• Published 13th Dec 2011
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Friends of a Solar Empire - Dalek IX

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Chapter Two

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Friends of a Solar Empire
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Much like griffons, pegasi had a historical love-hate relationship with space travel.

On one hoof, the sky-loving equines hated the conditions on board spaceships. Pegasi, after all, universally enjoyed vast, open spaces, blue skies, clouds, air currents and the sun. It was a rare Pegasus that could tolerate those confined areas without as much as a viewport to the outside. The ship makers of Equestria and the Gryphus Republic alleviated this problem somewhat by making their interior spaces larger, and adding holoscreens with a view to the outside; sacrificing the practicality of other ships of the Trade Order for comfort, but the expense usually made it prohibitive.

On the other hoof, pegasi loved space, more than any other kind of pony. It was the ultimate experience for one who loved flying. Sure, out there you didn’t have air currents, no wind on your face and no airflow rushing over your feathers, but those things had been replaced by sheer G-forces, the view of the planet below, and the endless field of stars.

Which is why, despite their adversity to cramped spaceships, pegasi and griffons were often considered some of the best pilots in Trader space. Even before the war, it was common that anti-pirate forces would employ both species as fighter and bomber pilots, their bodies more adept to the shifting G-forces than human pilots.

Until recently, positions for pilots had been scarce and usually employed by security firms. The arrival of the Vasari changed that, the invading aliens exponentially increasing the demand for competent pilots for everything from frigates and fighters, to cruisers and capital ships.

So, when Rainbow Dash graduated from Cloudsdale flight school, the first thing she did was sign up for the Equestrian Air Force academy. After struggling with strict instructors and early waking hours, she managed to earn her wings, so to speak, and join the Eighth squadron defending Equestria.

It was a good job, the pay was rather decent, and she got to fly around in an ASF-109, the best atmosphere-capable space fighter yet from Cobalt aerospace. The rainbows she had painted on the wings only served to make it cooler.

But right now, even all the coolness in the world would only have served to slightly alleviate Dash’s current problem: Being utterly bored at the current situation. Sure, the sudden appearance of seemingly the entire TEC Defense Navy had caused a few moments of enjoyment for her, and panic for everypony and everybody else, but her fun had ended when she, as well as the rest of her squadron, were told to perform that one thing she hated the most.

Patrol duty. Bucking patrol duty. There was nothing worse than waiting for pirates or aliens or whatever, and having them never show up.

She shifted inside her flight suit, a hermetic little number that served to keep the pilot alive in case of an ejection. Sensors in the wings of the suit sent signals to a computer in the back, which plugged into the fly-by-wire computer of the plane allowing her to fly the plane using minute movements of her wings to control it. Dash had the theory that the idea had come from a human taking a foal’s suggestion too seriously.

She eased the throttle open, rolling her plane so that the bubble canopy faced a line of civvies trying to dock at the Kasztanka. She passed within a few kilometers of the queue. She tilted her head up to look at them, the visor helpfully pointing out the names and even the registration numbers of a given ship, should she look hard at it.

Satisfied that everything was as nice and orderly as the Air Controller demanded, she guided her fighter to the next area she was supposed to patrol, on the other side of the Kasztanka. As she made her way there, she passed the Sova-class docked on one of the primary docking booms, the TDN Endless Sky.

She felt a pang of envy. Ever since her childhood heroes, the Wonderbolts, had gone off to kick alien flank, she’d been vying to join them. It was the reason she had joined the Equestrian Self Defense Fleet, after all. But so far, all she’d ever shot at were the practice dummies they occasionally flew out. She’d applied for a transfer, several times in fact, and so far they had refused her. After all, the frontlines were on the other side of Trader space, it would take months simply to get there.

Now however, the situation had stabilized to the point they had sent the weary first generation home and Dash finally had a chance to transfer over and see some real action.

A voice crackled over the radio comm.

“Starbuck, this is Nest eight. Come in, over.”

“Hello Nest eight, this is Starbuck. I read you loud and clear, over.”

“We have a civilian shuttle undocking from Tango-Delta-November-One-One-Victor-Zulu-Five-Four. Request flyby and authenticate, over.

Raimbow dash sighed, more routine stuff.

“Willco, moving for flyby. Standby over.”

