The Conquest of Space: The Saga of Dawn Sparkle
Chapter 7: To Boldly Go Where Nopony Has Gone Before
It is a race against time. The Chitin ship is nowhere to be seen, my friends are dying and Equestria might be in danger. I barrel on through the empty halls of the Friendship making as much haste as I possibly can with my companions panting by my side and the deformed, unconscious and brainwashed Cream Pie held in my telekinesis as we rush to the shuttle. I pant a sigh of relief as the awaiting shuttle comes into sight. I take a second to catch my breath before signaling Royal’s shuttle.
“Royal here,” he said grimly. He then looked up at the view screen and his mood improved ever so slightly.
“What’s your status?”
“I lost a good pony today. Yeoman Grip. He was one of the best.”
“Losing ponies should never be easy or normal, but we are facing a potential crisis here. Equestria isn’t prepared to handle this and we may be our homeland’s only hope.”
“Now you sound impossibly grim and besides, the princesses and Discord will show these ponies what for.”
“Even so, the prophesy claims...”
“You are going to believe the prophesy delivered by a crackpot god of disorder and chaos? Come on now,” he chided.
“Royal, true or not, there is a clear and present danger. I’ll cut to the chase, is your team and the survivors ready to go?”
He stiffened and saluted, “Yes, captain.”
“Then let’s return to the Magic.”
“Understood. Underway now.”
With that the commlink shut off. I punched a course in and HAL obliged to take us back to the Magic.
A small reception was prepared in the shuttle bay as we landed with ponies milling about and congratulations on a job well done all around being given out by my crew. I thought about chastising those responsible and make a scene, but I decided to give my crew a moment of merriment before the ominous task that lies before us, namely the defeat of the Chitin and the saving of Equestria.
I gathered my officers on the bridge and asked them their opinions and recommendations on a potential plan of action.
Royal was the first to speak, “I say we shoot first and ask questions later.”
“But we don’t have lethal ship borne weapons. The worst we can do is incapacitate the enemy vessel.”
“Then we send in a demo squad and activate the ship’s self destruct! It always works in the movies.”
I deadpanned, “In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a movie. There isn’t a clearly marked red button to self destruct and the enemy changelings won’t all be terrible shots.”
“How do you know that it isn’t the case?”
“Stop arguing with me!” I seethed, “Your plan has been considered. A direct assault is foolhardy, but it could work, I’ll give you that.” I paused for a second before asking, “Any other ideas?”
“Maybe we can interface with Cream Pie and find out data about the other race’s ship. What did she call it… the Chitin, right? Yes. The Chitin ship. Maybe they have a weakness,” Stardust proposed.
“I like this thinking, but it is unknown if she will be conscious any time soon or cooperative.”
“In all honesty, you are probably the best pony on board to interrogate her, due to your past friendship.”
“I don’t know. The Chitin implants seemed to have overridden her natural personality and she seems to just be angry and vengeful. Is it possible to remove them Honeycrisp?”
“I wouldn’t recommend it; it could be direr than Aunt Orange showing up to the opera in revealing lingerie, eh?”
“You will have to tell me that story some other time, but I see. The implants cannot be removed or else she may die. Got it. Anypony else?”
“We could salvage Chitin tech and reverse engineer that into better weapons and armor to use against them,” Valkyie proposed.
“I like that plan, but we may have but a few days, maybe a week and even with around the clock crews, we would not get anything functional by the time we need to engage the Chitin. But, if we defeat the Chitin and the Magic is in one piece, then I would propose that plan to my superiors back at ESC. Anypony else?”
“I have an observation, more than a plan,” the pony at communications said.
“And who are you?”
“I’m the pony who works comm.”
“I know that. Your name?”
“Unremarkable Background Pony.”
“Seriously? That’s your name?”
“Yep. I’m absolutely average in every way. This does make it easy to forget me, but I can assure you that I can perform admirably in any circumstance.”
“Ok, Unremarkable, what is your observation?”
