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Day Nine: Dreams And Realities
By Sunshine Laughter

"Sunshine? Sunshine? Hello? Are you all right?"

Oh... I'm sorry, Rose. YAWWWNNNN. I... was thinking is all. Sorry.

"You seemed so happy a moment ago."

I was. Oh... very happy. Hee! I swear... that bit you did, right near the end, with your tongue... I swear I was back in the Cathedral of Stars again. That flower... and you, oh, wow... you. Sweet Celestia, Rose... I have no words.

"Cathedral... of stars?"

Mmmm... from my dream. My Conversion Dream.

"You know... I've been kind of curious... about what you saw. In your Dream. If it's not too private, I mean. If you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine. I'll tell you mine anyway. Um... if you want to know, of course."

Hee! Of course I want to know. I'd love to hear about your Conversion Dream. I... we've just been so busy, and there's been so much to think about and do and... I thought I already told you about my Conversion?

"No. It's not something we've talked about. I've wanted to, but... it just never came up. Yet, anyway. Hey, I have a question, actually, that I've been meaning to ask about your Conversion."


"Well... when you were on the table, right, and you had the cup in your hands, you kind of put your head close and whispered something. It looked like you were praying or... chanting words or something like that. Do you remember what that was all about?"

Oh. Heh. Yeah... I was kind of praying, I guess. I didn't think anypony would notice that. Um... I kind of... well, I kind of prayed to Celestia. And Luna. I figured it couldn't hurt. The potion, the serum stuff, it's magic right? I mean, it's human nanotech, but the little machines are powered with Equestrian magic. So... basically it's magic.

I kind of figured that... maybe magic... magical stuff... might act like a conduit to the princesses. Sort of. And being that they basically made Equestria, and divided the day and night and all that goddess stuff, well, I figured they must be kind of goddesses. And so... I kind of prayed to them, before I drank it.

"What did you say?"

Um... I kind of just asked them to, well, accept me. It was kind of like 'Please accept me as a loyal and true mare of Equestria, I just want to be a good pony and make others happy.' That sort of thing. I suppose it's kind of silly, really. It's not like I know how to pray or anything. I was raised New Atheist, from a long line of staunch atheists. Swirl, if my dad had seen me... praying... oh, that would have been...

Then again, part of the deal of me doing these holoshows is so my parents will get a fancy place in Equestria, and Bits and stuff. When they're converted, then they'll probably have Conversion Dreams too, and... that will change them. It's going to be weird talking to my dad about Celestia and Luna and what they mean. I don't know what to expect from him. It's going to be really, really strange.

"So, what did you see, Sunshine, in your Dream?"

Um... well, I drank the stuff down - that grape flavoring is just...

"I know, it's awful, isn't it?"

Heh! It really is pretty bad. Metallic Grape! Hey, that would make a good band name!

"You do that too?"

What, think up terrible band names? Doesn't everypony?

"Hee hee hee!"

Hee! Cool. So I drink it, and just like that I know I'm falling over. I just can't stop myself. That stuff hits hard.

"Tell me about it. They say I nearly cracked my skull, when I was converted. Out like a light!"

I didn't feel hitting the table, though. Next thing I know, I'm moving, really fast, next to what looks like a maglev train or something. Only it's not, it's lots of colorful things all moving really fast. Pretty soon, I can make them out, and it's this endless mass of... well, ponies. Sort of. They're kind of like the idea of ponies. It's not like 'hey, there's ponies I recognize, there's Snowflower and Meadowdawn or whatever'. It wasn't like that. It was like... it was like what being a pony means, only running, all together.

"Like... a pony... means?"

I know, it sounds weird, and I don't have the words. I just knew that it was ponies, others like us, only... it was like all the ponies that ever were or ever will be, and they were running, and I kind of floated in, and I was running too, with them.

"Were you a pony too?"

