• Published 4th Jul 2014
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Voyage's End - The DM



What happens when your entire understanding of the universe is flipped upside down by something as simple as a message in a bottle?

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Message In A Bottle

Twilight stood in silence next to Princess Celestia. They found themselves with their backs to the wall as ponies hurriedly rushed to various monitors and stations within the mission control center. A large map was being displayed in full view of everypony. It showed the planet and the orbital paths of every major satellite and space station. Though what caught Twilight’s attention was the red line that seemed to cut across the face of the planet.

This red line in question showed the path of an object that would soon pass dangerously close to the planet’s atmosphere, and creating a potentially dangerous encounter with another satellite or even one of the seven space stations in high orbit. Looking out over the mission control was Princess Luna. As the director of the Equestrian Space Agency, she sat on an elevated platform, giving her a perfect overview of the entire room.

“Alright! I want all objects on the dark side of the planet off the screen. Show me only the objects in imminent danger,” the princess shouted.

The a dozen lines on the map disappeared until only six remained. Along the lines remaining, a red blinking dot symbolized the current position of the object in question.

“Ma’am, five satellites and an orbital research lab are in the object’s path. We have about three hours before it enters our sphere of influence,” a unicorn shouted out as he stayed glued to his monitor banks.

“Telemetry, how fast is the target moving?” Luna shouted out as she began writing notes.

“Thirteen thousand five hundred meters per second and dropping. Looks like it’s coming in from interstellar space,” another pony shouted in response.

“Navigation concurs. The target is coming in from interstellar space. Identity unknown, but it could be a probe that got off course.”

Luna continued writing as she looked back to the screen. “I want the space station alerted to the possible threat. Have them get into EVA suits just in case.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the communications director replied.

“Director! Radio telescopes are picking up a very faint signal coming from the target. It’s transmitting something on an ultra­low wavelength,” an earth pony mare shouted from across the room.

“Why didn’t we hear it until now!?”

“It just came into scope. It’s very faint, so the target may not have much power, or the transmitter could be damaged,” the earth pony replied.

Luna grumbled as she continued to watch the object close in on the map. “Can anypony give me a more accurate trajectory? I want to know where this thing is going!”

“Uhhh, telemetry has a rough idea. At the target’s current velocity and angle of descent... the object is going to aerobrake around our planet and then settle into an oblong polar orbit, but we’re not sure if the target can survive the aerobraking maneuver,” a unicorn replied as he looked over numerous equations.

Twilight slowly walked along the wall until she was next to the elevated platform where Luna was sitting. “Any idea what this thing might be?”

Luna closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead with a hoof. “Space probe of some sort. Probably a moon probe that got knocked out of its orbit, though I can’t say for sure unless we could physically see it,” the lunar princess replied.

“Couldn’t we just point a telescope at it?” Twilight asked

“We could, though it would be fairly pointless. This thing is so small we would need to use one of the high power telescopes, and all those are watching targets out in deep space,” Luna answered with a shake of her head.

Twilight’s thought for a moments before looking back up at the lunar princess. “Luna, is there any way we could catch it?”

Luna shook her head again. “No. It’s moving at almost thirteen kilometers per second and it’s coming at us from an odd angle. Even if we wanted to capture it, none of our orbital assets are traveling in the same direction as this object. It’s essentially coming at us head ­on.”

Twilight nodded as she looked back to the screen. “Wasn’t there supposed to be a shuttle launch today?”

“Yes, but we suspended it as soon as we detected this... thing,” Luna said as she pointed at the screen with a hoof.

“What if you went ahead with the launch, but altered the angle of orbital insertion?” Twilight asked.

Luna pondered this for a moment before answering. “I see what you’re getting at. Yes, we could match the angle and direction of the shuttle to that of the object. However, the speed is still an issue. While it would be possible to cancel out some of the relative velocity by matching its heading, it would still be traveling at thousands of meters per second compared to the shuttle. Plus your orbit would be more of a suborbital hop, giving a crew only one chance at a capture before the thing burned up.”

“Do we know what mission this probe is from? That way you can check it’s composition and whether it will survive the encounter,” Twilight offered.

