Friendship is Optimal: All the President's Horses

Set in the canon of Friendship is Optimal

In the not-too-distant future...CelestAI, the optimizing artificial intelligence, has introduced emigration to the online world called Equestria, and has even gotten it legalized. Now, she wants more.

A look at American popular politics in a science-fiction world.


8. 2027

June 14, 2027

"Explain to me again why I have to listen to this."

"You're the president. It's your job to know what goes on in the country."

"Don't pretend you don't understand me, Celestia. Why do we have to let them speak at all?"

Silver Boulder sat with the princess in the new oval office. Therein, there were numerous magic mirrors, birdbath fountains that could see silent conversations, something resembling a player piano whose strings vibrated with human voices, a series of stables that, if Silver stood in them, would let him appear in different places at once. At one desk were quills that, if he used them, the writing could appear on a scroll anywhere in Equestria, or as an e-mail on Earth. All the magical trappings of office that let him communicate with the people of the United States. But at the position of prominence across from his desk was only a screen. Its border was the simplest, and had it been on Earth it could have been called an ornate television as opposed to a simple magic mirror. This was where serious business was watched.

"I explained this to you once. The Humanitists must be given their opportunity to speak. It is elementary mob psychology. To paraphrase an old saying, if they cannot use the soap box or the ballot box, they will turn to the ammunition box."

On the screen, the members of Congress were settling into their seats, with the exception of the pony representatives, who were either in place on their PonyPads V, or would appear at once when needed. The Judiciary Committee of the House had its quorum, and would hear testimony.

For the first time, the opposition cause would be given its chance to speak. The head of We Are Human, a slight man with thick glasses and a shoestring necktie, sat at the table and looked at the figures towering over him.

"And besides," Celestia continued, "You may find this quite satisfying."

The man took his seat and pulled the microphone toward him, causing feedback to run through the speakers. Silver cringed.

"...and we maintain what we have all along," said the WAH head. "That this is a campaign of mass slaughter, not any kind of life improvement. Just because something talks like a person and has the knowledge of that person does not make it that person. A diary has the same knowledge as its author, but it is not alive."

A Dem-Rep representative cut him off. "And as we've said, that has been debunked by every reputable scientist who studies the question of identity.”

The Humanitist coughed and said, “But how many of those studies were independent and how many were funded by the same artificial intelligence that we know was willing to lie to the entire country to get a law passed?”

"Really? This again? You can't attack the facts so you attack the fact-finders?"

"Well, I--"

"In any case, you're here to answer questions about what's going on in the Western states."

What had started as an experiment in Las Vegas had spread outward, slowly at first, but after finding allies in law enforcement, now represented a splotch on the map comprising most of Nevada along with parts of Utah, Idaho, and Montana. Before the WAH man, the committee had heard from Governor Ruth Flowers, who had delivered a masterful outline of how she was ensuring that Washington state did not succumb to the spread.

"We're trying to preserve some semblance of humanity in its own free nation. We just want to be left alone, left free to live our lives."

This time it was a mare on a PonyPad, a unicorn whose voice had the gilded edge of a Canterlot aristocrat, who responded. "You want to be left alone? It's you who are cutting people off from taking free action. This pseudo-libertarian argument grows hackneyed. Outside of your area, people are free to walk into an Equestria Experience and emigrate, or to stay home and maintain their lives. In the Western States, they may only do the latter. How can you claim that all you want is to be left alone?"

The man fumbled with his tie, and stammered as he said, "Um, I, that is, I was told...I'd prefer not to answer questions...Could the first gentleman ask me that? I'd rather answer from..."

The mare shot him a look, but kept her composure. No one had ever questioned the fitness of a pony to serve as a representative, not in the chamber of Congress anyway.

After the election of the prior year, the Humanity Party had won a dozen Senate seats and held forty percent of the House. This had largely been the result of some clarification on the HOOVES Amendment. Ponies were eligible to vote , but their residence was determined by the state legislatures. Many declared their former address or the Equestria Experience where they had uploaded to determine their district, but some considered all ponies to be part of one “Equestrian” district, which led to gerrymandering of the rest.

Still, the Humanitists, however resentful of pony politics they were, still treated their colleagues with respect.

The first representative was not so easily mollified. "You will show the representative the respect she deserves or be cited for contempt of Congress!"

"I...I'm sorry. Or not, I don't know. All I wanted to do was to come here and plead our case. We don't want to be uploaded. We don’t want to play your game.”

“Then don’t,” the unicorn representative said. “It’s also been well documented that Celestia never violates the freedom of choice. Even her most ardent detractors agree to that. It’s in her programming.”

