• Published 11th Apr 2022
  • 1,052 Views, 128 Comments

Frostpony - The Original Gaston

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Chapter 2 - The Captain

The head offices of the Equestrian Exploration Company was a rather unassuming, regular stone building on the corner of Lovelock and Burgundy lanes in Canterlot. It was three stories tall, set in with the other buildings pressed up against it on either side. A courtyard in front of the building held a fountain in the middle, that was currently sitting idle, with its bowl empty and its spouts dry. The courtyard itself was surrounded by a steel fence, broken up by a gate that was currently left open.

The Captain clutched a letter in his telekinesis, taking one look down at it, before stuffing it in the pocket of his coat. A few, singular snowflakes descended on him from the heavens as he walked forward causing him to pull his overcoat closer. Under his coat, he wore a white uniform, with his various medals and commendations visible on his chest. Over his mane, an officer's cap was pulled down smartly, with the brim shielding his eyes from the pale sun far overhead.

Breathing out a puff of frozen air, the Captain gripped the handle of the office front doors, opening them and curiously looking around inside.

A wood-panelled waiting room awaited him, along with the dry heat of a nearby humming vent. With a sigh of relief, the Captain pulled the door closed behind him, before taking off his overcoat and placing it on a nearby hangar, along with a few other coats hung on the public rack.

The Captain brushed a silvering strand of his mane away from his eye and tucked it under his cap, before looking around for somepony to ask about the letter he kept in his pocket. As he entered the waiting room proper, he saw a pair of comfortable-looking couches surrounding a coffee table, a window looking back out into the courtyard, as well as a window to what looked like a reception desk.

At the reception desk, the Captain saw something most curious.

Gripping a fountain pen between his sharp claws, a dragon was hunched over at the chair. His scales were purple, and he had several green fins lining the top of his head. On his snout rested a pair of spectacles, giving vision to a pair of slitted pupils. He seemed to be busy at work with a stack of papers on his desk, and a brass nameplate in front of him read "Best Secretary - Spike"

The Captain wasn't sure if "Best Secretary" was a real position somepony (or somedragon in this case) could actually hold, but he decided to disregard his misgivings and walk towards the reception desk.

The dragon - Spike, looked up at him as he approached, temporarily stopping his writing to look the Captain up and down.

The Captain swallowed, not having made a habit out of talking to dragons all that much, "I am... Err, I mean, I have a letter summoning me to a meeting of some kind from Princess Twilight Sparkle?"

The draconic secretary seemed to sigh, before extending a claw, "May I have the letter, please?"

The Captain obliged, taking out the folded paper from his pocket and handing it across the desk. The dragon took it, scanning the page quickly. Naught three seconds after taking it, he handed back the letter before simply pointing towards the couches and saying, "Please wait. Twilight will be with you shortly."

The Captain quirked an eyebrow, taking the letter back, "You are on a first name basis with Her Majesty?"

The secretary looked back up from his paperwork, giving him an analytical stare, before grunting, "Yes, sir."

The Captain opened his mouth to speak, but after a moment of thought he just shut it, and walked over calmly to the couch to slump onto it with a sigh.

The waiting room was quiet. Nothing but the scratching of Spike's pen and the distant ticking of a grandfather clock disturbed the serene atmosphere of the lounge. Idle with his thoughts, the Captain began to examine the room's finer details as he waited.

Positioned above the set of couches he rested on was a painting of a tree. The mighty oak he saw was not just any tree, however. Within its trunk and branches appeared to be built an old-fashioned home, with windows peering out between twists and turns of the wood, and a balcony resting atop the branches of the great tree.

The Captain was aware that the Zebras had learned how to engineer tree growth in such a manner to accommodate homes, buildings, and occasionally places of worship, but considering that in the margins of the picture the Captain could see many traditional Pony houses, he doubted the painting was based off of any savage's dwelling.

To his right, he could see a shelf full of trinkets. They all seemed fairly meaningless. A necklace that appeared to have been made by a child, a small photograph of a group of ponies he couldn't quite make out, a model boat, and a woven ensign that didn't seem to belong to any division he knew about.

Behind him, The Captain heard hoofsteps on the floorboards, and turned his head to look in their direction.

