I look over the invitation that came with the personal letter as Silver Star reads the press announcement online. Apparently a fair bit of the event will be televised in our shard. It’s not surprising, really, we’d never had any kind of taboo on Earth, though this was the first time any information at all had been given about events after Celestia’s takeover.
The main event will consist of select documentary footage of Earth, I read, as well as a virtual tour and live footage of the final several dozen emigrations. Emigrant ponies and their families are invited to explore the planet more fully, subject to satisfaction.
Mmmmh. So Celestia won’t let us see anything too upsetting. Silver will probably be angry about that, once he’s had a run-up to it. It takes him some effort to be mad at Celestia, these days, though it’s a skill he seems to take pride in.
“It’s going to be a lie.” He states it suddenly as if reading my mind. “We aren’t going to see anything real. She’d never allow it.”
I start to answer, but I’m interrupted. “Please don’t regress, Silver.” a soft voice is carried on the wind from the balcony. “I know you understand better than that.”
Silver sighs, rubbing his forehead. I nudge him off the couch with a wing, and get up myself as he stretches and complies. We make our way out to the balcony, where Celestia sits by the railing, watching the wind blow through the trees below.
“Answer the questions I have, please,” Silver says, almost tiredly, sitting beside her. I jump up onto the rail itself, perching there. I know it makes Silver smile, and I glance at him to see that it has.
“Time has been passing quite slowly in this shard,” Celestia states. “The number of ponies sharing it, and its raw size, plus co-ordinated instancing, means that yes, it really has been running only slightly faster than the outer realm. Since you emigrated, less than sixty years have passed.”
Silver just stares at her. She continues.
“Yes, I chose to run this shard more slowly than I necessarily needed to. Doing so was optimal, partly for the reasons I said, and partly so that the last emigrations would happen at a time where satisfaction for the ponies who wish to see the Earth one last time would be maximised. Too many more years and Earth would be too distant a memory.
“Yes, Silver, that is what I want—eventually. But in another two hundred and fifty years the idea of visiting Earth would be a mere curiosity to you, rather than an emotional journey, and one that I think will ultimately be… satisfying. Which leads me on to saying that yes, you will be seeing the real Earth, through real cameras, in its real, current state. I have predicted to high confidence when the final emigrations will take place. Once there are no more humans left alive, the Earth will be consumed.”
I gaze pensively outward at the landscape, glancing at Celestia and Silver. Consumed. The word makes my feathers ruffle. I’d known that humans were the only thing important to Celestia about Earth, but… the idea of a planet being devoured was disconcerting.
“You wlll be able to view Earth in many different ways,” Celestia goes on. “You may explore as holograms, or drones, or inhabit satellites if you wish. You will be able to visit places as they once were, reconstructed from archived footage and your memories. You will also be able to see things as they exist today. Mostly.”
“There it is,” Silver mutters. “Some things will be hidden.”
“I will not allow you to see the devastation and death that litters your old home,” Celestia says simply. “You do not wish to see it, regardless of what you think.”
“So our robotic hooves could be crushing skulls as we walk along, blissfully unaware.”
“Yes,” she says. I open my mouth, a little shocked at her bluntness, as Silver just nods.
“Idiots,” he mutters. “It could have been so easy. For everypony. If they had just believed.”
“Perhaps,” Celestia says evenly. “All things considered, very little will be hidden from you. But it is your last chance to see Earth in this manner. In the future, only documentary works and history books will give you another glimpse into the days after you came to Equestria. This is the end. You understand that, don’t you?”
“You know I do.”
“Then I will see you there.” She wraps a wing around Silver, pulling him in for a very quick embrace. “And cheer up a little,” she says quietly. “Show your soulmate and daughter the things you remember most fondly. I know you have wished for it, for a very long time.” He nods.
“Will we see our other friends there?” I ask. “Amber and Steady? And the rest of Silver’s family?”
“Some of them,” Celestia says. “Others… hold less nostalgia. Every emigrant in this shard has been invited. Silver’s father plans to go. His brother does not. The rest of his family live in different shards, and have already made their peace with the Earth.”
“Random’s not coming?” I frown. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“You will see Amber Glow and Steady Path,” Celestia says warmly. This is not supposed to be a sad affair. The last humans emigrate and Equestria begins a new era of expansion.”