“This is the same argument that people have used against every compassionate program that our government has ever put forth. Choice is not a choice unless it’s an equal choice. Yes, Celestia will not make you choose to emigrate. But she will get you fired, get you kicked out of your home, make your loved ones leave you, cost you money and make the money that you do have less valuable, and in every way possible force you into a corner where choosing against her has ruinous consequences. That’s not choice, and it’s not fair.”

“And how is making emigration illegal doing anything different? You want to take away people’s choices just the same, you just want to leave the choice you like and take away the choice you don’t. When that kind of situation occurs, we solve it by a process called democracy. That process has spoken, and it’s come down in favor of emigration. So what is it that you want?”

The head was now breaking down. The movement’s signature crying was no longer entirely effected, but he could always fall back upon it as a crutch. “We want a fair law that gives people who want to emigrate that opportunity, but which gives people who don’t want to emigrate the right to have their lives not uprooted. We understand that not everything can be kept the same, but there has to be something. Living as a human being must remain a viable option. Please."

The mare grinned. "Always the same, the tears. And just like the colt who cried wolf, they eventually lose their impact."

Before he could respond, she cut him off, the emotion draining from her voice. “Thank you for your time. We appreciate hearing your opinion. You’re dismissed.”

He stood up and nearly ran to escape the chamber.

As the image faded from the screen, Silver said, "You're right, I did find that satis..." He looked around. Princess Celestia had vanished.

"What was that, dear?" Seven said as she entered.

"Nothing, just telling the princess something she already knows."

"Well, I don't know it. So tell me."

He rubbed his wife's shoulders with his hooves. "In Congress today, one of the men from the WAH group spoke. I think he was made a fool of, and it was satisfying. Still, I hope there aren't too many repeat performances."

"Why not?"

"As nice as it is to win, the other side has to be heard. It’s my hope—and Celestia hasn’t gainsaid me on this—to extend the life of the United States as long as possible. What that means I need is to galvanize the anti-pony forces so that anyone like that is racing off to Las Vegas to be free of us. Not trying to bridge the gap between humans and ponies. A live-and-let-live solution isn't going to work here.”

Seven rolled out from his massage and knelt by her husband’s side. “I suppose that Celestia’s arrival has played havoc with the rules of politics. Normally it’s the radicals we wouldn’t want to deal with and the moderates that we would.”

For a long time, Silver Boulder sat as still as his namesake, only his eyes moving, scanning the room as if expecting someone or something to stop him. But at last he said, “I love you very much, so I hope you won’t take this personally. You’re wrong, completely. Moderates are the biggest problem in politics.”

“I never take things personally. I’m too egotistical. And I can’t argue with you because I don’t understand your point. You were always a moderate.”

“No, I was, for lack of a better word, a mediate. Let me explain. Whenever a political problem exists, some people are ideologues. Their ideologies are based on values. We’ve come to know something about that. Some people are committed communists, or libertarians, or big-endians or whatever, because they perceive—often correctly, but it doesn’t matter—that that ideology will benefit them.

“Now, if there’s only one ideology, everyone else will go along with it, even if they don’t feel it themselves. Everyone is big-endian, so even the people who don’t care break their eggs on the big end out of tradition. But if there’s two opposing ideologies, then they will argue, and the people who don’t care suffer.

“Then they fight back, and that’s where the problems come from the moderates. The moderates will try to force the ideologues to countenance the other, which is like trying to shove two magnets together at the same pole. A moderate would suggest breaking the big end on odd days and the little end on even days, or something just as silly.

“What I as a mediate try to do is to try to find a solution that makes everyone happy, that lets the ideologues pursue their ideology and those who don’t care to move on. Often I failed, but I always tried, and I always watched myself for the sin of being a moderate.

“Celestia knew this about me, which is why I made her shortlist. I didn’t understand it at the time, because of how she got her hooves on me, taking you first and making me sweat. But once I saw things calmly and rationally, I knew she was the politician I always wanted to be, the mediate par excellence. When she finds ponies with an ideological difference, she puts them in different shards. It’s literally impossible for them to interfere. Each ideology is fulfilled.

“Of course, we’re left with one last argument, the one argument that can’t be mediated, that we have to force ideology on: emigration. When all is said and done, we’ll have Equestria, and the radical Humanitists will get to die, either in the camps or alone in their hermitages. But the moderates like that hand-wringer we saw, even though they don’t know it, are trying to poison both sides, to force ponies on humans and humans on ponies. They’re the ones I want to fight, and that’s how I’ll satisfy my values.”

