• Member Since 7th Feb, 2014
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Stories about ponies are stories about people. Every challenge is an opportunity to change. My Patrons let me keep writing, at: https://www.patreon.com/RealStarscribe


Twilight Sparkle was only a filly when Equestria detected the enigmatic Signal. A series of increasingly complex mathematical proofs, the Signal transformed from an intriguing curiosity to reliable evidence of extraequestrian life.

And as it happened, Equestria's exploration of their own solar system was nearly complete. With colonies orbiting every planet and large body, and an asteroid belt filled with miners and prospectors, Twilight's civilization was just about ready to turn its focus outward. The signal was less than ten light-years away, within reach of a daring, experimental voyage. A voyage Twilight Sparkle would lead.

Along with a small crew of the most skilled scientists and engineers Equestria could offer, Twilight is determined to uncover the mystery of the Signal, and brave the final frontier for future generations of Equestrian explorers.

A comment-driven, CYoA story. Please use the links provided in the author's notes of each chapter to vote, rather than the comments.

This story is a creative experiment of mine, one meant to explore the general idea that creativity is often most fostered by restrictions. As a result, I've imposed a number of restrictions on the writing of this story, which I'm stating explicitly here so I can be called out if I break any of them.

1. Brevity is the soul of wit
No chapter may be more than 1000 words long. This wordcount only includes prose, and not the questions/rolls.

2. Every choice matters
When a choice is offered in a chapter, at least one sub-optimal choice must be present, with no indication about which is which other than the prose itself. Every chapter should end with a CYoA-style decision tree when possible.

3. Fate is cruel and the universe is heartless
The decision of the vote must be respected. This means any character could be killed, or the entire story could end in failure, if that's what the votes decide. Where numbers, stats, and randomization appear in the text, these elements are not verisimilitude, but are decided by public diecrolls in my discord server.

Note: Because of the unusual production of this story, its chapters won't be edited in the same way as my usual fare. Feel free to point out any mistakes you encounter.

Awesome cover by Zutcha as you can probably tell. Editing stuff by Two Bit and Sparktail, where applicable.

Chapters (136)
Comments ( 4801 )

I'll give it a track but... Probably won't read it based on the whole "comment driven CYOA" angle. While it could work, you're relying on your audience being relatively intelligent... and this is FiMFiction we're talking about.

Oh boy, we get to make choices and you have the trust in us to keep them alive. This is going to go so terribly wrong.

This is very interesting... Let's see how this goes!

Oh, this will be interesting. Here's hoping it works out well. CYOA stories have a nasty tendency to burn out, but with your reader base, I don't think that'll be an issue. Looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Once I go into hibernation, I won’t be feeling anything.


Definitely an interesting take on a story, and sci-fi is becoming a rarer genre everyday (in my experience.) This has potential, certainly. Hope it gets updated soon!

I voted for the Prospector, because when they can mine new resources, they might possibly be able to construct the other ships anyways. Building a Prospector maximizes future options in my opinion.

The way most people will vote will either be: "This has greatest chance of success:twilightsmile:" or "That looks like fun:trollestia:"

So although you probably already thought of this, you should probably have multiple bad decisions leading up to a tragedy, so a single chapter doesn't completely derail the entire story. And, every bad decision we (and in turn Twilight and the crew) make should have justification, even if it's as simple as anger getting the better of someone (This would work for someone like RD, but not, say, Twilight.).

Of course I'm probably rambling on about things you've already thoroughly considered, but it doesn't hurt to say.

Edit: Also, not every chapter needs to have some pivitol decision answered by us. It would be as simple as what a character eats for dinner. For example, They could play it safe and make a simple meal, or they could make a more complex meal, that, on a coin flip could turn out either great or badly, which would affect their mood for the next chapter or two.

I really like this idea, make short chapters and have the readers vote on how the story progresses, I'll definitely be watching this one!
One question is how long will the voting go for and how often do you plan to release chapters?

Having such short chapters should allow me to release quite frequently, a week minimum and possibly far more often, depending on my schedule at any individual time. The votes themselves will have a confidence value attached. That's the number of votes I'll wait for before I start writing the next chapter.

