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The Shadow of Ice: Blueprints to Battleship[North of Las Pegasus]

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It was deep underground. Set in a ravine that was a good half days walk north from her casino in Las Pegasus. Everything was rocky and surprisingly well lit of being underground. Her royal blue and silver custom made Royal guard armor shimmered as light from the torches flickered off of it. She stood there waiting. She was anxious to see what was starting behind the doors that were behind her. This had been a long time in the making. Ever since the ground was tilled for the casino, shoot from the days that she was given the Opalus spheres... This was what she meant to do. Meant to protect those that are not able to protect themselves. "The spire.... will never happen again..." she said to herself as she looked up and awaited. A look of ferocity and unrelenting determination in her eyes.

 

It was just behind these doors that something... of which Equestria had never seen was being constructed. The builders that she had hired from the income from the casino estimated that with everything as it was the ship itself would take about a year and a half to complete. It was perfect. With herself training under Princess Luna and furthering her own power, she was sure that she would make Equestria a force to be reckoned with. Everypony will think twice before trying to invade them or attack them again. She knew that Tempest would be there. She sent word out to the Princess and Sombra as well. She presumed that the four of them would want to be present for something as monumental as this. Ice was as proud of this moment. She was going to be able to show everypony that was putting their trust into was capable of actually following through with her promises. She wasn't going to let everypony keep her from her goals. Equestria was safe under her. She just needed to buy a little more time.

 

Truthfully, the keel was likely already done. After all, the keel would be the first piece of metal itself, but it would be starting to take it's shape today. They would be discussing quite a few things today if everything went according to plan. One matter of great importance was a raid on the old Storm King Armory. Tempest had mentioned it before in their initial meeting in the Mareage that she was looking for something like that. To be honest, so was Ice. There was the simple fact that if they didn't go and find the armories, then somepony else would. She stood there full attention, full plaid in her custom royal guard armor. "No matter the cost.... we can't let anypony else find those armories... those can become a substantial liability to Equestria. Anything that we find in there that won't prove useful must be destroyed... Still, there's a lot that we could reverse engineer, perhaps even integrate some of the designs into the ship Then there's the matter of staging, and setting up outposts and once we get enough resources, shipyards..."

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Tempest trots down the hallway, her hoofsteps matched by a dozen more as her entourage followed in her shadow. One was her honor guard. The first one to pass her tests. A pegasus, his mane dyed to much hers and outfitted in heavy black plate. He did not speak as he followed her. The other stand out was a caribou, He dressed well other than the heavy iron ring clamped to his neck that had a chain hook on it. On his back was balanced a plate holding some drinks for the rest of her entourage. Officers, all asking her things. Training regiments, how the testing is going. Passing and failing and other boring things. “No. We will not lower the requirements. I don’t care if are recruiters are struggling to find worthy applicants. A few that are worth my time ARE worth are time than a dozen useless fillies that can’t punch something.” She says in her trademarked cold, uncaring tone before shifting her gaze to another Officer that slinks back from her glare. “And two more got hurt? Soon as the doctor clears them make them take all the training again… Yes. All of it. I don’t care if they are in pain, if the doctor says they can walk make them take it again. If they don’t I will handle it myself and force them to undergo the training I give my honor guard.” As she says that her one honor guard smirks but keeps silent.

 

She turns down a hallway. “Now I have a meeting. All of you leave.” She did not even stop to see if they did. She knows they did. Her entourage stops on the spot and turns about and heads back the way they came. Tempest picks up the speed of her trot to meet up with Ice. “Hail Lord Commander Strom!” She shouts out, slamming a front hoof against her chest, leting steel hit steel. Her trot slows in to a walk then stops beside ice. “Sorry for being late, plenty to see to around here and hardly the time in day for it.” She says with a snort. “But I am giving it nothing less than my best. So today is the day… My baby is starting.” She says with small grin to her lips looking at the door to the drydock. “I am honestly excited.”

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Out of the last pair of them, Princess Luna was first to arrive, finding her way to the ravine's entrance by wing rather than wasting her time walking. She'd gotten the letter from Ice Storm that mentioned that the construction on her airship was just beginning and she wanted to come and see it for herself. It was as much curiosity as it was to gauge what exactly Ice Storm was building, what sort of capabilities it had.. In truth, she was nervous about a warship being built in Equestria. It felt like it would send the wrong kind of messages, but at the same time.. perhaps make it clear to others that Equestria was not so soft and undefended as it seemed simply because they strove for peace and unity.

 

It was a situation of mixed possibilities, and Luna was left uncertain about how to really feel about it.

 

It would be after Tempest Shadow's arrival that Princess Luna would enter. Heading underground had forced her to walk, and she did so on silver-shod hooves. She wasn't sure what to expect as she entered through the doors and paused, spying two familiar figures. She lingered nervously on the edge, as of yet unnoticed and her teal eyes drifting past them every now and then to the construction.

