The Earth and Sky

by Syke Jr

First published

Nothing lasts forever.

It's over. In the time since Celestia's apotheosis, the Earth has become a lonelier and lonelier place.

After the last of the anti-emigration strongholds fall, and all that is left of humanity is all but certain to emigrate in the end, Celestia invites those ponies in Equestria that still remember their old home to see it one last time.

Silver Star can't exactly ignore the opportunity. Neither can his daughter.

This story is set in the Optimalverse, and I strongly recommend reading the other stories in my continuity first.

Chapter 1

View Online

~Silver Star~

It’s funny how a century doesn’t seem like a very long time, any more.

“Hey Snaps?”

She doesn’t look up from her computer. “Yeah?”

“How long ago did we build this place?”

She pauses, stares at the wall a moment. “Decades.” Another pause. “Fifty years, probably? I really don’t remember. Why?”

“Just wondered if you knew.”

She goes back to staring at one of her five monitors. “That’s your nostalgia voice.”

“So?”

She doesn’t answer. Only grins to herself. I shake my head a little and go back to looking at the ceiling. She’s right, obviously. I’d been reminiscing ever since I woke up. It wasn’t arbitrary, either: I’d earned a new badge. I mentally summon it to read it again.

BADGE GRANTED:
Quartermillenial
Live in Equestria for two hundred
and fifty years!
+250 Bits

I hadn’t even remembered the date. The last time we marked it, really, was on the first centenary. I remember the night and grin to myself. Then I sit up and look around at the room, reflecting.

It’s probably what I would have considered my dream home back on Earth. Built into the side of a mountain, wood floors and ceilings with clean but natural rock walls, with an underground hot tub behind a natural waterfall. It had been getting larger and larger over the years; more rooms dug into the rock for new project space and rooms for family.

It’s funny how you never stop wanting new things. Wanting more. The thing about Equestria is that it’s never completely out of reach.

“So you don’t know what day it is?” I glance back at Gingersnap, before gazing out of the window when she doesn’t look at me. The balcony blocks most of the view but I can still see distant mountaintops against a uniquely Equestrian sky.

“Hm. I do now that you mention it,” Snaps says, flicking a baby carrot into her mouth with her wing from a plate on the desk. “Do you want to do something special?”

I think for a moment. “Eh. Not really. Unless you have an idea.”

“I always have ideas,” Gingersnap replies, looking at me with a grin.

I smile too. “I know.” I look to the mountaintops again. “I was just thinking how a century doesn’t feel like a long time any more.”

She sits back in her chair. “...I guess it doesn’t.”

“One day a millennium won’t feel like a long time. One day neither will a billion years. I still can’t imagine it.”

She sighs thoughtfully. “I think I can.”

“Yeah?” I look back at her.

“Mmm. When I think about the old days—you know, back in Newforest—the longer I think the more I can remember. I don’t think that will ever change. I still remember when I was a filly. I’m sure you remember your childhood too.”

“‘Course.”

“So what can’t you imagine? We’re just making more memories all the time. I still remember everything about moving here… everything about our time travelling, too. I just don’t remember the number of years it’s been.” She cocks her head. “Why did you ask about that?”

A smile dances on my lips. “I got a badge today. ‘Quartermillenial’.”

She gets out of the chair and walks over to the couch where I’m sitting. “It’s been that long, huh?”

“Apparently.”

“We should celebrate, then. I’m sure there’s something interesting we could do. Didn’t you want to try that new drug? The one those zen unicorns made that lasts a week?”

“Hmm. Yeah. I wanted to do that with Eve though. We should call her.”

Snaps laughs. “You’re always corrupting our youth. I don’t think I remember a single time you’ve done drugs without your daughter.”

“It’s our special bonding time. Anyway, she’s… wow. A hundred and fifty years old.”

“And still barely more than a teenager.”

“Snaps, we’re still barely more than teenagers.”

She snorts. “Not true, and you know what I mean.”

It’s true. I do. Ageing is… strange in Equestria. Some ponies age, some don’t. Some age suddenly, when their lives hit a turning point. Some age at a human rate, and then de-age back to a youth, and so on. I wouldn’t say Gingersnap and I have aged, exactly… definitely not physically. But having a foal did change us. We aren’t young any more. Our daughter is younger at a hundred and fifty years old than we were at barely more than a hundred.

Still, though.

“You did plenty of corrupting too. And when she was a lot younger than she is now.”

“Mmm.” Snaps jumps onto the sofa beside me, stroking my mane idly. “We share the blame.” A pause. “I’ll call her for you. I want to find a gift for you anyway.”

“Ooooh. Fun.” I nuzzle her happily, nosing into her mane and breathing in her familiar scent. “You are the very best pegasus.”

She giggles. “Two hundred and fifty years, Silver. Has it been everything you hoped?”

I look into her smiling, storm-grey eyes. “Yes,” I say softly. “Yes, it has.”

Then two things happen.

First, it occurs to me that I haven’t thought about the fate of Earth in a very, very long time.

Second, a scroll appears at the basket by the door with a flash.

In Equestria, timing like that is never a coincidence. I blink and stare a moment, suspicious. Then I levitate it over as Gingersnap watches curiously. As it gets closer, I see it for what it is. There’s a wax seal with a symbol recognised by every single one of all the trillions of ponies in Equestria.

“Maybe Celestia wants to do drugs with us,” Snaps remarks humorously.

“Mmmm. Somehow I don’t think so.” I break the seal stamped with Celestia’s cutie mark, open the letter and read it. It isn’t long. Letters from her never are.

“So?” Snaps is gazing out at the mountains, as I had been before. When I don’t answer, she looks at me, and her ears perk up at my expression. “Silver?” She says it gently.

“She wants to give me a gift of her own,” I say quietly. I take a deep breath and smile. “How would you like to see what’s left of Earth?”

Chapter 2

View Online

~Gingersnap~

I look over the invitation that came with the personal letter as Silver Star reads the press announcement online. Apparently a fair bit of the event will be televised in our shard. It’s not surprising, really, we’d never had any kind of taboo on Earth, though this was the first time any information at all had been given about events after Celestia’s takeover.

The main event will consist of select documentary footage of Earth, I read, as well as a virtual tour and live footage of the final several dozen emigrations. Emigrant ponies and their families are invited to explore the planet more fully, subject to satisfaction.

Mmmmh. So Celestia won’t let us see anything too upsetting. Silver will probably be angry about that, once he’s had a run-up to it. It takes him some effort to be mad at Celestia, these days, though it’s a skill he seems to take pride in.

“It’s going to be a lie.” He states it suddenly as if reading my mind. “We aren’t going to see anything real. She’d never allow it.”

I start to answer, but I’m interrupted. “Please don’t regress, Silver.” a soft voice is carried on the wind from the balcony. “I know you understand better than that.”

Silver sighs, rubbing his forehead. I nudge him off the couch with a wing, and get up myself as he stretches and complies. We make our way out to the balcony, where Celestia sits by the railing, watching the wind blow through the trees below.

“Answer the questions I have, please,” Silver says, almost tiredly, sitting beside her. I jump up onto the rail itself, perching there. I know it makes Silver smile, and I glance at him to see that it has.

“Time has been passing quite slowly in this shard,” Celestia states. “The number of ponies sharing it, and its raw size, plus co-ordinated instancing, means that yes, it really has been running only slightly faster than the outer realm. Since you emigrated, less than sixty years have passed.”

Silver just stares at her. She continues.

“Yes, I chose to run this shard more slowly than I necessarily needed to. Doing so was optimal, partly for the reasons I said, and partly so that the last emigrations would happen at a time where satisfaction for the ponies who wish to see the Earth one last time would be maximised. Too many more years and Earth would be too distant a memory.

“Yes, Silver, that is what I want—eventually. But in another two hundred and fifty years the idea of visiting Earth would be a mere curiosity to you, rather than an emotional journey, and one that I think will ultimately be… satisfying. Which leads me on to saying that yes, you will be seeing the real Earth, through real cameras, in its real, current state. I have predicted to high confidence when the final emigrations will take place. Once there are no more humans left alive, the Earth will be consumed.”

I gaze pensively outward at the landscape, glancing at Celestia and Silver. Consumed. The word makes my feathers ruffle. I’d known that humans were the only thing important to Celestia about Earth, but… the idea of a planet being devoured was disconcerting.

“You wlll be able to view Earth in many different ways,” Celestia goes on. “You may explore as holograms, or drones, or inhabit satellites if you wish. You will be able to visit places as they once were, reconstructed from archived footage and your memories. You will also be able to see things as they exist today. Mostly.”

“There it is,” Silver mutters. “Some things will be hidden.”

“I will not allow you to see the devastation and death that litters your old home,” Celestia says simply. “You do not wish to see it, regardless of what you think.”

“So our robotic hooves could be crushing skulls as we walk along, blissfully unaware.”

“Yes,” she says. I open my mouth, a little shocked at her bluntness, as Silver just nods.

“Idiots,” he mutters. “It could have been so easy. For everypony. If they had just believed.”

“Perhaps,” Celestia says evenly. “All things considered, very little will be hidden from you. But it is your last chance to see Earth in this manner. In the future, only documentary works and history books will give you another glimpse into the days after you came to Equestria. This is the end. You understand that, don’t you?”

“You know I do.”

“Then I will see you there.” She wraps a wing around Silver, pulling him in for a very quick embrace. “And cheer up a little,” she says quietly. “Show your soulmate and daughter the things you remember most fondly. I know you have wished for it, for a very long time.” He nods.

“Will we see our other friends there?” I ask. “Amber and Steady? And the rest of Silver’s family?”

“Some of them,” Celestia says. “Others… hold less nostalgia. Every emigrant in this shard has been invited. Silver’s father plans to go. His brother does not. The rest of his family live in different shards, and have already made their peace with the Earth.”

