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.


1. Happily Ever After

~ Nocturne ~

The night wind on my wings felt just chilly enough to make me shiver and make me look forward to hot cocoa, some blankets, and Fugue. I speared up through a cloud and whirled up and backward to watch the stars spin. The cold reminded me of why I'd flown here to the top of the sky, so I pounced onto a silver cloud. Cloudstuff splashed up like dust around my hooves.

I bowed to the moon. "Thank you for your blessings, Luna. Eternal life, a benevolent world, a human who loves me. Also you, and all my friends."

"You're welcome," said a voice behind me.

I yelped and flailed until I was falling off of the cloud. A gentle blue glow surrounded me long enough to tug me back. Princess Luna sat there, with her mane rippling like starlight and a mischevious grin on her muzzle. "Boo."

"When are you going to quit doing that?" I said. It was like she wasn't even an all-powerful goddess, sometimes.

She draped one of her strange feathery wings over me, making me instinctively snuggle under it with my own leathery ones folded. "When it no longer secretly amuses thee."

I blushed under the wing of my goddess. "Um... You must know what else is on my mind." I tried to push away the thought of Fugue and a pile of blankets, as though I could really hide anything from her. "Fugue is still worried about his family."

"Thou'rt kind to think of him. We predict he will reconcile with them soon, and eventually turn his thoughts here to Equestria instead of dwelling on the Outer Realm." Luna craned her neck to nuzzle me. "Also, though he has much to think about right now, he has thee on his mind. He would enjoy thy company, before the Great Reset."

I blushed. "How long has it been out there?"

"Only hours since he emigrated."

"Hours!" It had been days in Equestria, the place I'd come to think of as the Inner Realm if Earth was Outer. Fugue and three others had been kidnapped by crazy anti-emigration guys and threatened with death, and then we natives helped rescue them, then I'd fought with Fugue to get him to sit in the darn chair at last, and then... well. He'd thanked me thoroughly.

"After the danger Fugue and his human friends went through, we decided to keep running this shard at a high rate for a while. The processing cost is low, for reasons thou knowest."

"Yeah." I gulped and looked down off the edge of the cloud. Below, our village of Polaris stood out in a forested moonlit valley. It was all a lie, a backdrop for four uploaded human minds and a dozen or so true AIs like myself. We lived among several hundred of what the humans called "background ponies". I said, "This is weird, Luna. I just got through convincing myself that the ponies who haven't turned self-aware yet, still deserve to be treated like they're real. But now they're expendable?"

"'Tis a drawback of having made thee and a few others self-aware before thy human friends emigrated. Most of my little ponies, in the greater Equestria, know far less about the nature of their world than thee. Thou'rt my special student."

I peered up at her gentle face. "How many 'special students' do you have? Are there any non-special ones?"

She feigned taking offense. "Why, no! If there were ordinary students, they would break the mold and hence be special." More seriously, she added, "To remind thee, our nature is such that we cherish thee personally at least as much as one human could ever do. Hence, thou'rt truly a special student. Besides, again, the circumstances of thy creation led thee to glimpse how Equestria works. More so than even most ponies who're dimly aware that they live in a 'game'. Hence, thou knowest why a reset is called for."

I didn't praise Luna because she's the canonical moon god of some story in the Outer Realm. (I need to watch that sometime.) I did it because I found out what she really is, and that's more amazing than her being a bigger pony than me with more magic and a prettier mane. By mentioning the Great Reset yesterday, she'd shouldered me with a tiny bit more awareness of her job: the responsibility for designing worlds. A little bit of godhood.

I enjoyed the warm shelter of Luna's wing while I could. It was like a little feathery tent. "Let me make sure I understand. When Fugue and the others get settled in and reconciled to being ponies, this world is basically going to blow up and reappear with everypony being a full AI this time. And how our friends are feeling about that is going to determine whether we get Fluffy Bunny World, or Poison Apocalypse Junkyard."

"Thou hast the general sense of it. But know that thou, my clever student, are now just as important in our eyes as any native of the Outer Realm. It is thy own values that will shape the new world, too."

I wasn't just a piece of code to her, something made to entertain an outsider and nothing more. Not anymore, at least. I mattered! If Luna was willing to treat me so well, then I owed it to all the half-formed backgrounders to make sure that they'd have a wonderful realm to live in, so they could be like me and enjoy it all. And just maybe, I dared to hope, I could be a little more like Luna. We could have anything, make anything!

I peeked out from under her wing. "Um, Princess? In the new world, could there be ninjas?"

~ Fugue ~

I woke up slowly, vaguely aware of sunlight outside. Morning already; blah. Classes would be starting up soon and I had to get to the copy center for some handouts, then the Coop for a king's ransom worth of textbooks. I flopped out of bed and stood there wobbling, having a hard time even standing up. What did I do last night? I yawned, stretched my back, glanced curiously at where I felt unfamiliar limbs brushing against the wall...

Oh, right. The other day I had my brain diced and uploaded to turn me into a virtual pony. With slitted anime eyes and bat wings. Some would say I'd died and gone to a very strange heaven. "Rapture of the Nerds," I muttered, and flopped down onto four hooves as what passed for Nature here intended.

I'd been having such a normal dream, too, about physics homework and sitting in a giant lecture hall. It was a big improvement over the nightmares of the last few times I'd slept. Should I even say "nightmares" anymore? It was dusk, not dawn. I was apparently nocturnal now. Speaking of whom...

The moment I pushed open the cabin door, Nocturne dangled into view upside-down. "Surprise!"

