• Published 12th Oct 2012
  • 15,671 Views, 442 Comments

Eclipse - IncoherentOrange

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

  • ...

Chapter Three: Charades and a Handshake

Chapter Three: Charades and a Handshake

The Luna swooped in to land on a field just west of the settlement. To the team's moderate surprise, it was clearly visible through the shuttle's several windows that one of the flying natives–a pegasus–was flying alongside the shuttle, somehow. Kathy was amazed by the fact that these creatures could fly at all: their shape, and likely their weight, were clearly not suitable for flight. Thinking logically, they appeared to be less aerodynamic than a man in a wingsuit, and yet, they could fly at speeds rivalling that of their craft. It was a light blue color, with a mane and tail striped with colors of the rainbow. The creature looked toward the windows, cracked what could only be a smile, and began to move faster than the shuttle. Whatever competition it was wanting to have would have to wait, as the shuttle landed several seconds later.

"Looks like we've been noticed," Killian deadpanned, looking through a window. Flying aliens had begun to gather.

"That's the point," the Skipper said. "Pilot, open the ramp."

With an electronic noise, the pilot complied. Moving slowly and deliberately, the three linguists and the Skipper disembarked. The multitude of pegasi watched them from the air, but had not landed. The Skipper swallowed. This is it. Such an immediate interception was not quite planned for, but what could he expect?

For several seconds, the field was in silence. Visible in the distance were ground-bound aliens, beginning to close the distance to the landed shuttle. Killian began to roll out the statue that was Sean Powell, and Kathy rolled out the cockatrice, strapped to a gurney and sedated. She carried a sample backpack containing various samples of plant life that had been discovered here.

The pegasi began to chat amongst themselves, in a language nobody on the team had any knowledge of. The linguists began to take notes on small wrist-mounted computers and switched on recording devices. The Skipper decided to step forward, and raised both of his hands slowly. "We come in peace," he said, in a level, loud voice. The chatter was squelched. Your move, the Skipper mused, swallowing. It was clear what advantage the natives had over them, in both speed and numbers.


Twilight Sparkle fixed her gaze on the mysterious object; the one outside Ponyville that, according to Rainbow Dash, had someone inside. It had accumulated quite a crowd of pegasi about it. They had been the ones to notice it first, and so had gotten there first. She could see its upper portions, but there was more below what she could see, obscured by the ground.

"Twilight!" Rainbow had said. "You've got to see this! A giant metal thing swooped down from the sky! It had someone inside, and not ponies or griffons or anything like that! It landed..." She'd pointed a hoof out the window, roughly to the east. "Over there! C'mon!"

That was all the explanation that had been given before Rainbow had left and sped off, saying something about informing the others. It was all Twilight needed. If this was what she thought it was, this was something big. Getting closer, it was evident that the object was, as Rainbow said, a metallic construct, and a large one. It had wings, large, flat ones in a long triangular shape. It obviously didn't float, as anything that big and made of metal couldn't possibly fly very fast and be powered by hot air. Such a thing would be preposterous. The thing had to have some sort of engine. Maybe it was steam powered, or magic powered, but even then, it didn't look like those wings flapped; there were no feathers on them that she could see from this distance, and what flies that has metallic wings?

Cresting a small hill, she stopped to catch her breath, but instead gasped. Now in sight of the ground the ship had landed on, she saw them. Standing, in front of the ship, was an earth pony and what appeared to be five bipedal creatures, the likes of which she had never seen before. They looked like they were wearing domed clear helmets and were clad, neck to foot, in what had to be clothing of mostly a dark blue color, which was also very close to the color of the earth pony. In the front of the group, one of the unknown creatures had both of its upper limbs in the air. What was it doing? Did it come from... Twilight shook the thought; the object she'd seen the other night through her telescope was nothing like this one, except for its grayish-silver color. It was, however, clearly some sort of foreign flying machine. Nagging thoughts wrestled with her reasoning mind. The concept that these beings might be from space was almost overwhelmingly tantalizing, but too fantastic to believe just yet. There'd have to be more proof before she could safely reach that conclusion.

Twilight teleported to the immediate front of the group. Somepony would know what was going on here. The entire group that had, she presumed, come from the ship jumped as though surprised, letting out startled noises and holding up their upper–or forward, in the stallion's case–limbs in shielding postures for a moment, before slowly lowering them again. Checking her own posture, nervous now, she examined the closest unknown visually.