More than it just being FimFiction, this is the INTERNET!

Anyways, this looks interesting.

Oh dear Gods, lets see how the comments of a story set this out!

Neat, despite my huge story backlog ill probably read this one as its coming out. Since you'll be following some rules while writing, ill follow some while reading :twilightsmile:.

Gonna try and challenge myself to leave a comment on every chapter while reading instead of only commenting when i finish a story. (unless you dont want me to for some reason. But since there will always be a choice, there will always be something to talk about :pinkiehappy: )

I say construct the Prospector. Additional resources are always useful, and can be used to build a dish to better track any signals. The more you know, right?

hmm first choice and it already looks like one that could have a very long term impact. I'll try making a habit of putting my reasoning for my choice in spoiler tags just in case.

Considering that we basically know nothing of what they'll be dealing with and that they will have to figure out how to get the resources needed to get back we'd probably be best off picking whatever is the most flexible.

The wraith feels like it wouldn't be flexible enough and if there is something hostile out there then fleeing is still always an option with the other two ships.
The prospector while useful and flexible enough to gather resources would probably not do well in an hostile environment or in a fight.

Personally im going to go with the pioneer since it'll be the most durable and flexible. Likely durable enough to flee from a fight if needed. And being able to explore and gather resources from planets might already be enough to make up for not having the prospector.

40 years is still going to be a long time for a baby dragon, especially assuming he hasn't even lived that long yet. Assuming they experience time like humans do where the longer you have been alive the faster the flow of time feels, there are some serious risks too his mental health. There is based on the information we have no telling how this will affect him and what we know from spike his decisions have a tendency of not being thought out all that well. First sign of possible hostiles? Panic and build a wraith. Leaving the choice to him also means we force him to stay awake during that time rather then leaving him more options if those 40 years turn out to be too much for him.

Reasoning aside, i was wondering why the 4th choice has a different color? i assume its Either always going to be the choice that lets someone else choose or the choice affects the person it involves or something? Are we gonna have to keep track of relationship points? "Spike will remember this"? :moustache:

I promise ill try to keep my future comments a bit shorter :twilightsheepish:

From Dragonshy we know dragons can take very long naps. I wonder if Spike couldn't tuck in for a few of those decades?

Hmm... The prospector has mining and fabrication hardware, but does it have enough to build the other 2? That's the question.

But there's virtually no chance an alien civilization would be at a comparable tech level, so the Wraith doesn't seem like such a savvy move. They're either so primitive you don't need it (can barely reach their own moon or can't even leave their ground), or so advanced that you'd just be insulting them and making yourself look bad, like a monkey walking into town with a sharpened stick.

I vote prospector!
It I'll be good to mine stuff to craft with and craft stuff to mine with.

This is very interesting for sure. I do think it will be interesting if in that 40 years Spike makes it to teenage size, that would be very cool and useful to the mission. I think he should make some real use of this time. He will have to keep everything going okay, and seeing how he is doing it to protect those close to him, his hoard, he will do all he can to protect them. He might even study up on some things that could turn out to be useful during the mission. I just hope Spike doesn't get put to the side in this story and get to live up to his rank as well as all the responsibility put on him.

I feel like using the Wraith and the Prospector would give a negative view about the ponies to the civilization they're heading towards. They could see them as invaders coming to take their resources and attack them. The pioneer has none of that, all it does is explore.

I voted to let Spike decide.
I'm sure we can trust him and the longer he waits the more reports and information he has, which makes making the right decision easier.
Also there is no point in building the vehicle long before arrival, since at best it will only collect dust, at worst it might get old and rusty.

And why is the last option in another color? Is there an deeper meaning?

And I suggest you might explain what "(Confidence 50 required)" means in the story itself instead of only the comments.
Whan I had read it I thought it might have something to do with the different color of the last option.

The top of her muzzle in the picture makes her look like a very determined five year old. It’s a great picture don’t get me wrong, but I thought that was amusing.

