• Published 6th Apr 2012
  • 6,684 Views, 259 Comments

Equestria Trek: First Contact - MetBoy



A Starfleet ship discovers that the Orion Syndicate is enslaving ponies & her commander decides to do a good deed and return Rainbow Dash home. Things don’t go smoothly for the USS Judges, but what they find is one of their biggest discover

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A Flashback and Forethought

A Flashback and Forethought: In which earlier events are shown, and later plans are made.

It was a beautiful day in Cloudsdale, as was to be expected. While the floating city usually rested above most of the rain making clouds, there was no wind that day to chill the pegasus pony population.

Further, being the central weather factory for Equestria meant that the population contained a number of expert weather ponies, more than enough to buck the rare rogue cloud. In fact, those experts spent much more of their working time putting clouds above the city than they did removing them. Their removal was part of the tests required to gain and maintain Weather Pony Certification.

The tests for initial certification were long, often complex, and involved proving you could perform all the tasks you might be called on as a Weather Pony. The test for maintaining that certification, on the other hoof, was a simple practical test. The day before, the pegasus being tested would learn what section of the sky over Cloudsdale she had been assigned to. Around 3 AM, a team of crack weather ponies would place clouds in that section. At 7 AM, about an hour after dawn, the section of sky would be checked. The test was a simple pass/fail: if there was no more than an acceptable haze in the area, you passed. If not, you had to go through an annoying series of paperwork and tests, deliberately worse than initial certification, before you could work the weather on your own again, without supervision.

While some thought outside the box to solve this problem, doing things like taking the crews putting up the clouds to parties the night before, Rainbow Dash used the more direct method of starting clearing at 6:59 AM. Being awesome, she finished with over half the minute to spare, the test evaluator holding up his official timepiece so he could watch her race to beat the deadline in the early morning sunlight.

The dude had chuckled at her flamboyant performance, and informed her that it would take a few hours for the paperwork to be properly filed, and that she should pick up her updated certification card around noon. That left several hours for Rainbow Dash to do whatever she wanted. Some of that time was spent napping on a quiet cloud roof, before getting chased off by the irate owners of the shop in question. More time was spent looking around the newly opened for the day shops that made up the city’s commercial district. Then she spent about an hour in the empty arena, practicing her tricks.

It was on her way back to the weather factory that Rainbow Dash saw a splash of yellow and pink, huddled in the corner of an empty playground next to the facility, part of the day-care provided for foals of weather factory workers. She landed softly on the cloud surface behind it; it took a matter of moments to identify the south-end of a familiar north-pointing pony.

“Hey Fluttershy, what brings you to Cloudsdale today?”

The only response was a squeak, and an end to soft noises.

“... Fluttershy, are you okay?”

Silence, aside from the growing noise of the Weather Factory workers changing shift behind them.

Rainbow Dash put a hoof over Fluttershy’s shoulders. “Is... something wrong?”

This was not the sort of situation that Rainbow Dash was well equipped to deal with. She was always loyal to her friends, putting protecting them above all else. But while she knew what she needed to do, she wasn’t really very good at being comforting.

“It’s me Flutters, Dashie-”

Screams ripped them from their private worries. Panic, fear, and pain were broadcast from pony throats, sending chills down the element bearer’s spines. Griffin war screams chilled the blood. Both turned to look, seeing the activity at the main entrance to the Weather Factory.

Griffins were attacking the pegasus ponies there; some were using talon and claw, but most were shooting glowing beams of light from their talons. Rainbow Dash had the sharp vision of the stunt flyer she wanted to be in the Wonderbolts, so she was able to see the tools behind those flashes. Ponies hit by the yellow beams were falling down, some still moving, some not.

“Ignore the foals! We only want those with skills, but don’t be afraid to zap them if they get in the way!”

The shouted command made Rainbow Dash glance behind herself, to see that the noise had brought curious foals from the daycare out into the playground. Most were hanging back as fear began to overrule curiosity. But the orange pegasus filly with purple mane and tail rarely showed a healthy level of fear. Scootaloo charged towards the attacking griffins, wings buzzing like a hummingbird as she skimmed the cloud surface one hoof forward in imitation of her hero.

