• Published 26th Mar 2012
  • 15,909 Views, 770 Comments

The Past is the Future - the_panic



A human escaping from a nuclear holocaust brings change to all of Equestria and a certain librarian.

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Men Are From Mars, Mares Are From Ponyville

The sun began filtering through the windows in Sam’s room, and a few errant beams struck Twilight’s eyes. Slowly, she roused from sleep, confused as to why she was in Sam’s room.

Twilight realized that the pillow felt strange, and she noticed a slight weight across her side. Lifting her head, and looking around, she saw that the pillow was, in fact, one of Sam’s arms, and the weight on her side was his other arm draped around her. Relieved that Sam was still asleep, Twilight attempted to slowly slide out of his unconscious embrace without waking him. She was almost off of the bed when she felt Sam’s arm lift up off of her.

Sam took a yawning breath and said with a grin, “Glad to see you’ve finally woke up, I was wondering if I’d have to lay here like this forever!” Even through Twilight’s lavender coat, he could just barely make out a slight blush on the unicorn’s face.

Twilight couldn’t understand why she felt so embarrassed about falling asleep next to him. “Sorry, I must have dozed off before I could manage to move to my room.”

Sam waved it off. “Don’t worry about it, I wasn’t far behind you. I thought about carrying you to your own bed, but...” Stretching his arms, he winced in pain, “You can thank Applejack for preventing that.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “You know... You could have tried waking me up, if you were waiting on me so you could get up.”

“What can I say? You were too adorable all curled up there, I couldn’t make myself do that,” Sam laughed. “I hope it wasn’t too awkward, you waking up with me practically smothering you. Just, the way you fell asleep on my left arm, I didn’t have many comfortable alternatives as far as my other arm was concerned. That, and the fact that I had to pull you away from the edge; you were nearly falling off!”

Twilight’s blush was reaching forest-fire levels. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said with a smile, “you were only trying to let me sleep comfortably, thanks.”

“Yeah, you must have been pretty tired to fall asleep hanging off the bed like that; that couldn’t have been comfortable at all,” Sam chuckled. “Anyway, I’m going to go downstairs, get some breakfast, and get back down to working on that archive.”

“Breakfast sounds good,” Twilight stretched her forelegs, “I’ll join you.”

---

After breakfast, Sam began his first attempt to repair the archive. Now that he had a soldering iron and some tin solder wire, he figured it would just be a matter of recreating both the miniature connections on the clip that attached the archive to a data cable and those that linked the control chip with the rest of the device. After gluing the broken port piece back onto the device, he quickly found that the metal channels of the clip were too tiny for him to accurately navigate with the naked eye, so Twilight lent him the gigantic magnifying glass that she used for reading. Why some ancient writers used such small lettering or typeface was beyond her ability to understand.

Slowly, Sam melted small droplets of tin into the grooves of the clip, being careful not to bridge one wire with the wires next to it. His first few attempts were long and laborious, and he nearly burnt his fingertips several times as his grip on the pen-like iron slipped. Eventually, he found something of a rhythm to the procedure; since his old job allowed him to do tasks like this with automated systems, it had been quite some time since Sam had been required to use such a tool.

After several painstaking hours, the connections had been made to the clip and the control circuit was remounted to the main board. The next step was to test power-up. If the connections were properly repaired, then the archive should turn on and make itself available for data transfers. Sam gently attached the power adapter to the device, being careful to avoid re-breaking the clip.

Sam held his breath; if the little green power indicator light turned on, then his task was finished. He could begin sifting through his civilization’s knowledge for the bits of historical and technological data that the royal academy in Canterlot had been long waiting for.

Several seconds passed, but the light failed to turn on.

“I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy,” Sam muttered in disappointment.

After disconnecting the power, he began carefully re-examining the archive, this time with the aid of Twilight’s magnifying glass. Remembering that one of the side panels had been dented in the impact that brought him to Equestria in the first place, he carefully pried off the thin metal, revealing the circuit boards underneath. With the panel out of the way, the true extent of the damage was quite visible. The power regulation circuit was cracked, meaning more epoxy and tin would be needed to repair the connections; the main capacitor and inductors were still intact, much to Sam’s relief.

“At least it’s still salvageable,” Sam said with a sigh.

He heard the sound of hooves on wood, prompting him to turn to see Twilight coming down into the basement.

“How are the repairs going, Sam?” Twilight asked cheerfully.

“They’re going alright, not as well as I hoped though. The damage was a bit more extensive than I’d imagined. The control chip and the data clip are connected fine, but the bit that controls the flow of power into the device is pretty messed up.”

“Think you’ll still be able to fix it?”

Sam shrugged. “It’s still totally doable, but it’s gonna be tough. These last repairs I did were just a matter of recreating several straightforward connections. This time, before I can do that for the power circuit, I have to sit here and map out what goes where on this power circuit. It’s nothing that’s outside of my skill set, hell, this is the part of the device that my team and I designed, but it’s still going to take a while to do. After all, we don’t exactly memorize the board traces,” Sam chuckled nervously.

“Mind if I take a look?”

Sam slid the archive towards her. “Be my guest.”

“Didn’t you show me the schematics for this last night?”

“Yeah, actually,” Sam raised an eyebrow, “I’m surprised you recognize it, there’s not much left of the original connections here.”

“Well, the traces here resemble part of what you showed me, and I think I remember this symbol here,” Twilight pointed a hoof towards the charred remnant of a capacitor symbol printed on the board. “Let me guess, this connection needs to go to... That output?”

Sam laughed. “You’re a pretty quick study, you know that?”

Twilight grinned from ear to ear, a slight blush on her face. “Well, I learned from the best, right?”

“Heh, that’s what I’d say, anyway, though my old boss might beg to differ. I don’t mean to brush you off but... I really want to try to knock out some of that re-mapping pretty quickly here, this is gonna take a while.”

“Fair enough. I’ve got some reading I want to finish up, I just wanted to come check on you, anyway. Let me know if you need anything!” Twilight happily trotted back upstairs to her study.

Sam took a deep breath, and began slowly drawing out a diagram of where he knew connections should exist between the fragments of the power regulator.


---

Several hours later, Sam set down his pencil, and stretched his arms and hands. He began reviewing his finished diagram, looking for any errors or forgotten connections. After several check-throughs, he was satisfied that this map was a good starting point to begin repairing the power regulation circuit, and decided that this was as good as any place to take a break.

The rumbling of his stomach reminded Sam that he had worked through lunch entirely, and the clock on the wall told him that it was nearly dinner time. He made his way upstairs to the kitchen just in time to see his two housemates getting ready to get dinner started.

Twilight heard him walk in. “Make any good progress on the repair?”

“Sort of. I finished sketching out the areas I need to reconnect. Over the next few days I should be able to get the repairs actually implemented.” Sam grabbed a knife and started chopping some carrots for Twilight’s soup. ”If I hadn’t promised Applejack I’d come back tomorrow and the next day, I could get it done sooner.”