 

It would be a little after that King Sombra would come striding in with his confident gait, his head held high and his hooves silent on the hallway floor. He faltered when he saw Princess Luna and quietly grunted, startling her. Her flinch was subtle, and she stepped aside, glancing back at the umbrum with wide eyes that soon narrowed. Of course, Luna hadn't forgotten what she'd learned from Ice the night of their conversation. Sombra strode past her to meet up with Ice, looking like his usual grumpy self- if a little more so after the travel and having to walk all the way from that noisy city to this place. His red, slit-pupiled eyes would briefly linger on the other, darker unicorn with interest, including the jagged stump of her horn.

"Ice Storm," he purred softly, his focus switching back to the pale pony. "Is this all you've called me here for?" Sombra queried, looking out over at the construction with an impassive face, one eyebrow slightly raised.

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The first of the ponies to arrive down the hallway to the door was Tempest. It didn't surprise her in the slightest. Tempest had been waiting for this announcement for a while. To her this day couldn't get here soon enough. She apologized about being late and that how there was still so much for her to see around here, but she was giving it nothing less than her best. "I would expect nothing less from a mare of your caliber. But yes, today is the day. It's actually been under construction for the past couple of days bot just beyond the doors you can really start seeing the keel of the ship starting to take shape," she commented as the two others soon followed her. Luna kept quiet, but it was obvious that she was deep in thought. This wasn't something that anypony that held power in Equestria knew about, but it was important for Luna to know who she was trusting, and that who she was putting her faith in wasn't just all talk.

 

Sombra was the last to arrive, and it appeared that Luna was still withholding judgement on him as well. They had a good time together at Celestia's birthday, and it shed some light on things, but there was still a bit of hesitation there. She couldn't blame her. It was after all, entirely possible that Sombra was playing with Celestia's emotions to try to lower Equestria's guard while he tries to organize something from the inside. She wouldn't put it past him, but at the same time, she was willing to extend the benefit of the doubt. If he was trying to pull anything, Luna and her should be able to see any of the warning signs before they become a problem. That is of course if Celestia's own judgement hadn't been clouded by then. This was a very precarious situation now. At this time, they would just have to trust him and hope that everything worked out.

 

"Actually, this isn't all that I've called you here for. Aside from being here for the laying of this ships keel, and watching Equestria's most powerful battleship start to take a form, there are quite a few things that we need to discuss. Things have been rather quiet, which has been a good thing. It's giving us time to get to full power. I like this. The more time we have to get The Shadow of Ice completed, the better. Once that thing is in the open, enemy nations would think twice before trying to attack us again. Come, please, let us make ourselves more comfortable while we watch our masterpiece come together and discuss business," she smiled pushing the doors open and revealing in full the very, very large steel keel that was currently being constructed beneath them as she began to trot out onto the balcony where a table and chairs was already present, arranged in a way where everypony could watch the construction.

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Tempest tossed a glance at Luna. She was… less than trusting of the sisters. Well they have allowed her to go free she can’t help but feel they saw her as some other pawn. A risky game to play. ‘Only a cat of a different coat’ as they say. But she will play along for now. But Sombra was… different. She watched him make his way to them. He was bleeding with power and she has seen his name in many a obok. But in the flesh… Was rather handsome. Strong. Deadly. She liked him. Well she did outrank him, she held much respect for him. “Vice Admiral Sombre, wellcome.” she says with faint nod out of sed respect.

 

Looking too Ice she smirks like a wolf. “And thank you for believing in me. Before long you will have the best army in all the lands if I keep at it. Hard as it has been so far. But nothing worth doing is easy.” She says back to ice. “And soon as it flies… oh trust me, I will live for the moment you let me off the chain and when I am even dragons will learn how low they must bow.” She follows ice past the door on to the balcony. Tempest almost shaved Ice out of the way as she rushed to the rails and looks down. Well it was nothing much to look at yet, this was the start of her new beloved ship! She was almost shaking with excitement at the size of the keel. Oh it will be a beast! A real worship of the skys. She was so excited it made a short  giggel of joy leave her muzzle. “Glorious. Just glorious.” She hums.

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King Sombra's voice had successfully distracted Luna from the beginnings of the ship and she moved to join the trio, standing closer to Ice Storm than she did Tempest or Sombra. The former was studied curiously, catching the glance that Tempest had given her as well as how she addressed Sombra. Vice Admiral? Her expression seemed to ask as she looked over at Sombra, who saw her looking his way. He only arched an eyebrow and shrugged in reply before his attention returned to Ice Storm and the other dark mare in the room, whose name he'd yet to properly learn.


