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Since a whole two(2) people have asked for it, here's the official out and about in the equestrian kingdom "ask me stuff and I'll try answer it" blog about anything you don't understand, didn't get, want to know about or what have you to do with the aforementioned story. Meta-questions also welcome. Stuff that happened off screen is welcome. Wild mass guessing is totally okay.
To start, let's see:
The year is pretty indeterminate, but we can guess it's 22xx or at the earliest 21xx. A very late 20xx is not off the cards, but... unlikely. There are, however, people who come from 20xx (or even earlier) as both rejuvenation and relife technologies exist and are safe, secure and affordable.
That's another thing: there isn't really any money. It still kind of exists, but most people have no real use for it. People do jobs and get paid, but if you don't do a job and don't get paid, you just don't have as much pull with the system. It's somewhat reputation based, and somewhat merit based. The AI's that are absolutely everywhere take care of all the sums behind the scenes, so you don't have to. You can't really check your bank balance without consulting an oracle because money flows from place to place according to various vicarious influences, but you can ask an AI to tell you what sort of extra plushy niceties you can have.
This is the future, so we're living in a post-scarcity world - another reason for not only the end of money, but the requirement to have something more flexible and controlled to replace it. Makerblock authority chains endow the end-users of makerblocks (basically advanced 3d printing) the ability to print more or less anything they want, including other printers. This is a vicious circle which has to be nipped in the bud before some idiot gets the idea to print himself up an entire jumbo jet, uses up a bunch of hard to get (relatively speaking) base materials and annoys a lot of people who suddenly can't get to Honolulu because the required spare parts are delayed a month. Hence beyond a customisable and wide set of base needs and wants being seen to, extras cost, well, extra.
You get more stuff when you do more stuff for other people, which is strictly but also loosely converted into a reputation/merit-based currency which can be freely and easily traded via goods, services, barter and gifting.
Oh, and I mentioned those AI's? Yeah, they're everywhere. Literally everywhere - almost all people are wired to the gills with a neocortex which overlays on top of, interfaces with and enhances the standard human-level meat-based brain. They act as an interface layer between the remaining animal part of your self (if there is any) and the outside world, including your own body. The outside world, in this case, is referred to as "the ordinality" because it's really a series of interconnected realities each as authentic as the last, each with their own rules, regulations, physical laws, properties, inhabitants, geography, topology... you get the idea. And a citizen of the ordinality proper can travel to any of these freely, more or less. Some 'worlds' require adherence to a particular genotype (or set of genotypes), which means temporarily inheriting (or permanently if one decides to franchise and create an alter ego or avvy) a physical form appropriate for the world you're in.
And whilst a lot of people do franchise - most, perhaps - it's fairer to say that everyone has an avvy, or avatar, which forms an alternate personality extension of their own selves. An avvy can be something as simple as a 'physical' avatar with a few behavioral modifications for quadrupedal motion (or even hexa- or more) right up to an entire alternative personality with his or her own history, friends and alignments.
With avvies and a neocortex, a 'single human' of the future is more like a small group of people from today, hooked up with intelligent agents, constantly online, updating presence data, schedules, instant messaging, memory backups and more. A human of this future, whatever they look like, spends almost as much time out of their head as in it, which is a good thing too because when the inevitable fatal injury occurs, it all has to be put back together whole. Thankfully, the memory banks are not only sacrosanct but pretty much impervious to attack, protected as they are by multiple backups, checkups, cyphers and certificates. It's not impossible, but you'd have more luck trying to persuade a hurricane to change course by breaking wind at it from point blank range.
Between the memory banks and a person lies their eigenwall, think of it as a firewall for the mind. It allows traffic in and out, but mediates access between upper and lower levels, keeping the core personality safe at all costs. If an eigenwall is breached, we really are talking about identity theft. And replacement.
Of course, it gets complicated when humans trait, or take on the traits of other creatures, both real and imagined, possible and not. Most traits are relatively simple and cosmetic - claws, fur - but some are more intrusive, like a functional tail. Some are personality changing in scope, and these are either highly frowned upon when experimental, or not undertaken lightly. Some of the most common are traits to do with certain holoshows - these are often animals, or augmented humans, and are a common sight around even smaller towns and cities.