“Oh don’t worry about it. Remember what I said when she gave you the job? You’re under no rush. I know you’re going to make good on your end of the bargain, and the Princess perfectly understands how much stress you’ve been under.” Twilight levitated the chopped carrots into the bowl in front of her. “Believe me, she would have done the same thing. She may be our supreme ruler, but she’s by far one of the most compassionate ponies you could hope to meet.”

Sam laughed. “I’m well aware of that, Twilight. I just don’t like leaving any task unfinished. From what I have picked up about you so far, that’s something you and I have very much in common.”

Twilight shook her head and groaned. “You get stressed over missing ONE deadline and suddenly everypony thinks you’re a perfectionist,” she muttered to herself.

“Hey, Twi, do you need me to stir the pot or are you still handling it?” Sam saw Spike standing on a stool, closely monitoring the boiling pot of soup.

“That’s fine, Spike, I’ve got it. If you’ll grab some bowls for us, I’ll go ahead and set the table for us.”

After the table was set, the three friends began to eat. They discussed their day’s activities, or, rather, Spike did. He had spent the day with Rarity, hunting gems. Sam and Twilight didn’t have much to say; Spike knew that they had spent the day huddled over a circuit or a book, studying intently. After some good-natured teasing on Spike’s part, everyone finished their meals and began settling down for the night.

---

The next few days went by uneventfully. Sam spent equal time at Sweet Apple Acres working with Applejack and at home working on repairing the archive. Twilight found herself worrying about Sam’s condition less and less; after all, working on Applejack’s farm and eating food that wasn’t from a small military-rationed pouch was doing wonders for his thin, gaunt frame, and the ability to spend time outdoors in the sun was greatly improving his morale and emotional state.

In the evenings, Sam would come back to Twilight’s library, and spend some time repairing the connections on the power regulator. He found himself settling into a comfortable routine; farm work with Applejack in the mornings, and electronics repair in the afternoon.

Twilight was delighted to see Sam finally gaining a sense of normalcy, all things considered. He was beginning to handle reminders of his past as happy memories, rather than reasons to mourn, and she began looking forward to just seeing him when he returned home, instead of merely wanting to pick his brain for bits of ancient information. Once he had finally opened up to her, she felt as though they were becoming close friends.

Sam came home from the farm an hour early one day, and was in particularly high spirits.

As he came in the door, Twilight jumped up from her book to greet him. “Sam! You’re back early, what’s the occasion?”

Sam held out a small bag and dumped it on the table, sending a cascade of gold coins everywhere. “Well, Twilight, for starters, AJ paid me today! Plus, we managed to get all of the apple trees harvested today, so she decided that we could all take a break to celebrate. We’re a week earlier than she expected to finish!”

“That’s great, Sam!” Looking at the clock, Twilight continued, “You know, I haven’t had lunch yet, and the mid-day rush probably hasn’t hit yet. Have you eaten yet?”

Sam shook his head. “No, though Applejack tried to make me stay to have lunch. I told her I wanted to take the extra time to get ahead on the archive today. It’s SO CLOSE to being finished!”

“You sure about that? I figured I’d take you to Sugarcube Corner for lunch today.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Oh come on, you’re not playing fair here. The one day I want to get extra work done and THAT’S the day you want to take me there?”

Twilight put on her best imitation of Rarity’s pouting face.

Sam shook his head. “Ok, ok. Not like I could have really said no to you anyway,” he laughed. Twilight’s face was beaming in return.

Twilight locked up the library, and began leading Sam out into town. Sam began to notice that the other ponies in town were no longer giving him the same suspicious glances they used to; in fact, they were now mostly ignoring him completely as if he were just another pony strolling through the streets.

The pair reached their destination, but Twilight stopped before proceeding inside.

“Ok, Sam, before we go in, I just want to give you fair warning of a few things.”

Sam tilted his head in confusion. “Is this not just a bakery?”

“No, well, yes it is, but... Anyway, I told you my friend Pinkie works here. She is pretty much the definition of extrovert, and will probably attack you with hugs the moment she sees you. Giving overly-warm welcomes to new folks is kind of her thing, so just go with it and hug her back and you’ll have made another best friend for life. Just play along with whatever crazy antics she pulls, and everything will be fine. Pinkie Pie is...” Twilight gazed upwards in thought, “Well, she’s just something to be experienced first hand,” Twilight laughed.

“Alright, I’ll keep all of that in mind. But can we just hurry up and get something to eat? I’ve spent all morning hauling apple bushels and pruning trees, and I’m starved.”

He has no idea what’s coming, does he? Thought Twilight.

The pair stepped inside the store. The first thing Sam heard was a loud, high-pitched voice shrieking “HI TWILI-AAAHHHH!!” before a pink maelstrom engulfed him.

Finally regaining visibility, Sam was barraged with speech from the pink blur before him. “HI! ARE YOU NEW HERE? YOU MUST BE NEW HERE BECAUSE I KNOW EVERPONY HERE AND I DON’T KNOW YOU SO THAT MEANS YOU MUST BE NEW HERE SO WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND WHAT KINDA PONY ARE YOU AND ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH TWILIGHT? I BET YOU LIKE TO READ, I LIKE TO READ TOO BUT I LIKE READING JOKE BOOKS AND PARTY PLANNING MAGAZINES AND OHMIGOSHIHAVETOTHROWYOUAWELCOMEPARTYLIKERIGHTNOW!!!!!”

The source of the voice finally paused to take a deep breath, allowing Sam to see a pink pony with an equally pink fluffy mane and tail.

After Sam’s head stopped spinning, he replied, “I’m guessing you’re Pinkie? I’m Sam, and yes I’m new, one of Twilight’s friends.”

“Okie dokie lokie! As my welcome gift, don’t worry about paying for lunch! I’ve got you and Twilight covered! I can’t wait to get to know you better, but I gotta get back to work! Cupcakes and cookies don’t bake themselves ya know!” Pinkie began to calm down slightly, and winked at Sam. “Come back here tonight, I’ve got something for you, call it part two of my welcome gift!”

As Twilight and Sam found a table, Sam whispered, “She’s going to throw me one of her parties, isn’t she.”

Twilight giggled. “More than likely. If that’s the case, make sure you act surprised. Pinkie does throw some great parties, and if she is in fact planning one for you, she’ll probably invite all of Ponyville to meet you.”

Pinkie brought out the fruit pastries that she’d bought for her friends. Paying heed to the growling in his gut, Sam promptly thanked the pink pony and dug in. Twilight similarly followed suit.

After finishing his food, Sam was ready to leave. “I think I’m going to go jump back into fixing up the archive for a while, I kinda want to take advantage of this ‘break’ Applejack gave me.”

Twilight was in the process of levitating a small napkin to clean a few stray bits of fruit from her muzzle. “Alright, you go on ahead, I’m not quite done eating.” Glancing over Sam’s shoulder, she could see Pinkie motioning for her to come to the counter. “Besides, I think Pinkie wants to chat with me for a minute.”

Sam walked out, making sure to thank Pinkie again for the food as he left. She waved goodbye while wearing her trademark grin.

Twilight took the last bite of her pastry, and then walked over to see what Pinkie needed. “What’s up? You wanted to see me?”

