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This story is a sequel to Message in a Bottle


For numberless eons, Equus hosted primitive civilizations, ignorant of the proud achievements of their ancient race. In their simple lives, ponies and other creatures could grow without fear of alerting any of the terrible forces that grew in the galaxy beyond. All civilization had been extinguished by forces beyond comprehension. If they made too much noise, Equestria would be next.

Then came James Irwin, with the truth the Harmony superintelligence that maintained the vast Niven Ring had already known: the galaxy was safe again, and probably had been for many centuries.

Once the truth was revealed, Equestria again longed for the stars. Surely they could not be the only survivors of that galactic Red Tide that had swallowed all intelligent life. Their searching bore fruit: radio signals from a nearby system.

Felicity was the Alicorn chosen to captain that mission of discovery. She would bring the pony gift of friendship to a fellow survivor somewhere out there. That was the plan, anyway.

Unfortunately for Equestria, intelligence does not imply friendliness.


A tale of understanding and discovery set in the world of Message in a Bottle. Reading that story first is highly recommended.

This story was written as a Patreon commission for Lithl over the course of over two years now. It comes to fimfiction now that it is nearly finished.

Editing by Two Bit, cover by Zutcha.

Updates Weekly on Wednesdays.

Chapters (24)
Comments ( 208 )

oh heck a sequel?

Ohmygosh, yes! I just finished Message in a Bottle this week. Now I just have to wait until it's finished.

Frigging yes! This is already giving me Half Life 3 levels of hype! :pinkiecrazy: :pinkiehappy:

I'm so happy to see this back!

Nature doesn’t really do little numbers. You either get zero, or infinity. We know it wasn’t zero, so what does that leave?”

I really like this line , and i love the new characters introduced. Now lets see how this all goes to hell and back.

11108682
Well considering the original updated weekly for a year and a half, you may have a while to wait.

11108862
At a chapter a week I would expect this story to take a little under a year to complete. It's all written and edited already.

11108879
That's why I've always admired you as a writer. Your planning and work ethic are astounding.

11108862
It's worth the wait. It's just my reading style. I don't like the serialized format, I'd rather wait until it's complete and then spend every waking moment immersed in the story. Plus, when the next book comes out, I usually re-read the last book.

damn, and i was planning on my third reread of message in a bottle soon. might have to just go ahead and do that now, so i'm all refreshed before i start on this one!

I was waiting for this story's migration to Fimfic. Can't wait to dig in as the weeks go by. :twilightsheepish:

Hooray! :pinkiehappy: I feel like it's a late birthday present to me. I own the physical copy of the message in a bottle and the second. So I can't wait to read this sequel.

11108703
If you still have any hope for HL3 then... wow.

11109362
What do you mean?
We did get HL3 HLA.

11109362
Nah, I meant that I'd be just as excited if GabeN had announced that HL3 was released.

I've been... kind of following this on Patreon? Reading something there or through email just isn't as enjoyable as Fimfiction. I'm aware of a few bits of what's to come, but I admit I haven't been paying very close attention. :twilightsheepish: In any case, looking forward to more.

11109640
I was hyped for Alyx thinking it was going to be the start of AAA companies making VR titles. I didn't care that it wasn't HL3 I was still happy... Then VR continued to be a let down.

POG, It’s a MIAB sequel!

At least the crew is being careful. They might be super advanced tech wise, but being incautious is still dumb.

Good to keep distance and study. Understand behaviors and possibly language first. Determine if they even desire to communicate.

Those who were unable or unwilling to take on the mantle of citizens were restricted to roughly equivalent processing power of an organic mind.

I wonder if there are new protocols to allow true deaths and births for souls. I can't imagine those unable to ascend (or those stuck at the highest levels) to want to keep living in the same level century after century even if they do forget each cycle.

With aliens of an unknown lineage populating this planet, it is unwise to grow too comfortable with our assumptions.

Not only could sufficiently advanced tech be indistinguishable from magic, it might be indistinguishable from nature as well. Tread lightly!

The wildlife down there does suggest an originally Earth lineage, but there’s no telling how long ago that timeline branched.

You got to look at the genetic and molecular level to make that call.

Ideally, I’d like to know who I’m talking to, and how to talk to them, before we send anyone down to say hello.

Given the story description, it's truly unfortunate when the best intentions, decisions, and preparations still isn't enough to avoid disaster.

... nothing beyond the background radiation generated by the star, as well as an unusually geometric pattern emanating from one of the gas giants.

I'm sure that won't be at all relevant. Nor the secret emergency backup egg.

In any case, this certainly makes for an intriguing premise. Let's see what the crew can learn from these survivors. And possibly vice versa.

