• Published 30th Sep 2022
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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?

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Chapter 10

Ocellus stared back at the alien, her wings buzzing nervously to either side. Hopefully the alien wouldn't know changelings well enough to read her from body language; they were different enough that she might not have anything to worry about. Humans had some difficulty reading pony emotions without instruction, so the same might be true for the Enti.

Unfortunately for her, the alien did nothing to reveal his own feelings—the Enti's mind remained entirely blank to her. It wasn't the absence she sometimes felt around the psychologically damaged, who couldn't feel emotions in a normal way—this was intentional, somehow. He didn't want his feelings to be known.

"Just surrender the galaxy," he had said. "And this war can end."

Fortunately, she wasn't alone at this negotiation. Though she was stunned, Silverstream sat upright, settling her little teacup back into the tray. "You can't think that's an actual offer. My kind knows what it's like to face an enemy who wants to control us. We took every option we had to so we could keep our freedom, even if that meant giving up our homeland. The galaxy doesn't owe you anything."

Was the air getting warmer? Ocellus thought she could sense some emotion from the ambassador, though it lasted for such a brief moment she nearly dismissed it. "This is not the same as some... petty tribal war," Xender said. "I know it may feel similar to you, strangers to the galactic community. But know what sets us apart from the young races. Zecrin, Divensons, Aljongs... they are little children, newly stumbling onto a field of conflict they could not understand. For years we watched, waiting to see if they would learn to coexist in peace."

"They did," Ocellus said. "The Stellar Compact ended all war between—"

He raised one hand, silencing her. It wasn't magic, but the force of his personality might as well be.

"Your order of events is misinformed. Only when faced with our arrival did those children unite. The moment they face no more external threat, they will return to slaughtering each other pointlessly. You must understand, ponies—we have been watching for a very long time. Eons beyond your imagination. We did not take more of the galaxy, because we wished to see what would arise. Wonderful things, yes... any parent can take pride in the achievements of their children, even if they are stumbling and imprecise. But eventually the young do too much damage to the house, and it's time to lock them in their rooms. So it is with the galaxy—the other species run amuck. Under our rule, there would be peace. The galaxy we will create is not a dark place."

"Why should it be you?" Silverstream asked. She wasn't very good at keeping her emotions under control. "Why not the Zecrin, or... the humans, even? They're strong enough to hold you back, they united the galaxy, not you."

He laughed, booming and energetic. "The only race younger to the galactic stage than Humanity is Equestria. Those creatures have... potential, certainly. Perhaps today they sign the others to their pact. Maybe tomorrow they enslave the Divensons and work them to death. You don't know what they're like. If you did, I think you would rather be our friends instead."

Ocellus snapped her wings closed abruptly, glaring at him now. Hopefully her features wouldn't be easy for him to read, given how much most creatures relied on reading the eyes to judge emotion.

"There is one key difference between Humans and you, Enti. You could decide to stop killing them, and end the fighting. The war could end, and everyone could go back to their homes. There would be no more orphans, no more refugees, no more widows. If you really care about peace, why can't we negotiate a cease-fire? I'm sure the Stellar Compact would be willing to make many concessions. Maybe you could appoint supervisors to the Compact to enforce the peace between young races. Maybe you could write laws and agree to make everyone follow them. There are ways to have peace without a war, if that's what you want."

Xender rose abruptly from his chair, stalking a few steps away. His long whiplike tail cut through the air with repetitive cracks of sound, yet somehow he didn't seem to notice. "The time for such a solution is gone, Equestrians. You are too new to this, you don't understand the factors involved.

"We cannot abandon the offensive now—humans breed so rapidly, and spread between the stars like a plague. In ten generations, we would be so outnumbered that even our great ships could no longer defend the border. This war must contain all threats, and secure a future for our children."

He dropped down to one knee in front of them, producing something from a pocket. It was a scroll, tightly bound and in the Equestrian style. Like actual parchment, with a wax horseshoe holding it closed. So they knew more about ponies than they let on.

Ocellus took it in her magic, but didn't open it yet.

"We have an offer for you. You will have a long time to consider it, maybe months or even years. I ask only that you deliver it to your princess."

"What kind of offer?" Silverstream asked. "Join you or die? Heard that one before."

"No." He bent down, gathering the tea set in both hands, and walked it over to a bin on the far wall. He casually tossed it inside, to the sound of shattering glass. "You are unique, and we Enti do not destroy what is beautiful. It is a promise not to invade your homeworld. We may destroy any station in orbit, and conquer any colony in your home system. But we will leave your homeworld alone."

