‘... yeah, I’m back at my car now, hang on a tick!’ Sparky said as she waved her MIP over the driver side door to unlock it. Sparky climbed inside and started the car up. As the holographic controls light up, Sparky reached over to the dashboard, holding the MIP over it and transferring the call into her car’s onboard computer.
‘HALP? Take us home please’, Sparky asked politely.
‘Of course Sparky’, the VI said in return as the car began to move.
Sparky turned her attention back to her call; a small holographic image of Dula Heartstrings had appeared on her dashboard, waiting patiently on hold for her to pick back up. After tapping at the console, Dula’s head turned towards her.
‘That’s for holding on’, Sparky said.
‘No problem’, Dula said as she adjusted her Republican Navy peaked cap. ‘Are you sure you can’t tell me anything more specific?’
Sparky sighed and shook her head. ‘Dula, I can’t, that’ll get me fired, I’m already going to get in trouble for talking to the crew as it is’.
‘You... talked? To the crew?’ Dula asked, raising an eyebrow.
‘Well, sort of talked, considering the time lag... they sent some data to be analysed, which I fed to the project VI, the VI gave recommendations, and I sent a message of the recommendation. Procedure would have been to get a senior systems analyst to come and read off the information, but instead, I read it off myself’, Sparky said.
‘You’re going to get into trouble for that? Doesn’t seem that bad if you’re just reading something off’, Dula asked raising an eyebrow in curiosity.
‘Yeah’, Sparky said, nodding her head in affirmation ‘I understand the idea of the procedure, it’s to keep anyone with a microphone from sending bad instructions... but I was just reading off the VI’s recommendations... and they kind of needed a response as soon as possible so...’ Sparky stopped herself, realising that she was about to let out more than she should. She looked back over at Dula’s hologram, the commodore was clearly waiting for her to slip up and say what she wanted to know. Sparky frowned at her friend. ‘Why do you want to know so badly?’ she asked.
Dula sighed. ‘The mission commander, Ice Wind? She’s an officer in the Republican Navy... we served together on the frigate ERS Thunderchild... and she’s a friend. I know she can handle herself, she trained for this mission, but unlike the open air, space is cold and unforgiving, especially for a pegasus. I appreciate the help, even though you couldn’t give me any specific information, knowing that they’re all fine... well, it’s not enough, but it’ll have to do until I get in through the proper channels, by that time the crew will have already returned home!’ Dula added with a chuckle. ‘Oh, and before I forget, be sure to tell Shortfuse Skydancer happy birthday, from me. Heartstrings out’, Dula finished with a polite nod as her hologram faded from view.
The rest of Sparky’s ride home was rather uneventful. While the number of cars on the road had skyrocketed thanks to the first shift letting out for full time employees, start and stop traffic jams were a relic of the past, onboard computer control linked to Ponyville’s traffic grid gave the automatic pilots the knowledge of how fast to go, what distance to maintain from the car in front, and when to start slowing down. SatNAV control was particularly important during peak hours. In fact, it was illegal to not use autopilots during the rush; as a result, motorways were incredibly safe and efficient means of transport.
Of course, there were occasions that some idiot would cause an accident for driving on the motorway without using the autopilot. These were rare, but when they did happen, they were devastating. The last time this had happened that Sparky knew of had been five years ago, and resulted in a hundred and fifty car pileup. The guilty party eventually received a sentence of twenty years in prison for dangerous criminal negligence, resulting in the deaths of five individuals, the worst such event in the history of the republic.
Sparky turned on her radio, finding herself in the middle of a song.
‘But the film is a saddening bore. Because I wrote it ten times or more! It's about to be writ again. As I ask you to focus on... sailors fighting in the dance hall. Oh man! Look at those cavemen go! It's the freakiest show... Take a look at the lawman! Beating up the wrong guy! Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know... He's in the best selling show...’