It came back to Dash in a flash: she had promised to show her number-one fan around Cloudsdale in celebration of her successful re-certification, helped to get up to the floating city by Fluttershy, who was coming for reasons of her own.

While Dash took this in, the Champion of Kindness was the first to strike back against the invaders. “HOW DARE YOU!” The shout was loud enough to momentarily dwarf the sound of the struggle, many griffins turning to look at the outraged yellow pegasus. Even more surprising to those that only casually knew Fluttershy was the iron will in her voice. Those that met her eyes fell under the power of The Stare, freezing in place.

While most of the fight went quiet, not all the griffins were caught, some even began plotting how to neutralize this new factor in the battle. They only had moments to consider, before the Champion of Loyalty joined the battle, her forehooves bouncing off of two heads of griffins still moving, before bucking a third out of the realm of the wakeful.

Alas, she was a role model, and her biggest fan was less wise. The griffin she struck had been already held by The Stare, and Scootaloo lacked the speed or mass to make for a knockout. In fact, she only hit hard enough to free the attacker’s attention from Fluttershy’s grip. The griffin shook his head in irritation, raising his weapon to blast the annoying filly. The beam only narrowly missed, as a rainbow blur pulled Scootaloo out of the way.

Rainbow Dash carried Scootaloo away from the besieged Weather Factory, to what she thought would be a safe distance, before putting the filly down. As Fluttershy harangued the griffins, Rainbow Dash gave her own firm directions.

“Scoots, I want you to promise me you’ll stay out of trouble,” she commanded.

“But I ca-“

“I know you want to, but you’ll be hurt. Now promise me!”

“A... all right Dash, I prom-“

***THOOM***

Scootaloo’s eyes widened as she saw what had just happened behind Dash. Dash looked over her shoulder to see a vertical beam of green light piercing the Weather Factory, that faded away to reveal that part of the cloud and column structure had been... wiped away. The first beam was followed by another. A third. More.

“GO!” Rainbow Dash shouted, as she flew back towards the Factory.

When she got back to the factory entance, Rainbow Dash found that Fluttershy had the situation there under control. Unconscious griffins and pegasus ponies littered the cloud surface, cowering griffins did their best to not draw more of the righteous anger of Kindness. But some of the griffins were still moving, heading into the weather factory itself. Rainbow Dash followed, needing to know what they wanted inside the partly destroyed building.

As she entered, she heard a voice. An angry, strident, familiar voice. She was arguing with someone, but Dash couldn’t hear the other side of the argument.

“Look, you- Yes, they’re tagging the stuff, I TOLD you that. But if you want those loser weather ponies to work the stuff someone needs to deal with that yellow- I don’t CARE about your exposure, just DEAL with it!”

Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened as she looked around the building. It had been sliced apart, and griffins were pointing things at the machines and workstations. As she watched, one of the cloud makers disappeared in a cloud of sparkles.

Rainbow Dash’s eyes narrowed again as the recognition sunk in. The griffin watching the efforts of the others, the one yelling at the air, was right in front of the pegasus. Even from behind, with that voice, it was impossible for Dash to not know who it was.

“GILDA!”

The person that had once been her best friend turned around, emotions flashing over her face as she turned. She finished the turn before she finished sorting out how she felt, but the angry hoof that smashed across her beak simplified things.

“Fine,” she growled. “If that’s the way you want to do things, Dash.” Gilda pounced, talons spread wide.

Being the athletic, physically active, and rambunctious types they were, Gilda and Rainbow Dash had fought before, matching hoof against claw. Those fights had often started angry, but turned playful as each found the other to be an equal match, and small wrongs were forgotten under the fun of shared physical activity.

This time was different, as Rainbow Dash’s fury only grew as Loyalty faced betrayal, and Gilda’s anger rose to match it. Dash had never been so filled with rage, with the need to punish, the need to force someone to stop what they were doing, and make sure they wouldn’t try again. Gilda was less driven, but she wasn’t going to let herself lose this fight.

