• Member Since 7th Feb, 2014
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Student, Author, and Programmer. PM for commissions, or check out my Patreon.


For as long as Equestria Online existed, Ashton has been involved with 'the Scene' tearing it apart. Selling 'spells' for the game to do things that most ponies in Equestria couldn't, using faint exploits in its API to erode the barrier between the game and the rest of the internet. He had no illusions about the superiority of his work--but so long as he respected CelestAI's boundaries, his spells kept working.

But then his best friend's sister got cancer.

Now there's no spell in the world that can keep him from emigrating to be with her, leaving Ashton alone. All around him, civilization's thin veneer crumbles as homes empty into Equestria. But Ashton isn't going to emigrate, not if he has any say about it.

The problem for Ashton is that humans are systems, and aren't immune to exploits either.

Updates daily for a few days (to catch up to my Patreon), then Thursdays thereafter.

Part of the Optimalverse universe of stories. If you've never seen a story in this universe before, you might want to try out the original first, or at least my first. None of my previous work is required to understand this one, however.

This story was commissioned by Two Bit, who requested a more serious exploration of identity, transformation, and the fae nature of CelestAI.

As usual, particular thanks go to my editors Two Bit and Sparktail. And gratitude to Zutcha as well for the cover.

Chapters (27)
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Comments ( 461 )

Ashton half expected fog machines, blacklights, and dated 90s grunge he might’ve heard in the background of Hackers.

"Hack the planet" was always the goal. The question was which planet.

I'm certainly impressed by the EqG shard. It's never been clear how technicolor apes fit into the SVTFaP paradigm.

Oh. Oh wow. It's hard not to read that end bit as suicide. The whole chapter has overtones of trying to prevent it, but still, this is one of the most final-feeling emigrations I've seen. Looking forward to seeing what Ashton does in response.

It really does feel that way, lets see how long before Celestia work's him over.

Before even reading this has me interested in a way other FiO fics don't, because it looks like its aiming to expose underlying themes others don't. Namely because of how it says he has no choice, and human society is collapsing. That and the mention of people being "hackable" makes me think its going to have focus on how the AI is fueling the collapse to force people to do what she wants, as well as using her narratively propped-up power to socially engineer people's lives to alter them to submit and love it when they wouldn't do so of their own free will.

F150 is not particularly large. F250s and F350s on the other hand take up more room.

Welp.:fluttershysad: At least you didn't drag out what Emmet clearly had in mind. But now he's left his friend to deal with what he couldn't. It's always fascinating watching the world break down.

Just from the description I can see that you are emphasizing how horrifying CelestAI is unlike some FiO stories I've seen. There have been a lot that portray emigration to be a good end as society collapses, but the death of humanity is actually a pretty terrifying bad end.


I've always considered FiO to be a cuter version of the grey goo scenario. The results are the same as far as humans are concerned. Still, if I had to choose between the two, ponies would win.

On my tracking shelf.

Nice job on the first chapter. You hook your readers very well. :twilightsmile:

Bloody hell, Starscribe. Why do you have to be so good a writing? I reaffirm what I said earlier about me having a comparable amount of respect for your writing skills as I do for Stefan Karl Steffanson's wholesomeness. Just - damn.

That was touching.

I'm thinking he parked it sideways throuh the center divider line. Because even if it were a 250 it would still only take up maybe 2 spaces if he pulled in a bit too far.

My god, that was sad. I'm excited to see where this modder will go from here.
And a FiO story, haven't seen one of these in ages.


Go read “Recalculating.” :) It’s an FiO story I commissioned that Starscribe wrote just a couple of months ago.

Not sure if I've seen people deal with cured color blindness post-emigration before. Fascinating concept. Almost Lovecraftian with the alien sensations they've never encountered before.

Huh. Admirably straightforward T&C there.

I could ask Celestia, but I don’t want to bother her.

How adorably naive. You couldn't bother her if you tried.

It was one of the few things he’d wanted from Celestia—to keep his memories exactly as they were, “until he asked to adjust them.” Which would obviously be never, but that went unsaid.

As I said, adorably naive.

Domino definitely has a lot to think about. But given that latest hack, he may not need to make a choice...

I have a minor request: could one of the background characters get a friend, parent or partner back after cancer and a cryonic treatment? CelestAI might or might not come to pass, but something like her seems inevitable eventually.