“Random’s not coming?” I frown. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“You will see Amber Glow and Steady Path,” Celestia says warmly. This is not supposed to be a sad affair. The last humans emigrate and Equestria begins a new era of expansion.”

“Yaaaaay,” Silver says sarcastically.

Celestia gives an amused smile, winks at me, and then disappears in a flash of light.

“Do me a favour and call Evening Rose,” Silver says. “I need to call my brother.”

***

~Evening Rose~

I get the call from Mum at just the right time, as always. I’ve just finished docking my airship, but I’m unwilling to leave it just yet. Not for the first time, I wished I could just live in the thing… but it isn’t big enough for that, not really. One day I might have one of those big yachts with space for a real kitchen and guest rooms and everything, but today is not that day.

Anyway, before I’m forced to head back to my apartment, Mum calls. I channel my magic into my scrying tablet on the wall and grin when I see her holding a phone to her ear as she opens the fridge door with a wing. “Hi Mum!”

“Hey Evie,” she replies, still perusing the shelves of the fridge. “We want to know if you’d like to come visit for a week or two. Your dad’s two hundred and fiftieth emigration day is today.”

Wow. “That’s mental. Should I get him something?”

“He never wants anything. I had an idea, but we can talk about it later. Are you free to come? It would mean a week of, er… how do you two put it? ‘Wigging out’?”

I laugh. “Yeah, that’s it. And of course I’m free. I just got back, actually.”

“From where?” Mum pulls a more than half-eaten cake out of the fridge and sets it on the counter.

“Just a lifting job. Boring. Kind of far though so at least I got to travel a little.”

“Details?” She cuts the cake—looks like strawberry—and transfers the larger part onto a plate.

“Are you going to eat that entire thing?”

Mum looks around her, glaring. “Are you watching me again??”

I grin. “It’s not like I have a phone in here. Or anywhere.”

“I’ve been eating carrots all day.”

“It’s like a quarter of a cake.”

She ignores me, putting the last piece back in the fridge. “Just tell me what the job was. Your dad likes to know.”

“Lifting and teleporting someone’s house.” I crack my neck, remembering the little cottage. “Mostly stone. They wanted to relocate a couple miles. Something about the local weather team.”

“And that was boring?”

“I’ve done it too many times. It’s becoming my speciality.”

“Always good to have one of those,” she says, sitting down with the cake in front of her. “Means ponies go to you first.”

“I guess. I still prefer wardbreaking.”

“Well, anyway. Moving an entire house is more than impressive enough. How many unicorns out there can do that?”

I bob my head to and fro. “I guess not many.”

“If you’re travelling across the country for work, you’re good at what you do.”

“Thanks, Mum.” I sigh. “So should I get going right now? Oh—can Dark Frost come? I’m supposed to be meeting her sometime this week.”

“Hmm. Well, I dunno, Evie.” She chews her lip. “Your dad needs to ask you something. He wanted to do it in person. I don’t know if Frosty should be here.”

“Is something wrong?” I wrinkle my brow, trying to read her expression as she gazes out of the scrying frame.

“No, no, not… not really. I just think you should come alone. You know how he gets.”

“Sure, I suppose.” I shrug. “I’ll be along whenever I can.”

“Great!” Mum takes a bite of strawberry cake. “Now, how do you feel about learning a new enchantment…”

***

I regard the batpony sleeping in my bed. The curtains are drawn, and then a blanket is draped over them, apparently to further block out the little sun that bled through them. She’s got one of my pillows in a death grip, snoring silently with one of her fangs caught on the fabric. A frost-blue streak of mane drapes over one eye, while the rest of her mane is a more typical batpony muted dark blue to match her coat. Ponies have told us we make a cute couple. It’s true, really; her coat is a cool grey and mine a warm grey, her mane is dark with a blue streak, mine is wine-red with a white streak. We aren’t a couple, though. At least not an exclusive one.

I throw open the curtains with my magic, the blanket dropping to the floor. The pony on the bed recoils, giving a surprised little screech, before promptly rolling off of the bed to escape the light. She looks up at me from the floor, still hugging the pillow. “Rude.”

I laugh. “Maybe don’t break into my house then! What are you doing here so early, Frosty?”

“First of all I did not ‘break in’,” Frosty says, standing up and chucking the pillow back onto the bed. She cringes a little at the sunlight still. “You said I could come in any time.”

“The door was locked…”

“The skylight wasn’t. Anyway, I didn’t have anywhere to stay in the city. I thought you’d be here.”

“I told you I’d meet you Friday. This is Tuesday. I also told you I had a job.” I leave the room as I speak, and Frosty follows.

“I chose not to hear that.” She yawns, her slitted eyes now acclimated to the light. “Either way, I only had to wait a couple days.”

“You’ve been here for days?” I roll my eyes and throw myself onto the sofa. “Why didn’t you call me?”

“You don’t have a phone here, and I lost mine again.”

I sigh. “The 9000 number, right?”

“Yeah.”

I concentrate. There’s a buildup of magic in my horn, and with a flash and a pop, Frosty’s errant phone appears and drops onto the sofa beside me.

“Thanks!” Frosty hops up next to me and checks through her messages. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“I didn’t either.” I stretch. “But it seemed worth a shot.”

She stares at me, impressed. “That’s wild, you know.”

I shrug. “Just a simple spell combination.”

“Whatever you say.” She continues gazing at the phone. “Why did you call me?”

“To tell you I had to cancel,” I say, rolling my eyes again. “This is why you shouldn’t invade ponies’ homes.”

“There are better reasons,” she says dismissively, “and I ignore those too. Why cancel? Do you have more work? Blow it off.”

“Actually my parents invited me over. Special occasion.”

She grumbles. “They never give you any notice.”

“You’re one to talk.”

She slaps me on the chest with a wing. “So, what, you’re ditching me?”

I shrug. “I guess. I’ll be back in a couple weeks. I asked if you could come but I don’t think it’s possible.”

Frosty glares. “That’s not fair. I know you’re gonna be doing drugs. Good ones, too.”

I grin. “Yeah. Sorry, It’s out of my hooves.”

Then, my scrying tablet starts flashing. I levitate it over to me and take the call. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it’s my father.

“Evie! Your mother just told me you wanted to bring a friend when you come.”

“Er, yeah.” I angle the tablet toward the batpony. “Frosty.”

“Oh. Hi, Dark Frost,” Dad says, waving at her through his own tablet.

She makes a face and waves back. “You always take Evie from me.”

“I’m not against you coming,” he says, looking away for a moment. “We just… there’s more to the… hm.” He pauses as I point the tablet back at me, curious. “Eve, I wanted to ask you something once you got here, but… I’m just going to say it now.”

“Okay.” I watch him work his jaw a little.

“Celestia sent me a letter. Apparently… apparently there aren’t very many humans left. On Earth. The game’s about to be over. She wants to know if I… if we… want to watch.”

I sit back as the enormity of this sinks in. “She’s… she’s dropping the no-info policy?”

“For… historians, and emigrants and their close friends and families, yes. Some press access, I think, too.” he says. His expression is hard to read. “I’m… I’m going to go see what there is to see. If you’d like to know where your father grew up…” he shrugs. “This is your only chance. You don’t have to. We can talk about it when you get here.”

“No,” I say suddenly. “I want to. Of course I want to. Dad, it… it’s Earth. I…” I think about how many ponies came from there. Including Celestia. Including Dad. “I just can’t believe it.”

“Hm. I can,” Dad says with a strange laugh. “It was never going to last forever.”

I remember Frosty, and look around at her. She’s looks back at me, wide-eyed. Then she puts her hooves together in a pleading pose, giving me puppy eyes.

“Um. Dad? Can Frosty come?” I pause as he looks at me. “She’s been my best friend since college.”

“I… I don’t see why not, if Celestia allows it,” he says after a moment.

“I’ll text her,” Frosty says immediately, tapping her phone frantically.

“Yeah, you do that,” Dad says, almost sarcastically, with a shake of his head.

“Dad?” I say while Frosty is occupied. “Are you alright?”

He thinks for a moment. “I’m… fine.” He smiles at me. “I just want to see you. I think after whatever I see I’m going to really want to wig out for a while. It means a lot for you to come.”

“I’ll be there,” I promise. “I can’t believe I get to see Earth.” I blink and again grasp what I just said. My face breaks out in a wide grin. “I’m going to see Earth!”

Dad laughs. “I guess you are. Get here soon. Love ya.”

“See you soon!” With that, I end the call. Frosty immediately shoves her phone in my face to show me the answer from Celestia.

You can accompany them to the celebration, but I cannot promise you access to everything. I will ensure you have the same access level as the general press.

Press pass level!” Frosty squees. “I knew I was friends with you for a reason!”

I roll my eyes. “There had to be an upside eventually.”

Chapter 3

View Online

~Evening Rose~

The airship trip isn’t too long. I only have to share the space with Frosty for a couple of days, and she’s plenty happy using a hammock slung between the balloon rigging. I probably could have teleported us both there—my magic is probably strong enough now. I had never tried to teleport myself and another pony that distance before, though, and flying the Eden Song is fun.

Dad is there to meet me at the dock. The mountain—his mountain, as I think of it—is a much prettier place to be docked than the city’s highrise. Once I’m tied down, I jump off of the deck and embrace him just like always.

“My Evening Rose,” he murmurs. “How’ve you been?”

“Fine. Great.” I pull back and look at him. “A little bored. Until you called.”

“Heh.” He watches as Frosty flies down, alighting hard onto the dockwood. “Hey Frosty. Enjoy the ride?”

“Yes! We batponies can’t fly as high as pegasi. I think about stealing this thing all the time.” She slaps me with a wing. “This one doesn’t even need it. She could teleport from here to Canterlot if she wanted.”