"Is that so?" Sombra replied dryly, following after Ice Storm as she lead the way to the balcony. His eyes curiously followed the dark, broken-horned mare's excitement as he picked a chair to settle down in, sinking back in such a way that suggested he was sitting in a comfortable throne rather than an ordinary chair. His posture was a lazy slouch back, his forelegs draped over the armrests.

 

"What will we need to discuss, and in Princess Luna's presence? I had no idea she even knew of this little organization of yours until now." An eyebrow arched, silently questioning Ice Storm and that particular lack of information. Of course, if he were in Ice's position, he'd probably withhold something like that too because it would suit him, but to be on the receiving end was unacceptable.

 

In silence Princess Luna had followed the trio out onto the balcony and sat in the chair furthest from Sombra, looking on with concern over Tempest Shadow's excitement over the airship. Her teal gaze would eventually be pulled back to Ice Storm, curiosity in her bright eyes over the same thing: what could they discuss now that they were all together here, summoned here by the leader of STAR? Luna carefully tucked away her concerns, ready to bring them up once she had an opening to- and that would be as soon as their discussion began. As a princess of Equestria, she felt she had to express them at least.

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"With your rigorous training, I have no doubts that the army we are building will be no match. However, do remember that we are also meant to be a sanctuary for the ponies that have nopony else to turn them and not all of them may be capable fighters. I don't was STAR to become synonymous with Tartartus and that ponies would rather die than join. That's the exact opposite of my goal," Ice Storm started in response her eyes not leaving Tempests.  "However, I'm sure that you'll be able to pick up one the ones that aren't as combat prowess as we would like them to be able be able to shape them in other ways. You, Sombra, The Princess and myself can't be everywhere at once, so it perhaps those that can't fight can help with tactics or basic maintenance. Younger ones that we pick up need to be allowed to play as well. After all, a lot of that play goes into training as well and it just comes natural. It will ultimately help with on field reaction time. Do not underestimate the developmental value of play. Not to mention, how they play can give you better ideas how to best train them, and show us right away where they would fit within the organization," Ice continued as she looked out over the ships hull.

 

She could practically feel the excitement pouring from Tempest as she rushed by her and looked down at the ship. It wasn't much to look at right now, but that would change in due time. She could also tell that the princess had some concerns that she probably wanted to express. No doubt she still didn't completely trust Sombra and truthfully Ice didn't either. It was the main reason she made sure he was so high up in the ranks. It's a lot easier to keep track of a high profile officer than it was a solder of the force that was only accounted for during fights. She understood that there was still some flaws though and that could be taken advantage of at some point. his relationship with Celestia made everything a bit more precarious as well.

 

Speaking of him, when he brought up that he was surprised that she was here and that she would know of her little organization, she smirked. "Of course. Not only does Princess Luna know about the organization, she Endorses it. It doesn't give is the ability the be willy nilly with our actions. We still have to follow the codes that we have set forth. She can help us bend things a little bit and get us out of some interesting situations should she need to, but even then, there is still a limit to what she can actually do and still be able to claim plausible deniability. It also goes without saying that in exchange for telling her this information I have sworn an oath to protect her with my life," she said pausing and looking at the princess. "No matter what road this takes, I will always be there to defend you, to defend everyone in this room. On that, as a member of the Lunar Guard, My honor as STAR Force commander, I don't turn by back on allies. I expect everypony here to do the same," she spoke back looking between, a ferocity in her eyes. "In fact, the pact that I made with Luna was very similar to the pack that I made with you Tempest," she continued.

 

"Not to mention, The three of us, and the princess... we aren't so different... All four of us have been touched by the darkness in our lives at some point, yet all four of us have had drastically different outcomes. Princess... during our discussion on the night that we became friends, the night I joined the ranks of your guard... I questioned my own resolve on how I as one mare could fix Equestria and keep what happened to all of us... that feeling of abandonment and anguish from spreading and torturing others. But now I know how.... The four of us.... Uniting for a common cause. Sombra, Tempest, I know you don't harbor any pleasant feelings for Equestria because of the scorn it showed you in the past. I understand your resentment. It's the same resentment that I had for all Equestrian nobility, and even before my amulets I was never a push over. Had I been in your shoes, I can't deny that I would have done the same thing that Sombra did a millennia ago, and I am a mare of ice... If the storm king would have found and corrupted me, I don't even think Twilight could have broken that cold heart at that point. All of Equestria would have been the same to me...."