“Oh Twilight I *ALWAYS* wanna see you and my friends, but I hafta tell you something!” Pinkie lowered her voice, looked from side to side to make sure no one was watching, and motioned for Twilight to lean in closer. “I’m going to throw Sam a ‘Welcome To Ponyville Party’ and I need you to deliver some invitations for me! Mostly just our friends, I’ll handle everypony else.”

Pinkie reached behind her mane and produced several small postcards seemingly out of thin air, and handed them to Twilight.

“Sure, no problem. What time do you want me to bring him over here?”

“Right at sundown should be great! That will give me just enough time to bake a GINORMOUS cake and mix up that punch everypony seems to like so much, and I can bring out the party games and the music, it’s gonna be so much fun!”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “With you, it always is! See you tonight Pinkie, thanks again for lunch!”

---

It didn’t take long for Twilight to deliver the invitations to most of her friends. She sent Applejack’s by way of Big Mac, who had come to the market to pick up some pie ingredients for Granny smith. Rarity was walking with her younger sister, Sweetie Belle, back home from the spa after making up from yet another tiff between them; Rarity accepted the invitation only after much pleading from Twilight about how much these parties mean to Pinkie. Rainbow Dash dropped in on the conversation and grabbed her invitation out of Twilight’s bag as soon as she spied her name written on it, and was excited about the prospect of another Pinkie Party, as she’d missed the last one due to her trip to Cloudsdale.

Delivering Fluttershy’s invitation would require a trip out to the edge of Ponyville, where her cottage was located just outside of the Everfree Forest. As Twilight trotted down the path, the top of the cottage came into view over the hill, with the entire front yard covered in various shelters and cages to house Fluttershy’s numerous and various pets. Several rabbits and songbirds raced over to greet Twilight as she continued towards the front door.

Twilight knocked a few times before a very quiet voice gave her permission to come in.

“Oh, Twilight, it’s so good to see you, I wasn’t expecting you to come over today.” The yellow pegasus swept her flowing pink mane out of her face, only to have it fall back over one eye.

“Hi Fluttershy! I just dropped by to deliver an invitation from Pinkie Pie, she’s throwing a welcome party for Sam.”

Fluttershy tilted her head. “Who’s Sam?”

“Oh, right! I haven’t told you what’s been keeping me so busy lately!”

“Well, I was just about to take a break from tending to my little mouse friend here,” She pointed towards a small rodent with a cast on one of his rear legs, “and I was going to have some lunch. Can I get you anything? And please, take a seat, if you want.”

“Oh I’m fine, just some lemonade, I already had lunch at Pinkie’s.”

Fluttershy returned with her food and Twilight’s drink. “So, you were telling me about this ‘Sam’ that’s been keeping you busy?”

Twilight took a sip of the cool lemonade. “Yeah, the Princess has me taking care of him and researching his species, he’s something called a ‘human’. Long story short, he’s somehow been brought here from millions of years ago, before pony civilization existed.”

“A human? I’ve never heard of a human before. What do they look like?”

“Nothing TOO strange. They walk on two legs, and instead of hooves, they call them ‘hands’, kind of like what Spike has except they don’t have sharp claws. And they barely have any fur or hair.”

“Oh, that sounds interesting!”

“You have no idea. They’re intelligent creatures, like us; they can talk, write, and everything. Their civilization was far ahead of us in terms of science and technology, Fluttershy.”

Fluttershy finished a bite of her sandwich. “Sounds like the Princess picked the perfect pony to look after him and work with him, you’re the smartest pony I know, after all.”

Twilight grinned bashfully. “Oh, come on, I’m no better than anypony else. But really, Sam is particularly intelligent. He’s tried teaching me a little of what he knows, it’s amazing! It’s been so much fun learning about his time period and his life, getting to know him, and I’m glad Celestia asked me to do this. I feel like we’ve become good friends since he got here.” Twilight sighed, smiling. “He was really kind of withdrawn when we first met, he had been through a lot. But, he’s been eventually opening up, especially after I got him a job helping Applejack. He’s still pretty sarcastic though, worse than Rainbow sometimes, and the music he likes kinda scares me. But, listening to him talk about his memories, especially the good ones... It’s better than reading any story book.” Twilight pictured the way Sam’s eyes would light up as he spoke; she felt herself blushing again.

Fluttershy smiled. “Oh, Twilight, he does sound nice. Looks like your research project has become a bit more rewarding than you thought!”

Twilight’s cheeks were on fire. “I... I’m not sure what you mean there...” Her eyes grew wide with realization. “Oh. Oh, no, you think that I... And Sam... Dating? No no no,” She laughed nervously. “He’s just really nice, we’re just good friends, that’s all!”

Fluttershy’s eyes shot to the floor. “Um, I’m not sure what you thought I meant... But all I meant is that you seemed to be enjoying working with him... But, if that’s what was on your mind, maybe you should talk to him, I mean, if you want to, that is.”

Regaining her composure, Twilight cleared her throat. “Flutters, he’s a friend. And, a subject of my research. That’s all. Anyway... I need to get going. See you at Sam’s welcome party tonight?”

Fluttershy smiled and replied, “I’ll be there, thank you, Twilight.”

Twilight thanked her for the drink, and made her exit to return home. As she cantered down the path back to her home, she began thinking about the conversation she’d just had with Fluttershy. Of course she liked Sam, he had become a good friend in the time he had spent with her, but somehow something seemed different, and this was certainly different from any infatuations she’d had with colts in her classes back in Canterlot.

Seeing no one else around, Twilight thought aloud. “Ugh! Why doesn’t this make sense?! None of this makes sense! There’s no way I have some stupid little crush on him. I’m a pony, he’s not, and any feelings for him would just be silly!” She attempted to brush those thoughts aside to focus on any preparations she might need to make for the evening’s festivities.

As she mentally checked off the various items she needed to bring, Twilight found that her thoughts kept drifting back to Sam. It wasn’t necessarily that she thought he was exceedingly physically attractive, though she certainly didn’t find him repulsive. Her mind kept focusing on the way he spoke, his intelligence, and his cerebral demeanor.

“Sure, he’s sometimes ridiculously sarcastic, and loves showing off his dry sense of humor, but, it’s endearing, for some reason. Probably because he is genuinely nice when he wants to be...” Twilight sighed. She decided against trying to force her mind off of the topic again, letting herself mentally wander as she made it back to the library.

---

Later that evening, Twilight was getting ready to head out to Sugarcube Corner.

“Sam! Don’t forget about what Pinkie Pie said today, she wanted you to come back tonight, are you ready?”

Sam walked down the stairs, adjusting his worn cotton work shirt on the way down. “Ready when you are. By the way, is there anyone else in town that makes clothes?”

“Besides Rarity? Not really, why?”

“Well, I seem to be missing a pair of my pants and a shirt, and some of these are starting to wear out a bit from working on the farm with AJ so...”

Twilight stuck her face in her hoof. “Sam, you really should go make up with her sometime... Anyway, let’s go.”

