Special Report on Extraplanar Celestial Bodies and Their Relation with Comparable Local Celestial Bodies and the Nature of Alternative Planes of Existence
by Moon Pie
In a small apartment kitchen in Canterlot, a young unicorn mare looked on as an older unicorn mare read over a thick packet in her rose-colored magical grip. The pair were a study in contrasts at first glance: the younger mare's coat was a light cream, almost white, while the older mare's coat was an opal grey, bordering on blue. The younger mare's mane was a match for her paternal grandmother's: curly, unruly, and loudly fuchsia. The older mare's mane was split, one half purple, the other half turning grey with age. The older mare's cutie mark was an hourglass, while the younger bore a telescope and a shooting star on her flank. However, both shared the same heliotrope eyes.
"It's a bit dry, isn't it dear?" the elder unicorn, Tootsie Flute, asked.
"But mom!" the young author, Moon Pie, cried. "It's a technical report for Princess Luna! It has to be right!"
"You shouldn't ask for your mother's advice if you don't want to hear it, sweetie," a voice carried into the kitchen from the neighboring living room. Cinnamon Pie, a lime green unicorn stallion with matching brown eyes and mane and a cupcake cutie mark, sat on the couch reading the evening edition of the Equestria Daily newspaper. "Besides, nothing's right if it's too dry! Not baked goods, and not technical reports."
"Listen, Moonie," Tootsie said as she lay the papers on the countertop, careful to set it away from the sink full of drying dishes. "A lot of the work you do goes over my head, but I can puzzle enough of it out based on my experiences with your Grandma Heartstrings. Despite that, it's a rather difficult read. Don't forget, your Granny Pie was best friends with all four princesses, so you're not the only one in this family who has met Princess Luna. I know she'll appreciate it if you can make the report easier to digest."
"Add a few pounds of roughage!" Cinnamon called from the living room. Moon Pie and Tootsie shared an eye roll.
"Thanks, mom. I'll see what I can do to make my report easier to read before presenting it to the Princess." Moon Pie gave her mother a quick hug and grabbed the pile of papers in an aura of cerulean magic before dashing towards the apartment's front door. "Anyway, I've got to get going. The Royal Library is going to be closed soon, and I've got a few books that are about become overdue. Bye mom, bye dad!"
Just after moonrise three days later, Moon Pie sat in a small private meeting room within Canterlot Castle. Soft, silken cushions in reds and golds lay on the floor to be used as seats, with an abstract tapestry on the wall matching the color scheme. The white marble floor was covered with a hoofmade rug from Saddle Arabia, a navy blue piece with swirls of silver and gold thread throughout.
After several minutes of waiting, Moon Pie scrambled to her hooves as the door opened and Princess Luna stepped through, followed by a pair of Lunar Guards. "Fair evening, dear Moon Pie," the Princess said softly as she walked up to one of the larger cushions.
Moon Pie bowed deeply before the Princess, her muzzle nearly touching her hooves. "Rise," Luna said, as she began to shed the silvery regalia of her station, setting the pieces on the floor beside her cushion. The Princess sat down and made herself comfortable before continuing to speak, "We have no need of formalities this eve. Pray, tell me: were you able to complete the report I asked for?"
Moon Pie rose from her bow as the Princess bid, taking her own seat on a smaller cushion. "I was, Princess Luna. Obviously I could not be exhaustive in my first-hoof research, as the Long Trot extends too far to do such a thing, but I was certainly able to gather a significant amount of data." The young researcher levitated a binder out of her saddlebags sitting on the floor by the wall and passed it into Luna's magical grip.
"The Long Moon": A Special Report on the Moon Across the Long Trot
by Moon Pie
Luna began to skim through the report while Moon Pie gave her the highlights verbally, "Like the ground, the moon changes between parallel versions of Equestria. Generally, the changes are small, such as differences in crater patterns. As with the occasional 'Discordant' worlds which are drastically different on the ground from their neighbors, so too are there Discordant versions of the moon. Sometimes the two match up, a world where whatever historical event caused the Discordant Equestria also caused the Discordant moon. Sometimes they do not, and a Discordant Equestria can have a normal moon, as well as vice versa."
"What of the Nyx?" Luna asked.
"I have been unable to witness evidence of the moon-dwelling creatures you have described on any version of the moon, although considering I am also unable to see the Nyx on the moon here, I can only assume they live on the far side. That may also be true on other moons in the Long Trot." Moon Pie hesitated before adding, "I should mention, Princess, that in my weeks studying the moons of other worlds, I do not recall ever having dreams as I slept. You mentioned that the Nyx are the source of ponies' dreams, and this may be an indication that there are no Nyx on these other moons."
Princess Luna seemed to deflate slightly. "I see," she whispered, "then these moons are truly alien to me."
"Princess?" Moon Pie asked cautiously. "Is there something wrong?"
"Neigh. Please, tell me of the Discordant moons you discovered."