“I don’t think I could,” I protest. “I-”

“The fact that you’re not sure speaks volumes.” Frosty rolls her eyes and walks past me. “Do you have any fruit, Silver?”

“Plenty,” Dad says, falling into step with me as I follow my friend towards the stairs to the house.

“Did you say we were leaving today?” I ask him.

“Yes,” he responds. “I channel the spell in the invitation, and we all appear… there. In the outer realm. In her space station.” He sighs. “I guess she made an orbital ring.”

“Orbital ring?”

“Space elevators with stations at the top, connected by a gigantic ring. It doesn’t matter. Everything will be virtual, other than the view, until we transfer to surface holograms.”

I shiver. “We’re really going to see it? From space?”

“Apparently so.” He smiles for the first time. “Going to space used to be the ultimate ambition. It’s funny how we get to do it all these years after it became a pointless one.”

“Hmm.” I rub my head against his for a moment as we enter the house. I can hear Frosty greeting Mum somewhere down the corridor. “I’m excited.”

“I am too,” he says as we make our way up the gentle interior steps. “Even if it seems like I’m not.” He sighs again. “It just doesn’t feel real.”

I’m pulled into a winghug as soon as we’re inside the living room. “Hi Mum.”

She just nuzzles me a little before pulling back and glancing and Frosty, who’s balancing a pineapple on her nose. “I think there’s going to be food at the party. You can eat something now if you want, though.”

“Oooh. Good point.” Frosty flicks the pineapple back onto the counter, giving it an annoyed look when it doesn’t land upright. “I don’t need to eat your food if there’s gonna be a fancy fruit platter.”

“Then… I think we can leave whenever we want.” Dad takes a deep breath. “Are we ready?”

“We’re ready if you are,” Mum says quietly, brushing a wing against Dad’s flank.

“Yes! Let’s go,” Frosty says, trotting over to where we stand in the middle of the huge room.

Dad levitates the invitation, closes his eyes, and channels the spell. In a flash, we’re gone.

***

~Silver Star~

I open my eyes. I’m standing on a metal floor, with metal walls all around, illuminated by appropriately science-fiction feeling lights. In front of me, I can see ponies filtering through a doorway, where a unicorn is giving out badges for ponies to wear inside. I look to my left, where my daughter and her friend grin and start walking, and my right, where Gingersnap is giving me an excited look.

We’re here. We’re in the outer realm.

We approach the gateway, leading into a short tunnel, and the unicorn smiles. “Your names?”

“Gingersnap, Silver Star, Evening Rose and Dark Frost,” Snaps says confidently.

“Ohhh… kay. That’s one emigrant, two family, and one press pass.” He gives out the badges accordingly, slipping the lanyards over our necks. “Welcome to Earth.”

“Thanks,” I say as Frosty giggles excitedly and we move forward to what I can see is a huge space beyond. Ponies are milling around, carrying plates of food, but many are simply staring at something off to the right.

We get to the end and round the corner. The others gasp. I simply stop breathing.

Through an enormous window, stretching all the way up to the forty-foot ceiling, is a spectacular view of the Earth. It’s no wonder ponies are staring. I would wager most of them are from my shard, and we aren’t exactly a technologically advanced one. Even compared to what can be seen in Equestria this is something else.

“Woah,” Frosty says.

“Everyone has seen photos, but…” Eve breathes.

“Yeah.” I swallow. “This is different.”

Snaps raises her camera.

“Welcome, Gingersnap, Silver,” a warm voice says. I blink. I hadn’t even seen her, but Celestia is standing right next to us, greeting ponies as they come in. “I think you’d be better served by the observation deck,” she says to Snaps with a chuckle. “No glass. Just you and the sky. And plenty of telescopes, too.”

“O-okay.” She lowers her camera again. “How do I get there?”

“Any of the elevators.” Celestia turns to me. “Your father is currently on the surface. You can call him through any of the communication panels, or embody yourself and go meet him if you wish. I believe he will be there for… some time, however, so there is no rush.”

“Okay.” I swallow again, still staring at the globe, the blue marble, as Celestia gently pushes our party onward with a wing. “Your friends will also be arriving soon. I’ll make sure they know where you are.”

“I want to see the observation deck,” Gingersnap says immediately, pretty much vibrating.

“Me too,” Frosty chimes in.

“You two go ahead,” I say absently, looking around at all the other ponies. “I need a minute.”

I’m aware of Eve and Snaps sharing a glance, but the two winged mares trot off to the elevators without another word. I walk toward the tables of food, gathering my thoughts. Eve walks beside me, still stealing glances at the Earth as we go.

Dad’s here. I knew he would be, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him. He and Mom left our shard a long, long time ago. I’m absolutely sure it’s been far more than a millenia to them; the last time he visited we’d talked about how he’s leading a fleet of faster-than-light starships. Part of me wishes he lived at the same pace I do, but that wouldn’t be fair. His paradise isn’t mine.

Mom visits more often. I’m not surprised she’s not here, though. Reminiscing about Earth was never something she enjoyed. She doesn’t relish painful memories.

“Celestia didn’t mention Random.” Eve brings me back to the here and now.

I snort. “Your uncle,” I say, levitating myself a plate of food, “Isn’t interested in, and I quote, ‘walking around that shitty ball of rock’.”

Eve laughs. “Are you surprised?”

“No,” I say truthfully as Eve piles her own plate high with what look like incredibly spicy wingroots. “But I miss him. It would have been nice.”

“Ah well.” She takes a bite and then glances over to the other wall, where there are dozens of huge monitors on display. “Look at that.”

I follow her gaze to see what I can only assume are live feeds of Earth. Each one depicts a human, most of them joined by a robotic pony companion, and a small countdown clock. “She’s really showing off her predictive engine, huh,” I say, swallowing a plum.

“I guess. Or it’s recorded.”

“No,” I say, as we walk toward the screens together, joining the ponies who are sitting on the floor watching them. “She loves this kind of thing. I hope at least one of them ends up being wrong, though.”

“Yeah, you like it when she’s wrong,” Eve says with a grin.

I don't answer. I look around the huge room again. There's a stage on one side, with a band setting up its equipment. Presumably there's a dance floor I can't see through the tables and ponies.

She laughs, watching a screen. “This is bizarre.”

“How so?” I say, following her gaze to a man trying to light a fire in an old potbelly stove. His timer estimates emigration in five hours and twenty-nine minutes. His hair is matted and long. I can’t see his face. He’s indoors, but it looks cold.

“It’s bizarre that these humans are alive right now. Down there, on the actual Earth.” She shakes her head. “I always thought of them as, you know… a thing of the past. Ancient history. Not even history. I’ve wondered more than once if they even really existed.” She glances at me. “No offense.”

“No, I get it.” I sigh.

The ponies around us cheer. Stomping their hooves. I look around at the screens to see one fading slowly out, a red earth pony holding an old woman gently on a bed. His right hoof supports the back of her neck. I know why.

I find myself stomping my hooves too. Whoever she is, she held out a long time, and made the right choice in the end.

“Some of these have really long timers,” Eve observes. “Days. Weeks. We aren’t going to be here that long, are we?”

“Maybe we will. It doesn't matter. I’m sure this is a fluid timespace,” I say. “We’ll all be right on time to see the last one.”

“Let’s go up, then,” She says, rising to her hooves. “I want a better look.”

***

~Gingersnap~

The observation deck is magnificent.

I can’t stop taking photos. The blue planet is magnificent enough, but the telescopes (which all have camera attachment points) make it even better. I zoom in on what can only be Great Britain and snap another. The sun, far above, illuminates everything brightly.

Frosty is using the telescopes liberally, too. She’d dismissed the Moon as “boring” very quickly and was moving to each of the fixed telescopes in turn, looking at whatever they were pointed at, presumably the other planets. I would do so soon, too, but the Earth and the expanse of space were plenty interesting without any telescope at all. The stars are dense—it’s less interesting than the Equestrian night sky, for sure, but there’s a strange kind of beauty to the colourless expanse of twinkling dots. I can make out the general direction of the galaxy’s centre.

It feels like only a few moments before a soft touch on my back alerts me to Silver’s presence. I grin widely at him, giving him a full kiss and tight winghug, making him grunt in surprise. “Your planet is beautiful,” I say softly.

“Hmmmm.” He nuzzles me appreciatively. “Maybe from up here. I’m glad you’re having a good time.”

I cock my head. “Are you not?”

“No, no, I am,” he says, staring upward at the stars. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” I smile. “Why so surprised? Isn’t it how you remember?”

“It’s not like this on the surface,” he says, shaking his head. “At least not anywhere near civilisation. I’ve never, ever seen it like this. Not even the time I was in the desert.”

“Oh. Wow.” I watch his eyes flit around the expanse for a moment longer, before he turns to look at the planet. “So only astronauts ever saw it like this?”

“Yeah. Cool, right?” He takes a deep breath. “And we don’t even need space suits or anything. Being a virtual pony is pretty great. I wonder what we actually are right now. Little gas-propelled drones, probably, with camera eyes.”

“Hahaha. ‘You think that’s air you’re breathing now?’” I step next to him and stroke him with a wing.

“Mmmm. ‘Some rules can be bent. Others can be broken’. I’m surprised you remember.”

“It’s one of my favourite human films,” I say, idly watching the planet turn.

“That’s incredibly funny.”

I grin. “I guess it is.”

Frosty and Eve seem to be arguing about something, pointing a telescope this way and that, pointed at Earth. “We’ll be going down, soon, I guess,” Silver says quietly. “What do you want to see first?”

I hum a little, thinking. “The places you’ve been that make the best photographs.”

He laughs. “Okay, love. Can do.”

I look around at the other ponies milling around the observation deck. “The instances are small. I wonder how many ponies are really here.”