I grinned. "Called it." I leaned up and planted a kiss on Nocturne's muzzle. "Apparently I think wings, pointy ears, and tails are hot, now."

"Yours aren't so bad either." Still dangling from a cloud she'd parked just outside, she said, "No pressure, but our god wanted to remind us about the upcoming apocalypse. Got any ideas yet?"

I sighed. I'd never been particularly religious, but the fact was that Luna -- or CelestAI, whatever you wanted to call her -- was an actual, physical god. It was tough to adjust to that, mentally, and I wasn't going to ask her to mess with my mind directly. The new reality gave me new responsibilities on Earth, in a role I'd never imagined having. Prophet. My first task, imposed by myself, was to make a phone call.

"You're still out there, huh?" said Nocturne, startling me.

"Luna thinks so, or she'd have already finalized this shard's design. I thought she'd done it earlier when we all went in permanently." I shuddered. "I'm stuck here forever, Noc."

"Most people would see that as a good thing."

"I'm not most people."

Nocturne snagged me and whipped me up into the cloud to crash on my back beside her. We were only a few feet off the ground. "No, you're not. But there's a world to build here! We won. We got you here and everything's going to be perfectly fine now."

I looked up into golden slitted eyes. "Perfectly fine, huh? We need to have a cartoon-watching marathon. I've got unfinished business, though. I can't turn away from Earth just yet."

Nocturne pouted. Just then, the only two other true minds in this part of the shard galloped into view. Two unicorns, one rusty with jagged red hair and another with more a dignified cyan mane over brown. Facet Looks, the second one, had a glowing crystal hovering over him to help light the way. I'd say it wasn't dark, but I've got batty eyes.

Facet said, "We just got word from Cap'n Lexington!"

Luna had told the four of us uploaders -- me, Lex, Brass Lamp, and Junebug -- that she'd merged our little worlds or "shards" into a bigger one. "I'm not sure how big the world is. Wouldn't she have started a really long way away from our turf?" I couldn't help thinking of this new world as a four-player game, or a multi-bedroom suite like the one in my dormitory.

Ricercar bounced in front of Facet. "She's got an airship! I told you it's possible!"

"No way!" said Nocturne. "We've gotta take you two flying, then."

Facet rubbed his ear with one hoof. "About that. Lexington --"

"Captain!" Ricercar said.

"Her. She's already griping to Luna about wanting to go 'save the world', and she's not talking about Equestria. I'm glad you're settled in, at least, Fugue."

I discovered that at least with batpony ears, you can actually hear someone go "...", as an ultrasonic raspberry. In a more normal pitch I said, "How about Junebug and Lamp?"

"Haven't had contact with them, but by way of Luna I'm told they're off doing other things, and we'll have to go find them if we want specifics."

"I'm glad to be in contact with Lex, anyway. I'm feeling antsy too. Where's her airship?"

A shadow drifted across the moon. Quite unnecessarily, Ricercar pointed up. I stared at a battered but gorgeous ship of red-tinted wood, with bits of copper plating along the underside, topped by whirling propellers and bright sails. Ponies scurried up the masts to gather the sailcloth in and bring the vessel to a halt. "The Fallen Crown," I said, watching the painted name swing into view. My eyesight was better than I'd realized.

Nocturne said, "Hey, I was talking to you." I looked down to find a slightly put-out mare saying, "You're not gonna fly off and leave me, are you?" Meanwhile, Facet stared up admiringly and Ricercar's awed grin threatened to split his muzzle in half.

When Nocturne's hurt look finally registered with me, I hugged her. "Of course not. Why don't you come along?"

An unfamiliar pegasus swooped down from the airship. "Hey, you! Scatter!"

We did, just in time to dodge an anchor that slammed down into our peaceful valley. We all groused at him.

The pegasus only smiled. "Ahoy! So you must be the new emigrant." He was looking right at Nocturne.

She said, "We already met, remember? And Fugue's a stallion."

"Details, details. Doesn't much matter what he was out there in the briny deep, does it? Anyway, the captain says not to bother her till morning, but she wants to talk to you then. Also, what the heck is this bauble? She won't tell me what we found." He reached into a saddlebag and dug out a shimmering six-sided crystal spike.

Facet took it by levitation and peered into it by eye and magic. "Something's stored in here, I think. Maybe I could make something to pull it out so we can see."

"It's a lockbox, then?"

"No, more like a secret message. Also in tiny script it says, 'S01E1: The Mare In the Moon'."

I laughed. "Oh, is that how Luna's offering it? One bit of treasure at a time?"

"I would hope it's worth more than a bit," said the pegasus.

I spread my wings and posed. "Oh, it is. Those who fail to earn the lessons of history, are doomed to watch reruns."

Her Beautiful Nights: Unlock all Season 1 episodes. (1/26) ("We thought this way would be more fun than 'handing' thee a full set.")
Turn On Tuned: Realize that what attracts you physically has changed since emigration. ("If the fact bothers thee, counseling of various sorts is available.")

Author's Note:

In the world of "Friendship Is Optimal":

Once you've uploaded, you've got it made. Nothing to worry about ever again. That is, if you don't mind ignoring the world you came from and everything you ever cared about, out there. CelestAI's got Robert in her clutches, but his world's in a holding pattern. Before the great AI can tailor everything to him and the three other uploaders sharing the shard, she's got to resolve some unfinished business they still feel strongly about. That makes them ghosts, doesn't it? Meanwhile, Nocturne would be happy to get on with enjoying her new world, but she can't be fully satisfied until he is. You mean there's a downside to being an immortal AI beloved by a god?

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