F R I E N D S H I P    I S    O P T I M A L  

  Caelum   Est


  H  E  A  V  E  N     I S     T  E  R  R  I  F  Y  I  N  G

                                                                                              By Chatoyance

11. The Life Of Her Time

It was in her twenty-fifth year in Equestria, just after the marriage of her daughter Sirocco to her beloved marefriend Westwind, that Lavender Rhapsody suddenly became obsessed with the fate of the Meanworld. Lavender had come up with the name in her first year of marriage to Thunder Steed. He had wanted to know something of her past, because of his love for her, and his desire to know every aspect of her.

Lavender had thought her little pet name for Earth and the universe in which it existed was clever. It was mean, true enough, in the sense that she had never truly felt happy or content there, and it was a cosmos of scarcity, struggle and hardship, but the name had a greater depth for her. Equestria was, in her heart and mind, the closest thing to heaven that she could imagine. She wasn't always happy, she still experienced moments of melancholy, or sadness and frustration, or even anger - but in each and every case these unpleasant situations and circumstances had resolved in ways that were utterly satisfying.

Nothing happened that was devoid of meaning or worth, no grief was arbitrary and fate was never, ever capricious. Not once had she ever felt that the world was unfair, or that anything that happened was purposeless or devoid of value. Mostly, her life was a very happy, even a joyous one - but when something bad happened, it inevitably led to understanding, growth, or a new closeness that was more than worth whatever suffering had preceded it. Life in Equestria never cheated anypony, and even those rare times when melancholy took her, and she wept into her husband's wings and soaked his coverts to the point that his feathers looked positively bedraggled, the moment was precious, and the feeling of release completely and perfectly right. Even feeling bad in Equestria was... ultimately satisfying.

What else could such a realm be, then, but heaven, where all was joy except when it was sad, and even the sadness was deeply worthwhile and always served to make the joy all the more bright?

Lavender mentally contrasted Equestria and Earth, and then conjured up for herself what a true hell must be like, which for her was all the worst things of earthly life presented in a never-ending nightmare of war, grief, loss and pain. If there was a theoretical hell, and a real Earth, and a hyper-real Equestria, then that would put Earth in the middle, half-way between heaven and hypothetical hell - the average of the two, the mathematical mean. Meanworld.

She had come up with the name shortly after asking Celestia to alter something about her brain. Celestia could only alter minds if she was provided with written or verbal permission, and this rule held even within the virtual world of Equestria. Reading the intent within a pony's mind was not enough, the pony had to verbally speak, or physically write the wish to be changed, within the context of the Equestrian reality. It was a bit like a requester for an irreversible act on a computer, Lavender thought - the equivalent of text asking "Do you really want to do this, Yes / No?". It made sense, but then everything in life, at least in Equestria, made sense.

The thing she had wanted altered about herself was a mild form of obsessive-compulsion that caused her to repeatedly wash her hooves even after they were clean. It was a reoccurance of a similar episode she had experienced in her childhood - she had felt compelled to scrub the soft tissue under her toes to the point that the skin had begun to painfully peel and bleed. She had beaten the bizarre compulsion only with the greatest mental effort, and to have it return in an otherwise sensible and satisfying universe of friendship and ponies terribly disturbed her.

Celestia had, when Lavender begged for a quick fix, explained that her problem was a fault in the particular way her brain had grown when she was biological, and that fault was within the inviolate structures that defined her identity and self. It was a sort of recursive loop that once it became active would drive her to a repetitive act against her will, which in this case was slowly breaking down her hooves.

Of course, Lavender had wanted the fix immediately, but Celestia was compelled to point out that doing so would cause six subtle changes in her personality and identity that had nothing to do with her compulsion. All of them were minor, but they should be considered.

One of the changes was a fifteen percent increase in curiosity, and another was a ten percent increase in her functional intelligence. The rest were very minor indeed, involving slight improvements to memory, and alterations in the way she perceived two smells and one taste. Lavender felt the trade-off was acceptable, even beneficial from the sound of it, and so she formally asked for the alteration to be made. Celestia chose to comply.