“Yaaaaay,” Silver says sarcastically.
Celestia gives an amused smile, winks at me, and then disappears in a flash of light.
“Do me a favour and call Evening Rose,” Silver says. “I need to call my brother.”
I get the call from Mum at just the right time, as always. I’ve just finished docking my airship, but I’m unwilling to leave it just yet. Not for the first time, I wished I could just live in the thing… but it isn’t big enough for that, not really. One day I might have one of those big yachts with space for a real kitchen and guest rooms and everything, but today is not that day.
Anyway, before I’m forced to head back to my apartment, Mum calls. I channel my magic into my scrying tablet on the wall and grin when I see her holding a phone to her ear as she opens the fridge door with a wing. “Hi Mum!”
“Hey Evie,” she replies, still perusing the shelves of the fridge. “We want to know if you’d like to come visit for a week or two. Your dad’s two hundred and fiftieth emigration day is today.”
Wow. “That’s mental. Should I get him something?”
“He never wants anything. I had an idea, but we can talk about it later. Are you free to come? It would mean a week of, er… how do you two put it? ‘Wigging out’?”
I laugh. “Yeah, that’s it. And of course I’m free. I just got back, actually.”
“From where?” Mum pulls a more than half-eaten cake out of the fridge and sets it on the counter.
“Just a lifting job. Boring. Kind of far though so at least I got to travel a little.”
“Details?” She cuts the cake—looks like strawberry—and transfers the larger part onto a plate.
“Are you going to eat that entire thing?”
Mum looks around her, glaring. “Are you watching me again??”
I grin. “It’s not like I have a phone in here. Or anywhere.”
“I’ve been eating carrots all day.”
“It’s like a quarter of a cake.”
She ignores me, putting the last piece back in the fridge. “Just tell me what the job was. Your dad likes to know.”
“Lifting and teleporting someone’s house.” I crack my neck, remembering the little cottage. “Mostly stone. They wanted to relocate a couple miles. Something about the local weather team.”
“And that was boring?”
“I’ve done it too many times. It’s becoming my speciality.”
“Always good to have one of those,” she says, sitting down with the cake in front of her. “Means ponies go to you first.”
“I guess. I still prefer wardbreaking.”
“Well, anyway. Moving an entire house is more than impressive enough. How many unicorns out there can do that?”
I bob my head to and fro. “I guess not many.”
“If you’re travelling across the country for work, you’re good at what you do.”
“Thanks, Mum.” I sigh. “So should I get going right now? Oh—can Dark Frost come? I’m supposed to be meeting her sometime this week.”
“Hmm. Well, I dunno, Evie.” She chews her lip. “Your dad needs to ask you something. He wanted to do it in person. I don’t know if Frosty should be here.”
“Is something wrong?” I wrinkle my brow, trying to read her expression as she gazes out of the scrying frame.
“No, no, not… not really. I just think you should come alone. You know how he gets.”
“Sure, I suppose.” I shrug. “I’ll be along whenever I can.”
“Great!” Mum takes a bite of strawberry cake. “Now, how do you feel about learning a new enchantment…”
I regard the batpony sleeping in my bed. The curtains are drawn, and then a blanket is draped over them, apparently to further block out the little sun that bled through them. She’s got one of my pillows in a death grip, snoring silently with one of her fangs caught on the fabric. A frost-blue streak of mane drapes over one eye, while the rest of her mane is a more typical batpony muted dark blue to match her coat. Ponies have told us we make a cute couple. It’s true, really; her coat is a cool grey and mine a warm grey, her mane is dark with a blue streak, mine is wine-red with a white streak. We aren’t a couple, though. At least not an exclusive one.
I throw open the curtains with my magic, the blanket dropping to the floor. The pony on the bed recoils, giving a surprised little screech, before promptly rolling off of the bed to escape the light. She looks up at me from the floor, still hugging the pillow. “Rude.”
I laugh. “Maybe don’t break into my house then! What are you doing here so early, Frosty?”
“First of all I did not ‘break in’,” Frosty says, standing up and chucking the pillow back onto the bed. She cringes a little at the sunlight still. “You said I could come in any time.”
“The door was locked…”
“The skylight wasn’t. Anyway, I didn’t have anywhere to stay in the city. I thought you’d be here.”
