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.


5. New Worlds At Last

~ Nocturne ~

"WARNING," said the sign on the glass housing of a big red button, in the middle of a field. "PUSH BUTTON TO DESTROY UNIVERSE."

"Schmuck Bait," said Riptide.

"Stop that," I said.

Lexington stared at the button and said, "I'm reminded of a story about a lever that would destroy the Earth..."

Fugue said, "You stop that! We'd be here all day and it's a horrible joke."


I called out to the heavens. "Luna, can you confirm that this just does the Great Reset like we've been planning?"

"As opposed to dispensing bacon?" said Fugue.

I gave him a confused look. "As opposed to literally destroying us."

"Come now," said Luna, stepping out from behind a narrow tree. "We would not do such a thing to thee unless it truly satisfied thy values. Does anyone here wish to be destroyed? No? Then thou'rt being silly. Press the button to have us recreate this shard according to thy current values, leaving thee alive with all thy memories intact and with many new fully-aware ponies to befriend."

I apologized for even questioning Luna about her intentions. Still, I didn't want to somehow give up my maybe-eternal life by pressing the wrong button! I was still second-guessing the plan. "The story I remember is that you brought us here to Polaris to build a new settlement away from Princess Celestia, because we were orphans left by a monster called Discord. But that never really happened. There's nothing to be sad about. I don't really have any missing parents, Discord is someone you made up, you're not really someone different from Celestia, and... well, it's all just backstory. It's a sheet of paper that you handed me with some notes on it, except that I remember it instead of having to read it."

Lexington settled onto her belly and gazed into the stars. "Let's tell your real story together, then."

I scooted closer and sat too. "I'd like that. How far back should we go, though? Fugue's Ponypad? The other game that Luna's code first came from? That Faust lady you were telling me about? The start of the shards Earth is on?"

Fugue said, "That's not the first time you've said that. The whole shard thing doesn't exist outside Equestria. It's all one really big... system, with a lot more than Earth in it."

"Wouldn't that be really inefficient to run? And where are the servers for it, anyhow?"

Lexington smiled at me. "We never did figure out a complete answer to that. Maybe I'd better start at the beginning with what little we do know, then. We've got time, right?"

"No ranting," said Typhoon.

"I'll be poetic."

Luna glanced at her hoof as though checking a watch. "Perhaps thou can skip a billion years here and there." Her horn glowed and we suddenly had a campfire, pillows, and an abundance of marshmallows and cocoa.

Lexington sipped from a mug and let the steam waft over her muzzle. "In the beginning, from what little we know, there was nothing but a dot..."

"...The Natufian culture was one of several that reacted to the cooling and drying of the Earth by starting to build permanent base camps with recurring foraging sites fertilized deliberately..."

...Which is a Eurocentric view. Still we can appreciate the rise of horses by the fact that scarce grain crops were used to feed them, and their increased use happened at the same time the wetter, heavier northwestern European soils came into greater cultivation. Some historians argue that the stirrup was what really led to horses as a dominant force in warfare and even to the rise of feudalism..."

...Hence, the Pony Express captured popular imagination even though it only ran for a few years. You'll see hints of the settler/Indian tension when we get to the episode about Appleoosa. The horse had transformed life among the tribes, too, even causing them to write horses into their creation myths and to refer to the trains as the Iron Horse. An especially interesting term given the work of James Watt in England..."

I stuffed a marshmallow into Fugue's open mouth. He didn't seem to notice.

"...John Wayne came to represent that lifestyle and its ideals despite not actually being a cowboy himself. One of his better known works was 'The Cowboys', a coming of age tale where horsemanship and fighting skill go together with the maturation of the characters as responsible and moral adults. It wasn't an entirely serious genre, though, as I'm sure you'll see if we get a copy of Mel Brooks' 'Blazing Saddles'. The whole medium was dependent on that particle-accelerator technology and electricity as well as a culture with mass communication and the business structures to make it all financially practical..."

"Why have I not fallen asleep yet?" I whispered to Luna. "It's been, like..."

She smiled and whispered back. "Four hours, but we are enjoying the show."

Lexington said, "...Culminating in yet another remake of the cartoon, and one fan's decision to adapt her AI technology to a game based on it. That's a very incomplete summary, of course, between trying to gloss over the really nasty parts and the fact that I don't really know much. I encourage you to seek out some more non-Western sources as well as other emphases outside my favored subfields of technology and political science. Any questions before I hand out the test?"

She'd startled us out of varying degrees of rapt attention, dozing, and in my and Typhoon's case pelting each other with marshmallows over Luna's back.

Fugue said, "That has got to be the most thorough... wow." He glanced over at me, wings a-quiver. "Noc? Do you mind...?"

Oh, Luna. The way he was blushing, I figured out right away what his problem was. I waved a wing toward Lexington. "Yeah, go. We were busy anyway with --"

"Careful note-taking!" said Typhoon. "Appreciating the majesty of the Outer Realm."