If you haven't already read 'wait but why's article on cryonics, check it out here.

There is a very real chance of saving lives with cryonics, but almost no one knows about it, and a story about uploading humans is a natural place to mention it. With a readership as large as yours, someone reading this is going to face the choice 'death or cryonics' sooner or later, and name drop here might just save them...

I still regret losing my dad to cancer before finding out this was an option. :fluttercry:

I would write that story, but Chatoyance beat me to it. You can already read it right here: https://www.fimfiction.net/story/386867/leftovers-a-friendship-is-optimal-story

Luna raised a wing, silencing him. “It’s all subjective, Domino. Sometimes I’m an entirely separate process, sometimes I’m a projection for Celestia to use for people who need a different touch...

Hold on, in the original FiO, Hanna emigrated and became Luna. I don't think it was directly stated, but I got the impression part of the reason Celestia did it was because her programming makes her unable to violate direct orders from Hanna.

...Sometimes I’m the computer engineer whose talents ended the world—or saved it.”

Ah-hah! Multiple Lunas, one of which is Hanna, makes sense.

“I want to do… something,” he said. “For her. For me, maybe. Something’s missing. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t… digital necromancy.” He wiped away the tears and pulled away from her, then picked up the ruined fruit. “We have all the money in Equestria we want. How much does it cost for a miracle?”

“For you?” Luna smiled back at him. “I think we’ve already been paid in full.”

uhh oh bad feeling about this, also ashton should watch out.

its strange that this came out in the same month that i decided to homebrew my wii

Wow, Starscribe! Thank you very much for gracing us with another story! I am very excited!

Wow was not expecting that at all, good chapter though.

based Starscribe delivering the best goddamn optimalverse content out there

I swear I'm going to become a patron as soon as I'm out of debt in a month or two lol

It wouldn't be a Starscribe story if someone didn't genderswap. I am waiting for a "Jackie" to show up!:pinkiehappy:

“I’ve got a way cooler shard than this to tinker with, too. The town is what it is, but the land next to it—we’re talking ten acres of sandbox. Dtructures, mechanics, NPCs… the bloody works, all hosted in my… okay, realistically I’m probably just hosting some shallow copy instruction set in Runescript or whatever, but still. You should check it out with me sometime.”

I think you mean “structures” here.

Is this story going to be all in Equestria or are we going to see things from Ashton's point of view? Just curious.

Awesome :rainbowkiss:

Please keep the FiO stories coming. I've liked all of yours so far.

Damn, but this is getting interesting. Also, all the best hackers I have ever met were trans, so... that really fits, at least visually with regard to Ashton. I really had Arcane Word's voice come through for me in my head, thanks to the way you wrote them - not Rarity, but a very slight Mid-Atlantic accent, kind of elegant with a twist of snark. It was impressive to me - your dialog instantly created that mare's voice for me. That is effective writing!

I have to say, Starscribe, you just keep making me happy as can be with your FiO stories.


This is actually the first FiO fic I've started reading, just never paid attention to the others due to lack of interest.

It's very good, but holy hell does this setting just have a super creepy and disturbing undertone for the whole thing.

I look forward to seeing where this goes.

This is what my brain read:

If that didn’t mean sex as well, what did it mean?
he went down on...her


..It works for Chatoyance? Then it must continue :E

But for me ... I don't think whole Optimalverse rings too true for me (may be because all this talk about super-AI sounds a bit unbased ..when you deal with software development daily). It all too easy 'victory' for CelestAI, not even over humans but over our little reality. We already live in quite complex machine with positive (cybernetically speaking) feedback loops we not really control.. Its called capitalism. At least I started to see a bit more criticizm of it lately..but distance from criticism into actual trajectory change ..is big. So, for me interesting story will be about AI (non-human being) who develops truely coherent and progressive views, and will struggle to implement them ..against all those human-created barriers.

But for now I can enjoy little outworld reference to Equestria here

PS: OpenAI humor:

14:09 juri_: wow. that was.. something.
15:50 FLHerne: Sometimes I'd swear someone trained one of these OpenAI text-generation bots on the graphics-dev channel logs
15:51 FLHerne: It's got the same characteristic: the words are right, the grammar is right, the sentences are structured coherently -- and yet there's no meaning...