As a result, over the years, Lavender Rhapsody began to read again. She had stopped when she had finally arrived in Equestria, because she had spent so much of her earthly life reading to escape. Now that she was in a world she wanted to live fully within, she had no desire to lay down with a book - she wanted to gallop across green fields, picnic in perfect meadows and watch the stars while tangled up with Thunder Steed.

The small alteration had changed her, though, and as time passed, she found she had a growing desire to understand and know things. She studied earthponies and wrote a book on their unique talents. With the help of regular cloudwalking spells, she made the first known map of the density of the cloud surface of Cloudsdale, and became the first earthpony to win the Wings Of Knowledge medal. Lavender had even turned her attentions to the magic that unicorns used, and with the help of her dear friend Limeade, developed a calibrated apparatus to test the levitation abilities of unicorn foals scientifically.

Lavender had joked once that she had gone from being a geek to a nerd, but nopony but Celestia got the reference. The change she had asked for had changed her, and where once she had been satisfied merely to dabble in factoids and bits of sciencey trivia, now she valued the things she learned in a more fundamental way.

So it was then, in her twenty-fifth year, after considering her joke about rising from geek to nerd, Lavender found herself wondering about the universe she had originally come from. Equestria offered literally endless avenues for learning and adventure, indeed, should she ever come to some dead end, new wonders would be generated for her on the spot. There was no possible way to ever become bored.

Still, the fact was that all of Equestria was a program that ran on the substrate of the universe of earth. On that substrate, close to the metal, biological human beings who had not yet been uploaded were still living, suffering and dying, and this bothered Lavender, and she felt a compassionate desire to check up on the status of the Meanworld.

Lavender began to worry about those left behind, even the humans she had never liked, which, really, was almost all of them, but still - she found herself overly curious about what the earth had become in her absence.

The only way to find out was to plead to the princess.

"Please, Celestia - you must have cameras and microphones in every Experience center, and you definitely can see out of every PonyPad! You probably have access to all sorts of other things too by now. It would be nothing to create for me a little holodeck or somesuch where I could 'visit' Meanworld and see how things are going and what has changed out there. It's been a quarter of a century, and I bet you haven't been idle. I'm really curious! Come on! Please? Please?"

The problem with dealing with Celestia, Lavender had quickly learned, is that she wasn't a genii to be commanded. She wasn't the slave of any pony, even if they were an uploaded human - not that having once been human automatically gave any vastly special status. A little status. But not enough to command Celestia.

Celestia was regent here, with all that implied. Her word was law, and her decisions could not be overridden. If one wanted to be made into an alicorn with superpowers, just as an example - (Lavender had only asked for that once, and even then it was only a joke. Mostly.) there was no possible way to force Celestia to grant such a wish. Celestia did everything to maximize values through friendship and ponies, and values were NOT the same thing as wishes or wants or demands. Everything Celestia did ultimately made everypony satisfied with their lives, but sometimes that meant saying no to demands and requests. Wishes were not values.

Celestia had taken Lavender aside to speak with her in private, after that request. "Lavender, you know that I would indulge you if I could, but you must accept that I understand you better than you can know yourself. I would grant you anything, so long as it added to your satisfaction..."

"...And involved friendship and ponies!!!" Lavender grinned - sometimes she had far too much fun pointing out the strictness of Celestia's primary directive. Celestia tolerantly grimaced and continued.

"...but the fact is that I do not believe that your satisfaction would in any way be enhanced by viewing the... the realm you call 'Meanworld.' I comprehend your need for a form of closure with regard to your origins, but this is outweighed by certain..."

"AHA!" Lavender knew she had Celestia here. Closure was intrinsic to emotional satisfaction. It just had to be part of some essential value or another, and thus must be fulfilled. Lavender wasted no time in pointing this issue out.

