Specifically: these ponies are all CRAZY!
Soon after Twilight Sparkle publishes a paper explaining that the magical land of Equestria is not a flat plane covered by a bowl of stars, but actually a planet in a heliocentric star system, Chrysalis, queen of the changelings, decides that the next step in her program of conquest is to harness the power of the moon.
Of course, first she needs to get there to claim it.
Changeling Space Program (CSP) and its sequel, The Maretian, are My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics by Kris Overstreet, telling the story of the Space Race between Queen Chrysalis' Changeling Space Program and Twilight Sparkle's Equestrian Space Agency and subsequent events.
The missions depicted in CSP are based on missions played through Kerbal Space Program; most of the minor in-game mishaps are translated directly to the story.
There are three related works.
- "My Flight": Cherry Berry loves two things: Cherries and flying. Even though she has Twilight Sparkle's balloon on permanent loan and her own personal helicopter, she wants something a bit faster. (Prologue. Complete.)
- Changeling Space Program: The space race is on. Can Queen Chrysalis and her hive of enthusiastic, but not-too-bright changelings beat Twilight Sparkle and her friends to the first moon landing? (Crossover with Kerbal Space Program. In progressnote .)
- The Maretian: The race to the moon is over, and the Changeling Space Program and the Equestrian Space Agency are now working on a joint project to reach Bucephalous, the next planet out from their sun. A mishap during testing of Twilight Sparkle's experimental rapid-teleport interplanetary drive system strands three ponies, a changeling, and a dragon in a different universe on a hostile planet with a wrecked spaceship, very little magic, and a rather surprised human named Mark Watney. (Crossover with The Martian. Complete.note )
The fanfics contain examples of the following tropes:
Most tropes applying to the source material(s) are also in effect unless otherwise noted.
Tropes common to all stories
- Alternate Continuity: As CSP was begun before the season 6 finale ("To Where and Back Again") aired, the entire "skittle-bug" plotline is treated as one of Chrysalis' bad dreams.
- Angrish: Unlike Cherry Berry, Chrysalis lapses into this when confronted with particularly blatant displays of idiocy.
- Cerebus Syndrome: CSP is primarily a comedic space adventure with plenty of slapstick and ludicrous sitations to navigate. The Maretian is a survival adventure where the humor comes mostly through character interactions and Mark Watney's snarky log entries.
- Danger Deadpan: The pilots in both organizations strive for this.
- Deadly Euphemism: "Have a Bad Day."
- Easy Logistics: Sorta. Taking its cue from Kerbal Space Program, the life support transmission crystals can supply effectively unlimited water and air, but due to bugs in the transmission spells, carbon compounds (i.e. food and many fuels) cannot be safely transferred through the system. (Yes, electrolyzing water can yield hydrogen for fuel, but that has its own storage issues.)
- Info Dump: All three stories include information about flight, space flight, or other scientific material. In particular, Goddard the Griffon and the minotaurs of Changeling Space Program, and to a lesser extent Mark Watney in The Maretian, are prone to become Mr. Exposition as required.
- Interplanetary Voyage: Getting to orbit, much less to the moon and beyond are major undertakings.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: Cherry Berry is usually a typical pony, just as prone to panic attacks as any other citizen of Ponyville. But put her in a cockpit and she becomes the proverbial Steely-Eyed Missile Mare.
- Mission Control
- Changeling Space Program Mission Control is based on the NASA model.
- The Equestrian Space Agency had a more informal atmosphere until ESA mission 5 demonstrated why having several ponies simultaneously trying to supply information/advice is not conducive to crisis management. Subsequent missions adopted CSP procedures.
- In The Maretian, Houstons Mission Control Center is featured during the Sleipnir (resupply probes) and Phoenix launches.
- Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Even allowing for magical ponies, things generally sit around 3 ("Physics Plus") or harder.
- Changeling Space Program
- The obligatory "Not my department" from Dr. von Brawn.
- Twilight is inspired during a CSP delegation tour of Cape Friendship.And then Twilight Sparkle had an Idea.
An awful idea.
Twilight Sparkle had a WONDERFUL awful idea.
- The Diamond Dog space program, such as it is, is named Project Stardust.
- Starting with mission 9, Occupant, as CSP Flight Director, takes to wearing white vests (referencing Gene Kranz, as shown in Apollo 13).
- Chrysalis exerts her royal prerogative by declaring "Booger!" over the ship-to-ground comm.
- Hobble Jimenez is a riff on the "Astronaut" sequence of José Jiménez.