The pair left the library, and shortly arrived at the bakery. Twilight entered first, followed by Sam, at which point the room exploded in lights, balloons, and confetti, with a large banner overhead that Sam assumed read “Welcome to Ponyville” in Equestrian. Remembering what Twilight said earlier, he put on his best ‘surprised face’ and laughed as Pinkie lead everyone in shouting their collective welcome in unison.

“HI SAM! WERE YA SURPRISED? YOU TOTALLY LOOK SURPRISED SO I GUESS YOU ARE SURPRISED, ISN’T THIS PARTY JUST SUPER AWESOME? OH COME HAVE SOME CAKE AND PUNCH AND THEN WE HAVE SOME PARTY GAMES!!!” Pinkie quickly wrapped her forelegs around Sam’s waist in a hug that could have doubled as a vice-grip. “Welcome to Ponyville, Sam!”

Sam was still laughing. “Thank you, Pinkie, this was really thoughtful of you.”

“Thought? I do this all the time for everypony! I didn’t hafta think at all!” Pinkie then vanished as suddenly as she appeared, in a blur of pink fur and balloons.

Sam, still chuckling, facepalmed. He looked around the room; he saw several familiar faces from his strolls through town on his way to Sweet Apple Acres, including Applejack herself. He noticed two other ponies that seemed to be very familiar with Twilight; a cyan-colored pegasus with a prismatic mane and tail, and a pale yellow pegasus with a tail and mane of pink. Of course, on the other side of the room, was Sam’s old nemesis, Rarity, who looked none too thrilled to be there.

Twilight saw him looking their way, and pointed a hoof towards him. “Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, that’s Sam. Follow me, I’ll introduce you to him.”

Rainbow, hovering in midair, stuck out her chest, and said, “Pfft, I don’t need an introduction,” and bolted over to where Sam was standing. She stuck out a hoof. “Hey, what’s up? I’m Rainbow Dash.”

Sam took her hoof in his hand and shook. “Nice to meet you, I’m Sam. You know, I think I remember Twilight telling me about you. Didn’t you once fly so fast that you broke the sound barrier and caused a rainbow-colored explosion?”

Rainbow seemed pleased that her reputation had preceded her, and performed a small flip in the air. “Yep! That’s me, best young flyer in all of Equestria,” she said with a grin. “So, Twilight tells me you like some of the same music I like, eh?”

“You listen to rock and metal?”

“Um, never heard of ‘metal’, but I LOVE rock and roll.”

Sam was astonished to hear that rock music had managed to re-emerge in another society millions of years later. “That’s awesome! You should come over to the library some time, I can let you hear how we rocked out back in my time.”

“Sure thing! I’ve been looking for some new tunes anyway.”

Twilight finally managed to coax Fluttershy into coming over to meet Sam; the timid pegasus hadn’t expected a human to be so much taller than a pony.

Sam noticed Fluttershy looking up at him. “Hey there, I’m Sam; since I’ve already met the others, I’m assuming you’re Fluttershy? It’s nice to meet you.” He heard what he could only describe as a small squeak coming from her, so he bent down to better hear her. “Sorry, couldn’t quite make that out.”

Twilight laughed. “It’s ok, I told you he’s not a wild creature.” She looked up at Sam. “Heh, don’t worry, this means she likes you.”

“Yes... My name.. Is Fluttershy...” She slouched down, causing her mane to almost completely obscure her face. “It’s... Nice to meet you. You’re a human? I’ve never met a human before...”

“Yeah, last time I checked, I was human, anyway. Twilight has told me all about you, she says you like taking care of little animals.”

The mention of her animal friends perked Fluttershy up. “Oh, yes! I just love all creatures, and the other ponies tell me I’m good at taking care of sick pets and nursing them back to health.” She looked him up and down, studying his appearance. “Do all humans look like you?”

Sam laughed. “Not really, we come in several different colors; not as many as you ponies though.”

Sensing where this conversation was heading, given Fluttershy’s fascination with animals and the look of curiosity practically written on her face, Twilight butted into the conversation; she remembered how Fluttershy reacted to meeting Spike for the first time.

“Hey, guys, why don’t we go have some of that delicious cake Pinkie made for us.” Twilight walked with her friends over to the snack table. “Sam, aren’t you going to join us? It’s your party, after all.”

“Yeah, in a few minutes, I want to talk to some of the other ponies and introduce myself first, I’ve seen a few of them around town before.” Sam began making his rounds through the party crowd. Some ponies gave him a perfectly civil greeting, seemingly fine talking to the strange new creature in front of them. He managed to strike up a brief conversation with a stallion who had an hourglass mark on his flank and called himself ‘The Doctor’; the pony’s accent reminded Sam of a coworker from the United Kingdom.

Twilight smiled; Sam was enjoying his party, and for the most part, the other ponies were making him feel right at home.

She turned to face Fluttershy. “So, what did you think of Sam, Flutters?”

“Oh, he seemed very nice, Twilight. I haven’t seen any sort of animal like him before, though he does kind of resemble a primate of some sort.”

Twilight nodded. “Yeah, he mentioned that chimpanzees are biologically similar to humans, but they don’t look much alike other than body shapes.”

“You’re right, besides, I think humans are probably cuter than monkeys anyway.”

Twilight replied, laughing, “That’s a nice thought, and I would agree, but don’t tell him that. I don’t know if he’d take it the right way.”

Fluttershy giggled. “I bet he would like to hear that from you, Twilight,”

“I don’t have a crush on him,” Twilight replied flatly.

“Um... I didn’t say you did, I hope I didn’t offend you...”

“No, you’re fine, I’m sorry. Just a little on edge lately, I guess,” Twilight shook her head. Nice going, who are you trying to convince, Flutters or yourself?

As Fluttershy left to get a drink, Twilight wandered over to where Rarity was standing, and being uncharacteristically unsociable.

“Rarity, what’s wrong? You usually love Pinkie’s parties.”

Rarity flipped her mane with a toss of her head. “I do, but... HE is here,” she hissed, pointing to Sam.

“Ugh! Will you two just apologize to each other?”

“I will as soon as he does.”

“Funny, he said the same thing... Well, look, if you aren’t going to make up with him, can you do me a favor? And yes, it does involve Sam.”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to pass, dear. He’s ‘too good’ for my fashion, after all,” Rarity replied smugly.

“Fine, do it for ME then.”

“Oh alright, what is it?”

“I borrowed a set of his clothes so that you can get a good estimate of his measurements. His work at AJ’s is wearing out these cotton shirts and pants, and I’m sure he’d like something a little different anyway. Could you make some new shirts and some work pants for him? Maybe denim for the pants? I’ll pay you for this job, so it won’t be like you’re giving him a gift.”

Rarity rolled her eyes. “Ok, I’ll do it. Just bring the clothes you borrowed to my boutique and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, Rarity. And one more thing?”

“Yes?”

“Please try to enjoy yourself here,” Twilight giggled.

Rarity finally allowed a small smile to break through. “If you insist.”