Twitching her wings, she directed her little craft around the station. She waited until she was past the Akkan’s dorsal side, and flipped her fighter over, pointing the nose towards the planet. She opened the throttle, passing the Akkan’s starboard side by a few kilometers. Flipping her fighter around, she throttled towards the fore of the huge ship, where a shuttle had just exited the forward bay, and was floating a few hundred meters to the fore of the ship.

Dash raised an eyebrow; this was apparently the captain’s personal shuttle, a sleek, Equestrian design with vibrant colors and a big, stylized “R” on the control fins.

…Wait a sec…

Dash was reminded of a rather… dramatic unicorn she had come across while visiting one of her friends in Ponyville. She was supposed to be heiress to one of the larger diamond mining businesses, but she busied herself running a big fancy clothes shop. Apparently her parents were OK with it.

With a slight feeling of trepidation, she opened another comm line.

“Civilian shuttle callsign Romeo-Alpha-Romeo-Foxtrot-Four-Eight, this is Starbuck of Equestria Self Defense fleet. Request authenticate, over.”

There was a pause, before a new voice came on the radio.

“Starbuck, this is civilian shuttle callsign Romo-Alpha-Romeo-Foxtrot-Four-Eight. My authentication is Kilo-Four-One-Four, over.”

Dash keyed in the code into the flight computer, sending it over to the Kasztanka for verification. It came out green.

Dash would have left it there, but procedure demanded that she verbally verify it with the Air Controller. She tapped the appropriate control and switched back to her previous comm line.

“Nest Eight, this is Starbuck. Sending authentication for Civilian shuttle callsign Romeo-Alpha-Romeo-Foxtrot-Four-Eight, over.”

“Starbuck, this is Nest Eight. Send, over.”

Dash repeated the pass code from the shuttle, and waited while the Air Controller green lighted it.

“Authentication is correct, escort civilian shuttle until reentry, then return to previous position, over.”

“Willco, out.”

She repeated the message to the waiting shuttle, and sent a short burst from the fighter’s engines, keeping pace a few kilometers behind and above the larger craft as it headed for the planet. She waited until she could see the flare of reentry on the magnified image in a corner of her visor, and pulled up, back to her boring patrol duty.

Dash looked at the endless field of stars, and wished something interesting would happen.

====================

“…Oh it must be wonderful being Celestia’s prized student! I’m sure you get to go to all sorts of interesting places!”

Twilight, for the past fifteen minutes or so, had been trying to keep up with the other unicorn’s rapid-fire conversation with her. Without much success, one might add.

They’d boarded Captain Rarity’s personal shuttle aboard her Akkan, and had just been cleared to enter atmosphere.

“Not really, I tend to stay up in space stations a lot.” She answered.

“Well, tell me about them!”

Twilight chewed her lip. She was sure at least half of the stations she had lived in were considered “Classified material” by the Trade Order Council, the Equestrian government and the TEC.

“Well… they’re nothing special, really, now that I think about it.” She answered, “There are a lot of standardized parts in space stations, so they’re all pretty much the same, when you get to it. Even the Deep Space Academy uses them.”

Rarity nodded in agreement, “Ah yes. I remember telling the Colonel that if it weren’t for the signs on the wall, I’d have an enormously difficult time telling one station for the other half the time.” She leaned in closer, “But how about planets? Stations may be all the same, but I’ve never seen one planet quite like another.”

“I’ve never been to a planet before.” Came the blunt answer.

Rarity blinked at her.

“Never? Seriously?”

Twilight flinched invisibly, “Well… I’ve been to Cirno… but I was four years old at the time.” She shrugged, “I don’t remember much of it.”

“Why, no wonder you were lost back there! This must be an entirely new experience for you.”

“It is! I mean, know how to get into a planet and all, but it’s mostly… theoretical.” Twilight tapped her front hooves together, and glanced at Spike, who was pretending to not be staring at the snowy white furred Captain, to a very poor degree of success.

The Captain looked at her for a moment, before putting a comforting hoof on her shoulder, “Well I’m sure Equestria will be a perfect experience for you.” she said, smiling, “In my own, humble experience, I’ve found that there’s nothing quite like the feel of a planet beneath one’s hooves.”

Twilight nodded. She’d read enough books about planets to be fairly familiar with what she’d be expecting. First of all was the entry into the planet itself, where the friction of the air rushing past the shuttle would cause it to heat up to more than 1500 degrees and surround it in superheated ionized gases. Of course, the shuttle was more than capable of withstanding these temperatures thanks to a combination of active thermal protection and reinforced ceramic heat shields in the nose and leading edges, leaving only a pretty li-

“Eep!”

