• Published 15th Sep 2012
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Sky Pirate Pip and the Dreaded Dreadnaught Die Großartige und Mächtige Trixieburg - alt-tap



Captain Pipsqueak and his crew are but simple pirates. Fate, however, has plans for them, big plans.

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Chapter 6: The calm before...

Chapter 6: The calm before...

Twilight Sparkle lay on her belly, dangling her elbow boot clad forehooves off the front of the Zwielicht Funkeln's flight deck, watching the horizon with a thoughtful expression. A heavy woolen overcoat covered her body, withers to rump, shielding her from the wind that whistled through her navy blue mane. Her cap sat beside her, glowing softly with a shield spell to prevent it from blowing away. Arcs of power crackled across her body, her aura unbound; there was nopony around it could harm, so there was no reason to hold it in.

Spike watched the light of the setting sun illuminate her face, hard as stone yet warm as summer. This was not the bright eyed filly who hatched him, nor was it the studious and energetic young mare who raised him in a small farm town to be the calm, collected, entirely undragonlike dragon he was today. This was the strong and confident leader of the Royal Air Navy of Equestria. A pony with a reputation nearly as impressive as Celestia and Luna, and the magical prowess to back it up. There wasn't a mare in the world he would be more proud to call his mother, adopted though he was.

“Something on your mind?” he asked, his low, rumbling voice overcoming the wind without need for excessive volume.

Twilight looked up at Spike, her assistant, her son, her friend. He was the one creature in this world she didn’t need to put on a show for. Her one confidant in a herd of followers and he wasn’t even a pony. He was about the size of a large pony, walked on all fours most of the time too, but he was shaped more like an armored wolf, or some sort of long lagged monitor lizard, then a pony. His emerald eyes carried a luminous intensity born of the dragon fire that faintly glowed from between his amethyst scales. Nearly imperceptible green fire flickered around his head forming ghostly mystic runes, a testament to the power in his blood. Yet he was one of the most humble individuals she knew.

“Rarity,” she replied softly, returning her gaze to the unchanged horizon. Spike couldn't hear her voice at all, but he didn't need to.

“Peewee said she misses you too,” Spike informed her, lying down and putting his arm across her withers. “She's been getting 'Flutter Therapy' as well, it seems.”

Twilight took a deep breath and sighed heavily, flattening her ears and resting her head against Spikes warm shoulder. “I don’t know what to do, Spike,” she complained. “I want to make things better, but I can't ignore what she does. She's a pirate, and not just any pirate, but the most infamous pirate in Equestria! How can I, as the grand admiral of the R.A.N., play friendly with such a high profile outlaw?”

“You already know my opinion, Twilight,” Spike replied, gently combing Twilight's mane with a claw while her crackling arcs of energy mingled with his ghostly soul fire, tracing runes across his scales. “I love her, with all my heart, and I know there's more to the story then we can see from this tower we've built. I just wish I knew a way to find the earth so we could see the world the layponies see.”

“Admiral!” a stallion shouted over the howling wind. They turned to see one of Twilight's page pegasi touch down a respectful distance away and bow to deliver his message. “Your presence is requested on the bridge, ma'am!”

Twilight broke from Spike’s embrace and stood. “Thank you, Airman,” she replied before vanishing in a flash of magic. A moment later her cap vanished as well.

*******

On the complex, multi-tiered bridge of the Zwielicht Funkeln much was ahoof: Gauges and spectrographs were cross referenced, ponies hustled too and fro and the air was thick with paper and magic. Amid all this, a flash and a snap announced the admiral's arrival, followed shortly by her cap.

“Officer on deck!” Everypony who wasn’t immediately occupied turned to the officer's overlook at the aft of the room and saluted before continuing on.

“Admiral, we've detected substantial magical auras around what we believe to be the wreckage of the Glänzend Schicksal,” one of Twilight's subordinates reported, approaching from behind. “There are at least two major signatures, and I mean major.”

Twilight turned to address the assistant, a purple crystal mare. “Show me,” she instructed, stepping back from the polished, white marble disk rimmed with orichalcum which was located at the point of the platform.

The crystal pony stepped onto the marble disk, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath to center herself before turning to Twilight. When she opened her eyes the orichalcum and marble began to glow and her body crystallized, channeling the light into a map of the local magical fields, projected around her in a cloud of light.

The map clearly showed the mountain and forest below in gray and green, the air currents swirled through the sky in shimmering silver, and a red haze marked the battles that had ravaged the astral landscape over the past two days.

