• Published 6th Apr 2019
  • 1,164 Views, 588 Comments

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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25 - Little Trouble

"I expected more... books." The 'library' had been cruelly mislabeled, for there appeared to be not a single tome within it. There were, instead, consoles that sat, mostly unused. She trotted up to one, seeing it was configured to be at about the right height. "Flutters are similar in height," she reasoned out loud as she looked over the controls.

The writing was a little off, but well within the understandable range. It was as if a mere hundred years of linguistic drift had occurred, which wasn't much. "Their educational system must be up to par, or at least their observance of standards."

Spike sat down next to her. "You're saying things without saying anything, Twilight. Countless years, some things don't change."

She stuck out her tongue at him. "I'm saying the education must be thorough and precise, because their language is not changing dramatically." She inclined her head faintly. "Of course, I haven't started reading anything yet. Perhaps they've made countless new words for concepts I haven't dreamed of." She let out a dreamy sigh. "I hope so. Now, time to read!" She reached up and poked a big hoof-shaped button with her hoof and it flared to life.

And nothing else happened.

A moment later, a red light turned on. "Did I... do something wrong?"

A flutter was already approaching, the same that had led them there, glasses perched on her snout. "Oh dear me! Do you not have an AR setup?" Both of them looked at her a bit blankly. "It's been standard issue on this station for years!" She waved broadly. "It goes in here." She pointed at her head. "And lets computers send stuff right to you."

Twilight's eyes widened. "You can upload information?!"

"Not... exactly. It makes images and sounds and things." She rolled her forehooves together as she fluttered in place. "You still have to learn what you see. But it's why the consoles can be so close together. What you see doesn't bother the next person over."

Spike shook his head. "Not sure I want anything in my head that wasn't already there."

"It's harmless," gently insisted the flutter. "Like I said, we all have one." She pointed at Spike. "Over your head I can see your name and rank and if I ask for it, a nice picture of the ship you work on." She leaned in a little. "Did you know you are an unknown variant of dragon?"

Twilight tilted her head at that. "He's a perfectly standard dragon."

"Maybe for your world," the flutter sang in reply. "Now, uh, you can either go get some, or you can wear a set."

Spike perked up at that. "Wearing a funny helmet sounds less invasive. Hook us up."

"Helmet it is!" She was gone in a buzz of wings, returning with two thin headbands. "Just put these on. Be sure to return them before you go blasting off into space. We only have a few."

Twilight's horn glowed as she took both and placed one on her head and another on Spike. Her vision went blank a moment.

"Welcome to ARNet 2.3!" announced a disembodied voice in her head even as the words appeared before her otherwise unseeing eyes. "We are adjusting to your unique neurological profile. Please enjoy this calming music while we work." Smooth jazz began to play that only she could hear.

She could feel something shaking her shoulder, but couldn't see or hear the source. She held up a hoof. "One moment, please. I think this simply requires a moment to... There we are." Her senses suddenly returned, able to see the room again. Spike was the one with a hand on her shoulder. "What is it, Spike?"

"Twilight? Are you still there?" He still couldn't see, it seemed.

Twilight moved in and sat down in contact with him. "I'm right here. Just be calm." Sure, her words were unheard, but her proximity seemed to help. "Perhaps it takes longer for a dragon. Mmm, she did mention you were a unique variant in their eyes. Give it a chance to figure things out."

Already she could see more than before. Above the flutter's head, who was hovering there patiently, a name was displayed. She was Book Worm, Class B librarian. Likes: Books, reading, sour candies. Dislikes: Loud people, violence. Race: Flutterpony(Butterfly) Gender: Female(80% Heterosexual, Xenocurious)

Twilight blinked at the dizzying array of information. "Are you alright having all that displayed to anyone who looks?"

Book lifted her shoulders softly. "Why wouldn't I be? It's all true, and it avoids conflicts if people know it." She waved a hoof at Twilight. "I'd feel bad if I had to deny some female that had an interest in me, or anyone invited me to a loud rock concert or a boxing match. It's all right in the open, so we can be considerate of each other's wants." She pointed up towards her name. "And it's just handy for people to know my name."

"In space--" Spike could apparently see again, looking at the same words Twilight was. "--Privacy is optional."

She flashed a bright smile. "I feel better now, actually. I thought you already knew all of this, but you didn't. That could have been quite embarrassing! Your information is quite... sparse, but it only has what we know, which is also sparse. If you want to add the missing info, that'd be great! Then I'd feel less awkward."

She fluttered away, as was her species, leaving Twilight to shake her head. "Fascinating... I'm not sure I'm ready to wear myself out in the open like that... This is like what... she used to call 'nudism'?"

Spike frowned softly, a memory suddenly brought to the surface. A human woman, old and dying. "I miss her," he sighed out gently. "But yeah. That was a human thing. They wore clothes all the time, so not wearing them was the odd thing." Despite his instant of sadness, he seemed to slip past it, just another fact of his life rather than a pit of tar to become stuck in.

Twilight noticed it. "Do... you need a moment?"