Um... I don't know. I wasn't very aware of what I was. I was totally overwhelmed by what was happening. But it wasn't like a dream. I mean, you know how in a dream you just kind of go along with stuff, no matter how strange it is? This wasn't like that. It was like real. It was like actually being somewhere... only not anywhere I know or can imagine. I knew who I was, and what I had just done and it was like I had been transported from that table to someplace... else.

So, we were all running, and I started feeling stuff. I felt like... like all the running... ideas-of-ponies... somehow knew me. Like they'd known me forever already, and they all accepted me, and liked me, and I was part of them. They felt like family, Rose, it felt like I was home, really home, in a way that... well... I...

"Go on."

So we're all running, I'm not sure where, or across what, but suddenly there is this cliff. Sort of. And all the ponies run somewhere I can't follow, somewhere... some direction... I don't understand. Only I don't fall or anything. I just kind of drift out into this big space. The space is half sun, and daylight and morning and clouds, and half nighttime and stars and a big shining moon. It isn't like a sharp edge or anything, the two sides just kind of blend into each other. It was amazing and beautiful. It was the most beautiful thing I think I've ever seen, Rose.

And somehow it was also a room. It was a place. I... I kind of called it, in my mind, the Cathedral Of Stars. That's where that came from. Only it wasn't just stars, it was daylight and the sun too... but... I think I was more drawn to the stars, because it felt like being out in space. I always wished that humans had done more with space, you know? They just kind of gave up on space. I always felt sad about that.

Anyway, so I'm just marveling over all of this - I didn't feel scared at all, just happy and really, really peaceful, right - and suddenly I notice these two big... presences.  I don't know how else to put it. Oh, they were Celestia and Luna, I knew that instantly. And they were there, Rose, I swear they were there, and they were real and.... I don't know. I don't even know what I'm saying, I must sound so insane right now...

"No, Sunshine.... please, you're doing wonderfully, and I really want to hear. It just sounds awesome. Please, please tell me the rest... please?"

Yeah... yeah. Of course. I'm sorry. It's just... it was really intense, you know?

"I can imagine it must have been."

It was... it was probably the most intense experience I've ever had, and that's saying a lot, considering I just recently learned to fly with my own wings! This whole thing has been intense... but that... experience... I don't even want to call it a dream... does that sound silly?

"No, no it doesn't. Now, go on, what happened next, after the princesses appeared?"

Well, they were just there. I kind of was afraid to look up at them. No, not afraid, exactly... it wasn't like fear... it was more like... awe! That's the word. I felt this kind of awe, this 'whoa, I am in the presence of something wayyyy beyond me' kind of thing, only it wasn't bad. It was also wonderful. I... guess I wanted to be super-respectful, super polite, sort of.

So I was looking down, and that's when I noticed I was transparent. And that I had hooves. That was the first time I saw myself in the... experience... I saw my hooves. My forehooves. And I could see the stars through my right hoof and the daylight and clouds through my left hoof. And I kind of curled there, as I floated, and I looked at the rest of my body, and it was like it is now, only... like blue glass. And I could pass my hoof through my body, and through my other hoof. And it was so real, Rose. It was so completely real.

I heard Celestia. I heard her speak to me. It wasn't in words, it wasn't in English or Equestrian or anything, it was right into my mind, right into the me... of me... I don't know how else to put it. But she spoke, and it was her, and it was like the voice you hear on the holos only... more, somehow. And she welcomed me. She told me I was home. And I felt home. And wanted. But most of all... I felt loved. I felt totally loved, without any conditions, or limits or... or whatever. Just loved.

So I looked up at that point, and I saw Luna, because I was looking more at the stars side of things, and she just smiled at me, and I somehow felt that she was pleased that I liked her stars - she didn't say anything to me or anything - I just felt it, inside. She was proud that I liked the stars best. But it wasn't like Celestia minded or anything. She was happy too.

And then... then I started to go... fast. I went very, very fast, and it started to feel like going down, sort of, only it wasn't like scary falling or anything. I was just going down and it was OK, and then BAM! I could feel the weight of my body, and I could feel this itch, right in my left ear. I remember twitching my ear, and then you were there, asking me to open my eyes. And... um...