Sparky hummed along with the song as it played, closing her eyes and bobbing her head to the music. Suddenly her car powered down, and the music stopped playing, Sparky opened her eyes to discover that she was home. ‘You need to pay more attention’, Sparky said quietly to no one in particular as she opened up the door and hopped outside, trotting up to her front door and waving her MIP over a security panel to unlock the door. What a wonderful device, her MIP was. Whatever would she do without it?
Sparky pushed open the door and stepped inside. ‘Grandma V! I’m home!’ she called out.
‘Oh good!’ Grandma V called back from the living room. Sparky entered the room to discover her grandmother lying down on the sofa reading a book. A real, honest book printed on paper. Now those were rare. Mainstream books hadn’t been printed on paper in nearly thirty years. There were still a few hold out publishers that printed on paper for ponies that still preferred them. Nowadays, most ponies would get books by paid download via their internet to their MIP, otherwise, for the individual who preferred the feel of being able to hold something in their hooves, but couldn’t afford a book printed on paper, had the option of reading a holo book. While based on the same principles of holography used in computers and personal controls for cars, holo books, when opened, brought up a holographic display with the words printed on it. Add the perfect amount of contrast, and many people wouldn’t be able tell the difference between a paper book and a holo book by just looking at it. Holo books even had pages that could be turned. Obviously, these were marketed for nostalgia purposes, and while not as expensive as actual paper books, could certainly cost the user quite a bit of money, depending on the title of course.
‘Hi Grandma’, Sparky said as she gave her a hug.
‘Hello Sparky!’ Grandma V said, giving her one in return. ‘Shortfuse stopped by not long after you went to work and dropped something off for you for tonight’.
Sparky raised an eyebrow in confusion. ‘Um... pardon? It’s Shortfuse’s birthday and she’s giving me something? I didn’t think that’s how it worked...’
‘Oh I said the same thing, but she did say that seeing you with it would be gift enough’, Grandma V said with her mad mare grin.
Sparky looked at her grandmother nervously. ‘Grandma I’m scared now...’
‘Oh relax! It’s nothing bad!’ Grandma V said with a grin. ‘I put it upstairs on your bed; you should go up and take a look’.
Now Sparky was more worried. She reluctantly trotted over to the stairs and went up into her room. Inside she found that the item in question sitting on her bed was a small white box. She picked up the box with her telekinesis and opened it up and discovered a dress neatly folded up inside. Sparky sighed out of relief. Knowing Shortfuse, she had expected it to be some kind of practical joke, like a boxing glove on a spring that would punch her in the face when the box opened up. Jokes like that were things that Shortfuse found funny.
Sparky set the box back on her bed and started undoing the buttons of her utility vest, and allowing it to slide off onto the floor. She then pulled the dress out of the box and began to put it on, which would have been a major miracle had she been any race but unicorn, as the dress had a number of bows that she had to tie to hold it in place. She finished putting the dress on and was about to head into the washroom to take a look in the mirror to see how she looked, when something about the box itself caught her eye. She picked it up and examined it closely, discovering a brand label.
Sparky didn’t claim to know a lot about fashion; actually, she knew practically nothing about it. She knew what she liked, and allowed for form to follow function in choosing what she wore. She did know, however, that Carousel Boutique was a high end, international brand, this dress had been expensive. Ordinarily, Sparky would have refused to take it, citing that it cost too much, especially to be given to her. Shortfuse had probably realised this, and the image of her waiting around Sparky’s house for countless hours, staying out of plain sight, and waiting until Sparky went to work in order to drop it off, to ensure that it couldn’t be refused, popped into her head. Sparky realised that she had no choice but to wear it.
Sparky trotted into the washroom and looked at herself in the mirror, discovering the full nature of the dress. It was a skimpy, black, club dress, and it showed off quite a bit, more than she would have liked.
Ordinarily, she would have refused to wear something like this... but it was Shortfuse’s birthday... which she had forgotten about... she owed her.
She’d wear it, but she had a feeling that tonight was not going to be going how she thought it would.