Through its helmet, it clearly had a flat face, with no snout to speak of, and a protruding nose. Instead of the top sides of the head, its ears were situated closer to the middle, on the sides. She peered into its small brown eyes, which stared, intelligently, right back at her. It didn't have a coat of substance that she could see, just a group of black hairs surrounding its mouth, a mustache by any name, which matched the very short mane atop its head in color. Both had more than the slightest flecks of gray in them. Its skin was a somewhat darker shade than the light pink of bare pony skin, and slightly yellowish and wrinkled. From the look of it, this one was male, but she couldn't reliably tell through all of its clothing, the purpose of which was also uncertain, but may have had something to do with their relative hairlessness.

"Hello, my name is Twilight Sparkle. What are you doing here in Ponyville? What is this machine, if you don't mind me asking?" she questioned, in an inquisitive, friendly tone. The creature in front of her turned to face the earth pony, who said nothing, and let out a sigh.

A closer look at the rest of the group revealed one much more horrifying element; one of the creatures had been petrified by a cockatrice, one of which lay motionless, strapped to a gurney of sorts, nearby. Were they asking for help? Twilight opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the dark blue stallion, whose cutie mark, she had discerned, was a number of stars of several different colors. Was he some sort of astronomer? Was this some sort of spacepony? The signs for that being the likely scenario increased by the second, but, again, remained unconfirmed. Until then, she would consider the prospect folly. However, evidence was building. The peculiar object in front of the moon, the peculiar object that landed and disgorged these peculiar passengers, and these passengers' peculiar behavior and physiology.


"I can't understand her, Skipper," Killian said to the stares of his colleagues. Kathy made a remark about Killian's ease in recognizing the species' females. He glared at the biologist. Killian wore no helmet, and thus, had no identification signal and radio on him; nothing they had fit him. He had to walk around naked, to Killian's mild distaste. At least he had a coat of hair.

"Kathy, can it. Recorder is going, right?" the Skipper asked the nearest newly-appointed xenolinguist, then spun to face the lavender unicorn again, the one that had somehow just teleported in front of them, and talked to them.

He nodded in response.

"It sounded like she was asking us a question," Killian said. "Probably something along the lines of 'What the hell is this giant metal thing?' or, 'What and who the hell are you?' Probably both, I'd wager. That's what I'd ask, before asking 'What do you want?'"

The Skipper sighed deeply. This was going nowhere fast, though he'd hardly expected it to. The only thing they could do was make these creatures speak more. The inquiring unicorn began to speak again.


"Can I help you with..." she waved a hoof in the direction of the petrified biped, "this? I have just the thing at home." The copy of Supernaturals she possessed contained a remedy for cockatrice-induced petrification, if she recalled correctly, amongst other things. Nearly immediately, she realized the futility of her attempts at communication: they evidently did not speak Equestrian.

Without a word from its companions, one of the vessel's former occupants took what looked like a bag of sorts from its back and set it on the ground. From the looks of things, this one was female. Its mane was slightly longer, like a mare's compared to a stallion's, and it had no facial hair whatsoever, and its skin was of a similar shade to that of the other one she'd examined. Twilight watched intently as she pulled a glass jar from her bag, containing a familiar blue plant: poison joke. She walked deliberately over to the stallion, and gently tapped the jar against his head, and gestured at the jar, then at him. The stallion facehoofed, and put on an annoyed expression. What was she trying to say? Twilight cocked her head and made an exaggerated motion, attempting to indicate that she was confused.


"And it'll go down in history that first contact was a game of charades," Killian deadpanned.

"Do you have a better idea?" Kathy replied.

The Skipper turned around to face them. "It's progress. At least we know now that-" He was interrupted by the arrival of two more pegasus aliens, one of them was unmistakably the one that had followed them in, and the other was a yellow color, with a long pink mane and tail. It humored the starship commander that such colorfulness existed in such a wide spectrum here, where it clearly did not help with camouflage. Blues to browns, purples to whites, it didn't matter, there was at least one alien in any color imaginable, and even then, in different combinations. The two pegasi began to talk amongst themselves, but the yellow one was not hearing the blue one, and closed with the statue of Powell.

In what could only be a concerned tone, the alien looked at Killian and said something, then stared intently at the cockatrice, fluttering over it and apparently examining it. It did not awaken, and the alien touched it with a hoof, then said something to it cautiously, as though testing the deepness of its slumber. It would not wake up, of course; Kathy had loaded it with enough sedatives for another hour at least. They could revive it if they so chose, but what would that accomplish? Kathy once again tried to explain through motions to the purple one that Killian was not a small pony, but a human, and that this plant might've turned him into one.

