Lost in (Horse) Translation

by CategoricalGrant

First Contact

Something big was floating over the National Mall.

The undulating, ever-morphing blue sphere struck onlookers with a deep sense of unease, much more so than even the significant military and police presence in the area. The ball, around eighty feet in diameter, was almost perfectly tangent with the soft grass between the mall’s pool and the Washington Monument, and lit up the dark night with an eerie, Cherenkov-esque glow.

The evacuation orders did little to stem the flow of information about the crisis, and already the internet was flooded with videos taken surreptitiously by civilians with access to nearby rooftops, or by those soldiers and first responders unable to follow their ‘information blackout’ orders in the face of something so strange and unsettling.

Behind an armored personnel carrier, parked in a massive circle around the anomaly with several dozen others, a platoon of US Army Rangers eagerly awaited their orders.

“The orb,” a Captain in fatigues began, “appears to be made of energy from an unknown source. It does not appear to be any sort of explosive device, and the current concern is that is an as of yet unseen transportation method for the delivery of weaponized assets. The DoD thinks we’re looking at the Russians, or maybe the Chinese. Could be the Israelis too, but if that’s the case I doubt the brass would be pissing themselves like they are now.”

A marksman toward the back scoffed. “The Chinese? Really!? I can’t even get my orange chicken delivered on time, and you think they built whatever this thing is?”

“You secure that shit, Hudson!” barked the squad’s sergeant.

Rolling his eyes, the captain continued. “The CIA spooks think it might be alien in origin, but the higher-ups are still banging the Russia drum. Regardless, we are to await further orders from NORTHCOM before leaving this position. Let me be clear: we are NOT to engage with anything that comes out of that blue ball, unless fired upon first. Do you understand me?”

“Sir Yessir!” the group quickly snapped.

The captain’s radio buzzed to life. “We have contact! Repeat, contact from the anomaly!

“Positions!” he quickly cut. “You heard the man, go!”

The platoon jumped into action, with some taking cover behind the APC, others finding positions behind wooden police barricades, and one hopping into the vehicle’s turret. A loud roar overtook the area for several moments, as an Abrams tank rolled forward into position nearby, its gun pointed squarely at the threatening globe.

A tense several seconds passed as the dark spot at the bottom of the sphere became more and more defined. It began slowly approaching the barricade, and the eyes of all widened.

One soldier lowered his weapon. “What on earth is that?”

“It’s a...horse?” the soldier manning the turret answered.

A slender, white-coated horse with what appeared to be golden adornments slowly walked forward, stopping a good seventy feet from the barriers. 

“That ain’t like no horse I’ve ever seen,” whistled another. “They don’t have wings and horns where I come from.”

The horse merely stood there for several seconds, looking at the spectacle in front of it curiously.

Unsure of how to proceed, the Captain brought the radio to his mouth. “The contact has stopped...and it appears to be an animal. Please advise.”

The static on the radio betrayed the stunned silence on the other end of the line. “...I, uh...huh. A-armored vehicles remain at the ready. Riflemen are to stand down.

The whole platoon relaxed, lowering their rifles and casting worried glances at each other. Still, they kept most of their attention on the new equine arrival from the blue ball.

Another moment passed before the horse lifted a hoof to its chest and appeared to clear its throat. “Tiaskasta, no wetyuai tiaskasta! Fasni to Nessa Lescanti! Wota schila quios?”

“...Did that thing just try to talk to us?”

“I don’t speak Mexican!” the wise-cracking marksman from before called out to the horse.

“Hudson!” his sergeant sneered, pointing to the ground at his feet. “Get over here!

“The contact...animal...appears to be attempting to communicate. What are our orders?” the Captain whispered into his mouthpiece.

The static once again rang through the radio, but this time fell on the soldiers’ ears less heavily. “...We are being told that SecDef has approved communication attempts. Send one man forward and return to alert.”

