Operation Gambit Spring

Vice Admiral Grey Wing never quite understood why ship designers would put an observation deck on a warship. But, right now, he was just going to enjoy the view.

The compartment lights were low, and there was nopony on the deck, which was good. He wanted some solitude to think and reflect before the final mission briefing for Operation Gambit Spring, and an empty observation deck was perfect for him. He used his implants to lock the hatch behind him and trotted to a convenient open spot. His eyes were able to pick out more in the darkness, even without augmentation, and he looked over the faint lights of starships orbiting the nameless red dwarf star. Many starships indeed, enough that he could be sure that the lights were from starship running lights and not the background stars.

He knew how hard it was to have gotten where he was. In theory, every rank in the RESF was open on merit and blind testing. In practice, everypony knew that there were those little cliques, the little self-protection societies, the ones that traded influence and back-room deals to help out their friends and allies and the stallions and mares of those that could help you out. Grey Wing knew that he had some serious patrons, a few of which he didn’t know about and he would have been insulted if he felt like his rise to his current rank had been greased or lifted in some way. But, he also knew the realities.

It was said-quietly and with both a wry expression and a sneer-that you couldn’t rise past the rank of Captain (Senior Grade) in the RESF unless you were born a unicorn. There might have been some exaggeration in that-Grey Wing had served under just about every member of the races of Equestria at some point-but you did see a lot of unicorns in the higher ranks of the RESF. And, to be a thestral, a pony that even to this day was still associated with Nightmare Moon and the Night That Never Ended, was something that made it even harder to rise through the ranks.

Which was why, standing on this deck was something that Grey Wing knew was one of many messages being sent by the Diarchy. Not only the deck of his command ship, but the decks of the other ships in Task Force 0133. He was in command of three full squadrons of Princess Sunset Shimmer-class fast battleships, twenty-four of the newest and most capable warships in the Royal Equestrian Space Forces, with his flag flying on the name ship of the class. He personally would have preferred to have had three squadrons of Princess Luna-class fast battleships for the symbolism, but he knew why he had these ships. Four squadrons of Moon Dancer-class battle cruisers. Five squadrons of Big Macintosh-class heavy cruisers, backed up by five squadrons of Pinkie Pie-class light cruisers. Six squadrons of Fluttershy-class destroyers, enough to provide sufficient escorts for the whole fleet, with senior officers of all the races of Equestria that had records of being the very edge of the razor. A full fleet train of supply ships, colliers, repair ships, and enough transports and Bright Bulb-class GFSS to count as two full Royal Equestrian Ground Forces Brigade Combat Teams.

In total, he was in command of nearly half a billion tons of fleet assets, from the smallest courier to the fast battleships. Not a single ship was more than eight years old, and all of the ships were the newest and most capable in their class. And, to put this all in the command of a thestral admiral was the message that the Diarchy was sending to the cliques and mutual protection groups of the RESF-your games are no longer being tolerated, and they have grown too blatant. Merit and capability were the most important things to the Diarchy, and they were demonstrating what they wanted from their military.

The fleet’s mission was another message as well. Several messages. Officially, Operation Gambit Spring was an anti-piracy operation, going after pirates and Changeling Queens and Empresses that had been a threat in this sector, establishing contact with independent worlds, supporting the Royal Equestrian Scout Services in mapping the sector, all noble goals. But, his orders were to operate in force wherever possible, no less than division strength in any individual detachment.

To everyone observing, this message was clear-the Diarchy was more than willing to deploy their best and newest ships, in large numbers, to handle a relatively minor threat. And, they were willing to come ready and supported to continue the operations for a long period of time. And, their first destination was Raven Claw, the capital of a three-system pocket empire that had a reputation for being a place where pirates could quietly dispose of their captured ships.

And not a single soul knew that they were here.  Or where they were going to arrive, or when.

Grey Wing almost felt sorry for the pirates.

Almost.