He turned again, folding his arms dismissively. "That is the promise. The offer is this: so long as Equestria sends no ships against us, you may decide to abandon the war at any time. In exchange, we will leave you full autonomy of your home system. You may do with it whatever you wish, and our laws will not touch you. We will send no ships, no troops, no spies."

He gestured with one hand, and the roaring fire went out, plunging them into sudden darkness. "We gave this same offer to the humans, to the divensons, and the aljongs, and many others you do not know. They are living in peace in their space, and never needed to sacrifice lives in a needless war.

"Your creatures may continue to join and fight, if they wish to throw their lives away. They will die, or be enslaved, as is our right for conquered enemies. However, on the day a single ship assembled in Equestria fires upon a vessel of ours... the offer will be closed, and all that will remain to you is subjugation to your rightly-guided masters."

He said it with absolute confidence and finality. Indeed, he gestured, and a second later the door swung open. "I have instructed my secretary to give you free access to the database, if you request. Study the way we treat the lesser races under our care. Ask yourselves who you would have ruling over you—us, gentle and benevolent, or the Zecrin?"

Ocellus glared back at him. She wanted to scream. But shouting at the ambassador for representing what his country wanted was hardly going to encourage future cooperation. She tucked the scroll away, retreating towards the door. "Equestria will always be open to considering peace. If the Enti change your minds and you're willing to consider a cease-fire, send us a message. We're still new to this war—maybe we can help end it without more fighting."

They left, retreating with as much dignity as Ocellus could manage down the hall and out of sight. She had to stop Silverstream at the front desk, when she started to ask about seeing the Enti records. "Not now..." she hissed, and out they went.

"Why not?" Silverstream asked, as soon as they were out in the hall, with staring Zecrin guards. Their escort had waited outside for them during the entire conversation, it seemed. "Don't you want to know if they were telling the truth?"

"Yes," she admitted. "But we won't find it from anything they could show us here. They could show us whatever they wanted, and how would we know if it was true?"

She stalked over to the guards, and just now she couldn't even find it in her to be afraid of their sharp teeth. "We would like to get back to our quarters, please."

The guard grunted, then turned to march them away. Ocellus and Silverstream waited, practically boiling over with nervous energy as they crossed the pyramid. She could even look away from the prisoners, and forget the awful treatment these slaves received. Almost.

"Besides..." she whispered, as they neared the entrance to their little prison. "You said so yourself, you wouldn't keep living in prison, would you? Equestria wants to be free. We want to join the stars, not be stuck with just one. Humans will share the galaxy with us, not lock us away."

The guard made a strangled grunting sound, radiating amusement. "You think humans can give you anything, Equestrian? Some animals are clever—they even dress themselves. It is cute. But it is not a person. It is not significant just because it can learn your language. A machine can learn to speak as you do, and it is not a person either."

Ocellus didn't reply, just stalked into the open door to their little patch of jungle. She expected to find her friends just inside, maybe speaking eagerly with each other, or waiting right at the door.

Instead, they were gathered around a... campfire, built in the center of the strange room. It flickered with green and yellow, and in the spot beside it—was a Zecrin. They dressed as no individual they'd yet met, wearing a coat or robe in simple colors, and no bits of metal armor. A civilian maybe, or a member of a lower caste?

Ocellus slowed a little in the jungle, ears perked to listen.

"You should know that the Zecrin people are not as unified as the Sacred Watchers suggest. There are many who balk at their cruelty, or who disagree on their interpretation of scripture. Magic itself does not entirely uphold their interpretation. The universe defies simple classification."

Ocellus emerged from the trees a few seconds later, with Silverstream dragging along behind her. They must've looked as bad as they felt, because Yona waved at them with one hoof. "Your meeting went badly? This is not surprising."

Ocellus made her slow way over, where her friends opened up a spot in the circle. Silverstream only shook her head, leaving Ocellus to explain.

"They don't seem interested in ending the war." She wouldn't say anything about the offer, not with this stranger in attendance.

She turned to them, lowering her head respectfully. "Apologies for interrupting you. Please, continue."

The creature clicked their claws together, a gesture she was beginning to recognize. That meant acknowledgement, like a pony nod. Makes sense such a predatory species wouldn't want to lower their eyes and make themselves weak.

"You have a unique opportunity to affect change among the Zecrin. The Enti were only too eager to repeat our scriptures back to us. This insulated the Sacred Watchers from criticism, strengthened their rule. What we really need is someone willing to prove them wrong."

"And if we did..." Sandbar said, comprehension spreading across his face. "You think it might make the Zecrin join the Compact."

The creature clicked their claws again. "We suffer the Enti to do as they will not because we do not see the danger they might become—but because we do not recognize their actions as harming any living creature. If our people realized what was being done to this galaxy, they would be outraged. You only need to convince them."