Just now saw this. I am all about a sequel to Message in a Bottle. This is gonna be great!!

11110062
Chekov's Egg? Hopefully it doesn't get hard boiled.

Why do I get the feeling it's gonna go something like this?

She was long gone by the time the Alcyone exploded.

:rainbowderp: oh

She was long gone by the time the Alcyone exploded.

That's both gonna hurt AND leave a mark on her psyche that will NEVER fade.

She fell right out of her body, right out of the enigmatic failsafe device tucked away in their cargo-bay, out of the nearby star system with its mysterious ship and unknown civilization.

So... what's the likelihood that this failsafe will lead the hostiles to Equus? :twilightoops:

Well, first contact was never going to be easy. It's going to take a lot of hard work understanding the motives of an alien race beyond simple isolationism. Though I wonder how much the Tide shaped their views.

A noncitizen probably wouldn’t have had the brainpower to process so much at once, but things were a little better for Felicity.

Right, alicorns have more privileges than the normal populace. Not exactly a society run by the people. If I remembered correctly, one could not simply opt out and head their own way, either. Once found, their fate is sealed in the soul cycle. Might be a issue if these expeditions actually find more independent human-descended settlements in the future.

The ship firing on them was several times their size, and its hull was completely impenetrable to their sensors.

Vessel Class: Unknown
Complement: Unknown
Weapons: Unknown
Observed maximum energy: 65TJ

If these guys are the same as the civilization on the planet, there's no doubt this is how they survived the Tide.

“Captain, you’re a citizen, you’re an Alicorn. If the rest of us get captured by… can’t believe I’m saying this… if we get captured by evil aliens or something, who do they listen to? One of us, or the princess?”

She snapped around, glaring at him. “I told you not to call me that.”

Can't argue with cold facts. The princess would be considered a treasure trove of information for a hostile force. It only makes sense to prioritize her evacuation first.

She was long gone by the time the Alcyone exploded.

I thought we would have at least a few minutes of confused and worsening communication between the two civilizations before it came to blows. That seemingly unprovoked attack made diplomacy a thousand times worse.

Death is cheap in this setting, they can just be restored from backups later. Unless the ring itself is destroyed, nobody is ever really gone.

11111193
True.
I'm wondering how Starscribe will handle that indifference to dying.

11111191

I thought we would have at least a few minutes of confused and worsening communication between the two civilizations before it came to blows. That seemingly unprovoked attack made diplomacy a thousand times worse.

I don't know. They showed up, in a stealthy ship, launched a spy probe and continued to spy on them. Sounds like a scout for an invasion if you're paranoid and it's only paranoia if someone isn't out to get you... which judging from the state of the solar system someone was.

Remember that whoever took down the humans also managed to hack and turn the forerunner network so blocking comms could be defensive rather than just not caring. All may have been explained when the ship was boarded assuming the boarding party decided that they weren't a threat to be eliminated.

Not that I hold much faith in that.

The sequel i never thought would happen But im happy anyways

11111388
We'll have to see what the boarding party does and if they even suspected the Alcyone was a Tide scout. Lashing out at everything that moves close by might be a good strategy in dangerous times like these. It's also a quick way to getting killed if the other side is much more powerful and decides to play the game of retaliation.

11111172
What I was thinking, they are facing a much more advance hostile and the first thing they do is leave a trail back to their home ring?
Yeah okay not a good move

11111191
11111388

Combine both, and you get a very good reason for which an alien race not unlike humans would do anything to prevent Harmony ever getting close to them.

Harmony's certainly on the warpath... though like with the aliens, first and second responses of hostility are not good long term solutions. You'll eventually take on a bigger fish that'll swallow you whole. Better to take the time to assess the situation more carefully. Violence is certainly an extreme action but there can be many reasons why violence is taken.

Harmony represented the collective will of all the greatest beings stored within Equus. Felicity understood it more as a nation, with factions and distinct segments that bickered internally.

Did Harmony made upgrades? I don't remember it being a collective intelligence but it's been a long time since I read Message.

Harmony said. Its avatar stormed right up to the princess, ripping her body from the bed and throwing her against the wall.

Lucky Break returns but not exactly in the most fortunate of circumstances. Also, for a superintelligence Harmony's acting very human. More of less panicking at the prospect of being destroyed and blaming the one person who set these events in motion.

“This is the beginning. The Tide’s form is mercurial, but its consequences are always absolute. Time has warped it into some new death, one we cannot possibly overcome. It will extrapolate from the Alcyone’s previous path. It will extinguish the last ember of life.”