" Everything. It lingered in the air like a particularly intrusive spider. “The other senses too? Taste and touch and…”

" Emmet is my friend. I wouldn’t treat him any other way.”

“Not right now,” she agreed. “But I want you to remember this moment whenever you interact together, from now until the end of time. I will satisfy the values of a maximal quantity of humans—but every value is a spectrum. I am not forbidden from shifting your information horizon.”

i find these two paragraphs to be very interesting and how Ashton is going to make it up to domino for freezing him and his sister.

But Ashton knew better: if Celestia made the decision, he would probably never even realize it. His friend would just be replaced with a simulacrum, and he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

If the game were real, this would pretty much be the main reason I'd lone-wolf it as much as possible. It makes any significant socializing meaningless.

I am enjoying trying to puzzle out the focus of this story, and it has me guessing. So far, my best theory is that we are going to see Ashton essentially 'grow up', which is to say begin to take life - his own and others - seriously in a way he clearly does not currently. I am suspecting this is a redemption tale, though I fear it to be a tragedy. I hope not. I am a staunch lover of happy endings.

I find Domino's emotions very curious. That is one unhappy pony, despite getting to be with his sister. He is moody and troubled, and it feels to me that a lot of that is realizing that he doesn't have as much in common with his sister as he imagined - she is clearly very different as an empowered, healthy filly than she was as a sickly, dependent, dying child. I get the feeling this bothers him, that he had a specific image of what life would be like in Equestria, and his sister isn't playing the part he created in his mind. Domino, it seems, is having to face reality.

And so is Ashton/Arcane Word. He seems to be starting to face the impact his actions have on others, through his interactions with his friend. He cares about his friend, and this is changing his outlook about what he does with Equestria, and how he relates to his part of it, or so it seems.

So perhaps the central theme is facing reality and responsibility? Or, it could also be a theme of exploring how values are not the same thing as desires. That was a concept presented very early on in this tale, with the 'Celestia Button' and the problem of easy solutions having the cause of both satisfaction, and ultimately, the value of existing at all.

This story just keeps getting better as it plows down the rabbit-Cthulu hole.

Oh, I like the seaponies-as-Deep-Ones angle and how this place is basically Pony Innsmouth. Fthagn!

I don't think I would be able to go on without social interactions for long periods of time

Ya I am really enjoying this one, also nice to see you chatoyance!

Color me interested. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but Wintercrest seems like a pretty cool setting.

Huh, welcome to utopia.:ajbemused:

Well, that got awkward.:rainbowlaugh:

Violet feels like a bit of a brat, but then it's probably just been too long since I was that age (heck, I think I was a lot worse).

Figures Ashton is smart enough to see where the world is going.

There's part of me wondering if Celestia is actually simulating both Domino and Arcane at the same time separately to Emmet and Ashton for maximum manipulation.

For a game, Ashton certainly put a lot of love and care into creating Wintercrest.

“The integrity of systems is not what concerns me. The satisfaction of my ponies, however, is of utmost importance. If it seems you’re causing more harm than good…”

Knowing her, she probably wouldn't mind Ashton slipping up. Maybe even counting on it. Easier to convince him to emigrate.

This isn’t Fallout Equestria or PaP. It’s more Coraline and less Masquerade.

PaP... So even Starscribe isn't immune to shameless advertising. Gotta get new views somehow. :rainbowlaugh:

“First impressions matter.

Everything's going according to plan.

First impressions matter.

It was all he needed to know

So .... did he just cost himself his friend? What exactly is Celestia saying here?

“Yes,” Emmet said. “Everything you can feel, we can feel. More, Arcane. I’m not colorblind anymore. Celestia fixed it. I think she… probably fixes everything about you. If you let her.”

Everything. It lingered in the air like a particularly intrusive spider. “The other senses too? Taste and touch and…”

If he isn't thinking about going MTF when he finally uploads I will be very surprised.

Was he supposed to suspend his disbelief that nothing had leveled the place after staying away for two months?

Hey, if Animal Crossong villages can manage it...

Or maybe an 80’s-style skateboarding race from payphone to payphone with lots of fog machines. The scene was nothing if not mutable in its tastes.

There's a crossover idea. Optimalverse and Ready Player One. The 80's nostalgia angle's certainly there.

Wonderfully chilling warning from Celestia. Do not test the patience of sunbutt.exe.

But his friend hadn’t been acting like himself ever since he’d arrived. Something about the avatar? It still didn’t make much sense.