Twilight caught a bright, orange flash in the corner of her eye and nearly leapt off her seat. Spike momentarily forgot about Rarity and turned to look at what had startled Twilight.

Outside, the shuttle’s wing had been enveloped in a fierce orange glow as they hit atmosphere. Twilight and Spike stared at it, mesmerized. The lavender unicorn vaguely heard Rarity giggle at her actions.

And to think she hadn’t even touched the ground yet…

====================

Twilight had done plenty of research on planets. She’d taken a break from her studies in magic to delve into anything that might be of any use on a planet. Geography, geology, atmospherics, architecture… she’d dived into a torrent of text, images and holovids.

However, all of that information had failed to prepare her for this.

The moment she took one step out of the shuttle, she was mugged by her own senses. A nose used to canned, filtered air was suddenly full of a thousand different smells, some of which she had no clue as to what they were. Eyes who had previously beheld everything under the illumination of artificial lights were nearly blinded by the bright glare of Epona, the skin beneath her lavender fur suddenly bathed in warm infrared. She blinked, narrowing her eyes to slits to see through the glare.

Canterlot Spaceport was big, to the scale of some spaceports on the Core Worlds. It occupied an area of little more than a hundred square kilometers, most of it dedicated to the commercial pads, capable of holding even the absurdly massive ATMS-1000 Pelican with some room to spare. Captain Rarity’s shuttle had alighted on one of the smaller, private landing pads and was already occupied by two other shuttles. It was relatively isolated from the coming and going of commerce and migration, with noise cancellers contributing to lessening the din. But even so, one could hear the faint echo of the roar of thrusters igniting on commercial shuttles, with the gentle hum of countless antigravs murmuring beneath it all. Twilight’s ears twitched at the noise, before she shook her head to clear the sensory overload.

Okay, Twilight. Just breathe, in and out. No reason to get excited. Just… concentrate on not making a foal of yourself.

She climbed down the steps, Rarity right behind her. A shadow (“A cloud,” her mind told her, “driven by pegasi.”) passed overhead, obscuring the sun for a moment and allowing her eyes to wander upwards.

She gasped, and Spike gave an appreciative whistle from her back.

The sky! Oh, dear Celestia, the sky!

It was a perfect expanse of blue, dotted here and there by fluffy white clouds. It yawned above her head, apparently endless.

Twilight had experienced true vastness before, a lifetime of cheery spacehabs, sterile research centers and the confusing mishmash of the many expansions of the Deep Space Academy of Science and Magic had accustomed her to the infinity. But those views had always been from behind the safety of a thick screen of layered PVA-M, or by means of holoscreens and cameras.

Now, there was no obstruction to block her view of the sky. It occupied her entire field of view, and her mind suddenly realized just how big the verdant world she had seen from orbit was, and just how small the biggest space structure she had been in was in comparison. Her mind kept on going, and she remembered that this sky was nothing compared to the infinity of space she had previously regarded as commonplace, and she felt very small indeed.

“Uh, Twi? Your mouth’s hanging open.”

Spike’s voice brought her out of her reverie, and she snapped her mouth shut, blushing in embarrassment.

So much for not making a foal out of myself.

Thankfully, Rarity made no mention of it, and bade her to follow, animatedly talking to her all the while.

“Weather control… I definitely missed that. It’s so lovely to arrive to weather like this.” She mused, “It always seems to be raining every time I make planetfall somewhere.”

Twilight nodded numbly, if only to demonstrate that she was listening, her mind still grinding over the yawning expanse above her. Both mares left the shuttle behind and entered a covered walkway that into terminal proper, the outside noises vanishing past steel, glass and noise absorbent materials. Twilight shook her head again to clear her mind, and couldn't help but be thankful for the slightly familiar environment.

Meanwhile, Rarity kept on talking.

“I always wondered why no other planet I’ve been to has pegasi working the weather.” The snowy white unicorn thought out loud.

“That's because weather control is tied to environmental magic, which is something unique to the Traveller systems.” Twilight recited automatically, “And even then, only a percentage of the planets have magic across their entire surface. Most planets have only isolated pockets that generate arcanic fields strong enough to permeate the environment and allow manipulation by magic.”

Rarity blinked, “Really?”