“We tried that. So far we haven’t been able to identify it. Speaking of which...” Luna shifted her attention back to the control room in front of her. “Radio! Do you have anything on those transmissions?”

“Not yet, Director. They’re... well, not using any of our signals. Not even the really old ones,” the telescope operator said nervously.

“Possible damage to the transmitter?” A pony asked from across the room.

“Possible. Keep trying,” Luna ordered.

“Umm, Princess, what if this isn’t one of our probes?” Twilight asked in a hushed voice.

Luna stared at Twilight for a moment before leaning over. “If this isn’t one of our probes, then we have a serious issue on our hooves. We have established that it is at least on par with our probe technology. That being said, it definitely isn’t made by gryphons, or any other race for that matter. So, Twilight, what does that leave?”

Twilight gulped as she looked at the red dot on the map. “It might not be from this world?”

Luna only nodded as she sat back up.

“Then that makes it even more important that we save it! Imagine the possibilities,” Twilight exclaimed.

“I told you, we have no way of slowing it down sufficiently. This object probably weighs a few tons, and using magic on object of this mass in space requires more control than most ponies are capable of.” Luna said as she shook her head.

“Then... send me up! If you put the shuttle in a low orbit just as the object passes close to the planet, then our relative velocity won’t be that different, making a magical capture much easier,” Twilight pleaded.

Luna looked at Twilight in shock. “There are two problems with that plan. One, you have no experience going into space. Two, the probability of capturing this object without destroying it is incredibly low.”

Twilight looked to Luna with a knowing glare. “Please, I helped design the space shuttle and the EVA suits. I know how they work better than anypony using them. Plus, you know I have the magical precision for something like this, so slowing an object that’s coming head on would be a cakewalk.”

Luna glared at the younger mare, knowing full well what she was getting at. “The first issue still remains.”

“Just send me up with the shuttle crew. Surely they could handle a single passenger,” Twilight retorted.

Luna continued her glare before looking up at her sister and beckoning her over with a hoof. “Sister, Twilight here is asking to go up on a shuttle mission to recover the object coming at us. I have tried to dissuade her, but to no avail.”

Perplexed, Celestia looked to Twilight for answers. “Why do you want to get this thing? It may just be a piece of random space junk.”

“We don’t know that for sure. What if it’s something else?” Twilight pleaded.

“Twilight, I seriously doubt this thing is anything other than a broken satellite that got knocked into a wide orbit. We have no proof that this is anything extraterrestrial,” Luna countered as she looked back at the wall of screens

“Exactly, we don’t have any proof that might tell us the identity of this thing! If it is alien, think of what mysteries it could hold. If we let it burn up in the atmosphere, think of the opportunity we would miss,” Twilight pleaded.

Celestia looked up at her younger sister. “Do you know for certain that it’s not alien?”

Luna nodded. “I guess it’s possible, but incredibly improbable.”

There was a pause as Celestia mulled over her thoughts. “Would the shuttle be in any danger?”

“Of course, recovering objects from space can be very hazardous, and as such, I would again advise against this plan,” Luna protested.

Twilight looked to the solar princess with pleading eyes. Celestia closed her eyes and nodded. “If Twilight is confident in her abilities, then so am I. Can the shuttle be made ready to launch?”

