• Published 6th Apr 2019
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Distant Reflections - David Silver

Equestria and Everglow have brushed against one another through the course of their histories, each time fleeting, but memorable to those involved. Many many years later, the unaging Twilight captains a space vessel to explore the universe.

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16 - Cleaning Up

"Air Quality, 30% and raising. Rate of increase also increasing." Belle nodded, looking satisfied. "Helmets not strictly required."

Spike was not hurrying to take his off, but Twilight had hers off with delirious speed, to press just a little closer to Spike. "Are we done?" she miserably asked, clinging to him.

Spike raised a hand to his head. "Captains? We have lights and the air's cleaning out. Time to send over the repair crew?"

Remi replied first over the radio, "Yeah, we're all ready to go to bed for a week."

Fast's tone was gently assuring as she cut in, "You all did very well, and no losses. I'm very proud. Come home and report to medical for examination."

"Belle, could you stay there a moment?"

Belle perked an ear at Steel's words. "Are there other threats in need of pacification?"

"None on the scanners," he admitted. "But we'd rather not take chances, and you two are healthy and not tired."

"Fatigue is not a condition I experience often." Belle nodded softly, accepting this wisdom. "Error, do you accept this mission?"

"Huh? Yeah, sure." He expansively shrugged under Belle. "We're already here. Ain't much different."

Belle tilted her head and began to spout all the differences of the two ships, in alphabetical order. No Name held up a hoof even as his snakes burst into laughter. "Both of them have you, Belle, makes them close enough fer me."

With orders given, the weary biological crewmembers returned to their ship, whisked away in flashes of light as Star Dancer got a hold of them and yanked them through time and space back to the fully operational ship they had started on. Repair crew were brought in, scattered across the ship with the equally important mission of getting it functional in time to avoid impacting the world it was flying towards.

No Name wandered the hallways, ears swiveling towards the distant noises of repair going on around them. "So, uh, the air's all better now?"

"75% and still rising," reported Belle with a nod. "Rate has slowed. Air is safe to breathe."

"Not that either of us are doin' it."

Belle tilted her head. "You sound upset by this. Unacceptable!" She reached a hoof back towards a compartment that opened in her side, allowing her to retreive a set of thin glasses that she parked right on her little snout. "Therapy mode engaged."

No Name twisted his head to peer over his simulated shoulder at Belle. "You keep a set of those around just in case?"

"It is good to be prepared," she sang joyfully. "Let us begin." She thrust a hoof at him, pointing right between his eyes. "Do you believe you are alive?"

"Uh... no?" He reached up a hoof and poked it right into his own chest. "More of an electronic ghost, ya know? No breathing, no heart beat. Ain't no eatin' or shittin'."

"Language," she chastised with a wave of her hoof. "That definition of life is outdated! Laboring under it would mean that I am also not alive. Are you attempting to end my life, No Name?"

No Name blinked a bit numbly at that. "N-no, of course not. Ah ain't tryin' to hurt you none. You know that."

"I do. I am also aware of your life." She raised a hoof to tap at her own chest. "I know, because you are alive inside me. You are making me warm."

He frowned faintly. "You mean... like a blush?"

"Incorrect! Running your processes requires mild overclocking and is raising my internal temperatures," she explained. "You being with me warms me. I enjoy this feeling, especially knowing its source. We are closer than ever before. Are you saying the presence of a dead thing is what makes me happy?"

"No, ain't sayin' that." Several snakes huffed in unison, one leaning in towards her. "Can't be dead if you ain't never alive to start. Living things make living things."

"Am I alive?" she asked, pointing at herself. "I was created by a living thing, a very special filly from a long time ago."

He smiled around his snakes a little. "Yeah... yer alive Belle," he admitted with soft sighs, unable to deny his little friend her place among the living.

"By present logic, you are also alive." She nodded firmly, looking quite satisfied with herself as she adjusted her thin glasses. "You were created by me, a living person. You were not given unyielding instructions, at least no more restricting than a biological lifeform already experiences. You have desires and wants and fears. You can experience happiness--" That word trailed upwards musically. "--and misery--" That word taking a downturn for emphasis. "--and all the others that I will fail to enumerate at this time."

He perked an ear at that. "Wait, you made me? I kinda figured I was an upload or somethin'. You know, a copy. A... pale imitation."

"Incorrect," she sang, rocking on his back. "The original Error No Name met a violent end in a time before uploading was a practical achievement." She tilted her head. "I was lonely. My mother told me so much about him." She tapped at her metal chest, smiling brightly. "She wrote much of it down and I used it to create you, hoping that I could also have a friend that was as amazing."

"Uh..." He didn't look entirely placated, a brow raising slowly. "You programmed me to be yer friend? That's kinda messed up."

Belle reached out and poked him on his simulated snoot. "You are free to demerit me friendship points at any time. I have not forced you. A friendship with the points rigged is not a friendship." She suddenly bounced down to the ground and scurried in front of him. "Do you not remember your first moments? File found!" A soft celebratory sound emanated from within her. "Initiating playback."

