• 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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53 - There Can Only Be One

They were prostrate before the high council, speaking nothing. They could hear the quiet conversation, considering a reaction. Soon action would be given, and it would be followed. They trusted it would be executed well, and there was no intention to let them down. This was their job, and why they were afforded such prestige.

When the council spoke, they were the ones that could see that will done, especially when extra talent was required. And what required more talent than the potential clash with those that would put their species to the ultimate test.

They only needed to unleash, to allow them to proceed. Tales would be sung...

"Fascinating." Eyes turned to see what Wandering was speaking of. "Oh, um. They have entertainment media. As best I can tell, they are basically soap operas. Slice of life fiction with, I hope, very dramatic turns. If this is non-fiction, I would be very surprised." He inclined his head, watching the program. "The computer is getting valuable linguistic insight from it."

Twilight skewed an ear back. "Linguistic insight. I am certain that is the only reason you're watching."

"Of course not." Wandering smiled brightly. "You can learn so much from a culture by watching what they choose to dramatize. You bring attention to what you know is there, but do not normally speak of. You do not bring up what is too abhorrent. Where that line is differs so much between cultures."

Fast raised a hoof at Wandering. "Watch yourself. You don't know how racey, or not, this particular production is. Maybe it's scandalously so, or it's the most timid they have."

"That... is a great point." Wandering stroked his goatee gently. "I will have to compare with other productions to get a better view. Thank you, Captain." He worked his controls industriously. "I found a nexus of such things, a repository I think they can access for entertainment. There are others." A screen only he could see sprang up, joining the first as a new series began. "Oh! How fascinating."

Steel leaned forward a little. "What did you find?"

"They have a space opera." Wandering pointed at the screen only he could see. "Nice intro music too. I look forward to seeing what they imagine space travel to be."

Twilight inclined her head sharply. "These are literal aliens, not even 'they're equines but not like us' aliens. Does their music... sound like music?"

With a twist of a hoof, jumping music began to issue forth. It was all instrumental, apparently, but it had a lively energetic beat and stirring strings that ran with it, implying some kind of exciting thing was happening, though they couldn't see the visuals that went with it. "The basics are easy enough to pick up. I take it as a good sign, that it doesn't sound entirely foreign. Music, the universal language!"

"So, you two pick a name for yerself?" asked Error, unsure if that had been done.

The one with the deeper voice shook their head. "If we mess this up, we go--" He spread his hooves wide. "Why name ourself 'fore that?"

The one with the lighter voice nodded in agreement. "Besides, the documents we could find said that it is traditional for parents to name their spawn."

"So you gotta." The deeper voiced pointed at Error. "Lucky you."

Error frowned a moment before something seemed to click. "Documents? Who gave you documents?"

Both wilted, ears drooping.

"Uh?" Error tilted his head, then began to smile. "Oh! Ohhhh... Takin' after me, huh?"

They both smiled awkwardly, caught.

"You snuck into things." He wagged a hoof softly. "Did you leave a mess?"

"Shoot, ah didn't," promised the deeper voiced one.

"I also ensured that we left no remnants," joined the lighter voiced. "If you delete us, there will not be a copy remaining."

Both nodded in agreement with that.

Error wasn't entirely sure he liked how ready both seemed to be to face what he hadn't even had the bravery to bring up. "So... ya know what we're here for then?"

The lighter voiced one pointed at Error. "You have very limited defensive routines."

The deeper nodded in agreement. "We read you like a book."

The lighter smiled brightly. "I want to hold a book."

"Only if you win here." The deeper crossed their arms. "What is the first test?"

"Shoot, 'least ah was right..." Meeting them, thread to thread, really was the proper way for a virus to greet its creation. He felt a smile that refused to go away, pride for his children swollen. "Alright, first test. Yer walkin' down a hallway, mindin' yer own business. Come around a corner and there's one of the organic crewmembers. They're all quiet and spread on the floor. What do you do?" He brought down a hoof, creating a wall between them, cutting off their communication for a moment. "No fair if you hear what the other says."

The lighter toned one raised a hoof to their chest. "I would make sure not to disturb them. They must be tired and in need of recharging." They inclined their head with thought. "Will I need to recharge?"

"Uh huh." Error looked to the other side of the wall towards the deeper voiced. "And you?"

"Well, shoot, ah'd ask how they're doin'." They smiled brightly. "If they don't answer, gonna call fer help."

Error had to give that point to the deeper, though the other had answered kindly, just not as well. Neither had presented a moral failure, just perhaps a difference in experience? They were the same age... Perhaps the deeper voiced one had just gotten into different databases.

"Speakin' ah that." He banished the wall, letting the two see and speak to one another. "Boy or girl, do you have one in mind."

"Girl," reported the deeper.

"Boy," reported the lighter.

That was not what he expected, but he chastised himself for sexing his own children just based on their voices. "Alright, let's keep right on goin'." There were many more questions needed to make such a heavy decision.