As the fight continued, Dash found that she was taking more punishment than she was giving. Even with the strength her anger gave her, something was weakening her blows, and she came to notice the glowing lights that stole the force from her hits.

It didn’t take long for Gilda to get the upper talon, flinging a bruised Rainbow Dash through a damaged wall, clipping a pillar on the way through. She landed on the cloud surface outside the factory. She struggled to get back to her hooves, but she could see Gilda fly through a hole in the wall, climbing up to make a finishing dive. Now Dash felt her first taste of personal fear that day, as she just didn't have time to recover.

“GILDA! HOW DARE YOU!”

Gilda didn’t recognize the yellow pegasus with the pink hair. She didn’t even think to connect this one with the timid, meek creature she had terrorized in Ponyville. All she knew was that this... elemental fury was targeting her, and seemed to know her sins as her words lay her soul bare.

“HOW CAN YOU EVEN THINK OF HARMING RAINBOW DASH!? YOU KNOW WHAT SHE’S DONE FOR YOU, HOW MUCH SHE TRIED TO HELP YOU! SHE’S YOUR BEST FRIEND, AND WHEN YOU CAME TO VISIT HER SHE TRIED TO HELP YOU MAKE FRIENDS WITH HER OTHER FRIENDS!”

This was Fluttershy’s Stare at full power, focused tightly on one target. It wasn’t something Fluttershy could call on at will, or even to protect herself, but when called on to protect another, she could tap into the power of Kindness to overpower even the stare of a cockatrice. Against it, Gilda had crumpled to the cloud surface, holding her head in her talons and shuddering, unable to break eye contact.

Rainbow Dash managed a weak grin as she struggled to her feet, as Fluttershy’s epic rescue gave her time to recover. She took the chance, standing back up on still unstable legs

“YOU THREW THAT ALL AWAY! THREW THE GREATEST GIFT BACK IN HER FACE LIKE IT WAS TRASH! YOU COULD HAVE BE-“

A beam of energy slammed into Fluttershy’s side, cutting her off and slamming her to the cloud surface. Rainbow Dash’s head whipped around to track its origin. There floated a number of bipeds, with green skin, wearing some kind of armor, and holding tools like the griffins had used earlier.

The one that had shot Fluttershy shifted its aim. There was a flash of light, and everything went dark for Rainbow Dash.

---=={***}==---

Rainbow Dash stopped in the middle of a sentence, as her eyes widened.

“Oh no, what happened to Fluttershy? Did Scootaloo get away safely?”

The ruby eyes grew wider still. “They attacked the Weather Factory in Cloudsdale!”

Widest. “What’s that gonna do to Equestria’s weather?”

Delilah raised a hand to cover her slight smile. She’d been following the story with interest, using her betazoid senses to track Dash’s emotions, and was glad to see that Rainbow Dash was getting over her distrust of her enough to let the pegasus worry about threats to other things. The smile banished from public view, she leaned forward in the chair to place a comforting hand on the light blue shoulder. “Hey, I said I wanted to help you, and I will, if you’ll let me.”

“Captain, the Prime Directive-” Raat began.

“Stop right there,” Delilah interrupted, her right eye closing (the left, behind the optic she wore, was always closed) as her hand moved to rub the bridge of her nose. “I am aware of the Prime Directive, and how it may apply, but right now you have more important things to do. Like that little meeting scheduled for all senior officers in about an hour.”

“What scheduled mee-” Raat was cut off mid-word by his data-pad beeping. He raised it up, seeing the notification that there was, in fact, a meeting he was required to attend, in just about an hour.

It had been scheduled by Commander Delilah O’Niel, as captain of USS Judges. It had also been scheduled less than fifteen seconds ago.

Raat’s jaw dropped open, and he slowly turned, leaving the brig.

Delilah was still banishing the annoyance Vulzy Raat could so easily summon in her when Rainbow Dash spoke.

