• Published 12th Oct 2012
  • 15,678 Views, 442 Comments

Eclipse - IncoherentOrange

A human colony vessel is sent to Equestria, and does not expect sapient inhabitants.

  • ...

Chapter Two: Impossibilities

Chapter Two: Impossibilities

A slight shake indicated successful landing of the Luna. The Skipper looked at the pilot. "I hope you don't mind waiting for a while."

"It's no problem," he said. "Don't worry about me."

The ramp opened, and the compartment the team stood within began to fill with the air of the alien world. One by one they stepped out of their craft into the night, switching on their headlamps and taking a look around. "Wow," one of the xenobiologists said, capturing fully in one small word the wonder of the moment. Eclipse had made it. There they stood, on the surface of an alien world, the first one of its kind ever to have been set foot upon by man.

"I wonder what the air smells like..." Deputy Powell pondered aloud.

The Skipper turned toward their destination for this mission, a dense forest, as the xenobiologists ran initial tests and took samples of the grass-like plants and flowers. Within the forest, however, there would be many more varieties of life. This was assuming that forests here were like those on Earth, something that had not yet been proven in the slightest. The foliage was a bit too thick to get much information out of it from the outside.

"Alright, let's move out," the Skipper ordered, moving slowly toward the forest, feeling every step for the now-alien feel of soil beneath his feet through his boots. It felt very good, in a subtle way, to stand on the secure, solid ground. He didn't doubt that the rest of the team felt the same way.

Killian swept his helmet lamp across the tree line. "That is one thick forest," he muttered softly.

The thick underbrush was quickly found to contain thorn bushes, which thankfully did not cause anything more than mild surprise. Injury would necessitate a heavy quarantine, and likely an immediate retreat. Nobody wanted to handle that mess. "Powell, Jennings, Markov, you take left. Reynolds, Wright, with me," the Skipper ordered. "We'll cover more ground." They had a mission time frame of three Earth hours. That meant around eight minutes shorter than one of this planet's hours, if a scale of twenty-four to a 'day' was used. The star rose and set in a time frame very similar to Earth's, but the planet itself spun very slowly.

The pair of teams' headlamps illuminated branches, vines, oddly-shaped logs, and other vegetation, all the while casting fearsome shadows that might have scared them had they been alone in this dense alien forest. Navigation through it would be merely an inconvenience as long as the Skipper wore his helmet. With it, he would be able to make the beacon of the Luna visible from over five kilometers away as a semi-transparent red chevron. Through the rustling of the bushes he treaded through, Killian swore he heard an owl. He swung about to report his discovery, and tripped on a root, landing in a bed of blue flowers.

The navigator struggled to his feet, picking up his rifle and shaking off alien pollen, grumbling. Kathy's warning voice began to speak, echoed just slightly afterward by the radio as she knelt to carefully collect one of the blue flowers with a trained hand. "Careful, these plants could have defensive mechanisms. Try not to let anything touch your skin." Killian bobbed his head in acknowledgement. They'd all go through quarantine procedures before coming back aboard Eclipse anyway.

Sean Powell felt on-edge, feeling as though the forest had enveloped all six of them, and that there would be no escape. An irrational feeling, he told himself. After all, he had a gun, nothing had gone wrong yet, and the Skipper could lead them back, no problem. He heard a rustling from behind him. Just in front of him were scientists Jennings and Markov, the Skipper and the others somewhere off to the left.

He spun and raised his rifle. Standing, obscured in the brush, was an animal, the first one he'd seem. It looked kind of like a chicken. It turned its head toward him, and locked bright red eyes with the deputy's, who found it difficult to avert his gaze from the creature's. "Hey, guys-" Powell began, then found that he could no longer speak. He attempted to scream as he found that he could not move his arms or legs. Nothing came out.

The Skipper was about to respond when his heads-up-display issued a warning. The box representing team member six went yellow, representing an irregularity, then to black, which indicated no life signs. His heart skipped a beat. "Powell!" he shouted, "Powell, do you read me!? Jennings, Markov, report!"

Markov drew his pistol and looked about to see that Powell had been standing behind him, stock-still, rifle in hand. He tapped on the deputy's shoulder and looked into his helmet. His face was contorted into a scream, frozen. "S-sir, he's..." An inhuman shriek from beside him drew his attention to a medium-sized creature that had just erupted from the brush. A quickly-aimed shot put a tranquilizer dart into the midsection of the creature, felling the beast.