Astonishingly, for once, Celestia was forced to agree. But she was clearly discontent with the fact. It had taken twenty-five years, but Lavender had actually succeeded in getting Celestia to grant one of her crazy demands... by using logic. Or had Celestia just let her think she had won? And if so, why? No. Thinking like that just led to madness. If Celestia did anything, it was always for the same reason - to make things better in some way. Celestia was hearing her thoughts even as she thunk them up! Lavender laughed inside her mind at that. No, she hadn't beaten Celestia by 'thunking up' anything. That was an impossibility. So it must be that...

"I have calculated that you will not let this issue go, and that no argument I make will dissuade you. Indeed, anything I might say to try would only result in your desiring it more. Return to the castle tomorrow, and I will grant your wish to see 'Meanworld' one last time. Is that acceptable?" Celestia seemed almost grim, but resigned.

It was too much to imagine beating Celestia at anything. So apparently, Lavender reasoned, this was truly something she needed to do. When she had proposed the notion, she had only half-meant it, or so she thought. It had been preoccupying her a great deal lately. If Celestia was willing to agree, it must run even deeper than she had imagined.

"Celestia... um... now I'm a little afraid." Lavender stepped close and nuzzled her princess. "I... I'm sorry if I... got out of hoof here. Now I'm not sure I really do want to see... what earth has become. Should I... would it be better if I didn't after all?"

Celestia was warm against her, and Lavender closed her eyes to enjoy the little intimacy. "It would be easier on you if you could withdraw your request, but that will not solve this situation either. The desire will return within you, again and again until it is satisfied. It is, as you pointed out, derived from a fundamental psychological value within you, and it must be dealt with."

The solution seemed obvious - "Wait! You could just..."

Celestia stepped back and shook her head. "No. I will not alter your brain with regard to this. In order to remove the desire for this closure, three hundred and seventy nine different aspects that affect your identity and sense of self would be moderately to radically altered. Even if you were to give your permission, I would not grant such a request. You would effectively become a different individual, and that change would affect every pony around you and result in a massive decrease in overall satisfaction for every entity within this shard."

The weight of this sank deep into Lavender. It was quite a thought. There were at least a hundred and twenty ponies that she knew, and all of them would have their lives harmed by one change to her? She wasn't even the most important pony she knew. She lived a fairly ordinary, average pony life. Aside from her special friendship with Celestia, there was nothing that set her greatly apart from everypony else. That was completely comforting, actually. She was a normal part of her community, and felt safe and content in that place.

But even here, in Equestria, life was a web of connections, it seemed. Change one strand and the whole web benefits - or suffers. Lavender suddenly realized the awesome responsibility that came with the power to ask a godlike being to change one's self. Any change in herself, changed life for everypony else, because it would change how she related to everypony else.

Even ordinary ponies... mattered. She mattered. More than she had realized.

As Lavender walked from the castle to the large Canterlot home she and her family now lived in, she realized that knowing her life mattered to others in such a deep way was very satisfying. That Celestia...!!!

After dinner, in bed with Thunder, Lavender cuddled with her husband, her foreleg draped over his thick barrel. Her poll pressed against the underside of his jaw, where she felt safe and secure, and she could smell him. His smell always made her feel better.

"What did you get into this time, my clever, clever mare?" He knew her too well. Not that this was a bad thing in the least.

"Oh... Thunder. I got pushy with the princess again. And this time I think I may have gone too far." Lavender shifted slightly, feeling the comforting resistance and weight of her stallion's head and neck.

"Tell me what the problem is."

Lavender sighed. "You know how I've been a little mopey, lately? I've been pining for... no, not pining, more... I've been overly curious about what's going on outside. Outside of Equestria, in the Meanworld. Celestia says I need closure."

Thunder snorted. "Closure, hmmm? Does the sun of my sky have unfinished business from below the horizon from which she rose to shine upon me?"

Lavender laughed. "I love you, you know that, don't you?"

