• Published 19th Mar 2015
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Across the Sea of Time - Meep the Changeling



Three nerds are summoned by a mysterious force to save Equestria by helping an Artificial Intelligence build a starfaring Changeling civilization in an attempt to save the world.

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Prologue: Celestia's Letter

Author's Note:

WAIT!

I forgot to explain the univerce! That's kinda important...
Here you go!


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Unknown - 12th of Harvestide '30 - Morning

There is an old saying about life meant to tell young people they should think before they act. I’m sure you know it. ‘Don’t leap before you look.’ Five simple words of perfectly sage advice. That’s the thing about sage advice though, it is often ignored by the people who give it to you.

Hell, we told everyone for years those five simple words. Schools taught long term planning, our entire civilization pushed the idea of moving forward once you understood something and never going in blind. We arrogantly believed our beloved Equestria would never make a truly terrible decision. Surely our rulers would think things through and bring us prosperity just as they had for the last four thousand years.

Then came the 5811th year of the Classical Era. On the 19th of Megan, somepony in the rural town of Ponyville walked into the wrong outhouse and blew the lid off the largest conspiracy anyone’s ever seen. Our entire way of life, our government, the Princesses, all of it was the carefully controlled puppeteering of a shadow government. They called themselves the Tribunal, and their control over us was so absolute, not even Celestia herself knew they existed.

We immediately went to war with a righteous fury the likes of which had not been seen for ten thousand years. Every province, every city, every town erupted into chaos. The fighting was everywhere, but spread thin, it did not truly become hell. Hell came later.

The Tribunal was far more powerful than our Royal Guard. Spears and cannons were no match for dark sorcery and eldritch weapons. The vat grown Tribunal Magus burned through our soldiers like an office goes through copy paper. Yet after a year of constant bloodshed, every single last person in the nation rose up together in a unified force and scattered the Tribunal to the winds.

We thought we had won peace and prosperity. A return to the way things had been before. We were wrong.

So much of our way of life had depended on the Tribunal. We knew nothing of the real world, from the very beginning they had fabricated everything in our history books and controlled all news which went in and out of the nation. We were completely ill equipped to handle diplomacy with other nations, and with the reputation the Tribunal left us with, no one would deal with us. But worst of all, our shield was gone.

Four thousand years of peace, the paradise Equestria had enjoyed, all thanks to the Tribunal slaughtering any and all threats to the nation. Countless vat grown, arcane powered troops making sure the Princesses only had to deal with making everything within the nation prefect. Sure a few small problems popped up from time to time, the Tribunal had not been perfect, but the true horrors had been kept at bay.

The 10th of Solarus, 5812 CE. Three months after we had defeated the Tribunal. The day he choose for us to die.

For the last three hundred years the Tribunal had been constantly keeping an army from entering Equestria. An army led by a single minded strategist with a hatred for all species not his own. An army displaced from time, millions of years away from home, with the singular goal of returning to their families. On that day twelve years ago, we made first contact with humankind.

They called themselves the Arc, and every single one of them was little more than a brain in a body made from steel and built for war. Each one of them absolutely loyal to the Admiral who commanded them, not by choice but through their technology. Technology which we could not even hope to counter in those early days.

We were lucky, the Admiral only had six battleships at his disposal, and they lacked the ability to produce more soldiers. The few victories we had in those early days mattered, they couldn’t recover. In those early days those small victories told us we could beat them, but our moral shattered.

The Arc’s weapons were terrible. It wasn’t uncommon to find an entire city filled with corpses, no sign of a fight, and just the barest tinge of poisons in the air. Other cities vanished in a flash of fire which left ponies blind forever. Again we were lucky, the admiral took care to not kill too many of us or destroy indiscriminately. He needed our magic to return home.

We won in the end. Four years, eight million lives, a thousand heroes, a defector, and permanent damage to our nation’s best defence. That’s what it took to defeat them.

Had a member of the Arc, Operator 12, not broken free from her master’s control and come to ur side, we would never have learned how to get past their shields and level the playing field. If Captain Flash Sentry had not sacrificed his life covering the Elements while they banished the Arc to the end of time, there wouldn’t be an Equestria to day. Our nation survived on the barest thread of luck, by the sacrifice and skill of everypony who dared to try.

We survived, crushed and broken, but alive. Our mighty Kingdom reduced from a brilliant flame to a glowing coal. But we rebuilt, we worked hard to get back to where we were before. We managed to return to some of our former glory, most of the survivors have a good life. Cities are being rebuilt, the population is slowly bouncing back. But there is much which would need to happen to bring back our utopia.

I tell you this, so you know our history. So you have the barest idea of what my people have been through. Because those two back to back wars, they were not the true hell which awaited us.

