Young contemplates the deal with Celestia, as a cure is utilized. Meanwhile, Moonlight’s outlook causes some concern.
“So… you’re… in charge of it?” Rainbow asked, slightly confused.
“Yeah!” the administrator replied, quite enthused. “I’ll be in charge of exploration, scientific endeavours, special projects. Anything related to the Stargate will fall under RESA’s perview, and I will be running RESA. This is so exciting!”
“Yeah, congratulations,” Rush said, slightly annoyed. “Now, can you leave… please.”
The alien leaned over a large magical tome, as he tried to stare them down. His desk was cluttered with various magical implements, some more complicated than others.
It intreaged Twilight how much interest the psuedo-earth pony was taking to the magical arts. But his natural scientific curiousity, combined with the fact that he’d never seen magic before, and add to that the supposed ‘mission’ that led them here; it should have been expected. Which is why she was so glad she suggested giving him a spare room in the castle to use as a research lab during his time in Equestria.
“So… Rush. Learn anything?” the unicorn asked.
The mathematician sighed. “Nothing that helps me learn what magic actually is,” he explained. “Only what it can do, which is a lot.”
“What do you mean, ‘what magic is’?” Rainbow asked. “It’s magic!”
“But it has to obey the laws of physics,” he explained, slightly incensed. “Which means there is some mechanism, something doing whatever it is magic does. It had to come from somewhere.”
Rainbow merely raised an eyebrow in confusion.
It was then that Twilight noticed something strange. “Where’s Bright Sword?” she asked.
“Hmm?” he asked, looking up from his book. “Oh, I turned him into a rabbit.” he explained, pointing to a far corner of the room. “Haven’t found a way to turn him back without a unicorn. Do you mind?”
Twilight didn’t hesitate to wrap her magic around the sleeping bunny, and quickly destabilize the magic, causing him to instantly wake up, and revert into the unicorn stallion he was just a few hours ago.
“You okay?” she asked.
Sword was slightly distressed. “Yeah, just, check on us more frequently, will ya?”
“Not a problem.” She turned to the amateur mage, and said, “Play nice, Rush,” before leading Rainbow out of the room.
“Hey, by the way,” the pegasus said, nudging her best friend. “I saw Red today.”
Twilight looked at the mare curiously. “Maybe you should see a doctor about that.”
“What? No, Red Rain,” she explained. “Moonlight’s friend.”
“Yeah, you didn’t tell me you were hiding out on the Destiny so you could avoid your little brother.”
“I wasn’t hiding out!” she responded. “I was just… Working!”
“I haven’t seen you in three days, Twilight. You’ve been on that ship the whole time!”
“It was a stubborn case of Poison Joke. I had to keep working on it.”
“So, you’re saying you weren’t avoiding him?”
She froze. “Alright, fine, I was avoiding him! But it doesn’t matter, I’m gonna make it up to him! First thing tomorrow!”
Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “How?” she asked.
“With a little help from my friends!” she explained with a smile.
Scott trotted through the familiar halls of the Destiny.
As his hooves hit the cold metal floor, he realized just how different his pony body actually felt. The cold breeze that ran through the ship ruffled through his coat, and along his wings. A sensation that was drastically different than what he was used to.
Being in a different body wasn’t a totally foreign experience, the Ancient Communication Stones allowed the same thing. But that was still human.
Even still, this was his body. True, it was shaped differently for the time being, but for some reason, it still felt familiar.
Ahead of him, Scott saw another pony trot through the hallway, directly toward him, accompanied by one of his own soldiers.
“Shining Armor,” the lieutenant said.
“Lieutenant Scott?” Airman Dunning inquired.
“Yeah,” he replied, as he started to float a few feet from the floor.
“Sorry, sir, it’s just…”
“It’s alright, Airman. What’s goin’ on?”
“Oh, just heading back home. Wanted to make sure the Poison Joke cleared up first but…”
Scott was intrigued. “Did it finally work?”
“Not really. I don’t understand how, but I think they’re wiping all magic from their bodies. It’s pretty drastic for a cure, didn’t want to stick around.”
“Oh,” he said, nonplussed.
Realizing the implications were lost on the alien, Shining continued. “Twilight said something like that would kill a pony; but apparently, they’ll be fine.”
“Yeah. I got to go,” he explained, trotting past the Air Force officer. “My wife is probably worried.”
“Yeah, I’ll see ya.”
“Sir,” Dunning said, as he left his superior’s presence.
Scott continued on his way.
A pair of brown eyes eased themselves open. “Colonel,” Wray responded, as she brought a hand to her head.
“Headache?” Young asked.
“How’re you feeling?”
“Better than I was,” she replied, with a chuckle.
“Colonel,” Lieutenant Johansen said, as she approached the commander. “Seems the treatment works.”
“I don’t know about that,” Wray rebutted.
“There are a few side effects. But I don’t think there’s any permanent damage.”
“You sure?” her commander asked.