- Flight Surgeon Dr. Gingerbread House does the physicals for the CSP Missions 13 and 14 tourists.
- Chrysalis apparantly has recurring dreams about "the pink fluffy thing".Of course, she told absolutely no one about those dreams. Let her changelings have their Fun Machine; she was keeping the Fun Cave in her dreams entirely to herself.
- Pinkie reassures everypony that the robotic probe she helped design wouldn't pose any problems.You dont need to worry about Probey-Dobey going haywire and destroying all Equestria unless you see weird robot ponies with Hosstrian accents trying to kill the ancestors of the future resistance.
- The Maretian
- The final part of the first chapter nods to Knock.
- The Equestrian language being described as horse-welsh is a nod to Gulliver's Travels.
- While researching possible spells for sealing the cave farm, Sunburst looks at Flois du Roses Dark Side of the Wall.
- Starlight names the charmed gazebo in their first D&D campaign Mister Darcy.Mark Watney: Dont ask me how the gazebo got named Mister Darcy. I havent got a clue, and I was there when it happened.
- When Dragonfly emerges from her cocoon on Sol 287, the anonymous smart-ass(es) at JPL adding their two cents via Pathfinder chat, respond to demands that they identify themselves:
- What would a stranded astronaut who is also a huge fan of superhero films name a sapling sprouted off a tree grown on another planet? What do you think?
- During their last night before setting out for the Ares IV MAV site, the equestrians have uplifting or profound dreams. Mark, on the other hand, gets "Attack of the Killer Potatoes".
- During the trip to Schiaparelli, Dragonfly reports that the RTG is 'saying', "Good night, mortals, good work, I'll probably kill you in the morning."
- As preparations for the Hermes rendezvous proceed, Maj. Martinez mentions that no-failure instrumentation is something of a Holy Grail.Cherry looked at Starlight. "What's a grail? And why would anyone want one full of holes?"
Starlight shrugged. "I'm not sure," she said. "All I know is, it has something to do with naming a man after a dog."
- Changeling Space Program
- Sir Swearsalot: Cherry Berry has an impressive grasp of invective in several languages (Equestrian, Griffon, Germane, Japonese, Minotaur, and eventually English).
- Subspace Ansible: The telepresence spell used to monitor Equestrian spaceflight appears to be instantaneous and has the additional benefit of being immune to the re-entry blackout experienced by conventional radio.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Cherry Berry's extreme fondness for cherries.
Tropes applicable to "My Flight"
- Meaningful Address: 13 Doublecross Lane.
- Toyetic: The first two scenes in the story give a double-barrelled Take That! to certain Hasbro toy releases.Sure you can have my ornithopter! Pinkie Pie smiled. Im not using it anyway, no matter what those toy company executives think!
Tropes applicable to Changeling Space Program
- Abandon Ship: Chrysalis considers this as an eventfullnote CSP Mission 3 starts descending by parachute, only to remember that her wings are bound inside her pressure suit, and thus wouldn't be such a good idea.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Twilight's pursuit of a purely magic-powered single-stage-to-orbit design sufficiently distracts the Equestrian Space Agency to keep the Changeling Space Program neck-and-neck with them in the race to the moon.
- Berserk Button: Bringing up the renegade changeling Thorax invariably upsets Queen Chrysalis, but that's nothing compared to her reaction whenever someone mentions Kevin:Chrysalis: YOU ARE FORBIDDEN FROM SPEAKING THAT NAME AGAIN IN MY REALM!! UNDERSTOOD??
- Brain Drain: Never a hotbed of intellectual prowess, Chrysalis' hive finds itself with three competing centers for drones (theoretically) capable of unsupervised work: Horseton Space Center, Cherry's Rocket Parts and Odd Jobs in Appleoosa, and the hive itselfnote . As changelings are gradually accepted into greater Equestrian society, a small number of freelancers also contribute to the drain.
- Centrifugal Farce: Played more or less straight as part of the training regimen.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Double Face fades from the narrative around the time the Horseton Space Center becomes operational.
- Conservation of Competence: Practically name-checked by Chrysalis, who refers to Occupant at one point as having "used up the competence ration for the hive today". Since the moment of competence lasted for less than ten minutes, and Chrysalis roughly estimates her subjects as numbering thirty thousand or so, this does not speak well of said subjects.
- Death Glare: When sufficiently provoked — e.g. Presented with a space capsule made from a cardboard box or asked by a well-meaning princess to add just one more small piece of equipment to an already iffy rocket design — Cherry Berry can produce a glare that even Chrysalis is hesitant to face.