What he saw upon inspection of the creature was surprising. Its body was scaled and green, with wings like those of a bat and a head and legs like those of a chicken. Cockatrice, he thought, impossible! He cleared his throat. "Sir, Powell encountered a... cockatrice; he's been turned to stone. I put it to sleep, sir. Did this thing just kill Powell?"

The Skipper didn't answer the question. "Markov, did you just call that thing a cockatrice?"

"Y-yeah, a cockatrice. Body of a... dragon, with the head of a chicken, and it turned him to stone. Is he still alive, sir?"

"Form up, we've got to take Powell and this beast back to the ship," the Skipper ordered, then switched communication channels. "Prep the Luna, we are leaving!"


The hasty retreat from the planet, and the circumstances surrounding it, had all crew members–excluding the pilot of the shuttle–confined inside until it was certain that whatever had befallen Sean Powell would not spread. This particular Luna, along with two others, was specifically outfitted for research tasks. It contained limited lab equipment, bunks, and storage.

Kathy scrutinized the cockatrice, noting again its similar features to those of Earth chickens, and to cockatrices of mythology. What's it like inside? she wondered. How deep did its similarity go? It occurred to her then, that the unknown was what awaited her team inside this sedated creature. How exciting.

The Skipper had ordered that the cause of Powell's petrification be determined immediately. The very prospect that he'd already lost a crewman–and to a supernatural being, no less–worried him to no end. He was going to have to mark his loss as the first ever lost in the exploration of an inhabited alien world, among other things. He stared at the standing statue that was Powell. Maybe he isn't totally gone yet, he thought, again entertaining his optimistic side and blocking souring notions. The natives might be able to help...

Killian had chosen Powell for this mission. A smart fellow, quick to learn, ordered, and obedient. Perfect for a sensitive mission such as this. Now, he stood immobile in the lab, for all intents and purposes, dead. The scientists had no idea how to approach the statue-corpse, whether he was really still alive or not. Regardless, the Skipper did not allow any cutting, just a small carefully-extracted sample from the hair on top of the deputy's head. The weight upon his mind tired him, and he soon retired to one of the bunks within the craft. He would be the only one of the team to get any sleep that night.


Killian opened his eyes to see the dull interior of the Luna craft. He noticed something wrong with his vision, as though his eyes were in different positions. Were they closer together, or farther apart? He extended a hand to rub his eyes and correct the issue, only to find that he no longer had fingers, nor did he have hands. A dark blue appendage instead extended itself toward his eyes. Startled, he flailed his limbs and sent himself off of his bunk and into the microgravity of the ship. Killian screamed as he realized the nightmarish situation he now found himself in. He was no longer human, but one of the native creatures he'd seen on the monitor hours ago on the bridge. This was certain; with four legs and a mark distinctive of a native on either side of his hindquarters, there was no doubt. Tumbling helpless in the air, unable to determine what to do, Killian wailed until the someone came into the bunk area.

"Killian!? Are you alright!?" The Skipper rushed into the room, and found himself speechless at the sight of what sounded like his navigator, but looked like a navy-blue quadrupedal alien, floating, flailing its limbs about. Grabbing hold of the afflicted navigator, he dragged it and himself into the lab compartment, where he was met with gasps.

"Where did that come from?" Kathy asked, dumbfounded.

"That's Killian."


"C-can't you do something?!" Killian yelled. The biologists had confirmed that nothing contagious had been brought aboard, and that all samples were contained. Now, in the gravity cylinder of the ship's main clinic, Killian stood along with the statue of Sean Powell. The Skipper had just left for the bridge.

"No, not yet at least," Kathy replied, comparing a slide of his new skin to skin cells collected from his clothing, obviously also his. She often hummed while doing her work, and to Killian's annoyance, didn't even seem perturbed, just intrigued.

"Isn't this... impossible? Have I really turned into a talking horse!? Do you have any idea whether it's permanent or not!?"

"Not yet. Relax, Killian, you're just fine. Or, at least, I'm sure we'll be able to figure something out." She smiled at him, apparently attempting to be at least a little reassuring to him. "And, hopefully, so will he. The Skipper will come up with something."