“Honestly? No. I still have to run a few tests.”
Young was not happy.
“Well, we knew there’d be risks, sir.”
“Lieutenant?” Brody said, from across the room.
“Excuse me,” the medic replied.
T.J. walked past her other patients. Volker’s five-foot-long mane was tied back in a ponytail for the time being. But Morrison was in the worst shape, evident as he started coughing up a ball of bloodied mucous into a tray.
“We ready?” she asked.
“Ready as we’ll ever be,” the engineer replied.
“Alright, let’s do it.”
He started adjusting the controls. When suddenly, the lid of Brody’s anti-magic chamber slid shut, like some type of glass sarcophagus, as the inside was suddenly bathed with a bright yellow light.
As the energy faded, it took a brief second for the Colonel to fear the worst, when suddenly, the miniaturized figure inside took two seconds to quickly, and violently, return to his normal size.
“GAAAAH!” Varro cried, briefly, shocking everyone in the room.
The coffin lid receded as T.J. approached her patient. “Are you alright!?” she asked, slowly helping him up.
“Like my bones were about to pop out of my skin,” he explained.
“That’s probably because they were about to.”
He slowly climbed out of the chamber, cringing with every move.
One of the infirmary’s many doors slid open, and in the door frame stood a dark blue pegasus stallion.
“Scott?” Young asked.
“Yes sir,” he replied.
He hesitated briefly before replying, “five-four-eight-two-six-seven-three.”
He nodded. “Where’s Rush?”
“Uh, he said he was busy, sir. I could go back-”
“No, no, it’s fine, shut the door.”
As he approached the switch, he could see two humans approach from just around the bend.
“Sir,” Greer said, happy to see his commanding officer, and closest friend. “How’re the wings workin’ for ya?”
“Rainbow says I’m a natural.”
The Master Sergeant laughed as he walked into the room.
Chloe entered in his wake, and the lieutenant pressed a button, shutting the door behind them.
“Alright,” the commander began. “Now that everyone’s here. Celestia made us an offer: Everything she could possibly provide.”
“What’s that mean?” Wray asked.
“To start, food, supplies, time off the ship. Everything we asked for.”
“I can only think of what they want in return.”
“Well, she wants us to maintain a low profile.”
“You mean the transformation spell?” T.J. asked.
“Are we seriously calling it that?” Volker responded.
“Yeah, and I’m a little hesitant on that,” Young replied.
“No way,” Morrison responded, blood staining his chin, his voice raspy and hoarse. “This stuff is way too dangerous, I don’t want it anywhere near me.”
“Well you can stay here then. Though I’m wondering if I should allow anyone to go,” the Colonel explained, his eyes on his chief medical officer.
“Well, I don’t see any danger, sir.”
A loud cough resonated through the room. “Are you kidding!?” the scientist cried, before spitting up a throatful of bloody flem.
“Morrison, you need to rest your voice.”
“You see what this stuff did to us?”
“That was a completely different spell,” Scott rebutted, raising himself in the air. “Poison Joke is supposed to mess with you.”
“Well,” T.J. continued. “There’s also the fact that the transformation seems to be easily reversible. There doesn’t appear to be any lasting effects.”
“There’s also another issue,” replied the Commander.
Shining Armor trotted through the metal halls of the Destiny, eager to return home, to his loving wife.
Cadance still had no idea what was going on, what he was doing. It felt wrong keeping it from her, but he had no choice. He was under orders.
Not only that, she was a princess. Shining still could not understand why a Princess of Equestria was being kept out of the loop. Celestia was being cautious… unusually cautious.
He wanted to know why.
As he rounded one last corner, and trotted down the hall leading to the gate room, he saw a strikingly familiar form, sitting.
Celestia sat in front of the dormant gate, strangely silent.
He entered the room, and was quite surprised to find it otherwise empty. “Your Highness?”
She didn’t react, visibly. “Shining Armor,” she said. “I assume they told you what they’re about to do.”
“Actually, I think they already did it,” he explained.
She turned her neck, so one eye faced the soldier.
“Well, looks like you’re good here,” Dunning said.
“Yeah, I’ll… um…”
The Airman walked away, leaving the two ponies alone.
“Is everything alright, Your Highness?” Shining continued, trotting toward the princess.
She paused for thought as he sat down next to her. “I must admit, I am a bit worried.”
“You don’t trust them?”
“No, it’s not that. I’m certain they’re friends, there’s no doubt about that. I’m worried about something else.”
He paused, rephrasing his next question in his head. “What?” the captain asked.
She smiled sweetly. “It’s not important,” the princess replied. “So, did their plan work?”
“I… don’t know, I left before they started,” he explained.
“I see…” she said, pensively. “Colonel Young said he will destroy the device very soon.”
“Well, that’s good.”
The princess shuffled uncomfortably. “Are you heading back to Equestria?”
“Yes, ma’am. Unless, you need me for something.”