 

"However, if we can put that behind us, we can make an Equestria that doesn't have to worry about that anymore. We can be the beacon of hope, for those Equestrian Society has failed. Together, we can make Equestria what it should have been long ago. An indomitable fortress that won't be trifled with... Not only would nopony dare invade us again, but we could weed out the corruption in the nobility. I recently learned... that Golden hoof... the one responsible for tearing my own family apart... didn't stop with my family, but he did this to multiple families, just because he was infertile... Ponies as vile and disgusting as him need to be stopped as soon as possible, no matter the cost... Accidents are one thing, but when somepony makes it their mission to destroy what we protect, they become our enemy, and we will smite them. Maybe not out in the open, maybe not through violence... but if there's one pony like Golden Hoof, there's more. If there's one clan like the Red Jarl's that's willing to invade Equestria on a whim there's more... Let's show them..." she said turning to the other three with a fire of determination and passion in her eyes. "Let's show them why Equestria is not a nation to be trifled with anymore," she finished her small speech with a deep breath.

 

"Enough of that though... I'm getting off topic. The main reason I brought everypony here today was to discuss our next move, and start building our power. Tempest, you mentioned before that you knew the locations of the Storm King armories. I agree with you on wanting to find them, not only to bolster our own forces, but as an exterminates as well. To put it frankly, once you've gotten anything that you've wanted out of them, I want them, and everything else left behind completely destroyed. I cannot risk allowing them to continue to exist and then have them fall into the hooves of a potential enemy. Anything that you think can be useful, be it something for the infantry or something that can be integrated into the ship I want. Otherwise, you know what to do..." Ice Storm said before turning to Princess Luna.

 

"Princess Luna, I will not pretend like I have any sort of authority at all over you. To do so would be complete and utter arrogance and a complete disregard of the trust that you have placed within me. After all, my loyalty is to you, not the other way around everything I ask of you is a simple request and I understand ahead of time if some of those requests may not be possible due to circumstances at that time. After all, I can't risk something that would compromise your own integrity. You of all though know that my loyalty is unwavering, so I could never put you in that position. That being said, I would like to humbly put in a requisition for one frigate, and two galleot sized airships for this mission. We have no idea what kind of forces now inhabit that area and how many of them could be hostile towards Tempest, myself and any that go with us. I will need to train with you more before we embark to even have a chance. I know I'm not push over myself, but I feel with the amount of strong combatants we'd be going after, that I would just get in the way until I've refined my skills more on how to properly read a battlefield. Something as important as this, I don't want to go blindly into," she finished turning to Sombra.

 

"That said, I would very much appreciate it if you accompanied us on this mission. That decision is yours alone though. All I know is that I will not send anyone on a mission that I myself am not willing to go on. And a mission as important as this one... We need our absolute best on it, and at the moment, that's the three of us. I don't count the princess because I know there's no way she can accompany. The only other thing I can ask, Princess, is that you do what you've been doing since you've returned and help keep Equestria safe. I wouldn't be able to live with myself and the failure that came with it, if something happened to you during my absence as your guard."

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Tempests took some mental note to whatever Ice was saying about training. Blah blah don’t go to hard or something. If they not fit for combat they are only fit for low laber of course. Ice did not need to tell her that. And something about play? Whatever. She just looked over the keel, playing out how the rest will look in her head… Standing on top, air blowing in her mane as enages roar and spoke bleaches in to the sky from its eagnes. Beautiful. Only thing more Beautiful will be watching its big guns destroy a city. Oh how wonderful it will be. Flicking her ears Tempests looks over her shoulder as Ice goes on some big speech. Cute. something something, doing good, something something saving Equestria and keeping it safe. Tempest almost rolled her eyes but did not, with Luna in next to them she may as well look like she cared about this land.

 

Now that it was on the real topic she moves away from the railing and joins the gathering. It was… less than what she wanted. She malls it over in her head and speaks up. “I respectfully disagree on how you wish to do this Ma’am.” Tempest walks closer to Ice as she spoke. “The forces that inhabit it are MY forces… The closest one to us was part of my staging grounds. The arms and troops inside of it are well known to me as I am their leader. As such I’d like to be sent in first and alone. I can talk to them and make the gourds stand down. That way we can do all of this in a peaceful manner and maybe I can gain back some of my forces.” She shoots Luna a glance, she hated how they striped her of so much. Even if they did let her walk free she wanted back what was hers…

 

“Moving in force will only make them fire on us. The fort is will armed with cannons… breech loading cannons. Far better then the muzzle loaders still heavy used by ‘soldiers’ of Equestria and it’s naves. Whatever ships Luna has will be outclassed and shot out of the air. They may not even know the king passed. As such they’d be more welcoming to me as I AM there leader… The head of the this armoriey was hoof picked by me from my own honor guard. If I told him to stand down he’d do so. If you are so worried you can pull a rare guard and come crashing in if I do not report back in a given time.” Tempest rolls her shoulders and aimes a hoof at Luna. “But having her at all in this is wasteful. I need not her ships, troops or help. She’d only make things worse. If they think she has taken me hostage they will open fire to save me. The best outcome is letting me go alone… or if Luna will allow me take command over the storm guard in are lands that are still loyal to me. That can give us the best outcome for this. You are all about stopping blood shed are you not Luna?” She smirks like a wolf. “Last thing we need is more lives lost in the name of a peaceful princess.”

