• 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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33 - Perfect Dark

Belle trotted back and forth in a half-bounce, her eyes on Twilight despite not facing her. "Given the choice of romantic gift, do you prefer food, metal, or literature?"

Twilight inclined her head faintly at the options given. "I don't understand... Metal? Literature? I do enjoy a good book, but that doesn't seem specifically romantic." She sat on her haunches and crossed her arms. "And why am I taking dating advice from a robotic filly?"

"Because the robotic filly has been on more dates than you," replied Belle in a matter-of-fact musical tone. She turned smoothly to Twilight with a big smile. "And I have access to great volumes of data on the matter due to its proximity to my favorite of all activities."

"That's the friendship point thing," noted No Name, though he wasn't anywhere in sight, his voice just seeming to come from the wall.

Belle stuck out her metal tongue. "This is a matter for two mares. Stallions are not welcome right now!"

"Well, let me know then."

Twilight raised a hoof to her cheek, resting against it as she eyed Belle. "Being a program with an adjustable holographic form, isn't 'he' as much of a 'she' as they feel like at any given moment?"

Belle waved that away with the flat of a hoof. "Attempt to distract with philosophy failed. Answer the question please. Metal and literature are common romantic gifts. Rings, pendants, torcs..." She angled her head with soft clicks of internal motors. "Literature in the form of poetry, letters, pictures, and other similar media. These are acceptable standards for romantic exchanges. What is your preference?"

"I... never thought about it specifically before..." She shook her head slowly. "If I were to assume this to be friendship as a whole instead of specifically romance, I'd rather receive what they would rather give. I would want it to reflect them, as a pony, or creature."

"Answer logged." Belle nodded softly as if it was all coming together for her. "If you were giving a gift, what would you give?"

"There's more to a relationship than gift exchanging," she huffed out.

"Please answer the question." Belle was smiling, as was her normal, with the patience of autonomy.

Twilight grumbled softly. "Well... Literature probably... I've gotten Spike a book for his birthday and on our anniversaries, even if our last few have... had limited selections." She reached behind her head, chuckling nervously. "It just felt odd not giving him a book. It's our tradition!"

"Traditions are good for friendship point accumulation." She hopped in place, tail wagging behind her. "Friendship points are required for healthy romantic relationships."

"Have you... had a romantic relationship?" asked Twilight warily.

"Romance and breeding are not synonymous," spoke Belle as if quoting some ancient fact. "I have no desire to reproduce in an organic fashion, but forming deep bonds is a pleasure of life that I very much approve of." She pointed to the wall that had held No Name's voice. "I am in a deep relationship with Error No Name. Close physical proximity and constant exchanges of viewpoints and time causes a form of social intercourse that leaves both of us altered by the other in a desirable fashion."

Twilight's eyes narrowed faintly as Belle went on. "Then... I have experienced romance, many times, by that measure. I have--"

"Excellent," cut in Belle, bobbing her head. "But you seek physical intimacy. You are organic, and wish to experience it in a different way than me." She tapped a hoof on her metal chest. "That is acceptable! Our differences are exciting. Before you engage in physical intercourse, a compatible partner must be located and secured." She grinned, leanining in a little. "If you were to count my intimacy as entirely romantic, than I would be pansexual, but that would be an inaccurate label."

Twilight raised a hoof before it fell again, instead rising up to all four. "Right... You keep your special time to No Name."

"Correct." She nodded firmly. "Only he has access to my deepest secrets."

"But if you ran into a mare that you liked a lot, you could end up that way. Or a dragon, or an especially chatty rock and before you say that's impossible, I remind we had to fight those."

Belle paused a moment before a slow nod emerged. "You are correct. If a silicate lifeform and I accrued enough friendship points, a deep relationship could begin." She angled her head. "The odds of this happening are low. I have a preference for pony-shaped beings, as illogical as that is. Not everything in life is logical, thank goodness."

Twilight cracked a little new smile. "Thank goodness," she echoed. "Belle... thank you. I feel a little better, just having had this conversation."

Victorious music played from inside Belle. "I am pleased to hear that! Let us proceed in our romantic lessons."

"Most sensors report nothing," informed Dawn. "But visual..." He swept a hoof at the main screen and a new window appeared, showing a small round thing right in the center of the field of view. "There is clearly something there."

Under nodded softly. "An undetected and massive object would explain the discrepancy, but what is it? If we're limited to visual, we're going to need to get much closer to unlock this mystery."

Fast peered at the dark orb in the middle of space. "Well, it's not a black hole..." Those looked quite a bit different. "Is it a massive rogue planet?"

Steel nodded in agreement. "Perhaps, but a sense of scale can be difficult to get. How large is that?"

Under's hooves worked busily at keys only he could see. "Roughly the size of a solar system, planets included." An ear turned towards the captains. "If that is a single planet--"

"--it should have torn itself apart," finished Dawn. "Unlikely."

Steel sat up taller. "There's only one way to know for sure. Take us closer in, but remain vigilant. We don't know how passive it is, or may stop being as we come closer to it."

