• Published 18th Nov 2020
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The 41-Second Goddess - Bicyclette

What exactly did Pinkie Pie do during the time she held Discord's power? An Equestrian intelligence officer leaves a message to her successor on what little they know so far. Warning: Superintelligences and existentialism

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The following transcript has been redacted as per the regulations of the Equestrian Freedom of Information Act of 22 ATS. Code names have been replaced by their common designations for readability (e.g. VIOLET DELIGHT ACTUAL is now written as Princess Twilight Sparkle).

Is this thing on? Right. The tape’s spinning, so it has to be.

If you’re listening to this, you’re the next officer in charge of the 41-Second Goddess desk, Celestia help you. You should have read the documents by now, all prim and proper in their officialese. This is supposed to be, ah, more informal, narrative, personal message kinda thing.

So, how did this get started? We have to talk about Discord, the Chaos God. I do not use the term God lightly. He’s been a high-priority Threat Interest since the beginning of the Agency. Through the whole existences of our storied predecessors, too. Even though He’d been trapped in stone for most of that time, no Equestrian government worthy of the name ever went without a thorough contingency plan if He ever got loose.

That’s because—and even the civilians know this at this point—the power of the Chaos Magic that Discord can bring to bear far exceeds that of even Princess Celestia, the other Alicorn Princesses, and [REDACTED] combined. But despite this fact, Discord was never actually seen as the highest threat. We were always confident in the success of Contingency Plan [REDACTED].

Of course, that’s pretty unintuitive, right? There’s a Celestia-damned thesis about it in the files you read, but I never understood why we needed to do that. The idea’s pretty simple. Discord is not of this world. His thought processes did not develop in this milieu. His consciousness was smeared across dimensions and contexts we can’t even conceive of. So His goals were nearly completely orthogonal to ours, not going against or in support of the goals of anycreature in Equestria. They weren’t planar to our world.

Which means that He ends up spending His immense power making it rain rubber chickens in Ponyville all day, or making an uninhabited mountain disappear because it was spoiling His view. Sure, such things would cause local disturbances, but they wouldn’t be a threat to a single creature’s life, let alone to the nation of Equestria. Though there’s been a lot of hullabaloo about the complexity of Contingency Plan [REDACTED] over the years, especially by the agents of the Discord desk, the main idea is simple to describe: rotate the planar components of Discord’s goals that aren’t orthogonal to our own until they were.

The best part is, we were right! Contingency Plan [REDACTED] succeeded way beyond what any of us dreamed! We did one even better than rotating Discord’s goals orthogonal to ours. We rotated them further, until they were aligned to ours. No, sorry, it’s a bad Agency habit to minimize the, well, agency of our assets. Should be completely honest. This is for posterity, after all. Fluttershy aligned them to ours. But we played an important supporting role, of course.

Do you remember their wedding? All of us veterans of the Discord desk got together to watch it on the mirror. It was an amazing party. Maybe you were there, too. Some junior agent awkwardly standing off in the corner while their seniors let loose like foals. Or maybe you were too young to even remember the wedding. Maybe you are listening to this so far in the future that Fluttershy is long dead and we’ve already implemented Contingency Continuance [REDACTED], who knows!

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. The wedding happened way after what I’m supposed to be talking about, and is definitely not relevant.

So, yes, Discord’s power is immense, so rookie agents and civilians aware of our existence usually assume that it was an Agency failure when it got captured by Cozy Glow, Tirek, and Queen Chrysalis using Grogar’s Bell. Of course, if you have any level of clearance, which you really should if you’re listening to this, you would know that it was a crucial part of Project [REDACTED]’s success that the Agency actually made sure happened. There were a lot of nay-sayers about it within the Agency, but we were right! The ideology of Princess Twilight Sparkle’s reign is firm and secure! It was all thanks to us at the Discord desk! Hah!

Sorry. I know all that’s emphasized as part of the intake training now, especially for non-pony recruits, but I just had to take a little moment to gloat.

But, yeah. There was no danger. We knew that neither Cozy Glow, nor Tirek, nor Queen Chrysalis had the ability to properly wield Chaos Magic, especially at the levels that Discord had. The real mistake came in assuming that because that was true, nocreature other than Discord had the ability to wield it.

