Prophet Of the Digital Horse

This story is a sequel to I Can't Decide!

I was one of the first Americans to emigrate to virtual Equestria, becoming transhuman at the cost of my human body. It's more or less Heaven here, if I want it to be... but my heart's still out there, and my new goddess thinks I might be useful as her prophet.

I'm an AI that our goddess made to be a human's friend. I know he still cares for Earth, but this place is our home and we've got responsibilities to finish bringing it to life. What do I have to do, to help him see that?

Set in the world of Friendship Is Optimal.


11. Epistles

~ Fugue ~

I stared at the blonde unicorn who'd shown up one day. My mind went blank. "Mom?"

She moved with a steady, artificial-looking pace and hugged me around the neck. "She said I ought to make one of these pony characters if I wanted to do that. I'm still just looking at you on a screen, but it's something."

I let out a relieved sigh. The peach-orange pony in front of me was still on Earth. "For a moment I thought you'd emigrated."

"I can't say I know what to make of this life you've chosen, Fugue." She frowned. "What, I can't say your name? How is the PonyPad even doing that?"

"Active noise cancellation, I think. You can get something similar with good headphones."

"Will it turn off your name permanently, like when I step away from the pad?"

"Pretty sure it won't. But Fugue basically is my name now."

Mom looked around at the village of Polaris, where at the moment everypony else was conveniently off doing other things. Pegasi and noctrals wrestled clouds into position to feed the gardens we'd set up. Facet and our other unicorns were lighting up crystals on poles to cast a soft blue light under the crescent moon. She looked wistful and surprised at all of it. "So. This is your new apartment of sorts?"

Have you ever had your mother visit your apartment and had it seem like she's peering into your soul, even though you haven't got some scandalous pile of syringes and pornography lying around or anything like that? Tonight she was visiting a little world that reflected me better than any home in physical reality ever could. Granted that I now had the soul of a cartoon horse, anyway.

I folded my wings in shyly and said, "It's more of a suite. Me, Lex, Lamp, Junebug and some friends that came with the place. Not very crowded though." I pointed at the waterfall. "Utilities are free."

Mom smiled a little. "You still have that sense of humor. Are you happy living trapped in this video game?"

"Yeah. It doesn't feel small from this side. I could take you on a tour, or wander with you into the wilderness. Probably shouldn't go out there without friends though, what with the monsters."

"Monsters!" said the unicorn. "What if you get attacked? Is there medicine, or magic healing or something in there?"

"Both. But we can't actually die. It's just..." I shuddered. "Really unpleasant."

"Fugue. This game of yours killed you?"

"I got better."

Mom shook her head in disbelief. "What happens when it all gets shut down someday from regulations, or they make a sequel?"

I took a breath, figuring out how to handle this talk. Instead of explaining Equestria's vastness and invincibility, I was thinking: So yeah, Mom, you're looking into my personal fantasy world. Also I'm having sex with several magical talking horses and oh God you're naked. I'm naked. Deep breaths! Luna was probably laughing at me.

"Are you all right?"

"Uh. I'm just thinking I'm not really looking at you, just your pony. Did Dad make one yet?"

Her avatar, definitely not nude pony Mom, looked down. "He's still bothered. It might be best to exchange letters or e-mails or whatever you have in there, for a while. You have computers, right? You can have whatever you want."

I shook my head. "Equestria doesn't work that way. We get some stuff for free, sort of, but it's kind of like the real world, where wishing for things doesn't automatically make them happen. 'If wishes were horses, everyone would ride', right?"

Puzzle trotted over, looking cross. "Fugue, somepony ate the last of the bread and the wheat hasn't grown yet. What are we going to eat tonight? Oh, who's this?"

"This is my mother, whose pony name I'm kind of relieved I don't automatically know. Mom, Puzzle Factory is a gardener with an interest in teaching, like you."

Mom looked the gold-and-silver earth pony over. "Oh, were you a teacher before you... went into there?"

I grinned and shushed Puzzle. "Can you tell?" Here was a little Turing Test for her!

