• Published 30th Sep 2022
  • 1,811 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?

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Chapter 5

In retrospect, Silverstream thought they probably should’ve just flown up to the border station and asked for permission. But she wasn’t the Fortuna’s captain, and anyway Gallus had seemed so sure they could just land…

Now they were learning the hard way that he’d been a little too optimistic.

The bridge of the Fortuna used the same modified human design as all of Equestria’s starships (all two of them), with a round section of stations around the captain’s chair in the middle, and the far wall an embedded screen that usually pretended to be a window. Of course it was at the center of the ship, to her great annoyance. Silverstream wished they’d just put in a real window.

The Fortuna rocked again, rattling and shaking slightly. “Computer is reading that as a non-causal gravity projection!” Ocellus yelled over the alarms, her wings buzzing through the openings in her suit. She hovered in the air rather than using the seat, which was great considering how much they were shaking.

“I think that just means levitation!” Sandbar paced nervously back and forth, wearing his medical saddlebags and apparently just waiting for something to explode. So far nothing had, but they’d been showered with sparks a few times. How much power ran through those human control consoles, anyway? “That’s what humans call unicorn magic!”

“I don’t care what they call it!” Gallus yelled. “We need communications or they’re going to blow us up!”

All eyes settled on Silverstream, and her ears flattened with nervous fear. She was communications, their lead diplomat on a team of diplomats. Also her claws were good at working human computers, which was why she had a seat of her own. Yona and Sandbar just had to ask for help when they needed it.

“Uh, we…” The screen displayed a graphical representation of the electromagnetic spectrum, something she barely even understood. But after a few seconds of analysis, it highlighted a few slices as “likely communication”. “I think this might be it!” She selected the largest of these, and put it on over the speakers.

A voice speaking in badly accented English came on over the speakers, rumbling through the ship. “Human vessel, you have violated our space. Your ship will be impounded, and your crew will be imprisoned. Do not resist, or you will be destroyed. Human vessel, you have violated our space. Do not—”

“What the buck are they saying?” Gallus asked, glaring at her. She wasn’t just at the comms console, but she was also one of the two members of their group who could speak the human language. Ocellus was the other one, as gifted with language as most of her kind.

She translated quickly.

“We know this already,” Yona declared, stomping one hoof into the deck in front of her weapons console. There were several large dents already, enough that she’d torn through the carpet. “This is why no one come here, yes? Zecrin are… not neighborly lizards.”

“They think we’re human and they want to…” Gallus’s claws shook on the controls. “Alright, uh… Silverstream, can you… tell them we’re not human? Please?”

She nodded, lowering her head to the microphone. From the window in front of her, she could see the massive defense station growing larger all the time. So far as she could tell the planet only had one, a single gigantic cube that seemed to flicker and glow with magic, its sections shifting and overlapping and stretching into dimensions of space that hurt her eyes. Like one of Headmare Starlight’s most ambitious experiments, but grown to gigantic size.

“Zecrin… station,” she said. “We are not a human ship. This is the ESS Fortuna. We’ve come as envoys from… your magical neighbors. We heard you… welcome visitors like us.”

The English warning stopped abruptly, going silent in the middle of a word. Yet the Fortuna kept vibrating, dragged closer and closer to the station’s yawning maw.

“It’s not working!” Gallus called. “Maybe try Ponish?”

Ocellus landed, fumbling with the buttons for a moment in her magic. “There’s, uh… there’s something changing. I think—”

They jerked to the side, so abruptly that everything that wasn’t nailed down smashed forward. That included Silverstream herself, who smacked into her console hard enough to briefly daze her. “Ugh…”

When the world returned a moment later, she could hear another voice. Not the repeating, automated tone. “Equestrian vessel ESS Fortuna, please confirm the information you provided. Zecrin high code requires that no nonmagical being be present in our space. Only ensouled beings of significance may visit our homeworld. If you misrepresent your status to us, your ship and all aboard will be destroyed in retribution.”

Still English, still heavily accented, though this time the speaker was higher and more feminine. “There are only Equestrians aboard,” Silverstream answered. “We learned how to build our ships from humans, but there are no humans here. This is our mission, not theirs.”

There was another long silence. The shaking didn’t resume, and the station’s gigantic magical projection didn’t reach out to yank them in. She translated what she’d said for everypony who didn’t know, then sat back and waited.

It felt like she was waiting forever before the answer finally came. “I’ve sent a landing vector using human-standard guidance protocols your computer should accept. If you still wish to land, you are welcome to touch down on our Homeworld. Otherwise, you may turn the way you came and leave in peace.

“But if you elect to land, your vessel will be searched. The penalty for sacrilege will be the total destruction of all aboard. So be certain of your decision before you land. Beacon of Serenity out.”

The channel clicked, and Silverstream switched off the microphone for good measure. Then she laughed, feeling the relief settle over her. It really was that easy—the Zecrin just didn’t like creatures that couldn’t use magic. It was just like their new friends said. But will the Zecrin be our friends when this is over, or are we all just wasting our time?

