“This is very worrying.” said Sunek, the Vulcan. He nodded at the Human, the Klingon, even the Ferengi skulking near the wall, apparently trying not to catch anyone's attention. “It appears that we have all recently been Borg drones. I would therefore expect that the Borg are in the area, looking to recapture us.” He looked at the Klingon. “You said you were plotting a course for Qo'noS. Are you a pilot?”
“No.” said the Klingon. “I am first and foremost a warrior. But I can pilot a ship, yes.”
“Excellent.” said Sunek. “Take the Ferengi with you, and find the bridge. Attempt to ascertain the current situation; I recommend trying to contact the Federation, or find an inhabited planet.” He turned to look at the Ferengi. “Are you familiar with this model of ship?”
“He should be.” said the unicorn with the moustache(1). “He's one of the two who kidnapped me. And these three foals.”
The Klingon smiled at that, showing all his teeth. “Good.” he said, one of his hands slamming down on the Ferengi's shoulder. “That gives me an excellent reason to break his arms if he does not cooperate.”
The Ferengi whimpered as he was dragged away.
“And what will you do?” asked the Human.
“I intend to find out if our rescuers had any plans in mind for this eventuality.” said Sunek, stepping forward towards the nearest sleeping pony.
There was a strange, whinnying noise(2) from one of the little fillies (the horned one).
“What... was that?” asked the human, nervously.
“Their language.” said Sunek, firmly. “The most probable explanation is that the Ferengi had, somewhere on his person, a universal translator. Now that he has left the room, we are unable to communicate verbally with our new allies.”
The yellow one with the ribbon whinnied, and mixed it with a neigh. It sounded a bit more impatient this time(3).
“But if we can't understand them, then how...” began the human.
“I intend to initiate a mindmeld with the leader.” said Sunek. “We shall be able to understand each other without having to wake...” Sunek glanced over the ponies, and took a guess at the pronoun to use. “...her. We shall be able to communicate in that manner.”
The winged filly said something at length(4).
Sunek glanced over the ponies. Which one was the leader? Five of them wore necklaces; one wore a tiara. The tiara-wearing one slept at the front, with the others standing behind her. On this basis, the tiara-wearing one was the most probable leader.
He stepped forward and placed a hand on the side of Twilight Sparkle's head. But before he could fully initiate the mindmeld, a voice boomed through his head.
“This mind is not yours to take, stranger! Retreat at once, lest thou fall foul of the wrath of the Princess of the NIGHT!”
* * *
“Sorry about that, Twilight.” said Luna, returning to Twilight's dreamscape. “Somepony just tried to get into your head.”
“They didn't... do anything, did they?”
“Nay,” said Luna, “we evicted them ere they had completed their connection. However, to visit thy dreams at this distance is somewhat taxing; we shall not be able to protect thee in person for long. Before we go, we shall leave thy mind, and those of thy friends, buttressed and reinforced against further intrusion. But please, tarry not with thy report; our ears hunger for thy news. Thou hadst got as far as to mention the Captain, who had left his ship in thy hands at our sister's suggestion, fleeing in a shuttlecraft rather than face the Borg?”
“Yes.” nodded Twilight. “It took us – I don't know how long to catch up. The Ferengi ship was just sitting there; I teleported us aboard; Sweetie Belle and Applebloom and Scootaloo were there, but they were, well, different. They had some kind of strange armour on, and they were surrounded by bipeds with similar armour, and acting strange, and they said something about 'assimilation'...”
“Tis nary a hopeful situation.” said Luna, frowning. “What didst thou then?”
“We activated the Elements of Harmony.” said Twilight. “Only, after so long without sleep... I'm not even sure if they went off before we collapsed or not.”
“That some being attempted to breach thy mind is not a hopeful sign, Twilight Sparkle.” said Luna. “Thou must endeavour to awaken thyself, as swiftly as is at all possible. I shall visit thy friends in their dreams in turn, and see to the strengthening of their minds against any form of attack. But thou, Twilight Sparkle; thou must awaken.”
