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Storm Chaser

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Brony Number 42

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Here is chapter 1. I have 4 chapters complete, which is about 1/3 of what I plan. The following story takes place immediately after the events depicted in My Little Pony The Movie.

The party was over, the stage was being dismantled, ponies were going home. Fizzlepop Berrytwist, also known as Tempest, former Commander in the service of the Storm King, stayed to the periphery of the diminishing crowd. She had made awkward conversation with Twilight Sparkle and her friends. Less than a day ago she was trying to imprison Twilight. Then she had a change of heart at the last minute and helped defeat the Storm King. But that didn’t forgive everything she had done, she knew that. Right now, she had no idea what to do next, so she just stood in a shadow and waited.

It was getting late and there were only a few ponies left, cleaning up the area that had recently been the scene of a concert. Two palace guards approached her. She knew she had to face the music, as it were.

“Commander Tempest, please come with us,” one of the guards said. Tempest said nothing and followed the guards. They took her into the palace and to a guest suite on the second floor. The guard opened the door for her and she entered. The guard did not enter, but said to her, “You will stay here tonight. Princess Celestia will see you in the morning.” With that, he closed the door.

Tempest tried to sleep but whenever she drifted off, she was haunted by nightmares of her time as a Commander. She saw the faces of those she had terrorized. After a short time, her dreams were calmed by a sympathetic princess.

 

Early the next morning Tempest awoke. She felt rested and was thankful for that. She rubbed her eyes and tossed the covers off. The room was warm, despite its large size. One would expect the palace to be drafty. There was a washroom to which Tempest availed herself. She examined the fine marble work, the brass fixtures, and the other accoutrements. They were a stark contrast to the spartan conditions on her ship. It was a long time since she had a warm shower and forgot her problems for a moment.

When that was done she sat down on a couch and looked out the window at the rising sun. That brought a pang of guilt and shame in her stomach as she realized who raised that sun. She was startled by a knock on the door. Opening the door, she found a tray of food and a palace guard. “The Princess requests your audience after you have eaten.”

How classy, Tempest thought. The Princess requests your audience, not, Go see the Princess now! “Thank you,” she said, “I will be ready shortly.” She wheeled in the cart and ate the food. It would have been delicious, but her guilt and anticipation left everything tasteless. She left the cart in the room and went to the door. “I’m ready,” she said.

She followed the single guard, not the same one who had escorted her to the room last night, to the throne room. They passed a couple servants attending to daily routines. Tempest wondered how their lives were affected by her actions. Did they even recognize her? Not necessarily every pony would have seen her when she attacked the palace. She decided to wear her armor as a sign of contrition. She was guilty and she would not hide from what she did.

The two guards at the throne room opened the doors for her and her escort. Inside sat Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and a pegasus she did not recognize. Tempest strode forth to a respectful distance and stopped. The Princess nodded to the guard and he left. When the doors were closed the Princess spoke. “Commander Tempest.” The words hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity. Tempest kept her head up. She had mocked Celestia’s gentle spirit and would not insult her by pleading for mercy. No, she had decided: She would admit to everything and accept her punishment.

The Princess continued. “You stand accused of attacking Equestria, assaulting its leadership, and aiding the enemy. Do you seek legal counsel?”

“No.” She said simply.

“Very well. How do you plead?”

“Guilty.” She swallowed a lump in her throat. Her skin felt cold and clammy. “Guilty on all counts.”

There was a short pause that stretched out forever. “Very well,” Celestia said softly. She sounded sad, maybe remorseful, as if she regretted the entire affair. “I sentence you to conditional exile.”

Exile, Tempest thought. But what does she mean by…

“Conditional,” the Princess continued, “on your acceptance of my offer. Tempest, your crimes were deplorable. But I know you feel great pain. Some pony has seen your nightmares and knows your guilt.” Princess Luna nodded. Celestia continued. “It is my firm belief that any pony, any being, can change if they want to. I have sent some to exile before. Both non-ponies, and loved ones,” Luna bowed her head. “And I have seen them change. Therefore, it would only be fair to offer you a chance as well.”

Tempest began to tremble, tears filling her eyes. She wanted to shout, “No! I deserve the harshest punishment possible!” Instead she mumbled out a, “wha..?”

Celestia nodded to the pegasus who was standing quietly to her right. He was white with gray around his hooves, mane, and edges of his wings. He stepped forward and Celestia introduced him, “This is Special Agent Sprywing. He will be your associate on a special assignment I have for you.”

