• Published 13th May 2016
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Friendship is Sufficiently Advanced - Cordial Nova

A first-in scout from the Associated Worlds investigates a very odd star system.

  • ...

V. Six Impossible Things, Including Breakfast

From the notes of Twilight Sparkle:

Our guest from the stars is now here in the library, or more specifically, asleep in my spare bed. I had a lot more questions to ask her, but apparently her "artificial immune system" makes her sleep a lot while it repairs her injuries, and she was looking very tired when we got here. If my assumptions about alien body language are correct, that is.

I did learn one thing: her people have a social rule restricting nudity, at least in public, which became relevant when it was time to leave the hospital. (It also seems likely that blushing in response to perceived embarrassment is something that our species share.) The garment she was originally wearing had been destroyed - it was necessary for the doctors to cut her out of it to treat her wounds, as it possessed no apparent fastenings - and so fortunately Nurse Redheart was willing to lend us one of the hospital's bedsheets, which she was able to wrap around herself to form a crude replacement.

Having established this, I asked her if it would make her uncomfortable that we, meaning ponies in general, do not wear clothing most of the time. She claims that it will not, citing a "Common Social Protocol" - the name of her people's codified list of social rules - that exempts those with fur from wearing clothing as already clothed in effect, adding that while she knew it did not apply here, it was something that she was accustomed to. It being very late in the evening when we left the hospital, though, I have not yet had the chance to observe her reactions to ponies en masse, or indeed their reactions to her.

Once I had her settled in here, I sent Spike over to the Carousel Boutique with the remains of her old clothing and a note. I hope Rarity will find dressing an alien an interesting project. One way or another, she'll be here for a while, so we'll have to find some way to dress her.

I can't wait for the morning to find out more!

Golden Oaks Library, the next morning

The sun rose, impelled by the touch of its mistress's magic; honeyed light poured down, touching the rooftops of Ponyville with its golden glow; and one beam fell through the drawn curtains of an upper window of the Golden Oaks Library and illuminated a visitor's face. Said visitor grmphed in her sleep, rolled over, found that the light chased her even there, and slowly opened her eyes. This, she thought, was a rather more pleasant awakening than the last one. Although there was something to be said for not having to curl around oneself to sleep, Twilight Sparkle's spare bed not being built for tall bipeds.

These pleasant morning reflections were all too soon interrupted by a whiff of smoke. Breakfast, perhaps, or -- no, that would be brimstone. Brimstone does not make for a good breakfast. In any case --

At that point, or thereabouts, Cordelia flung off the covers and leapt out of bed, expecting the worst. Looking around, though, the worst did not seem in particular evidence. Bright sunny morning, check. Non-spare bed... also check, although either Twilight is compulsively neat or else hasn't used said bed last night. Pile of books, check. Basket, check. Mythological green-and-purple-scaled aman (1) hatchling, snoring, in basket, check.

Wait, what?

1. Which word could be translated either as dragon, a mythological species, or as the name of one of the galaxy's more terrifying (2) Precursor races.

2. Less because of their incredible size, strength, ability to breathe fire, nuclear metabolisms, and so forth, or even their stupendous technology, and more because of their habit of bending reality like a pretzel just by existing in it.

Naturally, being equipped with an extensive sophontological education and the very best Exploratory Service training, Cordelia responded to this unexpected sight in the most appropriate manner possible.

Specifically, she said "wuh? blerk!"

The hatchling lifted its green-spined head for long enough to utter something that sounded like "gmmernin; dwnstrrrr" before falling back to the pillow, and resuming snoring with a tiny puff of greasy smoke, which presumably explained the brimstone smell.

Well. Okay, then.

When Cordelia had re-draped herself in her temporary sheet-toga, and found her way downstairs, the first thing she saw was Twilight, sitting on a cushion at a long table table, writing with a quill clutched in a field of purple light. The second thing was the other scroll on the table - indeed, running right from one end of the table to the other. As she stepped closer, she could see that it was a very detailed checklist, written out in small delicate script: although upside-down, it was easy to see that the first line read, simply, Arithmetic.

Upon walking around the table, and inspecting the other end of the scroll, the last line turned out to read Endochronic Properties of M,N-dimensional Undulance Knot Arrays in Massively Parallel Spellcraft, which was helpfully footnoted (Note: consult Canterlot Archives for other relevant unsolved research problems).

"Fair morning, Twilight Sparkle," she said formally, then abandoned that register. "Did you by any chance spend the whole night coming up with this list of topics?" She paused, then added, "And please don't tell me that this is intended to be today's list."