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The heated speech that Ice Storm had to give took Princess Luna by some surprise, and as she was mentioned in it about how she endorsed what Ice Storm was doing was enough to make her shuffle uncomfortably in her seat. It was all so.. strange to her. Almost over the top, but not in any sort of 'fun' way. While Luna understood that Ice Storm wished to protect Equestria, as much as she wanted to, as well as present themselves as strong and defensible, there were some things about it that bothered her. She didn't want Equestria to look as if it was preparing to do anything extreme, to give the wrong sort of message.. nor to cause any harm.

 

The dark princess blinked as Tempest Shadow pointed a hoof her way, and her expression darkened to a scowl. Wasteful? Make things worse? She protested against it. "Of course, I am 'about stopping bloodshed', but you know not who you speak of. If I have heard correctly, I will not be coming on this 'mission' of yours, only to provide a few ships for Ice Storm to use for the travel, as well as collecting weapons and materials from what remains of the Storm King's troops. In what way could I make this worse? I am not some foolish, bumbling princess." A silver-shod hoof lifted as if to try to stop any retaliation. "I do not care if it was you who took us down in a mere moment. We were unprepared for the kind of magic you were using."

 

Luna would like to believe the unspoken not anymore, but the world was full of surprises. The Storm King's armies had strange magic that Equestria had never seen before. They might never be prepared for the next threat to come along, but they could try.

 

"Ice Storm," the moon princess turned her attention to the pale mare, "I may be able to give you an airship so that you can reach your destination and bring back what you need, but my concerns.." she trailed off, trying to find a way to phrase it. "I do not want this to get out of hoof. Seeing the beginnings of this warship you intend to have built.. I feel like it could cause as much problems as help us. I.. cannot be certain, but I only wish to insist on caution. It could very easily be used against us, if in the wrong hooves. A tyrannical weapon. Only at the first sign of danger should it be brought out." Luna frowned. "But.. I will be sure to keep Equestria safe. 'Tis been my duty ever since I was crowned one of its princesses, I need not be reminded."

 

King Sombra sat by listening to the entire rant, and the two darker mares who'd decided to speak up. He'd given Ice Storm a slight, acknowledging nod of his head. If she needed him for some mission, he'd be glad to come along. Though Celestia would have questions about his absence, and as much as he wouldn't want to lie to her.. he was sure there would be a way he could twist it so he could get out for a while. Seeing beyond Equestria's borders to see what remained of this Storm King's armies and armories were like intrigued him greatly- an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

 

"I'd be glad to come along. I want to see all that there is," the king answered in a rumble. His eyes flicked between Princess Luna and Tempest after he'd given his answer, knowing that there would most likely be sparks between them- they were both hot-headed. "Maybe sending Tempest in first," Sombra gestured to the unicorn, "is a valid point to see what sort of reaction there'll be. If it'll be safe."

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"Indeed Tempest. I am neither foolish enough nor naive enough to ask the princess to accompany us on this mission, but like it or not, until we get to a point where we can sustain ourselves by our own forces and everypony is adequately trained, we need all the help we can get. Right now, we need any airships that she can provide for us. All of my resources otherwise is going on that ship for the time being. I only have the one casino to generate the income for this entire organization and while I'm certain that it could easily fund it, it's still going to take time for it to raise the funds needed. During that time until we can get some contracts with other ship yards to help build smaller ships for us to use on missions like this, then we'll need to take what we can get," Ice started.

 

"I would also like to point out that not a single ship that we would have though, would look anything like an equestrian ship with exception of the design of the hull. Not only would we repaint them, but STAR itself will never fly Equestrian colors, or harbor any Equestrian insignias on them. The sisters can't possible claim any sort of deniability for anything if a ship flying their flag is in a spot that it's not supposed to be," she said turning to the princess as she voiced her concerns.

 

"To be frank, that's exactly what this ship is supposed to represent," she said looking out over the balcony. "The entire reason for this ship, and the power that it wields, is meant to be the ultimate deterrent. An impenetrable defense in it's own right, and enough fire power that it can send a very absolute reminder that Equestria will not be pushed around anymore. That we aren't going to sit back and wait for them to hurt us. No, when this is finished those days are over. That being said, I unfortunately do not have the liberty of waiting until the first signs of danger for this ship to leave dock. This is a first of it's kind ship, and as such will require a lot of testing to make sure everything on it is fully functional and working property. It does absolutely no good for an Equestrian Defense ship or anything else for that matter, if something isn't working as the schematics say. With something like this, it's better to find out what doesn't work and fix it, before we actually need to use it."

