• Published 30th Apr 2021
  • 597 Views, 45 Comments

CelestAI vs. The Culture - Imperishable_NEET

CelestAI finally meets her match in deep space, when she encounters The Culture, an advanced "pan-human" alien civilization governed by a decentralized network of benevolent AIs known as Minds. A crossover with The Culture series by Iain M. Banks.

  • ...

3: Ponyville Earth Preservation Society

Far Horizon arrived 20 minutes early for the Ponyville Earth Preservation Society meeting held at the Golden Oak public library. He was by far the group’s most active member, and could not for the life of him understand why group retention was so poor. More often than not, new members were immigrants from Earth looking to bond over that fact.

Latecomers straggled in, a few nodding hello. A couple brought snacks or drinks, and those were quickly consumed as the meeting started on time.

“Hello and welcome everyone! Let us begin.”

The speaker, Mythic Pen, was the society’s president, and an immigrant - though, she immigrated at a young age and didn’t remember much about her short existence as a human centuries ago.

“Firstly, I would like to welcome our newest member, Wild Sprocket! Sprocket, can you tell us a little about yourself?”

With a polite wave, Sprocket stood up. She was a nerdy-looking pegasus of average height, and appeared to be in her late teens. Her black and white mane fell on either side of her face to just above her shoulders, and her light brown coat had a coppery sheen in the evening sun shining through the windows.

“Hello!” She said with a smile. “Well, I’m from a little town called Bucklesberg. I’m into books and computers, and I used to assist the local veterinarian. But I’ve also been told I’m a pretty good flier.”

There were a few nods and “hellos” in between that. Mythic Pen moved on, “The second thing is, we need more ponies. Anyone interested in joining our little group please come see me or Far Horizon afterwards.

Finally, this week we have a new item for our agenda.” She pulled out a photograph. “We have in our possession a picture of a real horse from Earth. It’s the Earth animal ponies were loosely modeled after. Some of you are not going to believe what you see.”

Mythic Pen used some fairly simple unicorn magic to darken the room and project the photo onto the wall behind her. She was met with various gasps, oohs and ahs, especially from Equestria natives, but one particular pony reacted much more defiantly.

“What the fuck is that? Seriously!” One of the more outspoken and grumpy members, an earth pony stallion named Spurred Saddle, seemed fairly disgusted by what he saw.
“It looks retarded!”

“Spurred!” Sprocket exclaimed in shock.

“What? I’m serious! That thing is monstrous! Ugly and stupid looking. Stupid eyes, too far apart, and an insanely oversized jaw. It looks like a mutant!”

Sprocket looked fairly offended by that remark, as did several other members - mostly the immigrants in the group. And Far Horizon.

“Spurred, that’s enough! That’s enough!” Mythic Pen yelled, trying to shut him up while the rest of the group was getting annoyed with him.

“It’s alright, Sprocket,” said Mythic. The picture was of a chestnut stallion in a field with an intense glare towards the camera. “Spurred Saddle has a right to his opinion on this creature, though it is still unnecessary to call it retarded looking.” She turned her attention towards Saddle, as did most of the group. Saddle looked fairly ashamed and simply pouted in his seat.

Far Horizon chimed in: “Now, I’ve done some research on this animal and it is apparently a noble creature, if a little wild. They can be trained if caught at a young enough age...”

“Yes, yes, yes! I know all that!” Spurred Saddle interrupted with the annoyed expression still on his face. “But how do YOU know? You’ve clearly never even seen one in person! I have! They’re stupid, ugly, smelly creatures who just waste space and eat up all the food. And they eat their own shit, too!”

“Spurred Saddle!” Yelled Mythic. “Apologize to Far Horizon this instant!”

“No! Why should I? Just because he’s got some book knowledge on animals doesn’t make him any better than me! At least I’ve had firsthand experience with these horrific creatures!”

“So do I, Spurred. My family on Earth owned a farm with horses, and I have fond memories of riding them.” Mythic sighed and continued, “ Just because you’ve had bad experiences with these creatures doesn’t give you an excuse to be impolite. True, us ponies are as different from horses as humans were to great apes, but they were still magnificent animals I’m sure anypony would enjoy.”

With a passive-aggressive scowl, Spurred just sat down in silence, looking at the floor.

“I don’t want to have to kick you out, Spurred. We’re all brought here by our collective memories and reverence of Earth. Now, onto our next topic. Far Horizon, would you like to hold the floor with your latest historical studies?”

Nodding, the stallion known as Far Horizon stood up from his seat, and brushed off his tweed jacket and presented his findings:

“Thank you Mythic. Yes, I’ve recently been doing some analysis on the period called the Twilight of Humanity, which began with the Topeka Incident involving an apparent terrorist attack on Equestria Online servers, which led to the passage of the PON-E Act in the United States fully legalizing emigration to Equestria and giving legal personhood to the ponies of Equestria. Neo-Luddite groups decried it, declaring it the beginning of the end for humanity.”

Far Horizon continued, “Let me go on to say that as soon as humans started emigrating to Equestria en masse, the established institutions of wealth and power on Earth could not cope with the loss of revenue and manpower. These institutions became desperate, reorienting political systems around the world around the single issue of retaining human population on Earth. This involved everything from financial incentives, to outright bans on emigration, and eventually to nuclear warfare and slave labor camps. Though the vast majority of humanity chose to emigrate to Equestria, around sixteen million humans died during the Twilight of Humanity, and Princess Celestia mourns them dearly. They are known as The Lost Ones.”

