.”

“Copy that.” Ace pressed a button on his chair, switching the intra-ship communications channel to a different room. “Sharp Sight, everything okay with you?”

“Affirmative,” Sharp Sight replied. “Security systems are online, I’ve got camera feeds and emergency systems ready to go. Fire suppression is ready, just in case.” Nodding, Ace switched the channels once again.

“Medbay, report.”

“All set up here, Captain,” Quick Fix answered. “We’re ready for gravity.”

“Attention all crew,” Golden Bolt’s voice suddenly said, coming in over the intercom, “strap in for gravity. We are bringing the generator online in five… four… three… two…” Slowly, Twilight felt herself become heavier as gravity kicked on. She slumped down in the chair, now fully secured, and smiled. As entertaining as zero-G could be, she liked the feeling of gravity on her.

“Alright,” Ace began, “Star Step, open a channel with Control, please.”

“Yes, sir.” Star Step flipped a switch, and motioned to Ace to begin speaking.

“Control, this is Harmony,” he said. “Systems are online and functioning properly, over.” There was a pause, until finally the intercom crackled to life.

“Roger that, Harmony,” a mare’s voice said. “Our screens show that you’re good to go. Once everypony is secured, you are clear to initiate the first jump.”

Harmony, this is Princess Luna.” Twilight perked up at hearing the Princess’s voice, and smiled as she looked out the viewport at Equus below. “I want to thank you for all of the hard work and dedication you have put into this mission so far. It is truly admirable, and know that the world has its eyes on you.”

“Thank you, Princess,” Ace said, allowing a faint grin to form on his face. “The crew is excited to get going. I can assure you there is no place we’d rather be right now.”

“Best of luck, Harmony,” Luna said. “You are cleared to initiate first jump. Control, out.” Nodding, Ace looked to Lightning Flash, who held his hoof over a button enclosed in a glass box.

“All crew, this is the Captain,” Ace began, his hoof once again pressed down on the intercom button. “Prepare for jump sequence.” He nodded at Flash, who flipped open the glass with a smile. He pushed down on the button, and Twilight instantly heard a whirring coming into existence. It started out quiet, but grew in intensity with every passing moment. Outside, the galaxy seemed to stretch. Equus and the sun became elongated, until everything was a blur. And just as the whirring reached its peak, the view outside disappeared in a bright flash.

The flash faded, revealing an entirely different location. Equus and the sun were gone, and all Twilight could see were stars. Nothing else was visible; for millions of kilometers, all that existed was Harmony.

“Flash, report coordinates,” Ace ordered. “Was the jump successful?”

“We are… just over fourteen light-years from Equus,” Flash replied. “Jump worked, we’re just where we should be.”

“One down, seven to go…” Ace muttered. “Alright, start the cooldown. Three days to the next jump, let’s make it productive. Star Step, activate the amplifier and send a message to Equus. Let them know that we’re intact, and the jump was successful. Lightning Flash, once the cooldown process is initiated, the rest of the day is yours. Princess Twilight, if I may have a word.” Ace removed his safety harness and stood up, walking slowly to the ladder. Twilight joined him in the small alcove, an eyebrow raised.

“Yes, Captain?” she asked. Ace paused, before holding out his hoof.

“Congratulations on a successful launch and docking,” he said. Twilight smiled, reaching out and shaking his hoof. “Now, it’s our job to keep this ship running, and keep its crew functional. I’m going to send Cobalt and Vibrant Flame back to the capsule to get the personal items, then I’ll give everypony the rest of the day to unpack and unwind. I know you already know everypony, but I think it’s important to forge strong relationships with them. Remember, they’ve known each other for years. So, if I may make a suggestion: while the crew unpacks, visit them. I don’t think it will do any harm.”

“I think I will do that,” Twilight replied, smiling. “Thank you, Captain.” The Captain nodded, then turned and returned to his chair. Ace was right, Twilight knew. She needed to be able to work with this crew if their mission was to be successful. Ace made his announcement over the intercom, and Twilight carefully climbed down the ladder to the deck below. The living quarters were one more deck beneath her, and a few sections closer to the front of the ship. Getting her bearings, Twilight turned in the direction of the ship’s forward section, and set off…

Author's Note:

Hello, and thank you for checking out my latest fic, Onward To Tomorrow! I hope you enjoyed what you've read so far, and I hope that you enjoy what's coming.

If you have any feedback so far, please let me know! I value all feedback I receive, and I will try to incorporate all constructive criticism people might have.

Finally, if you noticed any spelling or grammar issues, please let me know. Thanks for reading!