We don't know that. Harmony doesn't know that. Again Harmony is in utter panic.

It turned to Forerunner. “We mobilize, machine-mind. My ambassadors of peace were ruthlessly slaughtered. Prepare your force of Interstellar Marines. We will return the harm done to yours and mine a thousand times.”

Be careful who you start a fight with. It could be them that'll finish it.

Blood! Blood! Blood! Blood! Blood!

Violence is always and answer! Let's goooooooooo!

11112324

Did Harmony made upgrades? I don't remember it being a collective intelligence but it's been a long time since I read Message.

It was kind of nebulous but in my understanding but Harmony was implied to be some form of collective intelligence that was shackled. We get some details while we're with Olivia but I think we were meant to not fully understand it so I didn't put much thought into it.

I think it started as an AI but was also a collective of all the minds within it.

It turned to Forerunner. “We mobilize, machine-mind. My ambassadors of peace were ruthlessly slaughtered. Prepare your force of Interstellar Marines. We will return the harm done to yours and mine a thousand times.”

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! :pinkiecrazy:

Chorale whirled on her, the softness of her plastic face instantly gone. “You should not be aware of the contents of the emergency fallback obolid.”

hello Chekhov's gun. nice to meet you.

11111193
Well they can only actually go upstream if they're near Sanctuary/Equus. Death far from home is not so cheap.

11112324

Did Harmony made upgrades? I don't remember it being a collective intelligence but it's been a long time since I read Message.

The ancients that created Harmony just made the one AI. But through the eons between then and MiaB, Harmony evolved into a conglomerate of many minds. That's not made clear until near the end of part 1 in MiaB; before then, Harmony is always referred to by the characters as a singular (if powerful) entity. Harmony always refers to itself in the plural, but that could be mistaken as "royal We".

It's made more clear in part 2, with lines like "add your voice to our harmony" or "The collective will of Equus’s citizens governs. Your voice is only one part of the harmony." Celestia says "But they [the ancients who built Harmony] weren’t as smart as Harmony. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that they are Harmony now, collectively. Just as we are."

Sarah summarizes her interpretation of what Harmony is: "Isn’t Harmony some kind of… collective-intelligence AI? It’s assembled out of the population of the ring, so shouldn’t it only be able to do what the population wants? Like a weird… techno-democracy thing." Forerunner says it's "not that simple"

Truly understanding how Harmony works would presumably require increased complexity of traveling further upstream, but "collective intelligence" is a close enough approximation for us mere mortals to understand, and Harmony has been that way throughout the entire timeline of the story we the readers have been witness to.

And, speaking candidly as the person who commissioned this story... Harmony's nature as the collective will of the population of Equus was one of the things I wanted to explore in this story. And specifically Harmony's fury at losing inhabitants of Equus (the beginning of which is shown in this chapter) was a key plot point I specified.

11114434
Guess the closest analogy is a brain but the neurons are sapient minds on their own. Two distinct entities sharing one body. Regardless of the truth, I'm assuming Harmony is still subject to the physical laws of the Universe. True deaths will diminish it. A critical loss will outright destroy it. If the aliens are human-descended, they should probably pray Harmony never discovers their true origins.

And, speaking candidly as the person who commissioned this story... Harmony's nature as the collective will of the population of Equus was one of the things I wanted to explore in this story. And specifically Harmony's fury at losing inhabitants of Equus (the beginning of which is shown in this chapter) was a key plot point I specified.

I'm starting to draw parallels between Harmony and nation states (as far you can view them as separate living entities). In a rage, it quickly assumed these aliens were the Tide without any evidence. If the aliens can deploy their tech on a wider scale, draw out the conflict, and inflict true deaths over time I wonder if Harmony will start to lose enthusiasm in its campaign. If the aliens are proven to have the capability to inflict mass true death quickly and easily but will only use it as a last resort, I wonder how Harmony would respond. Human politics may not 100% apply to these relationships but both are still grounded in nature and even an unknowable AI would know the cost of diminishing returns.

as well as an unusually geometric pattern emanating from one of the gas giants.

Hello, there, possible disguised alien super weapon masquerading as a humble gas giant!

Harmony isn’t living up to their name, these days. Still.

:facehoof:

Oh boy. This is going to get messy. Especially with Harmony still being a sore loser over the broken quarantine. If there is some grand misunderstanding, let's hope it comes to light before the two sides rack up enough atrocities that the truth won't matter.

Hmm, is Chorale an entity created by colonists or she is a Harmony's "daughter"?

11109899
On opposite, the more advanced they are, the more careful they should be. A vast gap would create outside context problem for both parties.

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