Tempest looked at him and gave him a blank stare. After a moment she said, “My handler?” It was a term used to describe someone that acted as a contact point between spies in the field and the main office, usually in the service of a government.

“A partner,” Sprywing offered a small smile.

“Let me explain,” Celestia went on. Her tone was more hopeful. “I would like to send you and Agent Sprywing to the edges of Equestria, and beyond, to gather information and support Equestria’s interests.”

“Like a spy,” Tempest said. She was beginning to calm down. In fact, this was beginning to sound interesting.

Princess Celestia mulled over the term. “Let’s just say that I want to leverage all of our assets to best affect Equestria’s security, especially in light of recent threats to the land.”

Princess Luna finally spoke, “My sister doth speak too much like a politician. Yes, Fizzlepop Berrytwist. You will be a spy. Dost thou like the title Agent Tempest? Haha.”

Tempest couldn’t help but smile. “Tempest will do just fine. Princesses, I would be honored to serve Equestria and make amends for my past.” She bowed her head, then she looked up. “But how do you wish to proceed?”

“Actually,” Celestia said, “I need to talk to a few other people first. But I wanted to speak to you first, so that you wouldn’t be sitting around all day wondering your fate. For now, you may go with Sprywing. I will summon you later.”

“As you wish, my Princess,” Tempest bowed again. She looked to Sprywing, who lead her out of the throne room.

“Follow me, please. We have some work to do.” The two went to a little-known section of the palace. They went down a few floors to a guarded door. Sprywing put a hoof on a computer panel on the wall and the door unlocked with a click.

Beyond the door was an open office area, with many desks and ponies working. Most of the ponies were wearing shirts with ties, or even jackets. Everything seemed very serious. There was the sound of ponies working at keyboards and chatting. This was a well-run organization, which was a stark contrast to what Tempest was used to. In the Storm King’s service, things just happened haphazardly. If the Storm King wanted something to happen, he told someone to do it. And the only things he wanted involved violence.

“Welcome to the Equestrian Intelligence Agency,” Sprywing said. “I have some special equipment for us. This way.” He led Tempest down a side hallway to another door. A sign on the door read “Special Equipment.” He opened the door and motioned for her to enter. Inside was a stock room of sorts. There was a counter, beyond which was tall shelves. An older earth pony, a gray stallion, was working at a computer. “Hello, Al. What do ya have for me?”

The older pony looked up. “Hm? Oh, Sprywing, yes, I believe your kit is ready.” The pony looked up some information on the computer, then went to one of the shelves. He wasn’t particularly fast. He pushed a step ladder to a spot midway down one of the aisle and retrieved a box. He placed it on the counter with a thud. “Either I’m getting older or they keep coming up with more gadgets for you guys.”

Sprywing smiled and took hold of the box. “Let’s see what we got.” He opened the box and looked inside.

Meanwhile, Al entered some information into the computer, then gave a clipboard to Sprywing. “Sign here. Remember, if you break ‘em, no refunds.”

Sprywing signed the paperwork. “Equestria will just buy me more,” he said, then gave the clipboard back. “Thanks, Al. Come on, Tempest. I’ll show you EIA standard issue.”

The pony behind the counter heard the name and looked at Tempest with a look of disgust. “You’re Tempest?” He took a few steps back.

“It’s not like that, Al,” Sprywing said. “Princess Celestia has given her a second chance. She’s assigned to me.”

The older pony grumbled and walked away. Sprywing looked to Tempest, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.”

“It’s okay,” she replied. “I don’t expect every pony to forgive me.”

“Well, still…” he really didn’t know what to say. “Come on, I’ll show you how to use this gear.” He picked up the box and opened the door. Tempest followed him out.

She followed him down a few more corridors to a testing room. She was glad that they didn’t meet any other ponies. The room had a few tables and chairs. Sprywing put the box on the table and began to take the items out.

The first object was an electronic device with a small screen and buttons. “It’s a communicator. It’s magically encrypted. I can use it to send information back to EIA central, and I get orders from them.”

Tempest examined the device. “What’s its range?”

“Pretty far, at least to the edges of Equestria. Magic can block it, though.” He pointed to the different buttons. “You turn it on here. On the menu you can select EIA for Equestiran Intelligence Agency. Select this to call. I want you to know how to use this in case there’s an emergency.” Tempest nodded. He set the item aside.