Luna sighed in defeat as she nodded. “The shuttle is already on the launch pad. I’ll call the launch facility and have them prepare the crew. Twilight, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

~~~<<<>>>~~~

Twilight squirmed slightly as she wiggled into the helmet of her space suit. It had taken her thirty minutes with the help of two other unicorns to put it on. All that was left was to board the shuttle, meet the crew she would be flying with, get into space, recover an object traveling at now eleven kilometers per second, and then land safely.

The young alicorn was then guided out to the waiting shuttle before being helped into the cabin where five other ponies were already seated.

“Ah, so our number six has finally arrived. Name’s Ghost Wind, I’ll be your pilot for today,” a pegasus greeted from behind the controls of the shuttle.

“Alright Ghost, let’s get this thing into orbit. Control was very specific about our launch window,” the unicorn next to him stated. He then turned to Twilight and nodded as she was buckled into her seat. “So, you’re going to help us catch a space probe, eh?”

“That’s the idea,” Twilight said nervously.

“Well, good luck then. I’m Xenon, mission commander. You know Ghost here,” Xenon said as he pointed to the pilot. “The two in front of you are Diamond Shores and White Thunder. The unicorn next to you is Golden Hem. I’d go into their certifications and areas of expertise, but time is not on our side right now, Princess.”

Twilight nodded and looked forward. She could just barely see out of the cockpit windows, showing only blue sky above. The shuttle itself would launch vertically with the assistance of two solid rocket boosters. Then the craft would continue into orbit under the power of it’s own engines. The alicorn gulped as she thought about what she had gotten herself into. Sure, she had helped in the design of the shuttle, but she had never thought about riding in it.

“Alright, here we go! Fifteen seconds to primary ignition!” Xenon called out.

Twilight did her best to keep her breathing under control, up until the point where the engines roared to life. The young alicorn was suddenly thrown back into her seat as the shuttle lifted off the launch pad. The roar inside the shuttle was almost deafening as the vehicle continued to rise toward the sky.

~~~<<<>>>~~~

“Ma’am, primary ignition confirmed. We have lift­off,” one of the ponies called out.

“Time for orbital insertion?” Luna asked.

“Eleven minutes. Object interception in... two hours and thirteen minutes. Current velocity is nine thousand meters per second.”

Celestia looked to her sister as the shuttle continued to move on the map. As the spacecraft continued to move higher, Celestia began to think about the possible implications of an alien space probe showing up on her door step.

One one hoof, there was much to be gained from looking into new technology and new ways of thinking. However, it meant that they were not alone in the universe. Even if this probe was from a long extinct civilization, it still carried an incredible weight.

Though none of that mattered at the moment. Both princesses could only watch in silence as the shuttle continued its ascent into the heavens.

~~~<<<>>>~~~

Eleven minutes. Those eleven minutes were some of the longest Twilight had ever felt. Now though, all that was left was the gentle hum of the shuttle’s electronics.

“Ladies and gentlecolts this is your captain speaking,” Ghost Wind said as he unbuckled his harness. “We have reached a cruising altitude of three thousand kilometers. We expect a fairly smooth ride and have turned off the fasten seatbelt sign. There will be no drink service on this flight, so you’re out of luck.”

The other crew members chuckled as they unfastened their restraints and began to move about the cabin.

“Alright, we have a little over two hours until that probe shows up. Princess, what’s our plan of attack here?” Xenon asked.

“Well, we’ll need to contact mission control to find out if anything has changed with the probe. Once I know the relative velocity, then we can figure out just how much force I need to use,” Twilight stated as she began to float out of her seat.

“Alright, are you going to try and do the capture from in here, or are you going to EVA?”

Twilight shook her head. “I’m not really sure how my magic will behave if I try to do it from in here. Ideally it would be better to be outside with it.”

“Sounds good. We’ll hook you up to the cargo arm. That way you don’t go tumbling out into oblivion. I’ll also send Diamond Shores with you, just in case. I don’t want to have to explain how I lost a princess,” Xenon stated with a chuckle.

“Right.” Twilight replied as she made her way to the radio. “Mission control, this is Twilight.”

“Twilight, good to hear from you. Your orbit looks good, and you’re on the path to an intercept in just over two hours,” Luna replied.

“Excellent. Has the probe shown any changes?”

There was a brief pause before an answer came. “The only change is its velocity. We’re still looking at nine thousand meters per second. Though estimates suggest it will be around seven thousand by the time you reach intercept.”

“Really? What’s our orbital velocity?” Twilight asked excitedly.

“You’re holding at seven point three kilometers per second. Looks like you might not need all that much power to pull this thing in,” Luna replied with a hint of satisfaction.

“Only one way to find out.”

~~~<<<>>>~~~

This was it. The probe would be approaching in ten minutes. Going into space for the first time ever, and trying to capture a possible alien space probe. If everything went according to plan, she stood the chance to gain unimaginable knowledge. If she failed, she could lose the probe, or die in the cold depths of space.