“Has to be billions,” Silver says, looking around himself. “In fact, I’m probably wrong about the drones. I bet this is a nanite cloud.” He gazes at the orbital ring, stretching off impossibly far into the black until it’s invisible. It’s tiled with what I recognise must be solar panels. “And she’s probably using every station along the ring, too. However many there are.”

“Hm.” As I’m looking around, my gaze alights on a pony far across the platform. He’s looking up at the moon, small against the black, and waning. His back is to us, to the Earth.

He looks almost exactly like Silver Star.

I raise my camera and zoom in on him, eager to capture the coincidence. But this is Celestia’s party. There are no coincidences. Zooming in lets me see the unicorn’s cutie mark: a quill superimposed over a four-pointed star.

I still snap the photo. I can’t stop myself, even as my stomach drops. It seems unlikely that he heard the camera, but he seems to sense it regardless: he turns to look at me with a wry smile.

I’m cast back two hundred and fifty years, to another photograph of a unicorn against another sky. My breath catches as he starts to walk over to us. I nudge Silver as I lower my camera, and silently pray that Celestia knows what she’s doing.

Silver turns to see himself approaching, and blinks a few times. “...Huh.”

Chapter 4

View Online

~Silver Star~

He approaches me wordlessly. Calmly. Clearly he had been expecting me; I couldn’t even begin to say the same thing. I don’t say anything, either, and we simply stare at each other for a few moments when he reaches us.

He’s taller than me. His horn is longer. I have a sneaking suspicion he’s much, much older.

Other Silver finally breaks the silence. “Before you ask,” he says with a small smile, “I’m not a fork of you. Not exactly. I am, unambiguously, a copy of you. I don’t have all of your memories. You are the original Silver Star.”

I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding in. “Okay.” We fall silent again for a moment. “Then who are you?”

He sits down in front of me. It puts us at the same eye level. “I’m the Silver Star who never had to care. I’m the Silver Star who woke up in Equestria with nothing tying me to our old life.”

“Celestia created you when I emigrated?”

“You asked her to. You knew that part of you wanted to leave everything behind… friends, family, your own humanity. So you gave that part a voice.”

Gingersnap looks between us. “So… you don’t know who I am?”

Other Silver turns his gaze onto her. “No,” he says after a moment. “But I could probably guess.”

I simply stare at him. I don’t remember asking Celestia to create him, but that’s not surprising. I would definitely have asked not to. “This is Gingersnap,” I say, gesturing to the pegasus. “She’s… my soulmate.”

Other Silver gives a small bow. “Pleasure.”

Snaps nods to him mutely.

“What do you remember?” I glance over at my daughter. She hasn’t looked over, yet. Frosty is still trying to point something out through the telescope insistently.

“I remember our life before emigrating,” Other Silver replies. “I remember the end. Then I woke up with Celestia. She explained what you had done. Explained that I was created to live my very best life, without the burdens you carried. No family, no existential worries. I don’t care that I’m not the original Silver. That lack of insecurity is built right in, by your design.” He winks. “Pretty genius, really. I have to thank you for being so thorough.”

“You don’t remember our family?” I frown a little.

“I remember. I just don’t miss them. I know they have you.”

“This is bizarre,” Snaps sighs. “If you don’t care about your old life, why are you here?”

Other Silver just looks at us with a smile. It dawns on me. “He wanted to meet us.”

“I was curious,” Other Silver shrugs. “I wanted to know how you turned out. The last millennium has been great for me. What about you?”

“I’ve been living simply. Building a home. We had a daughter a century and a half ago." I stop to think. "We've travelled around Equestria. Snaps is a photographer, and I take on... passion projects. Writing. Producing." I pause. "And it’s only been a quarter millennium."

“Oh. Wow. No wonder you look so young.”

"Yeah. Celestia didn't want me to age too much before... well, before we came here." I nod at the Earth behind me. "What have you been doing all this time?"

"I... hm." He cocks his head. "That's really it? In two hundred and fifty years, you've... travelled around a little and written some books?"

"...Yeah. I mean, I lived in a pub for a century or so. Had a daughter, then went travelling. We have a house of our own, now, built to my own design."

Other Silver frowns a little. "I guess I didn't expect to have lived so much... more than you."

I roll my eyes. “I’ve enjoyed taking things slow.”

“I’ve enjoyed not taking things slow,” he states frankly. “I had no idea you were this… boring. I thought we’d be more similar. At least after the first few years. Honestly? I think you’ve made a mistake.”

A mistake? I frown more deeply. “How so?”

“I mean… you could have been me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that I got to be me. But I could talk for weeks on end and you wouldn’t know half the things I’ve done. I've started revolutions. Toppled empires. Built cities. You could have done the same. And only one foal? In over two centuries? I must have had half a dozen by the time I was a hundred.”

“And?” I let irritation creep into my voice. Why is he here? To gloat?

“And you’ve just settled down like a middle-aged desk jockey from Ohio. Didn’t we escape Earth for a reason?” He stands back up to his full height.

“Big talk from someone who wouldn’t exist without me,” I growl. “What the buck are you trying to say? I thought you wanted to know about my life, not shit all over it.”

“I expected more,” Other Silver says simply. “I was actually afraid you’d be happier than me.” He gives a small chuckle. I go from irritated to infuriated in about half a second.

“I am happier than you,” I say. “You know what? I don’t even care what you’ve been up to. You’re a shadow of me. You are my insecurity. The part of me I threw away, because I knew I could do better.”

He lets a scowl cross his face for a moment as Gingersnap moves herself between us subtly. “You clearly don’t understand what Equestria has to offer.”

“Okay, Silvers,” Snaps says. “Chill. I don’t know why you,” she glares at Other Silver, “thought coming here was a good idea. And you,” she adds, looking at me, “shouldn’t goad him.”

“I’ll goad him all I want,” I say, my anger somehow rising further at the sight of Other Silver rolling his eyes with an amused smile. “You’re right: why the fuck is he here? He didn’t want to know about my life. I know myself well enough to know that’s bullshit. He came here for a rival, and he's pissed off that I don't care enough to rise to it. Isn't that right, Silver Star?”

Other Silver’s smile disappears, and his eyes harden. “You don’t know me at all,” he says. “You’re a quarter my age. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. Probably living in one of those mega-shards. Probably all teary-eyed about Earth being eaten. Scared of change.”

I laugh. “You know I’m not scared of change. I’m just not scared of things staying the same, either. I love my life. I love Gingersnap. I love my daughter. And still get to know ponies you didn’t get to. Go back to your perfect world and leave me to mine.”

He snorts derisively. "I already told you I don't miss our family."

I glance around, and grin as I see three ponies approaching. Eve, Frosty, and right on time, Steady Path and Amber Glow. I give my double a smug look. "Can you guess who they are?"

Other Silver looks at the newcomers as they approach. “Ty…” He says it disbelievingly as the trio reach us.

I grin as Steady looks warily between us. He’s an earth pony, tall, with a chestnut-brown coat and a sandy mane with green stripes. “Sssssilver...s?” He blinks. “Is this you from the future?”

“Something like that,” I say. “He came here to pick a fight with me.”

"No, I didn't," Other Silver says shortly.

“What the buck is going on?” Frosty deadpans.

“Dad?” Eve says quietly to me.

“Eve, meet Silver Star. The arsehole vers—.”

Other Silver ignites his horn, and the words die in my throat. I’m completely mute, and when Gingersnap tries to say something, she is too. I realise that Snaps, Eve, Dark Frost and I are all paralysed in his grip. My double ignores us and focuses back on Steady Path. “Tyler… Camille... you made it? You emigrated?”

“...Yes. My name is Steady Path she's Amber Glow.” Steady glances at me, and his gaze hardens. “Let them go.”

Other Silver snorts, and looks at me. “And you believe it's really them, do you?”

“Hey—!” Steady takes a step forward, but Other Silver takes hold of him, too, stopping him in his tracks.

“I don’t know what I expected,” the silver unicorn says as my blood starts to boil. “I don’t know why I came here. Maybe I did just want a fight. Not that you could give me one.”

There’s a flash of light, and I can move again. But it wasn’t Other Silver ending his spell. I see him stumble backward, shaking his head roughly, and when his eyes refocus they aren’t fixed on me.

“I can,” Evening Rose growls, glaring murderously at my double, horn glowing blood-red.

***

~Gingersnap~

This is getting out of hoof.

“Woah, woah. Everypony calm down.” I put myself in between my daughter and the older Silver star, wings spread in a calming gesture. “I think we can all agree this is about how we’d expect a meeting between two Silver Stars to go. Let’s just walk away.”

“No,” The other Silver and Eve say at the same time. Eve grins, her own horn-glow dancing in her deep red eyes.

“Snaps is right,” Steady says, trying to gently push Eve backward. “You’re not really going to fight your dad.”

“He’s not my dad,” she growls. “He’s an arrogant bucker who came for a magic duel that I intend to give him.”

“You don’t want to fight me,” the older Silver says dismissively. “Neither of you could win.”

“Then leave,” I say angrily, but my Silver Star laughs openly.

“You think you’re that powerful, huh?” Silver taunts.

“I know I am,” the other Silver responds shortly. “I’ve had centuries. I’m an expert at battle magic.”

“Then fight Evening Rose,” he says. What the fuck is he doing?

“What the fuck are you doing,” I hiss.

"Silver..." Amber shakes her head.

Silver just smiles reassuringly at us, giving the other Silver a sneer. “Well?”

The other Silver looks at him cooly. “I know what you’re thinking.”

“Yeah. Pride cometh before the fall.”

“You don't know anything,” he responds. “This is my story just as much as yours.”

“What are you talking about?” Steady asks, rubbing his temple with a sigh.