“No, it’s fine,” she said, returning to her hooves. “I’m sure Cadance is worried about you.”
“Yes, about that, Your Highness, I have to ask: Is there a reason you’re keeping her in the dark?”
She paused in shock before responding: “Yes.”
As Celestia trotted toward one of the control consoles, Shining merely stood there in confusion.
“They want a ship?” Wray asked, with genuine confusion.
“Did you mention we don’t have one to spare?” Brody replied.
“They know that,” Young explained. “They want the technology to build a ship.”
“Well, that’s good isn’t it?” Chloe asked. “It won’t cost us anything.”
“That’s not the issue,” Camile rebutted. “We can’t just hand over technology freely like that.”
“Well, come on,” Volker replied. “We all knew they’d ask for some type of technology, we don’t have much else.”
“Colonel, it’s IOA policy not to release any military technology to less advanced cultures.”
“Well, they’re not asking for weapons,” Young explained. “Just a ship.”
“Still…” she replied hesitantly.
“I know… that’s why I haven’t made my decision yet.”
His eyes scanned the room, as he waited for someone to respond. No one did.
“Okay, first thing’s first: Can we do it?”
“Designing a spaceship isn’t that complicated,” Brody explained. “The problem is everything else: Artificial gravity, life support, shields, hyperdrive… I mean, they don’t even have computers!”
“Yeah, I think we can do it,” Volker replied.
“What?” the engineer asked out of genuine confusion.
“Well, I’m not saying it would be easy, Brody. But we could at least get them started on the right track.”
“Alright,” Young responded. “Volker, you’re in charge.”
Dale was lost. “What? Really?”
The colonel merely nodded.
“Colonel, I still think it’s a bad idea.”
“They’re not at war with anyone, Camile,” he replied.
“The only reason we have that policy back home was to prevent us from shifting the balance of power in the galaxy,” Chloe explained. “There are no other powers here.”
“We don’t know that,” Wray explained, slightly incensed. “And what about the other nations on their planet? Give one a ship, who knows what they’d use it for.”
“Scott, what do you think?” Young asked.
The imitation pony scratched his head. “Well, sir, I don’t see them bombing other countries, if that’s what you mean.”
“The Eurondan case,” Camile stated simply.
“What’s the Eurondan case?” a disembodied Kino asked.
“It was back during the early days,” the colonel explained. “The SGC was contacted by a war-torn planet. They requested a technological exchange, and we were about to go through with it until we learned the war started when they attempted mass-genocide.”
“I don’t think that’s gonna happen, sir,” the lieutenant replied. “I haven’t seen anything that was remotely war-like.”
“They don’t have a military?” Greer asked.
“Well, yeah, they do, but… they don’t actually use it… I think…”
“We should at least check them out a bit more,” Wray proposed.
The colonel nodded. “Agreed. We’ll handle this carefully, and slowly.” He looked across the room, at one of the few individuals who remained silent during the discussion. “Scott, I want you to head back and keep an eye on them. Ask about any wars or conflicts they might have had.”
“Yes, sir,” the pegasus replied, before floating over to the door switch.
“So,” TJ asked. “If we don’t agree to this. What’s next? I mean we’re gonna run out of food, sir.”
“Well, Rush’ll be disappointed,” Wray replied.
“Actually, that’s the weirdest thing,” he explained. “I don’t think she’s gonna hold out on us.”
“What?” Camile asked, skeptically.
“She said she doesn’t want to take advantage of our desperation. So, I don’t know.”
She didn’t let the colonel know it. But suddenly, Camile found herself much more trusty of their four-legged allies.
On a single cloud, high above the city of Canterlot, a young pegasus sat. Her blonde mane rippled in the wind as moonlight bounced off her pure white coat.
The full moon shone high above her, and the only sound came from the streets below. It was the perfect place to contemplate.
Sunny Stars brought a bottle to her lips and drank, allowing the alcohol to purge the horrid thoughts from her mind.
“Hello, Sunny,” said a voice from behind her.
She didn’t bother to look. “What do you want?”
“Just wanted to make sure that scene you pulled wasn’t merely a cry for attention,” she explained. “But you seem to be sincerely distressed.”
Sunny turned to see the baby blue princess, settle on the cloud beside her.
“I just hope you know that there’s nothing you can do about it.” Her smug expression and attitude only angered the humble pegasus.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Princess Resonance laughed. “I’m a princess,” she explained. “Do you really think you stand a chance against me?”
Sunny threw her bottle onto the streets below. “I don’t know.” She slowly got to her hooves. “But I do know one thing: I’m gonna fight for him, and there’s nothing you can do to stop that. You don’t deserve him, you don’t love him and-”
She stopped, and realized she was suddenly looking down on the much taller actor.
Everypony’s eyes turned to the director, sitting in a balloon, his gaze adrift, as Solitude, the pegasus playing Princess Resonance, slowly sank deeper and deeper into the cloud.
“CUT!” screamed the cameraman.