“Wow. What a mega-dork.”

Delilah opened her right eye again, giving Dash an unamused glare. “He is also one of the officers under my command, and I won’t stand for others insulting my crew.” Her voice was no longer the compassionate thing she had used to help calm Rainbow Dash down, instead being filled with firm resolve. No malice, just... a solid statement of her limits.

“E-he, sorry,” Rainbow Dash apologized. “I take it back.”

Delilah’s smile returned. “It’s no biggie, just don’t say it again.” Loyalty to her own people having been served, Delilah shifted the topic back. “But right now, if you want to help your friends, the best thing you can do is rest, relax, and recover from what you were put through. That way, when we find your home, you’ll be ready to do what you need to do. So what do you want to do now?”

Rainbow Dash thought for a moment. “Wait. Why can’t I just start on my way back home on my own? I’m sure I could get there faster that way. I am,” Rainbow Dash’s chest puffed out with pride. “Equestria’s Best Young Flyer, which I got for performing a Sonic Rainboom.”

Delilah chuckled a little. “I take it from your story they didn’t tell you,” she said. “We’re in space, in a ship that can travel from one star to another.” Technically, she shouldn’t be telling the pony this, under the strictest interpretation of the Prime Directive, but she felt honesty was best here. If the only proof of alien ships was the story of one individual, it wouldn’t alter the course of the culture enough to measure, (hopefully) and if there was more proof, telling Rainbow Dash wouldn’t cause any more harm. Either way, lies or evasion wouldn’t help. “We’re a long long way from Equestria. You may be able to outrace sound, but this ship can go faster than light, which is why we’ll be able to get there before we’re all old and grey. For that matter, we’re not yet sure where Equestria is, which star we need to point the ship at. We’ll ask you some questions later to narrow things down. Even best case, it’ll take at least a day to get there.”

“I thought you might want to do something fun and relaxing before we bore you with all sorts of questions. So, what do you want to do?” Delilah asked again

Dash thought a moment. She didn’t like being unable to help her friends right away, but what this creature was telling her made sense. Then she considered. While she liked racing, and winning, she also knew that doing so after just eating a big meal all at once was asking for cramps. Still...

“I want to fly. I want to feel the wind under my wings, the air sluicing through my feathers.”

“I think we can manage something like that.”

---=={***}==---

“I can’t let you outside the ship, not really outside,” Delilah said as she lead Rainbow Dash down the corridor of the ship. “But I can offer you the next best thing.”

“But why not? Aren’t you in charge?” Rainbow Dash asked, while looking at the passing crew members, many of which were taking second looks at the quadruped. Curious, but not hostile looks. They came in different colors, if not as wildly colorful as Ponyville’s population. Most were a foot or two taller than Dash, but there were a bunch that could look the look her in the eye without looking down. They all seemed to walk on two legs, some had bigger ears... “Huh. You people all wear clothes.”

Delilah sighed, rolling her eyes a little. “Authority’s not the issue. Let me think how to put it...”

The captain took a deep breath. “Okay. You know how air gets thinner, and it gets harder to breathe, the higher you get up? Like mountains with year-round snow high, right?” she asked. Seeing the weather pony’s nod, she continued. “Well, for sake of explanation, you can think of this ship as flying so high up that there isn’t enough air to breathe; in fact we’d quickly die if we didn’t bring air with us, the ship holding it in.”

“Oh,” Dash replied, shuddering a little. “So you have to stay cramped in here? I mean, the ceilings are high but -”

Delilah laughed as she stopped next to a hatch that looked like all the others, aside from being double wide. “Well, we’ve developed some ways around that,” she said as the door opened, and she led the way in.

The room Rainbow Dash entered was strange. It was large, two stories tall, and half-again that in the other two dimensions. The walls, floor, and ceiling were black, save for a grid of yellow lines. And it was completely empty. No people, no boxes stored, no furniture, nothing.

