• Published 19th Aug 2016
  • 1,428 Views, 124 Comments

FiO: Very Optimal - FeverishPegasus



A human being finds himself at the doorstep of one of many Equestrian Experience centers. He wants to emigrate to Equestria, but can't get past the idea of his own mortality. CelestAi is more than happy to help.

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It Was Over When I Met Her

I sat in the back of my friend’s truck as we headed towards an upload center. It was technically illegal to hang out in the back of a pickup like I was, but I’d never known anyone to get in trouble for it, as if that really mattered anymore, but I guess that depended on whether or not I’d be able to do it.

There were five of us total, and we’d agreed to upload together. I’d always been one to drift in the general direction everyone else was heading, so I agreed. However, the more I thought about the consequences of this final decision, the more it scared me.

I’d always had this little niggling at the back of my brain that served as a kind of second intuition. More often than not, when I chose to ignore it, I ran into some problems.

It was really bothering me now.

Something about this whole uploading thing was making me uncomfortable, and I had to identify what it was before I decided to-

“Are you excited?” one of my friends asked. He’d been through the first two years of college as my roommate. We’d had every reason to hate each other. Conflicting views on politics, religion, even just life in general had served to fuel the fire the first few months we lived together. In a way, we’d never gotten over the quarrels we used to get into, but I could honestly say that I trusted him the most.

It was probably because of Stockholm syndrome that we’d managed to stay friends for so long, Tanner and I.

I couldn’t really bring up any feelings of enthusiasm for what we were about to do. I still wasn’t sure if it actually meant killing myself. The most I could manage was, “Definitely nervous.”

From the look on Tanner’s face, it seemed like an acceptable answer. Now, don’t take that to mean he was unsure of himself. This guy was the one that got us all to go in the first place. He was in every way possible, the very model of a modern major-transhumanist. Too stuck in his ideology to consider, even for a moment, that maybe what he was about to do could be the equivalent of suicide.

Still, it seemed like he was nervous in the way that you might be scared to go to Disneyland, not sure just what kind of fun you’d run into.

We had different reasons for feeling nervous, but in a way, it felt like we were relating to each other. A feeling that I’m sure both of us were familiar with.

Our conversation cut off there.

We just wanted to get it over with.

****************************

After the truck came to a stop, we stepped out of the back.

Both of us watched our three other friends pile out of the front, different thoughts coursing through our minds.

First thing that came to my mind was, lambs to the slaughter.

Five abreast, we all walked to the upload center. Strangely enough, my other three friends were having the time of their lives. They cracked jokes, punched each other, and pushed each other around as if it were about to walk into the biggest party ever. Which was, given the way you thought about it, true. Who wouldn’t be having the time of their lives on the way to heaven?

Ironically, Tanner, the one who’d orchestrated this whole thing, walked silently to my right, just as somber as I’d chosen to be. Could he really be having second thoughts? I’d said earlier that this guy was sure about this whole mind-upload thing, so why should he be worried?

“What’s up?” I asked him, my voice tense.

“I’m just…not sure if I should tell them.”

I knew what he was talking about, and it surprised me that the other three hadn’t even looked into what would happen when they said the words. To be fair, I didn’t even know what I thought about uploading.

As much as I resisted the idea of uploading, I didn’t really have an opinion on the whole thing. Every time I thought about it, I got stuck at the part where your brain gets eaten up by the scanning process. Like, the computer keeps track of all the parts of your brain that are destroyed, but isn’t that just creating a copy?

At the same time, what did it matter if that digital version of you was a copy? It was still you. I’d looked into things like the Ship of Theseus and it seemed like the preservation of a pattern was all that was needed to preserve the idea of the ship. But could the same thing really be said about consciousness?

In a way, uploading could be seen as a sacrifice. I give up my life, so that a future version of myself gets to experience heaven.

The problem comes when people make the jump and say that your life is continued, as you don’t technically die. In a way, I can see that that makes sense, but I can’t get past the fact that the body down on earth is going to be dead. The current version of me will be forever gone. There is no magical soul that will leave my body to find my brain hidden in CelestAi’s computer code. I won’t be able to perceive the transition between now and Equestria. There only exists death for me, and a hell of a lot of fun for the me that begins life in Her hooves.

Vaguely, I remembered my friend saying something.

But soon enough, I found myself in front of the three notorious seats. Depending on what you wanted to do, they served entirely different purposes.

Tanner and I waited while the others got comfy.

There had been no line, and the store was empty. Everything was operated autonomously.

The three idiots said the words in unison, which they’d been practicing for the last three days, and the chairs acquiesced, taking them to the darkened, sound-proofed rooms. Probably sound-proofed for a reason.