There is an abundance of evil in this world, much of it long buried and forgotten. The last evil which attacked us was from a world long dead, ghosts of the past. The one which came after them and swept the entire world quite literally into the abyss, that was a relic of our era.

For decades we had thought our homeland, our world, and our very people were gone. Reduced to mere playthings for the Source of All Evil himself. Our last heroes were dead, our people broken and scattered, our magics useless or forgotten. What hope was there?

There was one, single, last spark of hope. A single spark which my friends and I had at last found. A single spark we were going to try our best to fan into a burning flame of freedom, and undo the last two decades of terror. We would reach into the past, create new heros, and set up a time paradox. The only question was, whom should we choose?

“Humans. We choose humans.” he said.

I shook my head, “As advantageous in combat as they are, what hope do they have of peacefully interacting with us?”

“Not those humans.” He chuckled. “We take two or three from long before they became the humans you know. Their twenty first century should do nicely.”

“Why? It will take more power to move that far back in time than to simply grant somepony incredible powers. You know we will need brute force.” she said.

He shook his head, “What good is a sledgehammer if you cannot wield it? We won't be able to talk to them directly after we begin. Our heros will need to work by our hints, to discover what needs to be done as we will be unable to tell them. We need clever, we need crazy, we need tenacious, we need compassion and rage in equal measure. We need humans.”

“That’s a good point.” I said, giving all six of us a look to show them I agreed. “I say we get some of those humans.”

“We don't have a way to prevent ponies from attacking them on sight!” she objected.

“Oh please, they don’t all look like the Terminator! Ponies have never seen a proper human in the flesh. Everything will be fine.” He scoffed. “Besides, their twenty first century was hundred of years before they developed that sort of technology.”

“Alright… maybe that is our best option.” She decided. “How how do we get them to start on our plan?”

“Oh that’s easy.” He laughed, “We find a few nerds, and we put them near the Emerald Hive. One look at those Changelings and they will do exactly what we need them too.”

“Are you certain?” I asked.

He nodded. “Sometimes, people work like math. Trekkies, plus actual aliens in trouble, equals help given to aliens.”

“Trekkies?” she asked in confusion.

“Think of them as a faction of humans.”

He hadn’t lied to anypony in three decades. There was no reason to assume he was now. So I nodded. “Okay… Let’s get started.”

Princess Celestia - 15th of Harvestide '09 EoH

I was used to letters I received being insulting tirades from hostile nation's leaders, self-righteous pontificating from a local noble, or a flattery filled letter from one of my loyal subjects. Those sorts of letters no longer irritated me. I barely even noticed them anymore, but the letter which I had just been given was an entirely different story.

The Emerald Hive's letter's were always irritating, and this one was no exception. The Emeralds are very different from other changelings, they are not aggressive or hostile, far from it. They sat within their hive and only fought things which attacked them first. They wouldn't even chase down fleeing foes or launch a retaliatory strike.

They are friendly enough, and willingly engage in diplomacy with Equestria and a few other nations which have not attacked them. If they would only cooperate and answer a few simple questions, I would have no quarrel at all with the reclusive and mysterious group of changelings who had made their home beneath Bozeman Hill in the badlands.

The majority of strange happenings around Bozeman Hill area were typically blamed on them. Once again ponies were coming to me in droves, demanding I put an end to the Emerald’s nefarious schemes, or explain what 'the damn bugs are up to.' If only I had something to tell my subjects to assure them they were safe. But I simply had no clue what the Emeralds were actually doing.

The Emeralds owned their hill. It was their sovereign territory, a micro nation. I couldn't simply order them to explain themselves, they were not entirely mine to command. However, part of the spell used to banish the Hives requires all changelings to answer specific questions if asked. I added that into the spell so anypony could tell if a seemingly peaceful changeling was a threat or not. Somehow the Emeralds had found a loophole in that part of the spell, they could answer with the vaguest possible information.

The sort of vague information which filled the letter I held within my magic and read for a third time, hoping I had missed something, anything, which might give me a clue to their activities:

Princess Celestia,

I understand your concerns as to our activities. However, I must once again inform you we can not reveal any information other than we are performing scientific studies and tests within our sovereign territory. We hold no ill will towards Equestria, and wish to express our gratitude for freeing us from our species traditions. Without your intervention none of our accomplishments would have been possible.

As I respect you, and your nation I offer you this warning. Any military action taken against us will result in the immediate termination of all soldiers sent against our hive. Our past repulsion of invading forces speak for themselves as to the lethality of our defenses. While it would sadden me to order my people to fire upon yours we will defend ourselves and our hive as we always have regardless of who or what attacks us.

