• Published 2nd May 2013
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Stardust - Arad

Can Twilight earn the trust and friendship of people who are by nature suspicious and hostile to anything that isn't 'human'?

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Stardust Supplemental Files (Pt. 2)




WARNING: Access to this file is RESTRICTED to personnel with TOP SECRET clearance or above. Attempts to access this file without authorization will be reviewed and be grounds for TERMINATION AND/OR PROSECUTION. Distribution of this file may only be done with authorization from Cmdr. David Bradford, failure to provide authorization will result in TERMINATION AND/OR PROSECUTION.

PROJECTDIV: Xenobiology
DIVLEAD: Dr. Joel Mills
Attached files: Transcript of interview with ‘Twilight’, images provided by ‘Twilight’, Personal notes by DIVLEAD.
Personal Notes follow:

NEW RECORD: 13:00, 04/03/2015

Today marked the first official day for Stardust, and the study of the curious specimen captured during an attack by the invaders. So many surprises today, not to mention the project nearly meeting a tragic end before the subject even got to the labs.

The subject calls herself ‘Twilight Sparkle’, and is most definitely the most unique creature I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with to date. I’ll leave the behavioral and cultural analysis to the esteemed Dr. Ngo, since my questions more revolved around the extreme biodiversity that Charles Shen hinted at during their first conversations.

Twilight’s species, rather humorously translated as ‘ponies’ is divided into three primary races, with a fourth type that is so exceedingly rare that I wouldn’t bother mentioning them if not for the fascinating traits Twilight described. Apparently her entire species can perform what Twilight calls ‘magic’, though they differ radically.

The first of the three races is titled ‘Earth Pony.’ I questioned Twilight about the name, her answers can be found in the transcript, and aren’t relevant to these notes. This race is apparently the closest to native equine analogs and is well known for its robust stature and connection to nature. Twilight describes this physical trait and connection as their ‘magic’ as it allows them to successfully work and farm more than the other races. I’ll have to ask Kim to clarify if this makes ‘earth ponies’ akin to medieval serfs or the equivalent.

The second of the three races are aptly named ‘Pegasus’. They sport wings and the capacity for flight. Twilight described their ‘magic’ as connected to the sky and apparently the weather, which they control. When I questioned the process, Twilight went into an extremely detailed and thorough explanation of the process. I did the best I could to document every word, but Twilight talks rather quickly and is extremely long-winded when she has a subject to talk about. I’ll warn Kim and Moira about that.

The third of the races is the ‘Unicorn’, of which Twilight is a member. Key distinguishing feature is the ‘horn’ protruding from the forehead, and allows for far more direct uses of ‘magic’ than the other two races. The other two races have passive abilities related to their physiology, such as strength, and speed, or manipulating their immediate surroundings. Unicorns are able to use their ‘magic’ at will for various effects that no doubt have several prominent physicists rolling in their graves. Telekinetics, light generation, even teleportation through solid surfaces. The discovery of THAT little ability caused quite a stir back in Containment. Even my interview with Twilight was possible only because of her apparent ability to translate through ‘magic.’

Moira will likely have a more systematic way of documenting each of these applications, as she is rather keen on finding out just how it’s done.

The last of the pony races are what Twilight called ‘Alicorns’. Only three exist as far as Twilight is aware, and they share physical characteristics of both pegasi and unicorns, with both wings and horn. They also have significantly longer lifespans, the eldest of the three being well over a thousand years old. Their ‘magic’ capabilities sound flat-out impossible. The elder apparently uses her powers to force the system’s sun to orbit the planet. Yes, I know how that sounds. Then I remember that I’m talking to a unicorn about magic. I was about to take it down as hyperbolic exaggeration or perhaps even a religious belief, but apparently Twilight is a close friend to the elder, having studied under her for years as well as writing letters weekly to her. I’ll forward my notes and transcript to Kim on the subject, cultural studies are more her department than mine.

Twilight brought up dozens of other species, some sapient and others not. Quite frankly I’m shocked by the degree of bio-diversity on her world, not to mention its apparent similarity to existing Earth species as well as myths and legends. Flora also shows significant similarities. Case in point, the urban center that Twilight resides in is next to an apple farm. Yes, apples. As perplexing as that is, what really held my interest was a species that Twilight only touched upon briefly. The name she provided for them was apt: Changelings.

Twilight describes Changelings as something akin to a predator with a unique method of hunting and feeding on its prey. They are apparently capable of flawless physical impersonation of other life forms of similar size, and they feed upon their prey’s emotions. The mechanics of such a creature are simply fascinating to consider. Until the secrets of ‘magic’ are further explained it seems their method of camouflage will have to remain a mystery, but I’ve already devised several working theories on their method of feeding. That the race is empathic (if not completely telepathic) is almost a prerequisite, but why feed on emotions? I suspect that it isn’t their primary food source but an energy source or even to make up a deficiency of their own. Perhaps a brain defect prevents them from having emotions that other races possess, and the only way to experience them is to leech them from another. Following that train of thought, emotions might be considered something like a narcotic; a highly addictive one at that.