In a doorway stood next to the reception desk stood a lavendar-colored Alicorn. Despite not being as tall as the Royal Sisters, or the Crystal Empress, she still stood a good head or so higher than the Captain's aging frame. She wore very plain clothing for a royal Princess, with the EEC logo stitched on her collar and her mane done up in a bun.

The Captain got up from the couch as quickly as he could, and snapped into a formal salute, "Your highness!"

In return, Princess Sparkle gave a short salute back, "Captain. It's good of you to make it. Especially with all that's going on out there," she gave a chuckle.

The Captain lowered his hoof to the floor, still trying to keep a professional stance before royalty, "Aye, ma'am. Fortunately by the time I got here, the rioters had mostly moved on."

From behind Twilight emerged the secretarial dragon, ducking under the doorframe that was a good foot too short for him. He simply stood, with his claws wrapped behind his back, giving the Captain a passive stare.

"Well! We should stop standing around awkwardly. Please, follow me to my office so we may discuss the purpose of our meeting..." Princess Twilight's amicable tone calmed the Captain's heart, and he relaxed from his ramrod straight posture to follow her as she began to walk down the halls deeper into the building.

After a few turns, and a walk up two flights of stairs, the two of them eventually made it to a door with a frosted window, with letters painted on reading: "Director Twilight Sparkle".

Turning the knob, the Princess opened the door, holding it for the Captain to walk through.

Taking a quick look around, the Captain assessed his environment. Despite the office being physically spacious, the sheer amount of busyness the decor sent out made it feel cramped. Every piece of spare wall space was taken up by bookshelves, loaded with a great many well-kept and organized tomes. In a corner, a pile of books appeared to be arranged in the shape of some sort of fort. Finally, dominating the middle of the room was a luxurious, large oaken desk, with a velvet cushioned office chair sitting right behind it.

The Princess motioned the Captain towards a chair seated on the other side of the desk, before sitting down in her own chair herself.

"You have a lovely office, Princess," The Captain complimented, adjusting his chair as it creaked beneath him.

Princess Twilight smiled, "Thank you, Captain. Would you like some tea?" Twilight motioned towards a platter, with a porcelain tea set sitting atop it. A thin stream of steam still spilled from the top of the kettle.

"I would very much like that, Your Majesty," the Captain nodded gratefully.

Twilight gave him an unimpressed look, before grabbing the kettle in her magic, "You can stop calling me that. I much prefer being called by my name, and that is Twilight Sparkle, or just Twilight."

"Aye, sorry ma'am but it is..." the Captain paused, "...It is part of my duty to show you and the other Royalty of our great empire the utmost respect."

"And you have," Twilight smiled as she poured the kettle into a teacup, before levitating the cup and its saucer over to the Captain, "Now, I would like you to continue that respect by calling what I wish to be called."

The Captain chuckled, taking the cup with a grin, "Thank you, Twilight."

"You are very welcome, Captain," Twilight nodded, before taking the kettle and pouring herself her own cup.

The Captain sighed contently as he took a sip of tea, "Ma'am, I must say. It's hard to get a good cup of tea nowadays, and I'm glad I've been able to have some here."

"Tell me about it," Twilight giggled, "With the bad crop this year, the plantations haven't been able to produce, and then the ice disrupting the shipping... It's been a nightmare, not for just the Company, but also for the political side of my career."

"I can imagine!" the Captain took another sip of tea.

The room hung in silence for a few moments as the light snowfall began to turn more heavy outside the window of Twilight's office. The mare's brilliant purple eyes glanced from the window, then back to the Captain, before the alicorn gave a long sigh, "...Captain. I'm afraid we are short on time, however. We should get to business."

The Captain pursed his lips, before nodding, "I suppose so. You're probably very busy."

"...More than you know," Twilight said wistfully, before placing her forehooves up on the desk and locking the Captain's gaze with an intense stare, "Captain. The science is undeniable. Us both sitting here know that the cold isn't going to get any better. Next year's harvest will feed even fewer, and soon our summers will disappear completely."

The Captain, slightly shocked by the sudden change in tone, only nodded soberly.

"Are you aware of the EEC's most recent project?" Twilight asked, "Does the name "Generator" ring any bells to you?"

"...I'm afraid not," The Captain knew the EEC had been working on something recently. The increase in shipping, and thusly protection of that shipping from piracy and foreign interdiction, going up north, where there were no colonies to feed or soldiers to arm, was an obvious sign of such. However, the Captain knew nothing of what exactly this top secret project was exactly.