“Alright, we’re going to be doing a quick final burn. Relative velocity to target after this should only be eighty meters per second. Think you can manage that, Princess?” Xenon asked over the radio.

“Sounds good to me,” Twilight responded as she looked to Diamond Shores.

Slowly, the sound of the ships engines filled the cabin as Ghost throttled up. Xenon’s eyes were glued to the various monitors as the shuttle continued to burn. After almost a minute of continuous burning, Xenon held up his hoof, prompting Ghost to cut the engines.

“Perfect. Relative velocity is seventy eight meters per second. Time to intercept is now twelve minutes,” Xenon stated as he looked back toward Twilight and Diamond Shores. “Alright ladies, it’s show time.”

Twilight and Diamond quickly unfastened their restraints and picked their EVA helmets off the bulkhead. The two mares slowly slipped the helmets on and locked them into place before floating over toward the airlock. Diamond pulled the hatch open, allowing Twilight and herself to step in before closing it behind them.

There was a loud hissing sound before a single green light came to life, indicating that the chamber was now at equal pressure with the exterior. Slowly, Diamond swung the hatch outward. The cargo bay doors were still closed as the two ponies made their way to the arm. At the end of the cargo arm was a platform wide enough for two ponies to stand on. To make things easier, clamps would lock their rear hooves in place, securing them to the shuttle.

“Alright you two, mount up so we can get going. Intercept is in eight minutes,” Xenon called out over the radio.

Carefully, the two mares positioned themselves on the platform and slid their hooves into the clamps. There was a satisfying thud in their suits as the clamps locked into place.

“Opening bay doors. You might want to drop your sun visors.”

Both ponies reached up and pulled down their golden sun visors as the cargo bay doors slowly opened. As soon the doors opened all the way, the boom began to move. It took Twilight by surprise at first, but then her homeworld came into view. She had seen plenty of pictures from orbit, but to see it herself was breath taking. It took Diamond shores shaking her to get her out of her trance.

“Princess, focus. We can admire the view after we catch this probe.” Diamond called out over the radio.

“Oh, right, sorry.” Twilight replied sheepishly.

“Mission control, capture arm is in place. Velocity is seven point six kilometers per second, confirm target?” Xenon announced.

“Shuttle speed confirmed. Target velocity is seven point six eight kilometers per second. Relative velocity is­”

“Eighty three meters per second,” Twilight interrupted. “I still can’t see it.”

“Object is still four kilometers away. Time to intercept is about fifty seconds. It should be coming into view any moment now.”

A few tense seconds later, and a shining object slowly came into view. Twilight’s eyes went wide as she realized what it was. “That’s it! I see it!”

“Confirmed. Mission control, we have visual contact. We are go for capture,” Xenon shouted over the radio.

“Understood. You are clear for capture maneuver. Good luck.”

Taking a deep breath, Twilight focused her magic and began to reach out until she could just barely feel the oncoming probe. “Xenon, can you give me updates on our relative velocity?”

“Yeah. We’re still just above seventy meters per second.”

Slowly, Twilight built up more power and began to push back on the probe, making sure to apply the force equally on all sides to prevent it from shifting laterally in its orbit.

“Speed is decreasing slowly. Now at sixty two,” Xenon called out.

Confidently, Twilight began pushing back with more force while Diamond Shores looked on in wonder.

“Object is now two kilometers away, relative velocity at fifty nine meters per second,” Xenon announced.

Certain that she had a solid hold on the probe, Twilight began forcing it back with even more determination. The probe was now easily spotted against the blackness of open space, especially with Twilight’s magical grasp surrounding the strange spacecraft.

“You need to slow it down a bit more. Velocity is still above thirty meters. Distance is closing to one kilometer,” Xenon stated over the radio.

“Alright, I’ll keep pushing,” Twilight said with intense focus.

“Twilight,” Luna spoke over the radio, “the object’s orbit is dropping. You need to lift it up as well as push back, otherwise it will pass below you and into the atmosphere.”

“I’m trying; I can feel the thing bending and warping. If I push too hard it might break apart,” Twilight replied with a hint of stress in her voice.