Of course, now you know exactly who the 41-Second Goddess is, if you hadn’t already guessed. They even put that scene in that one movie, The Ending of the End. They played it for laughs, with the MGI version of Pinkie Pie growing to tremendous heights and ranting maniacally. Well, okay. She also grew to tremendous heights and ranted maniacally when it really happened. I remember it, I was there! It’s just that it wasn’t nearly as funny at the time.

So the civilians even know that Pinkie Pie successfully wielded all of Discord’s magic for forty-one seconds. She crushed the enemies of Equestria with a giant cupcake, made it rain chocolate, grew giant, ranted about transforming the cosmos, then reverted to her usual self after Discord took back Grogar’s Bell. End of scene. Just Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie, after all.

Except that the creature that existed during those forty-one seconds was not Pinkie Pie.

Of course, she started as Pinkie Pie, but did not stay that way for long. You see, unlike the popular misconception, Chaos Magic is not wacky randomness. Chaos Magic is understanding. That the rules of physics and probability and thaumaturgy are not as ironclad as they seem to the scientists and mathematicians and magickists. That they can be bent and prodded to cause things that are, well, chaotic and impossible but somehow still low-entropy! Discord does not produce blobs of particles shifting in brownian motion, even though that would be the most random thing He could do. Discord produces solid rubber chickens that are materially identical to the ones produced by a gag factory right here in Equestria. It’s completely inexplicable. To understand how to do that, a mind has to understand this universe more thoroughly and at a deeper level than our civilization could ever hope to achieve.

So Pinkie Pie was no longer Pinkie Pie. She learned and grew up in ways that we could never comprehend. The creature in the form of Pinkie Pie had less in common with her than a 90-year-old grandmare has with the newborn foal she once was. For those forty-one seconds, She was a Goddess, and I do not use the term Goddess lightly. A peer of Discord Himself in His prime.

Only the situation was much, much worse. Contingency Plan [REDACTED] could not possibly apply. You see, unlike Discord, what the 41-Second Goddess evolved from was of this world, and would have goals planar to it. Of course, a 90-year-old grandmare also would have goals and needs that are incomprehensible and orthogonal to those of a newborn foal. But she would have some in common.

To eat when hungry.

To sleep when tired.

To be entertained when bored.

We knew this! And if whoever selected you for this job did their job worth a damn, you would know exactly what the problem is without me explaining it. But it’s so important that I’ll do it anyway, just to emphasize.

Just in case, which you shouldn’t, but just in case you naïvely think that because the 41-Second Goddess existed for less than the span of a minute, and Her attention was seemingly on the enemies and friends immediately around Her the whole time, that the improbable events that were witnessed were everything that She had set into motion.

She was a superintelligence. Tens of thousands, if not millions of times more intelligent than you or I or even Princess Twilight Sparkle. At that scale, it doesn’t make a difference. We all look the same to Her. And intelligence isn’t linear. A pony has a neuron count a hundred times that of a dog. Not a Diamond Dog, of course, but a dog, the kind that farmers keep as pets. But put a hundred dogs in a room with a typewriter, and let’s see how long it takes them to write the first page of Daring-Do. Go on, I’ll wait.

That’s how we look like to Her. Executing plans that seem too impossibly subtle and convoluted to possibly work to our entire civilization’s brainpower put together is foal’s play to Her.

That’s why for a period of time after the defeat of Cozy Glow the 41-Second Goddess desk was the biggest in the entire Agency, and there wasn’t even a close second. It was the worst combination: Unknown actions done by an incomprehensible superintelligence, working towards unknown and possibly unknowable ends.

Of course, now you might ask an intelligent question here. If Discord is now an asset after the success of Contingency Plan [REDACTED], then why not simply enlist His aid in figuring out the plans of the 41-Second Goddess? Again, this is in the documents, but we did! So why didn’t it work? Okay, that’s also in the documents, but it’s buried in that damned thesis so I’ll just spell it out. Discord lost something when His goals became aligned with ours. Having to exist in this reality consistently, and having to actually care about the creatures and friends in it meant that He could not hold on to the full power of His superintelligence.