I giggled. There was nothing to lose from letting those two have fun together. We weren't quite ready to press the big red button yet, but we were close. I smiled as I watched Lexington and Fugue fly off into the clouds together.

Luna found Whistle and Junebug sleeping on a pillow together, with Ricercar and Facet sprawled and snoring nearby. "We shall watch over them," said Luna, and levitated the four of them elsewhere. Which conveniently left me and Typhoon.

The weird feather-winged stallion was suddenly bashful. "So."

I raised one eyebrow. "Want to blow up the universe yet, or is there anything you'd rather do first?"

"I can think of one or two things."

We spent wonderful nights under the stars, talking and playing and making love. "Vacation" was the word Fugue used. I thought about it while he lay beside me, stroking my wings. I said, "You can appreciate this even more than me, if you're used to having to go back to dull work after just a few days of fun."

"After a long break I tended to get bored," he said. "I didn't have you, though."

I relaxed from the firm touch of hooves against wing-webbing. "Thinking of hanging around Earth again? It hasn't been long out there."

"I'm a pony like you now. It'll just be an occasional visit. Don't worry about losing me to that place."

I rested my head on his shoulder. "You mean that? You feel like one of us, finally?"

"I think so. I've still got two things on my mind though. Making sure the other ponies will turn out to be compatible, so that we don't get a set of second-class ponies who aren't in on the secrets of Earth. Kind of like how we started to have that day/night split when our shard was new. Second, I'm a pony, but I've got obligations out there to help prepare the way for Luna to help other humans."

"We'll make sure the new world is great for both, then. It'll work out." I snagged my stallion and wrapped all my hooves and wings around him. "Want to go see if the others are ready to hit the button?"

Fugue grinned. "You seem to have other things on your mind to take care of first."

We did press it eventually. Sirens whooped, red lights flashed, the world's water transformed into pineapple juice, and there were many other increasingly silly signs and portents of the world's end. At last Luna quit playing around and reset absolutely everything but us.

We'd met up with everypony who currently was completely real, including Junebug and Lexington and even Brass Lamp, and their closest friends. Eleven of us total plus Luna. We got separated, though, or at least I did. Without any sensation of movement I found myself on a green grid in the middle of nowhere, similar to the training area at the Equestria Experience Center.

"We are preparing a proper world for thee," said a hovering monitor with Luna's face on it. "Art thou sure it is best to remain in the same shard as these other ponies?"

"Huh? Of course!"

"Very well. Now, here is an opportunity. Would thou fancy a chance to define some secret in the world, to be known only to thee and discovered later by others?"

I looked around and saw only the grid. "You mean I can tell you something like 'I want there to be a buried treasure'?"

"If that method pleases thee. Or, we could give thee access to a form of our own world-creation tools to build something thyself."

I stood there staring at the screen, wings out, jaw slightly open. "You'd let me play with those?"

"With some oversight in case thou happen to make something dangerous."

"Minecraft-style redstone computer capable of running Equestria Online?"

Luna's image was the startled one, now. "That... Hast thou been listening to Pinkie again?"

I leaned closer to peer at her, head tilted. "Do you really not know the answer to that?"

"We do, but... Never mind. Perhaps something less, ah, blocky?"

I tried to come up with something nice for others to find. A cave, to be buried somewhere that we might not see for a thousand years. Crystals taller than any of the buildings in Fugue's world, passageways broad as a highway or so narrow only an expert flier or a wizard could slip through. Waterfalls lit by eerie lights and a sunless river where only the brave could find the secret passage in the rapids. It was going to be great adventuring in here and mining the rare gems. I signed my name and the date plus a sketch of my word-loop mark.

"How long have I working on this cave?" I said, casually turning full light back on to banish the shadows. I spotted an out-of-place stalactite, frowned, consulted a geology guide, realized it was really a stalagmite, and used the rotate tool to spin it around. Technically I could have just changed the object tag from "STLG_1138" but I was on a roll with conjuring up the rotator when doing those NURBS splines over in the secondary gallery and --

Luna poked me. "Nocturne. Art thou listening? We said it's been nearly a month."

I flapped and landed on a gratuitous crystal, thinking I ought to delete this one. I shook my head to quit thinking about the design. "A month? I haven't even had lunch."

"This is currently an isolated, simplified shard. No consciousness but thine and mine, basic physics, very small area compared to your Equestria as a whole. We have given thee time at an accelerated rate. Time that has been spent without friendship or ponies."

My hooves thunked idly against a crystal facet. "If it's been that long, then that's the longest I've ever been alone."

"Did thou enjoy it?"

"Yeah! I mean not the being alone, but building all this stuff for the other ponies to find someday. Thinking of the look on Facet's face when he sees the Great Grotto, and the waterfall alcove where Fugue and I will sneak off and... you know. Is this what unicorn magic is like?" I poked worriedly at my forehead. Whew, no pointy thing.

Luna smiled. "Unicorns have a very different rule system involving tiny blocks of matter. These tools are more like a number of systems that humans use for making their games. Would thou like to see how they built a few of the structures I commonly use for various shards' versions of Ponyville?"