One of these common traits is, of course, my little pony, where humans get themselves changed into relatively large (larger than the show canon) ponies, large enough to carry adult humans without too much effort or scraping of feet on the ground. They form the backbone of a widespread, cheap, cheerful and effective transport union which earns not only the ponies themselves special consideration from the makerblocks, but their patron AI, Celestia, the first of the fifteen great AI super-intelligences, worldwide renown.
And this is where I'll leave it... unless there are questions?
6 comments · 56 views
Yeah, that's right. Come back here and discuss after. Bring your friends*
EDIT: and lo, he said to me, "it is done".
I just published the last chapter and the epilogue, and marked it complete. Enjoy!
*you know, a really, really good present would be to see updating this story, finishing it in fact, getting me to 1000 followers. I'd, like, have to buy a cake and shit.
8 comments · 73 views
I'm alive, and I'm relatively hale and hearty. I've also been incredibly busy... writing the last chapter(s) of out and about.
Imagine my surprise when, as I finished up chapter 10, I found fimfic of the opinion that it was over 12k words long. Imagine my surprise, also, when I discovered that I'm nearly at a kilopone of followers? I'm humbled and honoured, and wondering if a) I'll actually hit or even break 1000, and whether I'll manage to get there before or after I post the cleaned up final chapters.
All I've got left is the epilogue. It's so close I can taste it. And after that, I'm going to be writing the final chapters of king of diamonds. At 50k words until it's finished, though, that one's going to be taking a while.
It's been a weird year for me, over all. Just about a year and a month ago, I was let go from my old work. It still stings that I gave 13 years of my life to a company I respected, only to be buttfucked by a bunch of indians in a false-flag operation seemingly designed to fire as many people as possible, as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
I'm most of my way towards my new occupation - maybe, at least - so I do have a destination in mind... I'm just not sure if I want to get there or not.
Thanks for sticking with me, I know this is taking longer than you might expect or hope, but I am getting there.
Also, if anybody wants to help edit the last three chapters of out and about, send me a pm, I'll give you the link.
6 comments · 150 views
I've been sick for the last three weeks. Frelling magnificent.
11w, 3dthat third thing: c25k6 comments · 87 views
Told you I was scatterbrained... I finally remembered what that third thing was that I've been doing. It's called 'c25k'.
C25K stands for 'couch to 5k', as in 'couch potato to 5 kilometer runner'. It's supposed to lead you from being a fat slob sitting in front of the television to be able to run for 30 minutes - or roughly five kilometers - in about nine weeks.
I've just started week 3, but I've been doing this for about five weeks... blame school holidays ending, trips to Estonia and some really shitty weather for making me repeat (not abandon or postpone) weeks 1 and 2. I have to say though, I think it works. It's scary when you start a new week, and the first attempt at each new week is always worse than the one before it... but I'm doing okay. I'm running the distance.
If you've ever wanted to get into shape, but just don't know how, then this is the easiest, cheapest way to get into shape I've found yet: all you need is an mp3 player and a pair of sneakers. And clothes - most people look at you oddly if you're not dressed.
Follow this link and download the podcasts, do what the nice lady says and you'll be on your way in no time.
Part 1 - Up In The Air
by Midnight Shadow
An MLP:FiM fanfic
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit fan-made work of prose. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the property of Hasbro. Please support the official release.
“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, for real Twilight?” asked Spike, hopping from foot to foot, “You're not kidding?!”
“I'm not! We're going on a trip with the princesses!” squealed Twilight happily, bouncing around the library like Pinkie on a chocolate high, “Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!”
“And we're really going to the Leviathania, to the Draconic Realm, right to the capitol?”
“Yes! We are indeed!”
Spike stopped mid-hop and looked up, frowning at Twilight, “Promise you're not going to trick me in any way, shape or form?”
“After what you did last time when you tricked me at the dentists? No!”
“No you don't promise or no you won't trick me?”
Twilight laughed, “I promise this is no trick Spike. We're going to D’long Kerk! To the Draconic Capitol City! Now, it's a business trip and you're my assistant, so you're going to have to promise to be on your very best behaviour at all times. I want you to know I asked Celestia very nicely to let you come too and she was delighted to extend the invitation to both of us - so be sure to behave!”