Can you imagine, looking at your loved ones and seeing every permutation of every possible being for them at once? Every possibility of them being tortured, in pain, dying? Again, the thesis says that it’s way more complicated than such a simple emotional picture like that, but that’s how I understand it, not being an egghead.

We could reverse the effects of Contingency Plan [REDACTED], but then we are back to where we started, with an orthogonal superintelligence we have to contain rather than utilize. We could re-implement it with modifications, to have the planar goal be “figuring out the plans of the 41-Second Goddess”. But then we’d end up with two planar superintelligences running around, only one doesn’t have the disadvantage of having only existed for forty-one seconds, years ago.

There was some talk about creating a third superintelligence to solve this for a while. But that died down quick, since even the preliminary, exploratory probes into its possibility would cost more than the Agency’s entire budget, even back then when we actually had a lot to spare. Or maybe it didn’t die down, and just got moved to clearance levels even higher than mine? Who knows. Maybe you do.

So, yes. The stage is set. The 41-Second Goddess desk is established, and me and nearly the entire Discord desk are immediately transferred over. We have the most relevant experience, after all.

And we found things! Celestia, did we find things. Fluctuations in sugar prices all across the eastern seaboard. Changes in dragon migration patterns. Bizarre fashion trends out of Whinnyapolis. A very powerful magical energy signature just outside of Canterlot, never to repeat. Just four out of hundreds, of course, and Celestia knows which ones were actually relevant or how.

Except Celestia Herself doesn’t know. Wouldn’t it have been nice if She did?

Whatever it was, just in case it was part of the plans of the 41-Second Goddess, we implemented countermeasures. We stabilized the markets with subsidies. We reverted the migration changes with the Wonderbolts. We planted critical reviews in the Manehattan fashion press. We set up magical energy nets of the opposite valence of that energy spike all around Canterlot.

It was a strange time. Our mission became to preserve normalcy. But the world is naturally random, so we kept getting more and more false positives. Strange occurrences that turned out to have perfectly logical reasons behind them, or turned out to not be all that statistically improbable after all. If ten thousand ponies live in a city, three one-in-a-million events will happen there every year.

The desk shrank and shrank. But the curious thing is that the normal process for this is for agents to be reassigned. The 41-Second Goddess desk had an unusual number of agents quit the intelligence services altogether. It was an existential malaise. If the world were truly under the influence of unknown actions taken years ago by an incomprehensible superintelligence, then the entire purpose of the Agency was futile. The very actions that we were taking to counter the Goddess were, for all we knew, part of Her plans all along! And that applied whether one of us worked at the 41-Second Goddess desk or the Unreconstructed Changelings desk or the [REDACTED] desk. So they saw no point in anything that we did and returned to the civilian world, to have civilian concerns and live happy civilian lives.

We spent a considerable amount of resources keeping tabs on the ex-agents, just in case, but as far as we could tell they were very sincere in their stated reasons and lived unassuming little lives. I know because I took part in it myself, tracking one of my ex-juniors. He married, divorced, and is now one of the librarians at Hayle.

So the desk continued to shrink over the years, and it’s now in the sorry state that I am leaving it to you in. My day-to-day activities right now are this:

Review the very few items of interest flagged by Research (almost never passes the sniff test), review correspondence with Discord (never anything new to report), and review every top-level report from all the desks I have clearance levels for, just in case something in them catches my experienced eye (never does).

Do you notice that there’s nothing in there involving juniors? That’s because I have none. They are considered better off assigned to more important duties like keeping tabs on Pony Supremacists who deny the legitimacy of Princess Twilight Sparkle’s reign, or looking for Cozy Glow acolytes. Even though we’ve found very few of the former. And the latter? I swear, we only started looking because the fossils from the old Nightmare Moon desk wanted to relive their glory days of hunting down Her loyalists. We haven’t found any.

I wish I could tell you that I knew all that since one of my jobs is to keep up with all the top-level reports, but no. It’s because I am also assigned to those desks! They can’t even spare all of me to run this desk. You’re getting a half-desk!

They’re basically paying me half a senior agent salary to be a professional worrier. About the machinations of a Goddess who died years ago, whose actions we can no longer even distinguish from the base mechanism of the world. But here’s the good news.