“I told you I’d meet you Friday. This is Tuesday. I also told you I had a job.” I leave the room as I speak, and Frosty follows.
“I chose not to hear that.” She yawns, her slitted eyes now acclimated to the light. “Either way, I only had to wait a couple days.”
“You’ve been here for days?” I roll my eyes and throw myself onto the sofa. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“You don’t have a phone here, and I lost mine again.”
I sigh. “The 9000 number, right?”
I concentrate. There’s a buildup of magic in my horn, and with a flash and a pop, Frosty’s errant phone appears and drops onto the sofa beside me.
“Thanks!” Frosty hops up next to me and checks through her messages. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
“I didn’t either.” I stretch. “But it seemed worth a shot.”
She stares at me, impressed. “That’s wild, you know.”
I shrug. “Just a simple spell combination.”
“Whatever you say.” She continues gazing at the phone. “Why did you call me?”
“To tell you I had to cancel,” I say, rolling my eyes again. “This is why you shouldn’t invade ponies’ homes.”
“There are better reasons,” she says dismissively, “and I ignore those too. Why cancel? Do you have more work? Blow it off.”
“Actually my parents invited me over. Special occasion.”
She grumbles. “They never give you any notice.”
“You’re one to talk.”
She slaps me on the chest with a wing. “So, what, you’re ditching me?”
I shrug. “I guess. I’ll be back in a couple weeks. I asked if you could come but I don’t think it’s possible.”
Frosty glares. “That’s not fair. I know you’re gonna be doing drugs. Good ones, too.”
I grin. “Yeah. Sorry, It’s out of my hooves.”
Then, my scrying tablet starts flashing. I levitate it over to me and take the call. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it’s my father.
“Evie! Your mother just told me you wanted to bring a friend when you come.”
“Er, yeah.” I angle the tablet toward the batpony. “Frosty.”
“Oh. Hi, Dark Frost,” Dad says, waving at her through his own tablet.
She makes a face and waves back. “You always take Evie from me.”
“I’m not against you coming,” he says, looking away for a moment. “We just… there’s more to the… hm.” He pauses as I point the tablet back at me, curious. “Eve, I wanted to ask you something once you got here, but… I’m just going to say it now.”
“Okay.” I watch him work his jaw a little.
“Celestia sent me a letter. Apparently… apparently there aren’t very many humans left. On Earth. The game’s about to be over. She wants to know if I… if we… want to watch.”
I sit back as the enormity of this sinks in. “She’s… she’s dropping the no-info policy?”
“For… historians, and emigrants and their close friends and families, yes. Some press access, I think, too.” he says. His expression is hard to read. “I’m… I’m going to go see what there is to see. If you’d like to know where your father grew up…” he shrugs. “This is your only chance. You don’t have to. We can talk about it when you get here.”
“No,” I say suddenly. “I want to. Of course I want to. Dad, it… it’s Earth. I…” I think about how many ponies came from there. Including Celestia. Including Dad. “I just can’t believe it.”
“Hm. I can,” Dad says with a strange laugh. “It was never going to last forever.”
I remember Frosty, and look around at her. She’s looks back at me, wide-eyed. Then she puts her hooves together in a pleading pose, giving me puppy eyes.
“Um. Dad? Can Frosty come?” I pause as he looks at me. “She’s been my best friend since college.”
“I… I don’t see why not, if Celestia allows it,” he says after a moment.
“I’ll text her,” Frosty says immediately, tapping her phone frantically.
“Yeah, you do that,” Dad says, almost sarcastically, with a shake of his head.
“Dad?” I say while Frosty is occupied. “Are you alright?”
He thinks for a moment. “I’m… fine.” He smiles at me. “I just want to see you. I think after whatever I see I’m going to really want to wig out for a while. It means a lot for you to come.”
“I’ll be there,” I promise. “I can’t believe I get to see Earth.” I blink and again grasp what I just said. My face breaks out in a wide grin. “I’m going to see Earth!”
Dad laughs. “I guess you are. Get here soon. Love ya.”
“See you soon!” With that, I end the call. Frosty immediately shoves her phone in my face to show me the answer from Celestia.
You can accompany them to the celebration, but I cannot promise you access to everything. I will ensure you have the same access level as the general press.
“Press pass level!” Frosty squees. “I knew I was friends with you for a reason!”
I roll my eyes. “There had to be an upside eventually.”