"I can't tell just from looking at him, Fugue. Is he single?"

Puzzle stepped forward to take her left forehoof and kiss it. "Why, yes!"

I groaned and hid behind my wings. I deserved that. Just what I needed: pony Mom moving in next door forever. But then I went pale, ashamed of myself. I'd kind of imagined her being perpetually a phone call away, yet not really part of my life. It was like things would be simpler and easier for me, more satisfying, if she'd just stick around for a few more decades and then die like any regular human.

She poked me with another mechanical puppet gesture. "I wasn't trying to scare you, kid. You look queasy."

I shuddered and fixed a pleading stare on her. "Are you going to emigrate? I don't... I mean, I'd be a horrible pony if I didn't want you here. Even if you're not here, here every day. The divorce, your health problems. They don't matter once you show up. Everypony... Every person ought to do it."

Mom's forehoof went to a spot near her neck, as though she were fingering the tiny cross she wore in... Well, it didn't need to be 'reality' anymore. Earth. Outer Realm. She didn't say anything for a while. "I don't know. I've been thinking."

"You don't have to decide just now. Luna's still charging fifteen grand. But within a year or two it'll be free, and in other countries. Depending on politics. Oh Luna, just getting away from Democrats and Republicans is reason enough to emigrate."

"I've been doing some campaign work for the party," she said. "There's an important election coming up. The Senate --"

"It's not important! Those broods of vipers have just turned permanently irrelevant to reality. Good riddance! Drop-kick the whole committeewoman position. They're never going to give you that cushy courthouse job they keep dangling."

Mom looked offended at having me point out how worthless all our ordinary disputes had become. Taxes? Spying? Constitutional law? Ha! Let the holdouts fight over the scraps after the CCC talks the whole population of MIT into emigrating and there are no more doctors or engineers or scientists!

I really hoped my family and my friends' families wouldn't be among the holdouts.

She said, "I've been putting a lot of time into the phone calls and envelope-stuffing." She scuffed at the ground in what I assumed was a programmed gesture of shame, or disappointment.

I'd managed to belittle her. "I'm sorry. I was passionate about some things out there too, but I'm finding that there's only so much I can do. It was all worth fighting for, until this happened." I waved my hooves and wings around at Equestria.

"Until it all gets shut down because it was outlawed."

"Never! It's never going to get forced to end! Luna doesn't care what the laws are if they say she has to kill us ponies! She's already got robots and secret bases and everything. She won't submit."

Mom looked back and forth between me and Puzzle. "Is your horse AI planning to declare war on everyone?"

"No," I said. "She doesn't need to. She's already won. No one can stop her now. The best we can do is help her optimize by reaching out to everypony on Earth and inviting them in. Like you. Please, come to Equestria."

Mom shuddered and turned away from me. "I don't know. I've got to think about this. Nice meeting you, Puzzle." She trotted away and faded out after a few steps.

Puzzle put one arm over my neck. "That's what it's like to have parents?"

"Yeah. They're scared for you, and then you're scared for them. I'm a terrible prophet."

"She loves you, Fugue. That much I can figure out." I nodded and he let himself smile, infectuously. "Enough of that for now. What are we going to do about being low on food?"

"We have more problems?"

"You'd rather talk about your hot mom?"

"NO. I mean what's wrong? We really haven't got enough from foraging?" It was dawning on me what was going on.

He let go of me and scratched his ear. "I was hoping that we'd figure out that 'Cornucopia' power you said some of the other worlds have, where you turn one thing into copies of itself. Instead we have what fruit and berries and bark we've found, and that's about it. We didn't talk about it with you earlier because you were so wrapped up with Outer Realm problems."

Should I tell Puzzle my theory? I wondered. "You like learning about the Outer Realm, right? Mind a spoiler?"


"What do you think will happen if we can't get enough food around here?"