I vote to let spike decide simply for the reason stated in the chapter. It could also lead to spike waking the others to let them use the new information to decide.

I’m guessing the “50% confidence” basically means that the most voted option needs at least 50% of the votes to win. If it’s less than 50% it probably defaults to the coloured option, which in this case means “let the author decide”

But I may be wrong.

Edit: Turns out I am wrong

Hmmm, interesting set up, guessing things more or less went along the same lines as the show, just more futuristic till now? Twi ascending, being friends with the Mane 6 etc...

So, what role do the others fill? Dash would be the pilot obviously. Fluttershy medic and zoologist. AJ, agronomist?

As to the choice, the Prospector seems the best option, giving you the best chance at reclaiming minerals and getting more resources. But, at the same time, there is a lot we don't know. I voted for Prospector just due to the limitations of the options, but actual choice would be to tell Spike I'd prefer Prospector, but that he is free to alter that if more information shows up that makes one of the other two clearly more desirable.

Loving the idea here and can't wait to see where this goes.

4 let spike decide

Yup, you are wrong:

Starscribe told in a previous comment:

The votes themselves will have a confidence value attached. That's the number of votes I'll wait for before I start writing the next chapter.

See here: 9222391

That's why I recommended to put this info in the story itself.

Thanks for telling me, must have missed that comment.

Prospector is my thinking since the quicker you are able to bootstrap your industry the more flexible you'll be for other situations later. However, I could see letting Spike decide work out fairly well too.

Ooh, daring constraints! Though why is Option 4 in purple?

Interesting concept...
I'll be sure to track this one.

Given they have 40 years of time to gather new data, letting Spike decide is probably the best bet.

I vote prospectors.

Hmm... normally I'd trust Twilight more than Spike, but with so little information, Spike might be the best option, even if he doesn't always have the best history of making good choices on his own.

Scrap the weapons. You've got an alicorn to point at grouchy things. :pinkiecrazy:

A tougher choice this time. Considering one of the lander options would be useful for gathering much needed resources on the new world, I'd say scrapping weapons might be the best choice. They have some magic to back them up, and if they get the right materials, they could probably make more weapons.

I'd say Cryo or Weapons. Even if something goes wrong with the cryo units and some of the ponies are held in stasis they still have the chance to come across a civilization as advanced as them who could help them out assuming the transmission is from a healthy civilization.
If the civilization is at war (something had to do that kind of damage and missed projectiles will do damage even lightyears away if they impact) then they'll need the weapons, if it's an asteroid or something they'll possibly need them for meteor defences.
I had to go with the Cryo.

Why the option to wake Twi for said decision wasn't offered is beyond me.

Scrap the redundant backup cryogenics system. Not enough detail from the probe to determine if weapons will/will not be needed, and the Prospector would be all-around useful once deceleration is complete.

Damn it, Starscribe, two chapters in and I'm HOOKED!

I’d just started to figure I could catch up on my backlog bit by bit before tackling any other stories, and now here’s something I literally have to follow from the beginning.:ajbemused: And without even a chance to sleep on the first choice... well, maybe I can do that for this one.:twilightsheepish: Not that the lander choice probably affected this situation (unless you only created this POV and situation for Spike because the poll passed him the buck?).

(Although of course Spike picked the single option that I had dismissed, for the same reason as another commenter- not sure it sends the best message. Though maybe it won’t even matter now....)

Anyway, engaging story as usual.

Because this happened.

AppleBOTToday at 4:49 PM
Is spike too proud to wake anyone up to help?
Critical Yes

I planned on talking about it, but that 1k limit is... well, in some ways it's the point of this project. Got some growing pains in figuring out how to make everything fit. I'll get better, I promise!

Weapons they're the most expendable of the three and worst comes to worst we'll have an angry alicorn on our side.

You're trusting Apple with important decisions?
I'm not sure if that's a good idea... She is worrying at times.