“I will Twilight!” Spike's eyes were shining and he clasped his forepaws together, with a look of adoration for the purple unicorn on his features.
“No setting things on fire. No eating the furniture...”
“That was just that one time! They said it was a three-piece sweet!”
“Suite, different spelling...I was so embarrassed.”
“Oh boy,” said Spike, ignoring Twilight’s rolling eyeballs, “I'm going home!”
Twilight’s head jerked around and she looked at Spike, her ears drooping and tail dragging as she smiled weakly, “I...I thought this was your home, Spike.”
“I’m going to go eat real draconic rubies, and get a proper sand-bath and I’m gonna chat with the lady dragons and...” Spike stopped his monologue about everything he'd do and see when he got there as he finally noticed Twilight’s forlorn, hurt expression. He looked up at his teacher and friend and sighed, “That's not what I mean, Twilight. It's just...” he put his paws together and rubbed them, bashfully, “I'm a dragon in a land of ponies. I've never really been around other dragons – at least not ones that weren't trying to eat me or set Equestria on fire. It'll be nice to mingle with my own kind for once.”
“I'm...happy for you, Spike.” said Twilight finally, with a nod, nuzzling her number one assistant fondly. She stopped, mid-appreciation, and her ears perked up, “Oh! I've got so much packing to do! Spike!”
He sighed, “Coming, Twilight.”
Twilight yawned as she moved through the empty streets of Greater Canterlot on her way to the airport. The princesses had decided to catch the early-morning flight to the Draconic Realm, which meant Twilight had to travel even earlier.
Truth be told, it was the only flight. On her back were two hefty panniers and a sleepy baby dragon. Oh his back was a rucksack, and she happened to know his blankie had been hidden at the bottom along with Teddy.
She was pulling a small cart with more suitcases on it – inside these were all the formal attire she and Spike had been instructed to bring. Ponies didn't tend to wear much in the way of clothing, but when they did, it took up plenty of space.
She'd boarded the four-pegasus chariot the previous night from Ponyville to make sure she got there in time. Somehow, despite the fact there was only the one stop between Canterlot and Ponyville, her luggage - which had travelled in a separate chariot - had been diverted to Hoofington. Several hours of waiting later and she'd given up and gone to the donut shop to drown her sorrows in sugar-coated light pastry. Several hours after that, she’d taken back her old room at Canterlot Castle. Her luggage had travelled to Stalliongrad - without her.
She was pretty sure she didn’t like traveling.
The sun rose over the newly-constructed airport just north of Canterlot, up in the Mountains of the Moon. The paint was still wet on a few of the benches – this had already given several ponies a new colour scheme and cutie-mark. Twilight had seen the warning signs so she’d been saved the embarassment of being turned into a multi-coloured zebra wannabe. Zecora could pull off stripes, Twilight didn’t think they suited her.
Twilight yawned again and came to a halt, stretching awkwardly, joints popping, “Wake up Spike, we're here.”
“Huh? Wha'? Mommy?”
Twilight giggled, “No Spike, we're at the airport. You've got to get ready to identify yourself.”
“But...I already know who I am.” Spike was tired, “Can't I introduce myself instead?”
“I mean you have to show them you’re you!”
“Well who else would I be? You’re not making much sense, Twilight...”
The arguing carried on right the way to the check-in desk which was ponied by an officious-looking earth-pony with an ink-stamp as a cutie-mark. A single velvet rope and three bollards stood in front of it. Twilight trotted up to the desk, “Hi, I’m Twilight Sparkle, traveling to the Leviathania on the seven-thirty?”
“Tickets please.” said the earth-pony in a friendly manner. She smiled winningly.
“Oh, yes, right.” Twilight fished them out of her panniers and presented them to the attendant, who scanned them with what appeared to be a practiced eye.
“These aren’t first class, you have to go to the economy-class desk.”
“But...” Twilight looked around, “this is the only desk!”
“You have to queue there,” said the attendant, pointing three feet behind Twilight and two feet left.
“Next please!” said the attendant, and looked behind Twilight, ignoring her.
The purple unicorn frowned. She was quite sure she hated traveling.