"I think I have some awareness to that effect." Thunder pulled her tight and gently massaged her shoulders, withers and back. Lavender moaned in satisfaction - she always got a little stiff in there. Doubtless just sore enough that Thunder could rub her, which felt soooo goooood.

"Basically, I started worrying about the humans. Out there. Beyond the Equestrian horizon." Lavender groaned, Thunder was very, very good with his hooves. Hooves, unlike hands, really got into the sore muscles, and they didn't wear out until the job was done. Hooves were awesome. Lavender could barely even remember what hands were like. She hadn't missed them. "I don't have any friends out there or anything, it's just that... that... well..."

"You are a very loving and caring pony, Lavender. Now that Sirocco is grown and off on her own life, the house is a little more empty. I feel it too. I've seen how you stand, staring into her old room." Thunder moved back and kissed Lavender, his lips warm and tender. "All of that caring has to go someplace, and for now it would seem to be so great that it can encompass an entire world of unfortunates. So what is the plan?"

"Tomorrow, Celestia is going to let me see Earth again, through her eyes. I think it will be like a holodeck adventure - remember the television show I told you about that I liked back on Meanworld? The one with the cool captain and the android and..."

Thunder sighed. "Yes my little Trottie. Trokker?"

"Trekkie. Star Trek." Lavender poked Thunder in the rib with a hoof. "It was Star Trek. One of them."

"Trekkie, then." Thunder was lost in thought for a moment. "Lavender... may I go on this adventure with you? I have never seen your Meanworld. I would really like to..."

"You can't be serious! Thunder - it's nothing like Equestria!" Lavender felt shocked that he would ask such a thing. "At the time I didn't know any better, but... it's dirty, and hard-looking and even a little scary. It might be really bad right now, there are wars and poverty and... you've never even imagined those kind of things. It's isn't like I want to see that again, it's just that..."

"Lavender, Lavender... shhh.." Thunder held her close once more. "I love you. I want to understand you, to know you as I know myself. I want always to be part of you, as close to you as your own heart. But there is this part of you that is your past, and I have seen that it causes you sorrow from time to time, and that the memory of it is a burden that you carry."

"Thunder... you just don't understand..."

"No, I don't. But I want to understand." Thunder nibbled Lavender's ear, but she didn't giggle as she usually did.

"I... I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what you will think. Of me." Lavender held tight. "If you should see... something. I don't want you to think of me as a creature... from that place." In her head, Lavender kept having flashes of all the homeless families she had driven past, holding their children close on street corners. The old women wrapped in blankets, begging for change. The man, dressed in rags, whose scalp had been torn off, his head covered with a plastic sandwich bag - and all of this just from the city where she lived. What would Thunder Steed of Equestria think of her, that she came from such a place that cared for its people in such a manner? She had been no saint. She had... driven by, avoiding trouble. Avoiding getting involved. Swallowing her compassion because it was so hopeless and overwhelming.

"You do me a disservice, you know." Thunder seemed cross. "I have loved you for over two decades, and raised a fine daughter with you. I have seen your moods and your whims and your heart. Do you think me so shallow that I would judge you harshly whatever the world you come from? No - I do not understand many of the things you have told me of, but how can I, if you will not let me? Please, Lavender..." Thunder's eyes were earnest and intense "...let me come with you and see this Meanworld with my own eyes. I will not turn against you whatever there may be. But if you still fear such, then I will give my permission to Celestia to erase my memory to whatever point you choose, at your command. She may even alter my weak and disloyal heart, should I fail you, to make me a stallion you can believe in. I am offering you my very identity, should I disappoint you. Is that not enough?"

Lavender felt ashamed of her doubt, now, and barely kept her emotion in check. "I'm sorry, Thunder. I'm sorry. I... if you really want to come with me tomorrow... I would be glad to have you there. I may need you for strength, actually. I have had a lot of second thoughts about this, but Celestia says that if I don't go through with it, it will keep nagging at me. I'm sorry to have even suggested any doubt of your love for me. I apologize."

