• Published 10th Oct 2018
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Voyage of the Equinox - Starscribe



Equestria's first interstellar ship is crewed by the best and brightest Equestria has to offer. Twilight Sparkle and her friends are determined to uncover the origin of the mysterious alien Signal, no matter what it costs. A comment-driven story.

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Chapter 2

4. Let Spike Decide (He’ll be awake anyway, might as well let him choose once there’s more information)

"I can't decide right now," Twilight said, pushing the tablet back with her magic. Spike caught it in his claws, frowning.

"You've got to decide," he said. "It takes a long time to build a lander, Twi."

"I know!" she grinned down at him. "And you'll be around to make the right choice. Wait until the probe gets there, then do what seems best." She hopped up onto the table, wincing visibly as the telescoping arms unhinged themselves from the cot and began adjusting her body into place. The cryopod looked like a tomb, even with most of its parts hinged open around her. I guess it might be. We've never kept somepony asleep for this long before. But ponies didn't brave new frontiers by staying safe in their beds.

"Good luck, Spike," she whispered, as the first blast of medication took her in the face. "See you… in a few."

"Yeah," he said. His tone stretched, becoming wistful. "In a few." Twilight saw no more.

But Spike did. Some selfish part of himself had been looking forward to this time alone—it was time Twilight had never given him growing up. To read as many comics as he wanted, do as few chores as he wanted. Not eat as much as he wished to, since the Equinox dispensed the rations automatically. The ship did not need his help. And while Ponies might've struggled under the high apparent gravity of acceleration, Spike's dragon constitution did not. He would have to enjoy it, because once it stopped, it would be into the centrifuge every day to keep his bones from getting weak.

For the first time in his life, Spike had an endless wealth of time on his claws. Enough time to play every adventure module from Equestria, to decorate the whole ship, to sit beside the hibernation pods for hours and tell Rarity just how he felt. Without an answer, obviously. Eventually, though, the leisure started getting to him, and he sent a request back along the laser line. He wanted home study university courses—as many as they would give.

"Here you go, buddy," came the datascroll from Big Mac. "You keep my sister safe now." So he gave himself a routine.

Spike studied on the main deck, where one day the crew might wake and live and look down at an alien world through real windows. The sky out here didn't include Celestia's sun, the window faced the wrong way for that. But they were still stars, the same stars he'd see from Equestria. The same stars his friends back home were seeing.

Spike didn't resist his dragon constitution, either. If he wanted to turn down the climate control to near freezing and sleep for a few months, who was going to stop him? The computer could wake him if anything serious happened that needed his attention. And after napping for a few weeks, his mind would be fresh for the next day of class.

The Equinox's systems became less of a mystery to him as the months turned to years. His own body changed too, and those changes were the most exciting of all. He almost woke Twilight when a pair of wings emerged on his back. But he'd also melted through several sections of deck-plating, and that would probably not have impressed her as much.

Eventually, the drone sent long ahead of the Equinox passed through Proximus, and though it had no fuel to stop it sent back enough data for Spike to select the prospector with certainty. Twilight would probably support his choice, and if not… she shouldn't have left it to him.

But then something terrible happened.

It was near the end of the trip—long enough that much of the deck was beginning to show wear from the places he'd walked, and he'd had to swap out his furniture with that stolen from other quarters. An explosion that shook the ship, waking him from one of his month-long naps. Spike jerked suddenly to alertness, ears flattening as alarms throbbed.

Spike did not sleep in his quarters, but in Engineering, with the Equinox's own sun burning just through the shield. Gas hissed into the air from several vents, even as bulkheads on both floors smashed closed. "MULTIPLE HULL BREACHES DETECTED. DANGER CODE SOMBRA!"

Spike's mind returned only sluggishly. But there was procedure for this, and the computer had made him rehearse it almost weekly. He pulled into a space-suit as quickly as he could and did nothing else until his helmet was securely in place. The screens circling the reactor weren't green anymore, but shone an angry amber, along with steadily increasing radiation levels. A pony in his position would be in trouble soon, but dragons were tougher.

Spike stopped in front of the nearest console, scanning it for the computer's warning messages.

Rupture detected in primary plasma line! Cause: Unknown.
Damage detected in primary drive manifold!
Coolant leak detected in central reactor!
Atmosphere venting on decks 2-4!

If he were religious, Spike might've whispered a prayer of thanks to Celestia that they were still alive. If that line had broken inside the Equinox, they'd be nothing more than scraps of relativistic space debris.

He began shutting down the central reactor, claws moving sluggishly in gloves. He could actually feel the deck shake as the auxiliary chemical generators switched on, running a little unsteady after many years of neglect. They would keep him alive while he figured out what to do.

Spike quickly realized there weren't enough spare parts to get the engines ready for deceleration—not without some "creative" engineering. But the Equinox was built from highly modular components, and he was reasonably sure he could get enough by sacrificing a less-important system.

Scrap Backup Cryogenics (So long as nothing goes wrong, I should still be able to thaw them out.)
Scrap the Lander (The Equinox can land. Taking off again, not so much.)
Scrap the Weapons (We come in peace, why'd they even give us these?)

(Certainty 100 Required)

Author's Note:

Hey there ponies! Feel free to use the comments to discuss, but note that I don’t count them for the purposes of what happens next. If you want to make your voice heard, make sure you do it in the poll. This entry’s poll:

https://www.strawpoll.me/16624808/r

What you’re reading is a CYOA-style adventure story, fully driven by its user feedback. This story is written using a system called Mythic, a GM-simulator that allows me to be fully in the driver’s seat for the prose, without actually knowing what will happen next. Success or failure in this story is fully governed by the fickle hand of fate, as well as the wisdom of those who chose to vote on it.

You can go ahead and vote in older polls if you want, but obviously they won’t retroactively change the text going forward, so the links are left behind mostly because I’m lazy and as a record of previous decisions.

If you’d like to take a look at my semi-regularly updated blog post with character sheets and stuff, go ahead and visit here: https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/834930/voyage-of-the-equinox-resource-page

And if you’re curious about the dicerolls and the system, you can see all of it for yourself and verify that I’m not cheating on my discord here: https://discord.gg/mQfUn75

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