Twilight pulled her wagon back around in a complicated circle and approached the check-in desk from the correct side of the ropes.
“Next! Next please!” said the attendant impatiently.
Twilight gritted her teeth and spoke through them with a very, very bright smile, “Twilight Sparkle, plus one, for D’long Kerk on the seven-thirty.”
“Ah, nice to see you this morning, Miss Sparkle, how was your trip so far?”
“Just...” an eye twitched, “just perfect, thank you.”
“Any luggage?” the mare asked.
Twilight looked behind her, really tempted to say ‘no’ but she choked it back, “Yes. Plenty.”
“Any liquids, explosives, poisons, weapons, magic charms, totems, sleeping spells, curses or hexes?”
“I...er...do spell books count? I plan to do a little light reading on the way...”
The attendant blinked, “Section forty-two clearly prohibits...”
“And...I’m a unicorn. I think my horn counts as a weapon and a magic charm...and I’m quite sure I’m capable of creating sleeping spells, curses and hexes.”
The attendant trembled slightly. This hadn’t been in the manual. They’d been quite clear about these things, and yet...and yet...
Twilight face-hoofed. She really disliked traveling.
“Oh don’t worry my dear,” said Celestia with a chuckle as she escorted Twilight through the aiport away from Security and back to Spike, “Miss Orderly Porter was just doing her job.”
“They locked me up! They were going to set fire to my books!”
“Just being thorough!”
“They called me a national security hazard!”
“That was a bit off, I do have to say. Come come, it’s all been sorted out. We’ll be getting on the void-ship soon.”
The princess trotted off to further organize their passage, mingle with the commoners, kiss foals and generally be a princess. Twilight left to get her panniers back before some over-zealous officials ‘neutralized’ them.
Twilight’s main set of luggage had been stowed in the hold and they’d left her with the carry-ons. Spike jumped up from the uncomfortable seat where he’d been kicking his heels, shouldered his rucksack and hopped up on Twilight’s back. He yawned, it was infectious and Twilight yawned. They approached the security gate, the official behind it tried to stifle the yawn that was still fighting for supremacy of his muzzle.
Spike eyed the structure suspiciously, “That’s a security gate?”
“Why yes, Spike, you have to go through it to get on the void-ship.”
“It’s not very secure,” said Spike, hopping off Twilight’s back and trotting up to it. He walked around it in a circle, causing concerned glares from a couple of pegasus guards. It was a free-standing structure like a door-frame. Without a door. It didn’t seem to do much but go ‘beep’.
“Spike, sweety? Please stop that...” said Twilight, smiling brightly at the guards, “Spike!”
“Oh alright.” said Spike. He came back through the illustrious portal the wrong way. It made a long, loud, insulted-sounding ‘beeeeep!’.
Twilight face-hoofed. She hated traveling.
“Okay short-stuff, put your carry-on luggage through the scanner. Do you have any metal or runic equipment on you? No?” asked a security guard-pony.
Spike shook his head, “Does it look like I have pockets?”
The small dragon unshouldered the bag and put it in the tray. The pegasus guard pushed it through to an open-ended box where a bored-looking unicorn examined it with his magic, horn glowing briefly. Spike looked at the tray with his bag on it, expectantly.
“It’s clean.” said the unicorn finally. Spike took it out of the runed box and hopped through the gate with it.
“You’re supposed to...” the guard sighed, his hoof pointed to a sign that read ‘please collect luggage AFTER progressing through the security gate’. He sighed, feeling completely ignored, “Go on then, move along...your turn next, toots.”
Twilight put her bags on the tray using her magic, and the bored unicorn repeated the maneuver.
“Have you got any metal or runic equipment on you?” repeated the guard.
Twilight lifted her front hoof, “How about these?” she said as she showed her horse-shoes.
The guard blinked, “Can you take them off?”
“Can...can I take off the metal horse-shoes which are nailed securely to my hooves? No, no I can’t.”
The guard looked at Twilight. Twilight looked at the guard.
“Come come, Twilight, it could happen to anypony,” said Celestia, mollifying the distraught unicorn as they trotted together towards the ship. Twilight was once more a free unicorn, without the threat of a lengthy stay in a cell, or of being banished, or of being locked up in a place where she was banished to.