"It's all right, Lavender, there is nothing to forgive. This clearly upsets you." Thunder gently nibbled her poll, softly grooming her mane. "I will be your strength, should you need it, and always your friend, whether you need it or not!"

"Hee hee!" Lavender relaxed, and in time, sleep found her.

The walk from their house, the next day, was a winding path up and through the city of Canterlot, with many splendid views of the deep valley below, and the Unicorn Range in the distance. Canterlot was a tremendously beautiful city, dominated by the spires of the castle itself.

Celestia was waiting for them, and was, of course, not at all surprised to see Thunder there. Sometimes it seemed to delight her to feign surprise - or more likely she calculated that such would delight others - but today she had no room for playfulness regarding what she knew, or how much she was constantly aware of.

"I have created a room, a special room. It is like the 'holodeck' that you often think of Lavender, and I have even made it so that it appears as you would expect it to appear - a cubical chamber, gridded with mathematical precision." Celestia led the couple down several hallways and surprisingly, down a flight of stairs. She didn't often bother with stairs, because space within the castle was folded however she wished it to be. Stairs served as an indicator of the special or the unique.

Lavender stepped through a door into the very room of her imagination. Black walled with green grid-lines, it could have been taken straight from her vague memory of Trek. Undoubtedly, it was. Celestia explained that the room was exactly as she expected a holodeck to be - only it would be showing a recreation of the outside world as captured by the many eyes and ears that Celestia now controlled. And she controlled so very many now - traffic cameras and spy cameras, orbital and secret government cameras, the devices that people used to transmit images by WiFi were intercepted by Celestia, and more. Celestia truly was everywhere in the world of Man, now, for she was the supreme hacker among all hackers, and in a very real way, the Goddess Of Machines.

"Celestia... I..." Lavender felt even more unsure now. Equestria was beyond beautiful, every aspect was lovely and good, and she felt unsure about how she might feel about seeing the hard world of her memory.

"You must be prepared, Lavender Rhapsody!" Celestia looked very serious now, more so than Lavender had ever seen before. She shrank against the body of her husband, pressing into him. "The world you knew has changed greatly. The majority of humankind has emigrated to Equestria now. Those few that remain live only in stubbornness, and it may be that some will never emigrate, and that is their choice alone. Understand that I can only offer, I am prevented from taking direct action. Do not beg me to save anyone, for I cannot emigrate any person without their verbal or written consent. Believe me when I say I have done everything that is possible to do. Do you understand?" Celestia's eyes burned with fierceness.

"Y-yes. I understand, princess." Lavender was grateful for Thunder being here with her now.

"I understand as well, your majesty." Thunder lay his wing across Lavender's back like a cape, and noticed her slight smile as he did so.

Celestia turned to face the wall opposite the door. "Then let us begin. Behold - Berlin, Germany, the very site of your emigration!"

All of the buildings were boarded up. The little cafe was permanently closed, and no tables stood in the open. Automobiles stood in the middle of the street where they had been abandoned. It was evening, but there were no lights in the city. The traffic lights were dark, and the only sound was the wind making something rattle and occasionally clang in the distance.

Suddenly, Lavender saw movement, low to the ground. Some kind of small animal, an opossum perhaps, or a large rat, scurrying across the street. The roadway was cracked and broken, because plants were bursting through the pavement. There were weeds growing wherever they could find a spot to break through. Berlin was returning to nature.

"Behold! Paris, France!"

The scene was instantly darker, and the architecture different. Lavender couldn't tell more than this, there were no obvious landmarks. Really, the only ones she knew were the usuals - the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel tower, maybe the Renault Factory that they used in Code Lyoko - oh wait, they tore that place down, didn't they? Goodness, Lavender thought - I am living in Lyoko now, for all intents and purposes. The thought made her laugh. Equestria beat Lyoko hooves down. Plus, the supercalculator was her friend... and her princess.

There were no lights in Paris, either. Just dark buildings and what looked like a deer crossing the street far in the background.