"The Generators... are a liferaft," Twilight steepled her forehooves, "They are gigantic furnaces, built atop aquifer networks. They use cutting edge technology to create giant zones of heat, which can house large numbers of people and protect them from extreme cold."

There was a pause, before she reached back and brushed her mane nervously, "...Like say the extreme cold from an apocalyptic, eternal winter."

"...I see," Was all the Captain could say.

Twilight reached for a stack of papers to her right, where she unfolded a large piece of parchment, with a map of what the Captain could make out was the Arctic Circle. Twilight used a pen to make a circle on the coast of a random island deep in the Far North, "This is Site 154. There is a Generator located here, inside of a valley shielded from the wind."

She looked back up at the Captain, locking his gaze down once again, "You are an experienced navy captain. Your service record is impeccable. Tours in the Aquilean Revolution, lead an expeditionary force in Yakyakistan, and made five arctic and antarctic expeditions in your lifetime."

"Record for farthest north travelled in 7 BL, yes," The Captain mumbled.

"Indeed. You are the perfect pick to lead an expedition of about 300 ponies, made up of civilians and trained engineers..." Twilight began to draw with the pen a course from the northern coast of Equestria, all the way up through the arctic to the circled site, "First on a steamboat, then on a set of Steam Lorries across the ice, to the Generator."

The Captain analyzed the napkin-estimate route with his nautical experience. He found it relatively sound, but he knew that the travel across the ice would take weeks, if not months to traverse with that big of an expedition crew, "...So, we get there... and then what?" He looked back up towards Twilight.

Twilight frowned, "...Captain. The only thing left to do up there... is to survive."

The Captain blinked.

"Captain. As I said, this is the end of the world. This Generator... this will become your home, your last piece of the Empire. The people you guide on the expedition there, they will become your little ponies. By the time you get there... civilization will have fallen. You might be... everypony.

Twilight began to levitate her kettle up to pour another cup of tea for herself, but as it lifted up off the table, Twilight suddenly hissed in pain for reasons the Captain could not see, and her magic quickly fizzled in an electronic zap as the fragile porcelain kettle began its journey towards the desk.

Quickly, the Captain reached out with his own magic, catching it with just a bit of tea spilling out onto the map parchment. Delicately, he poured his host her cup of tea, before placing it back on the platter.

"Are you... quite alright?" He asked cautiously.

"I'm fine. Sorry, I've just been... stressed," Twilight had a hoof to her forehead, seeming to massage away a headache. After a moment of silence, she continued, "Captain... this is a one way trip. There won't be any escape plans, no turning back, no rescue missions..."

The Captain's gaze drifted back down to the map, "...Am I really the right pick for this?"

"You are. You're one of the few experienced arctic expeditioneers in our naval corps. You are literally unmatched when it comes to exploring the poles," Twilight removed her hoof from her forehead, returning them to her desk as she picked up a kettle with a forehoof rather than her magic.

"...Aye but..." the cogs turned in the Captain's brain, "Ma'am- Twilight, you said this was Site 153. If I understand that number correctly, that's a lot of Generators. There are... not that many arctic explorers in the world, let alone in the service of the Empire..."

Twilight's gaze averted, and she breathed heavily, "...This Generator, specifically the ponies within its crew, mean a lot to me. Their survival is of great importance to me."

The Captain narrowed his eyes, "And what about you? Will you be with this expedition?"

Twilight looked up at the Captain, before swallowing, "...No. I have other plans when it comes to me. You... shouldn't worry about them."

"I... see," The Captain looked down at his quickly cooling cup of tea, before taking another thoughtful sip.

"Captain. Time is of the essence. I need your word now. Will you do it?" Twilight's forehoof reached out to cover the Captain's free hoof.

The Captain looked first at Twilight's hoof, and then up at her eyes. He was an old stallion, nearly about to retire from Imperial service altogether. Then again... with the incoming apocalypse, there wasn't going to be a happy retirement for him to go to...

The room hung silent with a pregnant pause, and Twilight's eyes only bored deeper and deeper into the Captain. He could see them quiver, wet with what appeared to be incoming tears. Despite her professional demeanor, the Captain could hear what her soul was begging of him.