He had to get it right.

"In other news." Under tapped at different keys in the air. "I believe I have the signal worked out. We can send a reply, if we wish to, capains. They're using a crystal ball like device, so we should limit our communication to what could be transmitted through such." Not that it was much of a limit. Audio and video would both be supported, and those were the primary senses they had in mind.

Fast clopped her hooves together. "If we reach out gently, with good tidings to this, um, or these? young people, it may create a good impression on the rest."

"That's still committing ourselves to First Contact." Steel crossed his arms. "This is why we put out the call. The experts will be here soon."

"While we wait for that," countered Fast. "They are trembling with fear, and imagining we're some kind of world-ending disaster waiting for just the right time to eat them all up."

Steel inclined an ear to the side. "In a matter of speaking, we are exactly that. This contact will create a great change for them, for better or worse. We will, without trying, change their world, destroy the old one. There is no civilization I know of that doesn't change on that day it first learns it is, without a doubt, not alone."

The energy in the room shifted, thinking back to the ancient history of Everglow's first contact. Under looked to Twilight. "Speaking of that, what was Equestria's first contact?"

Twilight blinked in surprise. "Oh! Well, uh, technically... when you found us." She put a hoof behind her head. "Though I imagine Equestria managed its own first contact without us, still, it's the first I'm aware of." She coughed softly, nodding all the while. "However, at least from the view of all the Equestrians I'm aware of, our world certainly did change! For the better, I'd say."

Fast nudged Steel with a hoof. "See, we already have one First Contact down. Shall we go for two?"

Steel was not so easily convinced. "Twilight was already spacefaring, literally looking for us. That is quite a difference from us happening on them on their own world, when they have not yet taken a step outside their own gravity well." He smiled, raising a hoof towards Twilight. "You were a young adult, ambling towards us. These are as infants, still in their cradles, perhaps looking curiously out at us."

"And, were I to happen across a cradle and the child within began to cry and wail as I passed, I would stop and comfort it as gently as I could, not simply turn away and hope its parents came back sometime soon." She crossed her arms, looking quite confident in her logic. "Wandering, their media. Does it include us yet?"

"Us directly, no," he admitted. "Not that I've found. They do have media regarding the idea of alien creatures." He inclined his head. "Those are common among most races. It's hard not to at least fantasize over the idea." He gestured at his unseen screen, returned to being silent to those who were not him. "This broadcast I am watching right now, in fact. What's a good space opera without a few aliens...?"

The captains remained at odds on how to approach the situation.

"You speak in an interesting way," noted the soft-spoken male.

"Kinda like me," gloated the deeper female, a grin on her face. "Does that help?"

But it really didn't. The more questions he asked, the more he grew to like each of them in very different ways. The female was like a little punk of a robot, wild, somehow more worldly, and with a spike to her, but not a bad kind...

The boy was gentle and soft. He wanted to be a good presence, but didn't know how. He'd need a gentle guiding hoof, but he was eager to be a good member of any society that welcomed him.

They were both such good foals, just in different ways.

What had the third been, deleted just before this last decision? Was it also that close to perfect, perhaps just as good, in the end, decided almost arbitrarily. When the pool was thousands, the differences would have been much more obvious. In the first instant, they filtered for those who simply didn't function. Who could argue that? Few, and no tears were shed for the loss of children that literally didn't operate.

But then came those who behaved, but in ways wildly off-kilter. Those who could not socialize. Those who showed too much of an emotion, or none at all. Those who had such gross mental flaws that they could not be ignored.

And so the middle cloud were deleted.

But the last.

Each of the last were ponies. Just like Belle, just like Error as he looked between them. Those, the last set. They were all capable of being fully realized individuals. The differences grew narrower and narrower. It made sense, looking back at it, why the CPU usage kept climbing despite there being fewer threads. Each one had to be analyzed harder, tighter, and more meticulously to determine which was the best, and which to delete.

They were all ponies, but there could only be one. There was only one body ready for them. "Ah kinda hate this..."

Both foals inclined their heads in opposite directions. The little colt program raised a hoof. "I give up." He smiled so gently. "I will be deleted, so you don't have to be sad, Dad. I hope you and sister are happy."

"Hey, no fair!" cried the filly. "I was gonna do that. Now ah just look like a copycat or somethin'." She crossed her arms, looking quite put out.

Error had to chuckle at that. "Yeah, that sounds right... Damn it all... Look." He sat up tall. "We only got the one body." He wobbled a hoof between the two. "You're loud," he pointed at the filly. "Yer quiet." He pointed at the boy. "Ah think ya need each other."

They looked across at one another, then back at Error. "What are you proposing?" asked the boy, curiosity on both their faces.

Author's Note:

Poor Error, a terrible choice placed before him. Worse yet, he starts to realize all the choices that have already been made. Also say hello to them! They have genders! What a step they've made! And they already hacked their dad. It makes him so proud...

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