“As you can see, Admiral,” the pony turned projector said, “this area has been host to at least one small conflict. The mageography shows several vessels engaging in battle over two days, though I believe it was an aerial battle on the first day, as depicted here,” she explained, refocusing the light to highlight the massive golden star in the sky and dim the rest. “I believe this was the main battery of the Glänzend Schicksal detonating. If you look closely you can see what appears to be the after image of magitechnological feedback munitions, which explains the detonation of the battery.” The image magnified to show two small, onyx rifts in the the magic. “If this is the case we are likely dealing with a foreign government.”

Twilight grimaced inwardly and shifted her weight. “And the second engagement?”

The image shifted to highlight the magic closer to the ground. “The second event is a bit more complicated. It looks to me like somepony was looting the wreckage and was ambushed by the local Iron Dogs pack, which makes sense, but look at this spot here.” she refocused on a spot of blazing gold on the ground. “This looks like unicorn magic but the intensity is abnormally high and it has the flow of gravity magic.”

“Strange,” Twilight commented. “Not unprecedented, but quite interesting.”

“Here's the kicker.” The map widened and refocused. “See all these light blue spots? They feel technological so I did a spectroanalysis and managed to trace them to a source, back here.” The image shifted up and north. “Look at this haze, it looks like something scrubbed the anomalies from the sky. There’s, literally, nothing here, which, for a battlefield, just screams suspicious.”

Twilight examined the image before her. Magical guns firing from the most baseline point in the sky; that's classic Rarity, but where did she go? There was something else there, though. “Is that a storm cloud or a ship?” she asked, pointing out a crackling haze low to the ground.

The purple pony focused for a few second, picking out the magical threads from the background. “I had assumed it was a cloud. Do you see something I don’t?”

“Show me the path,” Twilight instructed, “as far as you can trace it.”

“Yes, ma'am.” The map shifted out, displaying the surrounding few dozen miles. The cloud traced a long, straight path from the Griffin border, through the mountains to this spot and simply dissipated.

“Well, isn't that something,” Twilight muttered, squinting and holding a hoof to her chin.

*******

“Alright, girls,” Pip said, addressing his crew arrayed before him in a semicircle. “I know it's a big party and there's lots of shopping to be done, but first we have business to attend to.”

“If I may, Pip.” Ditzy interrupted, raising her hoof . “Both Dinky and myself have been here a few times so we can act as guides if you want to split up into two groups.”

“Excellent!” Pip exclaimed, briefly considering his options. “How about... Dinky, you and Apple bloom go get some supplies and spare parts. Get what you need to fix that gun, Dinky.”

“Okay, Pip,” Dinky happily replied.

“Apple Bloom, you get some parts to fix up Scootaloo's fighter. I want it better than new when she gets back, and give it a fully enclosed canopy; I don’t care what she thinks, she needs the protection.”

Apple bloom nodded in agreement. “Absolutely, Cap'm.”

“Dismissed.” Pip declared.

Dinky and Apple Bloom excitedly trotted off to do their jobs, or just have fun and shop.

Pip turned his attention to his remaining crew members. “The rest of us are going to-”

He was cut off by a poke in his side. “Rarity is coming this way,” Ruby whispered into Pip's ear.

“Oh, Pi~p, may I have a word with you, darling?” Rarity called as she approached.

“Sure, Ma- uh, Rarity,” Pip replied, turning and giving her a very forced smile. “What do you need?”

“I have a request, of sorts.” Rarity said, magically straightening Pip's jacket. “I would like you to accompany me on my errands tonight,” she continued, straightening his mane and repositioning his hat. “I have much I wish to discuss with my sister's chosen company, and there are a number of thing you are going to have to know if you want to be a part of our family.” By the time she was finished talking Pip looked a great deal more 'captainly'. Not one iota of scruffy pirate remained.

“Oh, o-of course,” Pip stuttered nervously, shuffling his hooves. “Sweetie, Ditzy, you two see if you can get somepony to, uh, help with that box.”

“Okay,” Ditzy said with a smile.

“Anything else, Pip?” Sweetie asked.

Pip leaned in to whisper in Sweetie’s ear, “Ya, if I never come back, you get the ship.” he said quickly before chasing after Rarity, who had already started toward the front of the lift.

For a while Pip just followed in silence as Rarity made her rounds insuring that everything was in order and on time. At one point they encountered Sprocket, who Rarity instructed to take a package to the alchemist's.

After nearly fifteen minutes of following Rarity around, Pip could no longer stand the awkward silence and decided to start the conversation himself. “So what's all this you're offloading, Rarity?” He asked, pausing to look back at the stacks of cargo being moved towards a small group of warehouses built into the embankment of a large hill.