Fast's snout wrinkled faintly. "If that thing has weapons or is a weapon, it could be quite terrible indeed. I'd rather not have the ship evaporated. Wandering, see if you can't hail it. Coming in with a friendly message may lower the odds of a hostile reaction."

"And remove the chance of being sneaky," added the goat as he got to work doing as he was commanded. "No one said being civil was easy."

Under peeked up from his console. "It may be worth searching for existing transmissions, if we're assuming this is an artificial construct."

Fast set a hoof down with a clop. "An excellent idea. Broad spectrum analysis for anything that looks like it could be a message or communication of any kind. Surely if it is artificial, it isn't running entirely silent."

"On it," noted Wandering as he tapped busily. "No promises, of course. If it is a construct, it must have been built to emit nothing it didn't want to emit."

Dawn pressed his hooves together in a motion of prayer. "Then we will hope it wishes to emit something."

The conversation faded, those with work pressing into it as eagerly as they could.

Spike looked up at the chime.

"Octavia Melody," spoke the computer.

"Let her in." He let the comic fall as he sat up and dusted himself lightly. The door slid open, allowing the grey alicorn to enter. "Hey, Octavia. Feeling better?"

"Hello, Spike." She dipped her head faintly. "Twilight isn't here?" She glanced left and right, but there was no Twilight in view. "As to your question, yes, I am... recovering, but I felt words were required between us."

Spike reached for a pitcher and soon had a glass poured of water and offered it towards Octavia. "I'm all ears."

"You have precisely no ears, Spike, but I appreciate the thought." Her magic took the glass from his grip gently, drawing it over for a sip. "I shouldn't have hid from you both like that. It was a disservice, not just to you, but to myself. I whiled away how many years, just... existing, and little more? Vinyl would be furious with me..." She set the glass down on the closest counter. "I doubt you carry lingering enmity about it, but I felt it important, for me, to say that."

"Hey, just because mine aren't big and fuzzy doesn't mean I don't have them, or how would I hear you?" He leaned in and gave her a soft sniffing at. "You're better, I think... Different, for sure."

"Spike!" She quickly pushed his big dragon snout away. "It is impolite to go sniffing at a mare without her leave. Besides, you're--"

"--Nope," he cut her off. "Single dragon."

Octavia blinked at that. "Is that why Twilight isn't here?"

"Nah." He hiked a thumb past Octavia. "She's getting dating tips from Belle."

"From Belle?!" Octavia spurted in obvious surprise. "That doesn't feel like a topic that pint-sized robot would be helpful with."

"Hey, caught me by surprise too, but Belle seems entirely serious, so I didn't stand in the way." He softly shrugged. "Besides, it means Twilight's out talking with someone she doesn't normally, and I think she could use that, no matter how far, or not, her 'romantic education' goes."

"About that." Octavia looked Spike over. "You are an adult. You have drives and needs like any other living creature. You've fathered children, and then spent untold years... in physical isolation. That must have been hard on you."

Spike waved it off. "Dragons don't get the urge to keep making dragons all through their life. It's different. We live a really long time, so a little pause on that front didn't kill me or anything." His shoulders lifted. "If I run into someone I really like that way, I'll be sure to let them know. I've seen what happens when you don't."

Octavia raised a brow. "Is that to say I am not someone you like that way?"

Spike snorted, which turned into a genuine fit of laughter. "Octavia, you are a dear and wonderful friend, but you already have somecreature." He reached to tap her on the nose. "And I happen to know you enjoy the feel of fur over scales anyway."

Her cheeks lit up and she turned stiffly in place, marching right out without another word. The door slid shut behind her, the signal that she had kept moving down the hallway.

Spike smirked faintly as he reached for his abandoned comic. "Maybe..." What he was referring to, he didn't bother sharing out loud, instead resuming the adventure of the Everglow fiction he had found. Turned out comics of other cultures were just as interesting.

"I had thought you changed your mind." Under circled around Octavia. "Not that I object to your presence. Your magic is as fascinating as it is antiquated. Regardless of that, it is also still functional, arguably more so in some ways."

"Does that mean you agree to accept me as a student once more?" One ear, then the other trained on him, keeping him in her hearing range as he moved. "I apologize for my absence, but am eager to make myself useful, on my terms."

"On your terms." The elderly stallion ran a hoof over his long beard, considering the deceptively young-mare. "You are not the first ever-young I met, but it never fails to feel somewhat uncanny. Immortality of different sorts. I will be dead before long in your eyes, but back all the same."

He shook his head as he moved to sit in front of her. "But that's a topic for another day. No, today, we discuss magic, and how technology changed how one approaches it." He pointed to the device attached to Octavia's arm. "That. Can it contain spells?"

She blinked softly. "I am unaware, but I feel certain it has enough historical weight that I could draw magic from it. Is that what you mean?"

"Not precisely... We have work ahead of us."

Author's Note:

Social dynamics are explored as the ship approaches what could be a huge artificial... something? What is that?!

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