“They put me in jail! Again! They all but called me a terrorist!” wailed Twilight, half wishing the ground would open up and swallow her, half wishing the ground would open up and swallow them.
Twilight really hated traveling.
The docking-gate and passport-control point was a simple desk set in front of the gang-plank to the strange ship behind it. Twilight had never seen anything like it, and wondered how long it had taken to build. Normal ships floated on water. Airships floated in the air. This was...something else. It was a void-ship, built to travel between Realms. The void-ship was a mix of sweeping curves and arches, and solid blocky compartments. It reminded her of a painting by a famous artist who drew impossible structures. It looked something like the ships that ponies used to travel upon the Equestrian Mane...and something like a bird that had exploded.
The docking-gate, in contrast, was boringly ordinary. It was ponied by a familiar-looking official. She was passing Celestia and Luna onboard with great deference for the living embodiments of Day and Night.
Spike hopped off his suddenly-recalcitrant ride and fished out his passport from wherever he kept things like that. Twilight blinked; she still didn’t know how he did it and didn’t really want to. The passport was a scroll with a picture of Spike himself on it. Twilight turned white as she realised he’d had used picture taken of him sporting a number twenty-five moustache. She held her breath for the inevitable hue and cry, but none came. Surprisingly they let him onboard. Twilight was next. She trotted up to the desk and presented her ticket.
The official scanned it, “you’re not in first class...”
Twilight hung her head, and turned around, walking the three feet back and two feet left again, before approaching the same desk from the other side of the rope, “Why did you let Spike through then?”
“It’s our company policy to make the trips of the young, old or infirm as pleasant as possible,” said Orderly, primly, “are we going to be having any further trouble from you?”
Twilight sighed, “No, no. Here. Here’s my ticket.”
“Hmm, your ticket is in order. Where’s your passport?”
“But...but...I...” Twilight’s heart sank, how could she have forgotten it? Did Spike take it? She’d completely forgotten her own documents whilst worrying about Spike’s.
“Passport, please.” the stewardess repeated, bright smile never wavering.
“Oh no...oh no, I packed it! It’s in the hold!”
Orderly Porter looked at Twilight. Twilight grinned hopefully. Now she knew she hated traveling.
“What seems to be the problem here?” asked Celestia smoothly, appearing almost silently behind the female steward. Twilight opened her eyes carefully, expecting once more to be swarmed by winged guards in uniform.
“This...this trouble-maker claims her passport is in the hold!”
“Can’t you fetch it?” asked Celestia mildly.
The official pouted, “It’s against company policy-”
“What if she had another passport?” suggested Celestia in a warm, friendly voice.
Twilight blinked, Orderly Porter screwed up her muzzle and scowled at Twilight, “It would have to be in the registered format...”
Celestia’s horn glowed and a parchment appeared in mid-air. On it was written ‘PASSPORT’ followed by various details about Twilight Sparkle.
“It would have to have a current picture.” sulked the official. A picture of Twilight, looking like she wished the ground would swallow her up, appeared.
“...And it would have to be dated appropriately and signed by the Passport Authority.”
“I believe I am the passport authority.” said Celestia with a smile, as she signed it, dated it and rolled it up to pass to Twilight. The purple unicorn gingerly held it out to Orderly Porter. The earth-pony scowled as she double and triple-checked all the details before hoofing it back.
“You may go through.”
Maybe, thought Twilight with a smug grin, I could get used to traveling after all.
The void-ship didn’t exactly fly. It didn’t exactly float. Instead, it drifted between dimensions from realm to realm. The inside was decked out in a curious mix of functional stowage for luggage and uncomfortable slow torture for passengers. Twilight and Spike had been given a Family Stall as Twilight had long since been named somewhere by the bureaucracy of Equestria as legal guardian of the scaly bundle of trouble. Twilight grumbled at the inadequacy of the quarters; she could barely turn around, had her backside jammed up against the rear wall if she wanted to reach the salt-lick and to top it off the water-trough was tepid. The complementary hay was stale and Spike was convinced the gems were inferior-grade glass.
Twilight fought with the harness. Despite her magic, she just couldn’t get it to fit properly. It said, in smug lettering, ‘one size fits all’. It lied.