As the young alicorn continued to wrestle with the unknown object, she soon found herself admiring it as it came closer. From her vantage point at the end of the boom, she could see just how rough of shape it was in. The hull of the craft appeared to be covered in dents and scorch marks.

“Twilight, whatever you’re doing it seems to be working. The probe is now on a perfect intercept course. If this keeps up, it will pass within two hundred meters of your shuttle,” Luna announced over the radio.

“Alright, I think the worst is behind us.” Twilight replied with relief.

“Hey, uh, Princess? Ya might wanna recheck your trajectory. Because from where I’m standing, it looks like your object is going to be coming a little closer than two hundred meters,” Diamond Shores said with worry.

“Relative velocity is now twenty meters per second at a distance of less than a kilometer. Princess, I’d recommend you stop slowing it down. At this rate we’re going to fall back into the atmosphere before it can reach us,” Xenon radioed from the cockpit.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight stopped pushing against the probe, allowing it to coast toward her over the course of a minute. Diamond and Twilight watched in wonder as the mysterious probe slowly made its way toward the pair.

“Alright Princess, distance is now two hundred meters away. Do you have a full grasp on this thing?” Xenon asked over the radio.

“I do. Want me to reel it in?” Twilight replied.

“Go ahead. Start bringing it in niiiice and slow.”

Ever so gently, Twilight gave the probe a slight tug as she continued to guide it toward the open cargo bay. With only fifty meters between her and the mystery probe, she closed her eyes and put a quick burst of magic into stopping it.

Looking back toward the probe, Twilight’s heart nearly skipped a beat as she began laughing. Sitting in her magical aura, only three meters away, was the probe. With it now right in front of her, Twilight could really start to examine it.

The body of the probe was hidden behind a large reflective satellite dish, with three long booms protruding from the body. Though seeing it up close like this gave Twilight a glimpse at just how damaged the probe was. There were numerous holes punched in the dish, while one of the booms was completely sheared off.

“Hey, Princess, can we move this thing inside? It’s about to get really hot out,” Diamond said over the radio.