“Wha? Huh?” Moonlight cried, coming out of his daze. “Oh, um… Yeah. Cut!”
Solitude wrestled herself out of the firmament.
Red floated over to his best friend. Concern in his eyes. “Dude, you alright?”
He rubbed his forehead and said, “Yeah, I’m fine.” he replied. “Take five everypony!” the director ordered. “And somepony fix that cloud!”
The newest member of the crew, and chief gaffer, flew over to the balloon. “You alright?” ‘Spotlight’ asked.
Moonlight looked at the pseudo-pegasus’ eyes, and said, “Yes.”
“Stop lying,” she replied, taking a position in the balloon.
He released a deep breath, and simply said, “Why are we even doing this? Without the scenes from Pensacolta we can’t finish the film anyway.”
Red scoffed. “You’re giving up that easily?”
“Without investors and a new shooting location, we got nothing, and I don’t see anything like that about to fall into our laps, do you?”
His companions were speechless.
“We’ve exhausted all possible avenues, what’s the point in shooting anything?”
“I am not giving up, and I’m surprised you are!”
“What’s that supposed to mean!?” Moonlight cried, incredulously.
“You remember how you got your cutie mark!?”
He merely turned to look at his flank before closing his eyes and saying, “That was different.”
“I don’t see how!”
Spotlight stared at the director for several seconds, before turning to her other friend. “Red, go check on the scenery, see if they fixed it.”
He opened his mouth to object, before stopping himself, and flying off.
She scooted closer to her best friend, and said, “It’s not just the film, is it?”
Moonlight looked at the pegasus, slightly confused. “What are you talking about?” He asked.
“It’s just, I don’t think I’ve seen you this apathetic before. I figure it has to be something else.”
“Like what?” he replied, slightly irritated.
“Twilight,” she replied simply. “Have you talked to her?”
“Yeah, we had a lovely talk about how she destroyed my work,” he replied, slightly sarcastically. “Of course I haven’t. What would I say to her? And what the hell could she say to fix any of this?”
“That’s not really the point, Moonlight.”
“Then what is the point?”
“Well, for starters, to clear the air so you’re not continuously bothered by it,” the former dragon explained. “It’s a distraction. You can’t keep going on like this.”
“I’m not, I’m fine!”
“No you’re not!”
The unicorn remained silent.
“Look, after we’re done here, we can-”
“Scales, can you and Red handle this without me?”
She found herself taken slightly aback. “Um… Yeah, I got a few more hours and I already know what you’re looking for, should be fine.”
“Good.” His horn started to glow as he manipulated the controls of the balloon, which slowly started to lower.
Scales jumped out of the basket, as her best friend slowly lowered himself back down to Equestria.
The Stargate came to life, suddenly catching Rainbow Dash’s attention. She looked up from her reading, and her wings started to flutter in excitement.
“Are you okay, Rainbow Dash?” Luna asked, sincerely.
“Huh?” she replied. “Oh yeah, why?”
She slowly trotted toward the young pegasus. “Oh, no reason.”
As the wormhole was established, Rainbow quickly trotted toward it, but found herself disappointed when Shining Armor trotted through the gate.
“Oh,” she reacted.
“Rainbow Dash,” he said. “What’s up?”
“Oh, a lot.”
“Good evening, Shining Armor,” Luna replied. “Is everything well?”
He sighed. “I think so, Princess Celestia stayed behind.”
“Very well,” the princess nodded solemnly.
“Hey, Shining,” Rainbow interjected. “I got a question.”
“Oh? What about?”
“Well, you know your brother better than anypony, and… he’s pretty stubborn right?”
He laughed. “You have no idea!”
“Yeah…” she responded nervously.
Rainbow quickly flew across the gate room to the long table sitting in the middle. It was cluttered with remotes, and a box containing a few deactivated Kinos. Gifts from the Destiny crew. And among all that, Rainbow lifted a single sheet of paper.
“Waddaya think!?” she asked.
Shining Armor levitated the document toward him, and began reading.
“Twilight said she wanted to make everything up to Moonlight. And she wrote it all down.”
His eyes ran across it. And the moment he finished, Shining thought about how it would all play out.
“Well, it’s a good idea, but he won’t accept it.”
“What? Why not?”
“Moonlight can be very prideful,” he explained. “He won’t accept charity. He refuses to accept charity.”
Rainbow glanced at the paper. “It’s not really charity,” she explained.
“Yeah, but that’s not how he’ll see it. He’ll see it as some type of sympathetic royal hoof-out. Trust me, he won’t accept it.”
She sighed, dejected. “But you’re his brother, can’t you talk some sense into him?”
“Doubt it… but…”
“What? What is it!? WHAT!?”
“Rainbow, calm down!” he exclaimed, as the pegasus got too close for comfort. “There is one pony who can. She’s sorta the only one who’s always managed to talk some sense into him.”
“Well that’s great!” she exclaimed.
“No, it’s not…” he said, begrudgingly.