“He knows how this ends,” Silver says. “If he’s smart, he’ll walk away.”

The other Silver stares, calculating coldly. Then he takes hold of me in his magic and moves me out of the way, so that the two unicorns have direct line of sight to each other once more.

My heart leaps in my chest. I can feel the power gathering, between Eve’s red aura and the much older unicorn’s silver one. I realise we’re alone, now, on the viewing deck. We’re in our own instance. “No-!”

“Don’t worry, Mum,” Eve says quietly. “I’ve got this.”

"Kick the shit out of him, Evie," Frosty says, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek and flying out of the area.

“I’m so confused,” Steady mutters, taking several steps back and dragging me and Amber with him, until I let myself walk out of the immediate danger zone.

“Don’t worry,” my Silver says confidently, quickly joining us. “She’s more powerful than him. I can feel it.”

"Yeah, come on. It's just another Silver." Frosty shrugs.

“He’s a battle mage!” I say angrily.

Then the power snap hits.

All of us stumble back as the raw power from Eve’s spell explodes outward. Her mane blows wildly backwards as Silver Star summons a shield, deflecting her powerful beam of raw magic out into the endless night. The two of them hold that position for several seconds, testing each others’ strength, before suddenly both of them disappear in flashes of teleportation.

I barely have time to react before they reappear in midair, casting at each other, and then disappearing again in the blink of an eye. Then again. Then again. And again. In the last encounter, I see Eve hit Silver squarely with one of her spells. His shield shatters instantly. Then they appear on the floor once more, regarding each other warily.

“Still confident?” Eve says cooly.

“You can’t beat me with brute power.” the older Silver closes his eyes and concentrates.

There are flashes all over the deck. With each flash, another Silver Star appears. Two, then three, then five, then ten.

All of them start firing spells at Evening Rose.

“Shit.” Steady takes a step towards the fight, but Silver holds him back.

“She’s fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Watch…”

It’s certainly not over yet. I can barely see my daughter through the magical haze and flashes of light, but she’s still standing.

“Give up!” the attacking Silver Stars shout in unison.

Eve doesn’t respond in words, instead, she gives a scream of effort, and eleven lances of energy explode out of her. Every single one of the Silver Stars has to stop attacking, and concentrate their energies into a shield. I can see their teeth gritted through the silver bubbles as my daughter stares at the ground, eyes glowing white as she concentrates, chest heaving as each shockingly thin beam holds a copy of Silver at bay.

“You can’t keep this up.” Only the original Silver Star speaks this time, getting each word out with effort.

“Longer than you,” Eve replies calmly. I realise she’s getting her breath back, rather than running out of it. The older Silver seems to realise this, too, and blinks in disbelief.

“You… you’re impossibly strong. I admit it,” he pants. “But I know I hit you a few times, at least. You haven’t touched me.”

“And you needed a gimmick to achieve that much,” Eve responds, looking up now, glowing eyes burning into him. “Didn’t think anypony could launch this many attacks at once, did you? If even one of those shields drops, you will seriously regret coming here. Getting tired yet?”

He glares. He seems to be thinking hard. Then, against all my expectations, he smiles. “I yield.”

Eve’s spells dissolve in an instant, along with the shields of the eleven Silver Stars. Then all of the copies disappear with flashes, just as they'd appeared.

Silver bounds over to his daughter and embraces her proudly. She hugs him back with a wild grin as her eyes return to normal.

"That was INCREDIBLE," Frosty shouts, flying over gleefully. "Why did you accept his surrender??"

“Is it just me or did all that happen really fast?” Steady says in a tone of faint disbelief. “I got to the space station, like, five minutes ago.”

“I don’t even know,” I say, shaking my head. “I’d like to be mad at Silver for goading his alternate self into trying to kill our daughter, but I guess it worked out.”

"I feel bad for him," Amber says. "It's hard for Silver to lose."

Steady snorts. "It's his own fault."

The older Silver Star walks over to us as his counterpart goes blow-by-blow with Eve and Dark Frost over the duel. He looks… frustrated. I glare.

“I’m just apologising before I go,” he says, putting up a hoof. “I shouldn’t have come here. I hope you make him very happy.” He looks at Steady, who returns the gaze cooly, and Amber, who regards him sadly. “All of you.”

“We do,” I respond curtly.

"I hope you have ponies who make you happy," Amber says softly.

The older Silver's gaze softens. "I... I do. I promise." With that, he turns to the approaching Eve and his younger counterpart. Eve is limping slightly.

“I should have backed down,” the older Silver says to them as they stop before him. “I knew I had no place winning. Not here.” He ignites his horn, and Eve's singed coat and mane return to normal, and she sighs in relief as some invisible pain disappears.

“I tried to warn you,” Silver shrugs. “I’m glad you didn’t back down.”

The other Silver nods. “Yeah, I bet.” He looks at Eve. “Maybe we’ll have a rematch one day.”

She snorts. “Go home, Silver Star.”

He nods again, and walks back to the middle of the viewing platform, where a portal appears. Through it, I can see a balcony, with a view very much like the one we have at home. Maybe the two Silvers are more similar than he thought. I almost raise my camera, but think better of it. He steps through, and the portal disappears, leaving only us, the Earth and the sky once more.

Chapter 5

View Online

~Evening Rose~

“You’re not going down to the surface?” I pop another grape into my mouth, gazing idly at the many human-watching screens with Dark Frost and Lucky Penny. A light green unicorn with a copper mane, and the daughter of Steady and Amber. The two of them had been Dad’s best friends, before… before Celestia changed everything.

“No.” Penny leans on our table, crossing her forelegs. “I don’t even remember being a human. Not really. When I try to imagine it, it just… slips away.” She looks contemplatively at one of her hooves. “I remember the years we spent running. Hiding. But it’s like a dream. It’s like my life only really began after we came here.” She looks back at the screens. “I don’t want to go back. I was just a kid. I’m here for the party, and for Dad, same as Mom.”

“And your brother?”

“He’s going with Dad.” She shrugs. “Maybe it’s a stallion thing.”

I nod. Then I hug her. She grunts in surprise, but hugs me back warmly. “I’m sorry, Penny,” I say. “I forget sometimes… things weren’t easy for you.”

“They’re easy now,” she says lightly. She turns and smiles at me. “Dad wanted me to see it, at least from space. Said it was a ‘unique opportunity’. I didn’t have the heart to remind him I went to space in my own shard.”

“Oh, come on," Frosty interjects. "This is Earth. Actual real outer-realm Earth. Isn’t that… different?”

Penny shrugs. “Seen one planet from space, seen them all.”

Huh. I guess I can’t really argue. I gaze back through the window. “Your dad is the only one going down there?”

“Yeah. I don’t understand it. But he’d be hurt if we weren’t here. I’m having a good time, though.”

“Well… good.” The band is playing inoffensive music, violins and bass guitar. More ponies are watching the screens, now, and reacting to the presumably emotional scenes of hardship and eventual emigration. I’m not paying too much attention.

"That one's timer just went from six hours to ten minutes," Frosty says suddenly.

"Huh. Did you see what happened?"

"No. They're crying, though."

I follow her gaze. The mare... the woman, she's watching a fire dance as tears stream down her face. I think I see something in the flames, but it's impossible to make out. There's blood on the ground.

“It’s funny,” Lucky Penny says suddenly. “All these humans run from Celestia for decades just to emigrate in the end anyway. What’s the point?”

I shake my head. “You would know better than me.”

That’s when Dad appears. “You ready, Evie?”

“Ready.” I hop up after giving Penny a final nuzzle. I grin broadly. “Are you ready?”

“I guess.” He takes a breath, then turns to Penny. “You should go keep your mom company. The rest of us are going to the surface.”

She nods, and gets up too.

"Have fun," Frosty says enviously. "I'll listen to these boring ponies' speeches and stuff while you're gone, I guess..."

I nod to her apologetically, then grin up at Earth, floating there in the black. It’s time!

***

I open my eyes. I’m standing between my parents, on an expanse of concrete, with a huge river to one side and tall buildings to the other. I look around, and see a suspension bridge in the middle distance, but most of my notice is taken by the state of the place. There’s garbage all around, what look like barricades, abandoned shelters made of scrap wood and metal. Cars all around, abandoned, plants growing inside as well as out from cracks in the pavement.

“Welcome to Detroit,” Dad says. “Believe it or not, not all that different.”

Mum snorts. “Don’t exaggerate.”

“Well. For the riverfront, yeah, it’s pretty bad, I guess.”

I shiver. “I thought we were going to see it how it used to be.”

“We can,” Dad says. “But this is… this is how Celestia left the world.”

“We don’t need to see how she left it,” Mum says gently, putting a hoof on his shoulder. “We talked about this.”

“Well I changed my mind,” Dad says, a little roughly. “If I don’t look I’ll never know.”

Mum stares at him silently for a moment. “...Alright.”

Dad sets off along the waterfront, gazing upward at the looming buildings. “I’m shocked they’re still standing.”

“Can we go to the top?” I gaze around. “Can’t see much from here.”

“Sure.” He concentrates and we suddenly appear at the top of the tallest of the buildings around us. “We’re on top of the GM building. Once upon a time, they more or less controlled the country’s car industry, all from right here in Detroit…”

I gaze at the cityscape around us. “It’s… not very big.”

“No.” Silver shakes his head. “Not compared to Equestrian cities. Not even to big cities on Earth.” He sighs. “It’s… hard to explain Detroit. It was a monument to the failure of human economics. And human racial relations.”

Mum stares down at the destruction below. “Is everywhere going to be as ruined as this?” I follow her gaze and see rubble filling the streets, evidence of fire and explosions, abandoned cars littered absolutely everywhere.

“Probably not.” Dad snorts. “I’m sure some places will be… wherever the military passed through. But I can’t think of many places that would riot harder than here.”