As it would seem we are causing you and your subjects stress I have elected to explain what I can. We are performing scientific studies and attempting to develop certain technologies to benefit our species and others. The exact details of which I am not free to disclose as we have agreed to follow a set of laws which are not of our own making. General Order One prevents us from discussing many matters with civilizations which have not reached a certain threshold of technological or social development. While there are situations in which we could explain ourselves without violating this Directive, we can't tell you what they are.

What I can tell you is this: Our Phoenix rests beneath Bozeman Hill, we seek to restore her from the ashes. When she is ready she will fly to the heavens, a signal to our brothers and sisters that we are ready to join them among the stars.


~ Captain Skriit Bartor

I groaned and rubbed my forehead with a hoof to ward off a building headache. For a people I had banished over nineteen centuries ago, the changeling Hives still managed to be an incredible nuisance from time to time. I don't regret banishing them, had Luna and I not used the Elements to banish their species to the four corners of the world they might have invaded en masse again. It wasn't exactly the changeling's fault they were such a menace back then.

I studied the changelings when I was younger and their species was more populous. If left to their own devices most changelings simply seek companionship, love, and are rather kind. I used the way individual changeling communities interact with each other as my template for pony society. But changelings also have their dark side.

Their Queens have an unusual power over them. It's more than the result of the joyfully, fervent loyalty changelings show to their leaders. Changeling Queens orders are always followed; I suppose it's an insect thing. Should a Queen give an order to her hive it is carried out immediately, to the letter, and with astonishing teamwork and precision. Which is why one wicked and evil-hearted leader can make any changeling hive a true terror.

The same incredible levels of teamwork, precision, and impossibly large numbers which allow them to construct entire buildings in mere hours is also a horrifying weapon. You can't outrun a swarm. If you damage it, the essence of what it is remains; the individuals within the swarm will regenerate and keep coming. Eventually even the strongest of ponies will weaken, their reserves will be gone and the swarm will wash them away like a wave. Changelings never relent.

The last major problem I had with changelings was nine years ago. The remnants of Sapphire Hive had launched their own invasion, led by the descendant of the last High Queen no less. Fortunately Chrysalis was nowhere near the tactical genius her mother and grandmother had been. She thought the swarm had no counters, no weaknesses, or flaws. There are plenty of ways to counter brute force.

Her invasion was over in an afternoon. It didn’t even last long enough to push back my niece's wedding. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the forces under Chrysalis's command, we never found more than a hooffull of them scattered across Equestria. I hope their hive was not destroyed, no species should be punished for obeying its leaders.

Chrysalis was not the problem I was facing today, nor was it another changeling attack. If it was simply an attack, I would have no problem. I could simply call upon Twilight to once again save our kingdom. This time the problem was Emerald Hive, and they were seemingly peaceful as they always had been.

So all I had to try to discover what the Emeralds might be doing was a few direct statements by members of the Hive, wildly conflicting first hand accounts of ponies who had been to their Hive, rare stories from the odd survivors of assaults on their hill them over the centuries, and one entirely useless letter. Hardly enough to come to a proper conclusion.

I took a moment to reflect on what I knew of Emerald Hive's history. Perhaps, if I went over what was said in the letter through the context of their history and what little I knew of their culture, I could find the answer I sought.

The Emeralds' hive was formed just before the twelve changeling hives’ banishment. High Queen Polygyne had taken an entire hive with her in her madness induced invasion of Equestria. The other Queens knew the hive was doomed, and due to a superstition involving the number eleven, they formed the Emerald Hive from the outcasts and weaklings of all the other hives. As a result the Emeralds are smaller, weaker, slower, and less magically powerful than other changelings. Furthermore, if the reports were accurate they couldn't produce members of the Soldier caste, meaning they did not have any purpose built warriors to assist them. Yet they held onto that one hill despite their weakness.

I had to admire them for that. The Emeralds clearly had intellect on their side, but when a group of creatures who shouldn't be able to hold onto territory keep managing to hold it, lived in near total isolation, and exhibited cult-like behavior ponies will grow to fear them. Furthermore for everyone Equestria has me for a leader, and I won't lead my nation to war on suspicions of danger. No matter how bizarre or threatening a culture might appear to us, violence must be a last resort.

The Emeralds certainly are bizarre. Other hives use their gemstone's shape and color as their flag, the Emeralds fly a blue flag featuring a silver asymmetrical arrowhead with rounded points. Other hives seek to gain territory and enjoy obtaining wealth, the Emeralds couldn't care less about trade aside from raw resources and only seemed interested in Bozeman Hill. Other hives proudly proclaim their loyalty to their Queen, the Emeralds haven't even explained their basic command structure to me.