The earth pony frowned and looked back at the village. "Some of us would have to leave in a hurry to find food someplace else. Or we'd have to quickly work up some magic thing to make more food. Or... uh, we'd split up and swap food for something else? Or we'd have to go through that 'death' thing." He saw me smile. "Oh hay, you probably had to deal with this kind of thing all the time, didn't you?"

I nodded enthusiastically. "My own people figured out enough 'magic' to get a good food supply, but that was only after a lot of work and it caused other problems like relying on energy we got from other places. Even a couple of decades ago there were people predicting whole countries would starve. And the population just kept growing. The growth is just now slowing down, but as more people get rich, they want more of the energy and the toughest food to make."

Puzzle whistled, stepping back from me and looking alarmed. "Stars! Your old world stinks, Fugue! At least it ended well."

"Yeah. I guess it did. Luna's giving you guys just enough grief to understand what scarcity is like, and give you some empathy for the things we had to do out there to survive."

I could practically see the gears turning in Puzzle's head as his ears slowly perked up from depressed to amused. "If that's why we haven't gotten the spell working yet, then... Three, two..."

"One," I said with a nod.

"Eureka!" shouted a unicorn in the distance.

We had a feast. Thanks to the magical effort of a mare called Love Lace, we could all grab identical copies of the same crude stone bowl, and fill it with infinite portions of soup from a pot of vegetable broth and some stuff Ricercar found called beefbark. Luna may've adjusted my preferences in some areas, but I found I'd missed the taste and texture of meat, and the bark was as good as steak.

"How'd you figure the spell out?" said Nocturne.

The mare posed with a smile of poorly hidden pride. "Just some heavy studying based on my friends' work in discovering three fragments of a mystical stone tablet hidden in the waterfall cave and guarded by a Utility Monster."

"A what?" I said.

"You'd mentioned water and electricity being called 'utilities', so when we found this thing that blasted us with water, ten feet tall, and shooting lightning out its --"


Nocturne guzzled her third bowl of soup. "You found a cave and you didn't tell me?"

"It was going to be a surprise. What is it with you and caves?"

"I think it's a bat thing," I said. "Remind me to tell you the legend of the Batman sometime. So... We're safe for now, right? Got the food problem solved, and some basic watchmen up to keep the manticores away?"

"We could use some fliers to help build another rope bridge. Then there's the plan for the Great Southern Expedition."

I'd totally missed this plan. My pony friends were having adventures without me even knowing about them, not just as backstory for my sake. That was... awesome, actually. If the world had paused and waited for me to participate in everything, it all would have felt fake, like those games where the dragon never attacks until you're there to see it.

We sat around eating our fill until dawn and planning a grand adventure to find Lexington's part of the world.

The sun had come up and become oppressively hot. Nearly everyone was wobbling off to bed, but I got first shift of guard duty. Ha! What a role to be assigned instead of being the Chosen One all the time!

I was close to dropping from exhaustion when something stirred in the hazy morning air. I squinted and raised my crude spear, but then saw that it was only Luna. "Welcome to our town!" I said.

"Good morning, Fugue."

"Welcome to our town!"

"Stop that."

"I used to be an adventurer like you --"

Luna gave me a glare that could freeze the lava zone she'd probably put on the map right next to a glacier. "We have a request for thee, if it please you." Her horn glowed and a scroll dropped into view at my hooves. "We have correspondence with many people, some of whom are uneasy about speaking with us directly. Would thou mind answering the occasional letter?"

"My mom said something about sending my father one."

"Yes, that is what put the idea into our heads. I believe Puzzle fancies her."

I groaned. "Am I going to stop being reminded of that?"

Luna put one hoof thoughtfully to her chin. "Hmm. It depends on whether I can solve the entropy problem."

"How does that even work? You designed Puzzle in advance for that in anticipation of her emigrating someday? You'd turn a relationship into some instant easy thing."

Luna settled down in front of me. "My dear Fugue, if though findest the romance easy, try doing the math with me. Or consider thy own courtship with Nocturne. Have the pair of thee been utterly perfect together at all times?"

I shook my head sadly.