Next, he pulled two pistols from the box. “One for me, one for you. This is the stun setting, and this is the kill setting. Hopefully we won’t have to use them.” He then laid out the rest of the items and explained each one. “Grappling hook with powder charge. See, you pull this trigger and it fires the hook. Here’s a pair of binoculars with thermal and low light vision. Let’s see, knife, flashlight, tools for lock picking and fine work.” He put the items back into the box. “Well, we better get to the ship yard. You’re gonna love the new ship.”

He looked up at her and she had a blank stare, as if she was deep in thought. She shook her head to clear it, “Sorry, I was just thinking about how I must be destined to forever serve. My punishment, I guess.”

“I wouldn’t think of it that way. It is an honor to serve Equestria. The Princess wouldn’t give you this assignment if she didn’t have faith in you.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she said.

“I know I’m right. Come on, let’s go see that ship.”

 

That afternoon both princesses were back in the throne room. Celestia let out a sigh. Her aide informed her that her next guests were ready for her. Celestia nodded and told him to let them in. The group were not ponies, but a bird race lead by a Captain Celaeno. Some of the Avians began snooping around the room, looking behind curtains, picking up objects, and generally making the Princess’s aide nervous. Meanwhile, Celaeno strode to Celestia and respectfully waited.

“Captain Celaeno,” Celestia said, “Let me officially welcome you to Equestria. I’m sorry for keeping you waiting all morning. I hope you found your accommodations to be adequate?”

The Captain blinked, “Adequate? I haven’t seen such lavish quarters outside of books. I humbly thank you.” Show bowed.

“Not at all, Captain. It is the least I can do for you after you helped save Equestria. Which brings me to why you are here. I have a proposition for you.”

Celaeno’s eyebrow went up slightly. Her crew sensed the change in mood and all paid closer attention to the conversation. To an untrained observer it would look as if the pirates were aloof and not paying attention. But in truth, they were assessing their surroundings and making themselves ready to defend their captain.

“You see,” Celestia continued, “you are, technically, pirates and outlaws.” The room got cold and quiet. “However, as far as I know, you have not attacked Equestrian interests. I would like to offer you a letter of marque.”

The captain grinned. “You want me to work for you?” She laughed. “Ha ha ha. Oh, I’m sorry, Your Highness, but that was one of the last things I expected. Hm,” she began to pace about the room as she pondered the offer, “of course, I would need to know the terms.”

 “Of course,” Celestia levitated a scroll to Celaeno, who took and skimmed it.

“Mm hm, uh huh,” she read the key points.

“Basically,” the Princess said, “you will protect Equestrian interests and report back to me on what you learn.

“And how would I do that?”
“Well, I would assign to you a special agent.”

“Uh huh,” Celaeno was becoming skeptical. “You mean a spook.”

Luna finally spoke, “You can think of him as a handler.” Then she laughed. The others in the room were confused at her odd sense of humor.

“Actually,” Celestia continued, “there is another part to this offer. How do you feel about working with former Commander Tempest?”

This piqued the pirates’ interest, and Celaeno voiced their concern. “Do you think that is wise, Princess? I mean, she did change sides at the end, so I’m told. But can we trust her?”

Celestia took on her teacher tone of voice. “Captain Celaeno, you yourself were in the service of the Storm King and you changed. In Equestria, we believe in second chances and helping ponies, and everyone, become better beings. Besides, the Storm King is gone, to whom would she betray our trust?”

“You have a good point.” Celaeno rubbed her chin in thought. “Yes, I rather like the idea of having Tempest around, under my command.” She pointed to Celestia to emphasize her statement, “But on my ship, I am captain. Tempest and your spook—”

“Agent Sprywing.”

“—yes, well, I want it made clear that I expect loyalty from them. No double dealings behind my back.”

Celestia stood. “Captain, I envisioned this endeavor to be a partnership. You have my word as ruler of Equestria that neither myself, any agent under my command, Tempest, or any other Equestrian, pony or otherwise, will work to subvert your authority, wherever you have such authority, on your ship or off it, in Equestria or beyond.”

“That is correct,” Luna said, “our spooks will be too busy spying on whoever you encounter on your missions.” She laughed again at her odd humor. She was the only one.

“Very well,” Celaeno agreed. “But I want to add one more crew member.” Celestia raised a questioning eyebrow. “Capper.”