“Moral is low across the ship.”
“I know that, but how is this relevant?”
“As you are aware, the core and thus the engines run on friendship and love. With both at low levels…”
The realization dawned on me, “…we won’t be able to make the teleport jump to Equestria.”
“Bed-o-win, how long would it take us to reach Equestria with our current thruster levels?”
“A little over a week, captain.”
I said with a sigh, “Plot and input the course.”
“Joe and Royal.”
“I want you to pick and prepare combat teams. Prep them with weapons and the prime them in the use of lethal force. Also offer condolences for the deceased and disabled. Help those ponies find some closure.”
“Lethal force?” Royal asked. “Condolences?” Joe asked.
“Yes, gentleponies. It would seem that the nature of engagement has changed for the worst. If we don’t stand up and protect ourselves, Equestria may well follow. Remember your loved ones and your friends. Do this for them.”
The two stallions looked at me for a second with conviction in their eyes and I felt a slight flutter in my heart. They turned and walked out the bridge doors and I let out a sigh.
“Captain.” Valkyrie called from her console.
“I got a slight increase in power just now. It seemed to coincide with your speech to Royal and Joe. It is much too close in timing and significant to be a coincidental fluxuation.”
“Wow. Maybe a good ship wide speech can get us home. But that still leaves the question of what we are going to do when we get there. Based on our options, I’m going to pay a friend a visit. Stardust, and Honeycrisp come with me. Valkyrie, you have the conn.”
Cream Pie lay before me restrained on an operating table in the medical bay. Her once very beautiful features were now hidden under hardware and a cold, black exoskeleton. It was hard to believe my friend was underneath all of that.
“Could you interface with her eyepiece? Maybe we can get a fix on the Chitin ship or some other useful information out of it.”
“I’ll give it a try.”
I waited half an hour for Stardust to establish the links, which ended up in a massive spaghetti of wires and cables attached to various monitors.
“Are you ready, Stardust?”
“Honeycrisp, wake her up for me.”
The doctor injected Cream with a stimulant and she quickly returned to consciousness.
“A still intact ship, emotions to feed on, working systems.” She tugs at her restraints, “Restraints. I’m a prisoner. Must be prepared for torture and coercion.”
After watching this strange exchange, I spoke, “Hello, Cream Pie and welcome to the Magic.”
“Mrs Dawn Sparkle, my mortal freinimy. It would seem that you seem to have captured me and wish to gloat over your victory. You may have stopped me, but you cannot stop them.”
“Tell me more about them.”
“I cannot tell you much for you are our enemy now, only that we are powerful, wise and unstoppable. Thousands of races have been enlightened though contact with us, and we merely wish to learn more. It is a cultural and technological exchange that will transform Equestria.”
I responded with barely contained anger, “But at what cost? To be a cyborg like you, bent to the will of the Chitin? To lose yourself and who you are? To lose your ability to love, to be friends? What cost is too high?”
“Dawn, you are clearly past redemption. The ponies of Equestria will join us or suffer the consequences. There is nothing you, your crew or your princesses can do about it.”
I switched to a much sadder tone, “Cream, I once called you a friend. I once held you in high regard and wanted to be like you. Cream Pie, the pony who was the perfect poster pony of efficiency, intelligence and resolve. The most decorated graduate of the ESC and the favorite star-captain of Celestia herself. You had morals, emotions and friendship once. It pains me to see you throw them away so easily. You may not be physically dead, but you are dead to me. Goodbye, Cream.”
I looked at my former friend one last time. The cyborg returned my glance and we locked eyes for a second. I searched for a remnant of my former friend and caught a glimmer of moisture in her eyes, but in a moment it was gone.
“If there is nothing to be gained by diplomacy, violence is the only answer!”
Cream then proceeded to break her restrains though sheer brute force. I called for security as Cream took on a defensive posture. I pulled out my shock stick and go ready for action, but just as security arrived, Cream collapsed into a heap. A quick survey of her body found a large needle sticking out of her shoulder and a worried yet satisfied look on Honeycrisp’s face.