"Are you alright, Sunshine?"

Ah.. yeah. I'm OK. It's just that... whoo... it was really... something... telling you that. A lot of emotion came back while I was telling that. I just feel kind of overwhelmed, I guess. Gimmie a moment, OK?

"Here, here, you snuggle close to me, there you go. Yeah, just like that. That's my Sunshine!"

Hee! Oh... that feels so nice. I love it when you groom my poll and ears like that. Did I get it right? Poll? Poll and forelock, right?

"Yes, that's right, Sunshine! And your ears, too... Mmmnn..."

Oh, oh my. Hah... that... I feel better now. You're really warm, did you know that? And I love the way you smell, too. So warm. Thank you Rose. I just feel so... good... snuggled up like this.

"Me too, that's why I was concerned when you kind of rolled away and got all distant back there. What was that all about, anyway?"

Oh. That. My mind kind of slipped back to... when you were first growing the flower, I was over with the others, watching. I met this stallion. He had a cool name... Velvet... something. Velvet Nightshade or something like that. Anyway, we started talking about the competition. At first it was just a kind of silly rivalry, I was rooting for you, and he was rooting for his... wife, apparently, and we were really getting into it. He was kind of aggressive about it, but that wasn't what made me upset.

"Thank you for rooting for me! So... what made you upset?"

The pony was a... he was a bigot, Rose. He was all about how heteronormative relationships were intrinsically better, using all that old, tired, completely wrong crap about how Earth Nature is supposed to be all hetero, only it never was, and then he just...

"Shhh.... shhh... I get the idea, Sunshine. So he was giving you grief about... us?"

He figured that his wife would win, because growing things was something only hets could ever be good at and that really made me angry. But that isn't why I'm upset. I got kind of shouty at him, but what he was saying wasn't really why I was shouting. I mean, what he was saying was just stupid stuff, ignorant stuff. It was dumb.

"So what did make you so upset?"

I was angry that he could say it. I mean... it's really hard to swear now, right? I suppose I could if I really tried, it's only words, after all. But somehow I just... don't want to swear. Not like I used to. The want is gone. I feel skittish about saying really... harsh words. I can say stuff in other languages, though. Merde! Scheisse! See? Not even a problem at all. But saying... poop.... in French and German doesn't mean anything to me. I mean, I know what the words mean, it's that they don't have any emotion in them for me. I can say them easy, but I end up saying 'Muffin' or 'Swirl' or other stupid things because... I don't know... it's fun. It's just fun. I could be saying 'Scheisse', but... so what? It's like what used to be really angry... anger... is now bent more towards a laugh than a hoof in the face. If that makes any sense.

"I think I understand. But... so what is the deal with the stallion then? Velvet whats-his-muzzle?"

Mmm... just a moment. Mmmnnn... mwahh....

"What was that for?"

I just needed to kiss you. It was too good an opportunity to miss.

"I completely understand. Mnnnn."

Mnnn. Hee. Mn. So... basically, the fact that he could even say such stupid, mean things really hit me. That's what shocked me. It's hard to swear like before. We seem to have lost most of our anger, all of our hatred -  don't you agree? Is there anything at all you can hate anymore?

"There are things I... dislike... but... no. There were things I used to hate, when I was a human. I mean really, deeply hate. Dark, deep hatred type hate. But... now, I just feel sorry for them, or bad for it, but... I haven't felt hate at all since Conversion. I don't think I can anymore. I don't think any of us can anymore. It's permanently gone."

Right! No hate, no really terrible anger. I can't even be completely mad at Velvet. If anything I feel sorry for him, for being a stupid bigot. I almost feel like I want to try to help him, like he was sick and needed care. Is that weird or what? It freaks me the muffin out, I have to say.

