• 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 6

Ocellus watched nervously out the sides of the ship's windows. They'd been sitting on the landing pad for over an hour, watching as the strange aliens paced around them. Of course, in her last few years at Twilight's School of Friendship and Naval Academy, Ocellus had seen her fair share of other races. Most common were the human beings who had made first contact with Equestria shortly after the failed changeling invasion. But they had images transmitted of other species. Yet none resembled these creatures.

If anything, they were something she might see in the Badlands, or perhaps during an ill-fated expedition into the Everfree Forest. Like humans, they wore too much clothing, though there was far less. Unlike humans, who could lounge casually around a room, these creatures always seemed in active motion, constantly leaning forward with claws exposed. If ever she had wondered how difficult it could be on two legs, now she saw that in action.

Yet these creatures never fell. Their balance was perfect, and it kept their mouths forward, with sharp teeth glittering in the jungle sun. As to what they must be doing outside on the landing platform, she couldn't be sure. She saw no sign of technicians, only some wearing heavy robes and carrying strange staves that smoked and billowed as they moved back and forth.

But then, the entire point of these creatures was their magical nature. Perhaps these were the equivalent of Zecrin unicorns, using spells to analyze the ship. "Yona is not happy with this delay," she said, for the third or fourth time now. Ocellus had given up keeping track. "It is very rude to keep visitors waiting like this."

Gallus rolled his eyes. He'd remained near the window, a sword resting on his shoulder as though he would spring forward and defend the ship should they be attacked. "The humans said that Zecrin kill anyone who enters their space," he said. "I don't think they're concerned with being friends."

"And why do we want to be their friends again?" Sandbar asked. "Don't tell Twilight I said that."

Ocellus groaned, but it was just like Sandbar not to remember. He wasn't exactly one for politics. "The galaxy is facing a magical enemy in the Enti," she explained. "Their magic gives them a decisive advantage, even though they are vastly outnumbered by everyone else. Equestria will be providing help to the rest of the galaxy. But there's only one planet of us, and we are not very many. If the Enti discovered where we lived, they could capture or kill us. But the Zecrin must realize that once the Enti finish with easier targets, they will be conquered as well. What little we know, we have to persuade them to put their religion aside long enough to work with the rest of the galaxy. Until we got here, the Stellar Compact didn't have anyone they were willing to talk to."

"And why do we think it will be different this time?" Silverstream asked. "They hate everyone for not having magic, don't they? Humanity? Humans aren't going to get magic just because they have us on their ships."

Ocellus winced. Of course, this was the weakest part of their plan. "It's not about getting them to like the Stellar Compact," she said. "We just need someone to convince them that they're better off making allies who will leave them alone than waiting for their enemy to conquer the rest of the galaxy and finally notice them here."

"Oh," Silverstream said.

At the same moment, the radio hissed with an incoming message. They'd left the channel open, but for this entire time no one had used it. Now a voice spoke, different from the one who had spoken to them on the defense platform. "Equestrian ship Fortuna, our external evaluation of your vessel is complete. We can verify it was not manufactured on any human world. Please open your ship and submit to inspection. All must step forward and relinquish any weapons they carry. If you are who you say you are, and you are not harboring fugitives, you will be welcomed as honored guests into the sacred palace. If you have lied, you will be ritually executed for this violation of our space. You have one minute to comply."

Ocellus buzzed over to the controls pressing the transmit button. "One moment while we open our ship." She switched off the radio, then turned back to her friends. "Well, here we go. Let's hope this goes better than it did for any of the human diplomats."

"They seem so friendly," Gallus said, exasperated. "I can't imagine why things didn't go well." Even so, he lowered the sword down onto the deck in front of him.

Ocellus led the way to the central airlock, taking each step slowly. Back in Equestria, she never would have imagined a peaceful messenger being harmed. It would have been unthinkable to do anything other than refuse them, if diplomacy wasn't desired. Yet these strange aliens openly threatened their lives. It's a good thing it was humans who found us and not them, she thought. Then she straightened. Officially there was no leader of this expedition, her friends were all equals. Unofficially, she was their best bet at understanding alien cultures. And she was reasonably certain the success of this mission would fall on her shoulders.

"Okay everyone, don't do anything unfriendly, even if they deserve it."

Gallus and Yona both groaned in unison at this order. Smolder, who had barely even been paying attention, looked up from her seat near the exit. "I'll stand behind them," she said. “If they try to hurt anyone, I'll burn them. I don't care how fancy their technology is, those aren't dragon scales. They'll burn."

Ocellus smashed one hoof on the airlock control. A second later, the computer spoke, it's voice neutral and human accented. "Breathable atmosphere detected. No airborne contaminants detected. Engaging cycle." There was a loud hissing sound, and finally the door opened.

Ocellus stepped through to the other side, then made her way straight to the controls for the loading ramp and pressed it. The sound of metal grinding and servos whirring filled the air, and slowly the ramp descended. As it did, Ocellus took her first look at an alien world.

It resembled what she'd seen from above; huge trees and a vast jungle that favored purple foliage over green. There was something strangely beautiful in the way it caught the sunlight. Bioluminescence, perhaps. She found herself instantly curious about the animals that might live here and what it would feel like to try and copy something with alien magic. She could feel the magic of the place as well, but more powerfully, the anger and suspicion from the creatures just in front of her, snapping her back to reality.