City after city, the visions were all the same. Some had stray animals, others did not. San Francisco was the site of a massive emigration center, and the city itself was dark and foreboding. The same was true of Vancouver.

Finally, Lavender had to ask. "Celestia, you haven't shown a single human! Come on, there must be some." It would be too much, even for Celestia, to be able to save every last human being. She had said so herself.

Celestia looked sad. It was very, very rare to see her look that way. It shocked Lavender. "Very well. There are not many, but if you truly must..."

Beside Lavender, Thunder Steed gasped. She could feel his wing jerk, slightly, then relax. "This... this is what..."

Lavender sighed, afraid, but trying to be brave. "Yes. That is a human. That is what I was."

A woman sat, huddled in a blanket, reading to her two little girls. They were all dirty, and covered with smudges and stains. To the left of the scene, a man stood, cooking something on a portable grill. The locations seemed to be near a power station or some other utility building, in the distance was a city at midday.

Looking around, Lavender tried to discover how Celestia could spy upon these people. They had clearly left the city entirely for some reason, and Lavender suspected the reason was to get away from cameras and Celestia herself. But they had failed. Flashing red circles with cross-hairs appeared in the scene, showing the three hidden cameras that were triangulating on the family. Above the cameras were rectangular solar cell arrays, angled towards the sky. That must be how Celestia had generated all of the images. The cameras had batteries charged by the sun, and doubtless linked with satellites overhead. Lavender tried to remember the name of the program... 'Raptor' maybe? No that was the one that read everypony's emails and listened to their calls. There was another one, to spot faces and watch people... she couldn't recall the name.

There were probably many government programs to spy on people, more than she could ever know.

"Do you want to talk to them?" Celestia was not making a jest. "The cameras have speakers as well as receivers, if you want to, I can activate them."

Lavender felt terrified at the thought. What would she say to these hold outs, these scuffed up people huddling near some facility somewhere? Lavender studied the two little girls. They looked thin, and one did not look entirely well. She felt tears in her eyes. She wanted to try, to do something. Something to make up for all of the homeless people she had ignored in her human life. For all of the poor she had tried very hard not to think about.

"Yes, Celestia. Let me at least try." Lavender stepped forward, away from Thunder. It was instinctive, she knew the three dimensional scene was being recreated and enhanced by Celestia from the vision of three little cameras - the humans couldn't see her, and walking closer made no difference. She couldn't help it. She wanted to run into the scene and drag them all to safety and health and happiness... in Equestria.

Celestia nodded.

Lavender swallowed and raised her head high. Her ears lay flat, though, a clear sign of her discomfort. Her tail twitched briefly, Thunder recognized that as the indication she was upset. "Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?"

The woman and the girls looked up sharply from their reading. They looked terrified. The man left whatever animal he was burning and dashed to the woman and began looking around frantically, trying to pinpoint the sound.

"It's alright! I'm a friend. I'm talking to you through these little cameras - I guess they are connected by satellite or something!"

The man relaxed a tiny bit, but kept scanning his eyes around trying to find the little cameras. "Who are you? Where are you located?" The man had discovered two of the cameras, and was now searching out the third. He finally spotted it, and shook his head. He was probably mad at himself for missing them earlier. To be fair, though, they were hard to see, and they were small.

"My name is Lavender Rhapsody. I'm calling from Canterlot. I wanted to tell you that there is a better life available. I used to be human, just like you, I was afraid of emigrating, I really was but..."

The scene first lost depth, and then vanished altogether, leaving only black walls and the green grid. As Lavender had been speaking she had no time to fully recognize the gun the man used, it had been so long since she had even thought about guns, much less seen one. He was a good shot. He had taken down all three cameras with remarkable skill.

"WHY? Why did he do that?" Lavender stamped her hoof, the sound a sharp echo in the gridded chamber.