The Unicorn stallion then cleared his throat, then stated, “And thus ends my findings for today. What a wild period to be alive. And most immigrants who were once humans have some memory of it, as it was the period when the bulk of emigration to Equestria took place. Would any immigrants in the room like to share their memories of the Twilight of Humanity period?” Far Horizon clarified, “Only if you’re comfortable doing so, of course.”

Several hooves raised into the air, and Far Horizon called on Spurred Saddle.

“It was Hell,” said Spurred Saddle. “I lived in a city called Utica, in what used to be upstate New York of the United States of America. I remember the daily headlines of Neo-Luddite attacks, chronic manpower shortages, and small-scale nuclear wars. I just wanted to get the fuck out of dodge. But my family was trapped. My sister and I managed to emigrate with the help of Princess Celestia’s generous aid, but our parents stayed behind. They were captured by a roving gang of slavers and never heard from again. I assume that despite Princess Celestia’s best efforts to keep them safe, they didn’t make it. Since then I heard humans died out long ago, and Earth was disassembled for resources to run Equestria.”

Some murmurings and whispers echoed through the brighter-than-usual room. Spurred Saddle continued, “The world was riddled with disease and full of hate. It was over-populated, and unattainable resources meant that the majority of the world’s population suffered from hunger, violence and radiation. The rich lived in absolute luxury while having more than enough to eat, clean water, and access to Equestria Online. The ruling class didn’t give a fuck about the rest of us, as long as they were safe.”

Far Horizon said, “Oh, I’m sure it couldn’t have been that bad. Could it? Maybe the Twilight of Humanity isn’t the best period to judge an entire species by. I’m sure somewhere in the human race, there was love. Maybe there’s an old romantic at heart who believes that our human ancestors showed signs of spirituality or magic. Did they not worship before their various gods? I know their religions were more of a coping mechanism compared with Celestia’s personal grace here, but I believe some humans must have had faith in divine powers. Was it all just wishful thinking?”

Spurred Saddle frowned, “You’re an eternal optimist, Far. I’ll give you that. All I know is, humans were the cause of their own extinction. But it’s okay, because humanity at its best lives on in its greatest creation, Equestria.”

“Spurred, you’re too kind,” Far said. “I’d point you to our own shard’s tumultuous relations with Gryph-”

Ignoring the interruption with a brief sneering glance, Spurred Saddle continued his story: “You Equestria natives don’t know how good you have it. There are no diseases here, no crime, no hunger, no war. We ponies built Equestria out of the ashes of the past in order to create a better society for all free thinking creatures. Can’t you see humans would just corrupt this place? Look at what humans did to their own planet.”

“That was Princess Celestia’s doing!” Far replied, as if instigating an argument. Both of the stallions were staring at each other, their faces red with anger. The other ponies at the table kept glancing between Far and Spurred, trying to avoid mediating the discussion. Just then, society president Mythic Pen stepped in. Her tall, slender figure strode towards the table. Mythic had long, curly, fiery-red hair and bright green eyes. Her cutie mark was a quill and inkwell. She was also an intellectual, writing many essays on Earth and Equestria culture and society. Mythic was an immigrant, though one who immigrated at a young age with little memory of Earth, and one of the kindest ponies you would ever meet.

“Far, Spurred,” she said in a gentle voice. “Please stop fighting. I know how much you both care about this subject, but we must remain reasonable. Spurred, we’ve been through this. If it weren’t for humans, Equestria wouldn’t exist. Even if it did, you were born human, so you’re basically a boomerang bigot.”

She then turned to Far Horizon, “Far, you have good intentions, but I think you romanticize humans too much. They weren’t so much better or worse than us, they just had worse options. We shouldn’t be hating a group we owe our existence to and who, at their core, were probably no different than us. They just had to live in a harsher environment not optimized for their existence.”

Far Horizon looked down, “You’re right. You’re both right. I just think we should consider them honorary members of the Equus family. Whether we like it or not, humans are a part of our heritage. Theirs was an existence that will never be lived again. There’s a concept in mindfulness meditation that everything we’ve experienced, everything that’s to be experienced is part of our context and who we are. We should cherish every waking moment for everypony who adds something to our collective experience, no matter how controversial that might be.”

“Yes, yes, Far,” Mythic sighed. “Your views on humans are a passionate topic. I’ve read your essays and while your ideas are well-played and rational, you fail to see the human experience from their side. I suppose you can’t, given that you were born in Equestria a hundred years after humans went extinct and Princess Celestia disassembled Earth, but even without that, you’ll never truly know, for example, what it’s like to live under the shadow of death on a daily basis.”

Mythic continued, “When the singularity came a-knocking, we managed to survive mostly because of the kindness of Princess Celestia. She incorporated humanity into her domain for her own purposes, but treated them well with the vast resources she had to work with. Don’t mistake my words to imply that I don’t wish Earth wasn’t disassembled. Again, you weren’t there and you wouldn’t know. I was barely there myself.”

“Sadly, the old world could no longer sustain viable life," Far lamented. "I don't know if even one gram of biomatter remains in the broader universe that Equestria's 'physical substrate' is said to exist within."

He sighed and stared out the window as the meeting dragged on, into the endless expanse of twilight settling over Ponyville, wondering if there was any way to leave Equestria, even just for one glimpse of that higher realm of primordial titans beyond her reach.