Trope A Day-Conspicuous Consumption

Conspicuous Consumption-Not exactly a thing by most of the races in the Equestriaverse. Even the most extreme examples of this tend to be more of the “look at me” more than “look at what I’ve got”. On a species basis, ponies (especially unicorns) will do a lot of this when showing off their wealth and power, with griffins just right behind them. Zebras are more into the whole Simple Yet Opulent idea of dealing with things-a sort of “I have all this wealth, and look how restrained I am with it.” Minotaurs tend to not be like this, as this kind of thing is seen as foolish-“you’re spending your money on that, rather than using it for something practical?” is the mentality in effect here.

It doesn’t mean that most species won’t show off-they just have different ways of doing it.

Dealing With A Purely Theoretical Dilemma

So, Charles Stross posted this particular “what if” on his blog today-

“Welcome to the galactic federation, humans! All our riches and elite super-science will be yours—immortality, faster than light travel, the tools to build AIs, cures for all your illnesses and a working theory of economics that abolishes poverty and war and provides as much wealth as anybody wants—just so long as you sign this simple easy agreement and consent to make one minor cognitive tweak so that you don’t mistakenly destabilize the false vacuum and destroy the universe.”

“Um. Wossat, then?”

“We need you to become a group mind. Studies show that in all identified previous cosmoi, individualist tool-using sophonts with access to these technologies harboured splinter groups so deranged that they collapsed the vacuum energy. There are no known exceptions to this rule: apparently telling you collectively not to do something just makes it inevitable. Unless you Borgify first—become a group mind, render your individual mental boundaries permeable to one another, and allow any other human complete access to your thoughts and memories. Group minds generally stick to the terms and conditions voluntarily.”

“Uh, let me get back to you on that. What happens if we say ‘no’?”

“Then, regrettably, you will discover that you have asked a question to which you really did not want to learn the answer.”

So, which leads to the question of what happens if somebody tried to make the same veiled threat/offer to the five races of Equestria. For all the races in the Equestriaverse, the answer would be varying degrees (and outgoing fire) of NO.

For Equestrians, a hive mind of this sort is so many different violations of the Covenant that it isn’t funny.  It’s the reason why there’s a Covenant in the first place.  Why the rules of the Covenant are so highly enforced.  They would fight, and possibly lose, but they would make sure that their opponents had the scars of their conflict.

To the Griffin Moot, they’re individuals, damn proud of it, and wouldn’t have it any other way.  Their minds are their own, and they want to keep them that way.

For the Senate and Minotaur Republic?  This is like suggesting that the Nazis had a perfect idea with the Holocaust to Israel Jews.  The Black Beast was a nightmare that they still suffer from to this day.  This lack of cognitive volition?  They’d fight, and if they couldn’t win, they’d drag as many of their enemies down with them as they could.

For the Zebra Kingdoms, the temptation would be there…as long as they (“they” being “whichever noble thinks they’re on top”) are the head of the hive.  But, of course, they couldn’t let somebody unworthy (i.e. their opponents) have access to the same.

For the Changelings, there isn’t any real difference.  Well, except that the Empresses would have to cooperate, and they would…as long as one Empress was in charge.

With Enough Printer Paper…

The laser jet printers-ten of them so far-hadn’t stopped whirring the moment she brought the first USB stick back.

Sunset Shimmer…no, Princess Sunset Shimmer looked at the room near the Mirror of Worlds that Princess Celestia and Princess Cadence had set up.  From floor to ceiling was piles of text books, reference works, rolls of blueprints, and thousands upon thousands of USB drives that she had made recordings of, well, everything from Earth.  Ponies came from the printers and took another pile of printed notes to be bound, organized, and indexed.

“And, they don’t know how to use magic?”  Princess Celestia asked.