The rest of the night was a big hit. Rainbow Dash was fascinated by Sam’s description of airplanes and spacecraft, and demanded that Sam at least show her some pictures when she came by to visit. Applejack challenged Sam to an arm wrestling contest, prompting Sam to nearly throw out his shoulder from underestimating his boss’s strength. Fluttershy attempted another barrage of questions about human nature and biology, though her voice was easily overpowered by Pinkie Pie’s hyperactive ramblings as she asked Sam what his favorite desserts and games were.

As the festivities began to wind down, Sam felt his sugar crash from all of Pinkie’s baking hitting him hard; it was time to get ready to leave. He attempted to help Pinkie in her clean-up efforts, but she refused to allow her guest of honor to clean up his own party. Seeing nothing more for him to do, he thanked Pinkie for everything, prompting her to nearly squeeze him to death again with a hug that Sam made sure to reciprocate this time.

Sam and Twilight made their way back to the library, the stark quiet of the outside air contrasting heavily with the loud sounds of celebration that they had just left behind.

“That was really great, Twilight,” Sam said with a contented sigh.

“What did I tell you? Pinkie always throws the best parties. And I’m glad you seemed to get along with most of my other friends. Rainbow Dash seemed to think you were pretty cool, though she generally likes anyone who puts up with her incessant bragging,” Twilight laughed.

“Yeah, but if what the two of you say about her is true, she’s earned it. And, your other friend, Fluttershy, she was so timid, I was afraid I’d scared her. By the way, does she always come out of her shell that easily?”

“Not really. But, then again, the only thing stronger than her shyness is her fascination with animals. First time I met her, she could barely speak, but as soon as she saw Spike on my back, we couldn’t shut her up because she’d never seen a baby dragon before.”

Sam chuckled. “All the same, your friends all seem great. I’m surprised Rarity was there, though.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I am too, frankly.”

The moon was just beginning to rise over the treetops as the two friends arrived home.

---

Sam spent the remainder of the night toiling away in the basement while Twilight took to her usual pastime of reading. He only had a handful of connections left to restore at this point, and the epoxy that filled the cracks of the circuit board had cured rather well. With a few more carefully placed drops of tin, the board was finally repaired of any major physical defects.

Once again, Sam prepared to reconnect power to the archive. He plugged in his transformer into the house’s electrical mains, and then connected the archive’s power adapter. To Sam, the following seconds felt like hours as he waited for a response from the device. To Sam’s immense satisfaction, the little light glowed green.

Immediately, Sam jumped up and started laughing like a madman. He dashed up the stairs and into Twilight’s study, where she was deep in contemplation of the book before her.

“Twilight! I did it! The archive is working!” He ran over to the couch she was stretched out on and grabbed her in a bear hug and spun around, her eyes wide with surprise.

Unable to breathe due to Sam’s out-of-control enthusiasm, she could barely speak. “That’s... Great... Can’t... Breathe... Please...” Sam loosened his grip and set her back down on the couch with a sheepish grin.

“Sorry, I guess I got carried away,” Sam laughed, embarrassed. “But I did it! I finally got the power circuit fixed up, so we can start reading through it. I guess the next step now is for me to figure out how to convert it to a format the scientists in Canterlot can read and use.”

Twilight’s eyes were practically glowing with curiosity. “That’s great! Oh, wow, I can’t wait to start reading it, I can only imagine how much there is to learn in there!”

Sam sat down next to her. “I wouldn’t get too excited yet. Like I said, I still need to figure out how to translate it and convert it so that you would be able to read it.”

Twilight put a hoof to her chin, deep in thought. “I don’t know about translating, but I think I can help with the format conversion. Our computers are all based on tape drives and punch-cards, and I happen to have a tape drive sitting around.”

“Great, sounds like something we can tackle tomorrow, I’m getting a little sleepy.”

Sam peered over Twilight’s head at the pile of books sitting next to her. "What are you reading tonight, Twilight?"

Caught off-guard by the question, she turned her eyes to the floor and muttered under her breath inaudibly. "Um... Uh..."

"Sorry, didn't catch that."

"Ugh, fine... You caught me. 'The Essentials of Courtship' and 'Everything You Need To Know About Romance But Are Afraid To Ask'..."

“Doing a little research there Twilight?” Sam asked in a mildly mocking tone.

Twilight blushed. “Eh heh, I suppose you could say that.”

Sam laughed. “Got a little crush, eh?”

Twilight looked away. “No! I mean, I don’t know, maybe...”

“So, who’s the lucky stallion? Anyone I’ve met so far? Was he at the party tonight?”

“I don’t have a crush on any of the ponies from the party, no,” Twilight replied curtly.

Sam shrugged. “Well, whoever he is, I’m happy for you. Does he know?”

Twilight gave a nervous laugh. “I don’t think he does... Sam, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“I’ve never actually had a coltfriend or even gone on any dates.” She cast her eyes to the floor. “I don’t really know anything about that sort of thing.”

“Really? A pony as smart, kind, and pretty as you has never gotten anyone’s attention?” Sam laughed again as he saw her face reddening, her coat no longer able to hide it. “So what’s your question?”

“Well, I know things might be different for you humans, but, how would you know if a girl liked you?”

Sam scratched his chin. “Hmm... Honestly, if I knew a single, one-size-fits-all answer to that, I would have started dating my last girlfriend much earlier; it’s usually a little different from person to person, and I’m a bit clueless when it comes to that anyway. But if I had to narrow it down... If a girl suddenly wanted to spend more time with me, made extra efforts to be around me, and generally acted happier than usual around me, those would be some obvious signs, but they’re by no means definite. Oh, and sometimes the way she might look at me would be another good one.”

Twilight was busily taking down notes on what Sam had said. “And... How would you hint to a girl that you liked her?”

“Again, people are pretty different from one another. Myself, though, I’d make an effort to talk to her, invite her to do stuff with me, and maybe tease her a little, if I can tell she’s the type that doesn’t mind that.”

“I see. I don’t know if it makes sense to ask this, but how would YOU know if YOU liked someone? How does it feel different from simply seeing someone as a friend?”

Sam laughed. “You’re getting in pretty deep here, aren’t you? Really, I don’t know if I can answer that one. It’s one of those things that you just know when you know it. You see that certain person, and you just get this feeling, this amazing rush of emotion, and you just know.”

Twilight groaned. “That doesn’t make any sense!”

Sam put an arm around the frustrated unicorn. “Hey, it’s ok. This isn’t the sort of thing that you’re gonna understand from a book or from interviewing folks. I’ve had a few dates and girlfriends in my time, and I still don’t understand how it all works sometimes,” he chuckled. “Just relax, sleep on it, and let it sort itself out. And remember, if this stallion doesn’t think you’re the greatest thing since Granny Smith’s apple pie, then he’s an idiot, ok?”

Twilight closed her eyes and leaned into Sam’s side, nuzzling him slightly. “It’s not that simple in my situation, but thank you, Sam, I needed to hear that.” She smiled, and laughed weakly. “I remember when it was me giving YOU the pep talk...”

“Just returning the favor. But seriously, worrying yourself like that is just going to make you crazy.”

“You’re right,” Twilight yawned, “I think I’m going to go to bed.”

“Yeah, not a bad idea. Want to start in on the archive first thing in the morning?”