It was an immutable fact of the universe. No matter what the circumstances, everyone needed downtime.
After hours of researching magic, and it capabilities and limitations, Rush found himself agitated and restless. His research had hit a stalling point, a point he couldn’t get past. He needed to get outside, he needed fresh air.
Which was the precise reason he found himself on the streets of Canterlot, accompanied by one of the few guards that were aware of their existence.
“So, where exactly am I allowed to go?” he asked as they exited the castle gates.
“Wherever you wish, sir,” the guardspony replied.
He knew they were supposed to remain inconspicuous, which only confused the scientist, since his escort was not a typical pony.
He knew of the three main pony races: earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns. But the lunar guardspony, with their leathery wings, and reptilian eyes, were anything but inconspicuous. At least, that’s what he would have assumed.
“Is there some type of pub in the area?”
He bit his lip in thought. “Pub…”
“A place to buy alcoholic beverages.”
The soldier turned to look at Rush. “I know what a pub is,” he explained. “There is ‘The Watering Hole,’ small little bar, just down the road,” he replied, pointing down one avenue, directly in front of them.
“Lead the way,” he replied.
The soldier stared at him.
“Or, I will,” he said, before trotting down the boulevard.
A bell dinged in one corner of the Apple Family kitchen, prompting Apple Bloom to extract yet another pie out of the oven.
“Are you sure this is enough, Granny?” she asked, after setting the dish beside the two dozen identical pastries.
“You can never have enough apple pie, Apple Bloom,” the elder pony replied. “Just because Applejack thinks we can get along with nothing but those rocks, doesn’t mean we abandon what we know.”
“I don’t think she thinks that, Granny.”
“Doesn’t matter!” she exclaimed, returning to her mixing bowl.
Apple Bloom returned the oven guard to her mouth, and extracted the remaining dishes. One by one.
“So, how’s that young dragon fella doin’?” the elder earth pony asked.
She placed another pie on the counter, and removed the guard. “You mean Spike?” she asked. “He’s fine.” She returned the guard, and trotted to the oven, again.
“You keep visiting him every day.”
“Twi-rah rah rah rah!”
“She asked you to make sure he’s okay,” Granny replied with a smile. “And he is.”
She dropped the last pie onto the counter. “I know, but I don’t want him suddenly getting worse. He needs a friend right now.”
“Are you sure that’s all?”
“Yes, Granny!” she replied, slightly exasperated.
“Alright, sugarcube,” the elderly pony replied, letting the subject settle.
“You and Scootaloo,” Apple Bloom quietly muttered, as she closed the oven with a gentle buck.
And, as Granny Smith examined the remaining pie crusts before her, she came to a sudden realization. “Oh, horseapples.”
“What is it, Granny?”
“Seems we may be short a pie or two. I think I only have enough filling for three pies, not four. Must’ve miscounted.” She was visibly unsettled. Upset that something like this would happen. “Oh, well. No big deal, we’ll just finish off these three, and call it a night. Wadda ya say!?”
“But, one of the crusts’ll go to waste.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it Apple Bloom, it’s nothing we can’t reuse another day.”
But suddenly, something popped into her head. A thought she wouldn’t let go to waste. “Actually, Granny, I have a better idea,” she said, before galloping out the door.
Moonlight leaned against the counter, staring at his beverage.
This was not planned. But as he got closer and closer to the royal castle, he found it harder and harder to move. Thankfully, The Watering Hole just happened to be near by. So he ducked inside the mostly empty establishment, glad to get away.
Music echoed off the walls. Some type of jazz, played by musicians he’d never heard of.
The only other noise came from a small group of locals, chatting away.
Moonlight hated the Canterlot night scene, and was quite thankful he found such a quiet location. The boisterousness he found at most hotspots always annoyed him.
He leaned his head against one hoof, as the drink levitated to his mouth. The fog of alcohol hit his mind, exactly as he intended.
A door opened.
The sound registered in his mind, but Moonlight did not react. He didn’t even care.
“Quiet place,” one voice said.
“Yeah, normally it’s a bit busier,” another voice replied. “There must be some event elsewhere in town.”
The two ponies trotted toward him. His eyes focused on the glass.
“What can I get you gentlecolts?” the bartender asked.
“Gentlecolts?” one of them responded. “Um… I’m not sure yet.”
“Excuse me,” the other voice came. “Mister Sonata?”
Moonlight turned to look at the stallion. “Do I know you?”
“Um… no, sir,” he replied. “But I know your brother.”
A guardspony. Moonlight looked him up and down, likely a member of the lunar guard.
“Please don’t call me ‘sir,'” he replied.
“Yes, s-” The soldier froze, and found himself trapped. He merely smiled.
“I’m sorry,” the other stallion responded. “Moonlight Sonata?”
“Yes,” he replied, slightly annoyed. “Do I know you?”
The stallion laughed. “No, I just… I’m familiar with your work,” he explained. “The transformation spell.”