“A care package,” Rarity answered simply, stepping off the platform onto dirt packed so hard it sounded like cobblestone under her hooves. “We'll be stopping by Inky's office briefly, then to our real business,” she said, leading the way toward a small building situated between the sky dock and the market. It looked more like a farmhouse then an office. “Oh, by the way, this is sovereign territory, we're not technically in Equestria.”

“Not technically in Equestria?” Pip echoed, trotting to her side again, “Like an independent nation-state, or more of a noble house thing?”

“This is the House of Laughter,” Rarity explained, stopping on the porch of the building. “As you may know, each of the elements of harmony, myself included, was granted a noble house and a generous sum of land after saving Equestria, and the world, so many times.”

“Ya, I heard about that,” Pip replied, wondering if the 'noble house' thing extended to the whole family, which he was well on his way to joining. That explains the 'office' though; if Pinky's half as crazy as she was when I was a foal I'm surprised it's not made of candy or something.

Rarity tapped a hoof and shifted her weight impatiently. Pip watched nervously for several seconds, trying to identify the source of her apparent agitation. Could she be expecting me to say more? Maybe I was supposed to do something... Door! He leaped into action, darting over to the door to the office and opening it with his mouth. Rarity, much to Pip's relief, didn't seem too terribly offended by his lapse of decorum.

“Sorry about that, Rarity,” Pip said softly as she walked by. “I haven’t spent much time among high society.”

“Quite alright,” Rarity replied over her shoulder. “One is not born refined.”

Pip entered the homestead turned office and closed the door. The inside of the building was very cozy and welcoming: the waiting room seemed to have been (and possibly still was) a living room; the walls were lined with scenic paintings and tall book shelves. A number of comfy looking chairs and a long couch were arranged around a coffee table and a large window allowed the setting sun to shine in. On the other side of the room there was a long desk, and behind that several filing cabinets. A slate gray mare with a straight, black mane sat at the desk.

“Good evening, Rarity,” the mare at the desk said joyfully.

“And to you as well, Inky,” Rarity replied. “It's always a pleasure.” She retrieved a large, manilla envelope from under her cape and floated it onto the desk. “We should do tea. I'll be here for two or three days; it would be a shame to miss such an opportunity to catch up.”

“Certainly,” Inky replied, sliding the envelope off to one side. “I'll tell the girls. When I figure out some convenient times I’ll-”

She was cut off by the rapid fluttering of tiny wings and a rush of wind. A shock white filly with a poofy, lemon yellow mane and tail, wearing a familiar, carmine cape, came zipping into the room, stopping in a buzzing hover over the desk. “Aunty Inky, aunty Inky, mommy said I can have a cookie but I have to find one cause she didn't have one so I was gonna ask aunty Blinky cause she's always the one that hides them so mommy doesn’t eat them all even though mommy always finds them anyways but she's busy exploding stuff so I came to find you and I found you and I still want a cookie so can I have a cookie please, aunty?” the hyperactive little pegasus said in a squeaky, bubbly voice at record breaking speed.

“Well hello, Surprise,” Rarity said to the hovering youth, unconsciously using a higher pitch and exaggerated enunciation.

“Hi, Miss Rarity!” Surprise replied enthusiastically, bobbing around as she turned to face the guests. “Who's that?” she asked, pointing at Pip.

“This is Captain Pipsqueak,” Rarity said with a nod of her head. “He's a new friend I made recently. Pip,” She nodded to Surprise in turn, “this is Surprise, Pinky Pie's daughter. Isn't she just darling?”

Before Pip could even formulate a sentence Surprise spoke again. “Wow, you have a two colors coat?” she squeaked, hovering closer to him to get a better look while her cape fluttered in the wind of her little wings. “I've seen ponies with two colors manes before, or even more colors mains, but I didn't know not-zebras could have two colors coats before!”

“Surprise,” Inky cut in from behind the desk, waiting for the filly to turn to face her. “Don't pester the guests, dear.”

“They're not guests,” Surprise said matter of factly, tilting her head to the side in confusion, “they're friends. Rarity is a friend, and she said Pippy is her friend, so he's our friend too, right?”

Inky smiled. “Well aren’t you just a little miss clever pants today. Yes, they are friends, but they're also guests in our house, so you should be polite.”

“Yes, aunty.” Surprise grumbled, looking as disappointed as she possibly could.

