• Published 30th Sep 2022
  • 1,814 Views, 170 Comments

Diplomatic Solution - Starscribe

Equestria joins the galactic community to discover an bloody eternal war. They resolve to find a solution in the pony way: diplomacy. All the Young Six have to do is negotiate an alliance with violent, xenophobic aliens. What could go wrong?

  • ...

Chapter 1

After Twilight’s elevation to Alicorn, it was rare indeed for anything to make her feel small. In a single moment of power, she’d gone from an average unicorn to a princess whose magical powers would be told about in stories for generations to come, standing taller than most ponies in Equestria.

She had used that power to defend her world, fighting alongside her pony friends and eventually many other creatures as well, all united against those who would oppose harmony. She had even dared to think that her contributions made a difference.

Yet her arrival at Antioch made all that feel incredibly… insignificant.

She’d known the Stellar Compact was larger than one planet since she was a child, and travel beyond Equestria’s atmosphere was still a fascinating novelty for the Exploration Service and its single tiny ship. It was fine to think of the Compact in the abstract. A thousand stars, they said? Numbers that big might as well be infinite in a single organic brain.

But now that she stood on Antioch’s own soil, she realized just how far Equestria still had to go. While they had the Alicorns to regulate the sun and the moon, the Stellar Compact had taken a star and contained it.

The number of creatures living here was so vast that even Twilight had difficulty processing it. How many ponies was a trillion? What happened when you had a billion times more than that?

The Celestia’s Grace was a wonder to behold on Equestria, a ship so vast that it had to be built in orbit. A ship that foals had been able to see through their telescopes and say, “Now we will join them. It’s our turn.”

Here aboard the bridge, Twilight Sparkle felt like she’d snuck away from magical kindergarten into Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and the older kids were about to show her why she should go home.

“And we’re sure these are the friendly creatures?” Rarity said, from the communications station. Of all Twilight’s friends, she took most naturally to negotiating with the translation computer, the so-called “Babel Circuit” they’d been given. Even for Twilight herself, talking through it felt like a burden. “It doesn’t seem terribly natural to make their system so dark, does it?”

Twilight didn’t have the chance to answer—Rainbow beat her to it from the helm. “It’s just like weather planning. When you let a cloud get away, that’s water that could’ve been on somepony’s crops. I think they’re treating sunlight the same way. Why waste it?”

“Guidance lock granted by Antioch relay 0-0-0-A1,” the computer said, its voice flat. “Do we accept?”

Twilight nodded. “The relay should be sending us to their… castle?” Celestia herself hadn’t made it terribly clear. Probably because she didn’t understand any better than Twilight. The Stellar Compact was unbelievably strange. Its members were magicless, yet still open to friendship with aliens.

Better than their enemies.

“The route we’ve been given navigates the diffuse swarm of stations inside its perimeter. We’ll be joined by capital destroyers, before being led to…”

“Homeworld, right?” Pinkie suggested. “That’s where I’d want friendly ponies to sign important treaties. I’d want them to see my home! See how welcoming we could be.”

“Negative,” the computer said. “There are five separate homeworlds in the Compact. Six, when Equestria adds its signatures. The database made available to us does not include information about the location of any of them. Perhaps more information will be made available once we formalize our alliance.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. As well-meaning as the database program could be, she wasn’t surprised that it didn’t have a clue what was really going on. Of course they don’t want anyone to know where they come from. They’re fighting a war with magical beings. Until us, they probably didn’t even believe we could be friendly.

Antioch appeared from a distance to be a solid object, englobing the star so completely that diffuse infrared was all that escaped. But as they got closer, their engines engaging a gentle series of turns and maneuvers along invisibly marked highways through space, Twilight saw the truth.

The individual pieces of Antioch, uncountable millions of them, were actually fairly far apart. They hadn’t built a single sphere with physics-defying structural properties. They just had enough little stations and habitats that together the entire star was theirs.

“How long until Princess Celestia and Luna send the ponies meant to be emissaries?” Rainbow asked, her voice obviously frustrated. “I’m not sure I’m looking forward to living in an office doing boring diplomacy stuff for a few months.”

“I’m sure if there were other ponies meant for the job, they’d be along for the ride,” Applejack said. She was settled comfortably into the engineer station, though the Celestia’s quality of construction meant she’d had very little to do for the trip. “That means we’re the best ponies for the job, don’t it Twi?”

Twilight nodded. “For the time being. Equestria is training replacements for us already, who won’t need the Babel program to speak to the Compact’s many races. But that takes time, even when they start with the most magically-inclined polyglots they could find.”

“Yeah.” Rainbow slumped into her seat. “You think they have Hoofball teams here? Maybe I can find one to join.”

If only Rainbow was watching the tactical display the way Twilight was, she might’ve been a little less flippant. The further into Antioch’s sphere they penetrated, the more ships she saw. Dozens first, then hundreds, then so many the user-interface of their computer didn’t want to display them anymore, and the list went right off the screen. Millions? Billions?