There were four of them in total, each wearing no armor. Instead, they had strange silvery robes, one held a metal rod in its claw, ending in a smoking censer. It waved through the air, pronouncing a strange prayer in a language she did not understand. They looked at one another, apparently as shocked to see her as she was to take in their appearance up close. There was no mistaking their predatory nature. This expedition would be no different than traveling among dragons. It remained to be seen which was more aggressive. Though if dragons could be taught friendship, perhaps these alien Zecrin could learn as well.

Finally, the one with the censer stepped forward pointing vaguely in her direction. "You are not human," they said. "This was no strange deception or misguided mechanical attempt at communication. You have a soul."

Ocellus blinked, taking in the words. Somehow they were in perfect Equestrian. If anything, they bore the accents of the deep earth, as might've been spoken by her changeling companions. She recognized what this must be, even if she lacked the magical aptitude to know it for herself: this was a translation spell.

She nodded then stepped slightly to one side. "My name is Ocellus. I was sent by the planet of Equus. It is an honor to visit your world. Please come in to meet my friends. We have known only humans so far since discovering the stars. We are excited to meet others who use magic as we do.

The reptilian creatures shared a look. She could not even begin to read their expressions. But Ocellus was a changeling, and didn't need to. The suspicion was still there, but she sensed the beginning of something. It was tempered now with curiosity. Maybe this mission isn't helpless after all, she thought.

"My name is Ha’luu,” said the lead creature. "Welcome to Kavaal. These inquisitors will inspect your ship."

Ocellus nodded, and the three remaining creatures hurried past her. She was tempted to follow them inside, just in case her presence kept the more hostile members of her own group from getting too offended by the unfriendly behavior of these reptiles. She resisted, stepping slowly down the ramp. She hesitated as she reached the bottom, looking down at the landing platform. It was covered in thick black stone, not the poured asphalt used by humans in their hurry to construct infrastructure on Equestria. The ground here had been intricately carved from the rock itself and bore swirling religious patterns.

She wanted to take off and appreciate them from the air. But this was not merely a cultural exchange. Keep a level head Ocellus, she thought. We're here to save the galaxy.

"It is strange you would choose to tolerate the mechanical presence of others on your world," said Ha'luu. "Our information suggests that the species of mammals called humans have been interfering with you. Why did you not destroy them? We know you are led by powerful divine spell casters. Surely you could have swatted their ships from your orbit."

Ocellus gaped at the question. So it seemed the Zecrin had more information than anyone thought. They were isolated here in this corner of the galaxy, yet they understood what had happened in Equestrian space. She shivered at the idea that they might know where to find them and that a third threat might come to her world.

"Equestria believes in friendship before all other things," she said. "Even for those who are not like us."

The priest grunted at her response, but didn't argue further.

One by one, her friends stepped out of the platform after her, looking somewhat shaken. Yet she heard no sign of combat as they emerged. Soon enough, all of them were assembled on the rocky ground just beside their ship. Ocellus was privately grateful for the human concept of data encryption. Yes, there was a potentially hostile force aboard her ship. But without the passwords she had memorized, they could not steal that information. Nor would they be able to remove the artifacts protected by the ship's spells. A few moments later and the three lizard creatures stepped off the ship.

So whatever else might be said, they weren't using this opportunity to tear the ship apart. They hurried past Ha’luu, one pausing long enough to whisper something in his ears. Or at his head anyway, they didn't seem to have ears. But she couldn't understand the language, only read the emotions of the speakers. Their suspicion was gone, replaced with curiosity and confusion. Somehow they didn't think this ship could exist.

A few moments later, and Ha’luu spoke. "Welcome to all of you. Kavaal is always open to all visitors of significance. Those with souls are welcome to all its delights. I will admit that the Hierocracy believed Equestria, and its creatures might very well be a myth constructed by the Stellar Compact; a deception meant to cajole us into diplomatic action. We are thrilled to discover that is not the case.”

“We’re real,” Silverstream said. "There's a whole planet of us."

"More than just us," Sandbar added. "Equus has half a hundred different species, each with their own unique magic. The six of us only represent a small group.”

"That is most unusual,” the priest said. "To have more than one species survive the brutal conflict to sapience, even on a magical world. The Hierocracy would be eager to receive you to the palace as honored guests. Please allow me to lead you there."

The members of her group shared a few nervous looks, though Ocellus could sense their optimism. In a few moments, they had accomplished what human diplomats had failed to do for half a thousand years. They had managed to convince the Zecrin to talk to them. Maybe this was the beginning of peace.

"Please do," Smolder said. "We've been flying for ages, and I can tell by looking at you people that you probably cook some awesome food."

One of their Zecrin companions was overcome with a sudden burst of movement. Laughter? "We will have that and more," Ha’luu said. "Come with me." He gestured off the edge of the platform.

Ocellus could see very little, there was no city here. Just these vast trees towering as large as buildings. But there was a general pressure on her mind, the force of many intelligent beings, emotions that could be harvested. This was no trap to lead them away from their ship. Besides they'd left without weapons. If it was a trap, what were they going to do anyway?

"Show us the way."