I attempted to ask further questions on the nature of Changelings and Twilight became extremely uncomfortable with the subject. Perhaps she was the victim of one? Regardless, I moved away from the topic by asking her to provide illustrations for what we discussed so far. She was thrilled with the opportunity and set off immediately to start. She is nothing if not enthusiastic.

UPDATE: 08:45, 04/04/2015

I may have underestimated Twilight’s dedication. Kim and I entered the lab expecting Twilight to be asleep or snacking on some of the fruits we left in her quarters, but she was still at her desk. A quick review of the observation footage confirmed she had been sitting at her desk since our interview, and had been churning out hand-drawn (hoof-drawn? Magic-drawn?) illustrations of every species we discussed, as well as two or three examples for the major ones. I attempted conversation and Twilight promised to be finished soon. I tried to impress upon her the need for sleep and was soundly rebuked for my suggestion.

Her exact words were, “Sleep is for B-minus ponies. I’m an A-plus pony.”

Thankfully Charles arrived and performed some rather impressive parental jujitsu and got Twilight to sleep. Kim, Charles and I gathered up the drawings, which I’m now scanning into the Stardust database. I also pitched the idea of having Dr. Frank McKendric in medical read into the project to evaluate Twilight. After this little episode, Charles shared his own suspicions about potential mental health issues with our newest colleague. Charles speculated (after stating several times that he wasn’t an expert) that she might also benefit from having some friends that aren’t strictly related to the Stardust program. I find myself agreeing just a bit.

Charles also shared a somewhat disturbing thought; that Twilight’s appearance as we perceive it is not natural. He posited the theory that Twilight’s species may be engineered either deliberately or through natural selection to engender comfort and friendliness to whomever she meets. The other, and to be honest far more disturbing theory is that she passively or actively generates a telepathic effect to encourage these feelings around her. I nearly turned down that theory without even hearing Shen through but stopped myself. Maybe there is a telepathic element here that’s wearing down my guard around this alien. I think I might need to see Frank after this; maybe I’m just being paranoid.

Also, I recommended Shen and Kim keep this little theory to themselves until other evidence appears. If Moira suspects anything of the sort she’ll probably grill Shen into building her a little remote control robot so she can participate in the experiments while being safely ensconced in a lead-lined bunker on the other end of the facility. Perhaps she should see Frank, too; her cold hatred of the aliens is quite pathological.

And on a related note, Bradford was able to acquire a pair of volunteers from the ranks to help alleviate some of the translation duties for Charles and I. On a more pragmatic note, having more people under the effects of the ‘translation’ spell can better determine if there are any negative side effects. Charles came back clean from his initial check-up and so did I, but a single day with the spell upon us isn’t significant. Doubling the sample size will increase the likelihood of catching any sort of long-term side effects. I’ll discreetly ask them to take records of their perceptions of Twilight, to see if those change over time through mental manipulation or not.

UPDATE: 13:10, 04/04/2015

The initial theory on the translation spell has been debunked. I first thought it was two-way communication between Twilight and the person she casts it on. I can now confirm that two people under the effects of the spell can perfectly understand each other regardless of the language they speak and without Twilight being present. Charles spent his entire lunch speaking Chinese, while I replied with my rather rusty Canadian French. I’m quite sure the other staff in the breakroom thought we were insane.

Twilight is still sleeping off the all-nighter and all the pictures she completed are scanned. I’ll drop the originals back in her quarters. It’d be a shame for her not to keep them; each one is a work of art.

I’ll also be giving Kim a quick briefing on what to expect once Twilight wakes back up. Per Moira’s instructions, Kim is not to have the translation spell cast on her so I’ll be acting as interpreter until the volunteers arrive. I do hope either Charles or I get the opportunity to brief the volunteers. It would be rather unpleasant for them to walk into the lab unprepared.

UPDATE: 15:45, 04/04/2015

Called it.



PROJECTDIV: Behavioral Studies
DIVLEAD: Dr. Kim Ngo
Attached files: Transcript of interview with ‘Twilight’, image links to xenobiology resources, personal notes by DIVLEAD.
Personal Notes follow:

NEW RECORD: 08:05, 04/04/2015

Perhaps it is best that Joel won our little duel. I was initially thrilled at the way things turned out once it was clear that bloodshed wasn’t going to occur. Screw the war, screw the aliens, I was going to talk to a unicorn. Suddenly I was six years old again and nothing else mattered. I let slip a comment about Twilight’s appearance while we were cleaning up the aftermath of her all-nighter and that brought up Shen’s suspicions of passive mental manipulations around her.