The dragon wasn’t faring much better. Despite this being a Family Stall, there was no harnesses that seemed to fit him either. He sat sulking in a bridle that Twilight had adjusted as best she could. They’d been sternly warned that safety equipment had to be worn at all times, but especially for take-off and landing. She’d gone through the safety checklist. Twice.
“This is your Captain speaking,” said a friendly voice over the intercom, “Please keep your stall-ropes fastened on your halters at all time until I’ve turned off the safety-torch and pay attention to the safety demonstration.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow as a bored-looking pegasus trotted up the aisle that led throughout the ship. Somewhere back up the way the attendant had come were the princesses’ stalls.
The pegasus steward cleared his throat, “Thank you for traveling with Celestial Lines. We are sure this safety briefing will be useful and may save your life - or at least not prolong your suffering in the event of an emergency. Should the binding spells on this ship fail, it will be consumed by the Ravenous Dark and cease to exist within a scant few minutes. At this time it may be worthwhile for you to sit quietly and contemplate the meaning of your life and make peace with yourself before your existence is wiped from the face of this and all realities...”
“Twi?” whispered Spike as the pegasus droned on, pointing out exits they couldn’t see, that wouldn’t be much use in the netherworld between realms, and more safety equipment they weren’t allowed to touch that didn’t seem to help much until they were safely on the ground anyway.
“What?” she whispered back, not taking her eyes off the wildy-gesticulating pegasus as he mimed death by asphyxiation.
“If we’re going to die, why do they make us wear these halter-ropes? I’m not even a pony, it doesn’t fit!”
“I...I don’t know, Spike, but I’d rather not get in trouble!”
“If I may continue...” glared the attendant, realizing his most important duty of delivering the safety briefing was not only being ignored but interrupted. “Thank you...as I was saying, this class three-nineteen void-ship is fully equipped with an integrated audio-visual entertainment system which will be showing the inflight movie shortly. Attendants will be visiting you soon to serve you meals, drinks and a variety of snacks. Please wait until the captain has extinguished the safety-torch to remove your halters, and remember that all passengers must be firmly strapped in for take-off and landing, with all feeding troughs and water-bowls stowed in the upright position. Thank you.”
“Well,” said Twilight without a hint of irony, “I certainly feel safer.”
Take-off - there were scant few other words for it - was smooth with only the strangely sickening lurch as the flight spells engaged for indication. The safety-torch was extinguished and Spike shrugged himself out of the halter which hadn’t exactly fitted him in the first place,
“This is your Captain speaking,” said the same friendly voice over the intercom, “We are now traveling at a height of thirty thousand memes and at a rate of five hundred daydreams an hour. We should be at our destination in approximately...twelve hours relative time. If you look to your left, you can see the Great Grey Expanse, the void of everlasting nothing and the final destination for all lost souls. If you look to your right, you can also see the Great Grey Expanse, source of everlasting chaos, primeval font of creation and the final devouring maw of unreality. There is no temperature outside as we are not flying in atmosphere at present. Since I have extinguished the safety torches, please feel free to move about the ship but do keep the aisles clear as they will be the only possible exit-route in the event of an emergency situation which doesn’t immediately cause complete and utter annihilation.”
The pair opened the door to their joint family stall and went in search of the princesses.
On the way, they passed the facilities - which already had a queue - and a cheery looking device marked ‘Emergency Personnel Disintegrator Unit - For Use In Case Of Terminal Reality Dysfunction’. Twilight noted with a sigh the big red sign hung around it that said simply ‘OUT OF ORDER’.
Twilight found her quarry in First Class.
When the attendant refused to allow them entry, Celestia herself shooed the attendant out the way, “This is my faithful pupil Twilight Sparkle and she should be traveling First Class too, off you go now.”
The attendant glowered at Twilight, but stood aside. Twilight blushed as Spike leaped straight in to the luxurious facilities and started chomping on the precious gems in snack-bowls. These were the real deal, they even served strange bubbly liquid in crystal glasses! Spike wasn’t sure why, he threw the liquid away and savoured the flavour of real lead crystal.
“My dear pupil, for the flight back I will personally make sure you are accorded all rights and privileges possible, the same as myself and Luna.”