I was yelling because I was shocked that, after Conversion, any pony could still have... stupid human beliefs, like those anymore. It shocked me, because I kind of figured that, what with the loss of anger and hate and swearing and stuff that.... that...

"You figured that Conversion would cure bigotry and dumb beliefs and stuff. I understand now, Sunshine. Clearly, it can't. And maybe that's a good thing, in a way."

What? How is that... how could that ever be a good thing? What the Hay?

"Sunshine, think about it. If Conversion could change all of your beliefs and thoughts, then... you wouldn't be... you, anymore, would you? We kind of are our thoughts... if you think about it. Conversion clearly gives us... some new hardware, inside. I guess it gives us a new operating system, maybe. We're running on a new machine, a new body, and that new body is different than human. That's to be expected, really.

But Conversion clearly doesn't erase us, or change us, or make us stop being us. 'You can't cure stupid', right? Well, I guess you kind of can, with education and stuff... providing anypony is willing to listen... but... if Conversion changed your thoughts, if it changed what you believed and knew, then it would kind of be like you got erased and replaced with a new... program... or something. See? The fact that a pony like Velvet can still be a bigot means that we all are really still us, inside."

That is so... I have really mixed feelings about that, to tell you the truth, Rose. OK, so... great, that proves we are still... us, more or less, and I guess... that's good and all... but...

"You wanted a world where all the old bad stuff, all of it, was just gone."

Y-Yeah. Yeah, that's what I was hoping. I was hoping for no more prejudice, no more racism, no more sexism, no more stupid, dumb religious and social crap messing everything up. Yeah, that was precisely what I was hoping for, and... it isn't true. Great, we can't hate anymore. Fine, ponies can't kill each other, or torture each other, or rape or maim or harm each other like humans did. But... they can still think that two mares together isn't right, or that... a blue pony... is inferior... to a white one.

"Ah.... THAT'S the real issue here, isn't it?"

Well, yes. Yes, that is the issue! Muffin, Rose, I've had to deal with that kind of crap my whole life. Remember how weirded out I was, when you wanted to nibble my natural, back when I was still human? You would not believe how many times in my life some white-ass woman would just walk up to me and start... feeling... my hair. Like I was an object, and not even a person. I had one come up and do it while I was telling her not to touch my hair. I wasn't even a living being to her. I was just this... thing. I had to... constantly remind myself that it wasn't the same deal back then, that I had been the one who started petting you first, and that you were a pony and it wasn't the same.

I've had to deal with being treated down because of my race my whole life. I really wanted to believe that... becoming a pony would change all of that. I mean, we're every color of the Muffin rainbow, Rose! Red, pink, blue, green, yellow, purple... colors I don't even know all the names for. Teal. Aquamarine! Goldenrod! Wait. That's his name... or is it a color? Maybe it's both, I don't know, but the point is that, MUFFIN, I just wanted to...

"Sunshine! Shhh!! Hey, there marefriend, easy... I get it. I really do. I used to be Asian, remember? I got my share of crap too. Not quite like what you just described, but... wow. They really did that? Like you weren't even alive?"

Yeah. That really happened. So you see what my real issue here is. I mean, the whole 'hets are better' thing is just part of it. The real issue is... is this going to still go on? Am I going to have some unicorn come up and start messing with my feathers like I'm not there, just because they never got to see a real pegasus before? Are we newfoals going to start hanging signs over the water troughs that say 'unicorns only'? I don't see any crosses being burned, but...

"No. I don't think any of that will ever be a problem. And I can tell you why, too."

OK, so tell me, why? How is that never going to happen?

"It's one thing to talk nasty, like that stallion did to you. But to do the things you describe, that takes more effort. Talk is cheap, it really is. But action... that takes motivation. That takes real anger, real fear, and real hatred. That is how humans could do things like that. But... as you yourself already pointed out...."

No hate. No anger, not like that, anyway. I don't even feel that angry at Velvet. Just shocked. And... concerned, for the reasons I gave. But... without any real motivation...