"You mean, you've got no idea what to do? Wonderful, wonderful. The Skipper will just, make all of these problems disappear, won't he? I suppose we'd better hope so." Killian continued to pace around the room, practicing the four-legged gait of his new form. He didn't relish the concept of having to get used to being like this on a permanent basis, specifically, but what worried him more was just how implausible it was that he was spontaneously turned into an alien with no explanation. It seemed almost like some sick joke.

"Y'know, I always wanted a pony when I was little," Kathy said, non-chalantly. "But we could never get one. Nowhere to ride it, anyway." Killian glared back at her. "Sorry." Kathy wasn't the kind of doctor that had a practiced bedside manner; she was a scientist. The situation had called not for a medical doctor, but a scientific one.

Killian had been told that he appeared to be completely healthy. The real ailment here was what he now was. This was something that, Kathy seemed to logically assume, raw science would be able to explain. All he'd done was fall on some plants, and Kathy had already examined those plants and their pollen, only to find that they had no detectable gimmick to them. Still, she had expressed suspicion about them.

Kathy had ranted about how, despite the fact that life here had evolved coded on a biomolecule that was not deoxyribonucleic acid, many processes observed so far were functionally identical to those found in Earth-bound organisms. All major roles in Earth's ecosystem were present, producer to decomposer. More than anything, it seemed to him like it was a great big grade-school science project to the biologist.

"Don't humans and... horses have different numbers of chromosomes? Even if I were actually an Earth pony, wouldn't turning me from a human into one of them be completely impossible? Aren't hybrids like ligers and mules only possible because of a similar number of chromosomes? I mean, we've got what, forty-six, and... what do horses have?"

"You're absolutely right, Killian, that isn't really possible, at least not conventionally-"

Killian stomped a hoof and looked at it, shuddering. "What is it then? Tell me you aren't proposing that it 'simply is that way', because that's what we said about the star, and I'm tired of hearing that! Look at Powell. Powell is made of stone now, because of a mythological cockatrice! Is that normal? No, it's not. We've arrived in a land out of a fairy tale, or a children's cartoon, a place of mythology!"

She sighed, "I can't explain that, Killian. Nobody can, not yet. We'll get to the bottom of this eventually, don't worry. Such extreme changes don't just happen. Something causes them, we'll find out what." The natives quite possibly had the answers.

The navigator sighed deeply and sat, shifting uncomfortably in his unnatural skin. "I sure hope so."

Kathy moved to the motionless, restrained cockatrice. "This creature has no detectable gland, or other weapons of any sort, that could afflict Powell with this condition. For that matter, there is no compound known to science that can simply convert flesh into stone, or, a material quite much like stone. It just simply doesn't seem to work."

"Doesn't 'work,'" Killian spat. "But what does around here? There's got to be a force that we can identify that explains this." He stood up again, and trotted to Kathy's side. "Can we even kill these things?"

"Not this one. The Skipper wants it alive. But... yes, we are most certainly capable of killing them. They bleed and have vital organs just like us." She patted him on the head several times. She then appeared to realize what she was doing and stopped. "Well, that's one thing that makes sense," she said, awkwardly. "And... perhaps we now know what those marks on the aliens' hindquarters mean. Roughly." Killian sighed again.


Killian, the Skipper, Kathy, the statue that was Sean Powell, the sedated cockatrice, and three of Eclipse's language professors prepared to embark on another landing expedition, this time to make contact with an alien race, face-to-face. There was no telling what to expect of the natives' language, and something had to be done about that as soon as possible in order to establish communications to some degree, which would be a prerequisite for peaceful establishment of their colony. Additionally, if anyone could help the two afflicted crewmen of the Eclipse, it was the natives, the Skipper figured.

He'd formed a plan. First, they would land within sight of the settlement closest to the forest they'd explored the other day, and approach on foot. No small arms would be worn as to avoid a negative reaction. Just in case, however, the Luna they were taking had arms aboard. In case of what, one might ask. In case of anything. The Skipper did not plan to lose more crew members to his own carelessness, as he had the previous night, deep within that dense forest.

Eclipse's journey had been punctuated with few deaths. Forty-six, to count over many years, forty-seven with Powell, whose state of life had yet to really be decided. That count, the Skipper realized grimly, had become much more likely to rise now that the actual journey was over.

Today, he decided, the next step of this journey would really begin: negotiations with the natives.