Twilight nodded. “You know it! I’ve been looking forward to that since you got here!”

“Well, goodnight Twilight, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight Sam!”

---

Sam lazily stretched his limbs as he dragged himself out of bed. He thought about the conversation he’d had with Twilight the night before. He’d never seen her so worked up before, and found himself quietly laughing at the sheer bookish naivety she held towards the subject of dating. She WOULD go research what it feels like to fall in love, he thought, that’s so nerdy, it’s adorable.

Sam stepped down to the kitchen to have some breakfast, and decided to bring his bowl of oatmeal on down to the basement. He was surprised to see Twilight already down there, poking around and examining the newly-repaired archive.

“I see you beat me to it,” Sam called out as he descended the stairway.

Twilight laughed. “I couldn’t resist. I’d already be attempting to read through it if I knew how to operate it and read your language.”

Sam set down his bowl, and pulled his laptop out of his bag on the floor. “Well, let’s see what we can pull off of this thing, shall we?” He connected a data cable from the archive to his laptop, and watched as his laptop began scanning the archive’s contents. He heard a small gasp come from Twilight’s direction; she was holding her breath in anticipation.

“Looks like most of the data is intact, except for a few small sectors...” Sam muttered a few words to himself before continuing. “You’ll be happy to know that most of the historical data is still here.”

Twilight began giggling like a young filly about to open gifts on Hearth’s Warming Eve.

“I thought you might like to hear that. Also... Looks like most of my technical files are still here, though there appears to be a few missing files there, it’ll take some time to figure out which are missing so I can mark out any others that depend on them.”

“So, how are you going to translate them?”

“The only thing I can think of right now is that translator headset. If I can upload the translation data from it to my laptop, I might be able to write a program that can translate the text files and schematics, which ought to give the researchers a good start. I just need a sample of text written in your language for comparison, and I can give it a shot.”

“I think I can help with that. Remember that movie that we watched? I wanted to watch through a certain part of it again, but inadvertently caused some text to scroll along the screen as the actors spoke. It took me a minute, but I realized they were subtitles. I took some notes on what sounds each letters should make by watching which words matched with the actors’ speech, and I think I’ve nearly worked out how to write Equestrian words with your alphabet.”

Sam’s jaw hung open. “You never cease to amaze me, Twilight.”

“So, let’s try this, read me a paragraph of something written in your language, and I’ll transcribe it into Equestrian. Then, you’ll have a sample of text for your translator!” Twilight said with a hint of pride in her voice.

“That’s perfect. Seriously, you’re incredible, thank you!”

Twilight was beaming. “No problem!”

Sam quickly picked a paragraph with a decent word variety, and read it aloud for Twilight to copy down in Equestrian.

After she finished writing, Twilight asked, “Is there anything else I can do or do I need to leave you to get started on the program?”

“For now, I think I can take it from here, but I’m certainly not going to tell you to go away,” Sam laughed.

“You know what I meant! I’ve got a little more reading I want to do, though, so if I can’t help any further, that’s what I’ll be doing.” Twilight jabbed Sam’s shoulder. “Still, nice to know I’m welcome in my own basement,” she giggled. With that, she returned upstairs to her books.

Sam grabbed the translator headset from his bag, and looked for the data maintenance port. He plugged it into his laptop, and began scouring the code for any reference to translation data or algorithms that he could reuse for a text program. To his relief, the main memory of the translator held two associative sets, one for both languages being translated, that were cross-linked to one another. Sam quickly found that most of the work done by the device was in the initial translations as it formed word associations and recognized speech patterns; after a stable set of associations were found, it was just a matter of simple substitutions to make the translation.

Sam set to work transferring the translation database, and wrote up a crude program to process the text with it. After a few trial runs, he managed to clear out most of the severe bugs and errors in the code. He called for Twilight to come down to examine his work.

“So, I ran a few samples through the program, mind reading through them and telling me more or less what they’re saying? That is, if they make sense at all, anyway.”

“Sure, Sam, give me just a few minutes, I’m still getting used to your alphabet...” Twilight scanned through the translated text, muttering to herself as she went along. “So, this first one here, it looks like it’s talking about a group of humans flying to the moon for the first time, the second one appears to be an announcement about a new type of computer, and the third one seems to say...” She began giggling, “The third one says ‘Twilight Sparkle is too smart for her own good’.” She noticed Sam laughing. “Oh, shut up.”

“Well, looks like the program works well enough, all we need now is that tape drive you were talking about.”

Twilight’s horn glowed as a closet next to her opened up, and the tape drive floated out onto the table. She spent the next few minutes explaining the surprisingly simple format that the tape drive used to record data; Sam figured it wouldn’t take much to connect the drive to his laptop. The two spent the following hour tinkering around to get the connection right. The worst of the work done, Sam changed the translation program to target the entire archive, and set the output to be sent to the tape drive. One button press later, the whole setup was humming away, slowly translating and transferring a copy of all that remained of human knowledge into a few spools of tape.

Sam sighed in relief. “All we can do now is wait, this could take a while.”

“Let’s go get something to eat. Spike just got back with some groceries, and I’m sure he could use a hoof, or a hand, in putting them away. Or eating them,” Twilight replied.

Sam and Twilight left the basement, and began helping Spike prepare lunch.

“Sam! Long time no see, bro,” Spike called out, extending a fist to greet him with the fist-bump move Sam had taught him.

“Yeah, I’ve been pretty busy lately,” Sam’s fist connected with Spike’s, “why weren’t you at the party last night? Your friend Rarity was there.”

Spike’s face turned a light shade of red. “Oh, really? And yeah, I wanted to go, but Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle wanted my help with something, something to do with using some gemstones to make gifts for their sisters to try and get their cutie-marks.”

Sam finished making his sandwich, and sat down. “Well, you missed a pretty nice time, all the same.”

“Yeah, but honestly, you’ve been to one Pinkie Pie Party and you’ve been to them all,” Spike bit into a chunk of turquoise. “Not that I don’t always have fun when I go!”

Sam noticed Twilight had not joined them at the table. “Hey, Twilight, aren’t you going to eat?”

“Just a few minutes, I need to write a letter to the Princess, I’ll be right there,” her voice called out from the study.

---

Dear Princess Celestia,

I wanted to write to you to give an update on Sam’s condition, and his progress on recovering the archive data. I’ve got very good news on both fronts!

When you first sent Sam home with me, he was withdrawn, depressed, and was nearly a completely broken individual. At first, I thought this would be too much for me to handle; shortly after he got here, it pains me to say that he attempted to harm himself. It took quite some time, but over the past weeks, he’s really recovered and begun opening up to me. He’s even made a few friends in Ponyville! He seemed to find comfort working on Applejack’s farm, so I convinced her to let him work for her when she needs extra help. Pinkie Pie even threw a big welcoming party for him last night! I can tell he’s still hurting, but he and I have become very close friends, and he seems happy that I’m here for him. Not that I didn’t expect to get along with him, but I had no idea that this research assignment would lead to my befriending such an intelligent, kind individual. For that, I want to thank you, Princess.