"Without any emotion behind those kind of words... how long can they last? Humans were racist and sexist and homophobic because of fear and anger and hate. If you can't work those emotions up, nothing is going to ever happen. Well, except occasionally, you may run into some dumb stallion that says some mean stuff at you. I honestly don't think that it is biologically possible for us, for ponies, to do anything more than that. And even that only came out when he got worked up, right?"

Yeah. Yeah! That's true. Things started out nice, at first. He even knew about us, from you talking about me in class, and he seemed OK with it then. It was only when we got all... up in each other's muzzles... that any of this came out.

Hmmm... OK. OK. I guess you've given me a new way to look at all of this. It's just some... old stuff... hanging by thin threads. A little time in Equestrian society, some chances to be nice to each other... maybe what wasn't possible for humans will be more than possible for us. Maybe we can really leave all that stuff behind, for good.

"And maybe it's better that we get to work on it, than just being changed completely inside. Because that was one of my worries, before I went through Conversion. I was worried whether I would be me, on the other side or not."

Um, Rose... about that. Lavender said you'd changed the most of anypony. That was why she got so mad at you... I figure she was scared by how much you changed, right? So... how does that square with....

"When I was a human, Sunshine, I was not a nice human. I did a lot of very bad things to a lot of humans, and not all of them deserved it. Actually... none of them deserved... what I did. At the time, I thought I was justified. Life had been bad to me, so I was bad to everypony. But... that wasn't me. That wasn't who I really was, inside, not the... part of me before all the bad stuff won. I was a nice child, Sunshine. Before my mom went... wrong in the head, before my dad died... before... a lot of stuff happened... I was... I was like I am now.

Ponification gave that back to me, Sunshine. I got my soul back, when I became a pony. That was the big change that frightened Lavender so much. I just lost all of that... bad stuff. I had a Conversion Dream too. It was very different than yours. I'll tell you about it some day. But in it, I begged, I got down on my belly and begged Celestia and Luna to just wash me clean. Just wash me clean of all of that... bad.

And when I woke up... it was gone. I was just... gone. And I cried.... oh, Sunshine, I cried and cried and cried, because I was so grateful. And that's how I know that all the prejudice and bigotry and all the bad stuff are just shadows, echoes, of human stuff, and that it will fade away in time. If that can happen to... me... just like that... then, it's just a matter of time for Velvet and all the rest like him. Ok?"

Um... yeah. So... how about we go get some dinner? We've been... um... busy... for the entire afternoon... and evening... and...

"Yeah, I am sooooo hungry too!"

Thank you, Rose. And... I want to hear your story, in detail, if you ever think you can tell me.

"Someday... but... not yet, alright? I'm... ashamed... of my... human days."

I understand. I kind of got... that feeling. But, just know - I love you, no matter what.

"I love you too, Sunshine. So, grab that 'corder, and let's go get some yum in our bellies!"


"Oh, Sunshine, there is something important I wanted to tell you... we can discuss it over..."


No, not now.

She really wanted to hear what it was that Rose needed to tell Sunshine... he just had to butt in, didn't he? Oh, he was such a problem sometimes. For a moment, she went into her little daydream involving a lifting body accident and inheritance procedures. The Daimon was tapping at her access gate. The damn thing was so fucking polite it practically made her feel ill.

She stretched across her Levitron bed - superconducting beds were simply the best - and found she couldn't reach the marble pillar by the side where her Bloody Mary sat. Daddy didn't say boo about her drinking, of course, Daddy didn't say boo about anything... much. He didn't like her being unavailable. That was the price of her luxury. Right now it felt such a burden. A brief fantasy of contracts and hit men crossed her mind.

The Daimon was still knocking politely. It was typical of Daddy; a little red devil in a business suit, a stock avatar, third choice from the top. He was sooo unimaginative. She just knew he felt oh-so-clever choosing it. He probably had even chuckled to himself - not so anyone could see, of course.