“Oh it’s no trouble, Princess.” stammered Twilight as she stepped carefully into the quarters.
“Indeed it isn’t. I won’t have a repeat of these sorts of problems. It’s not becoming. Isn’t that right, Luna?” Celestia turned to her younger sister, who was completely engrossed in a pile of papers and an odd device of wires and beads. Luna fiddled with it making clack clack clack noises as she shifted beads about.
“Luna! did you even listen to a word...honestly! I said you could bring some light entertainment for the trip! What do you call this?” the sun princess stamped a hoof angrily.
“It’s...” Luna looked up, eyes unfocused for a moment, “it’s my light entertainment...”
“It looks like the Canterlot tax code. And an abacus. Put it away!”
“No! Abacus is mine! He comes everywhere with me.” Luna defensively pulled the device closer, hugging it while glaring at her sister.
“He?” asked Twilight, realising as she closed the gap between the two princesses that she was intruding on the personal space of the usually-reclusive younger sister.
“Er...it. It’s a very useful and...and fun tool,” blurted the lunar princess, her ears splaying back nervously as she was confronted with her older sister’s pupil.
“Reforming the tax code is not entertaining!” snorted Celestia.
“It is too! Have you tried it?”
“I...” Celestia scowled at her younger sister, “Put it away!”
“Well alright,” sulked Luna, “but I’m keeping Abacus. He doesn’t like the dark.” she pushed a few beads across experimentally, clack clack clack, before she realised what she’d said, “I mean...I don’t want to lose him. It. Under the seats.”
Celestia watched her sister carefully for a few seconds as the dark blue winged unicorn started flicking beads again with an intent look of concentration on her muzzle. “...Are you reforming the tax code in your head?”
“I...might be.” replied Luna with a sniff, still flicking beads.
“Are you...are you using magic to scribe the changes?”
Luna was silent, staring fixedly at the abacus and defiantly flicking the beads from one side to the other as her horn glowed in fits and spurts.
“Oh-my-gosh-the-movie’s-on-look-at-that!” said Twilight, sputtering as she hoofed the runed remote, eyes flicking from sister to sister as each puffed up to start yelling at the other - a scrying orb fired into life and started blaring out moving pictures and sound.
Celestia turned her head and scowled, watching as ‘Die Herd 2 - Derp Harder’ came on. There was an odd cacophony of noise as Luna set her abacus upon a smaller pillow.
“Luna, dear,” asked Celestia in a patient maternal tone, “just what are you doing? Are you playing with Abacus again? You know it’s just a...a toy.”
“Abacus is not a toy! He...” Luna bit her lip, blushing, “I don’t want to lose him. It. Under the seats I mean, like I said, earlier.”
Luna resolutely adjusted the tool carefully, as if it were watching the show.
“Aba...oh good grief. Fine. If we’re going to play this...” Celestia stood up and went to her carry-on bag and extricated a blue soft-toy from it’s depths. She carried it reverently in her mouth and sat it on an adjacent pillow, making sure to seat it just right so the little blue stuffed winged unicorn was watching the orb.
Luna’s eyes lit up, “You did keep it! Even after I came back!”
“Yes, well...it gets cold at night,” said Celestia with a similar sniff to her little sister’s, “Little Luna keeps me warm.”
Twilight buried her head in her hooves as she pretended to be a part of the upholstery. Spike rushed back to their stall and returned a few moments later with a well-worn dog-eared cuddly pony of his own which he sat on the floor between Little Luna and Abacus. Celestia lifted it onto the pillow next to her own toy. Spike giggled into his claws as Celestia turned to watch the movie, blushing hotly.
Twilight fixed her eyes on the movie too. Not having such a contraption in her library, it was a new experience for her. Usually such devices were used for remote viewing of real ponies, events and places. Seeing the eventual crash-landing of a class three-nineteen voidship play out in high-definition colour and sound was more than a little unnerving.
“Uh, Princess?” she asked.
“Sshhh!” hissed Celestia, hoofing popcorn into her muzzle.
“I just wanted to ask...do these things...crash often?”
“Why no, dear, they’re the safest way of travelling. Now do hush up, this is the best bit.”