Steeling his courage, the Captain's lips drew firm.

"Yes. I'll do it."

The Captain awoke with a start as a bang shook his cabin.

He was back in Lorry Two, back in the middle of the Frostlands of the Far North. Before he could register what was happening, a rumble shook the Lorry, before he felt his center of gravity change as the entire room tilted slightly to its side. A globe sitting on the dresser across from his bed tipped over and rolled across the floor under his bed. The window that showed the darkness that consumed the arctic outside now showed a bright red glare from the emergency lights of the Lorry.

Lorry One, the one that stalled and needed to be left behind, had had an actual captain's cabin built into its design, as it was meant to be the original leader of the convoy. Lorry Two, which the Captain had moved to after Lorry One's abandonment, only had a few cabins made for the head engineers. One was gracious enough to make room for the Captain, and now the relatively small, but at least private room was now the makeshift residence of the expedition's leader.

Panicked, the Captain climbed out of his bed, wrestling his sheets all the way. He quickly grabbed his coat, a thick fur winter overcoat with a red sash across the left fore sleeve, and pulled it on, before heading towards the door separating the makeshift Captain's Cabin from the rest of the lorry.

Outside, he heard a bell rapidly ringing down the hall, signalling an emergency. The crowds of ponies sleeping in the hallway were now standing about, murmuring and muttering among themselves. However, in the chaos, the Captain saw a unicorn quickly carving through the crowd to get to him. He recognized the mare, despite being dressed in a winter coat that had obviously recently been exposed to the flurry of snow on the outer deck. Her name was Amethyst Star, one of the administrators sent to help lead the Expedition alongside him.

"Sir! Sir!" Amethyst shouted as she locked eyes with him, pushing past yet another cluster of worried ponies.

"At ease, Amethyst," The Captain raised a hoof towards her as he buttoned up the front of his coat, "What's happened?"

"Captain, something horrible happened! We have no idea why, but the ice shelf underneath us collapsed suddenly and we've lost Lorries Four and Seven. Lorry Two is barely hanging onto solid ground, and the workers are going to try and use winches drilled into the ice to bring it back onto stable ground, but for now we need to take you and all essential personnel to Lorry Six for safety!"

A posh, Canterlotion accent rang out from behind Amethyst, "It's those damn boilers! Even while we were stopped, they kept running them on full heat! They melted the ice and caused a fault that caused this damn collapse! I told them! I told them to not do it but what do they do?"

The Captain's eyes went behind Amethyst to a brown earth pony, wearing a coat and thick cap. Doctor Hooves, the head engineer. A bowtie that he seemed to take a lot of pride in was still pinned above his coat, and a watch was barely visible beneath the thick sleeves of his jacket.

"Both Lorries Four and Seven!?" The Captain replied incredulously, "Are there survivors? How bad is the damage?"

"We don't know, but please let's get you off of this Lorry too before it meets a similar fate!" Amethyst tugged on the Captain's sleeve, but he stayed put in place.

"Calm yourselves, ponies," His eyes passed between Amethyst and Hooves, "Are we literally teetering on the edge right now?"

"No sir," Hooves replied, "A side fracture from the main fracture has buried Lorry Two's left tread in a large field of splintered ice. We are immobile, but we are a good fifty yards from the fault line."

"Good. Then I will remain here. I'm not going to abandon ship, especially not first," The Captain sneered," Get the passengers off the Lorry first. And get those winches set up, Hooves."

Hooves nodded, before turning and walking back down the corridor and taking a flight of stairs down out of sight.

"Amethyst. Signal the scouts. Get them back here at once. Wake the night scouts, they will go down to the lorries and assess the situation with the Lorry immediately. Once the day scouts are back, they will help with the rescue efforts. Get your most able-bodied ponies to be ready to assist them, too."

An hour later the Captain grimaced as he watched the scout pegasi fly around the wreck of Lorry Four, which had ended up face down down the icy slope. The Lorry engine, and the compartment it was towing along, were now twisted up in a painful position at the bottom of the crevasse, with the nose of its boiler wedged in a point where the canyon narrowed enough to not let it slip any further.

Farther behind Lorry Two, was the trapped form of Lorry Seven. Instead of rolling all the way down the slope exposed by the fracture, Lorry Seven had managed to fall on its treads, and was simply stranded in the cavern without any way of being able to recover it.