By now the young girl had rolled all the way over, her hand finally reaching the marble pillar. The hovering bed worked to counterbalance the shift in weight as it hovered over the mirrored base a meter below it. The girl ran her fingers through her short dark hair as she waited impatiently for the bed to damp out the bouncy motion caused by her shifting upon it. She'd have to get one of the house boys to adjust it again. Such a pain.

Finally, the bed was stable. She reached out her left hand and began tapping out a short code with her fingers, smartly smacking the tips against the hard marble. That's what she needed, a hard surface so that the permatech nodes in her fingertips could get a clear input. So far, Daddy hadn't allowed her to get any hardshell implants, only subdermal, soft augments that nobody could even see. She was working on that. Soon. Soon. Those Nightwanders would be hers. Any day now.

The code completed, her family gate opened, the privacy wall she had secretly installed vanishing instantly. The Daimon bowed and also vanished from her peripheral vision. Suddenly Daddy was in her head, grumbling at her about how he understood the need for privacy in a girl of her age, but that the family port was supposed to be left open because emergencies and important blah blah blah...

While he went on his little tirade, she sent off an annoyance bulletin to her 'Special 234', her closest followers, carefully selecting the emoticon of her father barfing all over himself. She loved that one, or at least she used to. She was using it too often now. She'd have to retire it, lest she appear banal. That would never do.

A popup dinged in her forward vision, Daddy had said something relevant or which required a response. She quickly read the summary, he expected her to do. 'He expected her to do?' What kind of a summary was that? She'd been waiting hours for the latest update that should fix things like that, but those stupid eggheads were taking too long to make the patch. Probably sitting around jerkin the gerkin instead of doing the job. Typical.

This was a problem. She hadn't been listening, and her BoreGuard had produced an incomprehensible social interaction summary. She'd have to do a Meat Meet. That always sucked poison cock. "Missed that, sweet cheeks, I'll be right down!" She made sure to include Cute Icon six, it was his favorite, and it might mollify the incestuous piece of shit until she could get there. Sometimes she regretted seducing him. Men were like yappy dogs. She hated yappy dogs.

She slid off the hot pink RepliSilk sheets (Hot Pink was the new Purple, after all) and enjoyed letting the floating bed dip low enough that when it compensated it lifted her to a standing position with a push to her ass. She adjusted her luminescent négligée-dress so that the lines of light flowed down her breasts like little rivers. That ought to keep Daddy in check. Use the tools, that's the rools.

As she stood in front of her gold-electroplated security door, she mentally brought up her SecuCypher interface and did the short little dance that served as her unlock code. Her bodily motions were determined to be within parameters and her door unlatched and slid open. Her apartments in the mansion served also as a safe room, and she had quickly determined that this benefit could be used for her own ends as an additional means to privacy. It was sooo good to be clever.

Grasping the golden rail in her hands, she strolled with swaying hips down the right side of the circular, curving staircase, above her the holowindows were displaying images of tropical islands from a time when the oceans were blue and the sun could still be seen. Daddy had been on some kind of a nostalgia kick lately, that or he just couldn't be bothered to change the scenery. She didn't mess with the scenery, that was something her father seemed to want control over, and frankly, she just didn't care that much. Palm trees were banal, but so was most of life in any case.

She just wanted to get this over with, so she might catch the rest of 'Going Pony'. It was her 'special' show, it was her 'me' time, even if Daddy would never approve. Actually that was part of what had made her bother to watch it at all - nearly a hundred of her inner circle followers had raved about the thing, sure she could use it to send her father into a rage. Instead, she had found it something she wanted to herself. From the very first episode, something about it had... bothered her in a way that made her keep it to herself. She was almost able to tell what it was that was affecting her, and, of course, Daddy had to interrupt.

At the bottom of the staircase, he waited, clearly impatient. She instinctively performed The Actions, sweeping grandly up against him and burying her tongue deep inside the grave of his sour and unpleasant mouth. She popped up a window to the right of her visual field, showing the scene from the camera in the chandelier, this let her adjust her stance and wiggle her pelvis with greater accuracy. She watched herself perform dispassionately, grading her erotic efforts as tired and weak at best, but it would be enough in this moment.