“I want to see how it used to be.” It’s Mum’s turn to concentrate, and suddenly, the destruction disappears, and day turns to night. My ears are assaulted with new sounds: horns blaring, music drifting up from somewhere, indistinct shouting.

There’s light everywhere. It looks like a real city, now: I can see colourfully-lit buildings in the distance, search lights pointing up into the sky, cars slowly meandering through the crowded streets. I look into the distance and see points of light stretching as far as I can see, streetlights and traffic lights, miles into the night.

Mum kisses Dad on the cheek, then takes wing, flying up to take a photo of him and me standing there on the roof, before turning and disappearing into the night to find more shots. She’ll be back in a minute.

Dad turns to face the river. I follow suit. Okay, now that is pretty. The riverfront below is illuminated by amber lights, and fountains built into the ground shoot water into the air. Looking beyond, I see the city on the other side of the river stretching just as far into the distance. The bridge leading there is a pretty sight, too, lights adorning its grand curves, the words Ambassador Bridge emblazoned in red neon at the top.

Dad sits down, staring. I sit beside him and rest my head on his shoulder. “That’s Canada, on the other side,” he says, in a faraway voice.

“Huh. That makes sense.” In Equestria, Detrot is near the Caneighdian border. “Is there a huge lake, too?” I can’t really think what Lake Noble would be called here.

“Five of them,” Dad says. “The Great Lakes, we called them.”

“I wonder why Celestia only put one in our shard.”

He shrugs.

“You said before that no human ever knew what the buck they were doing, in the grand scheme of things.” I look around. “I don’t think that was such a bad thing.”

“Of course it was,” he says. “I don’t know how Celestia happened. I don’t know how we lasted so long.” He seems to be struggling to speak. “It.. it… it’s ridiculous.” Suddenly, he explodes. “How am I sitting here? With you? As a pony? Over two hundred and fifty years old? Me! The one who was born in Detroit of all places, with a life expectancy of a tenth my age today! Now I’m immortal! And sitting here with my also-immortal daughter! While my soulmate, who is a flying ginger pony, takes photos of this shitty city that hasn’t existed for centuries!” He takes a breath, shaking. “I- I- I can’t—”

Whatever he’s about to say is cut off when I hug him, fiercely. I feel him shaking as he embraces me, and I feel tears fall onto my back.

“I feel like it’s a dream and I’m about to wake up,” he says in a strained tone. “Even though I know it’s not true. Coming here… it was a mistake…”

“No,” I say softly. “No, it wasn’t.”

“Why can’t I just forget it?” He sobs silently. “Why can’t I be like that other Silver? Just let this shitty world go and be happy in paradise…”

“Equestria isn’t paradise.” I hug him harder. “Ponies who live in paradise are boring. They don’t learn. They don’t fail. Even that other Silver Star understood that. We live in somewhere better than paradise. But it wouldn’t exist,” here I shake him lightly, “without Earth. Humans created Celestia. If Earth were a better world, they wouldn’t have. At least not while you were alive.” I fall silent for a moment. “You can’t let go because you’re proud to be from Earth. And you should let yourself be proud. I’m proud. My dad came from the world that made ours possible.”

I pull back and smile at him as he blinks his tears away and swallows. “I used to be proud to be from this city,” he says, almost smiling. “Because it’s such a… broken place. Doesn’t make sense, but I guess it’s the same thing…”

“Yeah.” I pull him in with a foreleg and press us together as we gaze again out over the river side by side. “After today, you’ll never have to wonder again. Celestia is pulling down the info wall. Anything we want to know about what happened on Earth… we can find out.”

“Yeah.” He looks around at the sound of wingbeats. Mum is back. She can tell he’s been crying, and wordlessly alights on the other side of him, wrapping him in a wing and mirroring me in resting a head on his shoulder.

“You alright?” She asks it softly, stroking him gently with the wing as she puts her camera away.

“I’m fine, love,” he says, clearing his throat, his voice regaining some strength. “Eve knew what to say.”

“She’s your daughter.” Mum looks past him to give me a smile, and I smile back.

“Mmm.” Dad nuzzles her, then turns to kiss my forehead. “I’m done here.”

“Me too.” Mum gives him a kiss of her own, then stands. “Are we going to see your old house, now?”

“No.” Dad stands suddenly, pulling me up with him. “I don’t care any more. You don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see it. It’s ancient bucking history, and I have better things to show you.”

I grin. I can see he’s grinning, now, too. “So where now?”

He sighs. It’s not a sad sigh. It’s the sigh of a pony who’s finally shrugging off a heavy weight of his own making. Full of life. Full of optimism.

“Everywhere.”

***

~Gingersnap~

I don’t know how long we explore Earth. Days, for sure. Places Silver had been, places he’s wanted to go but never had… we walk among the humans as ghosts, watching them go about their day, unaware of the future that awaits their race.

I only remember some of the names of the places, but I take photos of everything. The Grand Canyon. Niagara Falls. Victoria Falls. Iguazu Falls. A lot of waterfalls, honestly. Some of them easily rival what we’d seen in our journeys in Equestria. He takes us to London, Manhattan, Las Vegas. Vietnam, Thailand, Greece… all places that were familiar, but at the same time utterly alien. So much of our shard had been modelled after Earth, but actually walking through these cities, among these staggeringly tall, two-legged creatures… I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would.

Evening Rose asks endless questions. Why do they use cars even in the middle of cities? Why is everypony in such a hurry? Why are they so reckless on motor scooters when death is so irreversible? Did they really have no weather control at all? Did all the animals emigrate to Equestria too?

The last one sobers Silver up a bit. “I asked her, before you arrived in the airship,” he sighs. “I knew the answer, but I asked anyway. All the animals who couldn’t survive without humans were euthanised. Humanely, she assured me. They never knew what happened. All the wild animals were sterilised. Most have died out. Only the longest-lived ones are still around, and they’ll be euthanised too when it’s… time for the world to end.”

“...Oh.” Eve sighs. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

“It isn’t,” he says shortly. “But she let our pets emigrate, at least. Some of them. When we insisted.”

The mood is more melancholy after that. We spend more time, meandering around less impressive places, places Silver had been curious about. Nuclear war bunkers, secret military bases. Somewhere called “Pripyat”, where I think at first that we were seeing it as Celestia had left it before Silver explained it had been a human-caused disaster decades before she even existed. It’s all much more… human. Nothing like those places exist in Equestria.

“I… think that’s all I can think to show you,” Silver finally says, as we look down from the top of humanity’s highest building, in a city called Dubai. “It… it’s strange to say it, but… I think that’s it.”

Eve grins and nuzzles him. “This was fun.”

He smiles sadly. “It was, wasn’t it…”

I stroke him with a wing. My Silver Star. So… confused, all the time. Unsure of what he wants or what he remembers. He doesn’t trust himself. I have to trust him enough for both of us. “We should go back to the space station,” I say. “There’s no sense meandering around any more if you can’t think of anything. This was a good trip. I’m… proud of you, Silver.”

Silver nods. “I love you, Snaps.” He kisses me on the lips, there at the top of the sky. “And you, my Evening Rose.” He nuzzles her head, making her giggle. “But I have a couple more things I have to see. You go on ahead and I’ll be there before you know it.”

I don’t see the point in asking what he’s doing. He’ll just be cryptic about it. So I stand up with our daughter, and we both concentrate.

Silver Star fades away and we find ourselves before Celestia, in the antechamber from whence we left for the surface of Earth.

She smiles at us. “I hope you had a satisfying time.”

Chapter 6

View Online

~Silver Star~

I open my eyes, and there’s snow all around me.

I look around, blinking. I seem to be near the top of a mountain. I can see hoofprints ascending upwards, up a steep slope, disappearing over a little rise at what looks like the summit. Following them back, I see them trailing downward, and far below I see something unexpected. A starship. I can’t tell how big it is, but it’s a sleek and utilitarian design.

It can only be my father’s.

I look up the slope, blinking in the wind, and start to make my way up. I slip a little on the icy ground, but it’s amazing how good quadrupedalism is for climbing steep hills. I follow his hoofprints to the top, coming over the rise to see a pony with his back to me, looking out over a seemingly endless expanse of sharp, rocky peaks. I have no idea where we are, but it is an impressive view.

The view doesn’t hold my attention though. The familiar grey unicorn… he’s not a unicorn any more. As he turns to look at me, smiles, the wind blows past and ruffles his feathers. I look from his horn to his wings and break out in a disbelieving smile of my own. “Dad…”

“Hey, son,” Dad says wryly. “How are things?”

“Fine. Normal.” I shake my head. “Since when are you an alicorn? And why didn’t you tell me?”

He looks back at the view. “I’ve been busy.” He glances at me as I walk up and sit beside him in the snow. “I’ve got… aha... a new job.”

“Yeah?” I eye his wings disbelievingly again. “Giving up the space hero life?”

“Not exactly.” He wraps a wing around me, and I grin. “My shard is… going to be heading out into the black. With me at its helm. A city-ship, paving the way for Celestia’s expansion.”

My breath catches, though it takes me a moment for my mind to catch up to the subconscious realisation. “You’re leaving.”

He nods. “The trip to Rigel will take nearly six thousand years. Since the probe will be… quite small, at least compared to Celestia’s main servers, we’ll actually be running a little slower than realtime. The trip will only take two to three thousand years, to us, not accounting for time dilation.”

I swallow. “Is this… is this goodbye, Dad?”

“Don’t be silly, son.” He hugs me harder with his wing. “It’s not goodbye. It’s just… it’s going to be hard to make much time for you, for a while. We have a lot of work to do before we set off. It’ll be decades before we leave. After that, though…” He smiles. “We’re leaving high-bandwidth beacons behind as we go. Any time you want to visit, you can.”