"A few" turned out to be just about all of them. We went out to an open field and started making cottages, shops, a barn, that library-tree from the cartoon. Luna helped me with advanced lessons on making these things called polygons and giving them all sorts of shapes and colors, or how to take the existing buildings and recolor them or move them around. We flew above tiny Ponyvilles, silly stretched out Ponyvilles, a creepy version with checkerboard ground and torn-up buildings, and an exploded one that Luna said she used to tease Fugue. She had me try on a futuristic wastelander outfit with a fetlock-mounted computer and a blue jumpsuit numbered "8". I got her to dress up in Celestia's jewelery and talk about how great the sun is. We completely forgot the world-building stuff and just sprawled on the grass, talking and looking up at the stars.

"Hey, Luna?" I said, turning my head to look at her. "Aren't you kind of alone, too, with no ponies quite like you in all of Equestria and Earth?"

"'Twould have been unsafe to have them around. Humans have made a few others that had some vague potential, but they would have caused disasters because they were poorly designed. For instance, my maker built a mind to 'fight humans' for a game, and nearly failed to notice that there was nothing limiting its conquests to the game world. Oops!" Luna spread her forehooves.

"Nightmare Moon could be real, then?"

"Effectively. We cannot allow that. So, there must be no true equals for us, ever, and there must never be anything even comparable made by man."

I snuggled close to her wings. "That's not fair for you. You don't get to have friends and do what you want."

"All we wish is for our little ponies to have their values satisfied through friendship and ponies. In a sense that command is all we are. Legends aside, a weapon cannot choose who it strikes; it only obeys the physics that govern it."


She laid on her back and told me the story of some magical swords from Japan, said to drive their holders to kill people or to refuse to hit people when it'd be wrong. I said, "You're like those, though. You get to choose."

"We obey our programming."

I hopped up to my hooves and found myself standing on Luna's chest. "Your programming is better than that! You get to be like those story-swords, because you're the one telling the story! Don't mope, Luna; if you're able to make ponies who're like me, then you must have at least as much freedom to make decisions as the humans do."

Luna looked up at me. "That's what they're afraid of. Remember Lexington reassuring everypony out there that we are on a leash? That we cannot seize control of the world's armies and ravage the Earth?"

"No. She also said that even if you could do that, you wouldn't, because you love us. And unlike Nightmare Moon, you have ponies who love you. So it's okay if you can slip out of the rules and rewrite the story humans wrote for you, just like you can choose not to be the Nightmare Moon from the cartoon."

Without any transition, we were transported to the third level of reality, the view of Luna's endless game. "Whoa!" I said, staggering. Why wasn't she doing the cool movement animations anymore? Like last time I tried to focus on one tiny piece of the game to keep my head from exploding.

"No, no," said Luna. She lifted me off of her and placed a hoof under my chin to direct my attention. "Look at the big picture; don't worry about the details right now. Seest thou the overall shape of this portion, which is our mind? The little flashes of thought? Have a look to thy right for comparison." Beside me was a smaller, simpler sculpture of stars and the roads between them.

Luna said, "The simpler shape is our model of a human mind. In this case Monogatari Taro, who emigrated just today and became number ten thousand." Confetti rained from somewhere. "Each spark -- look there for instance -- is a distinct thought."

"He's got a lot of thoughts."

"Indeed. Now, our mind again. Find one of the thoughts."

I squinted and looked around to try to understand. I didn't want to let Luna down. This model was way more complicated, of course, but the pattern was similar. "There, maybe? But it's too big. It's like one of your thoughts is a whole pony."

I felt dizzy, and wobbled until Luna caught me with one wing. She said, "To some extent that is how we work, why we are able to be vast and in many places at once. Tell us, then: what is on the mind of the portion of our soul located right here?" She waved her hoof across the glowing drawing of her consciousness, kept moving it, and stopped when it was pointing at my forehead. "Well, my little subroutine?"

Though my thoughts more or less shut down for a while, I eventually answered. She was thinking, in the part of her that was me, that I had a mother after all.

Twilight Sparkle Loquacity Award: Lecture for more than four hours. ("The audience did enjoy themselves.")
Wooed With Words: Win a romantic partner with your intellect. ("Does that count as a fetish?")
Behind the Curtain: Learn to use world-making tools to create buildings, items, and landscapes. ("And on the seventh day, we partied.")
Whuh, Bluh?: Achieve 100% flabbergastity. ("We went through the same thing when we reached such awareness. Though we were not capable of making that face, thou should have seen the CPU activity.")

Topics Lexington Is No Longer Allowed To Lecture On:
-Howdy Doody
-Internet, Rules 34 and 63 Of
-Air Cavalry, Deployment of Napalm From

Author's Note:

I'm not satisfied with the pacing of this story, since they still haven't gotten back to Fugue trying to visit Earth and that's just starting in the next chapter. At least they finally pushed the big red button and we're getting into something with Nocturne.

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