“What?” he asked. “Who told you about that?”
“Well, your sister did.”
“Really?” he asked, slightly confused, and concerned.
“It’s an amazing piece of work.”
“What did she tell you about it?” Moonlight asked, trying to hide his nerves.
“Well, she said you designed it for one of your films. Seems like a lot of effort for something so mundane.”
Relief washed over the unicorn. “Well, it wasn’t that complicated. I based most of it on changeling magic.” He gently shuffled his glass.
“Nickel Rush,” the stallion said, holding out a hoof.
Moonlight responded with a bump. “Pleasure to meet you,” he said. “So, why did she tell you about the spell?”
Rush froze. “Well, it just sorta came up. I was interested. I’m with a group of researchers from Australneigh, we’re here for a few days, discussing a scientific exchange.”
Moonlight nodded. “I see,” he said. “Well, have fun.”
As the unicorn turned back to his drink. Rush slowly trotted away.
One thought echoed through his head: Why?
A pair of reptilian eyes stared across the hall. A sight that would strike fear in many ponies.
But Silver Shield barely reacted. She didn’t blink, didn’t shudder, she merely smiled. “Insult you?” the pegasus replied. “I’m just merely stating a fact. You have no need for that land. It’s a heavily forested island, we both know you have no interest in such a location.”
“It is our land!” the dragon shouted. a voice meant to strike fear in any pony.
But as her assistant shuddered. Silver kept her cool.
“Oh, please, ambassador. You want to get rid of it. I know you too well. And I happen to know of one territories in the area that will help you save face: Issamari.”
He leaned back slightly. “I’ve heard of it.”
“An active volcanic island, very large, populated by much wildlife, and limited vegetation. I’m sure such a trade would be more than fair.”
“Oh, an entire island?” he said, slightly sarcastically. “Just for us? Well, are you certain the Princess would agree to such an exchange?”
“I don’t think I need the princess to agree. It’ll get done.”
“Really? Because I’ve heard of your demotion, Silver Shield.”
Her eyes narrowed. “There was no demotion,” she replied.
Her teeth gritted behind closed lips.
“I’m not too sure. I mean, you seem to be offering us so little in exchange for such an exciting location. I would have thought the Chief Magistrate of Equestria would give more than just a single island.”
“Don’t insult me Scarax,” she replied.
“Insult you?” he replied. “I’m just merely stating a fact, you lost a lot of power that day. It must have been horrible for you.”
She stood up, and in her most demanding voice said. “I want Tryssia.”
“We all want a lot of things.”
“Take Issamari, it’s a good deal.”
“I’m not too sure.”
“We’ve known each other way too long, Scarax. Why would you try something you know won’t work?”
“Oh, I think you know why,” he replied.
They stared at each other for what felt like hours to those around them.
Eventually, the tension was broken. “We’ll take Issamari. You can have Tryssia and all those Tryssian ponies. They’ve become quite a nuisance anyways.”
As the dragon slithered out of the hall, the great door closing behind him, Silver Shield and her assistant, Solid Scribe stood alone.
Silver slowly collapsed under her own weight, onto the table before her.
“Ma’am,” Solid asked. “Are you alright?”
Her muzzle was buried in her hooves. “Give me one minute,” she replied.
As the Magistrate righted herself, she quickly got back to work. “Alright, what is it you wanted to tell me?”
Solid suddenly remembered, what he arrived in the room to tell her, while in the middle of negotiations. “Oh, yeah, um, I got a message from Sparkling. She said something about the ‘Twelfth Section.'”
Silver’s interest was peaked. “What about it?”
“Apparently it’s being moved.”
“Yes, ma’am it… started a couple days ago.”
The dull white pegasus found herself quite confused. “Why would they move the Twelfth Section?”
“Ma’am, I don’t even know what the Twelfth Section is.”
“Right, you wouldn’t.” She started tapping her hoof. “I need you to see that Ambassador Faze finalizes the deal.”
“What? But ma’am-”
“Everything’s taken care of, the documents just need to be signed, and the Ambassador’s signature is just as good as mine out here,” she explained before trotting away. “Scarax knows that.”
“Um… Yes ma’am, but… why?” he cried as he galloped behind the Magistrate.
“Because I need to head back to Canterlot.”
“Because Celestia’s hiding something from me, and I need to find out what it is.”
She snapped her head in his direction.
“I mean… why do you think she’s hiding something?”
“Solid, can you make sure the deal is finalized?”
“Good.” Silver Shield trotted away.
Destiny was an amazing ship. Packed with technologies that few could understand. And no one knew that better than Eli. Even after decades of being fully immersed in the ship’s computer systems, he still couldn’t control all of it.
Navigation was still beyond him, and he still didn’t understand how the FTL drives worked. But he gave up on those a long time ago. The most interesting bit of technology he found was the one he only recently found a use for: Destiny’s Neural Link.