The Skipper instead decided to make a show of his own. "Hey!" his voice boomed. All went quiet once again. The blue pegasus attempting to talk to the yellow one, the murmurs of the growing crowd, everything went silent. The Skipper was front and center. He pointed at the Luna, then at the sky. He pointed at himself, then at the Luna. He repeated the motions until one of the aliens said something. One of them will eventually get it, the Skipper thought.


"Sweet Celestia..." Twilight muttered under her breath. "They're from space! They landed in this... spaceship! This one came from a bigger one I saw last night in my telescope! That pony isn't really a pony, he's one of them, but he somehow came into contact with poison joke, and turned into one of us! It's all so clear now!" It simply could not be denied any further; now they were telling them that they were from space, or at least, it looked like they were. What else could it mean?

Total silence reigned. All eyes were on Twilight as she made a step toward the alien... captain, it would seem, and raised a hoof to shake. Slowly, with a gloved hand, he took it, shook firmly and... smiled. She spun about, and began to issue orders, as she had a knack for doing when the situation called for order. "Rainbow, ask Zecora to prepare a bath of poison joke antidote, and tell her it's an emergency, please. Fluttershy, you stay here with the cockatrice, see if you can make it free the... alien when it wakes up. If you can't, I'll check the library for cures. Everypony else... don't you think we should give our guests some space? I don't think they appreciate us gawking at them like this."

In turn, each party obeyed her command without question. The fact that Twilight was a well-respected figure throughout much of Equestria gave her word considerable weight. The mare let out a relieved sigh, and suddenly remembered who was missing from this picture. Spike was still at the library. Perhaps it was for the best: the baby dragon's imagination was sometimes overactive. He could have done something to offend the aliens. Twilight spun around. The aliens were still there, watching either her or Fluttershy, who did not appear to want the attention.


The Skipper was impressed by how the unicorn took control of the situation. The actions that she took appeared to be those of an authority figure. She was the only unicorn they had seen so far, and she had been at least partially in charge. Were the unicorns some sort of ruler caste? Was racism an issue here? What in the world had caused that creature to teleport in front of them? Perhaps this civilization had greater depth than once anticipated. Were the unicorns puppeteering the other races for resources while hoarding advanced technology, like the as-of-yet-unseen teleportation device and the levitating basket they'd seen from orbit, and framing themselves as gods to the others to get what they needed? Questions like these would be answered with study, the Skipper concluded. He strained to think of their next course of action. What if the aliens had sent for some sort of security force to deal with them? There were simply too many questions.

"What now, Cap'n?" a linguist asked.

"We wait, see what they do. We're guests here, gentlemen. Let's see how they treat guests."

A hot pink alien came into view, and upon noticing their group, rushed toward them. Within seconds she was upon them, spouting words at a rate usually associated with madmen. She poked and prodded, inquired and sized up, before turning to the purple unicorn and asking her a question.


"What are these things? They look kind of funny! Why do they seem so serious?"

Twilight facehoofed. "Pinkie, these are aliens! You have to be careful not to do anything that they might think of as a threat! If they can get here from who knows how far away, they could probably do terrible things to Ponyville if they wanted to!"

Twilight knew all about interstellar distances; the Princess had explained it in great detail to her, mostly to clarify why she could not move the stars in the night sky as she could the star of the day. The truth of the matter was easily summarized in one word, and that word was far. Farther than any pony had ever ventured, combined, she had said, and that would only be a teensy tiny fraction. If these spacepeople could get here, they would have to be extremely powerful in magic or technology. Though, none of them thus far had used any magic of any sort she'd ever seen before.

"Oh, wow, aliens! I got'cha, Twilight!" With that, the pink pony bounced over to stand at her side, away from the alien whose helmet she had been knocking on gently, to an annoyed gaze from the alien inside.


"I've got to wonder if they fear us. The purple one looks like she's trying to deal with this tactfully and with discretion," Killian observed. "She probably doesn't want to piss us off. I know I wouldn't. Fortunately, they're not the ones who should be worried. After all, we don't bear them any ill will. At least, none that I know of. Right, Skipper?"

The Skipper frowned. These aliens had no reason not to fear them, if only just a little bit. Though the aliens had no way of telling, Eclipse was capable of inflicting terrible damage to a terrestrial body's surface; it bore numerous railgun turrets, eight, to be exact, and a heavy slug moving at a speed measurable in a percentage of the speed of light was not something anything wanted to be hit with.

"They've got no reason not to fear us," he said in response. "I know we would in their place, but you're right, we don't have any good reason to do anything to hurt them."