The few diplomatic visits the Emeralds have payed Canterlot over the years had shown me that their culture is entirely different from the Changeling norm. The Emeralds wore clothing, a simple sash of red, gold, blue, or green which is used to display a few small pins. It was definitely some sort of uniform, but whatever the brass pips and colors meant was not something the Emeralds were willing to discuss. The most they would say was, “We found new purpose beneath Bozeman Hill. We no longer value material wealth, we seek only to better ourselves.”

The popular opinion was that the Emeralds has discovered an ancient magical artifact and formed a cult to an ancient god. I was inclined to believe that myself. There was little else to conclude, the uniforms, the secrecy, the unknown power they possessed, the countless reports of mysterious lights and sounds around their hive, and the eerily beautiful, haunting, alien music played daily at sunrise practically spelled everything out. If they had formed a cult, I needed to know exactly what they believed and might do as military action might be needed.

Unfortunately, this was not something a normal spy could find out for me. Not because of any real danger, but because of how insanely secure their hive is: a single entrance camouflaged into the hill and with but a single guarded approach. There was simply no way to safely get a spy into the hive, unless they were to walk right in the front door. While the Emeralds happily allow ponies to visit their hive, only those who allow a binding spell to be placed upon them may which prevents them from discussing what they saw may enter the subterranean portions.

Nonetheless, I had a plan to get that intelligence. I wrote a letter, which informed Emerald Hive in no uncertain terms that unless they disclosed exactly what they were doing I would be forced to undertake military action at the request of my subjects. That letter was given to a very special messenger, and sent to their hive as quickly as could be. A spy who mere minutes ago had handed me the letter I still held in my magic.

I groaned again, “How do you write three hundred words and say nothing?”

I set the letter down on my desk with an angry huff. At least I finally had the name and rank of the Emerald's leader. Unfortunately the rank of Captain backed up the notion of a growing and well established military.

I turned my head to look at the “pony” who had been my messenger and spy. To the untrained eye he was a simple, gray furred, black maned earth pony. A very common, bit-a-dozen sort of pony who would vanish into a crowd without even trying. Nothing could be further from the truth. “You haven't mentioned if our plan worked. Did their sealing spell effect you?”

“Oh Tia, you know full well it didn't. You wouldn't have asked me to be your delivery boy if you thought it could.” The gray and black pony's body warped and contorted as Discord returned to his proper shape. Plucking a small pink ball from thin air he began to toss it back and forth between his talon and paw, “But I won't tell you what you want to know.”

“What?” I asked incredulously, “You made me a promise Discord!”

He gave me a sagely smug, playful nod. “I did, but what do you do when one promise conflicts with another? Oh no no, not their silly little 'no talking' spell.” Discord flicked his talon, the ball transforming into a replica of the Emerald Hive's logo. “I thought this little emblem was a coincidence, there are only so many symbols one can invent after all. I must admit it's a rather unlikely set of circumstances but this symbol belongs to a group I am rather well acquainted with.”

“What do you mean? Are they dangerous?” I asked, pleading with my tone for an answer, any answer. I had to have something to tell my subjects. Anything.

Discord snorted, “They are very dangerous, in their own way. Or were rather. You needn't worry your little head though, they were never aggressive. Just peaceful explorers, thrill seekers really. I made a promise to some very good friends so very long ago not to give information on them out to other species and civilizations.”

“They don't exist anymore?” I asked, my eyes narrowing in curiosity.

“No. They never existed in this universe, and their own has long since ended.” Discord held up a talon, interrupting me as I opened my mouth to ask why he, of all people, would respect a promise made to someone long dead, “But that doesn't mean I never made the promise, so I will only tell you what I can without breaking it. Those particular changelings won't harm anyone. They believe in the philosophies of the people they are imitating more than the originals did.

"I have no clue how or why but they have almost everything they need to explore this world just as their idols did theirs, and it's plain to see that's exactly what they want to do. They are harmless Celestia, though they will cause some delightful chaos down the road. I look forward to watching it.” Discord finished.

I took a deep breath. I could feel the anger building on my face, took a deep breath, let it all out with a long sigh and asked, “Okay. What do I tell my little ponies then?”

“Tell them not to worry. The Emeralds are just a bunch of eggheads doing various scientific experiments and don't want to harm anypony. If they are still concerned... Well don't worry about that. A little bird tells me the Emeralds’ cat will be out of the bag soon enough.” Discord smiled, raising his paw preparing to vanish with a snap his fingers.

“What makes you say that?” I blurted before he could vanish.

“I'm sure you remember Starswirl's little hiccup while working with time magic? Let's just say that he's enabled a handful of people to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Discord winked, waved, then snapped his fingers, and vanished, leaving me even more confused than before. Just like he always did.