There was no response from Twilight, who kept on annotating her second scroll with focused attention.


I know that look.

I've had that look.

Cordelia cleared her throat a little more loudly, then reached out and placed a hand over the inkwell Twilight was using. "Fair morning," she said again. "Ah - I am assuming you know and that it is perfectly normal that you have a dragon asleep in your bedroom?"

A quill descended, and stopped just before reaching quickly-withdrawn fingers, and amethyst eyes traced fingers to arm and up to visitor's face. "Oh! Moongleam! Good morning. Dragon? Oh, yes - that's Spike. He's my number one assistant. He's sleeping in today because he got up early to make breakfast - we didn't know what you might eat, so we've put together a little of lots of different foods."

"Assistant, really?" Cordelia rubbed her temples. "That... gives me about a dozen questions, but none of them are the most important questions right now, I suspect. And also, you said breakfast, and that probably is, if my stomach's anything to go by - and, I suppose, if it turns out that I can eat the food here."

"Let's find out. It's all laid out over here in the kitchen. Would you mind answering a few questions as we eat?"

"Not at all, I'd be more than happy to. We probably have a lot of the same starting questions, so maybe we can answer them for each oth -- well, huh. That's. Huh."


"I recognize the food. This being a - so far as I knew - previously uncontacted planet, there is no way I should be able to recognize the food."

"So Sky Watcher's theory is correct? Life developed differently everywhere?" Twilight floated a plate over to herself, and began assembling a sandwich.

"That's what we believe, with only a few known exceptions. And yet," Cordelia said, pouring a glass of water while summoning an apple to her with her own blue-glowing psychokinesis, "this is a greenlife (3) rhaléth fruit, sure as I'm standing here." Moving on, she put some toast on a plate, and began to butter it. "This looks exactly like bread made with landesh flour." She took a bite. "Tastes like it, too. And while this doesn't quite have the feel of quebérúr butter, it's close enough to be it's kin."

3. Greenlife (or calenlethis) is what the eldrae of the Empire call what we would recognize as Earth-descended life. For more on this in background terms and how it's being handled in this fusion fic, see this blog post.

"An apple, wheat flour, and the butter's made with cow's milk," Twilight filled in. "And what does this mean?"

"I have no idea that's not blind guessing," Cordelia replied with a shrug, "at least until more data turns up. It does mean we might be distant cousins, though - since if this is what you eat routinely, you're almost certainly greenlife too, and I'm, oh, at least three-fifths greenlife."

"Three-fifths -" Twilight raised one hoof, exhaled, and pushed it out in front of her. "We're getting off track. I'm sure this will all start making sense later. But you can eat everything here?"

"Everything but the hay. Well, that's not quite true - I can digest it, because I've been modified to be able to. But it's not something I'd eat naturally, and the modifications don't give me the taste for it, so I'd rather not unless there's an emergency."

"And you don't need to eat meat? One of my friends noticed," and here she blushed slightly, "your teeth (4)."

4. Specifically, those canines, which are a bit more evident than the human version. See here.

"Can, yes, and would at home, but I don't need to." Cordelia paused. "Oh. I'm guessing from this food that you're herbivorous? Is that going to be a problem?"

"It shouldn't be. You wouldn't be the first carnivore to visit Ponyville, but meat isn't something you can find at the market. You can get fish, though, sometimes. Some pegasi like to eat it."

"That'd be great, but I don't think it'd be strictly necessary," Cordelia replied, expertly demolishing a bowl of carrot salad. "I'm adaptable, and this food is something I'm happy to adapt to. These are some amazingly delicious vegetables."

For a while, the kitchen was filled with nothing but the sound of eating, before Twilight broke the silence.

"You told us where you were from last night, but not - what you are? Or where you're from?"

"What - oh, species, yes. My species-name is eldrae; I'm from the Empire of the Star, which is a union of multiple species occupying roughly 275 star systems, um," Cordelia glanced around and waved generally, taking in three-quarters of the sky, "that-a-way. I could show you on a star chart, maybe, or - I saw a telescope here earlier? I might be able to point out my home star - my own world's one of the colonies, named Golden Groves - or at least in its direction. And, ah - same question? Well, where am I, rather than where you're from, I mean."

"We're ponies. And -"

"Regretting to interrupt," Cordelia said, "but all of you are? I have seen so far four different, um, clades?"

"Yes. There are three different tribes - unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies - but we're all ponies. I'm" - she pointed to her horn with a hoof - "a unicorn. The pegasi have wings, like Rainbow Dash whom you met yesterday. The others, with neither horn nor wings, are the earth ponies."

"And those with both, like Princess Luna?"