“Its fine,” Pip said with a smile. “So, Surprise was it?” he addressed the hovering filly, who immediately perked up. “I'm from a place called Trottingham. It's a city to the west. The original pony tribes that lived in that area were mostly brown and black, but the pegasus tribe that lived in the mountains were all white, I guess to blend in with the snow. After the founding of Equestria united the tribes, more ponies came to the area...” Pip realized he was talking to open air and stopped. “Okay then, I won't tell you.”

“Don't mind her,” Inky said, dismissively waving a hoof. “She takes after her mother; attention span of a crow in a mirror room.”

“Quite,” Rarity agreed. “In any case, my schedule has been a touch modified, as you may have guessed from my early arrival. But I managed to find almost everything you requested.” She gestured to envelope on the desk. “The exceptions are in red at the end. Um, I believe that's everything.”

“Thank you again, Rarity,” Inky replied, beginning to look over the papers. “When we have a time for tea I'll let you know.”

“I look forward to it,” Rarity replied, leaving through the hall to the back door. “See you then.”

“Nice meeting you, ma'am,” Pip said before turning to follow Rarity through the house.

“Likewise,” Inky replied with a smile.

As they walked through the house Pip couldn’t help but compare it to the Apple family house in Ponyville. Family photos lined the weathered wooden walls and the floorboards creaked with nearly every step. As they passed the stairs to the second floor he saw the head of a little gray filly dart out of sight, shortly followed by hushed voices and tiny giggles. Something about the house felt terribly nostalgic, but what exactly he couldn't put his hoof on.

All too soon the feeling passed, and they found themselves walking into the biggest party in Equestria.

*******

“WHAT WAS 'AT?” Apple Bloom hollered over the din of the nearby band. For reasons unknowable Dinky had led her through, rather than around, a throng of revelers surrounding a stage full of ponies beating on steel barrels, brass piping, garbage can lids and all manner of other seemingly random objects like an arrangement of improvised drums.

“I said we're heading for the cave!” the little unicorn replied. She stopped and stood on her hind hooves, poking her head over the crowd to reorient herself. “Oh, there it is!” she hollered excitedly, looking back at Apple Bloom and pointing towards the mountain with a hoof.

Apple Bloom quietly chuckled at her aptly named friend's antics. Ah wonder how many ponies think she's still a little filly when they first meet her. For her part, Apple Bloom had no trouble seeing over the herd around her. She took after her father almost as much as her brother did, standing over most ponies by a good hoof or two. Dinky's ears barely came over her withers.

The pint sized gunmare turned tour guide dropped back to all fours and began worming her way slowly through the crowd again. Just as before, she ended up moving parallel to the mountain, as if some force was drawing her south.

Apple Bloom couldn’t help an amused smirk growing across her face. Girl may be a unicorn but she can sure as hay feel the earth. She scooped Dinky up with her head and tossed the meandering midget onto her broad back like a sack of flour. “Can ya' see better from up here?” she joked, bumping dinky with her nose.

“Ya!” Dinky clambered up into a sitting position and pointed one hoof dramatically towards the mountain, holding onto Apple Bloom's neck with the other. “To the cave!” she shouted in a theatrical voice.

“Ha ha, y’all just get comfortable n' point the way.” Apple Bloom said, carefully picking her way through the crowd like a train plowing through a snow drift.

*******

Sweetie Bell watched as Pip chased after her sister, a small smirk forming on her lips. “You know,” she said to nopony in particular, “I really didn't think this was gonna be so easy.”

Ditzy gave her a quizzical look. “What do you mean?”

In response Sweetie trotted towards a group of the Seltenheit's crew. “Hay, Quicky, do you have a minute?” she hollered, gaining their attention.

Quick Fix trotted out of the group with a spring in her step. “What's up, Sweets?” she replied with a smile.

“Did Rarity give you a job, or are you free for a while?” Sweetie asked as they drew nearer.

They met in the middle and exchanged a quick hug. “Na, I only get assignments when something breaks,” the brown unicorn said as they disengaged. “Benefits of being a mechanic.”

“Well, if you're up for it, I have a challenge for you.” Sweetie Bell offered with a smirk.

“Ha! You know me; I'm always up for a challenge,” Quick Fix replied, glad for something potentially interesting to do.

“Alright, follow me,” Sweetie Bell took a step and stopped. There were no elevators nor gravity lifts up to Seltenheit, which floated high above on its magical sea. “Uh, how do we get up there?”