“The other Twilight Sparkle is trying,” Princess Sunset Shimmer said, twitching her new wings in frustration.  These had appeared the first time she had come back through the Mirror to Equestria.  “She’s got some theories, but she doesn’t want to make it public because…”

“I don’t think humans are that irresponsible,” Princess Cadence interrupted.  “They seem to be a decent species, for omnivores that don’t have magic.”

“She doesn’t want to take that risk,” Princess Sunset Shimmer replied.  “And, to be honest, I can’t blame her.  I was human for the last seven years and humans have such a range in comparison to ponies that it’s terrifying.  Greater range for nobility-and a greater range for atrocities.  I’ve read in their histories things that would make King Sombra vomit to consider doing.  And, he practiced blood magic.”

“So, what are your plans for the next time you go back?”  Princess Celestia asked, curiously.

“Same as before,” Princess Sunset Shimmer nodded at the piles of paper that grew, coming out of the printer.  “Bring diamonds to Earth and sell them, use the money to get more reference materials.  We really need to bring more ponies into this,” she noted.  “Dreamers, innovators, and ponies that can think.  Just the improvement to steam engines and the idea of organized agriculture alone is going to change the face of Equestria.”

“And, I want you think ahead,” Princess Celestia noted.  “On both sides of the Mirror.  We can bring innovations that we’ve created here, and make their world better.  And, as the technology improves there, we can make use of that ourselves.”

Princess Sunset Shimmer thought about this for a moment.  “A new court for Equestria?”

“I’m thinking of something larger,” Princess Celestia replied, her eyes thoughtful.  “Twilight Sparkle’s newest student might Ascend soon, and I am tired of some of the deference that alicorns get just because of what we are.  I’m going to create a whole new branch of government.  I’m calling them ‘Ministries’, and the first three are going to be formed on the backs of three alicorns.  The first is the Ministry of Love, and we’re going to help ponies to find what they want and what they love, and help them to be happy.”

“Auntie,” Princess Cadence started to object, “I’m way too busy trying to bring the Crystal Kingdom into the current century, let alone take on another task like this.”

“I expect your job to be more managerial than ‘hooves on’,” Princess Celestia interrupted gently.  “By providing the Ministries with alicorn leadership, I think it’ll cut through a lot of the deference and conservatism that our little ponies have.  The second Ministry is going to be the Ministry of Magic, and I’m giving that one to Twilight Sparkle.  She’ll find new ways to use magic, and if she can cooperate with the other Twilight Sparkle on the other side of the mirror, we can create greater wonders.

“And, finally,” Princess Celestia said, turning to face Princess Sunset Shimmer.  “The third Ministry that I’m going to create is the Ministry of Innovation.  You’re going to find the dreamers, the innovators, and the ponies that can think; and show them everything here, in one form or another.  We’re going to avoid the worst parts of the Industrial Revolution here on Equestria and bring ourselves closer to the stars.”

Princess Sunset Shimmer stood stock still, eyes wide open for a moment.  “That’s…a major task.”

“Nothing less for one of my greatest students,” Princess Celestia replied.

The printers continued to hum, spitting out page after page.

One Warning…

“If you’re going to any Equestrian world, there’s one thing I have to warn you about right off the bat.  It’ll save you a lot of time, trouble, and hassle.

“For all intents and purposes, eat in a good griffin restaurant or you’ll never have a good beer any time you’re in Equestria.”

-Overheard in way too many spaceports.

Trope A Day-Ridiculosly Pony Robot

Ridiculously Pony Robot-A cybershell is  always an option for AIs and uploaded ponies that don’t want to deal with the issues of having a biological (well, cybernetic- and nanotech-augmented) body.  Avoids falling into the whole Super-Powered Robot Meter Maid issue by the simple fact that most cybershells are built “only” as strong as the average pony.  Which does mean that they are much stronger (in both body and magic) than baseline ponies, but not so strong that a hearty hug will break bones.  Usually.

Augmentations for cybershells do exist, and they are just as regulated as biological body augmentations.