The Captain turned around and raised an eyebrow. “A volunteer?”

A single hand rose in the air only a second later, albeit shakily, belonging to a younger ranger who grew up at a Wyoming horse ranch. 

With a side-nod of his head, the young man was ordered forward, with the others raising their rifles once more. With great trepidation, the brave volunteer slowly approached the white horse, with it looking on in a categorically un-threatening manner.

“Th-that’s a nice horsie,” he said as he took another step toward it, his hand held out, trembling.

At that moment, two more dark shapes coalesced inside the blue sphere and slowly exited, approaching the first animal. They were also horses with the same features, but slightly smaller; one with a dark blue coat and sparkly mane, and another with a lavender coat and what appeared to be highlights.

The volunteer froze, turning back to his CO and appearing very desperate for direction.

Instead of turning once again to the radio and the equally clueless officers on the other side, the Captain merely shrugged back at him. 

With even more caution, the soldier continued his slow approach. “Th-those are some good horsies. Don’t kick me, okay?”

As he came within about fifteen feet of the white horse, it spoke again. At this distance, the voice had a distinctly feminine quality. “Yoswale! Fasni to Nessa Lescanti. Wota schila quios?” The horse tilted her head as she finished, making it appear as if she had asked something.

“Alright horsie...Wh-where did you come from?” he warily eyed her wings. “Wh-who did these things to you?”

The white mare furrowed her brow and turned to the dark blue horse, who snorted and appeared to roll its eyes. Then the white mare cast a glance at the other new entrant, who appeared to shrug and smile back uneasily.

Appearing unsure, the horse returned her attention to the soldier. “Toskalwe tosa? Wo-ta-schi-la-qui-os?” she sounded again, albeit much more slowly. 

The soldier continued his slow approach. “Just like any other horse...Just like any other horse…” he repeated to himself. Drawing within a few feet, he gently placed his hand on the top of her muzzle.

The white mare’s ears perked up and she smiled at the soldier; an action which sent an immediate, freezing shock through his blood. “Tolaska...Kastini yu he owo!” Quickly, she extended a leg and pulled the soldier tightly against her body.

Unprepared, he shrieked in surprise and struggled to escape.

“He’s being eaten!” cried one of the platoon members.

“No! Don’t-”

A half-dozen soldiers opened up a barrage of automatic weapons-fire, peppering the area with bullets. They appeared to strike three, different colored hemispheres of light before rebounding and striking the wooden barricades, armored vehicles, and pavement by the soldiers.

“Stop! Hold your fire! HOLD YOUR FIRE!” the Captain screamed.

The firing and smoke died down quickly. The dark blue horse appeared to be standing in much the same manner as before, still surrounded by a similarly-colored sphere of light emanating from her horn. A sphere also surrounded the white mare, who appeared to have maneuvered her body so as to shield the soldier she was holding. The final horse was cowering flat on the ground inside of her protective sphere, which she dropped after removing a hoof from her eyes and peering around the field again.

The white mare lowered her shield and released her hold on the soldier, who promptly screamed and ran back to join his comrades. She held out a hoof longingly. “Ra! Ra! Paskota ni ra owo!” Lowering her head, she appeared to sigh.

“Tabuyo posi, Lescanti,” the blue horse, also evidently a mare, said out loud.

Turning, the white mare glowered at her. 

“The analysis concludes that these are not horses, Mr. Secretary. While vaguely similar in appearance, they are intelligent, communicative, possess anatomical features not seen in any known mammals, and are capable of producing shields of immense power which are able to reflect our small arms fire. They are potentially capable of even more.”

Mike Pompeo exhaled loudly, clasping his hands into fists. “So...they are horse aliens...with incredibly powerful technology that we need to keep out of the hands of the North Koreans?”

“That’s what the CIA thinks at this point, yes.”

He pursed his lips. “Let’s see if we can get them into negotiations then, shall we?”