“Yeah. In fact, since we’re both unicorns, I think we should be able to feel…” Twilight drifted off, reaching out with her powers like the e-book had told her, careful to only let a measured trickle of it through. She felt a sudden surge as she opened up to the flow of magic around her, shifting and changing to her touch. She retreated, thinking it best if she left it alone.

She realized that Rarity and she had stopped walking, the snowy white Captain frowning in concentration. “Sorry dear, but I can’t seem to feel anything.” She said.

Twilight gave a small shrug, “Don’t worry, it’s a very advanced spell… and fairly recent. It hasn’t had much time to be refined properly yet.”

Rarity giggled, “Well, if you can pull it off, I can certainly see why you’re Celestia’s pupil! You must have an amazing talent!”

The lavender unicorn allowed herself a small smile. “Thank you.”

“Oh, don’t even mention it! Now, we really must hurry, no sense in keeping the Princess waiting!”

====================

The interior of Canterlot Spaceport had been designed with pony aesthetics in mind. The walls were a pearly white, and adorned with reds, greens blues and gold, and patterns intended to emulate nature in its absence inside the artificial structure. Elegant pillars supported the ceiling high above, with paintings of vines curling up their height. The color shifted to blue as they neared the ceiling, which was made entirely of glass, with bronze plated, high strength alloy beams holding it up like a golden spider web. The overall effect was that one could almost imagine oneself already being outside.

The key word being “almost”. It was still quite obvious that they were inside. Cheerful advertisements shone from holoscreen stands, and a soothing music played from speakers. The building was crowded, although not as much as the Kasztanka was. It was most probably because, with all their papers already in order, few things impeded the arrivals, who were all too eager to leave for their destinations.

However, there was little time to dwell inside, so both unicorn mares hurried along. They passed one of the arrival areas, where a crowd of ponies and even a few humans were gathered. Occasionally, somepony would push through the crowd and gallop towards one of the arriving officers. Rarity tried to see if she could spot somepony she knew amongst the crowd, but she failed to see a familiar face.

Come to think of it, it was most likely because she hadn’t told anypony that she’d arrived earlier than expected. Oops.

Twlilight seemed fascinated with everything; the young mare had been in awe since they’d left the shuttle and Rarity had a difficult time constraining her giggles. Who would’ve thought that Celestia’s prized student, a unicorn surely beyond her own meager ability, would be so adorable?

They boarded one of the maglev trains heading to the main terminal, the little dragon –Spike, wasn’t it? - insisting that Rarity have a window seat. Rarity had previously thought her uniform would look conspicuous amongst the civilians, but there were enough officers around them that no one seemed to notice an extra mare in TDN blues. She couldn’t help but notice how the uniforms of the other officers seemed to be incapable of fitting the wearer properly half the time. Why, if she could make the uniforms of every single one of her crew fit the wearer, surely it couldn’t be that hard for other ships to do so, right?

Speaking of something else she couldn’t help but notice, Twilight seemed to be acting a bit… odd. The younger mare seemed to have gotten jumpier after they had boarded the maglev, flinching every time the train stopped at a station and opened its doors.

“Are you okay?” she asked, concerned.

“Yes! I’m perfectly fine and I’m not terrified about being sucked into space!” Twilight quickly answered, her words tripping over themselves in her haste.

There was an awkward pause.

The snowy white unicorn gave Twilight a confused look, “What makes you think you’ll get sucked into space, dear?” she asked.

“Nothing! Nothing at all! Didn’t you hear me? I’m not worried about being sucked into space and dying horribly in vacuum!” The lavender unicorn said, and smiled, as if to further convince her of her claims. “See! I’m not worried! Not a bit!”

There was another awkward pause. A few fellow passengers glanced their way, but Rarity made them find other subjects of interest with a look. She then went back to Twilight, whose smile had become more forced and nervous, if anything.

“Twilight, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you are a terrible liar.” Twilight’s smile deflated with Rarity’s words, “Now, dear, please tell me what’s wrong.”

Twilight seemed to shrink. “It’s just… I’ve lived my entire life surrounded by bulkheads, and now that I’m not…” She stammered, before shaking her mane to clear her head again. “Ugh! How do I say this? It’s as if…I know, intellectually, that the planet’s gravity keeps the air from escaping, that the magnetosphere keeps it from being blown off and that the sky is perfectly harmless …But there’s a part of my brain that insists that, unless I have something solid between me and the outside, I’m going to get blown off the ground.” She said, rubbing the sides of her head. “I know there’s nothing to be afraid of and that nothing’s going to happen to me, but…”

“…But it doesn’t stop your mind from imagining things.” Rarity finished for her.