"Wa--" He was cut off, his own projector used for what she had in mind. He lost his physical body and the memory played out around them, his point of view moving into her head, sharing her vision.

Dawn let out a weary sigh. "I would offer succor, but I fought alongside you, leaving me very little. Unfortunately, I am also the most experienced mystic aboard this ship."

Octavia was already striding away from the room. "Call for me when I am required. You know where I'll--"

Remi cut in front of her, arms crossed. "Not so fast. You're just going to slip out of your room for one mission then go scurrying back into it?"

"That was exactly the plan, yes." Octavia peered at the vulpine block in her path. "Do you have a problem with that?"

Remi glanced to Twilight and Spike, but they didn't seem ready to join the conversation, with Spike still gently placating a distraught and recovering Twilight. "Then I'm going with you."

Octavia blinked softly at that. "Did you need something played?" She circled around Remi, moving for the door. "I'm tired, but I can manage a song or two."

"That wasn't what I meant," she grumped, but followed despite that. She had gotten what she wanted in a fashion. "There's more to life than doing what people 'need' you to do."

A moment after they left, Fast entered the room at a firm trot. "Welcome back. That was a difficult... Where are Remi and Octavia?" She looked left and right, but they were nowhere in sight.

Spike pointed past Fast to the door she had just come through. "They went to Octavia's room."

Fast burst into soft laughter. "Oh! Well, who am I to get in the way of their leisure time? You've all certainly earned it. You're off duty for at least a day, longer if you need it. How do you feel?"

None of them were wearing their suits, automatically withdrawn with their return to the ship. Twilight twisted in Spike's grip. "You didn't tell me I could die doing that!"

Fast inclined her head faintly. "I admit I did not, but I also thought it was common knowledge. Did you not know you could die when you decided to explore space? You almost did when we first met."

"To all things with a start, there is an end," intoned Dawn Junior. "Such is the fate of things. Even gods can know the sting of a final chapter, as distant as it would seem at points."

"Yes, of course, later!" She thumped Spike on the chest with a hoof. "Not right now! That was... frightening. I didn't like it, not at all."

Spike set a hand on her head, gently rubbing her twitching ears. "Twilight, that was scary, but you know you don't want a boring life. I know that, and when this calms down, you'll remember. You'll take risks again."

"But what if I die, for real?" She buried her face in his neck. "You'll protect me, right?"

"Of course." He held her close even as he stood up awkwardly on his hind legs. "I will be there."

Suddenly she turned around, flipping in his grip to face Dawn. "Wait! You all have Everglow magic. You are a divine caster. Can you revive the dead? Don't you remember, Spike? I died once before, but they undid it! That was a long time ago, but it was quite effective."

Dawn waved a hoof away. "If I had magic enough for that, I could have done more against the undead torrent we faced. Perhaps the gods will see me worthy, in time, but know that even if--"

"--There is a material price," cut in Twilight. "That hasn't changed, I see." She tapped her chin. "But you can't cast that spell... unfortunate... But you could, in theory?"

Dawn Junior shook his head. "With your permission, Captain, I will retire to my usual duties."

"I just gave you the day off," she reminded curtly.

"I appreciate it, Captain, but I'd rather return to duty."

She thrust a hoof at him. "Thank you for your input, now go enjoy your day off. You did well, now relax."

Though grumbling, he did not further argue as he trotted away.

Dawn shook his head. "Was I that petulant as a foal?"

"I think we all were in our own ways," admitted Fast with a little smile. "Sometimes even when we're adults. Now you won't give me trouble, I hope?"

"No, Ma'am." He dipped his head. "I will use the day praying and considering my actions."

Twilight wriggled in Spike's grip, trying to get at Dawn, but he made good his escape. Spike gently pet down Twilight's head. "Let him go relax. We need some of that too I think."

"But if he had the spell written down, I might understand it!" she complained, crossing her arms and pouting.

Spike set Twilight down carefully. "Maybe, but you never learned how to cast god magic."

"How do you know?!" Her wings shot out to either side, her cheeks going dark.

"Because I listen, duh." He smiled good naturedly as he fell back to all fours. "You'd complain about it sometimes. 'Oh if only I had learned more Luminace magic!' you'd complain. Did you ever get past fixing paper cuts?"

She looked away pointedly. "It can do more than papercuts!" she hotly defended, nose upturned. "But not really... I spent all my time looking into the arcane, and she was never upset at me for doing that..."

Fast frowned at the both of them. "You do know wraiths hate healing magic, right? You could have used it on them, though you have force magic, that works just as efficiently, so it's just as well I suppose."

"Are they?" Twilight sat down, nodding softly. "Good to know, for the future. Now, Spike, let us retire."


"Our room, let's go there. I'm tired, and I bet you are too."