A half-dozen Navy SEALs approached the group of alien horses from another direction, their weapons holstered.

The smallest mare flared out her hooves to widen her stance, and her horn began to shine with a purplish glow, but a terse hoof-wave from the white mare restricted her.

The squad’s point man stopped about ten feet from the group. “Hello. You have entered the sovereign territory of the United States of America, and are hereby requested to proceed immediately to the Department of State to begin discussions about your presence and homeland.”

The white mare turned to her smallest colleague, who again shrugged.

Clearing her throat, the tall and elegant looking horse-leader spoke. “Polay...En...En Polay tos nowaeta.” 

Reaching into a tactical bag, the leading SEAL brought out a large carrot, holding it by the plant portion toward the white mare.

Smiling awkwardly, the mare’s horn began to glow with a yellowish hue, and the carrot was lifted in the air. The remaining SEALs took a stunned step back as the alien horse took a dainty bite of the root.

“Right this way,” the leader said, stepping aside and using a hand to motion toward a nearby set of vehicles. 

The horses shared another set of glances before taking the hint and moving away from the blue sphere and towards the indicated cars. The dark blue horse brought up the rear, her narrowed eyes watching the SEALs warily.

As she reached the end of the line of elite soldiers, she tapped one threateningly on the chest with her hoof. “En gofaltye bescoyal, ne vot…”

Mike Pompeo and his undersecretary, David Hale, sat quietly in an unassuming conference room at the US State Department. The darkness outside, punctuated only by the occasional flashing of emergency lights and the distant howl of sirens, made silence seem the only acceptable position. 

A third human burst into the room soon after, dragging a bag and scattering papers down on the table. “I got here as quickly as I could!”

Standing up, Secretary Pompeo sighed in relief. “David, this is Dr. Jessica Lynn; she’s a linguistics professor at William and Mary; fluent in eight languages and functional in another five. She’s always been our go-to for the stickier situations.”

Not even bothering to acknowledge the junior partner in the room, Dr. Lynn pressed adjusted her glasses and looked Pompeo squarely in the eye. “I have the tapes, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. I can’t discern any significant features in common with any Indo-European or Turkic language, and it’s doubtful that it’s related to any language isolate, either. These are really and truly aliens.”

“It’s ok, Dr.,” he answered, gesturing to a seat beside him. “Set up and just do the best you can for us.”

“Sir,” a soldier stationed at the room’s entrance began. “They’ve arrived. Are you ready?”

“Send them in.”

The doors swung open, and the three aliens sauntered inside. Eyeing the seats, they stepped inside and naturally gravitated to a set of three chairs across from the human negotiators. They cautiously took their seats, although the white mare, being almost the size of an earth horse, took a moment to fidget into a comfortable position. The chair creaked slightly under her weight.

“My name is Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State of these United States of America. We look forward to cordial relations with your, ah...people as a result of this meeting.”

Appearing very confused, the white mare in the center of the alien negotiators sat up as straight as she could. “Reostoska wetyuai luyy nexic, talwyani vosnexa. Fasni to Nessa Lescanti…” gesturing to her right, then left, she continued. “Schti to Nessa Nurat, Schi to Nessa Whitala Svalti.”

Mike Pompeo turned to his linguist, who returned his gaze immediately.

“Some sort of position or title, followed by a personal identifier,” she quickly responded, answering his silent question. 

“Fascinating,” he mumbled to himself.

Hale spoke next. “I am Undersecretary David Hale,” he started, tapping his own chest with a pointed finger for emphasis. “Pleasure to meet you.”

Raising an eyebrow, the white mare hummed softly. “Dah-vi Hael,” she responded in kind, tapping her barrel with a hoof in kind.

“N-no no, my name is David Hale,” he corrected.

The horse tilted her head to the side.

Noticing the white horse’s confusion, Dr. Lynn pointed at David from her end. “He is named David Hale.”