"For what?" He shrugged softly and pointed past her to the console. "You can read now."

"I can... But, seriously, Spike... That was your wife, um, before me. That was thoughtless of me, bringing her up like that."

He shrugged softly. "I should thank you. I hadn't thought of her in a while. If she was still here, she'd be over the moon seeing this space station, I'm sure of it."

"And that... doesn't make you... a little sad?" She rolled a hoof with each pause, looking quite baffled.

"Why should I be? She didn't die again." He glanced away and back. "I said I miss her, and I do, but it's been a long... long time. I let that go."

Twilight took a slow step back. "If I died, would you let me go too?"

Spike flinched, realizing the mine he had stepped on. "I fully expect to go before you, hopefully doing something brave and amazing and probably a little stupid. Maybe it'll save your life."

"And you'd be alright if I let you go?" She threw out a hoof, her voice high with anxiety. "Spike!"

"I'd rather you let me go than be miserable forever, yes." He settled on his belly there, great tail curling. "I formally give you permission to do just that. Be happy. It's what I wanted."

Pinkie's smiling, dying, face lept unbidden into Twilight's memory and she looked well away from Spike, fighting the tears in her eyes. "Will you think less of me if I couldn't echo that sentiment? Am I a terrible wife?"

"Well, yes," he admitted. As she looked to him with a horrified expression, he placed a finger on her nose. "And that's alright. You know we married not for that. We're companions, not lovers. Not like that... As wives go, you're not so hot, but that isn't what I signed up for."

"Did you just call me ugly?" She hiked a brow at him, though the look was a bit ruined by her emotionally distraught face, tears staining her snout.

"You're the prettiest princess I know." He leaned in and kissed her right at the end of her nose. "Now, really, we're here to read, right?"

"Yeah..." She took a slow breath and turned to the console at last. She pressed a hoof to the button and it came to life before her AR-enhanced vision. A vista of books, flying around, swirled before her before a little flurry-pixie appeared from the maelstrom of literature.

"Welcome!" it greeted in a squeak. "Ooo, a new user. Registered! Hello, Twilight Sparkle. Can I call you Twilight?"

"That would be... fine," she allowed, peering at the obviously fake pixie, its body faintly transparent. "Do you have a name?"

"You can just call me, Assistant. Start any request with my name and I'll do my best." The pixie twirled in place with a bright smile. "Now, what would you like to read, watch, or listen to today?" As if as an afterthought, the Pixie raised a few inches. "Before we start, would you like to quiet out the rest of the room? I can filter out visual or audio, so you can enjoy the media fully! I'd do more, but your AR isn't rated for that."

Twilight blinked, imagining the full AR implant did all five senses, or more than that. "That sounds terrifying, but I'll take the audio filter. Spike, if you need me, give a poke."

"You got--" Spike's words were lost, the filter making her deaf to all but what the assistant was showing her. It was time to learn, and she began that in earnest.

Steel brought a play sword to fast's throat with a sudden swing, held firmly in his magic grip. "I win this round."

Fast snorted as she stood up. "You do. Where does that leave us, mmm. I want to say 12 to 13?"

"Sounds about right." He sat in place and drew out a canteen from his saddlebags. "I'm thirsty and hungry. Nothing like some sparring to really work those up."

Fast snatched the floating canteen in her teeth and soon had it open and took a big swig. "You're telling me. You want to take a break?"

He rolled his eyes but left her with the canteen. "The flutters said a 'picnic package' was available, even from the inside. How do we order that?"

Fast lifted her shoulders in a mild shrug. "They may already be listening. Excuse me, can we have one of those picnic packages?"

A voice spoke from nowhere in particular, "On the way! Please don't leave the area."

Steel laughed softly. "That figured, though it does mean they've been listening for a while."

Fast pointed over his head. "Would explain that."

"What?" He looked up there, a direction he had less reason to look. There was his name, his rank, his... "Possibly sexist?!" he blurted, face going red. "I'm co-captains with a female!"

"Be that as it may, you were quick to shut down your female incarnation." Fast fluttered her lashes at him. "And they heard it."

"I don't see you treating your echoes with much more grace." He huffed and crossed his forelegs with an indignant expression.

"Echo or not, they are all people, and so deserve respect and empathy." She raised a hoof to her chest. "Each and every one of them has dreams and wants, subtly different, if somewhat similar, to your own. In their eyes, they are the star of their story, and Author be praised, they are correct."

"When did you get a license in therapy?" He sat up, ear cocked. "I hear something." A soft droning whirr rapidly approached. A big bumble-bee like automaton flew on side rotors, a basket tethered to its underside. It swooped in, detached the basket, and took off without delay, returning the clearing to quiet. "Efficient. Why don't we have drones?"

Fast reached for the basket, popping open one flap with a flip of the hoof. "We have a Belle, much cuter."

Author's Note:

Heavy thoughts with Twilight, her specialty!

Written early for patreons who got this ahead of everyone else. Want to get early chapters, or even your own story written? atreon!

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