Twilight sighed, nodding. “I guess.” Rarity turned her head to look out the window, watching the various buildings and terminals of the spaceport rush past as the maglev train headed for its next stop.

“I remember the first time my ship came under fire.” She began, “It was in one of the core ward systems, just beyond the siege line. We were passing through an asteroid field on our way to picking up some refugees at a mining camp.”

“We were jumping to the next gravity well when some Vasari ships came out of phase space a few thousand kilometers away. There couldn’t have been more than five or so, some frigates and a couple of their cruisers.” The ghost of a smile crept into her muzzle, “Thinking back, that must’ve been the least challenging foe my ship would face for a while.”

“And what did you do?” Spike asked, obviously enraptured beyond what Rarity felt appropriate. Twilight simply listened.

“Well, our phase drive had nearly finished powering up, and we were on a schedule, so we simply couldn’t stay there to thrash them.” Rarity gave an absent shrug, “The Colonel had engineering keep charging the drives, while the aliens opened fire.”

“The first rounds were stopped by our shields, nothing serious. After that came the missiles.” She rubbed her chin with her hoof in though, “I don’t know how many those ruffians threw at us, but a couple of them made it through the shields and hit the ship.”

The train stopped at another terminal, opening its doors to allow an assortment of passengers to board. Rarity kept on talking.

“It was like somepony had hit the hull with an enormous sledgehammer.” She paused, to give a measure of dramatic tension.

“And then?” This time, it was Twilight who was eager for her to continue. “Was it… a hull breach?”

Rarity stared grimly at the other unicorn for a moment, before laughing, shaking her head.

“Of course not, dear! Oh, it would’ve taken a lot more than that to breach a meter and a half of Repelon armor plating!”

“It did not, however, prevent me from making an absolute spectacle of myself.” She added, “Even though we were in no real danger, and moments from jumping away, I was terrified.” She chuckled at the memory, “The Colonel even swears I fainted at one point! Later on, after my fright had passed, I couldn’t help but be ashamed of myself for showing such terror against what had merely been a bit of danger.”

“I asked the Colonel about it, and he told that it was because the worst kind of fear doesn’t come from what’s happening around you.” She raised her hoof and tapped her own forehead, “It comes from here. If a part of you thinks you’re in danger, it’ll inject all sorts of fantasies into your mind to justify itself, no matter how illogical this fear is.”

“However, “she continued, “If you know that you’re in danger, then it’s because said danger is something real, and therefore something you can evaluate and plan against. Several times after that, I would find myself in a position in which I was sure the chances of coming back home were slim, and I would feel less afraid than I was that day.”

Twilight looked slightly startled at Rarity’s almost casual admission of several near-death experiences. “So, how did you do it?” Twilight asked, “Deal with that, I mean.”

Rarity gave an equine shrug, “I simply learned to think of something else. If I was scared to death of being hit in a warship, I wouldn’t have gotten much done, now would I?” she said, giving her a cheeky smile.

“I guess not.” Twilight agreed.

“So, instead of thinking of wherever or not you’ll get blown into space, focus on what you should be doing, “Rarity gestured grandly at the blue sky outside, “like enjoying this beautiful, sunny day, for instance!”

The lavender unicorn peered out the window, and gave a small nervous smile.

“I guess I will.”

====================

Fighter Hangar number eight was one of ten such structures orbiting Equestria in geosynchronous orbit. The design of this kind of orbital hangar was a fairly recent, being unveiled by Cyclone Security Services about a year before the coming of the Vasari. While a ways more expensive than an orbital Gauss cannon, it is much more thickly armored, and the fighters and bombers stationed there can reach anywhere in a planet’s gravity well, negating any ranged advantage potential attackers might have.

Its strong and modular design, as well as its ease of manufacturing compared to other, more complex structures had caused it to be very popular among TEC forces. Some corporations and nations on the Siege Line had taken to adding improvised flak batteries to it, as an improvised defense against Vasari fighters. Cyclone Security Services, seeing a good business when they saw one, had started offering flak cannons as an optional extra to buyers.

Equestria, being far from the Siege Line, had no such attachments on its hangars. There simply hadn’t been much need for them, although Pinkie Pie, Chief Engineer and unofficial Master of Parties of hangar number eight couldn’t help but feel a longing for shells full of timed explosives, as well as an odd twitch to the left of her spleen whenever she thought about it.