This time it was Luna’s turn to grin. “Excellent! But how did you come to such a decision, I wonder?”

“Well, Capper and I have been talking this morning. He really has no place to go back to, and he doesn’t exactly fit in here. So, I offered him a position in my crew.”

“Then it is agreed,” Celestia said. “I hereby bestow upon you and your crew the title of Privateers of Equestria.”

“Wonderful!” Celaeno agreed. “Uh, but there’s just one problem.” Again, Celestia raised an eyebrow. “I don’t have a ship.”

Luna smiled, “Oh, Celestia, may I show her, please?” Celestia nodded. Luna almost squealed in delight. “If your crew would follow me, please.” The group had to hurry to keep up as Luna left the throne room.

 

The open market in Canterlot was not as busy as usual. Ponies were still recovering from the recent attack and invasion. Although they were used to it at this point, having been invaded by Changelings multiple times. Still, the ponies had an unbeatable spirit and were quick to get their lives back on track. They always landed on their feet, so to speak, just like cats. More specifically, a particular feline by the name of Capper.

This character was no stranger to hard times. In his home land he lived on the streets. In Klugetown, pretty much everyone lived on the streets, or had to have street smarts. That was where Capper honed his skills to the point where they became second nature. But now, in Equestria, he had to resist his instincts. A few times today he caught himself inadvertently stealing a few items from vendors. It was just second nature. In fact, he was so good at it that no pony had noticed even though every pony seemed to be watching him.

He was famous, a hero, in a town with plenty of heroes already. But most of Equestria’s heroes were of the hooved variety. He was bombarded with, “Hello” and “you’re awesome” and he decided he needed some place to think, so he followed the least populated streets until he found a small park.

Captain Celaeno had offered him a post on her ship, or rather, with her crew, since she didn’t have a ship at the moment. He had accepted and was actually relieved because he didn’t know what he was going to do with his life. He couldn’t go back to Klugetown because there were too many beings out to get him. Or maybe that’s the angle to play, he thought. Get everyone to hate me so that they fight each other trying to get me. Ha, perfect! It was just the kind of scheme he would play.

“Capper,” a soft-spoken voice said from close behind him.

“Gah!” he turned around quickly and took a defensive stance.

The voice belonged to a female unicorn. She was pale with short, dark blue mane. Her cutie mark was a bird in a red circle. “Sorry to have startled you.” Her voice was low and monotone. Capper had the feeling that she fully intended to evoke his response. “Your presence is requested with Princess Luna.”

He smoothed out his jacket and composed himself. He cleared his throat, “Ah, lovely lady, you should know better than to sneak up on a fellow like that. You almost cost me one of my remaining seven lives. Or is it six? How did you manage to find me, anyway? I thought I was alone.”

“I’m very good at what I do,” she said matter-of-factly. “Now, if you would follow me please.” She half turned, indicating for him to follow her.

He did so, following her to a small car, a two-seater. This model was powered by magic, which was not unheard of but uncommon. Most ponies preferred to use a more traditional mode of transportation whereby another pony would pull the vehicle. In some cases, in less populated areas, or for larger vehicles, automobiles were used. And in rare cases, expensive, magic powered cars were used. Though Capper didn’t know all of this, he did get the feeling that the vehicle was of an official nature. His instincts told him to run. This pony gave off a law enforcement vibe.

Was he being arrested? If that was the case, why not arrest him earlier, like when he was in the nice room they had given him? And why let him roam free?

“Uh, excuse me, but what’s this all about? I’m sure it’s all just a misunderstanding, whatever it is.” He opted for an apologetic tone, because he felt that his usual charm would not work on this pony.

The pale pony opened the door, using her unicorn magic of course, and said flatly, “Official business. You are not under arrest, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“Oh,” he straightened up a bit, feeling relieved. “In that case, lead the way.” He climbed into the back seat of the car.

The driver took them around the castle grounds and out toward the airship yards. The ship yards were a few kilometers away and they passed through a few security check points. They eventually arrived at a single story, white, steel building. The unicorn parked the car and got out; Capper followed.

“Wow, what are we doing here?” Capper looked around. Ahead of him was the building that housed the office and work shop. Just beyond that was a giant drydock. It was a system of scaffolds that was probably ten stories tall. There were dozens of ponies crawling and flying around it. Docked was a large air ship. “Hey, that looks like one of the Storm King’s ships.”

The pale unicorn said, “Please go inside, the Princess is waiting for you.”