This was a very interesting chapter for sure. It really showed how useful and important Spike is to the team. I mean without him they all would be dead after this event. I wonder if the only change was the wings or did he get bigger? I cast my vote already even tho I wont say what or why because it is more fun that way lol. I wonder what will be the next big thing, for sure I can't wait to see when the girls wake up. For them it has only been a short time for Spike it has been much longer. At least he spent alot of that time improving himself lol.

Cryogencs - (So long as nothing goes wrong, I should still be able to thaw them out.)
No. We're not trusting our wonderful mane 6 in the hooves of fate. :fluttershysad:
Scrap the Lander
The thing that can manufacture almost anything else, and otherwise be left with the ability to land but unable to get back up? Pretty far up there in terms of bad ideas.

Definitely weapons. You're already in a spacecraft capable of relativistic flight. Either they're so advanced your weapons will be useless, or you're going to be able to fly circles around them without making a dent in your delta-v (change in velocity) capability. Fight or flight - well ya always go flight with the Equinox.

As for getting caught - Just carefully scan for signs of violence before you go pop down there. Heck, the ISS astronauts could see 9/11 happening with binoculars. Any decent IR suite could detect muzzle flashes from tanks or cannons, possibly even muskets and rifles with some good near-future, maybe even modern tech. To say nothing of deciphering radio signals. So you can minimize risk by studying them from orbit for awhile, first, to see how violent they are. So basically you can minimize the risk of getting caught somewhere you can't escape from. And once you're on the equinox, you can escape from anything they can throw at you.

If not, then they're advanced enough that one weapons' suite won't be peanuts against them - even if they're decades behind, a single craft isn't going to do much in battle against an entire civilization, unless that craft is so far ahead it didn't even need its weapons (because its main thing is its absolutely insane delta-v and high acceleration).

We've never kept somepony asleep for this long before.

Even in Apollo, they preceded the Apollo missions with Gemini missions which were essentially dress-rehearsals - we didn't know what'd happen if you had a man in space for a week at a time, so we had people orbit Earth for the duration of a Moon mission where they could return within an hour if things went wrong to make sure people did fine in space for a week at time. Then they did that a few more times before ever launching men out to the moon.

And less applicable, they even took Apollo LM's and CSMs and tested their docking and maneuvering systems in Earth orbit to ensure the design was solid. They circled around the moon in a free return on Apollo 8, and even did the whole shabang (Lunar orbit insertion, CSM/LM undocking, some sorta flight tests by letting the LM drift around the CSM, and such. Can't remember if they did the orbit adjustment burn leading up to descent) in Apollo 10.

But 40 years is a long time, so it makes sense they wouldn't do Apollo-10 style dress rehearsals for this, I guess. But they'd definitely thoroughly ask things like - "hey, x y and z are the reasons 40 years posses some risk, we can mitigate those by having them thaw every 10 years, have a month out, then go back under for another 10 years" or such. Or even just only freeze them for 35 years if the risk of 40 was that great.

You'd think they'd know the limits of and reasons for those limits on cryo pretty well, though. So I'd think they'd have been smart enough to make the systems very safe.

EDIT: Lol, wow, I didn't realize how much I wrote...
Hey, I'm passionate about space tech, m'kay? :twilightblush:

Just a method of randomization.

Weapons. Scrap weapons.

If we assume the star they’re going to is the same distance as alpha centauri, then the 40 year journey means they are traveling at 10% light speed. This means the thing that breached the hull could just be a small piece of space gravel that the ship’s point defence system missed.

Or, you know, it could not be...

Scrap the lander, can build one later, might be fatally too late to build back-up cryos and weapons if they are ever needed

Charter specific option I would guess.

My vote is for Prospector, extra resources early in would help, and stealth or durability might be moot one way or the other depending on the stats of the mothership and the aliens there going to meet

My vote is Scrap the Weapons. Sorry Rainbow Dash I suspect those wore yours. But I whole heartedly agree with Star Scraper's reasoning.

Cryopod's and lander are more import at the moment.

Scrap the Weapons got my vote on the poll. If it really is super-powerful aliens, those won't do any good anyway.

Sweet, we got the Prospector anyway, and with survey data backing up the choice.

Hmn. Weapons, I guess.

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