- Diplomatic Impunity: The reason Chrysalis can start a space program at all. Yes, she tried to conquer Equestria and failed, but she is absolute monarch of the changeling nation (such as it is) and thus can conduct her scheme openly under the cover of peace negotiations.
- Exact Words: After Rainbow Dashs Almost Bad Day, Pinkie withdraws from active work with the Equestrian Space Agency, declaring that she couldnt set hoof at Cape Friendship again and limiting herself to preparing food. However, that doesnt mean she cant show up at Horseton Space Center to help out with robotic control systems.
- Failure Montage: Chapter 2 has a series of changeling flight experiments involving large slingshots, teams of drones using magic boosting a volunteer, combinations of the two, and, finally, Pinkie Pie's party cannon. Results are many injured and disappointed drones.
- Footnote Fever: Kris has stated on several occasions that Terry Pratchett is one of his major writing influences. CSP has the footnotes to prove it.
- Hidden Depths: Space Tourist Jet Set, as owner of an airship construction firm, has several useful suggestions for improvements to the CSP passenger module.
- Klatchian Coffee: During the work up to Luna's space tourism flight, she arranges for her own special blend of beans and the equipment to brew it. After an unfortunate incident when another tourist accidentally drank a cup and subsequently attempted to become the first griffon to perform a sonic rainboom......labels were added to the coffee pots: REGULAR, DECAF, and WAIVER REQUIRED.
- Made of Explodium: In the tradition of Kerbal Space Program...Everyone at the table stiffened as they heard the faint but unmistakable sound of an explosion through the administration building walls.
"What was that?" Cherry asked.
"A rupture of the liquid fuel storage tanks?" von Brawn guessed, rising from his chair.
"An accident in Marked Knee's lab?" George Bull suggested. "He's been working hard on his new electronic calculating engine."
"Electronics explode?" Chrysalis asked.
"This is a rocket flight center," Goddard grumbled, rising to an arthritic hover over the table. "EVERYTHING explodes."
- Morphic Resonance: Whatever form Occupant shifts to retains his buck-fanged dentition.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many of the scientific and technical experts Chrysalis recruits are based on pioneers in rocketry, mathematics, and electronics. A few other pioneers and notable space-related celebrties make an appearance as part of competing programs or tourists.
- Goddard the Griffon: Robert Goddard (rocketry)
- Warner von Brawn: Wernher von Braun (rocketry)
- George Bull: George Boole (mathematics, particularly digital logic)
- Lord George Cowley: Sir George Cayley (aeronautics)
- Marked Knee: Guglielmo Marconi (radio)
- Popov the Yak: Alexander Stepanovich Popov (radio)
- Lord Garriott de Gryphon: Richard Garriott (space tourist)
- Not the Fall That Kills You: Discussed as Hobble Jimenez imparts this nugget of wisdom to Jet Set and Upper Crust during their free fall training in the vertical wind tunnel.
- #1 Dime: Occupants E-Z-Scry-Me Ball; the first object he purchased via mail-order.
- Oh, No... Not Again!: Cherry Berrys reaction when Flim and Flam show up at Horseton Space Center and start singing about their mobile TV production facility.
- Only Sane Man: Cherry Berry and Chrysalis both try to rein in overly enthusiastic changelings and boffins with tenuous connections to reality.
- Pass the Popcorn: Chrysalis first thought when seeing half a dozen changelings cowering from Cherry Berrys wrath at the Cardboard Box Space Capsule.
- Patter Song:
- Flim and Flam repurposed "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" to expound on their mobile television production studio ("Super Sailing Studio 6000").
- "Appy is Uppy" is a fairly entertaining (and catchy) way of getting across terms used when navigating in space.
- Pen-Pushing President: Or Pen-Pushing Semi-enlightened Despot. "Going legit" has saddled Chrysalis with a vastly increased burden of paperwork. Documentation for her subjects (birth certificates, background checks, employment and rental references, etc.), diplomatic and commercial correspondance, etc.
- Post-Victory Collapse: Chrysalis, after successfully piloting a fraughtnote CSP Mission 5 and keeping up a nonchalant front while being chewed out by Cherry Berry...[She] resumed her walk, calm, cool, collected, opening the admin building door with her magic, stepping into the portable building, and closing it behind her.
Only alone among the deserted desks, with the door locked, did she allow herself to slowly flop over onto her side.