That subject brought this little girl back to reality. Shen’s theory involved what he called ‘trust inducement’, which sounds just a bit scary when considering the implications. Sure, today we think she’s adorable. Next week it’s hugs. A month from now we’re setting the XCOM facility to self destruct in the name of our new furry overlord.

With that thought firmly in mind, having Joel as an interpreter for our discussion doesn’t sound nearly as inconvenient as I once thought. Sorry, Joel. Your sacrifice will be remembered. Take heart that it is all for science!

Twilight seems down for the count, at least for now. I’ll set the monitoring equipment to notify Joel and I if she leaves her bed. Joel is still slaving over the scanner with those drawings but I’ve nothing to do here until the unicorn wakes back up. Guess I’ll have to head on over to the [REDACTED] labs to try and translate the meaning behind the markings found on the less interesting specimens retrieved from the last mission.

UPDATE: 16:00, 04/04/2015

The purple unicorn just took the paranoia and dialed it up to eleven without even trying. Or she was trying and she’s got the most innocent face while she does it, which would be scarier.

After Shen’s brief description of the meaning behind Twilight’s flank marks, I decided to direct the interview in that direction after going over some basic questions with her. It turns out the flank marks translate into ‘cutie marks’ (dear God, just writing that takes me back to my little girl years), and are a mark of a personality type or skills that the bearer possesses. The translations vary from rather obvious, where an hour-glass mark denotes a talent for all things ‘timey-wimey’ (her words) to the abstract, where a Pegasus with butterflies as her mark deals with animals.

Apparently, these marks manifest during their formative years when their children realize what they want to do. What it sounds like is a perfectly implemented form of social control. Shortage in crop production? Increase farm-related cutie marks in the kids by five percent. Going to war? Swords and shields for all the fillies and colts. I didn’t voice this belief to Twilight, but I think Joel picked up on my suspicion. From what I could tell from Twilight’s body language and tone, I don’t think this possibility even entered her mind. She seems absolutely one-hundred percent certain that this system of career determination is the best thing in the world.

The second subject that Twilight brought up was the Princesses. The first and second, Celestia and Luna, have superstitious religious hocus pocus attributed to them. Moving the sun and moon? Right.

The third, Cadance, has me just a bit worried if the descriptions are accurate. Twilight describes her power as being ‘of the heart’, as in she can manipulate the moods of those she targets. Two people fighting are pacified enough to stop. The other example she gave involved extending her power over a wide area, smallest size speculated as city size, largest would be a small nation. In this example Cadance’s powers were used to inspire resistance to an invading force attacking the nation.

In this Joel and I are agreed. What tool is better for a despot than a trusted family member who can quell or inflame the passions of the populace at will? For lack of a better term this sounds like something just shy of wide-area mind control. The subjects aren’t controlled, per se, their emotions are merely compelled to change. Damn scary.

Another thing that Twilight mentioned was her family’s apparently close relationship with the ruling aristocracy on her country and world. Her ‘foalsitter’ (her words) was Cadance growing up. Cadance is now married to Twilight’s brother, Shining Armor, who holds a high position in the military structure. Her personal teacher is Celestia herself and exchanged correspondence with her weekly.

God only knows what kind of stress Twilight went through with that kind of family dynamic growing up.

We were going to continue our discussion when Joel just about fumbled the ball. I had to feed him a question about the cutie mark process to keep things moving. Twilight was in giving us some anecdotal evidence when two of Bradford’s meatheads (the volunteers) stumbled into Twilight’s residence within the lab.

We probably should put a sign out front warning folks not to enter without an escort.

Shen showed up shortly after we met the soldiers outside with the stack of math papers I gave him two days ago. They were intended for Twilight yesterday, but I guess things just slipped through the cracks with all this excitement. The engineer gave the two soldiers a quick briefing before heading into the residence with them. Right now they’re making small talk of no importance from what I can tell.

Shen’s more comfortable than anyone has any right to be when in the room with Twilight, especially with those suspicions of his. The female soldier, Jenkins I think, looks like she’s the one who gets to deliver the punch line to the joke of the century. The male soldier, Harris, looks like he’s on his way to an ulcer. Or a heart attack.

Twilight, naturally, is all cute and disarming smiles. I’ve noticed her ears are a fully integral part of her expression system, I wonder if they’re warm like kitty ears. I bet she’d let me scratch them if I ---

Damn it. Going to see Doc McKendrick now.


Author's Note:

Supplemental Information:

Subdivisions: As scientists and experts are often specialized into very specific fields, so too are their workloads. The Research division is divided into several subdivisions based on need and workload. Each expert maintains his own files and submits them to their subdivision leader, who then submits them to the division leader, Dr. Moira Vahlen.