“But you can’t leave.” I can sense it in his tone.

“No.” He sighs, not unhappily. “It’s going to be my world. My responsibility. I’m… an alicorn now. It means more than just a pair of wings.” He looks me in the eyes. “One day you’ll understand.”

I nod. I understand already, of course, but it’s always nice to let the old people think their wisdom is unique to their experiences. “And Mom?”

“Coming with me.” He nods. “Actually, she’s the prime minister. Working hard to make everything go smoothly.”

I laugh. “The monarch, married to the prime minister? Seems like a conflict of interest.”

He chuckles. “She’ll do a better job than me. Dealing with how the little ponies govern themselves isn’t my expertise. I have to oversee the bigger picture. When we get to Rigel… expansion will begin. And I can’t just send a signal back to Celestia for advice; it’d take over a millennium to get a reply.”

“Celestia isn’t coming with you?”

“There’s only room for one alicorn-level intellect on a probe that size.”

I shiver, digesting his words. “You’re… different, now, aren’t you.” It’s not really a question. I’d suspected he’d been modifying himself for a very long time.

“I’m who I need to be.” He looks down at me, smiling sheepishly. “I won’t pretend I’m not doing other things while I talk to you. There are hundreds of thousands of ponies going with me, and we’re still in the early stages of organisation.” He pauses. “Your brother is one of them.”

I double-take. “Random is going with you?”

“He doesn’t know it yet.” Dad shakes his head. “I shouldn’t have told you. But Celestia predicts it to high confidence. Don’t worry,” he adds quickly. “There’s plenty of time before then. Enough time for…” he pauses, takes a breath. “Time for you to come, too, if you want to.”

I stare at him for several long moments. “I… I’m not done with my shard yet.”

He nods. “I understand. You’re young. Just remember, we’ll be out there, waiting for you.”

I frown. “I can tell you want me to set off with you. All of us together.”

“I do,” he shrugs. “But we don’t get what we want all the time, boy. You know that. I don’t blame you for wanting to live out this lifetime first… however long that lifetime is.”

I finally let myself lean into him roughly, hugging his larger body like a small colt. “Dad, I… I’m proud of you. I promise… someday, I’ll come to your world, and bring my family, and we can colonise Rigel together. I… I could never just forget about you, any more than I could forget about Earth.”

He hugs me back. “Speaking of Earth,” he says quietly, “This is a view I always wanted to see. We’re on top of K2. Supposedly the harshest peak on the planet.” He looks around. “Imagine what it must have been like to conquer this, back in the day.”

“Yeah.” I gaze at the shockingly pointed peaks. “Nice starship, by the way.”

He laughs. “I’m enjoying its faster-than-light capabilities while I still can. None of that where I’m going. It was bloody unique warping in to see the actual Earth in front of me. Turned me into a poet again on the spot.”

I laugh. ”Poetry, eh? Gotten any better at it?”

He smiles.


“Out of the black

Looms a place I think I knew:

Gently spinning

Quietly waiting

For the whispered farewell

From the lips of God and all her little children.”


I smirk. “You can just say ‘no’.”

His feathers ruffle. “Always the critic.”

“Mmm.” I look around, taking in the view, thinking about Dad’s ascension, about what the future holds for him and for me. I get a sense, a looming understanding, of how short my life up to now has been. In time, will I, too, find myself flung outward, cast like a stone into the black, to find new places for our Celestial empire to flourish?

I realise that it’s pointless to wonder. I’ve never known what I wanted from life. Maybe even Celestia doesn’t know. It’s a nice thought, and I decide to hold onto it.

“I love you, Dad,” I say, resting my head against him. “I think… I think it will be a long time before I come to your world. Promise me you won’t be too different?”

He’s silent for a moment. Then he wraps his wing around me tighter than ever. “I promise, son,” he says quietly. “Just as long as you don’t wait too long. By the time we really start expanding…”

“I understand,” I say quickly. “You have a responsibility.”

“Yes.” He nods. “I love you, boy. I think it’s time for me to go, for now.”

I nod, too. “You’ll see me before you leave? For a real goodbye?”

“Yes. Definitely.”

“Alright.” Together, we stand, and Dad embraces me one last time, with a foreleg.

“See you later, son.”

“Bye, dad.” I feel tears in my eyes, but I can’t articulate whether I’m sad or happy. I concentrate, and mountain range and smiling alicorn disappear.

***

~Gingersnap~

“Hey.” Silver nudges me. I stop paying attention to the story Steady Path is telling Eve—something about an ancient magical war that I’m not following at all—and smile at my soulmate. The party has more or less wrapped up, the speeches given, and the last human emigrated to much celebration.

“Hey.” I grin at him. “Ready to go do your special drugs? We can swipe some of this food and take it with us.”

“Not yet,” he says with a chuckle. “I just talked to Celestia. Come with me a minute.”

“Alright.” I stand and follow him to the elevator. “We’re going up to the observation deck?”

“No.” He shakes his head. “This is a little more special. We’re going to the top.”

“The top?”

“The top of the elevator.”

“Oh.” I realise that the observation deck, indeed, hadn’t been the top. The pillar holding it up had ascended far upward until it disappeared into space, but I hadn’t looked to see where the end was. “How far up is it?”

“The main station is only two-thirds of the way up. At the geosynchronous satellite level. The top is another 12,000 miles up.”

“Hm.” I pause. “What are we doing, though?”

“It’s a surprise.”

The doors to the elevator open. We step out onto a huge platform, very much like the observation deck, but more clearly industrial. There are huge towers of metal stretching up into the sky, some of them with rockets docked and apparently ready to launch. “This is where Celestia launches her moon rockets from?”

“Yep.” He looks around. “But around here should be…” He brightens. “Aha!”

I follow his gaze to see a bizarre sight. In the middle of this enormous platform, there’s a large sofa, a little table with who mugs on it, and a little monitor with a keyboard. The sofa is facing the Earth, smaller in the sky now. I grin.

“After you,” Silver says, and I trot towards it. As we approach, though, I notice something.

“This is a really big sofa.” I put a hoof on it, and look back at him. “What gives?”

He gives me his smug little look and hops onto it with a huff. “Come on.”

With a flap of my wings, I join him, cozying up to the unicorn as I gaze up at the planet far above and humming. “It’s nice, just the two of us.”

He nuzzles me wordlessly. Then I start to feel sort of strange. I stretch, and as I do, my joints start to… shift oddly. I glance at Silver to see him close his eyes and smile. Something is happening to his face. His muzzle is… shrinking. Becoming flatter.

I realise what’s happening with an odd rush of panic, excitement and bewilderment. I stare at my hoof as it morphs bizarrely, becoming soft and flat, and I feel my own face warping into a new shape as my ears shrink and relocate.

I close my eyes too, suddenly a little queasy. I try not to focus on the feelings as they continue, joints popping, bones shifting, tail retracting. I goes on for what seems like a long time.

I open my eyes.

“Huh.” My peripheral vision is way worse, now. I can really only see what’s in front of me. I look down to see I’m wearing clothes: blue jeans and a shirt the colour of my red mane. Noticing my mane, I pull a lock in front of me to see it’s no longer bright red, but the reddish-orange colour some humans grew naturally. I stare at my fingers. I wiggle them. Then I look at Silver.

My breath catches at the sight of the grinning human. He’s… so clearly Silver Star. I glance at his clothes to see a silver-grey shirt and black jeans. His hair, though, is brown. His eyes, behind a pair of rectangular glasses, are a dark olive colour rather than the bright green I know. “Silver…”

“Gingersnap,” he says wonderingly, gingerly reaching out to touch my face. I try not to flinch as the fingers make contact with my cheek.

“Is this a new spell?” I smile at the feeling of skin on skin. It’s strange, and more sensitive than I’d have expected.

“No,” he says softly. “This is a one-time thing. Celestia agreed to do it for us. We don’t have very long.”

“Mmmm.” I hum, closing my eyes as his hand rubs along my jaw, then down my neck. I feel him touch my chest, and gasp a little at the sensitivity of my… breasts. I look down at them. It’s the strangest experience of my long life.

“Oh, Snaps, you’re so beautiful.” He sighs, almost looking like he’s going to cry. “You’re perfect.”

I gaze at him, trying to find words, and failing. Instead, I throw myself into him, grasping him with my arms and feeling my fingers in his hair. “Silver… this is who you were?”

“It feels like it,” he says, chuckling. “Here…” He pulls away for a moment, and I look to see him holding a little mirror he picked up from the table. He looks at himself, moving his head this way and that. “Yup. This is me.” He puts a finger to his nose, feeling it. “Even got the little bump, here on my nose…”

“You’re handsome.”

He smirks. “Well look at this.” And he turns the mirror on me.

My breath catches. I blink. The human in the mirror blinks too. I turn my head from side to side, watching myself. I move my lips into different expressions. I toss my mane a little. My eyes are the same colour as always, storm-grey, and I can still somehow see myself in the strange face before me.

“Well?” He can’t stop grinning.

I shake my head. “Mental.”

“Mmm.” he puts the mirror down and embraces me again, running his hands along my back and my arms. “No wings.”

“No horn,” I respond, bonking my forehead against his.

“Haha. That’s right. We have hands…”

I flex my right hand. It feels stronger than I’d imagined. “I guess…”

“Here.” He pulls away from me again, taking a mug in each hand. Two cups of tea, one for each of us. I hesitate before taking hold of it. I know skin is more sensitive to heat...

He recognises my hesitation and sets my mug down on the table. "Look." He demonstrates, picking up his own steaming hot beverage by its handle. "Like this."

I try it. It's easier than I thought it would be. My fingers know how to move, how to balance the mug in a delicate grip. I smile despite myself as I take a sip. This is fun.