Capper looked at her. “The Princess? Me? Well,” he smoothed his jacket, “I best not keep Her Majesty waiting. It was a pleasure meeting you,” he bowed to the unicorn, then went to what he took to be the front door of the smaller building.

There was a secretary at the desk who looked up when he entered. “Ah,” she said, “You must be Capper. The Princess and her group are on the ground floor of the hanger. Just go out the door at the end of that hallway. I’m sure you’ll find them.”

Capper nodded and followed the hallway to a set of double doors at the end. Through the doors was the main floor of the hanger bay. The bay was essentially open to the outside, with some covered areas. There were steps and elevators that went to the higher scaffold levels. Ponies were busy doing repair work on the ship. There were tools and equipment scattered all over the floor. Much of it looked pretty advanced, as far as he could tell.

He stopped to examine some component that appeared to be glowing. Hmm, must be magic, he thought. He was about to touch it when someone called him from across the floor. He looked up to see Princess Luna and Captain Celaeno approaching him.

“Ah, Capper!” The Princess greeted him. “I am most pleased to see you. I have been showing Captain Celaeno her new ship.” Luna gestured with her hoof to the Captain, and then to the ship. “She is quite beautiful, do you not think?”

Capper blinked in surprise. Was Luna asking him if he thought Captain Celaeno was beautiful? Then he realized that she was talking about the ship. The others were staring at him and he began to blush. “Ha, yes, uh, the ship is beautiful indeed.” He made a point to turn and look at the hull of the ship, which was visible among the support beams of the scaffolding. “Say, is that one of the Storm King’s ships?”

“Yes,” Luna said, “We have commandeered it and are retrofitting it. Come, let us take a closer look. The rest of Celaeno’s crew is having a look around the inside. I have been explaining to the Captain here all of the upgrades we have placed on board.” She led them to the aft portion of the ship. “In addition to the traditional sails, we have given the ship these magical powered engines,” she pointed up to one of two circular tubes that stuck out behind the ship. “As the engineers explained it to me, these thrusters can propel the ship even in still winds. They are even silent.”

“I’m sure my crew can handle them, but we prefer the old-fashioned way,” Celaeno said. “Show him the cannons, Princess!”

“Ah, yes, come!” Luna led them along the hull, moving forward. “Those ports there,” she pointed to closed ports along the hull. There were two cannons on each side, with port covers that could be opened when needed. “They are the most recent ballistic projectiles. We have added electronic targeting systems. There is also a compliment of depth charges.”

“Depth charges, on an air ship?” Capper asked.

Celaeno answered, “Combat on an air ship is three dimensional. You never know when you need to get the drop on someone.” She grinned.

“Exactly,” Luna agreed. She continued the tour. “The ship also has a small shuttle that can land and return to the ship. This ship has the latest navigational system, new quarters, mess hall, and other amenities.”

“You’re going to love it,” the Captain said.

Capper smirked, “Of course, that’s why I’m here. You want me to join your crew.”

“You don’t have anything else going on, do you, Capper?” Celaeno asked.

The feline looked at the floor and scratched the back of his head. “Ah ha, well, not exactly. Was just gonna bounce around Canterlot, see where I end up.”

“In jail, most likely,” Celaeno said, then laughed. She smacked him on the shoulder. “Oh, that reminds me. You won’t believe who else is joining the crew.”

Capper looked up. “Tempest.”

Celaeno frowned, confused, “Good guess.”

Capper pointed behind Celaeno. She turned to see Tempest and a pegasus approach them. The former commander was still getting used to her new role. She was a bit embarrassed to be seeing Capper, who had helped defeat her. “Hello, Capper,” she said.

“So, who’s your new friend?” He indicated the white Pegasus.

“I am Agent Sprywing,” he held up a hoof that Capper accepted.

“He’s my handler,” Tempest said, dead pan.

“He’s my spook,” Celaeno said, likewise.

Capper and Sprywing looked a bit confused, then shrugged. “Well,” Capper continued, “I guess the gang’s all here.”

“Indeed!” Luna was excited. “Oh, but there’s one important thing!”

“What would that be?” asked Celaeno.

Luna waited a beat for dramatic effect. “You haven’t picked out a name for the ship.”

The group looked around at each other, nobody feeling like they should be the one to decide. Finally, Tempest spoke up, “How about Storm Chaser?” Luna clapped her hooves together in excitement. Celaeno smirked. Capper nodded.