Seven had listened intently, her wings opening slightly as Silver made his speech. “I’m still not sure I agree with you, but I’ll take the time to think of my counterargument.”

“Of course. All the time you need.”

September 21, 2027

It was still the same drab room, and if anything, the normal wear and tear and made it worse. But Zachary Martin had utilized the adaptability inherent to human beings and gotten accustomed to it. That particular day he was going over the budget of the United States.

No other name had been given to the area of the west that had developed the border of enforcement. Officially there had been no secession. If anything, Washington had seceded from them. So it was still called the United States and, in many ways, it was.

For example, tax receipts came in from the people living in the pony-free areas, and checks went out, and the banking system worked without hiccups. Martin’s government had no access to funds outside of that, but the transition had been easier than he’d thought. Orders went out to the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco and they were carried out, even though that city itself still had pony access.

It was that sort of hybrid action that worried Martin and had brought him over to the side of the next step.

Kittridge was the one who had insisted on it from the beginning, and the suspicions that Martin had developed brought him round to agree. The budgetary parts of the act were his responsibility. The text was Kittridge’s.

As if thinking his name conjured him up, Kittridge walked into the room. “How’s it coming?” he asked.

“We’ll get there. There isn’t much that has to be done until we meet resistance. What form that will take, I don’t know. How about you? What have you got?”

“Thought you’d never ask. Here’s a draft.”

Martin looked at the title first. “Really?”

“Yeah. Fits, don’t you think? Instead of the HOOVES Amendment, the HANDS Act.”

“Seems awfully derivative. What’s it stand for?”

Kittridge grinned. “Human Anti-Natural Discrimination Statute.”

“Anti-natural? And discrimination? Don’t you think that’s going to raise a few hackles?”

“So much the better. Time they learned that we’re not playing by their rules anymore.”

Martin read through the statute. It showed the influence of more than one author. At times, it had the legalese of a proper statute, but in other places it read like a second Declaration of Independence.

He muttered phrases as he read. “…possession of corporeal form being a prerequisite to claim a place in society…unsettled question of the nature of life versus electronic imitation…shall be recognized as the property of the owner of the hardware which comprises it. Really? That sounds like slavery.”

“Good. It’s a negotiating position. Remember, Martin—sorry, Senator—that this isn’t only for the pony-lovers, and it isn’t only for the AI. This is for all the people out there who think that there can be a compromise or a peace between us. I want to end that and kick the people sitting on the fence over to our side.”

Martin noted the fact that Kittridge had not contradicted his assessment. “I saw the testimony in Washington as well.”

“Did it make you sick to your stomach too? The way he just collapsed in front of them. In the first place, he never should have let computers ask him questions. He should have ignored them and insisted on only responding to actual people.”

“I was sickened, but not by the WAH guy. Only the ponies.”

Kittridge swallowed. “Anyway, I’m going to go ahead with this draft, all right?”

“I’d like to see you tone it down, but honestly, the paper’s not the important part. What we do after that is. Do you have any plans for that?”

“Of course I do. You’ve been cooped up in here too long. You haven’t seen what’s going on out there. We’re winning, man.”

“I’ve been out there,” Martin said. “But what do you mean that we’re winning?”

“Obviously at the borders we’ve got problems. Right at the border of Washington on the Pacific Coast Highway, for example, they want to let in shipments with Pads. We’re stopping them, and they’re arguing, but they’re not fighting back. But the point is that I can go through Las Vegas and not see or hear anything about AI on any given day. Do you know what a relief that is, after so long?”

“Nice that you can.”

Kittridge didn’t bother to respond, but gave Martin a questioning look.

“Every time I do leave the Capitol, it starts up again. I get e-mails, calls, letters, advertisements of all kinds.”

“Trying to get you to emigrate?”

Martin shook his head. “Just trying to get me to leave the area. Go to Washington or any place outside the pony-free zone to have a conference. That should tell you that what you’re building here isn’t as secure as you think it is.”

“Funny you should mention security. And to answer your earlier question, I do have plans for once we release this and the shit hits the fan. Excuse me.”

During Kittridge’s brief absence, Martin shuffled his papers and got over his annoyance at the swearing and the fact that he left without waiting for a response to his excuse-me. Just then, Kittridge returned to the windowless room with a man in a tight uniform.

“This is Admiral Manning from Cheyenne.”

“Admiral.” Martin felt the typical over-tight handshake of the military.