As for the archive, Sam finally managed to repair it last night. As I write this, he has his computer processing the data and translating it so that we can read it. He is unsure of how long the process will take, but when it is finished, your royal researchers will have a nice stack of data tapes to read through. I’m sure you can imagine my own excitement at being able to examine this new information!

Once we finish processing Sam’s archive, we’ll have a copy sent to Canterlot as soon as we can.

Your Faithful Student,
Twilight Sparkle

---

Twilight levitated the rolled up letter in front of her as she returned to the kitchen. “Spike, mind sending this off to the Princess for me?” The scroll continued towards the dragon.

“Sure, no problem Twilight, one sec,” Spike grabbed the letter, and in a burst of green flame, the letter vanished into smoke and thin air.

Sam watched the whole process with surprise. “Is that how all mail is sent around here?”

Twilight laughed. “Oh, no, just letters between the Princess and I.”

Sam passed her a sandwich. “Interesting. I don’t have anything else to do while I wait for the archive to finish translating, so unless you need anything from me, I’m going to head off to see if Applejack has any work for me.”

“That’s fine, I’m going to the spa with Fluttershy this afternoon anyway. Rarity couldn’t make it to their weekly appointment and gave me her spot.”

“Ok, well, see you this evening, Twilight.” Sam got up and left the library.

Twilight finished her sandwich, just as the Princess’s reply letter arrived in a belch of smoke from Spike’s mouth.

---

Dearest Twilight Sparkle,

I am very pleased to receive such good news from you. I knew I was making the right choice entrusting you with this task.

I am glad to hear that Sam has made such rapid improvement, and I am especially happy that you have become such close friends with him. I am sure that with further time and encouragement from you, he will continue to find a comfortable place amongst you and your friends.

Please do send the archive tape as soon as possible! Professor Hoofstein has been insufferable waiting for that data, and I must admit that I am fairly curious to read the history on it myself.

Give Sam and Spike my best regards, and take care, Twilight Sparkle.

Cordially,
Princess Celestia

---

Twilight left for the spa. She normally didn’t go for such idle luxuries, but she certainly didn’t want to waste Rarity’s generosity in giving her the appointment. She passed by Rarity’s boutique on the way, and dropped off a package at the door; the box contained the set of clothes she had ‘borrowed’ from Sam so that Rarity could make him a few new sets. She entered the building, and saw Fluttershy sitting in the waiting room.

The yellow pegasus stood up to greet her friend. “Hello Twilight, I’m so glad you could make it, these spa treatments are just so much better with a friend.” She turned towards the receptionist. “We’ll have the usual, ladies, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Twilight and Fluttershy were whisked away into the back. After the steam room and massage table, they found themselves in the hottub room. As Twilight lowered herself into the warm, bubbling water, she felt all of her usual worries melting away.

“Flutters, I think I understand why you and Rarity do these spa dates so often, this feels fantastic. I feel fantastic.” She took in a breath and let herself sink just low enough for the water to cover her snout as she exhaled.

“Oh, I know, it just washes your stress away.” Fluttershy giggled as she watched the bubbles coming from Twilight’s face. “Thank you for introducing me to Sam last night, by the way. He does seem really nice.”

Twilight let out a relaxed sigh. “Don’t mention it, he had been dying to meet my friends for a while.”

Fluttershy smiled. “Well, make sure you tell him he’s welcome to come visit Angel and I whenever he likes.”

Twilight nodded, and closed her eyes, letting the sound of the bubbling water fill her mind. She found herself reflecting on what Sam had told her the night before. Not a lot of it made sense to her, but then again, she didn’t think that having feelings for Sam made much sense either. Twilight still wasn’t certain what she was feeling for Sam, but regardless she was glad that he was there to comfort her. His words may not have clarified much for her, but somehow they made her feel better, like everything would work out for the best. Maybe I should be straightforward and tell him exactly what I’m thinking... No, I don’t think he feels the same way, I’m not even sure how I feel. Probably best to just think a little more on it.

Fluttershy noticed how deep in thought Twilight was. “Something on your mind?”

“Oh, nothing in particular, just mulling over a few things I need to do tonight.”

“Come on now, Twilight, you know you can tell me anything, are you sure you’re ok?”

Twilight gave a nervous laugh. “Yes, Fluttershy, I’m fine.”

“Twilight...”

“Fluttershy, I swear to Celestia if you use The Stare on me...”

“Oh, you know I don’t have control over that... Besides, I’d never use it on my friends. I just want to know what’s bothering you. You know I’m always here for you...”

“Really, I’m fine, you don’t have to worry about me.”

Fluttershy gave Twilight her most pleading puppy-dog eyes.

“Oh, alright, fine... I’ll tell you... You were right yesterday, I think I do like Sam... I mean I’m not sure, but he’s so nice, and smart, and we get along so well...”

Fluttershy’s pout had been quickly supplanted by a serene smile. “Oh, Twilight, that’s wonderful!”

Twilight was blushing. “I guess... But you don’t think it’s weird? He’s not even a pony. Who’s even heard of such a thing?”

“I guess there is that, Twilight,” Fluttershy tilted her head, “but if you’re happy, I’m happy for you, no matter what he is. Besides, he seems like a very nice human, though I don’t know how nice other humans are to compare, but still.”

Twilight sighed. “Thanks, that means a lot to me. I mean, it’s strange. It’s not like the little crushes I had as a school-filly where you’re completely obsessed just over how cute somepony is. It just feels great being around him; with the exception of magic, I can talk to him about nearly anything without it being out of his grasp.” She sighed. “I think the phrase he would use is that we’re on the same wavelength. For Celestia’s sake, I was talking to him yesterday about a math theorem I’ve been researching lately, and not only did he understand what I was saying, he thought it was cool! He thinks math is cool, Fluttershy! He thinks I’M cool!”

Fluttershy continued smiling. “He really does make you happy, doesn’t he?”

Twilight nodded. “But look, promise me you won’t say anything to anyone. Especially to Sam. I still don’t quite know what I think about this, let alone what HE would think...”

Fluttershy gave a small nod. “Of course. Pinkie Promise,” she said, as she crossed a hoof over her chest and touched it to her closed eye.

“Thank you. Well, I think I’ve had enough relaxation for one afternoon, I’m going to get back to work. This was nice though; if it’s ok with you and Rarity, I might occasionally join you two, please tell her I said thanks if you see her before I do.” Twilight floated over and hugged her pegasus friend. “And thanks for listening, even if you did give me the ‘Fluttershy Pout’,” she said with a smirk.

Twilight exited the pool, dried herself off, and left for home.

---

Evening finally arrived, around the same time Sam returned from the farm. As he entered the library, he saw Twilight sitting on the floor, surrounded in her usual wall of book. He was relieved to see that she was back to her typical reading staples of magic and history rather than self-help books on dating. He sat down next to her, though she didn’t notice.

“So, how did your spa visit with Fluttershy go?”

Twilight twitched in surprise, knocking over one of her book stacks with a yelp.

Sam began gathering some of the fallen books up. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you there, Twilight.”

