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In my story/solar system there are 4 alien races. They recently discovered one another maybe 10-20 years or so ago. There is a metaphorical sword in the stone type of space station/ship in my story that no one can gain access to because the races won't co-operate with one another/hate each other.

Without putting them in a Space Taxi together, why would they be travelling in the same ship?

Assume they don't know that they will gain access if they are all present together.

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  • It's a little unclear which ship they're supposed to be traveling in - are they traveling aboard the SS Plot Device, or some other ship that serves to deliver them all to the Plot Device?
    – Werrf
    May 16, 2017 at 16:30
  • They are travelling on another ship that serves to deliver them all to the Plot Device
    – Dtb49
    May 16, 2017 at 16:39

3 Answers 3

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They don't use the same ship... at first

Starting out with your 4 species on the same ship is not only going to feel contrived, it takes away story potential. Instead, set up an initial scenario that highlights some of the species' natures, for example:

  • Species A is going it alone in secret, but their experimental stealth system fails, prompting the other species to send their own ships.
  • Species B tried to get A and C to join, but had to settle for hiring C.
  • Species C is on board with B only because of a huge payoff in tech, they don't really care for the station.
  • Species D's government sent a warship, apparently to destroy the other ships. But rebels have infiltrated and sabotaged the ship, claiming they want peace.

Starting out like this gives you the opportunity to develop your protagonists by forcing a series of hard choices that give a sense of why they might be worthy of the sword in the stone while conveniently resulting in all 4 of them ending up on the same ship.

Examples again:

  • C might be tempted with a fat offer from D if they betray B.
  • D's warship fires at and damages A's ship, but which faction did it and was it to destroy A or protect B/C?
  • B wants to aid A but C balks at that idea. Will they relent?
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Okay, with the clarification that we're trying to get them onto another ship that will then get them aboard the SS Plot Device...

Space travel is expensive

In a single star system, species that only discovered one another a few decades ago likely don't have particularly advanced spacecraft yet. We could therefore imagine that building a single interplanetary ship could cost as much as, say, the entire Apollo program. If you have a choice between spending the local equivalent of $100 billion to build your own ship to take you out to mine the asteroid belt, or spending $5 billion to get a seat aboard someone else's ship, you could well be willing to hold your nose for the duration of the flight and travel aboard somebody else's ship.

Space travel is dangerous

Two asteroids are being mined, one by the insectoids of Shmenus and one by the smelly apes from Shmearth. Due to a very slight miscalculation, it turns out the two asteroids are actually about to impact one another. Both mining colonies need to evacuate, immediately.

The nearby Shmartian freighter ship may not like the slimy insectoids, and the apes may keep making fun of the captain's feathers, but you can't just leave them all to die, so...well, I guess we'll have to pick them up. Just long enough to get them back to their own people, of course.

Space makes a great prison

Prison hulks are a longstanding tradition hear on earth, and a space-hulk to hold POWs from the first interplanetary war would be an extremely secure location. With prisoners from Shmenus, Shmearth, and Shmars, the Shmuropan squids are moving their prison hulk ships out to the asteroid belt, where the vile xenos will perform hard labour to work off their sentence after their monstrous aggression against sacred Shmuropa. Hey, it worked for Blake's Seven...

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To stop the other races from controlling it

Never underestimate the power of the double-cross.

If Alice, Bob, Carol, and Dennis all know that this ship is out there and that all four must access it together, each will be motivated to go on the chance they can unlock the ship and then double-cross the others to steal it for their own species. They can play nicely together for the trip while at the same time each one planning their coup and expecting that the others are doing the same.

As the man said, "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggie' until you can find a rock."

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