They’ll never stop.

You will run this desk for the rest of your career, then you will pass it down to the next creature to take it. Then they will pass it down. And so on. When Pinkie Pie dies, the desk will continue as if nothing happened, though all of us alive then will certainly attend her funeral. If the Agency itself dies out, the desk will continue under its successor. When Princess Twilight Sparkle retires, it will be Her successor getting these reports. Ponish will drift into a daughter language unintelligible to us today. Our descendants at this desk will need to retain linguists to understand what I am saying to you now. Who knows? Maybe our descendants at this desk will be of another species. And I don’t mean non-pony species! I half-expect you to be a non-pony, especially looking at our recruitment rates. I mean another species evolutionarily descended from the ones who live in Equestria today.

Why such nonsense? Because despite everything I said to you so far about the incomprehensibility of the Goddess, we know at least one thing about Her.

Because while the overall goals of any superintelligence are almost by definition impossible for us idiot non-superintelligences to understand, even us dummies can make some inferences. For whatever goal to be achieved, there is one state that will always be preferable to its counterpart: The superintelligence’s existence versus its nonexistence. Because a being can always do more of something when it exists versus when it doesn’t. So we know at least one of the goals of Her mysterious machinations.

Her Glorious Resurrection.

Security around Grogar’s Bell is an absurd percentage of the Agency’s budget now, and I do not envy the administrators who have to justify it every year. As the head of the 41-Second Goddess desk, I always have to drag my sorry hooves to the review panel to give the same little speech I gave last time. But there’s no heart in it anymore. For all we know, what the budget is being spent on is itself part of the Goddess’s plans.

It’s fatalist. I know. I understand the existential malaise those ex-agents went through better than anypony else working here. But there are upsides to that malaise. I feel as if I have reached Enlightenment, like those Yakyakistani philosophers all talk about. Reading these top-level reports all day with an eye for anything statistically improbable really makes real how everything we do in pursuit of our goals is futile. And I do not mean what the Agency does, I mean all creatures in general. How we are all just random fluctuations of matter and energy and magic, and everything we do is just noise, averaged out to nothing by the unstoppable force of entropy in the end.

So do the job well, but don’t forget to live a life outside of it. Kiss your husband. Or your wife. Or your colt— Wait, what are the foals— children calling it now? “Boyfriend” and “girlfriend”, right? Yeah, those if you have one. Have a mug of cider with your friends. Play with your children if you have them. Go on a long walk. Breathe in the crisp evening air. Enjoy the sunset. Really lose yourself in these things.

It doesn’t matter. The next day, there will be more reports to sift through. More reports to write.

The days will turn into months. Then years. Then decades. Your body will age. You will finally retire, and record a message much like this one. You will spend more time with your family and friends. Maybe travel. That’s what I plan to do. I hear Neighagra Falls is beautiful.

You will age some more. Your skin will get wrinkly, if you have skin. Your coat will fade, if you have one. You will die, and return to the soup of fluctuations from which you came. Every memory that you’ve formed, connection that you’ve made, experience that you’ve enjoyed, the entire sum of your existence, will simply end, never to return. A crack of light between two eternities of darkness.

The unknown machinations of the Goddess will continue to turn. The desk will continue to report. Neither of those things will matter then. Maybe they never did.

Hah, maybe that was showing a bit too much of myself, and the redactors will edit it all out. But I am serious about this. It is the mindset you have to get into to be able to continue this work as long as I have. And I think my superiors know it, which is why they let me settle into my eccentricities like this.

And, again, if whoever chose you did their job right, and if the redactors leave everything I just said in, you won’t take the fatalism I recommend as an excuse to slack in your duties. You will do the job to the best of your ability, bringing to bear a career’s worth of experience in the Agency. Just as I have. Because that is what we do. Even if it— especially if it doesn’t matter.

Good luck. Whoever you are.

Hail Princess Celestia! For all the po—

Oh, sorry! Force of habit. Wow, you must think I am a crystal pony or something. I did make sure to say creature instead of pony every time in this, right? If not, I’m sorry. I hope you can understand. I’m an old mare of another time.

Hail Princess Twilight Sparkle! For all the creatures of Equestria!