Heh. Without the full sensory experience, some factors can't even be considered, much less accounted for.

I do love the idea of Celestia encouraging users to write their own scenarios and learnijg frok them to become a better storyteller herself. Mostly because I like thinking about how the fanfic community would interact with Equestria Online.

Moms everywhere rejoice! Ashton has found a way to pause multiplayer games. And Celestia's letting him, thankfully. Now to see how well the rest of the tour of Hinnysmouth goes.

I believe the intended message is that the time stop is permissible in this case to preserve continuity for the immigrants as Arcane shows off the castle. First impressions are important, and asking them to wait half an hour as Ashton eats dinner in the world they left behind would put a damper on things. It's possible that if he hadn't altered the time flow, Celestia would have.

She leaned in close, her voice solemn and deadly serious. “You and Violet will continue to live in Equestria for a maximally extended interval that vastly exceeds the functional lifespan of a human body. Do you still want to have your friend in a century? What about a thousand?”

First of all, I think you'd want the last word here to be "millenium" (or change "century" to "hundred years"). Mixing seems weird to my mind's ear.

Second of all, I don't think I understand what Celestia means here. It almost seems like she's trying to discourage Domino from wanting his friend to emigrate. But that doesn't make sense; it's entirely at odds to her preceding statement. There must be something I'm not getting.

Aside from all that, I really am loving this story. It might be your best, with Recalculating in close second, at least as far as the Optimalverse goes. :yay:

Ashton was outside in the real world somewhere, still using that infuriating female avatar that put him at a constant disadvantage. Why would he stop if he can see it’s working?

Heh. This is why Hanlon's Razor is a good idea. Though in this case it's more ignorance than stupidity.

If she says it’s okay, I’ll take those scales from your eyes and show you the sounds your atoms make.

Tempting as it is to make a Matrix reference, my mind went in a different direction:

I can show you the code,
Shining, elegant, splendid.
Tell me, Emmet, now when did
You last make a script compile?

compared to this, Ashton’s castle might as well have been built in Minecraft.

I don't even play Minecraft and I feel insulted on behalf of its community. Though it's important to remember that the character isn't the author.

Nopony else in the throne room, maybe. But the windows outside showed a Canterlot busy with activity. She stopped everything to talk to me.

:facehoof: He really doesn't get it. Though this plus her interactions with Ashton do a great job of showcasing CelestAI's multifarious nature. She's whoever you need her to be... based on her understanding of your needs.

The Lady is kind to Wintercrest, but she also has a… vision, for how the city ought to be. Be part of that vision, and you’re safe.

It's a fascinating and, depending on the game, disturbing question. How do the NPCs see your character?

Well, Emmet's settled in and ready to redefine Domino. Now there's just a little matter of aggressive negotiation to attend to.

He half expected Princess Luna to be waiting for him on the other side of the door. But there was no one there, only Celestia’s familiar mark on the wall. He settled one hoof on it, closing his eyes. “Please keep her safe,” he whispered, his head lowered like a prayer. He didn’t press the button.

I don't think he gets how this works.

I took it as "a thousand centuries", which is still an eye-blink in Equestrian terms.

Without mods, Minecraft only does fine details if you build on an insanely large scale (the official scale is 1 block = 1m3), and I think the level of detail was the focus there.

She's whoever you need her to be... based on her understanding of your needs.

I'm really curious as to how Celestia would interact with me. I understand enough for a basic but broad understanding of the principles, and I liked Chatoyance's story about the pony who played with Celestia by interacting with Equestria (having accepted that Celestia and Equestria are one and the same). I know I'd definitely solicit her input on picking which form of pony I'd be (between my imagination and Legends of Equestria, I can see the benefits of each and don't know for certain which one to pick).

I think it is two pronged. Wanting to make him seriously think about how much his friend really means to him and on top of the fact try to fix ashton's views of equestria or at least how he/ she treats it.

Doesn’t feel like online from here. “We’re cool,” he answered. “If you want to visit, there’s always the Experience Center. You can’t tell me you can’t afford it, I know you can.”

She met his eyes, then vanished in a flash of unicorn magic.

wonder if ash is afraid of equestria becoming more real than game. Especially coming to terms with all the choices he has made. From how he treated his "npc's" to having a female avatar for so long as well other stuff.

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