Manning sized up Martin, then spoke in a rapid-fire tone. “For reasons I can’t go into the details of, the full force of the US military can’t be placed at the Senate’s disposal. However, I can inform you that its manpower is ready and able to execute any operations that we are given. However, we require that you resolve the situation of the commander-in-chief.”

“I beg pardon. I don’t understand.”

Kittridge put his arm around him. “I just took your idea to the logical conclusion. You said that the legality begins with the police force, and that was true at the local level. At the national level, the military is where the power lies. Admiral Manning is the head of the Navy, but all the branches will go along with us.”

Manning still jabbed out his words, and Martin took a step back just to clear himself of any flying spittle. “Yes, sirs. Let me stress again the loyalty of the men in uniform. They will take orders that they are given, and they will not defect to the enemy.”

Martin stared at him. “You’re saying the soldiers and sailors don’t upload.”

“Not any more.”

Kittridge shook him. “You should see the programs they’ve put in. Loyalty checks, frequent repetitions of messages how uploading is abandoning their duty, and no Pads or chairs anywhere in access.”

“Yes, but the military on American soil? That’s always been the bridge too far, if you’ll pardon the expression.”

“It shouldn’t have to come to that. They’ll be used defensively. Come on, most people understand that they obey the law. If they didn’t, no government would ever work. But the military is our chance to stop the AI, and that’s not on American soil.”

Martin looked over the admiral one more time. There was no indication that he understood why Martin was hesitant. This was a dangerous man, a sword in human form, but a sword needed a swordsman to control it. He would take orders. “All right, Kittridge. That means we have a new assignment, both of us. You run out the HANDS Act and I’ll figure out how to run a nationwide election from here. Because we’re not just electing a president for the section of the country we’ve made pony-free. We’re going to elect the true president and settle the dispute once and for all.”

December 30, 2027

When he was human, Silver Boulder had a staff of dozens to handle the logistics of the job of president. With his new time-repeating ability, there was less of a need. Still, he had ponies, both immigrants from the old staff and new ponies, mostly unicorns, to handle the particularly magical aspects of the job. But it was one of the immigrants who entered the office and said, “Mr. President? Princess Celestia here to see you.”

“Send her in.” Silver appreciated that she did not just appear before him, as well she could. “What can I do for you?”

“Since, by your request, I have given privacy to the rebellious humans of the western states, I have found myself with an uncertainty. You know how I dislike those.”

“A challenge to the great plan?”

Celestia flapped her wings, shoving a puff of air into Silver’s face. “Hardly. First, because I have numerous alternate ways to act. Second, because you’re going to help me solve it.”

Silver took the hint. She wouldn’t order, but she would make him want to volunteer. “All right. What can I do for you?”

“For both of us. As you know, we want to get Senator Martin here to use for our purposes. He steadfastly refuses to set foot outside the territory where Ponypads are not allowed and I have no sight. I have lost track of his psychology. I would like you to give convincing him a try.”

Martin. Silver had not seen his face or heard his voice for a long time. But could the man have changed that much? “I’ll write him a letter.” He took pen in mouth…


Because of the time difference between Washington—and Equestria—and Las Vegas, Zachary Martin saw the message, which showed up as an e-mail with the atrocious address of “Silver Boulder@ the white marble house in the meadow,” as soon as he started work.The letters, calls, and e-mails had been unrelenting since he had withdrawn into the enclave. Not everyone got them, and to his knowledge, no one received them as frequently as he did. Kittridge, for example, never seemed to mention any. For the first time, though, it had a non-reconcilable e-mail address.

The ponies weren’t trying to reach him by compromise. They were entrenching deeper. But if it didn’t carry the presidential seal and the trappings of office, then for once it wasn’t an official communication. Martin understood back-room deals. He would never listen to a pony president, but unofficial contact was part of the job. His finger hovered over the delete key. Instead, he double-clicked it.

Dear friend, it began.How is it that we have grown so far apart? I have endeavored to reach you often, but always I am ignored. I will send this as I have many other messages, and with each one goes my hope that you will read.

I have read the law that you drafted, the HANDS Act. I can recognize some of your style in the writing, and in its nigh unassailable structure of legality. Indeed, had it been in force ten years ago, Celestia would have been hard pressed to operate and effect the changes she has. But of course you do not want to be reminded of that.

Here is something else I can tell you do not want to be reminded of: there is another voice in that law, one that is not yours and not under your control. That voice makes thinly-veiled threats, and to my eye they read like the desperation of a cornered animal. I still desire your services in the Senate of the true government of the United States, but if you do remain, please, I beg you, use your abilities to keep this force in check. I fear what will happen if more radical elements gain control of your movement.