She’d already sent several mails to Equestrian High Command on wherever or not they could get some flak batteries for “her” hangar, but she’d been politely refused each time. Even though she could see the reasoning behind this, there still was that nagging twitch that told her that mounting a few FLAC-186 50mm Heylekin light auto cannons would be a good idea.

The rest of the hangar staff mostly agreed with her premonition, quite familiar with the pink mare’s oddities, of which there were many. For starters, she was an Earth pony that was not uncomfortable with the idea of living in space, something which raised some eyebrows. When asked about this, her answer was usually along the lines of: “Well, the party’s up here, silly! Why shouldn’t I be here?”

However, what was arguably the most unique and odd quality in the pink mare’s repertoire was what the hangar’s denizens had come to call “Pinkie sense”, which was now telling her that very bored and tired Rainbow Dash was approaching for a landing, via a slight pinch in her left hind hoof.

Smiling, she stopped working on the ion drive containment ring No. 4 on Blue October’s ASB-154 bomber, which was acting up again. It’d been rerouting power in weird ways for a week now, and her fellow wrenchponies had been confused about it until her Pinkie Sense had cleared up the issue. Turning her tail on the partially disassembled bomber, she bounced towards the big toolbox where she kept all her tools and doodads. She pushed her goggles up to her forehead and sat on her haunches, using a rag she pulled out from a pocket on the overall she was wearing to clean off the assorted grease and oil her forehooves and muzzle had been covered in. Returning the rag to its place, she took a paper bag that was sitting on top of the toolbox in her mouth and merrily bounced over to the Strike Craft bays, humming a song as she did so.

She only had to wait outside the airlock for a few minutes before there were the familiar sounds of closing airlock doors and the whooshing of air. Rainbow Dash herself soon emerged, still in her flight suit, sans the helmet. Her unruly mane looked even more messed up than usual, and there was a dull and exhausted look to her eyes.

“Oh, hey there Pinkie,” She said, her voice flat, and her eyes traveled towards the bag in Pinkie’s mouth, “is that what I think it is?” she asked.

Pinkie Pie dropped the paper bag on the floor, and grinned, “Weeeell, if you were thinking “Ooh, is it those awesome cupcakes that Pinkie Pie makes every tenthsday?”, then yes, it is!” She nosed the bag open, letting the scent of warm, fresh cupcakes waft out. Reaching in, she took one out and waved it in front of Dash’s face, giggling as the polychromatic Pegasus went crossed-eyed trying to focus on it. “Aaand here’s one of ‘em!” she teased.

It took only a moment for Rainbow Dash to have enough of Pinkie Pie’s japing and snatched the colorful cupcake from Pinkie’s hooves and took a purposeful bite out of it, her face sour.

She slowly chewed, Pinkie Pie grinning in anticipation.

“So?” she asked, leaning in.

Rainbow Dash kept on chewing slowly, seemingly having a harder and harder time keeping up her image of a bad mood.

She swallowed, and Pinkie Pie suddenly leaned closer still, causing the Pegasus to jerk back.

“Sooooo?” The pink pony insisted. “How’d you like my anti-grumpy-pants cupcake?”

Rainbow Dash valiantly tried to maintain her unlively demeanor.

“Well, it’s…it’s…” She stammered, before giving up the fight and cracking a smile, “Dammit, Pinkie! It’s impossible to stay angry at anything around you!”

Pinkie Pie puffed up her chest in pride. “Well of course it is! Pinkie Pie is having no grumpy faces around here, no siree! Oooh, I bet all the other hangars are full of Grumpy Mc. Grumpypants and those meanie CAGs that shout at everypony and tell them to drop down and give them fifty.” The pink mare started rambling, her mouth quickly changing subject according to whatever thought process went on in her brain, “Did you now the instructor once had me give him fifty? I asked him if he wanted fifty cupcakes or fifty parties and he got reeeaaally mad and started shouting and got red in the face and I was asking him how he wanted those fifty parties and he said -“

“Pinkie Pie, you’re doing it again.” Rainbow nonchalantly interrupted her friend, licking her face clean of crumbs and frosting from a long eaten cupcake.