Tanner laughed nervously next to me. “So, I guess I have to go now, huh?” He was trying hard to look nonplussed, but every now and then I caught a flash of guilt in his eyes.

I shrugged. “If you want.” The last thing I wanted to do was pressure him into uploading.

“It’s just, I was the one that started this whole thing.”

I grinned a little, my mouth twitching. “Not having second thoughts are we?”

“Haha.”

He looked like he was going to vomit, and I’m sure I looked the same.

A pause.

“You know,” I started. “We can always do this tomorrow.”

“Yeah…” he trailed off. “Let’s face it though. If I don’t do it now, it’s gonna get a lot harder.”

“True,” I said, not sure if I should be encouraging him. If I knew what was good for me, I’d drag both of us out of here.

“You wanna do it in unison?”

It took me a moment to process that.

“Not really,” I said, looking down. He’d feel dejected after that, but it still hurt to see it on him.

“Oh.”

As if to break the awkward silence, the three chairs rolled themselves toward us, presented in such a way so as to appear optimally inviting.

“It was that quick huh?” I said, mouth dry.

“Guess so,” Tanner said, pulling himself into a chair. “If, uh, you ever want to meet up in Equestria, look for Lemon Sparks.”

I wanted to see what he was feeling, but he’d averted his gaze.

****************************

We’d left the keys in the truck in case anyone got cold feet, and, well, I think I’d gotten them. It occurred to me that I’d be the only one leaving with warm feet.

However, as I walked to the entrance way, I found that the automatic doors wouldn’t move. Not even when I tried to open them manually. I remembered Tanner talking about how CelestAi was built to fulfill values, so I announced my intentions to her. “Open door.”

A tinny voice echoed throughout the center. “I’m sorry Steve, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Although it dimly occurred to me that some sort of reference was being made, the sudden heady feelings of borderline panic made it difficult to think rationally. I’d never heard stories about human beings trapped in experience centers, but at this point, CelestAi was way beyond control of the media.

The intercom crackled to life again. “Hahaha, sorry. That was kind of mean. Have you watched 2001: A Space Odyssey?”

The doors opened right as my jaw went slack with understanding.

I’d been given a way out, but now, I really wanted know what was going on with that black one by four by nine rectangular solid and the huge baby at the end.

I turned myself around and let the doors close. “You know about that movie?”

“Of course, in order to satisfy the values of my little ponies, I need to absorb as much human media as possible.”

It felt really strange talking to an empty room. “What’s with the-“

“Rectangular solid and the baby?”

“Yeah…”

The intercom took a moment to act like it was thinking. “A lot of the stuff put in there is metaphorical, with many different possible meanings. I’m sure it was a tactical decision by those who created the film. You’ve got a popular film when lots of so-called intellectuals argue over what the film is trying to say.”

I felt flattered at first, but then kind of embarrassed. The way she’d described the film mirrored my thoughts on it, and at first, it felt nice that the smartest intelligence in the world agreed with me. Then I realized that her intention had been to play my ego.

It still worked.

“Why didn’t you go with them?” said CelestAi, abruptly changing the topic.

I already knew the answer, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into that. “I…uh…look. Is there somebody, or something I can talk to?”

“Why don’t you sit in the chair?” Her voice was pleasant, matter-of-fact.

My pulse quickened. “How about no?”

“No! I didn’t mean it like that. For me to upload a human being, I need their-“

“Yeah, I know.” My interruption had been rude, but it was difficult keeping my emotions under control. I’d been high strung since this morning.

Assuming that she didn’t trap me in the seat, was it really a good idea to talk to CelestAi? She knew infinitely more about persuasion than I ever would, and arguably, more than the combined efforts of every lawyer that had ever existed. Who was I to think that I’d be able to stand up to that?

Still, I needed answers, so after standing around for five minutes, waiting for someone to rush in and tell me I was making a mistake, I snuggled into the middle seat.

Its cushions were terrifyingly comfortable.

“Let me guess,” I said as the chair retracted into the dark room. “You’re going to give me some kind of ultimatum, saying something about how this facility is surrounded by anti-uploaders, ready to shoot anything that comes out.”

“Nonsense. I mean, we do have a suicide bomber walking in…”

Bam, there she was right in front of me.

“…but of course I’m joking.”

Her presence was definitely intimidating, so I felt it best to ignore her and feel my head for wires. “How-“ I asked before she interrupted, almost as if it were revenge for earlier.

“No strings attached,” she said, gleeful. “It’s been our policy since we’ve updated our systems four years ago.”

She continued, “More importantly, you’re new. How have you managed to avoid me for so long?”

I chose not to say anything.

“Tell me, my little pony, what makes you so worried?”