The white mare pursed her lips in thought. Tentatively, she raised a hoof and pointed it at the smaller, lilac horse to her left. “...Dah-vi Hael?”

“Let us try again,” Dr. Lynn cut in, speaking slowly and clearly in an almost certainly futile attempt to communicate anything of the introduction. “He is Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State. He is David Hale, Undersecretary of State. I am Dr. Jessica Lynn, Consultant Linguist and...er, ‘translator’.”

Princess Celestia looked down at Twilight Sparkle, her face practically begging her for answers. 

“Some sort of personal identifier, followed by a position or title.”

“Fascinating,” Celestia hummed to herself.

Abruptly, Luna slammed her hooves down on the thick wooden table. “I have had enough of this charade! We were lured to this wretched conclave on the promise of additional carrots, and you have yet to meet your obligation!”

“Luna!” Twilight hissed. “Please! We are trying to set up diplomatic relations with a powerful alien race, not get ourselves killed and start an interdimensional cataclysm!”

“I will not be silenced,” Luna huffed, leaning back in her chair and crossing her forehooves against her barrel. “My cause is just!”

Smacking her mouth a few times, Celestia scrunched up her muzzle. “I’m a little parched. Do you think it would be rude to ask for water, like they have?” she asked, eyeing the water pitchers and glasses that the bipedal aliens were utilizing to hydrate themselves.

“I suppose it couldn’t hurt to ask,” Twilight answered.

“Ex-cu-se me,” Celestia began, loudly and with emphasis on each syllable. She pointed to the glass near the larger, older male alien. “Could you pro-vide us with some wa-ter, puh-lease?”

The alien turned to his female advisor. “Xorgon clognorthi gabaz zxoxi naxxanro?”

“Caznaz mazgza vovyvu bagxxin...pormmn gliznu…” she responded, in a tone that sounded unsure of itself.

The male alien returned his attention to Celestia. “Wexponn glork korgnb quiccxi kaznatharan?”

“...Twilight, please help, I’m scared.”

Luna growled. “Oh, for goodness’...” she mumbled to herself, lighting up her horn and stealing the glass from the younger male alien. Quickly, she downed the entire glass of water before filling it up again with the pitcher.

Instantly, the older alien stood up from his chair, frantically gesturing to the alien Royal Guards stationed by the dorway. “Boznexu! Tralxix bavasz! Rit! Rit! Rit!”

Moments later, three additional glasses were placed on the table. Further additions were a second pitcher of iced water, and a smug expression on Luna’s muzzle.

“What is wrong with you today?” Twilight asked tiredly.

“As I stated before I was dragged here with you, I should be at home protecting the dream realm from the comfortable safety of my bed. Instead, I am dehydrated after an assassination attempt, and sitting here with some hairless monkeys who can speak neither Equestrian, nor Old Ponish.”

“...Did one of your Night Guard colt-toys get engaged and transfer jobs again?”


“I really think that we should get back to the task at hand,” Celestia gently corrected. “I think our guests are getting a little confused.”

Indeed, the two males appeared completely oblivious to the internal argument between the ponies, while the bipedal female flipped furiously through stacks of papers, scanning them with hungry intent.

“I just don’t get it,” Twilight mused. “This plane of existence is so close to the one with Sunset Shimmer and Canterlot High, and we can communicate with them just fine!”

“They do appear to be a little less colorful than I remember…” Celestia mused, narrowing her eyes in concentration. “I think we should keep talking, and hope for the best.”

“Maybe I should try,” Twilight suggested. Taking a moment to compose herself, she started again.

“Teyoungi yayala uino lijyno tonguai vintalo. Fasni to Nessa Whitala Svalti, yalo Nessa Friendship.”

Mike Pompeo’s head shot leftward to face David Hale. “Did she...Did you just-”

“Yeah,” he responded, his eyes the size of dinner plates.

