The office windows were dark. The lamp on Princess Celestia’s desk burned with a yellow light, seeming pitifully ineffective at driving away the darkness in the room. Despite the late hour, she was still awake and in her office. Someone was coming to see her. It was important that she met with him.
A piece of parchment lay on the desk in front of Celestia. She’d read and reread the words written on it until they were burned into her mind. The terms were dry and their meaning grim. At the bottom of the page were two signature lines.
Celestia’s ears twitched at a noise outside her office. A moment later, the door was pushed open. The armored guard who held it stared with narrowed eyes at the tall figure who strode past him and into the room.
The man was clad in a black uniform. There were four stars on his collar and little else in the way of decoration. His face carried more detail, with a pair of intense eyes and a long, deep scar crossing his cheek.
A large sidearm was strapped to his hip. Its metal was worn with use and frequent cleaning. The man’s boots were similarly worn yet polished. The heels clacked harshly as he crossed the floor.
Celestia stood. “General.”
The man approached the desk. “Princess.”
“Please have a seat,” she invited, drawing on all her politeness to do so.
The man adjusted the chair on his side of the desk and sat in it. Celestia returned to her seat across the desk from him. Their eyes met.
“I’d like to get this out of the way,” Celestia said, looking down. She turned the parchment towards the man, sliding a quill and inkwell over to him.
He continued to stare at her. “Princess, do you understand the terms of the treaty?”
Celestia’s jaw tightened momentarily. “I was involved in the writing of it.”
“But do you understand what will happen when you sign it?”
Celestia took a moment to compose herself. She let out a breath before raising her eyes. “The last few years have been unprecedented in Equestria’s history. We never expected to come in contact with a new species from the stars. I cannot stand to see my ponies killed. I want this war to be over.”
“I’ll ask again,” said the man. “Do you know what you’re getting into? I don’t think you do.”
“And who are you to tell me what is best for my country, General?” Celestia now had no trouble meeting his gaze.
“Let me tell you about humanity. I want you to understand a few things.” The man sat up straighter and went on. “Our species has been roaming the stars for centuries now. Before that, we lived isolated on our home planet.”
“I’ve read your history,” Celestia cut in. “Many people died in an attack from a species you called the Alphas.”
The man nodded. “The attack on Earth was our first brush with life outside our home world. We saw to it that it was the last brush the Alphas had with anyone. We developed a space program fueled by vengeance. We went after our enemies and destroyed their world.”
Celestia looked at him coldly. “An eye for an eye never solved anything.”
“You’re correct,” the man said, surprising Celestia. His next point, however, completely shattered any momentary understanding he had built with her. “Simple, equal retribution accomplishes nothing. Are you familiar with the concept of genocide?”
“I can guess what it means,” Celestia replied, a sudden sinking feeling overtaking her.
“The Alphas indiscriminately killed our civilians in their attack. We killed all of them. Our planet was never threatened again.”
Glancing away, Celestia gritted her teeth before replying. “I should have expected as much. The psychology reports I’ve read about humanity do not paint a pretty picture.”
The man continued to stare at her, seemingly unaffected by her mood. “You should have seen us when we were still isolated. With no outsiders to fight, we got along fine by killing each other. Millions and billions died without ever leaving the planet.”
“What?” This was something Celestia had not heard before. “How…how could you possibly have survived as a species, then?”
“The only thing humanity does as well as tear itself apart is come together. We had to in order to survive the environment. Princess, unlike your planet, we didn’t grow up in an idyllic paradise.”
“I would hardly call the amount of natural disasters and dangerous creatures we have idyllic,” Celestia retorted.
“People don’t have magic, weather control, or the ability to eat grass,” the man stated, flatly refuting her. “Despite that, we killed all the dangerous creatures and fought our way to the top of the food chain. Mother Earth was not gentle or kind, so when we were able, we took our revenge.
“We bent the planet to our will. We stripped the soil of minerals and built anything we wanted. We dug canals that separated continents and demolished entire mountains. We were the masters of our own destiny.”
“I imagine the appearance of the Alphas in the middle of that was quite a shock,” Celestia observed.
The man nodded. “But we overcame. After we glassed their planet-”
“Glassed?” Celestia asked.
“We burned everything so thoroughly and at such temperature that even the soil melted.” The man looked at her, annoyance at being interrupted clear on his expression. “After we did that, we landed and began mining. They were dead and we took their planet.”
“But…why didn’t you give them a chance?”
The man blinked, as if the idea was a foreign concept. “They attacked us. Despite that, we did offer them a treaty of surrender. They didn’t take it, so we killed them all.”
Celestia’s mouth hung open for a moment before she closed it. “And what of other species you have encountered?”
“The Betas contacted us peacefully and we drew up a treaty of formal alliance. That was important later, when the Gammas declared war on the Betas, which might as well have been directly on us.”
“And you destroyed one species in defense of another?” Celestia surmised.
“No. The Gammas accepted the terms of surrender when we offered. They knew what happened to the Alphas.”
“And that brings us to the Deltas,” Celestia murmured. “I certainly know of them.”
“They don’t seem the type to offer surrender,” the man said.
Celestia paused and then shook her head. “No, they haven’t replied to any of our diplomatic communications.”
The General looked down at the treaty in front of him. “Princess, you said that want this war to be over with.”
He looked up to meet her eyes. “Do you understand what will happen if we sign this treaty?”
Celestia closed her eyes and recited the first paragraph of the text from memory. “The signatories of this treaty establish a formal alliance for the purposes of mutual defense. Each shall come to the aid of the other in times of war.”
“Princess, if you sign this treaty, we will help you fight the Deltas.”
She looked at him. “You’ll destroy them?”
Celestia cast her eyes over the treaty again. “I just want the war to be over.”