Pinkie Pie cocked her head, her pink mane bouncing as she did so. “Really? I’m sorry but I’m really excited since this morning my Pinkie Sense kept telling me that something huge was coming and I was going crazy waiting for it to show up. And then this huge fleet comes out of nowhere and I’m like: “Ohmygosh! Look at all those ships! I bet there are a lot of ponies coming back home from the war with the Meanie Pie aliens and they could all use a super-extra-duper epic party!”, but then the Hangar master is all like: “No! You must stay here while I drink all the whiskey in my fridge! All of it!” And now I’m doing it again!” She exclaimed, prancing in place in excitement.

Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but laugh at the exaggerated, but otherwise accurate portrayal of their boss. “Yeah, that’s ‘im all right! Has anyone ever told you how completely random you are?” she commented.

The pink mare bounced in place, “Yup!” She said, “Mostly you.”

Still chuckling, Rainbow Dash nosed the paper bag on the floor, “Well, you go and finish whatever it you were doing. I’ll wait for you in the shuttle with these.” She said, and took the bag full of pastries. “Fthee ya!” she managed to say around the bag she held in her mouth, and trotted off to the changing rooms to take off her Flight Suit and assorted paraphernalia.

Happy that Dash had had her mood improved; Pinkie Pie bounced back towards engineering. The Pegasus had been a friend of hers since they’d met at one of her parties, where the polychromatic mare had discovered the…interesting effect alcohol had on her person. She’d found her passed out on the rooftop, and had brought her to her own apartment to recover. Since then, their friendship had grown quite well, with Pinkie keeping the hotheaded and impulsive mare away from trouble, defusing most situations simply by bouncing in and being herself.

This was a good thing, since trouble seemed to be naturally attracted to Rainbow Dash in the same way a magnet would attract another. Especially after rumors had started flying around, mostly centered on exactly which way Rainbow’s door swung. That ponies seemed to have absurdly long memories when it came to remembering someone else’s alcohol-induced behavior helped things even less.

Pinkie Pie held a hoof to the biometrics lock outside Engineering, and the device confirmed it was indeed her, opening the door with a whoosh! Singing a little ditty, she bounced inside and went back to fixing the ion drive containment ring No. 4 on Blue October’s ASB-154 bomber, a part of her mind drawing the bare bones plans for a party to welcome back as many war-weary veterans as she could.

====================

Accessing Trade Order Council files…

Accesing file 1487jdeswo237i…

Loading: Sentence against the Horizon group by Director General Alfernas Ghalahan of the Investigation Directorate …Done

Playing audio…

“In the name of the Investigation Directorate, I am here to present our findings surrounding case number five five one seven six zero. Approximately ten standard weeks ago, we received, from an anonymous source, evidence of possible forbidden business practices at asteroid Muira, Talfernas system, sector forty five. We sent a team of investigators, who shall remain nameless, to confirm these findings.”

“People of the Council, what we found was conclusive evidence that the Horizon group had been conducting illegal and ghastly experiments, amongst which were the creation of entirely synthetic life, genetic experimentation, unnecessary neural implantation and a systematic violation of the Rights of Sentient Beings. Our investigators had to restrain themselves to not intervene and perform their duty.”

“After collecting a sufficient amount of incriminating evidence, we authorized the formation of a strike team composed of elements from Serveraz Security, Radoon’s Die Hards, and the freelancer Marza-class planetoid destroyer “Oblenz”, amongst others, to perform an insertion at the site. The facility attempted a self-destruct, but was stopped by the intervention of the crew of the freelancer Kodiac-class debris clearer “Alfa”, who performed impromptu boarding operations.”

“After the facility was secured and everything was documented, the facility, as well as its asteroid, was destroyed by the spinal cannon of the “Oblenz” to prevent it from being used by others.”

“As per request of the Princessipality of Equestria, all surviving… subjects have been transferred to their care. Their exact numbers and identities have been declared secret by the Directorate for their own safety.”

“Following the success of the strike team, we have apprehended all involved personnel from the Horizon group. Subsequent trials have found them guilty of all charges.”

“And so, in the name of the Trade Order, I hereby order the disappearance of the Horizon group, the freezing of all banking accounts related to the Horizon group, the dismissal of all its personnel, the dismantlement of all its facilities, the selling of all its property that has not been seized by the Directorate and the application of a Universal Trade Sanction towards any involved, so should they ever escape exile, imprisonment of death, they may they spend the rest of their days alone and hungry in some wretched corner of the galaxy.”

“That is all.”

Audio file end.

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