The sensor she had secreted in all of her father's underwear - just under the band, easy to place, impossible to trace, or so the advertisement claimed - sent her a report that his penile length had just increased by half an inch. Perfect, that was just enough. Any more and she wouldn't get to see any of what remained of her show - the old goat would need to rut, and that was just about the most boring waste of ten minutes she could imagine. If only it was just ten minutes... Daddy liked to talk, afterwards, and even with BoreGuard and the direct link to the hypernet in her skull it still meant half an hour of sweaty armpit and pretending to care. Ugh!

"I'm so sorry, Daddy. I was busy trying to make myself prettier for you and got entirely carried away. What was it that you needed of me?" She pulled carefully away, balancing just the right amount of erotic motion with emotional coldness so as to leave Daddy slightly off balance, but not enough to suggest that she was actually receptive, which, technically, she never really was. At least to him. Needs must, of course.

Roman Bertarelli pulled himself even more taught and upright and gave a faint sniff, if any man could be more uptight she surely could not imagine it. "I tried to communicate that I would not be home for dinner, I am due in Kolkata for a plant opening. I will be back by dinner tomorrow. What have I told you about closing off family access? I expect you to keep that port open in the future. I should not need to keep repeating myself, Venice."

She cooed her apology, placing her hands just so on his chest while looking vulnerable and ever so sorry, then curved her spine while extending her buttocks as she kissed him tenderly. Her lip monitor indicated she had matched the profile of 'doting daughter' almost perfectly, the image in her right field showed that she probably needed more arch in her back for full effect, but she was certain that she had conquered the situation - the spy in Daddy's pants indicated another half an inch of forgiveness. Of all her games, he was the easiest to beat.

Waving her goodbyes and wishing him success, she finally was able to disengage and found herself nearly running up the stairs. This surprised her greatly. What was it about this silly holoprogram that bothered her so? The simple minded people - if she could even call them that, considering that they had traded their status as people for ponies - certainly had little enough to offer, what with their delusional notions of authentic love and childish loyalty and compassion for each other.

But that was it, wasn't it? They seemed so sincere. It didn't really seem like a delusion at all. If she didn't know better, it was almost as if this pony business really did somehow wipe their slates clean. She was most fascinated with Rose and Newmoon and Lavender. Here were personalities she could relate to, devious, cunning and ruthless... yet somehow, they weren't anymore. How was that possible? Could a simple change of species really do that much?

It was ridiculous, of course. Augmentation was the only real answer. She knew that. But it was a harmless enough fantasy, as long as she didn't let it rule her. She'd get the Nightwanders installed, probably at the Stockholm clinic, and that would open up an entire new universe to her. In time, she could get even more augmentations, perhaps enough to leave the last of her filthy, pathetic weaknesses behind. Perhaps by the time she was older, there would be a way to be uploaded and leave it all behind.

There had to be something more. Something better than playing her father and fucking the pool boy and feeling... empty inside.

When Sunshine had sat with Rose, in a filthy bathroom, on her knees in that incredibly ugly jumpsuit, just to comfort her... what a strange scene! It had truly looked like she actually cared. Sunshine's performance was just incredible. It was unprecedented. She'd never seen anything like it before in her life. And it made her itch inside, somehow, some kind of terrible itchy feeling like she was hungry, or missing something, and she wanted it, and she didn't even know what it was.

Her sensors, measuring Sunshine from the holoscreen, had registered sincerity. It was the first time she had ever got that result since she'd had the augments installed. Sincere. Couldn't be. It had to be a fault... but there wasn't one. She'd yelled at the tech over it. He almost got mad at her in return. That had made her excited - risking his entire career just to get mad at her, what a hoot! But he'd showed her. If there was a fault in her sensors, it also existed in the test equipment too. Sincere. Impossible.