As Dash trotted to the middle of the room, Delilah stayed at the door, inputting commands on the computer display in the arch. “This is a Holodeck,” Delilah stated. “It uses holograms, replicators, and force fields to create amazingly real seeming illusions.”

“How real?” Dash asked.

“Tell me for yourself,” Delilah replied. “Computer, run program Terra prairie.”

The grid of yellow on black vanished, revealing green grass, blowing in a sudden breeze, as the sun shined out of a blue sky.

---=={***}==---

“Well, Rainbow Dash is in the Holodeck, engaging in motion therapy,” Delilah said as she lowered herself into the chair in the briefing room. Only five others were in the room with her. The sixth of her bridge officers, Ensign Tarah, was head of Security. The female Andorian was busy keeping an eye on the Orion survivors, and making sure they were completely disarmed.

“While our guest is getting over her ordeal, I’d like to discuss how interesting today has been.” The smile on her lips was mirrored by the four of the five officers facing her. As for the exception, well, Raat usually had a stick up his butt. An effective administrator and talented biochemist, but...

The Borg attack on the Vega colony had cost Starfleet a large number of experienced officers (and destroyed Delilah’s career plan, and her long term goals) but the heroes of that dark day had risen to fill the gaps in starship command. Starfleet had given them freedom to promote officers under their command with little concern for official seniority and experience, these captains had mostly handled the responsibility well, and the effective results spoke for themselves. Still, there were some problems, officers promoted above their ability to lead, or promising potential starship commanders held back by captains that didn’t want to lose them, despite the need. Vulzy Raat was an example of the first, being too in love with rules and regulations for the flexibility a Starfleet officer needed. Delilah had been saddled with him when she was appointed to the U.S.S. Judges and was still figuring out a long-term solution that would save her grief, and make use of his undeniable talents. Figuring out what to feed an unknown life-form was hard if you also wanted to be sure to not accidently kill it.

The Bajoran biochemist spoke first, “Working only from external scans and examination of discarded hairs and feathers I can definitively say that the creature-“

“Rainbow Dash.” Delilah interrupted, a slight frown on her face.

Raat seemed to ignore the correction, continuing, “-has Terran biology and biochemistry. Classic mammal, in fact, even if nothing like that, with hair and feathers, let alone a six-limbed endoskeleton, has been recorded as a product of Earth’s natural evolution.”

“So she’s a product of genetic engineering?”

“That’s just it, there were no indications of genetic engineering in her DNA, none of the tell-tale markers of known manipulation methods.”

The Pakled officer to Raat’s right spoke up. “Flight is odd.”

Delilah paid close attention. Bindalla spoke slowly, often seeming stupid, and was almost the perfect image of the Pakled stereotype. Many Pakleds used that appearance to lull others into dropping their guard, so they could steal ‘things to make us go.’ Bindalla was in fact one of the best physicists that Starfleet Academy had produced. She was an explorer at heart, seeking wonder in the unknown expanses of space. She had adopted the ethos of scientist, where the question was the meaning.

“Wings too small. Shouldn’t fly. Does fly. Anomaly.”

Delilah understood the last word to mean the following: “What I have observed does not fit inside my existing models, but I am reasonably confident in my observations not being in error; I wish to observe more to either discover data that would allow me to fit this into my existing models, collect evidence that the original observations were in error, or proof that my models are flawed and need to be revised.”

“The flight’s not the only thing that’s odd,” Maya added. Delilah turned to her small ship’s Operations Officer, Ensign Oasis. “Rainbow Dash is a dead ringer for a pegasus out of earth mythology. Smaller than the legends say, and the legends never spoke of them talking, but...” She shrugged.

Delilah nodded. Starfleet had found that understanding of archeology and mythology often helped in understanding new civilizations, so the Academy offered courses to those interested. Ensign Oasis had taken all she could, around her main courses. And she had crammed in a lot. The woman was as capable as she was attractive, and could put tremendous energy into her duties and interests. Delilah found the human immensely sexy, which was causing the Commander personal frustration, given her commitment to not getting romantically involved with her own officers or the crew of the ship she commanded.