There weren’t just more creatures here than she’d ever conceived of, but there was a bigger military too. These creatures do things on scales we’ve never imagined before. And for all that, the Stellar Compact still wanted Equestria as members. The first friendly magic users. A desperately-needed strategic asset during a war that Twilight knew wasn’t being won.

Winners didn’t invite a single planet with no military technology to speak of onto the security council of a thousand-year-old alliance of star systems and species.

Now we have to live up to all that.

“Incoming transmission,” Rarity said. “It’s, uh… Compact Starcarrier Eucharist, identifying itself as the head of our escort. They want to speak with us.”

Twilight straightened in her chair, adjusting the formal dress uniform. Equestria barely had a navy, let alone militaristic uniforms worn by these other species. But such an important signing called for adopting a little of their customs, at least for a while. “Put them on.”

The bridge had a wide curved screen wrapping around its entire perimeter, which pretended to be a window when it wasn’t in use for anything else. Unlike the fiction Twilight had grown up idolizing as a child, there was usually very little to see. She didn’t expect to see much of any battles they got into from here. Only Antioch itself was vast enough to see from the window, without the computer’s help zooming in.

The fake window near the front was replaced with a similar view of a similar bridge—a wide, empty space several stories in apparent size, with several strange creatures moving in the background.

The one she took to be the captain was what she’d come to call an “aljong,” a birdlike creature with two thin legs and a set of feathery wings instead of legs or arms. It still managed to wear a uniform. Twilight suspected it was male, and its voice seemed to confirm that suspicion, though she couldn’t be sure. “Equestrian Capital ship, I am Kalsbe. Are you ready for your flight into the core?”

Near his side was another chair, and on it a creature Twilight knew a little better. She was a human, the ones who had introduced Equestria to the Stellar Compact. She whispered something Twilight couldn’t understand.

Rarity caught it, though. “We’re muted. She says: ‘I told you they’re adorable.’”

Great. The whole galaxy will be respecting us in no time. “We’re ready, Captain Kalsbe. Though… messages said Antioch was a safe system. Your invaders aren’t even close to this far.”

“They have not penetrated this deep into Compact space,” Kalsbe said. “I didn’t mean whether your ship was prepared for battle, there will certainly be none today. But whether its occupants were mentally prepared for what awaits when we are inside. I’m sure an important diplomat like you can see something symbolic in all this, inviting you into the center of the Compact’s power. But I just like it for the view.”

Twilight could see her crew wasn’t exactly thrilled with his attitude. She put on her best diplomatic smile. “We’re ready to follow you, Captain. See you at… wherever we’re going.”

“You’ll know when we get there,” he said. “Eucharist out.”

“Are they all going to be like that?” Rainbow asked, as soon as the window projection returned. “I don’t know if I could listen to that all day.”

“Gee, how could you manage?” Applejack said sarcastically. “A creature bragin’ about what they’ve doin’ all the time. What could that be like?”

It didn’t take the Celestia’s Grace much longer to break through the outer layers of habitat, and into an incredible globe of light.

Yes, the star in the center was tiny and modest as stars went, a faint yellow main-sequence star.

The sky around them didn’t seem black. Instead of a horizon of endless distant stars, Twilight saw land. Forests, mountains, rivers and oceans, in overlapping layers that shimmered and shifted as they moved. She spun around in a slow circle on her bridge, and with her eyes out of focus it almost felt as though she was inside a gigantic hollow planet, with a distant core far away.

And in the center of it all, their apparent destination. Not a habitat like the others, or at least not the ones made to simulate a bit of natural environment. There was a planet there, or the broken chunks of one. A single huge slice of outer-crust was covered with city so dense it was almost a metal skin, while the other chunks of planet further away were processed by some vast machine.

“Are you sure they need our help?” Fluttershy asked, as they moved in close over the space station that was just a piece of planet. “Who are they in danger from exactly?”

“Dunno,” Pinkie said. “But we don’t have to do this to Equestria, right? I wouldn’t want to live on a place that was all in… pieces, like that.”

The computer’s voice spoke before Twilight could. “Antioch Prime postdates the swarm by many years. The planet was previously uninhabitable, this close to the star. As you can see, the settled side of the station faces away from the star, using an orbital reflector for light. There was no life anywhere in this star system before it was colonized. No creatures were harmed to create this place, and the equivalent of billions of worlds was created for them to live on. This is a city, but there are jungles, seas, forests, tundras, and many other environments you have never experienced, all created from the wreckage of these and other dead worlds.”

“We don’t have to do this to Equestria,” Twilight said. “They didn’t do it to their home, you just heard it. And… I’m not sure ponies would ever do this. How much land do we really need? A billion planets? We could keep growing… forever.”

“At the Equestrian growth rate of two percent, you would fill every station in this swarm in a little over two thousand years,” the computer said. “And we have docking authorization. The Security Council is waiting for you.”