* * *
“What happened?” asked the Human. When the Vulcan had been thrown back from the purple alien, she'd managed to catch him before his head hit the wall; that, Sunek knew in the back of his mind, was a good thing.
But the front of his mind was still overwhelmed by the brief shout that had thrown him out of the mindmeld. “It's... full of stars...” he murmured.
“What?” asked the Human.
Sunek shook his head. “The mind of the alien is protected against mental contact in some manner unfamiliar to me.” he said. “A precaution in case of assimilation, I suspect. I was unable to make contact, and I have reason to believe that further attempts to initiate a mind meld might be damaging to myself. I shall not therefore attempt it without good reason.” He stood up. “I believe the logical course of action at this point is to attempt to retrieve the universal translator from the Ferengi on the bridge.”
With that, he turned and left, walking in the direction that the Ferengi and the Klingon had left in. He entirely ignored the two small fillies trying without much success to free their winged companion from the larger winged equine's grasp; he also entirely ignored the little dragon, who'd dragged a pillow from the same room as the sheet Sunek was wearing and appeared to be scratching some sort of complex pattern on it with his claws.
When the pattern was completed to his satisfaction, the dragon burnt the pillow, which turned into green smoke and drifted away.
* * *
“Admiral.” said Celestia, when the gentleman on the other side of the subspace call appeared on her screen.
“Princess Celestia.” said the Admiral, with a slight nod. He kept his expression stern and calm, bracing himself for bad news.
“I have excellent news for you, Admiral.” said Celestia. “It appears that the taint of the Borg has been cleansed from my little ponies. And apparently from several other beings as well; bipeds, from Spike's description. Possibly some of your people.”
“Well, that is good news.” said the Admiral. “If it's true, of course.”
“If it's true?” asked Celestia, raising a single eyebrow.
“Well, if Spike were still assimilated by the Borg, how easily could he fake that message?” asked the Admiral.
Celestia nodded. “I see your point.” she said. “However, there is corroborating evidence. My sister has visited the dreams of the Bearers of the Elements; they managed to use the Elements of Harmony against the Borg drones, and Rainbow Dash remained awake long enough to see that the taint had been purged. And I am certain that she has not fallen to the Borg; Luna would have noticed had they been in Rainbow Dash's dreams.”
“That is good.” nodded the Admiral. “Where is your sister now?”
“Recuperating.” said Celestia, wryly. “Visiting the dreams of six ponies over such a distance, even ones with whom she is so well acquainted, and even with the Elements of Harmony to act as a beacon, even for an alicorn, is a truly stupendous feat of magic. I must admit, I had not realised your Federation was anywhere near that large.”
The Admiral blinked, just once(5).
“Admiral?” called a voice from off-screen.
The Admiral glanced around, annoyed. “Can't you see I'm on a call?” he asked, irritated.
“New information on the kidnapping, sir. A call from the Ferengi ship.” said the voice. “You said to let you know immediately. I think you're going to want to see this caller, sir. The, uh, Princess too.”
“Very well.” said the Admiral. “On-screen.”
Celestia's screen split in half down the middle; on the left was the Admiral, on the right was a taller, redder humanoid, both hands on the shoulders of the dejected Ferengi in front of him.
“Greetings... Federation officers?” guessed the Klingon. “My name is Var'aQ.”
(2) “What did you say?”
(3) “Why are y'all talkin' so funny suddenly?”
(4) “Hey, um, girls, I'm really glad Dash is here and all, and it's nice that she doesn't want to let me go in her sleep, but could one of you help me out of here for a minute? I really gotta go pee.”
(5) The ponies had a habit of surprising him, to the degree that he'd seriously begun to wonder, on occasion, whether they or the Federation were truly the more advanced.
And then, every now and then, they said something that reminded him that they'd never left their own planet before the Federation arrived(6).
(6) Not beyond their own moon, at least. That hardly counted.