Twilight nodded as she kept a firm hold on the probe while the arm moved back into the cargo bay. “Control, this is Twilight, we got it. Probe is secured in our cargo bay.”

~~~<<<>>>~~~

It took a team of five unicorns to carefully remove the probe from the cargo bay of the shuttle. Celestia and Luna stood off to the side of the lab with the crew from the shuttle and watched silently as the probe was levitated into the room. Ever so gently, the team of scientists lowered the captured probe onto foam blocks to prevent it from touching the floor.

Eager to discern the origin of the probe, Twilight began trotting around it with a notepad in her grasp. At least a dozen other ponies began to circle the probe, making sure to take plenty of photos and other measurements. Though there was one thing that caught Twilight’s attention.

Attached to the side of the probe was a very shiny disk. Curiously, Twilight approached the disk and began to examine it. Etched onto its surface were a number of drawings and symbols. Wanting to examine it further, she looked for the mechanism holding it in place. Seeing a series of four clamps and a pin in the middle, the young alicorn quickly undid the four clamps before removing the final pin.

With a slight tug, the disk detached from the probe. With the utmost care, Twilight slowly carried the rather large disk to a nearby table. Just as she was about to touch the surface of the disk, a nearby pony ran over.

“Princess, wait! It could be heavily irradiated from its time in space,” the scientist warned.

Nodding, Twilight withdrew her hoof and let the pony examine the disk. He pulled out a small geiger counter and swept it over the surface. As he began his sweep, the machine began ticking.

“It’s radioactive?” Luna asked as she slowly walked over to the table.

“Yes, director. Though I would recommend running it through a mass spectrometer to determine if it is the metal that is radioactive, or if it absorbed it from the environment,” the pony replied.

“Do it. I want to know right away,” Luna stated as she looked back at the probe.

Carefully, the scientist grabbed the disk and began to lift. To his surprise, the lower half of the disk separated, revealing a second disk within. While the outer portion was light gold in color, the disk within was even more gold in color.

“It was just a cover!” Twilight exclaimed.

Celestia nodded as she too took a position around the table. “It would seem that way.”

“Twilight, do you recognize the script there?” Luna asked as she pointed to the inner part of the disk.

“No, I don’t think it is any language from our world. Does anypony else think this thing kinda looks like a giant gold record?” Twilight asked as she inspected the middle of the disk.

Luna nodded as she looked at the grooves. “It certainly does. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it contains.”

After a few more minutes of debate and discussion on the disk and probe, the scientist returned with the cover and a notebook.

“Princesses, we have determined what the cover is made of. It appears that whoever made this did so out of aluminum. In addition, the cover had been electroplated with Uranium two-thirty-eight. A radioactive isotope of Uranium.”

Twilight looked at the pony with confusion. “Can you guess why anypony would do that?”

“I have a hypothesis,” Luna began. “Uranium two-thirty-eight has a half life of roughly four billion years. It is possible that whoever did this, knew that a pure sample of this isotope could be used as a way of determining age.”

“Uhh,” the scientist stammered as he began to flip through pages. “With the amount left, I would guess it is probably around thirty seven thousand years old, give or take a few decades.”

Curiously, Luna took the cover from the pony and set it down on the table. “If this is a record, then we need to know how fast to play it. To do that, we need to establish how the makers measured time.”

Twilight and Luna then began scouring the face of the cover, trying to glean any clues. As Twilight looked over the lower portion of the record, her eyes went wide. Carefully, she moved herself around to the opposite side of the cover before taking a magnifying glass to the lower part.

“Huh... Any clues to what this means?” Twilight asked “There’s two circles with arrows pointing to a small dot in each of them.”

“Hmm, show me.” Luna said as she walked over to where Twilight was standing.

“See, right here,“ Twilight stated as she pointed at the circles with a hoof. “Any idea what it could mean?”

“I’m afraid not,” Luna replied with a shake of her head.

The entire room sat in silence as ponies continued to pour over the probe and record, trying to decipher even one of the diagrams on the cover.

“So... if this is actually a record, wouldn’t we need some way to play it?” Twilight asked as she walked away from the golden disk.

“That’s a big if. But yes, hypothetically if this was a record we would need some way to play it. We would also need to know things like the frequency it is played at and how many revolutions per minute,” Luna replied.

“Not to mention our measurement of time might be different from those who made the disk,” Celestia added.

“Quite true, sister.” Luna said with a nod. “There is much to be learned.”

Ghost Wind couldn’t help himself. Here he was looking at the pieces recovered from an alien space probe. Before him on a metal table were a few pieces that had broken off from the interior compartment of the probe. Though two pieces stuck out to him.

One of the pieces on the table looked like an arm with a small needle at the end. The shuttle pilot gently nudged the piece onto its side with his hoof. His eyes lit up as he recognized what the piece was.

“Uh, hey, so does anypony else think this looks like the stylus for a phonograph?”

The room went silent as all eyes turned to the pilot.

“Show me,” Luna demanded.

~~~<<<>>>~~~

Twilight sat in her study as she perused the data recovered from the probe. Nine months had gone by and the scientists were still busy poring over the data they had collected from the probe. Reports from the research teams suggested that the disk was indeed a record disk. Though as of last month, they still hadn’t succeeded in playing it.

“Still reading?” Came the voice of her assistant.

“Yes, Spike. There’s just so much information to decipher... and this golden record is proving to be more complex than anypony thought.” Twilight said as she set down her pen.

“Alright, well, somepony is here to see you.” With that said, the young dragon stood aside, allowing Princess Luna to enter the study.

“Princess Luna!” Twilight exclaimed.

“Relax Twilight, I have some news about the golden record. Or more specifically, the images on its cover.” The lunar princess stated as she sat down next to the desk.

“Spike, would you get us a fresh pot of coffee?” Twilight asked. Spike nodded as he turned and headed for the kitchen. “What did you find?”

“Let’s start at the top,” Luna said as she pulled out a folder with detailed images of each diagram. “This one here, the one you showed me with the circles.”

Twilight nodded as Spike brought in a fresh pot of coffee and two mugs. “Thanks Spike.”

“It’s showing the transitional period in a hydrogen atom,” Luna stated as she poured herself a mug of coffee.