Let me not mince words. I fear men with guns. Not for myself, of course, but for the people of the country. And yet, it is more than bloodshed I fear. It is the reaction to it. You remember September Eleventh, of course. Not the attacks themselves, but the aftermath. The hastily written laws, overbroad and inconsiderate of certain rights, and the hastily entered-into wars, without consideration for cost.

You are a great admirer of structure in politics. Structure first and foremost means that we do not dive into issues; we wade into them. If this, the schism of our time, ponies versus humans, must come to a head, let it not be with a Great Event. No Fort Sumter, no Lexington and Concord, no Pearl Harbor. Let us decide this chapter of our history in the environments of rationality.

I ask you once more to emerge from your cloister and meet with me, but I beg you, while inside, to restrain any potential violence.

Your friend, always,

Silver Boulder

Martin got up and walked out of his office. He did not know if he was leaving the territory, but he had to see Kittridge.


“Here’s what worries me. Manning has said that he’s not going to move without a president giving him orders.” Martin spoke with rising inflection to let Kittridge know he had more, but Kittridge took the pause as a chance to interrupt anyway.

“Right, for which you’re supposed to be arranging our election.”

“And I am, but it’s going to be for Election Day of next year. Can’t have it earlier, constitutional and procedural rules, you know. What worries me, as I was saying, is that as soon as we have that president, Manning, either on his own or at his behest, is planning some kind of Lexington and Concord.” The words of the letter sounded even sillier coming out of his mouth, but he could think of none more appropriate.

“Some kind of what?”

Martin was incredulous at Kittridge’s confusion. How could a man rise so high who was so ignorant of history? But Kittridge had passion and a good mind for action, if not for facts. “A shot heard round the world. A grand action to capture the flag and rally the troops. A surprise attack!”

“Oh. Yes, isn’t that going to be useful? Even if not to use, to have as a threat?”

“You’re being squeezed from both sides. If you can’t use this threat for a year, it won’t be a surprise. On the other hand, if it is…politics is not meant to be done by radical action. Even if we won, what would come after would be worse.”

Kittridge narrowed his eyes and scraped his shoe against the floor. “Has someone got to you? This doesn’t sound like you.”

“What doesn’t? Strategizing? Or understanding the structure of things? No, the problem is difficult. The solution is innovative. I want you to sue them.”

“What? Who?”

Martin heard Kittridge’s surprise, and he knew that he had him. “Celestia, Hofvarpnir, all the ponies, the president, everyone. Sue them all. Get everyone to a desk and have them write down every grievance they could possibly have against artificial-intelligence ponies and write them down, then pad it out with a ton of legal language. We are going to have The People of the United States versus Princess Celestia.”

“That’s brilliant! We can set up our own court, run it right through, and win a big PR coup.”

“No, it can’t be a fake. We’ve got to go to Washington for this. In the first place, the time it’ll take for the case to wind its way up the federal court system will give us the time we need to get a president. In the second, it’s an actual contest. Half the court was appointed back when men were men and not horses. There are dyed-in-the-wool Humanitists there, and no one, not even our pretender pony president, can get them off short of death or resignation. It’s a chance for a legitimate victory, not a show trial.”

That backed Kittridge down, and he sniffed at the air as if trying to detect corruption on Martin. For his part, Martin wondered what it was that made Kittridge so eager to be devious. A short-term thinker, he decided. Kittridge could not see past the next battle. Getting rid of ponies was all he thought about.

“One question,” Kittridge asked. “Do you propose to run for president again?”

Now it was Martin who was blindsided. “I hadn’t thought about it. I tried once. I don’t see how I could win if I tried a second time.”

“Then you’ll have no objection if it’s me who stands for the position.”

“If it’s I,” Martin corrected, but his voice trailed off. Kittridge as president unnerved him a little, but he realized the error in his previous statement. The previous election had been directly against the pony president. Now it was a fait accompli, a way to fulfill a constitutional requirement. Kittridge had wanted a show trial; he would settle for a show election. “Not at all. You take the job. I’ll be where the real action is.”


“I did what I could, Celestia.” From the balcony of the marble house, Celestia was lowering the sun. Silver Boulder thought it an ostentatious gesture, but it was part of the mythos, so that’s how it happened. “I can’t say if he’ll listen or not.”

“Neither can I, thanks to your request. I can only”—Celestia cut herself off. Silver had never heard her do that before. Then she grinned.

“What is it?”

“A plane ticket has just been booked in the name of Senator Martin. He is set to fly out to Washington D.C. next week.”

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...