Bounding through the door, she gave a nod and a waggle of her torso, the AI for the saferoom understood to close and seal. The holoscreen was on before she plopped onto her hovering bed - the whole mattress was still bucking as the last few minutes of Going Pony returned. She preferred it live, in realtime. She was closer to the metal, that way, and her sensors were less likely to be fooled. She had to see. She had to see it again and again. Sincere.

'Going Pony' was over for the day. What? How was that possible? Come on, that was just unreasonable. She sent a query and studied the show summary. Apparently Rose and Sunshine had gone to dinner, they had decided to eat alone, and Rose had finally described what she had been like as a human. It seemed straightforward enough - some contract killing and a little general mayhem in the favela as an enforcer. But Sunshine had gotten upset and had to... leave? What the fuck? So Rose killed a few babies in the slums. It wasn't like they weren't breeding like flies down there already. Hell, she'd been to a party and met some almost decent people who liked to go slumming and hunt the poor for sport. She'd almost been tempted to go on a run with them.

Sunshine had taken a powder, and the show was off. What the flying fuck? It would be a week - A WEEK - before this episode would be released by the Ministry for reconsumption. That was just insane. A week? This was the first Ministry program - a holo for the general consumption - that she'd ever had to deal with. All the restrictions and requirements and... now a week before it was released to be viewed again? Was this what the poor had to deal with all the time?

Crosscheck reveals that you have 1.31 hours remaining to avoid censure.

That was another thing. There was clearly more than 1.31 hours left of Going Pony, so she'd have to deal with that damn countdown. Send the link to the show to someone else. Who? Not Daddy. She had all of his access, it would be trivial, but then there would be explanations and probably even drama. If her holoaccess really could be blocked for six hours, she would miss an entire day of Rose and Sunshine. Suddenly, she realized... she was pretty much living for this damn show. What the hell?

Ah, never let sense get in the way of a good passion, just find a sensible way to get what you need. That was the rule. How, who? The pool boy? She didn't even know his name. And while she could easily get his access, he'd probably think she was trying to be friendly or something. No. Never show the slightest kindness to the person you use for sex. It always ruins everything.

Who? Who? Who? Not one of her followers. It had to be a single infosink, and that meant one person, and if she picked any one of her special 234, then that would cause trouble. The one she picked would think she wanted to be 'pals' or something, and the rest would cause trouble over that. Plus she'd seem weak.

She didn't have a single person she could send anything to. Not one. Only reasonable, of course. It would be stupid to get close to anyone. Well, other than Daddy, that's where all the credits come from.

1.31 hours left. She had to solve this. And she had to find out what happened between Rose and Sunshine. This was insane. Why should she even give a crap? So what if a pair of ponified humans made up? As if that meant anything.

But she wanted them to make up. She wanted Sunshine to be OK with Rose again. And she wanted to know if Rose was really...


Really what?

Venice rolled over on her bed and signaled the room AI to search and monitor the holo and hypernet. Somebody must have pirated the datafeed somewhere. Security existed to be broken. And she had to figure out who she could send a copy of the program to. Redistribution. It was as if it was expected that the viewer would know someone automatically. This really had been made for the masses.


That was it. She needed to know if Rose was actually different. And Lavender. And Newmoon.

She needed to know if going pony... was better than just getting more augmentation.

Because, dammit, it seemed that no matter how large her universe became, no matter how many new inputs and senses she got, she still had that hole inside. That god damned hole.

Maybe the Nightwanders would do the trick. See infrared and ultraviolet and radio frequencies and nearly the whole EM band. A second pair of eyes to see the rest of the universe that human eyes couldn't see. Seeing was being, and seeing more should fill up that hole. It should. It must. She just needed to work on Daddy some more. Nightwanders weren't soft, and they weren't invisible. He didn't approve. Yet.

Dammit! What if Sunshine couldn't... forgive... Rose? What a thought. The things that mattered to these people. Ponies.


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