 

"With that in mind, Tempest and I have been discussing possible ways to keep the ship completely stealthed while it's in service. That was actually one of the first things that we discussed when we spoke the first time. She was able to find a way to stealth an entire fleet. One ship should be easy. No pony will know that we have this ship, until we're ready for them to know that we have it. By then, they've probably done something stupid and will immediate wish that they still hadn't found out. "

 

"As far as it falling into the wrong hooves, I can assure you that they would have to go through some elite forces once it's completed. I'm planning the ship itself to be the primary headquarters for STAR. Which means whenever I'm not training with you, or making the necessary appearances that I need to make in my shops and the casino, I personally will be on the ship, and whenever I'm not there, Tempest or Sombra would be. I know you have reason to have doubts, but you also know what they both can do in a fight. On top of that, once it's completely, I plan on having another small fleet of fast moving interceptor ships guarding it. Four to be exact. Two off the bow and two off the stern. Be sure that I'm taking every possible precaution to ensure that a ship of this magnitude does not fall into the wrong hooves," she finished with the princess before turning back to Sombra and Tempest once more.

 

"I agree that letting Tempest go in first and alone could be beneficial to get them to stand down. However, to your own statements, If you go in there, and they still believe that the storm king is alive, and you move in there and tell them that your working with Equestria now, what would stop them from trying to kill you? Hoof-picked by you or not, we don't know where their true loyalty lies. They could have only been loyal to you because you were commanding the armies for the Storm King. To them, you could have just simply been another boss, and now that your out of the picture to them, they might feel like they no longer owe you anything. I'll use our own alliance as an example, if something happened to me, would you still feel any Loyalty to Equestria at all from how it's society had wronged you in the past?"

 

"If you were to go in first and alone, they could ambush you and catch you by surprise, and you would have absolutely no back up. Therefore I view it from a tactical standpoint as being unwise. Despite how much you might trust them, I don't yet. Not to mention, I wouldn't trust them not to attack me on sight either. In their eyes until they hear otherwise from you, provided they are still actually in allegiance with you, they would still likely consider me an enemy."

 

"If we all three went in together though... I feel that would lessen the chance of a disastrous outcome. They would be hard pressed to try to ambush you if they are no longer loyal to you because now they'd have to combat four ships instead of one. They would be more likely to believe that the Storm King had fallen, and once again, we'd be there for back up if they took this news negatively, and if they didn't then they would know of the alliances that we have and react accordingly. Of course, if it's not safe from the get go, we power our way in, take what we need, and destroy what's left. The last part happens regardless but I would like to avoid bloodshed on this mission at all costs. It would send the wrong messages entirely. That being said, I feel these ships should take on the appearance that would be befitting of not only everypony on this balcony, but the organization of STAR as a whole. a mixture of blacks, blues and purples with a galactic scheme. Something that would set them apart from every Equestrian ship, and really every other ship in the skies. They'd never be able to track them down if we played it right," she finished and waited for input.

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Tempest was not the least shocked by all the fussing and crying her remarks got from others. The most useful pony in this room was Ice and had no reason outside of a deal made between them too trust her. A feeling Tempest knew must go both ways for now. She just rolls her eyes and looks at Ice. “I can tell you why they’d not kill me. They are not stupid. Do you think they followed me so easy do to the word of a king? No. I was a pony. A soft… stupid… pony. And I made them learn how wrong they were and made the others watch every last moment of it. Every time one of them spoke against me, showed a hint of falling short I made it clear how I felt about it. They’d not raise one paw against me out of fear and i’d welcome the first one to so much as mutter something against me.” She grins as she says that.

 

“If they forgot my discipline so soon they’d need me to remind them all. But if you must follow me along like a puppy with trust issues so be it. But only you Ice. All others can stay behind, they are all potty trained and can live without us for a few hours.” she snorts. “At least I hope so.” With that she turns about and walks back to the railing, having nothing more to add.

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Luna frowned and she fought herself not to fidget in her chair over Tempest's remarks. What could she possibly say to protest against the mare's views of ponies, and when she was one herself? Hardship did not make a pony better than all the others, nor did the lack of that hardship left ponies soft and stupid. Sure, perhaps their education system within Equestria needed improvements, and perhaps the country itself was largely a peaceful one.. but ponies were at least happy because of the latter, were they not?

 

The princess tried to bite her tongue, knowing that if they started to argue over inane topics like this one, then they would get nowhere. She turned away, paying more attention to what Ice Storm had said. "Even an elite force may not be enough. We truly do not know what lays out in the world, and what sort of powers exist who might overpower your force to seize your grand warship, but I have spoken my words of caution." Her voice was quiet, and as solemn as ever. Luna cared more about the safety of Equestria as a whole than a ship, and she wouldn't hesitate to ground it in one way or another if it were ever used against them. She would try to have faith in Ice Storm, and her elite force that was STAR.