Honeycrisp stated the obvious, “I think she’s stable and should be moved to the brig for the time being.”
I responded in kind, “Security, escort Ms. Pie to the brig.”
The burly ponies dragged Cream out of the infirmary, leaving me with Stardust and Honeycrisp.
“Well, mares. What did you get out of that?” I asked
Honeycrisp said, “That you are a good orator and I get the feeling that Cream is in there somewhere, if only we could reach her.”
“What did you learn, Stardust?” I asked
“I was able to gain limited access to their database. Based on my browsing and observation of Ms Pie, it would seem that my initial theory is wrong and that they do not need constant contact with the mass consciousness to be effective and that individuality is retained to a degree. I also confirmed that Equestria is the next target. I cannot confirm or deny if there are other Chitin ships or if the one that besieged the Friendship is the only one. Based on pure inference, it would appear that their ships are able to ‘cloak’ that is hide in plain sight by blocking certain wavelengths of light and I think that if we can hit them, our EMP torpedoes may be effective, but that might just be me thinking optimistically.”
“That is very impressive. Excellent work,” I responded.
“Just doing my duty to Celestia and country, to help other ponies and to obey the law of the snack.”
“I was a Celestia scout! I never knew you were too. Want to do the scout hoofbump?” Honeycrisp asked.
The two mares proceeded to do an elaborate hoofbump with a chant. I facehoofed at my officers’ antics.
“Need I remind you that lives are at stake? Let’s get back to work.” I said with an annoyed huff.
“You are such a killjoy” Honeycrisp chided.
I left the silly ponies and prepared my speech. After an hour of writing, it was finished and I walked into the bridge. All ponies and griffin present looked at me with anticipation. All were worried and all were a bit scared. I couldn’t blame them; this week was more than a bit overwhelming.
“Unremarkable, prepare the public addressing system.”
“Most ponies call it a ‘PA,’ Ma’am.”
“I don’t care if they call it a loaf of celery muffins, could you please get it ready for me? I need to boost morale one speech at a time.”
His expression dropped a bit at my admonishment as he fulfilled my request.
I took a deep breath and began to speak,
“Crew of the HMS Magic, swiftest ship in the Equestrian Space Command fleet, this is your captain, Dawn Sparkle, speaking. This week has bucked us and bucked us hard. We have gotten though Discord’s antics, First Contact and the aftermath of the attack on the Friendship. I won’t lie to you, things look bleak. The Chitin ship is headed for Equestria and we may be the only hope for our beloved planet. Our adversaries have taken our fellow cremates from us and threaten our very existence, our very being. They do not come to love and tolerate, they come to conquer and manipulate. They are scary, menacing and dangerous.
But we are better than them. We have the magic of friendship in our hearts. We have each other; we have our friends, our family, and our planet. I want you all not to think of yourself as a pegasus, unicorn or earth pony. I want you all not to think of yourself as a buffalo, drake or griffin. I want you all to think of yourselves as the brethren of the hoof and claw. We can do this; all you have to do is believe in yourself and each other. We are strong! We are mighty! We are Equestrian and nothing can take that away from us. So, I ask of you to open your hearts and let us go forth and love and tolerate the shit out of the Chitin.”
All was quiet on the deck for a minute or so. I thought my words fell upon deaf ears and I started to lose hope, but then somepony on the deck began to stomp their hoof. Then another joined in, and then another. Soon, the sound of hoof falls and claw-claps resounded through the ship. I beamed with pride as I felt the waves of magical energy coalesce.
“Captain, we are receiving a power surge. Even putting everything I’ve got into the engines, we are going to have a problem,” Valkaryie said with sudden alarm.
“Then pump it into shields and weapons, we are going to have a fight when we get there.”
“Aye, aye. Diverting power.”
“Take us to Equestria prime at full speed.”
A blinding white flash engulfed the bridge as we prepared for our date with the Chitin.