"The three Princesses have the traits of all three tribes."

"Okay. I think I follow. Enough for now, anyway."

"As for where you are, this land is called Equestria, and this town is Ponyville, in the Principality of Canterlot (5)." Twilight got up, moved to the window, and pointed. "Named after the city --"

5. Formerly the Kingdom of Unicornia, briefly the Platinum Palatinate, and even more briefly during the Discordant Era, the Pointy Pony Palace Place.

Cordelia looked, caught a glimpse of sunlight reflecting off spires of gold, purple, and white, and drew a sharp breath. "Oh, that's just beautiful. And I'm going to have to ask you some serious questions about civil engineering, later on. And that mountain, I've seen that before, I think..."

"The mountain? That's the Canterhorn. The city's named from it, and it's the capital of all Equestria. See the waterfalls it's built around? They're the Tears of Epona, and the Canterstream flows from there down the Cantervale, down to Saddle Lake here by Ponyville."

"I'm detecting a bit of a theme, there."

"Princess Platinum had a lot of talents," Twilight conceded. "But nomenclature wasn't one of them." She paused, then asked, "You said your Empire was a union of multiple species? How many are there?"

"Well, it's hard to say exactly. The Empire's just one small part of all the stars we can reach, you see, which we call the Associated Worlds, and there are a few hundred different species in them" - Twilight's eyes widened in fascination - "and since anyone of any of them can become a citizen-shareholder," she shrugged, "it's not really a fixed count. But there's probably a dozen or so most associated with the Empire - eldrae, ciseflish, kaeth, myneni, dar-bandal, esseli... I'm fascinated, though, that you've got two here. It's very unusual for there to be two sophont species on the same planet - not unknown, but definitely unusual. Homeworlds, I mean, not colonies."

"Oh, there aren't two. There are nine. Apart from ponies and dragons, there are buffalo, changelings, diamond dogs, griffons, minotaur, qilin and zebras (6)."

Cordelia choked on her water.


6. (Slightly trimmed for this AU - ed.) It is acknowledged that this list may not be complete, if any other sophont species are lurking in the mysterious west, in the backcountry recesses of the Griffon Empire, or in the trackless jungles of southern Zebrica. There also also offshoots of the known species, whether acknowledging this in the manner of the crystal ponies or the Nocturne, or who would consider themselves separate were anyone to ask, ranging from the uniquely tall unicorns of Prance, through the Saddle Arabians and the merely reactionary unicorns of Unicornia Antiqua, to the water serpents ultimately descended from dragons.

Nonetheless, this is the list that a well-educated Equestrian savant would give you at this particular point in history, and since Cordelia is hearing it from Twilight Sparkle, that's the list she's getting.

And so breakfast passed swiftly, with questions being asked and answered, with occasional interruptions for bursts of excitement, incredulity, and the need to find additional paper and ink. But ultimately, with much food eaten, it was time to be about the business of the day, which for both Twilight and Cordelia - per the checklist of immediate issues to solve which Twilight had also made overnight - would begin with the acquisition of clothing for the latter not made out of a hastily knotted hospital bedsheet.

With one other interruption on the way, the very moment that they set foot outside the door of the Golden Oaks Library:

"Wha‽7 Ho- whe- tha-," Cordelia stuttered, and the translation amulet stuttered along with her. "I mean - wha‽ It's not -"

7. Like lojban and some other orderly constructed languages, Eldraeic is audiovisually isomorphic, i.e., all the punctuation marks it uses are also pronounceable words in the spoken language.

Interrobang, specifically, is pronounced 'squeaky WTF noises'.

"Moongleam?" Twilight stopped, and trotted back to where Cordelia had frozen mid-stride, and followed her gaze to where a cream pegasus with a cerise-and-mint mane was watering one of Lily's flower beds. "What's the matter?"

"But she- how- that can't- with‽"

Twilight looked around, a little uneasily - as Cordelia was starting to attract the covert stares of bystanders, all wondering what this weird not-pony would do - then poked her with a hoof.


"This is a joke, yes? One of those hilarious pranks I am told people love to play on unwary exosophontologists?"

"No, I don't think so."

"She just tore off a chunk of cloud and pushed it over there. And is making it rain by jumping on it."


"That - how can that even work - that's just -"

"Your people don't control the weather?"

"Oh, we control the weather." Cordelia giggled. "On a large scale, and with machines. We have giant space mirrors and smart haze and thermal boreholes and coherent light beams and all sorts of tools to do it. But this is -- I don't even know."


Cordelia turned to look at Twilight, grinning like a maniac.

"I was going to say awesome."