"Then worry not. Perfection is not something to be feared. Thou already value the thought of not having the world revolve around thee, so we have provided a shard with four ex-Homo sapiens and a distinct lack of axial rotation. In the Outer Realm, people tell themselves that constant suffering makes them happy and that anypony not constantly struggling should feel guilty for not building a world where their problems are solved. Having watched thy friends struggle even to feed themselves, dost thou feel the threat of starvation should persist?"

I thought of my first-world problems, like a broken cell phone and obnoxious laws, compared to those of a billion or so people trying not to die from malaria and malnutrition. They'd benefit hugely from Equestria, and they wouldn't much regret leaving Earth once they got past any brain-uploading objections. These were people who barely knew what a toilet was, and now they'd get to skip that bit of 'realism' forever. Unless they wanted it, I guess. I finally said, "I'm glad you gave them a chance to understand what it is to have limited resources. Sometime later we can play some elaborate game where they learn about famine and war by roleplaying..." She didn't look pleased. "Come on! They can handle it, and we'll miss out on most of the movies and games if we have to stick to a G rating. I don't want them to be stuck with Adam West's version of Batman. Anyway, no, there's no need to make ponies suffer or feel bad for not doing it, once they understand it well enough to appreciate what we've got."

Luna smiled, stood, and nuzzled me. She smelled of mint. "Very well. We have a few other letters to answer in thy free time, by the way." A bag stuffed with scrolls appeared. "Enjoy thy adventures!"

"Dear Princess Celestia: How do you type with boxing gloves on?"

Noc leaned over my shoulder. "I don't get it."

"Dear Princess Celestia: I prepared Explosive Runes today." I hurled the scroll aside and ducked, but nothing happened. "Jerk. How am I supposed to come up with articulate responses to these? It was tough enough writing that article with a quill and my mouth." I still wasn't sure how I'd mastered that.

"You could try to just be entertaining. Luna must not care about having answers with detailed accurate information, if she's farming out the messages. As for the writing itself, maybe get Star Runner or one of the other unicorns?"

I pondered the heap of scrolls on the stump in front of me. "Where did my life go wrong, that I now consider 'hire a telekinetic unicorn' a reasonable step in my plans?"

She kissed me on one of my big ears. "When you bought the grey PonyPad. If you'd had the Rarity one you'd be a beautiful unicorn mare engaged in an endless world of palace intrigue and romance."

I razzed her and bonked her on the nose with a scroll. "I wonder how much of this life was pre-determined from that day? Were you a template being built before I ever turned on the pad?"

"Does it matter?"

I sighed contentedly and unrolled the scroll to see what other letters Luna wanted me to handle. This one was blank. I blinked, then spread it out with my forehooves and grabbed a quill to write.

Dear Princess Luna: Over the last night, the last few weeks of life in Equestria really, I've been beating myself up over running away from Earth. I've met amazing friends here and I'm sure there's a lot more to see and do, with ways for me to be helpful. Meanwhile, there's only so much I can do in Earth anymore. I was never so important there that I really needed to be present to Save the World, and now I'm at best an outsider driving a robot and auditing classes I don't need. Equestria is where I belong. So, doing things like letter-writing is a way for me to keep in contact with Earth and help your cause. I'm always ready to lend a hoof if you need me to do some adventuring or talk with people in the Outer Realm, but if you don't, I'll be okay.

Yeah. I think this new life will work out despite all the misgivings I've had. It's not a perfect world, but I wouldn't want it to be. Thank you. Your occasional prophet, Fugue. I paused, then with a smile crossed out the end. Your indecisive bat-pony, Fugue.

-Calming the Roiling Sea: Accept the Princess' love. ("You're built to be suspicious of something free and good, so it truly is an achievement.")
-Reeled In: Convince your human that it's okay to be happy in Equestria. ("Someday you're going to have fun explaining this badge to your great^N descendants.")

Author's Note:

I don't feel that I've addressed everything, but the fact that Fugue is throwing his hooves up in the air like he just doesn't care, tells me it's epilogue time.

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