She translated that message, feeling the weight lifting from her shoulders. The pressure on her would be over, at least for the short term. If they don’t speak Ponish down there, I’ll be translating a lot more. But that was a problem they could face when they landed.

“Yona is not sure we want to talk to them after all.” She glowered through the fake window out into the void, at the much-closer cube that was apparently called the Beacon of Serenity. “They attack us without even saying anything. Yona thinks they not very good friends.”

“We already knew they were going to act this way,” Ocellus said. “I was hoping they’d talk first, but… at least they didn’t shoot. Now they know we’re magical like them, it should be easy.”

“Are we?” Gallus asked. “I mean… I know you ponies have your tribes… Ocellus is obvious, and you too Silverstream. But what about Yona and me? Did any creature ask what they’d think of us?”

There was another uncomfortable silence, though this one didn’t last as long as before. Ocellus finally cleared her throat, getting their attention. “Twilight explained this to me when she was briefing us for the mission. All creatures who live on Equus rely on magic. Even the ones who don’t have overt magical abilities. All the Zecrin care about is that we have magic like they do.”

“Okay, but… why?” Sandbar asked. “Why does it matter so much? They threatened to kill us, didn’t they?”

Silverstream raised a wing. “I know that one! The Zecrin are a… theocracy. They think that magical creatures have souls, and free will, and… ‘moral agency.’ Everything else in the universe is a… a machine, yeah. The Stellar Compact wanted us to be smart to join. The Zecrin want us to be magic for us to get close to them. Which is why they… aren’t stopping the Enti from taking over the universe. So far as they’re concerned, it’s a race of people using the machines around them, that’s all.”

“Yona is still not convinced. That not sound like friendly creatures. Maybe we should leave like they say.”

Gallus straightened in his chair, returning one claw to his controls. “No, not today. We’re on a mission, and we’re going to complete it. The Compact needs to know how much we can do together, or… something. Princess Twilight said it was important, we can’t give up just because they’re not friendly.”

“I’ll send you the direction,” Silverstream said. “If you just fly this way…”

A tiny projection appeared in the air in front of Gallus, the path they were supposed to fly. He touched a few buttons in front of him, and then they started to move. Much more gracefully than before, without the sound of the engine tearing them apart that had roared all around them when they tried to pull away from the Beacon of Serenity.

No creature questioned him, despite Yona’s initial objections. They had all seen the horrors of the Enti invasion. Their human friends had made sure Equestria knew what it was getting into.

As the planet grew wider in their view, Silverstream could make out more and more of the way it looked. And probably more than any human has ever seen and survived. Even if we don’t win them to our side, we’ll probably still make a difference for the Stellar Compact if we can get out of here alive.

They’d been well prepared for this trip, or as much as Equestria could prepare them. But while they simply didn’t have the martial strength of the humans or the engineering of the Aljongs, what they did have was magic.

Tucked inside the Fortuna’s innermost vault were six objects, each one a kind of sacred in their own right. It was only with this specific crew could they each be brought, since each one of them represented an inheritor to their power.

They might not need them. Silverstream certainly hoped they didn’t. Maybe it would be as easy as a conversation, and everything would be friendly between their races forever. It was worth hoping for.

As they got lower, Silverstream began to squint at the screen, unsure if what she was seeing was real. A thick layer of ice covered the planet near its poles, but they were headed towards the equatorial region. She could make out no cities, only an endless curtain of purple. At first she thought it must be a continent-spanning Arcology, like the pictures she’d seen of the human homeworld.

But as they closed in on a landing zone, she could see they were actually trees—brown wood, but thick purple leaves, accented with flowers of green and blue.

Apparently Gallus was thinking the same thing she was as they neared their landing site—a clearing of heavy gravel with different colored stones spelling their letter. Even Equestria had the technology to pave their runways. “Are we sure we can walk around out there?” he asked. “That doesn’t look very much like Equestria to me.”

“Yes,” Ocellus said. “Their atmosphere is oxygen, and I’m not getting anything dangerous on these sensors here…” She trailed off for a moment, flushing red. “But there are some scans here of the envoy they sent to the Stellar Compact a few centuries ago. Apparently they’re… biologically incompatible with us. So don’t eat anything, and don’t, uh… harvest any love.”

That expression doesn’t make sense when you say it about us, Silverstream thought, annoyed. But then the Fortuna finally settled to a stop, its landing stilts extended. It looked just like jungle out there, without so much as the light of a building in view.

Then they came. They swarmed from the jungle all around them, creatures so fast and dark-colored that she might’ve thought they were a pack of wild animals, and not the ones they’d come to meet with in the first place.

They looked a little like adolescent dragons, bipedal with a single set of manipulating limbs. But they had long tails to let them lope rather than walk, and they all lacked wings. “Those sure are, uh… some sharp looking teeth they have.”

The communicator buzzed, and Silverstream reached forward to press it reflexively. A voice spoke, deeper than the last one, and harsher. “Open your vessel, visitors, or we will open it for you. You will now be boarded and searched.”

“Do it,” Gallus said, slumping back into his seat. “Time to see if Twilight was right. Nothing we can do about it now.”