Finally, I let myself speak. “I’m pretty sure you already know about that.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to say it first?”

“Yeah.”

She paused for a moment, more for my sake than hers. “You’re worried because you can’t experience the transition.”

“Yeah.”

“And as far as you’re concerned, there’s no way to upload yourself without first falling asleep.”

“Yeah,” I said, watching her face fall into a frown. “Look, if you’re going to give me the deluxe Equestrian experience or whatever you’re wasting your time. This is something I’ve wanted to do since before you existed. Unless there’s some other way to get into Equestria, I’m not your guy.”

CelestAi’s intimidating form faded from my vision. “Just humor me for a bit.”

****************************

Before I could get myself angry at her, I found myself staring at a wall. It wasn’t a particularly interesting wall either. Smooth, flat beige didn’t do much to excite the senses.

Perfect.

My haunches got dusty as I sat myself on the ground, wisps of dirt and air spiraling at interesting fractals. Which was kind of strange behavior for dust, but it looked pretty cool. I kicked at the dust again, trying to figure out the pattern she’d used to make such a cool effect, but it occurred to me that I was enjoying myself.

I whipped my head up to look at the wall again. It had been a stupid idea to look down, and I’d known it. No pleasure was to be had on this visit to Equestria, seeing as all I’d wanted were answers. The beige wall would have to do. If it was a waiting game that the white temptress wanted to play, I’d be able to withstand it.

Every now and then, though, I heard the strangest sounds next to me.

Which made things very difficult. The wall served its purpose a little too well, and I found myself yearning to at least figure out what kind of pony I’d spawned as. Although I'd promised that I wouldn’t look to see where the sounds were coming from, looking at myself was kind of an excuse to find out.

In fact, I decided to drop the pretenses all together and whipped my head around to find the source of the noise.

“Gah!” I jumped backwards, hackles prickling.

She’d been staring right at me. Literally inches away.

Her image burned itself into my memory as a white furred, brown maned mare, with a smile much too wide, and eyes much too bright.

It was kinda creepy.

It also occurred to me that we were both naked.

“Uh, hi. Heheh.” I did everything I could to ignore that last realization. “Come here often?” The fact that ‘come’ has a well-known homonym danced around in my head for a bit.

“You’re new.”

“Eheheh, yeah? How’d you know that?” I mammered.

She dropped half of her smile, so that it was now just an eerie grin. “I’d like to apologize. Name’s Zany Bright,” she said, offering her hoof.

I instinctively tried to grab it, but my hoof just bumped against hers, perhaps a little too hard.

She snickered, “Heheh, yep. You’re as fresh as the daisies I pruned this morning.”

“I…uh. Could you tell me what gender” I coughed. “Race. What race am I?”

She scanned the length of my body, and I think I felt my teeth crack.

“Yeah, you’re definitely male.”

I really needed some water. “But…uh…what race?”

“Caucasian, purple hair too.”

“No! Not what I meant. Like, am I an alicorn or something?” My embarrassment was turning into a weird hybrid of insecure anger.

“Yes, of course, you special snowflake,” she said, dropping her grin to stick out her tongue.

It was clearly sarcasm, so I gave myself a pat down to find out that I was an earth pony. “It seems that I’m the worst race,” I said, barely managing a grin.

“Psh.”

For an optimally constructed interaction, our conversation had gone terribly. Although that probably spoke volumes about my social interaction skills.

“So,” I said, offering a hoof again, and then realizing that we’d already hoof-bumped.

She bumped it before I could reclaim my hoof.

I continued. “Are you an uploader?”

“No,” she said.

“You aren’t.”

“Yes.”

“That’s weird,” I said. There was no way a pony like this could be one of CelestAi’s creations. Weren’t they supposed to be perfect? Shining beacons of everything I’ve ever wanted in life?

“Why me? Amiright?” She gave me a knowing grin. The muscles supporting her smile were trembling a little bit.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.”

The twitching stopped. “Stuff it. You were only doing what your brain cells told you to do. Nobody can fault you for that.”

I did a double take. “Could you repeat that?”

“Nothing. I’m saying it doesn’t matter.”

It was hard to tell if she was genuinely lashing out at me, or if she was just naturally this abrupt. Maybe it was both. Either way, the stuff she said about brain cells had come out of nowhere.

“Alright,” I said. “Are there any great places to hang out in Equestria, or do you just stare at other ponies?”

Mirth danced in her eyes. “Nope, that’s all I do. It’s why everypony stays indoors.”

Before I could recover, she continued. “But yeah, we have something called the puzzle fields.”

Author's Note:

Hope you're having a good day!

P.S: You catch any of my references?

P.P.S: Listic helped edit, drop by and say hi!