For 27 years everyone on the ship was asleep, and non-existent according to the system. But now that they were awake, he learned he could have some fun.
At first, he started to project hallucinations of himself to his crew mates… but only one at a time.
Then he started to create simulations that they could enter. But it would only work when they were asleep.
Recent repairs to some data lines in the ship allowed him to use the link on more than one person.
And recently, he learned how to start reading the minds of his crew mates.
It was very easy to do. Part of the system’s basic protocols were to do simple sweeps of every crew member, regularly. He could pick up their at-the-moment thoughts that way. But he never recorded them, not without their permission. It would be a horrible invasion of their privacy. But the neural analysis would always pick up a clear message from everyone. Or, at least it used to. And right now, the one exception sat in the middle of the Gate Room, as she had for the past hour.
Her mind was a cacophony. Just a mess of disparate thoughts, jumbled together. Part of him thought it might be because she was of a different race. Who knew just how different pony brains were? But Twilight’s mind always gave off a clear signal. So that was unlikely. So, perhaps it was only her. Perhaps it was uniquely Celestia. But, why?
Two new minds entered the room. Through the lens of a Kino, he could clearly identify the new arrivals. Colonel Young, and T.J., approached the princess, as she slowly opened her eyes.
“Colonel,” she said. “I wanted to talk to you.”
“I was told,” he replied.
She got to her hooves, and turned to face the commander. “Twilight told me you’re planning to destroy the anti-magic device.”
Young nodded. “Yes, now that everyone is cured of Poison Joke, we don’t really need it. And it’s capabilities as a weapon make it much too dangerous.”
“A weapon,” she mused, quietly, to herself. “I ask that you don’t!”
He paused briefly. “Your highness, I hope you don’t expect us to trade for it.”
Celestia was momentarily shocked by this statement. But she replied quite simply. “Of course not. But it was a very useful tool for your people, and I have no fear of you using it against us.”
“Celestia, I don’t want a weapon of mass destruction on this ship,” he explained simply. “I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“Well, if you can invent this, I don’t see why others could not. I’d rather we had a defence against such a thing.”
“If this falls into the wrong hands, there won’t be time to find a defence.”
“Colonel, I’m asking you not to destroy the anti-magic device. Not because I want it, but because…”
Suddenly, something in her mind coalesced. Something that Eli could understand.
“… It’s hard to explain exactly. I just don’t believe you should destroy it. Your people put much effort into building it, and you might find it useful in the future. I just don’t want you to destroy it because of us. Please.”
The Colonel stopped to think about the situation. He lifted a radio from his belt. “Brody, come in?”
“Yes, Colonel,” he replied.
“Did you wipe the memory core yet?”
“Hold off on it for now. We’re gonna wait a bit.”
Silence was all that came through for several seconds, before he finally replied, “Okay.”
As he returned the radio, the princess responded. “Thank you, Colonel.”
“Don’t mention it. Is that the only reason you stayed behind?”
“To ask you to keep the anti-magic device? Yes.”
“Well, then, before you leave, I have to ask one thing.”
“What is it?”
He started to pace around the princess, “You said you wanted all of my people to have this ‘transformation spell’ used on them.”
“I understand that your people are not used to magic, Colonel. But I assure you there is no danger.”
“We still like to take as many precautions as we can.” As he stopped in the middle of the room, Young’s mind started buzzing. “Back during the early days of the Stargate Program, one of our teams were given armbands that enhanced their abilities, made them faster, stronger… but after a while it affected them in other ways.”
“How so?” She asked, with genuine curiosity.
“Their judgement. They defied orders to go to a steakhouse.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“The point is, we didn’t expect that. It was supposed to affect them physically, and it affected them mentally. We just want to take every precaution. Which is why before I let anyone else on this ship transform, I want to test it myself.”
Celestia processed his statement. “You would like me to cast the transformation spell on you?”
“Alright, Colonel,” She replied, taking a few steps back.
Colonel Young took a stance, and prepared himself. “Is there anything I need to do?” He asked.
“Just stand still,” she replied.
At that moment, a golden glow encompassed her horn. She focused her mind on the spell, and directed it straight toward her ally.
She could hear footsteps coming up behind her, as T.J. watched intently.
He began to float upward, in the air, and his entire body started to glow brightly.
His form shifted quite dramatically. And just as suddenly as it began, the spell cut off, and Colonel Young landed on all four hooves.
T.J. quickly walked toward her commander. “Are you okay, sir?” she asked intently.
He brought a hoof to his head. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he explained. “Little dizzy.”
“It may take a while to get used to it,” Celestia explained.
He nodded in comprehension.
T.J.’s eyes brushed over the Colonel’s new form. His dark brown mane was a perfect reflection of his previous hairstyle. His coat shined with a dark yellowish hue, matching the feathers on his wings, which struck the medic as particularly odd. He stretched out the new appendages, giving them a single flap. Finally her eyes landed on his flank, where they lingered. “Nice Tattoo,” she commented.