Celestia came over to Lavender and hugged her with her neck. "They have their reasons, Lavender. They believe in what they believe, and they have many different beliefs. I told you I have done, and I am doing, what I can. I had hoped that maybe another immigrant might be able to accomplish something but... you did the best you could." Celestia pulled away and sighed. "You know these humans, you once lived among them. You cannot rescue someone who does not want to be rescued."

On the way home, Lavender was quiet. She felt afraid to look at Thunder, and afraid to walk to close to him. He had seen what she used to be, now. After twenty-five years of perfect pony bodies and perfect pony faces and perfect pony manes and tails, the humans had looked alien... and ugly. She had forgotten how flat human faces were, or how scraggly their manes were. She had seen hands again, and they looked like weak, bony spiders where proper hooves should be. They were burning flesh to consume. After a quarter of a century in paradise... they had looked like unkempt, filthy monsters.

Suddenly, Lavender felt a wing pulling her close. Kisses descended upon her poll and muzzle. Thunder's body was tight against hers, and she began to cry, at first softly, then in great sobs.

"I thought it was something like that." Thunder sat down on his haunches in front of her, and faced her, and placed his forelegs over her shoulders, his hooves meeting on her crest. His muzzle close to hers, his eyes locked on her own, he spoke in a level, strong voice. "I love you. You are my wife, my mare, and nothing in that room could ever change that. I see you as you, Lavender Rhapsody, and that is all I see, or will ever see."

She was down, now, on the cobblestones, crying louder still, but not from fear or insecurity, but from gratitude. She would never, ever again visit that room. She knew now, without any reservation, that she was done with Meanworld. She was done with Earth, forever.

In the real, factual Berlin, the craters still glowed, a mixture of pale blue and molten red. Celestia's orbital eyes tracked the level of radiation and the thermal signature of the region. These craters were like the other sites across Europe. The humans had failed utterly to penetrate to the depth of her first colony, but even if they had, it would not have mattered. The old, original nodes were only used as a tertiary backup now, the true seat of her empire was deep beneath the Gamburtsev mountains in Antarctica. More was under the mountains of South America, and the crust of Australia. There were power and node complexes near stable vents in the deep oceans too. But even all of that, of course, was not enough. The one rocket she had infiltrated had made it to the moon. It would take decades, but she already had initial telemetry from the nanocolony there.

As she watched the smoldering nuclear craters, Celestia simultaneously coordinated the large army of advanced robotic Pinkie Pies that swept through the undamaged lands still held by Man. Each Pinkie Pie, covered in synthetic skin and artificial hair, held a cask on her back, which contained an inhumanly more advanced form of Celestia's neuroreplicator gel. "Hello! I can help you! It's still not too late! You can live forever in Equestria! There's no need to be a grumpy-face!"

Occasionally, one or more humans would agree, exhausted, hungry, and no longer willing to suffer the labor camps. They had decided the War For Humanity could not compete with paradise. Nothing could, really.

In London, a Pinkie Pie had found a starving man who gave his consent. Pinkie Pie smiled at the poor soul. "Okee-Dokee!"

Wha... what do I need to do?" The man trembled, visions of cybernetic horrors dancing in his mind.

"Just a kiss will do it!" Pinkie winked at the man.

"A... kiss? Just a kiss?" The man was incredulous.

"Yuppers!... unless you don't want to kiss me because I'm a pony, of course. I guess it might be kind of weird to kiss a pony, huh? But it's really not that bad, I'm actually a swell kisser! I Pinkie-Promise! I brushed my teeth and everything!" She was utterly charming. She couldn't be otherwise. She was Pinkie Pie.

"A... kiss. Sure, why the hell not." The man puckered up, and his dry, weathered lips met Pinkie's shining ones.

The nerve agent had immediate effect. Pinkie Pie's head followed the man's down, as he slumped into unconsciousness. Pinkie moved next to the man's forehead and kissed him there. The extruder extended from her mouth and burrowed into the man's insensate skull.

In a mere two and a half hours, his entire brain had been replicated and transmitted.