“Well okay, if you’re-” began Twilight. Unfortunately, she was interrupted by the ship bucking beneath her hooves and the safety-torch being re-lit.
“Sorry passengers, we seem to have hit a bit of memetic turbulence so buckle up!” reported the ever-cheery Captain’s voice over the intercom.
Twilight whimpered, chewing away at her hooves as she listened carefully to every twang and clunk of the ship fighting through the storm whilst the ship on-screen came apart in a riotous set of showy explosions.
Twilight was coming to the conclusion that travel really wasn’t all it had cracked up to be.
Eventually she slept. She woke up at some point to a cup of something resembling coffee, after which she was corralled back to her stall along with Spike for final approach. The dragon found himself being strapped into what they termed a foal-seat, and admonished sternly about how he should have said if the standard-issue halters didn’t fit. It was the most impractical creation he had seen; made for a pony foal, it lifted him at least a foot off the ground in a whole-body harness that went tight around his upper and lower torso and left his tail, legs and paws dangling. It was on a boom of sorts - which the stewardess reminded had to be stowed and secured for landing - that allowed for the easy feeding of baby and infant ponies.
“At this time, we’ll be serving the last snack before realm-fall. Would you or the little one be needing anything?” asked the steward with a snort, twitching her ears inquisitively.
“Well I’m hungry.” said Spike. Twilight shook her head.
“Alright, I’ll be right back...”
The steward returned a few minutes later with a large bottle held in her mouth which she put down next to Twilight before shutting and bolting the door with an ominous finality.
“What...is that?” asked Spike, pointing with his tail.
“I think that’s your snack.” said Twilight, giggling.
“Don’t tell me...company policy?”
Twilight rolled her eyes, “They do like doing things by the book.”
“Sounds like somepony I know.” sulked Spike, eyeing it as he made a decision, “Well? It’s getting cold, and I’m hungry!”
Twilight stepped off the ship on unsteady legs, blinking in sudden sunlight under a baking hot sun. She walked down the gang-plank with a dozing dragon on her back, taking her first few hoof-steps in a new world. Sizing up the border-control desk she was determined not to make the same mistake as before. She followed the signs for ‘economy’ and ‘foreign travellers’ and waited in the relatively short queue behind a host of strangely-dressed and stranger-shaped creatures. Some walked on four legs, some six, some even walked on two and had strange pink skin that looked highly unsuitable for such a climate.
As she stood tapping her hooves and humming to herself, it took her a few moments to realize that the impatient voice calling, “Hey! You there! Sir!” was a dragon trying to get the attention of not her, but Spike.
She nudged Spike awake with her nose, “Looks like they want to give you the special treatment.”
Spike blinked, yawned, stretched, and turned to look at the source of the voice, “What do you want?” he called.
“Sir, you’re in the wrong queue! Draconic nationals and their steeds are welcome in the express lane - your two attendants are already cleared for livestock entry!”
“Livest-” began Twilight, turning bright red, “Oh no...oh no no no, she’s going to send me to the moon...or put me in jail on the moon...”
“I’m sure it’s fine,” said Spike, “this is my country. Leave this to me. Hi-ho Twilight!”
“You don’t get to hi-ho Twilight me just because we’re...”
“Sir, if you’re having trouble with your steed after the trip, we can have Animal Welfare administer a sedative?” suggested the helpful check-in dragon.
“No, no,” said Spike savouring the reversal of fortunes, “that won’t be necessary. She’ll be alright. Won’t she?”
Twilight grumbled darkly but behaved, walking through the odd maze of ropes and bollards to stand before the express dignitary check-in desk.
“Okay sir, just make your mark here, here and here...good...sign for your steed, you’ll have to pay attention to the city ordinances listed in this short document, and you’re good to go. Your two other animals were already cleared by Animal Control and are stabled on the other side. We’ll have your luggage unloaded and you can hitch up shortly - just ask any of our attendants for help. Have a nice day, and may I take this opportunity to welcome you to the Draconic Realm!”
Spike dug his heels into Twilight who turned her head just enough to glare at him. He gave a nervous grin and flicked his eyes to the steward. Twilight rolled her eyes and trotted primly past.
It was going to be a long trip.
Onwards, to Part 2 (of episode 3)!
(which isn’t finished yet)