A few seconds later she curled up into a fetal ball as the shakes began.
- The Radio Dies First: During the second phase of CSP mission 21 (Orbital rendezvous and rescue), the telepresence spell crystal on Dragonflys ship is damaged as result of a glancing impact with the Griffon capsule, cutting off communication with Horseton. This forces Dragonfly to compute her orbital adjustments on her own.
- Reality Ensues: Soon after Chrysalis decides to go to the moon, she discovers just how difficult such an undertaking is.
- Red Ones Go Faster: An article of faith among changelings, expressed during the initial rocket design meetings.
- Show Within a Show: The Look At It! documentary covering CSP mission 9, complete with Changeling-positive commercial spots.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Queen Chrysalis' hive are, on the whole, extremely loyal and enthusiastic about whatever projects she has for them. Unfortunately, the number of changelings that can be trusted to perform tasks without close supervision is rather small.
- Talking to Themself: Pinkie Pies internal monologue in Chapter 11 bifurcates into an argument/discussion.It shouldnt even be a question. We-
Wait a minute. This is me talking to myself, right? So shouldnt it be I instead of we?
I dont know. Talking to myself is so confusing!
- That One Sidequest: One would think that taking a Flea booster to altitude for a test would be a simple straightforward contract, and not something that takes 4 attempts.
- Too Good to Be True: The first half of CSP mission 11 (first planetary orbit) proceeds much too smoothly for Cherry Berrys comfort, due to a particularly grueling set of simulator runs during preparation.
- Training Montage: As part of the build-up to CSP missions 13 and 14, we get glimpses of the prospective space tourists' training (both physical and academic) regimen.
- You Are in Command Now: In the wake of the Storm King's invasion, Cherry Berry finds herself acting Queen of the changelingsnote in order to keep things running while she organizes a mission to rescue three astronautsnote stranded in Equus orbit.
- You Didn't Ask: Lunas explanation to why she hadnt bothered to correct the flat disk with celestial dome model proposed by Clover the Clever: She never asked us.
Tropes applicable to The Maretian
- Aliens Speaking English: Only after learning it through practice.
- Anti-Mutiny: After the Hab breach of Sol 88, Cherry Berry, who feels she has failed as leader of the pony crew, attempts to resign as mission commander. The others aren't having it, not even Spitfire, who up to this point has felt awkward about being the lowest-ranking member of the crew after being commander of Equestria's most elite military unit.Is it a mutiny when the crew is forcing the captain to keep giving orders? Dragonfly asked.Yes!! Cherry Berry snapped.
- Background Magic Field: The absence of this on Mars is a critical problem for the ponies. The initial stress of attempting to draw mana from the nonexistant field caused a cascade failure that destroyed all but two of the ponies' mana batteries. Life does generate some mana, which allows a slow recharge of their remaining batteries, but initially, all the life on Mars fits in the Ares III Hab with lots of room to spare.
- Bilingual Dialogue: Although he can't speak Equestrian, Mark does pick up enough vocabulary and grammar to understand what the ponies are saying in their native language.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The translation spell Starlight Glimmer cobbles together to speak with Mark Watney tends to do this, especially when confronted with the literal nature of pony-world names. For example, the spell at one point renders Spitfire's name as "Slobberflame." Between this problem and the fact that the spell can only be used for about ninety seconds before Starlight collapses from exhaustion, it's no wonder that she pushes hard to get everyone to learn English.
- Call to Agriculture: After returning to Equestria, Cherry Berry purchases a small plot of land on the outskirts of Ponyville for a small cherry orchard as a place for Groot to live.
- Celebrity Paradox: In Mark's universe, the My Little Pony franchise does not exist, so the sight of brightly colored ponies instead reminds him of Care Bears.
- Determinator: Pretty much all the castaways. Except Dragonfly, who gives up after she has her magic-starvation-induced monster breakdown. It takes two months in a cocoon followed by a scolding by Starlight Glimmer to get her back on track.
- Disaster Dominoes: The chain of events leading to the Equestrians getting stuck on Mars. Bonus points for contributing to the storm that strands Mark as well.
- Also, the outcome of the launch of the Ares IV MAV, rechristened Phoenix.
- Distant Finale: Some time after Mark is returned to Earth (long enough for him to earn his Botany PhD), we see how the various Martian castaways have fared. Enters Fast Forward to Reunion territory, depending on whether a jammed door is enough to avert it.
- Door Stopper: Over 450,000 words.