"Perhaps aliens are not as ingrained into their popular culture as they are in ours," Kathy suggested, "or perhaps they have less of a perception of the possible threat we pose to them, or simply do not believe that we could possibly have come here with malevolent intentions, which would be correct, fortunately for them. If this were to happen on Earth, popular culture would probably have instigated some of the populace's reactions."

"Perhaps our culture is affecting our actions," one of the linguists wondered aloud.

"Yeah," Killian said, snickering, "after all, you did say 'We come in peace,' Skipper."

"We're making shots in the dark here; we've only scratched the surface of how they think, and what their culture is like. We could have just offended them and their families, we could have just shown submission, or we could have shown them fear. We wouldn't know," the linguist added. "What's most puzzling is how the alien responded when you shook her... hoof, Captain. That was a proper reaction; she just shook your hand. What's puzzling about it is that it seems to be analogous to our handshake: a greeting gesture. This is a friendly encounter thus far, not any variation of 'Get off my lawn.'"

The Skipper looked at the vibrant pink alien standing beside the unicorn and rattling off whispered questions, to which the other whispered short, identical responses to each. 'I don't know,' perhaps? He turned to face the linguist. "Well..." he read his nameplate as displayed on his helmet's HUD, "Sanders, what do you think we should do now?"

The linguist swallowed. Never had he been asked to make a decision before. After all, the Captain was the one who issued the orders. His role as a language teacher aboard Eclipse was not much more functional than a standard colonist; he'd teach crew members how to speak various languages, specifically English, French, Latin, and German. It was a sort of pastime for most of his students, especially after a third of their voyage was completed. At that point, everyone aboard had at least learned English. With a role as unimportant as his, he never suspected for a moment that the Captain would ask him for advice on this matter, and yet, now he was. "Uh... We try to communicate with motions, see what other gestures we share."

The Skipper nodded. "Cox, Grant, what do you think?" he asked, looking at each of the other linguists in turn. Both shrugged. "We need someone to head our xenolinguistics department, which will consist of you three along with whoever the head of this department sees fit. Any takers? We need these aliens' language deciphered as soon as possible if we plan to make this place our permanent residence, and since we don't want to have made this long trip for nothing..."

"I'll do it, Captain," Sanders said. "How hard could it be?" In his mind, however, it was already clear just how hard it would be. It would be a big task, for sure. "All we've got to do is formulate a pidgin of some kind, but we don't exactly have a lot of time..."

"Do your best." The Skipper looked toward the yellow pegasus alien, standing near the sedated cockatrice. Killian and Kathy were staring at it. "I wonder what she's doing here."


The nagging matter was the alien that stood motionless nearby, likely petrified by the very cockatrice that lay on this table, which was in a very deep sleep, as it appeared from where Fluttershy now stood. She decided to wait until it woke up to take further action. If she did now, she might startle the new arrivals.


"Good question," Killian said, "Maybe she knows something about this cockatrice. Should we wake it up?"

"No," the Skipper replied. "What if it attacks one of us? We don't know how it did what it did to Powell. It might do it again."

"Yes, good point, Skipper."


"I'll just wait until it wakes up, then I'll talk to it," Fluttershy said softly, "maybe I can convince it to help us, but I don't really know for sure..."

"Thanks, Fluttershy. If we help them out, they'll probably trust us more. And if we're going to cure that pony over there of poison joke, we're going to need his cooperation," Twilight said.

Twilight noticed something in her peripheral vision and looked up to see what it was. Unmistakably, it was Princess Celestia's sky chariot that was approaching their location. She pointed at it. "Look!"


The communications circuit in the Skipper's helmet activated. "Captain," the pilot said, "we have a contact closing fast with this landing site. No detectable power source." The Skipper looked to the sky, noticing a flying object, a vehicle of some kind, evidently propelled by numerous pegasus aliens, clad in gold-colored armor. More impressive, however, was what the vehicle carried as a passenger. An alien, larger than any yet seen, rode in the back. It had a horn and wings, a property as of yet unobserved. Its coat was white, and its mane appeared to shimmer prismatically. From this distance, it was evident that this creature was of a wholly different variety than those that stood in front of them now. As it disembarked from its vehicle, the three aliens standing in front of them did a sort of kneel. A leader figure? A monarch? the Skipper thought. The societal structure here was becoming visibly more complex as time went on. A closer inspection revealed this alien to be wearing particularly ornate accessories of gold and gemstones. It was clear that interactions with this particular alien could likely decide the success or failure of Eclipse's mission, or, at least, their hopes of landing the colony modules within this nation's boundaries.