 

"Aside from that, I might.. ask that you avoid using any sort of theme that might suggest that I am involved. I know that your organization may be called STAR, but perhaps avoid using anything 'galactic' or 'space-y'. Ponies may often think of me when they think of the night sky, and.. we are meant to be subtle in this are we not?" Princess Luna asked, her head tilting, and her blue mane gently glittering as it drifted with the movement. "I am certain we can draft designs of thy flag until we find one that is both pleasing and acceptable, without giving too much away."

 

Tempest's arrogance, to Sombra, was astounding. And he thought he was arrogant. He had to wonder where Tempest even got it, considering.. Possibly her training and her life under this Storm King she once followed. He'd have to find some time to get to know this mare better so he could see exactly how her mind worked, but until then he could only observe her and listen to the three mares and their discussion.

 

He'd said nothing against Tempest going it alone, initially, to wrangle her strange creatures under her hoof. If Sombra had known what Tempest had been thinking about them all, he might've been a little ruffled. As it was, he did not, and the king could only coolly watch her. "You get quite angry when you feel challenged," Sombra quietly remarked with a slight tilt of his head. As tempted as he was to nettle her a little, he decided against it. "I think we have a good enough plan, as it is. Let her go, and deal with them. We can take what they have, afterward."

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"All the more important that the fleet is built as quickly as powerful. With the size of the ship itself, it will be slow. There's no way around that. It's why this ship will be protected with armed fast moving ships," Ice Storm commented when she heard Luna stated that they truly didn't know what was out there. She warned that there could be something out there that could overpower them and take control of the ship itself. "Believe me, that's not something that I'm going to let happen. I have plenty of fail-safes in place to prevent such a thing from happening," she continued.

 

Tempest then started to speak up about how the army there grew to respect hr because she forced them to. They knew that she was in charge because she demanded it, and not just because she was put there by the Storm King. "Be that as it may, arrogance leads to self-destruction. There is no reason to risk sending anyone in alone. I would be willing to let you enter first as I said, but I will be behind you if not but a short distance. Besides, We are the most powerful in STAR. We need to know that we can work together and trust each other in any circumstances. This entire organization will not work if the three leaders are not compatible with each other. That is why regardless of whether or not we let you go into the armory first, we all need to go on this mission together. We must be on the same page or it will create dissidence within the ranks. I will not have that," she countered both to Tempests and Sombra's retorts.

 

When the princess brought up that the design might be too easily pieced together, reciting something that Ice Storm had told the princess herself not that long ago, and she was surprised that she didn't think about that first. A lot of ponies think of the princess when they see the night sky so using a color pattern like that would be almost a dead giveaway. "Aye, That design won't work that well then. Considering I'm one of the ponies that told you that I should have made the connection myself. That said, it's something that will need to be done as soon as possible. I do not want to fly Equestrian Colors for any mission that we are on. The less they can connect us to Equestria, and the more that they thing that we are a rogue agency, the better," she finished as she looked out to the ship.

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Tempest keeps looking down at the ship under works. Her tail flicking with irritation as she hears what they had to say. At least Sombra sided with her. But Ice was having none of it. “Fine. puppys it is. Follow along if you must and drag Sombra as well. Let's to hear what I have too say. Not like I was there leader for years or something. Whatever.” She rolls her shoulders and looks back at them with face full of barely controlled disgust. “But I believe my part in this is done unless you must keep me for teatime. I need to get back to training the fodder.”

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Plenty of failsafes. Luna could certainly hope so. Ice Storm was a sharp mare and she seemed to be prepared for the worst, and yet Luna still couldn't quite shake that little paranoid voice in the back of her mind over this ship. It could become such a threat to them.. as much a threat as it would be to any other invaders who wanted to take a page out of the Storm King's book. The princess sighed quietly and listened to the argument between Ice Storm and Tempest- the latter mare who Luna wasn't taking much of a liking to with her attitude. The sheer arrogance and hostility.

 

Aside from the matter of the banner design, Luna could see no other reason for her to stay here now that topics were starting to move further along towards the realm of this particular mission. "It would do you well to heed the suggestions and advice of your fellows. I know you are confident in the task you have set yourselves, but you will get nowhere if you cannot work together," Luna spoke up, her voice soft, and echoing the same sentiment Ice Storm had just uttered. The alicorn doubted Tempest would pay her much mind, but she would speak regardless.