The first reports were positive. Most of the ponies aboard had survived. Many of them were injured, but they were thankful to be alive. However, despite this glimmer of hope, the Captain's heart was troubled. This bad stroke of luck had meant that he had lost two more haulers. He was unsure if the ones they had left would be able to ferry all of the remaining ponies to their destination. Even worse, even if they recovered the cargo of the two haulers, there also was no space to haul the cargo through the final leg of the journey.

A lose - lose scenario if he had ever seen one.

The sounds of hurried hoofbeats behind him heralded the arrival of Amethyst Star back on the top deck of Lorry Two, "Hooves told me to tell you that we managed to tug Two out of the rut. We can move again."

"Good. Tell the pilot to get this lorry as far away from the danger zone as quickly as possible. What of Four and Seven?" The Captain asked.

Amethyst cringed away from the question, a gust of wind blowing her purple bangs out from under her hood, "...Four is very badly done in. There's no recovering it. We have about an 80% survival rate on its passengers. The rest are trapped in the crumpled up sections that were wrecked in the crash. Seven is alright, if a bit shaken up, but without a huge operation there's no way we can try and recover it from where it's fallen to. We'll need to abandon Seven if we want to move on within the next week."

The Captain nodded, "That's what I was afraid of."

There was a pause, as the howl of winter whipped across the top deck of Two once again, causing the winter coats of the two ponies to flap and the fur lining to quaver.

"...What are your best predictions for the capacity of Two and Six? How much more can we admit aboard them?" The Captain asked, beckoning Amethyst to follow as he began to walk back down towards the hatch leading into the Lorry.

"We could squeeze in only a hoof full more, Captain. Any more and the environment would just become insufferable. There would be nowhere for their belongings, nowhere for them to sleep-"

Amethyst was cut off by the Captain, "Screw their belongings. Screw their sleep. How many more could fit standing up aboard these Lorries?"

Amethyst gulped, before staring down at her hooves and tapping her right foreleg against the steel floor, which was what she always did when thinking, "...We could probably double what we have squeezed in in excess right now. So... about fifty more."

The Captain bit his lip, "That leaves about eighty behind, Amethyst. That's not good enough."

Amethyst grunted, "What else do you want me to do, Captain? Fill the outer decks with ponies? They'll freeze come nightfall!"

The breaths of the two ponies were misting up, even while inside of the Lorry. Upon Hooves's behest, the engineers had shut down its boiler while the Lorry was stationary, so that it did not aggravate the weakened ice any further.

"What about our supplies? Our wood and steel, and the coal we don't need for the rest of the journey. We could make space in the cargo bays," The Captain suggested, approaching a stairwell leading down towards the level containing the lorry's control room.

"Throw away our supplies? Captain, you're crazy! I-" Amethyst followed the Captain with an incredulous look, "... I can't believe I'm saying something that seems so obvious: but we need those!"

The Captain opened his mouth to retort to his assistant, but shut it again. She was speaking the truth, even if he didn't want to hear it...

"...You're right," The Captain sighed.

Amethyst choked on the response she was about to give to what she thought would be angry words from her Captain, and instead remained silent.

Stopping at the bottom of the staircase, the Captain turned to Amethyst, "How many foals are aboard Four and Seven?"

Amethyst brought out a clipboard that she had been levitating by her side. Flipping through a few pages, she eventually found the entry she was looking for, "...Thirty.Thirty foals, and about a hundred adults."

He sighed, "Okay. Once the rescue teams are done getting everypony off of Four and Seven, we'll get the foals first, and then we'll get any engineers from the passengers. We'll tell them to set up camp here, and try and stock them as best as we can with anything we can spare, and then we set off," The Captain took a deep breath, "...And we'll be back for them."

"...Yes, sir," Amethyst nodded, soberly.

The Lorry shook as it began to move again, moving away from the edge of the collapse back towards safety. The ventilation began spewing warm air again, making Amethyst and the Captain both sigh in relief.

"Go on. I'll be in the control room should you or Hooves need me," The Captain waved a hoof at Amethyst dismissively, before walking down the steel corridor towards the control room of Lorry Two.

With a short, sloppy salute, Amethyst ran around a corner and out of sight.