Ditzy watched the two unicorns puzzling over there little quandary and smiled. “Ruby,” she said softly to a warm space next to her, “why don’t you go see your mother; I'm sure she misses you and it looks like we already have the solution we need.” She walked over the the two unicorns, who seemed to be mulling over the idea of using levitation to get back to the ship. “You know, I could just carry you up,” she reminded them.

They both stared at her dumbly for a moment. “Oh, right!” they said in unison before falling into giggles.

“I feel so silly,” Sweetie giggled, “that should have been the first thing I thought of. Do you mind?” she added out of courtesy.

“Not at all,” Ditzy confirmed, crouching down. “Hop on.”

Sweetie hopped on the pegasus's back and wrapped her forehooves around her neck. Quick Fix took several halted steps while trying to figure out how she was meant to fit until ditzy took wing and picked her up by the barrel.

“Everypony hang on tight!” Ditzy announced cheerfully. “Next stop, uh, up I guess.” And up they went, spiraling through the wind towards the royal purple hull of the Seltenheit.

Once they had passed through the Seltenheit's field and entered the deserted cargo bay Quick fix spoke again. “So are you gonna tell me what this little challenge of yours is, Sweets, or do I have to guess?” she said as Ditzy set her down on the deck.

“It's a lock,” Sweetie replied, hopping off of her friend's back. “A locked box specifically. Its up on the Flitzen.”

“I thought that was what this was about,” Ditzy interjected. “Do you think she can do it?”

“Hey, I didn't get to be chief engineer on the most advanced ship in the sky for my stunning looks and sultry voice, you know,” Quick Fix joked, dramatically tossing her messy, flaxien mane.

“You kinda did,” Sweetie shot as she started towards the lift to the dry dock.

“Shut it, you,” Quick fix giggled, following her friend to the lift.

Ditzy followed, quietly smiling as the two chattered on all the way up the lift and to the ship.

When they got to the Regenbogen Flitzen's gravity lift Sweetie changed topics. “So, the box is in the safe on the top deck,” she said as she stepped into the field and began to ascend.

Quick Fix took in everything she could while they passed through the little zeppelin. The most infamous fighter in recent history hung peacefully in a suspension rig. Scorch marks scared the distinctive red paint and the wings were bent in strange patterns, having never been reset after docking. A second gantry was limbered on the sealing, ready for another plain to hold. A burnt blanket lay discarded in the corner. On the mid deck she could see short hallways lined with doors leading forward to the bridge and aftward to the cargo bay. She was struck by the smallness of the ship, sure it looked small from below but it really was a little thing. On the last of the three decks they arrived, essentially, in the showers to the aft, with a hall leading forward, one door was on each side and one more at the end.

“Its right through here,” Sweetie said, drifting out of the gravity field and leading the group through the port side door.

The room was centered around a large conference table surrounded on three sides by a polished wooden bench. About two dozen cushions were stacked along the far wall. The walls and high sealing were also wood, giving a much more relaxing feel then the tight, steel corridors which comprised the rest of the ship. A simple, brass chandelier hung over the table giving Quick Fix the feeling of being in an old galleon of the sea. She could almost smell the salt and feel the sea breeze on her face. It was a strange feeling, considering she had never been on, or even seen, a tall ship, but for whatever reason she could already see the frame of just such a ship forming in her minds eye, ready to be built.

“Over here, Quicky,” Sweetie Bell said, shaking her from her pseudo nostalgia.

Sweetie Bell was standing at the aftward wall and Quick fix quickly made her way over. “I'm guessing that’s a false wall, then?”

“Yup.” Sweetie turned and empowered her horn. It looked like simple levitation, but after a moment of squinting and grunting the wall slid to the side, revealing a heavy steel door set in a matching wall. Another series of funny faces and noises later and that, too, opened, swinging outward with a dramatic slowness stereotypical of comics and Daring Do novels. Inside the room she saw a large, ornate box.

“That's it,” Sweetie said, confirming her suspicions. “The challenge is to open it.”

“It must be one heck of a lock if you think you need me,” Quick fix observed, approaching the box.

“It survived two feedback nails and the detonation of the Glänzend Schicksal's main battery without any visible damage,” Sweetie Bell explained before starting towards the door with Ditzy. “The galley is across the hall, head is behind the showers. Have fun!”

“Oh I will,” Quick Fix said to herself, draping her saddlebags over the bench and moving the box to the conference table in her steel blue magic. “I most certainly will.”

Author's Note:

Yes, I know. This took entirely too long and I apologize. I have a full time job at the moment so that takes the majority of my time. I may not have as much time to write as I used to, but I will persevere. This is what I love to do, and I will never stop.

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