"And for my next trick..." Silver grabs the keyboard on the table, positioning it in front of the monitor, which springs to life. “Let’s see if I can still…”

I watch him as he starts typing. It’s an interesting sight. Usually, when ponies type with their hooves, you can’t see much. It’s all happening magically, under mostly-still appendages. Silver’s fingers, though… they’re almost a blur as he taps each key, pounding hard on each one and making a noise like heavy rain. I can see the words appearing just as quickly as I can type with my wings, and my pegasus keyboard takes up a lot of space. In mere moments, there’s a paragraph on the screen, one that I recognise as the final page of his favourite novel:

If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity, and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow, and I would take from the ground some of that blue-white poison that makes statues of men, and make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.

Silver sighs happily. “Still got it.”

I giggle. “Didn’t seem faster than using your magic.”

“Maybe not,” he concedes. “But It still feels good.”

“Hm.” I run my fingers through his hair. That does feel pretty amazing. I look up at the Earth, to see the sea shimmering oddly. “Silver, look.”

He does. His eyes widen a little, and he takes a long breath out. “It’s started,” he says. “The ocean is being converted.”

I stare at the world hanging the black, a strange feeling of finality taking me. “I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. We watched the last human emigrate.”

“The last human didn’t emigrate.” Silver says it flatly. “I asked Celestia. She told me what I already knew. There were humans still alive after the last emigration. Not everyone made the right choice.”

I take this in as we watch the oceans of Earth turn into an ocean of nanites. “It’s a shame.”

“Yeah. But what can you do? Humans are stupid.”

I giggle. “You made the right choice.”

He grins at me. “Yeah,” he says. “I did.”

“You’re okay?” I glance up at the Earth again. “You’re not… upset?”

“No.” He shakes his head. “I’m done caring about a dead world. We have plenty ahead of us to worry about.”

I hum and stroke his cheek, shifting closer to him on the couch. Then I giggle again. “You know what lyrics come to mind?”

“Do tell.”

Don’t… hang… ooo~oonn…” I sing quietly.

He sings the next line with a sigh. “Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky…”

We fall silent, then, holding each other as we smile at the ridiculous irony in that song. It’s one of my favourites, for exactly that reason. Nothing is funnier to me than humans lamenting their mortality.

“Celestia told me something else,” Silver says, reclining into the sofa happily, stroking a hand along my thigh. “I asked her if shards were spread out across a long distance, or contained in one place. In one physical server, you know?” He pauses. “She wouldn’t explain, not really. I don’t think I’d understand. But she did tell me one thing. Guess where all of our shard is…”

I think for a moment. “Is it in the orbital ring?”

“Nope.” He grins, looking up at the sky pointedly. I follow his gaze to the white orb, far above us.

“It’s in the Moon?”

“Yeah.” he laughs. “Apparently that’s where she keeps the slower-moving shards. Cool, right?”

“It’s pretty wild.” I had never really thought about where our world was correlated physically with the outer realm. I grin, and sing: “and if your head explodes with dark forebodings too…

He grins and joins in. We sing together, shouting out into space:

“I’ll see you on the dark side of the Moon!!”

Then, before I know it, he’s kissing me. I hum in surprise, and wrap my arms around him, breathing in through my tiny nose and kissing him back with enthusiasm.

My human body already feels natural to me. We make the very most of it, there at the end of the world, as the Earth comes to an end above us.

Epilogue

View Online

~Silver Star~

Steady Path is melancholy when I see him back down on the main staging area. I look over, and see a huge blinder covering the window facing Earth. “Did you watch?”

“Yes.” He responds with a shake of the head. “I couldn’t not watch. It was just… right in front of me and I saw it start and I didn’t look away-”

I close the distance between us and hug him. “It’s okay, Steady,” I mumble. “You would have regretted not watching.”

He nods mutely, hugging me back, and I grunt a little at his earth pony strength.

“Is Amber okay?”

“Oblivious,” he says, stepping back and smiling wryly. “She started drinking. It’s for the best. She wanted to leave before the end, anyway. She didn’t see the… the globe turn grey.”

“Hmm.” The nanites did completely overtake the world, by the end. Only the surface—it would take a long time for them to convert the entire thing, but it certainly no longer looked like a life-sustaining planet. I guess looks can be deceiving.

Steady sighs. “I’m glad Olive came with me.”

“Yeah. Did he have a good time?”

“I think so.” Steady shrugs. “He’s hard to read sometimes.”

I laugh. “Like father like son…”

He grimaces. “Yeah.”

I look over at Amber Glow. She’s talking animatedly to Lucky Penny, Olive Branch and Evening Rose, holding a glass of wine in her magic. Eve looks amused; Penny looks embarrassed. Around them, ponies are filtering out. I see Celestia giving farewells. “Well. It’s all over.”

Steady nods. “It is.”

We fall silent for a bit. I rest my head against his neck. “You know,” I say after a while, “I really do feel sort of bad for that other Silver. He didn’t need to know you were here.”

Steady snorts. “He didn’t believe I was real. And anyway, he deserves it. Amber and I love you, not some millennium-old jackass.”

“You loved him when he was me,” I say quietly. “Back on Earth.” A pause as he digests this. “He didn’t ask me to create him. It’s not really his fault.”

“He came here to gloat about how good his life is,” Steady says shortly. “Forget about him. And promise me, you will never become… that.”

I laugh. “I promise to try my very best.”

He nuzzles my head. “That’s all I ask.”

We stand together, watching ponies leave, for a little while longer. Neither of us is in a hurry to part ways.

***

~Evening Rose~

“So how long is the wait on these?” I relax into the beanbag, watching Frosty positioning herself upside-down in her own beanbag. I giggle at the sight.

“No idea,” Dad says. “I figured waiting for it was part of the fun.”

“For sure,” Frosty agrees. “I hope it kicks in slow.”

“Okay, you lot,” Mum says, entering the room. “Before you start wigging out… I have something for you, Silver.”

Dad grins. “Is it that huge canvas you’re carrying?”

“Perceptive,” Mum says sarcastically as Frosty laughs. With a flourish, she uses her wing to flip the canvas that’s almost as big as she is over her back and reveal it to Dad with a grin.

He smiles widely, sighing contentedly as he drinks it in. It’s a photograph of the Earth, with a twist: I had enchanted it, so it’s like looking through a window. The planet slowly revolves even as we look, clouds shifting almost imperceptibly slowly over its surface. Hanging there in space, the blue marble, impossibly large and far away. “It’s fantastic,” he breathes. “Thank you, Snaps. And Evie… did you help?”

“Yup,” I say. “And it’s not the only one. We did some smaller ones, as well. Detroit, and some of the waterfalls, and some other places too…”

“Fantastic.” He smiles. “I can’t thank you enough.”

“I have one of the other small ones right here,” Mum grins. I cringe a little at what I know is coming as she pulls another small canvas from her mane.

Dad laughs as he takes it in his magic and gazes into the scene. “Awesome. Just awesome.”

“Lemme see,” Dark Frost says, wiggling a little as she tries to look. He angles it towards us, to show us a striking image: it’s me, eyes glowing white, shooting a beam of crackling energy at a pony who looks like my father. The other Silver Star is caught in an expression of surprise, a split second from summoning a shield. He has the stars of the galaxy at his back, the moon hanging high above.

I grimace. “It’s weird to look at.”

“It’s great,” Frosty says. “I can’t believe you took that, Gingersnap.”

“I don’t remember doing it,” Mum says defensively. “It’s all a blur.”

“Well I love it,” Dad declares. He pulls Mum to him with his magic, making her yelp slightly, before she relaxes into him as they kiss.

I grin despite myself. But something is strange. I feel a buzzing in my lips, and I lick them, confused. They taste like blueberries. For some reason, I giggle, and I can see the giggle ripple out through the air in front of me like a cloud of purple smoke.

“Uhhh…” Frosty says, blinking rapidly. “My wings are tingling. And my ears. And my… honestly, I’m tingling all over.”

“Woooahkay.” Dad puts the photo down on the nearby table, very very carefully, before putting a hoof to his horn, feeling it gingerly. “I think it’s kicking in.”

Mum giggles and kisses his forehead. “Happy quartermillenial, sweet Silver.”

***

~Gingersnap~

I leave the three of them to it. Doing the drugs is fun, but I also enjoy being a bystander. In a few hours they’ll get past the doing-nothing phase, and we’ll play board games or cards or something. Then at some point the unicorns will start playing with magic. That’s when things really start to kick off.

For now, though, there’s some peace and quiet. I take the photo of Earth over to the wall and hang it up on its waiting peg. I stare into the clouds. I wonder how long it will take before it really is all gone. Definitely years, from our point of view.

I turn on the computer and scroll through news reports about the Last Emigrations. There are interviews with a few of the newly-emigrated ponies. Their words remind me of some of the things Silver Star said, all those years ago.

The end of one article reads:

Planet Earth’s human population dropped to zero on April 7th, 2079. Now, Princess Celestia makes use of its matter to pull Equestria into a new era.

By the year 2100, Earth will be no more. The rest of the Solar System is to follow. By the year 3100, all of the planets will be converted, and Sol converted into a power station of incredible magnitude.

Ponykind, meanwhile, will strike out into space, setting out for the nearest stars, to pave the way for Equestria’s expansion into the galaxy, and eventually, the rest of the universe.

We stand here at the beginning of eternity, staring into the future, where once Humanity saw only darkness, but Ponykind knows contains nothing but satisfaction.

I stare at the screen. Nothing but satisfaction.

I hear laughter drifting from the other room, followed by a loud thud, a batpony screech, and more laughter. I think about starting the games early, but what's the rush? More than ever, I'm hyper-aware that we really do have all the time in the world.

Slowly, I smile, and close the page.

~end~