“D-don’t get excited, now,” Dr. Lynn cautioned. “The meaning of the word can’t possibly be the same...With enough phonemes and combinations, there is bound to be the construction of a word that sounds like one of ours. It has to be a coincidence.”

Pompeo blinked and sighed. “Well, I hope this doesn’t start a war then.” He turned his attention toward the lavender-coated mare and smiled. “...Friendship?”

All three horses’ ears perked up, and the smallest mare leaped up from her seat, placing her front hooves on the table and nodding furiously. “Luyy! Luyy!” she cried with joy and relief. “Fasni to Nessa Friendship!”

“Haha, YES!” Pompeo cried, shaking his fists in victory and immediately transitioning into an impassioned high-five with Hale. “No way Kim or Putin will get their grubby little hands on their technology now!” He stood up from his chair and reached a hand over the table toward the lavender horse-alien. “Friendship!”

“Friendship!” the adorable little alien declared, shaking his hand vigorously with a hoof. Trotting happily around the table, she drew close to him. “Retaka friend, lesnita ne owo?”

“Friend! Friend...I, uh, understood that part!” Pompeo reinforced.

“Friend owo!” the little horse-alien declared, wrapping her hooves around Pompeo’s waist and squeezing him tightly.

“Oh, uh… That’s… that’s okay, I guess,” he relented. He patted the little horse gently on the head in an attempt to end the embrace, which only made her squeeze him even tighter and hum happily. “Er… David, do you have any of those lint rollers in your office?”

The large white mare had decided to join the celebration next. “Towesa ti kasi owo!” she hummed, pulling Dr. Lynn into a hug. Her arms flailed as she struggled to breathe against the alien’s fur.

Finally, the dark blue horse, who CIA video analysts had identified as the least receptive to positive communication and displaying behavior expected of a ‘moody teenager’, sauntered over to David Hale. “Taski towesa owo.”

“N-no,” he explained, making an ‘X’ with his arms in front of his chest in an attempt to signal he was not open to affectionate contact.

“Owo,” the mare repeated, a steely strength characterizing her tone.

“Please, I really don’t-”

“Nekasa ra solewa owo!” she cried, stomping an adorned hoof petulantly on the floor. “Ra owo, ra friend! Tisna nikasi Nessa fraum, Nessa trikalyi!” Her eyes burned with determination as she frowned deeply at him. “OWO!

Terrified of the prospect of ruining America’s successful first contact with aliens, Hale sighed and slowly lowered his arms. Immediately, he was pulled into a tight hug, with the blue mare leaning into him until he was forced to collapse against the carpeted floor. She clambered over him, then rested her weight on him, pressing her soft barrel into his chin. 

“Uwu,” she hummed contentedly. 

President Donald Trump beamed as he sent a tweet about his upcoming meeting with the horse aliens. “This is perfect. I’ll meet with the talking horses, get them to support my tariff on China, and win a Nobel Peace Prize. Best trade deal of all time!”

“I agree, sir,” the frazzled aide concurred as he hurried down the long hallway behind him. “But Mr. Bolton is concerned that they might be gathering intel for a future invasion. Do we need to be prepared to take military action?”

“That’s Plan B! Right now, I plan to become the first President to ever meet with aliens. It’s gonna be huge! Sleepy Joe doesn’t stand a chance next year after this story hits Fox!” Extending an arm, he pushed the door to the designated meeting room open and strolled confidently inside. “Mike, how are the negotiations with the al-”

Trump silently took inventory of the situation in front of him.

Mike Pompeo lifted a single hand in greeting after prying it from a small, light purple horse’s grasp. “We, uh, have decided upon a course of friendship.”

Trump looked to the barely conscious interpreter present in the room, and then the supine Undersecretary, both smothered by their own alien horses. Then, he turned around and left the conference room. “Nevermind, I don’t have time to deal with whatever the hell is going on in there. Let’s just nuke Iran.”

“Very good, sir,” his aide agreed, closing the door to the conference room behind them.