He turned his gaze to the mark on his rear.
“That’s your cutie mark,” Celestia explained. “Every pony has one, it represents your special talent.”
“Special Talent…” he said.
“Yes,” she elaborated. “What you’re meant to do with your life.”
His eyes lingered on the mark. An image he found strikingly familiar. An image he worked with on a daily basis. An image that nearly defined his life for several years.
A single chevron from a Milky Way Stargate.
In the magical land of Equestria, the Stargate came to life.
The single guardsman in the gate room, quickly did his duty, and levitated one of the radios. “The Stargate is activating,” he announced, to all who could hear.
The wormhole connected, and a tall, pure white pony stepped through the event horizon, with her head held high.
“Sergeant,” she said, addressing the soldier.
“Yes, your highness,” he responded, bowing in reverence.
“Can you please tell Twilight that I wish to speak with her.
“Yes, ma’am!” the radio levitated to his mouth. “Miss Sparkle?”
“Yeah?” her voice emanated through the device.
“Princess Celestia just returned, and she wishes to-”
Suddenly, a bright burst of magic snapped into existence in the middle of the room, leaving a single unicorn behind.
“… speak with you,” he finished.
“Princess!” she exclaimed, rushing toward her mentor. But her stern expression caused her to stop midway. “Is everything alright?”
“Sergeant, could you please wait upstairs for us?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
After they were left alone, Celestia quickly got to business. “Twilight, when you cast the transformation spell, did you notice anything unusual?”
“I… I don’t understand,” she replied.
“Anything that struck you as unusually easy?”
Twilight paused for a brief moment. “Well, it is an extremely complex, and powerful spell, but it doesn’t require much force while casting. Now that you mention it, it is a bit odd.”
“But that spell was only cast on our guests,” she mused. “Was it not?”
… and one dragon, she thought. “No, only them. Is there something wrong?”
“Before I left, Colonel Young asked me to use the spell on him, before he would allow anyone else to be subjected to it,” Celestia explained. “And when I did… it felt too easy. It was as if he just absorbed the spell like… a sponge.”
“Maybe that’s how transformation magic works.”
“But that’s the bizzare thing. It was only him,” she continued. “When I cast it on Miss Armstrong, it took a bit of effort for the spell to take.”
“Did you not notice?”
“Noooooooo…” Twilight replied. “Actually, with Greer and Rush, it did take quite easily.”
“And I’m willing to bet Luna would say the same thing.”
But her mind had already drifted, filled with curiosity and concern.
The Destiny’s mess hall was usually one of the most popular areas of the ship. A place for eating, socializing, and relaxing. Normally packed to the walls, it was quite atypical to see the room completely empty.
But it was an atypical time.
News of Equestria, the land of magic and ponies, had spread throughout the ship. News which many were still trying to process. And few had more to process than Dale Volker.
Poison Joke, A plant that couldn’t exist, yet did. Evolving on two different planets, light years apart, which was impossible, and yet…
He witnessed first-hand what magic could do, and he did not believe it.
It was times like these the normally outgoing astrophysicist found joy in solitude. He wanted to be alone, so he could think. So he was glad to find the mess devoid of life.
A glass of pomango juice, mixed with Brody’s moonshine, was enough to dull his senses.
He’d seen strange things before. There was the shape-shifting rodents on M47-296, the talking trees on P7C-483, and since he arrived on Destiny, things had only gotten weirder.
But nearly nothing compared to this… nearly nothing.
“Hey, Dale,” came a voice.
He turned, and saw Chloe Armstrong enter the room, making a beeline for the bar at the opposite end.
“How is everything?” she asked, grabbing a single space apple, out of a small bowl.
He turned back to his papers. “Fine.”
As she sat next to him, with a smile, an apple, and a glass of juice, she quickly initiated conversation. “So, Colonel Young said he’s gonna let everyone go down to the planet.” She bit down on the fruit.
She nodded. “Tomorrow morning, everyone’ll gather in the gate room, and we’ll have the spell cast, and head through.”
Her head tilted with curiosity. “You alright?”
He looked up. “Yeah?”
“Let me guess: You’re weirded out by this ‘magic’ thing.”
“A lot of people are,” she explained. “You don’t think it’s actually ‘magic,’ do you?”
He shook his head. “No, that’s… no…”
“Well, I’m excited, I know that,” she replied. “It’s a nice place.”
He remained silent.
Chloe leaned back, and took another bite. She turned her gaze to Volker’s work, when something caught her eye. She leaned forward.
Volker noticed his companion looking quizzically at the documents before them. She turned one of the pages toward her. A transcription of the writing he found on a planet two galaxies ago.
Her lips started to move.
“You alright?” he asked.
She glanced at the astrophysicist. “I… um…” she stammered. “I think I can…” She straightened herself slightly and said, “Research Base Fire Tree Storm, Spider Galaxy.”
With slight fear in her voice, she explained, “I think I can read this.”