- Everyone Knows Morse: Well, at least Dragonfly, Twilight, and Drying Paint (the duty watchmare at Cape Friendship) know the pony equivalent. Mark initially needs a cheat sheet for his Morse messages.
- Everything's Better with Plushies: Mark fancifully wishes for plushies of all of his companions. Hasbro, along with a plethora of not-necessarily-authorized independent fan-creators have them for sale by the time the castaways are ready to leave Mars.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: Happens unintentionally via accidentally overclocking the "Many Short Teleports Very Quickly" drive.
- First Contact: Yes, but there are more pressing issues immediately confronting the castaways than pondering the significance of the meeting.
- First Contact Math: One of the first things Starlight does when trying to communicate with Mark is to stomp out numerical sequences. This leads him to conclude:Obviously this can only mean one thing: shes a sci-fi geek whos read all the classic first-contact stories.
- Five-Token Band: The reason the five crewmembers of Amicitas were chosen. Two members each of Equus's two leading space programs, plus a veteran of one of the discontinued smaller programs. One each of the three pony tribes, one changeling, and a dragon to represent the other speaking races. Twilight Sparkle chose the crew to maximize popular support rather than to pick the best-integrated team, because the mission was only expected to run five days, maximum. Fortunately for the crew, the selections worked out much better than planned, partly because the team included Equestria's most experienced space pilot, the most powerful unicorn of her generation, a more intelligent than average changeling, an elite military officer... and Fireball.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: After Dragonfly has cocooned herself, the others ask home for help getting her out again. What follows is Chrysalis's half sarcasm, half test prescription to wake her up again:Procedure for reviving Dragonfly. Take one stick. Apply vigorously to side of cocoon while shouting the following chant: wake up you lazy drone, quit draining people in your sleep, dont you know larvae are starving in Mareitania? Repeat as needed until desired results are achieved. Over.
- When Dragonfly finally emerges, Starlight Glimmer, afraid that Dragonfly has become a ravenous monster, attempts to apply Chrysalis's procedure. Dragonfly reacts about as you'd expect someone getting whacked on the head right after waking up to react.
- Afterwards, Spitfire keeps the stick and uses it to admonish Dragonfly for being too angsty. Once Cherry Berry figures out Spitfire's mostly doing it for her own relief, and that Dragonfly is going along with the gag, she puts a stop to it.
- Higher-Tech Species: Both sides initially believe this of the other, and neither are necessarily wrong. (Earth computers/electronics/rockets are about half a century ahead of Equestria's, and the Equestrians have the benefit of Sufficiently Analyzed Magic.)
- Humans Are Smelly: Especially after a couple of weeks in close quarters with extremely limited hygene facilities.
- I Want My Jetpack: For all Mark's remarks about how the Equestrians are insane, he also states that they're exploring space the way humans should have, dang it!Theyre not wasting time with their space program. One day they just decided, Lets go to space! And from that day they threw everything they had at it- magic, science, courage, and political will. For most of my lifetime we had the science and the courage, but not the will. Now weve got it back. Dont give it up again.
- In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Averted with the first "Group Photo" sent to Earth after radio contact is reestablished. (Everyone had their polarized helmet visors down, and Starlight wasnt going to risk a lapse in concentration while maintaining an air bubble spell.)
- Interdimensional Travel Device: Unintended consequence of failure to limit the Sparkle Drive's collision avoidance system to just 3 dimensions. Later used purposefully for the search-and-rescue mission. The Mirror Portal to the Equestria Girls universe also makes a brief appearance.
- "Last Supper" Steal: After contact with Earth is reestablished, one piece of fan-art is clearly inspired by this.The shot panned from left to right, showing first the five Ares III crew members on Hermes in various poses; then, in the center, Mark Watney, looking wryly amused but not particularly holy; then the five alien castaways; and finally, in the position of Judas, a Roman centurion fingering a bloody sword and wearing a most unpleasant smile.
- Learnt English from Watching Television: 70s sitcoms and action shows, with saving grace The Electric Company (1971). Also Beatles and disco song lyrics. Eventually, more formal English lessons are provided.
- Mana: A critical limiting factor in how much the ponies can contribute to survival on Mars. Life generates mana, which can be stored in purpose-made batteries. So food production not only supplies needed calories for consumption, but also mana which can then be used to enhance Earth Pony agricultural abilities (Yay, more food!), cast useful spells, or enchant objects (like more batteries, or a replacement Sparkle Drive crystal).