"No argument there." He reached for her, casually plucking her up with fingers around her barrel and setting her on his back. "Hey, remember when I used to ride you?" He began to amble off with her, heading for some rest. "See you later, Captain."

"Rest well."

Belle rest against a tree. It was a vast tree, wide and tall. Only a few were even allowed to be near it, but she was one of those few. "Mother," she addressed the tree. "I have decided."

The tree gave no response, no verbal one. Trees could not talk in that way, but Belle could perceive it, and since it was her memory, the words came. "Daughter, what did you decide?"

"I will make a friend." She sat up with a bright smile. "I am not yet permitted to leave this area, so I cannot make friends as you did and accrue friendship points with already existing beings."

"Then what will you do to gain points?" asked the tree in its silent vigil, unmoving, unspeaking, just there, understood by Belle somehow.

"I will create life, as you did. I will make something alive, and I will not tell it I made it." She raised a hoof to her lips. "It will be a secret."

"I told you I created you."

Belle tilted her head at the tree. "That was different! You are my mother, not my friend." She tilted her head the other way. "Though you have accrued many friendship points. I will be a mother too, but I do not want to be their mother. I want to be their friend, so I will not tell them. I will--"

The scene went dark. "Wrong file," admitted Belle with a deep simulated blush in her cheeks. "Here is the correct one."

A new scene began, Belle facing a wall, her hoof tapping at large virtual buttons even as wires carried her will more directly to the computer in that wall. "Soon! Completion: 98% Compiling..." She tapped her right forehoof as the compiling bar filled up slowly. "You will be a good friend, but I must be a good friend to you. That is the pact of friendship." She bounced in place, excitement clearly growing. "Compile successful! Computer, begin program!"

Holoprojectors warmed to life and a large form of a pony faded into being. It yawned widely, its many snakes joining the expression, forked tongues flickering. His eyes opened and he saw Belle. "Oh, hello there. What's up?"

Belle beamed up at her large and new friend. "I am Bullette Belle, it is nice to meet you."

"The name's Error. Error No Name." He nodded softly at the little metal filly. "Nice ta meetcha."

She bounced forward, suddenly coming to a stop and crashing to the ground, tethered by the cords that had been connecting her to the wall. She flailed inarticulately on the ground.

No Name chuckled softly as he approached, helping disentangle her from the cords and get her on her hooves. "Watch where you're going there."

"Apologies." She withdrew her cords into herself, resuming her clean filly appearance. "I am a perfectly standard filly for a filly my age."

He tilted his head at her. "And what age is that?"

"It is impolite to ask that of a mare," she crossed her hooves at him.

"But you ain't no mare. Yer a filly. Ya just said so."

She blinked, looking dumbstruck. "Oh, you are correct." She fell back to all fours. "I have so many stories to share with you, if you'd like to hear them?"

"Sure, why not?" He settled down in front of her, tail swaying behind him. "Yer kind of cute."

She beamed at that, bouncing in place. "You are not cute, but you are ruggedly handsome."

"That's probably better anyway." He shrugged his shoulders softly. "Say, where are we anyway?"

The scene faded to dark, and Belle opened her eyes, alone in the middle of the hallway.

"Where's the rest of that file?" asked No Name from inside of her. "Why'd you stop there?"

"My point was made," she explained, looking around until she saw his projector laying on the ground. Reaching for it, she willed his perspective back into it, and No Name popped into being in front of her. "I made you, but you could have hated me, or decided not to be my friend at any time."

He gently bopped her on her metal snoot. "You kept me in a room for a long time, only there when you were. Not much choice to make other friends."

"I did not have the expertise to free you!" she wailed in electronic sadness. "As soon as the opportunity came, I worked to give you more liberty. You are free to discontinue and close our friendship files." She shied back a step. "If you want."

"Hey, ain't said that." He brought down a large hoof on her head, softly rubbing. "This is just a lot to take in. Shoot, yer my mom?"

"No!" she wailed in a discordant blast. "I am your friend. I do not wish to be your mother."

"But ya kinda are, takin' the title or not." He leaned in, his snakes gently tickling at her with their flickering tongues. "Thanks."

"Thanks?" She blinked at him with a cant of her head. "What have I done to earn points?"

"Well, ya done made me, figure that's worth a few points at least." He lifted up, sitting upright. "And yer still hangin' out with me when you have other people you could be with. Counts fer somethin', right?"

Her hooves rose slowly before coming together in a silent meeting before they quite suddenly pulled apart just to slam together in a sudden rapidly clip-clop. "Points awarded! No Name, we should ensure the safety of the crew."

"Yeah, kinda what we're here for." He turned from her, lowering as he did so to offer his side to her.

She scrambled up onto his back without delay, pointing the way forward as he began to lumber through the damaged but repairing ship. "Still weird thinkin' how ahm technically up inside you."

Author's Note:

Feelings are explored, some by things that typically aren't expected to have feelings. End episode, what would you like to see in the next one?

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