"The majority of the Discordant moons that I witnessed appeared to be the result of cataclysmic collisions. Several had large chunks missing; on Equestria West 94, there were visible fragments in orbit around the damaged moon, suggesting that the impact was relatively recent. Within your lifetime, at least.
"On Equestria East 7, I have managed to determine that there is no moon at all. Whether the moon was completely obliterated, escaped the world's orbit, or never formed, I couldn't say without a detailed study of that version of Equestria. However, there is proof there that the moon provides a stabilizing influence for the worlds where it exists. Drastic climate change over geologic time and the melting and re-freezing of the world's ice caps, for example.
"Most interesting, however, was the moon orbiting around Equestria East 129. It is much more massive than most versions of the moon. It even appears to have its own atmosphere, water, and vegetation! I spent a full month studying that moon alone, you can see my notes about it starting on page 17." Moon Pie beamed as Luna turned to the indicated location in the report, her eyes dashing across the page as she skimmed.
"By the tides!" Luna cried. "This is an impressive discovery, Ms. Pie!"
Moon Pie kneaded the cushion she was sitting on nervously and asked, "Do… do you think it could be good enough to win the Sandalwood Prize for Astronomy?"
Luna shook her head, sadly, "Neigh, it is unlikely, at least not this year. Doctor Reinheart from Germaneigh is most likely going to be receiving that award this year for his work on the centers of galaxies. Besides that, I suspect many of the old nags on the Sandalwood Prize Committee would balk at giving the medal to one as young as you. The only Laureates under 30 shared the prize with an older associate." Moon Pie's ears drooped at the news, but Luna tapped a hoof to her chin, pondering. "What if… what if you led an expedition to this verdant moon? Your grandmother and her friends once visited my moon, perhaps you could continue the tradition!"
Moon Pie gaped at the lunar princess. After a moment, she managed to say, "You want me to fly to the moon?! Not only that, but the moon around another Equestria entirely?!"
Luna leapt to her hooves, gazing boldly into the empty space above Moon Pie's head. She cried out, "Yes! You shall boldly go where nopony has gone before! I suspect it will take considerable time to establish the necessary infrastructure on Equestria East 129. This could be your life's work, Moon Pie! There is no way those nags on the Sandalwood Prize Committee would deny your accomplishments upon your return, and this project may take long enough that they wouldn't even grumble about your age!" Moon Pie stood dumbfounded, while Luna began to skip around the room like a filly half Moon Pie's age. "Oh, this is so exciting!"
Within a week, Moon Pie had begun her recruitment drive to find ponies willing and able to help her set up a base 129 worlds away from Equestria Prime. The group would need to, in essence, found a small town before beginning the construction of a vehicle to launch a team to the moon – with the capability of bringing the team back!
To that end, Moon Pie didn't only need engineers and scientists, she needed a good foundation to build upon. Everypony from bakers and carpenters, to janitors and administrators were needed, and they all had to be able and willing to traverse the Long Trot. Miners would be needed, as nothing iron could make the journey and iron would surely be necessary to construct the moon vehicle.
Within a few short weeks, to her surprise, Moon Pie had a cadre of 76 ponies (plus a group of six Royal Guards assigned by Luna) ready to travel, and then work. She would probably need to return for additional experts once the foundation was laid on Equestria East 129, but this would do for now.
Moon Pie opted to depart from a lake on Canter Creek, with the Appaloosan Mountains to the north and the Saddle Horn Peaks and the quarantined Sight of the Battle of Discord to the south. The location should offer the caravan traveling through parallel worlds easy access to water and food for the majority of their journey, there were no glaciers there, even on the Discordant worlds they would cross, and it was reasonably close to the equator, which would be useful for the moon vehicle launch.
By necessity, the group would be forced to travel at the pace of the slowest member. Naturally, nopony on the expedition was incapable of trotting to other worlds, but some had a harder time than others. The group spent a full hour on each world to make sure everypony had overcome the effects of trotting. At each stop, four of the Royal Guards would form a perimeter, and those ponies who dealt with the effects of trotting well would assist the others in their recovery. Moon Pie was among this group, suffering no ill effects at all.
As the royally-appointed leader and organizer of the expedition, as well as the pony with the most experience traversing the Long Trot, Moon Pie set the pace to ten worlds per day. The group trotted away from the current world each morning at nine, stopping an additional hour after the fourth world for lunch. A few days, Moon Pie ordered an extra trot before stopping to eat or before stopping to make camp, either because the world was obviously Discordant and therefore unpredictable, or because she claimed it was too dangerous to stop. The ponies of the expedition may have grumbled a bit when the schedule was changed, but nopony challenged Moon Pie's decisions.
The pegasi who weren't suffering from nausea or worse after each trot were able to ensure that the expedition wasn't slowed down further by inclement weather. One such pegasus, Cotton Cloudy, was even a professional weathermare, and she took charge of the pegasi wrangling the wild weather.
Finally, after almost two weeks of travel and camping, the expedition arrived at Equestria East 129. The first order of business was construction of shelters for the members of the expedition and their guards. Once that was complete, the real work would begin.