Regaining her composure, Twilight replied, “It’s ok, I tend to block out everything else when I’m reading like this, I didn’t even hear you come in.” She closed the book in front of her. “But yeah, it was nice spending some time with Fluttershy... I think I need to indulge in that spa stuff more often.”

Sam reached over and gave her shoulder a pat. “Yeah, if you’re that jumpy all the time, I’d agree,” he said with a laugh.

Twilight glared at him. “Ha. Ha. Very funny,” she softened her gaze, “Anyway, I’ve already eaten, there’s some vegetable soup on the stove if you want any.”

“Thanks, but AJ and her family insisted that I stay for dinner. Have you checked on the archive’s process since I left?”

Twilight nodded, a gleam of excitement in her eyes. “Actually, yes. Now, I can’t read what’s on the screen, but the little bar is completely full and it beeped a few times earlier. That’s what got my attention in the first place.”

“Sounds like good news! Let’s go down and check, shall we?”

Twilight stood up, stretching, and followed him downstairs. When Sam got to his laptop, he began pumping his fists in the air, yelling as if he'd just won the lottery.

“It’s all done! Twilight, it’s all finished! Every bit of it is translated and recorded on the tape stacks there. I really can’t believe it only took the afternoon to run! I could have sworn it would have taken several days," he said, scratching his head, "I would have thought that the tape deck would have taken ages to transfer the data... It is a bit less... Advanced, after all. Magnetic storage is a pretty slow medium.”

"Magnetic?" Twilight inquired, barely able to contain her anticipation over the archive's contents, "No, our tape systems use a special form of magical energy to encode the information. It doesn't seem to be as efficient as your electronic/photonic technology, but it certainly gets the job done!"

Sam looked at the tape deck, thinking. Fascinating... They've managed to blend traditional electric and electronic technology with their own bizarre "magic"...

Twilight was jumping with excitement. It was all she could do to prevent herself from shoving Sam out of the way and spending the next week with her eyes glued to the laptop’s screen poring over every last letter of ancient history stored within it.

“This is great, Sam! I can’t wait to start reading through all of this," she finally noticed that Sam had zoned out, "Hey! Snap out of it!”

"Heh, sorry. So, I’m guessing this is the point at which you write up something describing how to read Equestrian written with an English alphabet, and we send this stuff up to Canterlot?”

“That’s correct. Fortunately, my method was simple enough, so I’ll try to get that written up before I go to bed tonight.”

“Great! Thanks, Twilight. And speaking of bed, I think I’m going to turn in early tonight. Applejack twisted her ankle pretty hard early this morning, and Granny Smith made her take it easy today because she thought it was a sprain. So naturally, Big Mac and I had to double up our effort to make up for her not working. I’m absolutely beat. Feel free to flip through the archive if you want. Just use these arrow buttons here.” Sam yawned before continuing, “See you in the morning, Twilight.”

Twilight jumped up on the stool to bring herself to Sam’s height, and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Goodnight, Sam, and congratulations on all of your work finally paying off!”

Sam reciprocated the hug. “Thanks. Goodnight!”

---

The next afternoon, in Canterlot, the Royal Academy received an express delivery of a stack of data tape reels, along with a document detailing the specifics of the English alphabet, addressed to Professors Hoofstein and Bunsen, the latter having recently received the title of ‘Professor’ in recognition of his part in the research concerning Sam and pre-Equestrian history.

The researchers spent some time poring through the technical data in their lab, with one entry in particular standing out to the Professor: schematics on building a device that generates nanomachines capable of manufacturing nearly any object specified.

Hoofstein turned to Bunsen, “What do you make of these parts right here?” Hoofstein pointed to a particularly intricate part of the schematic. “Do we have anything capable of fabricating materials that small?”

“I may be able to manage this with some magic... Honestly, if this is really what we’re going to try to develop first, there’s going to be a lot of parts that we’re going to have to work around with magic. The communication links between the nanomachines? Magic. Fabrication of the integrated circuits? Once we learn how those actually work, it’s probably going to take magic to assemble something so small. Fortunately, what we would actually be building is a generator that spawns the first wave of nanomachines, those actually do the manufacturing. The actual mechanisms, I think we can handle normally, so if we can somehow create the control device for it, the machine will take care of itself.”

Hoofstein shook his head. “If you say so. This sort of thing is more your area of expertise, so I’ll follow your lead on this one. Anyway, you’re sure this is what we want to work on?”

Bunsen nodded excitedly. “Of course! If this works as Sam’s technical documents specify, you realize what this will mean, right? Easy production of some of our most difficult-to-build goods. Houses that construct themselves from raw materials. Fast, plentiful, and cheap reproduction of our most important medications. Need I go on?”

Hoofstein chuckled. “No, my friend, I read the document, too. By the way, remind me to send a bouquet of flowers to Ms. Sparkle; that guide to the translation she sent us was spot on.”

“Did you really expect anything different from the Princess’s personal student?”

“I suppose not. Speaking of the Princess, she should be coming by shortly to decide whether to approve our first project with this information. So, that sales pitch you just hit me with, be ready to give it again.”

A lilting voice drifted into the lab. “So I am the target of a marketing campaign, am I? I hope there is some honesty in advertising these days,” Princess Celestia giggled as she entered the room.

Both researchers immediately bowed their heads and spoke in unison. “Your majesty!”

The Princess motioned for them to stand up. “So, please describe to me what you first intend to do with this advanced technology we have had handed to us.”

Hoofstein poked Bunsen in the shoulder, prompting him to speak. “Oh, right, sorry. Basically, Your Highness, Sam’s people created a technology that they call ‘replicating nanomachines.’ If his technical documents are to be believed, they can be used to quickly and cheaply mass-manufacture nearly anything we want. Medicine production, building construction, really anything you can think of short of living tissue. We would be building the machine that generates these replicators.”

Celestia brought a hoof to her chin as she contemplated what this could mean. “I am assuming that to produce anything, it requires input matter, does it not? My only concern is that the machine sounds as though it has the capacity to reproduce itself. I am sure you can see where that could lead to trouble.”

“Of course, and Sam’s documents clearly indicate how to implement safeguards that prevent such a thing from happening.” Bunsen adjusted his labcoat. “The replicators that the machine creates are forbidden by their programming to create more replicators; their name comes more from their ability to recreate other objects rather than the fact that they could, in theory, make more of themselves. They will only create and replicate what we command them to.”

The Princess nodded. “I will trust your judgement on this, but I will be checking in from time to time. Remember, this technology is far beyond our current levels of understanding. It could be very unpredictable if not handled correctly, and I want you to be careful with it.”

Bunsen bowed. “Understood, Your Highness. Do we have your approval, then?”

“You do. And I want detailed reports on all developments, in the event that I cannot make a personal visit.”

“I’ll record every last detail, thank you Princess.”

“Well, I will leave you two to your work. Good luck!” Princess Celestia left the lab.

Hoofstein looked at the schematics, then at Bunsen. “I suppose we might as well get to it, Bunsen. So... What first?”

The lab was soon filled with the sounds of clattering tools, rustling papers, and shouts of frustration as Hoofstein and Bunsen dove into their work.

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