“Appropriate,” the Captain said. “There are still some of the Storm King’s ships out there.”

“Yes,” Luna agreed, “and part of your mission will be to chase them down. You have full authority to dispatch them in any way you see fit.” The Captain nodded. “Well, there are other surprises on board for you. Captain Celaeno will have to show them to you. But for now, I suggest you get your belongings and bring them aboard.”

Capper patted his coat, “I have everything. My home in Klugetown was pretty much destroyed.”

“I don’t have anything either,” Tempest said.

“Ahem, well,” Sprywing said, “I took the liberty of bringing some items aboard for the both of you. Equestrian Intelligence Agency special issue.”

“Super secret spy stuff,” Capper commented.

“Something like that. Anyway, the ship launches in three days.” Sprywing said.

“Until then,” Luna said, “enjoy your stay in Equestria. I wish I could accompany you on your adventures, but I have duties here.”

“Well then,” Celaeno looked at the group, “I will see you aboard in three days.”

 

There wasn’t much else for Capper to see in Equestria. When he returned to his room he found a note that instructed him to go to the west garden. When he found it he also found the six ponies that had become his new, and up to this point, only friends.

“Oh oh oh, Capper, I’m so glad you’re here!” Pinkie Pie took him by the arm and brought him to a bench. On the bench there were a few packages.

Applejack said, “Pinkie Pie wanted a huge party, but we convinced her that we’ve had enough partying for now. We figured this should be a more intimate affair.”

“To wit,” said Rarity, “these gifts are for you.” She levitated a box that he took. “Please open it.” She had made for him a set of fine formal wear. It was a white jacket with light blue liner, matching pants, and top hat. She also included a black cloak and flat cap.

He tried on the top hat, “What do you think? Ha ha.”

“I think you look great!” said Pinkie. “Here’s mine.” She gave him a box. Inside was a strange looking pistol. He looked at her questioningly. “It’s a hand-held party cannon. You’re going to be a pirate now, you never know when that might come in handy.”

“Twilight told us that you’ll be joining Captain Celaeno’s crew,” Applejack explained. “Here’s mine,” her box contained a rope. “It’s a lasso, the same brand I use. It’s never let me down.”

“Oh, um,” Fluttershy gave him a box, “mine’s not as nice as those, but I hope you like it.” It was an encyclopedia of animals from exotic lands, featuring habitat, behavior, and how to speak with them. “I know that books are more Twilight’s thing, but I hope you like it.”

“This will come in useful. Thank you.” Capper said.

“Speaking of books,” Twilight levitated her gift to him, “It’s a book about sky ships. I personally updated it to include the Storm King’s ships.” The book was quite large.

“You can use it for when the fire in the engine room is low,” Rainbow Dash snarked.

“Actually,” Twilight pointed out, “the engines run on magic, not fire. It’s based on…”

“Yeah yeah,” Rainbow interrupted. “Here’s my gift. They’re official Wonderbolt goggles. It gets pretty windy up there.”

“Wow,” Capper looked to his new friends. He coughed to hide the emotion in his voice. “Thank you all for the gifts. This means so much to me.”

“You’re about to embark on a major mission for Equestria,” Twilight said. “We want you to remember your friends.”

“I could never forget my new friends,” Capper said. Everypony smiled.

“Who wants cake?” Pinkie Pie had managed to bring cake without anypony noticing, but nopony complained. They spent the evening swapping stories and losing track of time.

 

Capper had spent most of the rest of his time exploring Canterlot and eating the free meals that ponies had offered him. But today the Storm Chaser was set to launch, and Capper had to get back. The pale unicorn had taken him back to the Castle and she told him that she would get him when it was time to leave. He figured that she would find him when it was time, so he decided to take a walk in the garden. Sure enough, at about 2 PM, the mysterious pony found him.

“Are you ready, Mr. Capper?” she said softly.

He stood from the stone bench he was sitting at and wiped the dirt from his pants. “Ready as ever. Lead the way.” They got into the same car she had used a few days ago and went to the ship yard.

At the yard, the ship’s retrofit was complete. It was a big ship, and the engineers had made it bigger. They had used Equestrian magical technology to make the lift more efficient, which means the balloon could hold more mass. They kept the original design element that placed the ship’s bridge over the front of the balloon, which was connected to the deck with an armored forecastle. Inside of this were stairs that lead to the bridge. From the bridge there was a crawlway that lead to a crow’s nest on the top of the balloon. On each side of the bridge there were retractable sails.