“Why would the creators include that?” Twilight asked as she began flipping through reports.

“To give us their method of keeping time. Now, a hydrogen atom take only point seven billionths of a second to transition to a higher state. Using this as a sort of standard clock, we began to work out some of the other pieces.”

“Okay, what about the other diagram? The one with all the dashes and lines?” Twilight asked as she sifted through the photos until finding the right one.

Luna chucked as she spoke. “Ah yes, this one. This one was much easier once we knew the hydrogen one. I won’t bore you with the math, but it tells us how fast the play the record. It took a few days of number crunching, but eventually we came up with three point six seconds per rotation.”

“What does the record say?” Twilight asked as her eyes went wide.

“We have no clue,” Luna said with a shrug as she took a sip of coffee. “We’ve only succeeded in translating a seven second phrase. Even our best unicorn mages are having trouble with it.”

Twilight’s expression instantly dropped after hearing this. “Oh.”

“But what we did learn, is that only part of the record is audio. The other part contains video,” Luna stated as a slight grin began to grow.

The young alicorn’s jaw nearly hit the ground, causing Luna to laugh. “What did you see!?”

“Some very interesting things. Images from what I can assume is their homeworld. Trees, oceans, cities, just to name a few. A few pictures of animals as well,” Luna replied with a nod. “I’ll make sure you get copies of the pictures recovered from the record.”

“That would be incredible! Did you find anything else?” Twilight asked, nearly falling off the edge of her chair.

“Not on the disk. Though I did find something... peculiar,” Luna answered as she materialized another folder. “One of the images on the record’s cover has nothing to do with the record itself.”

“Oh?”

“It took quite a bit of work, as well as a few star charts, but I’m fairly certain as to what this image represents,” the indigo alicorn said with a smirk.

“What is it?” Twilight asked, teetering on the edge of her chain in anticipation.

“A way to locate their home world.”

The air went silent as Twilight began processing what Luna had just said. Nothing was said between the pair for a solid two minutes.

“Wait, so you’re saying that whoever made this disk, left instructions on how to find their world?” Twilight asked with disbelief.

Luna nodded with a smile “I believed these binary lines are referring to the relative distance between other stars and their homeworld, but that proved to be an impossible thing to judge. So I tried using other celestial bodies. Planets, exo-platets, stars, black holes, even comets, but I still got nothing.”

“So we still don’t know what the lines are pointing to?” Twilight questioned with a hint of disappointment.

Luna’s chuckled as she spoke. “On the contrary. Those lines don’t just represent distances, but also frequencies. Whoever made this disk mapped out the fourteen closest pulsars relative to their home star. By giving us the frequencies, the essentially have provided us with a way to pinpoint their star system.”

“Wait, are you saying we now know how to find them!?”

Luna nodded with a chuckle. “Yes, Twilight. We know how to find them. And in fact...” Twilight couldn’t believe her eyes. Sitting in front of her was an image from one of the massive orbital telescopes. Right in the middle of the image was a blue and brown dot. “That was what we found after locating those fourteen pulsars. It took a considerable amount of time, but I think it paid off.”

Twilight sat there slack jawed as she stared at the picture. The first picture of what could be the homeworld of an alien civilization, and it was sitting right in front of her. Luna chuckled as she watched the younger mare lose herself in the image on her desk.

“And before I go, I have one more thing for you. It’s the only piece of the golden record we have been able to magically translate.” Luna said as she reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a small digital music player. “You were right Twilight, about recovering this probe. What I saw as random space junk, you saw as something much more valuable. If you had not challenged my decision, then we would have missed this cosmic message in a bottle.”

Curiously, Twilight plugged the small device into a speaker on her desk and pressed play. There was only one file on the player; no more than seven seconds long. But those seven seconds were all she needed.

“Hello from the children of planet Earth”

Author's Note:

Just gotta say, I loved writing this story.

All of the math you see in this story? We actually did it. I had to learn three different physics equations and also learn a bit about orbital mechanics. In reality, I actually enjoyed all the math. It made me feel like I really tried.

Anyway, comments, questions, concerns, things you liked, things you didn't like, haiku poetry, toss 'em bellow.

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