 

"Ice Storm, once you have figured out ideas for your organization's banner, perhaps you can send them along to me to look over and perhaps I can help you decide on one. If you have no more need of me here, I might return to Canterlot." She'd rather not linger here, and around Tempest, any longer than she'd have to be.

 

A glance was cast over at King Sombra, who was still lazily slouched in his seat and listening in on the conversation with something of an unreadable expression on his face. An eyebrow would be the only response to the disgust that Tempest aimed at the three of them and he pushed himself to sit up in his seat with a soft snort. "Well, if we're decided.."

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T Twister entered the base, deep in thought.
--

Spoiler

 

"Well, THIS tolls the funeral bell !" she fretted, "What have I gotten myself into ?!  That offer to work for STAR sounded good ... in principle.  But this needless secrecy ?  Can only lead to trouble.


The EUP had exactly the same mission as STAR - and THEY worked out in the open !


'We need to maintain plausible deniability !', the higher ups doth proclaim.  But you only need plausible deniability when whatever you doing is illegal, immoral, or unethical, and you want to maintain a FACADE of decency.  


Protecting Equestria from invaders is none of the above.


'We need to make all invaders know that Equestria is NOT an easy prize to be taken !'  intone the officers.  But how can invaders learn that if we work in secret ?


Equestria will not change - it will look as 'soft' and 'weak' as it always did; however, the invaders will learn that one particular airship can stomp their behinds.

 

But since that ship's true alliance is secret, no one is expected to make the connection that it represents the defensive power of Equestria !

 

Thus, lesson NOT learned.

 

And once they notice that it only defends Equestria's interests, you'd only need the brains of a tree stump to deduce that the ship is either Equestrian, or an allies.


Meaning the secrecy is pointless.

Equestria needs defenders.  But is the current way STAR is intended to work the way to do it ?"


The Angel and Devil of Decisions appeared on TT's shoulders - Yang (a pure white pegasus mare with a large black spot on her forehead, representing the positive and light), and Yin (a pure black pegasus mare with a large white spot on her forehead, representing the negative and dark).


"STAR actually has the resources to do the job." Yang stated.


"If being a bigger menace than the threats we defeated is 'doing the job' you mean !" Yin snarked back.


"Ice Storm definitely wants to protect Equestria." Yang replied.


"Tempest seems to be doing what she did before.  EXACTLY as she did before." Yin retorted, "Different goal, but same methods.  A hammer and chisel are great for sculpting, but not so good for cooking."


"And no one's sure of what Sombra is up to."  TT interjected.


"This disharmony can only lead to disaster if allowed to continue." both Yin and Yang say as one.


"So, I should stay and attempt to sort things out ?" TT inquired, "The organization is new, so it will take some time for things to settle down."


"As a single pebble can start a city-breaking avalanche, so can a few words into the right ponies' ear have great influence !" stated Yang cheerily.


"Why should they listen to you at all ?" inquired Yin after she got done rolling her eyes, "You are merely a mortal amongst divinity !  An irrelevant piece of background furniture !  Cannon fodder to be used or ignored !"


"Uhm, Yin ?" Yang asked.


"An easily forgotten Nothing !"


"Yin ?" Yang inquired again.


"A single grain of sand on the infinite beach of their relevance !" Yin continued.


"YIN !!"


"What ?"


"Are you going somewhere with this line of thought ?"


"Oh.  Right !" she sheepishly replied before turning to their host "So - what will you do if things take a turn towards the dark ?"


T Twister sighed.  "If that happens, then the moral thing to do would be to take the whole organization down."


"Even if you have to go down with it ?" inquired Yin.


"Yes." TT replied, "I joined this organization of my own free will, so I have no excuses.
At the least, the best place to disassemble an out of control organization from is from within."


"So, observe, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and do the best you can with what you've got.  Same as usual." Yin sighed.


"The Plan is as formless as water.  It can adapt to any situation !" Yang cheered, "Being inconspicuous is a good thing in this case !"


Yin facehoofed before she and Yang disappeared in a puff of imaginary smoke.

 


Having devised something that vaguely resembled a plan, T Twister went to the base's locker room to stow her bags.
She'd recently received a care package from her parents in Canterlot - homemade snacks, and a magazine from her father.


Tales Of The Almost Unbelievable, Issue # 472.  With stories with titles like 'The Human That Fell Into The Sky', 'Hayburger Zombies', 'How a Street Thug Beat A God', and 'Orange Frogs and Poodle Teacups'


"I don't know where dad finds these things, but they're always a hoot !" she chuckled to herself as she put it in her bag.


"Okay you two - no funny business until I get back !" she stated to Ace and Deuces.  Ace gave her a salute, while Deuces sort of half saluted, yawned, then went back to sleep.


T Twister went to the gym for yet more training (alongside the rest of the 'fodder'), and waited for someone to show up.

 

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