It was a modified sloop, the smallest warship. It did not have an open main deck. Instead, the hull extended to the bottom of the balloon. There were two cannon ports on each side of the ship on the main deck. Large shutters could swing down to open up the main deck, if that was desired. There was an aftcastle that housed the captain’s quarters.

The first deck held sleeping quarters for the crew and a mess hall near the aft. Heat from the engine could be used for cooking and heating water. There was a recreation and relaxation area at the fore of the first deck. There was also storage.

Most of the second, bottom-most deck was storage. Near the front there was a large hatch where the shuttle was docked. The aft section had the engine room. The two engines were magically powered. It created electricity for the ship. In the engine room there were all manner of tools and technology.

The ship held many surprises and amenities that the crew were still getting used to. The scaffolding had been moved away so that the ship could launch. The crew were standing at attention on the ground, with Captain Celaeno waiting in front of them. Tempest and Sprywing were talking with Luna, who was there to see the ship off. Capper hurried to meet them.

“Ah, Capper,” Celaeno greeted him. “I was just introducing Sprywing to the crew.” At the sound of his name, the pegasus turned to the Captain, who continued with the introductions. “This is our chef, Lix,” The portly, pink female waved. “Our ship’s engineer, Mullet,” the taller bird with the eye patch nodded. “My weapons expert Boyle,” he waved with his hook claw. “And this is Squabble,” the googly-eyed bird squawked a greeting and bobbed his head back and forth. “He’s sort of a jack of all trades.” The Captain turned to Luna. “Well, Princess, the crew is ready. Permission to disembark.”

The Princess almost squealed in delight, “Permission granted.” The Captain turned to her crew and nodded and they marched up the gangway, into the ship. Luna looked at Tempest and Sprywing. “Good luck on your missions.” Tempest nodded, looked to Sprywing, and they both boarded the ship.

Celaeno looked at Capper, who felt a bit embarrassed and proceeded up the gangway. She then turned to Luna and saluted. “I shall endeavor to honor and uphold the laws and principles of Equestria to the best of my abilities.”

“Good luck, Captain Celaeno.”

The pirate captain nodded, then boarded her ship, Storm Chaser. When everyone was aboard the gangway was raised. The dock master blew his whistle to signal that the ship was ready to launch. Ponies scrambled to disengage mooring lines. The traffic control tower signaled that the ship was clear to launch.

Aboard the ship, on the bridge, Captain Celaeno made preparations to take off. The control board was modern, with many readouts. She pushed a button to signal to the engine room, “Engine room, status?”

“All indicators are green, Captain,” came back Mullet’s voice.

“Very good. The control tower indicates that we are clear to launch. Give me one quarter power.” It was not necessary to explicitly make the order because the engine could be controlled from the bridge, but protocol required that during embarking and disembarking, maximum communication between the bridge and operations should be observed.

“Aye, one quarter power.”

There was a hum as the engines increased their power output. Celaeno pushed the throttle forward and operated the controls to lift the ship up. It wobbled slightly as it left the ground. She looked out the window and watched the buildings get smaller as she ascended. It took several minutes to reach a safe cruising altitude.

The sky was clear and blue. Canterlot got smaller and smaller, and the castle looked like a tiny toy. The Captain set a course to spiral around Canterlot as she gained more altitude. Eventually she was at the altitude she wanted. The air was colder up here and she looked around for her coat, but then she realized that her new ship had central heating. This ship is going to spoil me, she thought as she dialed up the temperature on the bridge.

She set a course south, opened the ship’s sails, and cut the engine power back to idle. The processes of was automatic, unlike her old ship which required a lot of manual work. This ship is going to spoil all of us. Squabble came up the port side stairs and saluted. Celaeno nodded, “You want to check out the crow’s nest?” He nodded. The Captain pointed to the port hole at the back of the bridge, which gave access to the crawlway up to the crow’s nest. She smiled and said, “Have fun, and keep your eyes peeled.” Squabble scrambled into the crawlway.

Celaeno turned back to the front window. This is what she loved: sailing the open skies, seeking adventure. But this time around, she had a purpose: to serve an honorable Princess and a peaceful kingdom. She thought she would feel reined in by the terms of the letter of marque, but she felt good to have a sense of purpose. She was at the start of a new set of adventures, with new friends and new goals. She smiled.

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