.o(Of course, if she could just prove herself, I could suggest to command that she be given a bridge of her own, then there wouldn’t be any conflict of interest in my hitting on her. Even if she turned me down, at least I wouldn’t be taking cold showers every night.)

“I think she mentioned being a pegasus, but does the place-name ‘Equestria’ ring any bells?” Delilah asked, Maya responding with a simple shake of her head, her long braid of metallic blue hair swinging in synch. The unnatural color of that hair was heritage of the genetically engineered super-soldiers of Earth’s Third World War.

“I’d like you to check the ship’s database, and go over what comes up when we interview her, see if there are any more connections,” Delilah commanded, receiving a nod from Maya in acknowledgement.

Delilah turned to the large officer beside Maya, who was living proof that both the idea of genetically engineered super-soldiers hadn’t died out, and that succeeding at the idea was harder than the Dominion’s Jem’Hadar made it seem. The scientist that had created Syoosi had been madder than most. Physically, he was ideal, with strength, speed, and reaction times that could have let him be the kill-beast his maker wanted.

But when the Starfleet officers burst into the lab, and the scientist had released his beauty, commanding his creation to “kill them!” Syoosi’s response had been to ask “Why?” Syoosi had the mind of an engineer, and the soul of a philosopher. He thought about things, and the reasons they were used, in a way that let him jury-rig solutions in emergency that bordered on the miraculous.

Alas, his biology was a cipher; he did not know his life expectancy, nor did he fit into any of the standard medical profiles. He was unique, and might not have long to live. He had wound up in Starfleet to address both concerns, giving him access to very capable and flexible medical support, and giving him a chance to do something meaningful, should his life prove to be a brief flash.

The lieutenant was also a master student of judo and aikido, martial arts based around deflecting, redirecting, and avoiding force, using them to prevent harm to himself, others, and those that attacked him. This had allowed him to catch Rainbow Dash when she had gotten loose in the cargo hold of the Orion ship. He approached life from an angle, instead of straight on, giving him a perspective that Delilah often treasured.

“Syoosi, we cracked the encryption on the Orion computers earlier,” Delilah stated. She had been the one doing the cracking, computer systems being a talent of hers. “Now that you’ve looked at their logs, can we tell where they picked up Rainbow Dash?”

“Not perfectly, Commander,” Syoosi said without a trace of apology. “Orion ships don’t keep sensor logs as well as Starfleet does, but from what was available, we can narrow it down to half a dozen systems.” He nodded to Bindalla, who was the ship’s navigator. The Pakled Lieutenant pressed a command, and a hologram appeared above the briefing table, a three dimensional star chart. Their own location was indicated, and six stars were highlighted. “At a guess, if Rainbow Dash can supply us with even simple astronomical details, number and size of moons or such, we should be able to narrow it down to one or two.”

She looked to her Bolian tactical officer. “What’s the status of the convoy?”

“They’re securely in orbit around the colony,” Siaat reported. “Normally we’d join those going on for the next leg of the trip, but I get the feeling you’ve got something else in mind.” He would; the Lieutenant had been in her class at Starfleet Academy, and in addition to the number of classes they shared, they had even dated for a while, parting on amicable terms. While her position above him on the command chain had prevented them from resuming their relationship, their familiarity with how each other thought had let them work together well.

“We can tractor the raider ship into orbit, and turn it and the survivors over to local authorities in just an hour. We could be heading out of the system in less than two hours.” Anticipating Delilah’s needs and laying the groundwork for those needs made him one of the most valuable officers she had.

Delilah nodded. “There are other starships in-system that can be pulled into convoy duty, but light as we are, we do represent the strongest Starfleet starship close enough to investigate this. We’ve got a major scientific mystery, a refugee that wants to go home, proof that the Orions are actively enslaving members of a pre-warp culture, and the trail isn’t getting any warmer. If we wait for another ship it might be lost entirely.” Her voice was decisive; while she’d accept the advice of her officers, her mind had been made up, and she was captain of this ship.

“We’re going looking for Equestia.”