“We’re getting a response from the Victory.” Flare Depth exclaimed, turning the volume up.
A moment later everyone cringed as a burst of static assailed their sensibilities. The cacophony of sound was accompanied by flashing as long-abused circuitry in the walls chose to rebel, eventually cutting off the speakers entirely.
“It would appear those repair droids were less than thorough.” Rarity sighed, making a mental note to add some living crewmen to the repair rotations.
“Divert emergency power to my headset.”
Flare Depth complied with his Captain’s command, and soon Lumina was listening intently to whoever was speaking on the other end. The other Senior Officers craned their heads, but none were able to pick up more than the occasional faint syllable. They were, however, able to read their Captain’s expression, which gradually transitioned from pensive to troubled and eventually downright grim.
“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked anxiously.
“The Solfyre has been overrun. There are only a few crew members remaining, but they appear to have command over communications at least.”
“Is there any way we can help them?” Flutter Hart offered.
“We may not have time.” Lumina asserted. “The Admiral wants us to lead the fleet out of… whatever this is. I have received temporary executive command until this matter is resolved.”
“Slight problem there,” Aurora interrupted. “We may be able to get out, but how’re we going to lead the other ships? We don’t even know exactly where they are.”
“If we can’t find them, we can make them come to us.” Twilight countered. “We have a signal beacon: if we could make ourselves visible then they can follow our lead on the way out.”
“They’d be following blind.” Aurora protested, but the faintest hint of hope now suffused her voice. “Probably not with a full crew either. Will they be skilled enough to get out in one piece?”
“They will have to be,” Lumina sighed. “This place is a death-trap; all the ships have sustained losses, and staying here will only lead to more. Start powering up the beacon, but do not broadcast without my word.”
“We’re moving out already?” Pinks pouted. “That wasn’t part of the plan.”
“Perhaps not, but neither is it destructive. It merely calls for an acceleration of our own.”
“Ooh? What’s my new job?” Pinks asked, perking up a bit.
“You must return home; find Abigail and prepare the device we discussed. I will stay here, and contribute to our freedom.”
“Okie dokie lokie!” Pinks made a strange sound, somewhere between a giggle and a hiccup, then vanished in a bubble of light.
“She is improving,” the Phantom mused as he departed to perform his own task.
“Abigail? Oh Abigail?” Pinks chorused, taking a left turn at an intersection that looked just like the last half dozen.
By all rights the network of tunnels were impossible to navigate, but Pinks had long ago learnt to trust her instinct, and that same instinct had brought her here, to the edge of a massive ravine. At the bottom, Pinks saw the Eclipse, albeit without any of the extensive damage that had accumulated and been repaired over the years.
“Brand new.” She giggled, “Guess that makes this fairly recent. Not too recent though.”
The time-travelling officer barely had time to turn around before Abigail leapt on her, bringing them both into a roll.
“Abigail!” Pinks chortled.” You’ve grown!”
Pinned under the Void Rat as she was, it did not take a deductive genius to realize that Abigail was at least half again the size she’d been upon their first meeting.
“Becoming a queen does grow the benefit of size.” Abigail explained when she finally climbed off Pinks. “What about you? Have you altered in the past year?”
“Year?” Pinks raised an eyebrow. “Oh, time warp! Its only been a week for me. But yeah, things are pretty crazy back home.”
“And the Phantom?” Abigail glanced about nervously, expecting the spirit to appear at any time.
“He’s a teensy weensy bit busy saving the fleet.” Pinks shrugged, “We need to get down to the bottom of this ravine though. Can you help?”
“Certainly, Miss Pinks. Climb on.” Grinning, Pinks pushed herself upright; swinging her leg over Abigail and mounting the Void Rat in one fluid motion.
“Grab on tight.” Abigail warned as she went over the edge; using her razor-sharp claws to keep hold of the nearly vertical surface.
Together, Void Rat and rider hurtled down the side of the ravine, heading for the distant Eclipse.
“Now is the time.”
The dark presence brushed over Discord, drawing goosebumps along his arm. Ancient and powerful, its voice reverberated within his mind, attached only to the thin identity that was Phantom. Though he had never encountered his master face-to-face, Discord had nonetheless obeyed, his latest mission bringing him before Captain Oblivia’s sleeping body with a glowing gem in his hand. Handling the otherworldly crystal with reverent care, Discord pressed it up against Oblivia’s forehead.
Affixed to the sleeping Captain, the gem slowly decomposed, releasing radiant light that enveloped her entire body. When the last of the gem vanished, Oblivia went along with it.
“So life-like.” Oblivia murmured, reaching out to touch the hull of the ship to whom she owed her life. Predictably, her ghostly hand passed right through it.
Seemingly not content with hovering some distance away, whatever force controlled her movements had brought Oblivia right up next to the ship. Despite the lack of touch, Oblivia was still overjoyed, and busied herself examining the smooth, rounded hull and the delicately engraved contours of the individual plates.
Oblivia blinked, looking around in confusion. The voice had been familiar yet distant, and she had the suspicion that it was the power behind her movements. Indeed, the familiar wind rushed past her face as she fell towards the ground. Smiling sadly, Oblivia reached out the hand that had just brushed the Eclipse’s hull – her perfectly coloured, solid hand.
Surprise turned to horror as Oblivia realized that in her newfound state, a head-on collision with the ground would undoubtedly be fatal. Her lips moved, mouthing the words of an incantation, but there was too little time for it to succeed. Oblivia hurtled towards the ground, and as she reached those final few meters, the Captain closed her eyes. Thus, she did not see the pink glow that suffused her unfortunate landing, turning hard-packed dirt into a soft duvet.
Oblivia grunted as the wind was knocked from her; the shock forcing her eyes open. Those same eyes widened when she beheld the duvet she’d landed on, complete with pillows identical to those in her quarters onboard the Eclipse.
“Is this the afterlife?” she murmured, stroking the mattress to check if it was real.
“Not quite.” An unmistakably cheery voice replied.
“Pinks?” Oblivia gaped, lifting her head enough to catch sight of her Officer of Morale, her glowing pink aura a bright contrast to Abigail’s dark fur.
“Yeppers. If it helps, think of this place as the baby of a memory and a waking dream. Now come on, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“Are you sure this is the right thing to do? There might still be a better way.” Aurora Flash pleaded, ignoring the warning glances of her colleagues. The command bridge was oppressively silent, but every once in a while someone would check-in, completing the final procedures to prepare the engines and the signal beacon.
“Perhaps,” Captain Lumina conceded, “But under the circumstances, staying here is too great a risk. We have already lost most of our crew; I will not allow any more deaths. Activate the beacon.”
“Now or never Captain; you’re on the air,” Flare Depth reminded her, handing Lumina a microphone. She took a deep breath, mentally preparing for the trial to come. Though she had never felt stronger, Lumina still couldn’t help but wish Oblivia were there beside her at this time of crisis.
“This is Captain Lumina Starlight to fleet. The Eclipse is outbound, heading for our own universe. We are broadcasting from our signal beacon; lock on and follow our flight path. Stars be with you all.”
The low rumble of the engines reverberated through the bridge; this was the point of no return.
“Everybody to their stations. We’re leaving this place behind, one way or another.”