- Meaningful Rename: The formerly nameless Ares IV MAVnote is christened Phoenix by Cherry Berry, partly after the magical reviving bird, partly from an Earth story related to the ponies much earlier in the story. The new name turns out to be much more meaningful than originally intended.
- The Merch: In-universe, the Equestrians ask NASA to manage the marketing of toys and other merchandise based on the castaways.note
- Multistage Teleport: Because the magic cost of a single teleport scales exponentially with distance jumped, the underlying mechanism of the Sparkle Drive is very short (under 5 meters) jumps performed very quickly (thousands of times a second).
- The Multiverse: Not just CSP!Equestria and Mars. Exploration probes sent to locate the castaways find their way to several other alternate Equestrias (including Equestria Girls) and universes containing Transformers, Gundams...
- Nightmare Fuel: Following the successful test of the repulsor spell launch technique on Mars..."It worked perfectly," Venkat said. "It worked absolutely perfectly."
"I wish you hadn't said that," Mitch muttered.
"Usually the first time you try to launch anything, it blows up on the pad," Mitch said. "Or there's some other in-flight glitch. But everything went right in the test. So what's going to happen next time, when they do it for real?"
Venkat sighed. "Thanks a lot, Mitch," he said. "I was just running short of nightmare fuel. Thanks very much for topping me off."
- No One Gets Left Behind: Toyed with, if not outright averted, in the case of Dragonfly. After she comes out of her cocoon, Starlight Glimmer points out that it's not about emotions or morals: the others simply won't be able to escape Mars without Dragonfly's unique abilities. (Though to be fair, emotions and morals would lead to the trope being upheld; it's just that there are more fundamental reasons for saving Dragonfly too.)
- Off the Rails: Once Mark and co. start playing D&D, we get a few incidents of this kind.
- Mark sets up an encounter with a Dread Gazebo. Starlights cleric Charms it and adds it to the party.
- Starlight begins her first stint as DM with a heavy-duty epic quest laid out at the partys feet. Fireball immediately suggests going airship pirate instead, with everyone else quickly agreeing. Cue Head Desk from Starlight.
- Raging Stiffie: Mark has a couple of embarrassing incidents of this sort while sleeping in close quarters with the ponies. The first time resulted in a pair of hoof-shaped indentations in Rover 2's passenger bench. The second resulted in a hoofprint on his chest.
- Slices, Dices, and Makes Julienne Fries: Mark's Sol 207 log entry mentions the line in reference to the utility of unicorn magic.
- Spontaneous Choreography: The spontaneous singingnote part happens a couple of times, to the bewilderment of human observers and participants alike.Dont ask us why we sing
Its just a pony thing
— Dragonfly during the adaptation of Space Oddity.
- Switching P.O.V.: Narrative viewpoint rotates between the six castaways in limited third person (or first person in the case of Marks journal entries) with occasional shifts to the crew of the Hermes, NASA personnel on Earth, or even back to Equestria. Every now and then, there are passages in omniscient third person. True to the source material, these tend to be harbingers of misfortune.
- Tempting Fate: Any time one of the crew suggests that things are looking up, Murphy raises his head to snicker. After a few incidents, they learn to be more judicious about their statements.
- Translator Microbes: Starlight has a spell that allows limited translation between English and Equestrian, but it has problems dealing with metaphors and technical jargon. This and the limited availability of magic makes learning English a priority for the Equestrians.
- The Unpronounceable: Mark describes the Equestrian language as "horse Welsh" and is physically incapable of reproducing several of its vowels. (His attempts to speak it generally result in embarrassingly scatological or anatomical phrases.)
- Unreliable Expositor: Dragonfly claims to sense first the emotions of certain inanimate things... and then to hear their voices. Considering that throughout the story she suffers from a steadily worsening case of magical malnutrition, this could be entirely in her head, as she is the first to admit. Or... possibly not...
- Unwinnable Training Simulation: Although it's mentioned that Cherry Berry failed her fair share of simulator runs learning to fly the MAV, one particular run personally overseen by Major Martinez on Hermes was designed to be unwinnable... and Cherry (with Spitfire as copilot) won it anyway. The solution involved jettisoning over six hundred kilograms of materiel out the airlock, misusing maneuvering thrusters to provide constant acceleration until the fuel ran out, then refilling them and doing it again. The ponies were about to get out and push the spaceship when the simulation program reported a successful resultnote . And then Cherry shocks the humans on Hermes by saying she wasn't bothered because she's done all these things before in actual flight.