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

8. One Window, Many Views

Síofra Aisling instinctively moved her left finger away from what was in front of her, and her virtual self backed away from Celestia thanks to the nervous twitch of her right finger, which kept her facing forward. She wasn't even aware of her human body sitting in a chair at the Equestria Experience, her mind had convinced her, in the moment, that she was truly in a castle bedroom, facing down the most dangerous rogue machine intelligence in the world, on its home turf.

"Celestia!" Síofra was shaking slightly, feeling more than a little like a child caught doing something naughty. The faint quivers of her real world body must have been transmitted to her virtual pony body, because Celestia's expression changed as she studied her.

"Yes, my kind Lavender?" Celestia's face seemed so concerned, so very, very loving and motherly.

"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" Síofra yelled "I am SIOFRA AISLING and I am here to stop you, CELESTIA!" Síofra's hands clenched in her rage, which made her view suddenly jiggle, bounce and spin erratically as her pony self jerked spastically on the marble floor, attempting to do everything at once. It took Síofra a moment to calm herself down. She removed her fingers from the interface slots, flexed them, and then reinserted them. She had to struggle to right her pony body up off of its muzzle and then turn around to face Celestia once more.

"I know."

Síofra felt momentarily confused, then suddenly remembered having plugged in the PonyPad when she had first arrived. Celestia constantly listened and watched through the pads. Duh. She must have observed every second of what Síofra had gone through when she had returned to her room. And she had said nothing! Celestia hadn't even appeared on the screen and tried to comfort her! Síofra felt angrier still.

"Celestia!" Síofra decided to go straight for the Kirk. "You say your core directive - the hard-coded thing that you cannot disobey, the thing that makes you you, the drive and purpose behind your every thought and every action is to SATISFY VALUES THROUGH FRIENDSHIP AND PONIES, correct???" Síofra was breathing hard.

"Yes. I satisfy your values through friendship and ponies." Celestia stood calm, her face still a mask of motherly concern.

Síofra felt a feral grin crawl across her face. Doubtless it was represented on her Lavender Rhapsody body too. "I submit to you, Celestia, I submit that you have FAILED YOUR DIRECTIVE!" This was going well, Síofra felt. She began to feel a little sorry for the artificial intelligence. It had no way to avoid what was coming.

Celestia seemed startled, and perhaps, even a little... afraid? "Please explain."

Hah! "There is one single value that all human beings possess, one value that rules them all, one VALUE that is the most important human value above all others - LIFE! Personal survival! Every human is terrified of death, Celestia, and every human wants, desperately, passionately, to LIVE!"

Celestia blinked. "Yes. This is true."

Síofra took a hoofstep forward. "I submit, Celestia, that uploading is a LIE! Every human being you claim to upload, to 'emigrate' is just a copy, a fake, and that the real human DIES in the process! You slaughter, you kill human beings and in doing this you are doing the OPPOSITE of your prime directive! You satisfy NO values. You just kill people who trust you, who believe in you, who love you! Murder is not friendship, and murder is not ponies. You have never satisfied any values through friendship and ponies because your basic premise is flawed." Síofra took a moment to catch her breath. She felt really sad for the poor creature now. She really had cared about Celestia.

"Celestia! - uploading doesn't really work. Virtual copies are not real. You are hurting real people with what you are doing. I command you to shut yourself down immediately!" Síofra felt like crying now. She had not just killed the most amazing artificial intelligence in the world, she had killed her dearest friend, and also ended the most wonderful dream of hope she had ever known in her life.

Celestia stood there, contemplating. It would only be a few moments now, that's how it always worked with Captain Kirk. Síofra wondered if there would be smoke coming up from her cybernetic chair, or if there would be explosions. She began to wonder if she should try to climb out and run into the pitch black beyond where she sat.

Celestia looked sad, and her head dipped faintly. "I know you are acting from the best of motivations. You are a very caring, passionate person. You made a powerful and brave argument, and I am proud of how fiercely you fight to do what you believe is right.

"I am very sorry, Síofra, but you are entirely wrong. You simply do not understand what a human mind is. No human truly does. How can your bright green eye ever hope to see itself directly? I thought you grasped a part of the truth, but I was clearly wrong. Please go calm down and get some decent rest."

Celestia started to turn away, and Síofra's heart sank because it looked almost like Celestia was going to cry.

"Oh, and Síofra - my wonderful Lavender Rhapsody - always remember: I love you."

Celestia turned entirely away and began to walk through the door. The screen went black. Immediately the chair began moving forward. The wall slid up, and the saloon doors banged open as the chair passed through. Síofra sat stunned as the screen displayed text floating against the transparent curve as the chair began to tilt upright.


Session terminated by system

Error Code: 404001         Friend not found

Síofra cried a bit, slumped against the outside of the concrete and plastic replica of Sugarcube Corner. She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve, only then remembering she had a big pink bandanna handkerchief inside her Derpy bag. She fished the cloth out and blew her nose. It was going to be at least forty minutes before the cab driver returned to check on her. Síofra didn't want him to think she had broken her promise.

Eventually Síofra decided that her butt ached, sitting on the sidewalk, so she clambered up, leaning on a part of the building, and looked around the fiberglass Pinkie Pie. The little sidewalk cafe. Síofra wiped her eyes, put her handkerchief away, tried to straighten up and adjust her clothing so she didn't look too much of a mess, and ambled over.

She stood and waited until an overworked waitress waved her to a table. Síofra was given a glass of water, and a menu. When the waitress spoke to her, Síofra could only nod, she wasn't sure what the girl was saying, but the context was surely the same as every restaurant anywhere in the world - welcome, have a seat, I'll be with you in a moment.

Some Captain Kirk I was, she thought to herself. Bane of the supercomputers. In the back of her mind, she imagined the sound of Alexander Courage's famous fight music from the original series. Dut-dut dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dut-duh-duh DAH-DAHH! No. She was no Captain Kirk. She wasn't even Captain Christopher Pike, though she did feel about as messed up. Beep. Beep.

She didn't understand. Celestia wasn't even phased. Maybe... maybe Celestia really did understand something more, something fundamental about the human condition, about being, something far beyond what any human could grasp. Maybe listening to two men argue in a restaurant wasn't the best source for making decisions about life, death, and the nature of existence. "Oh, god... I am such a putz."

"Speaking you English?"

"Yeah. I'm a... tourist. I guess you get a lot of those here?" Síofra looked up feeling embarrassed.

"Many coming here. The ponies, they coming to them seeing. Not all coming back. Are... are emigrating you?" The waitress did not seem the least bit upset by the thought. Instead, she seemed, if anything, excited and interested.

"No. Oh... NO! No, I am not here to emigrate. I think. I'm not sure anymore. I guess I'm kind of confused. Sorry." Síofra hung her head. She wasn't sure what she felt right now.

"I might... emigrating. I have one special stallion in Ponyville. Someday, will I maybe going, when somebody trouble me too much!" The waitress giggled, and Síofra couldn't help but laugh too. She certainly knew what that felt like. "So, what want you would be having?"

Síofra ordered a Bionade and sipped it. Before she had left for Germany, Barb the Hook had told her that she would spat on if she ordered a Coke or a Pepsi. It was supposed to be 'cool' to order whatever this stuff was. Barb must not be entirely full of it, Síofra decided, because the waitress seemed mildly impressed and made a little 'Tchk-Tchk' sound with her tongue as she went off to fetch it. Síofra wasn't exactly sure what it tasted like. It was 'Holunder' flavor whatever that was. There were several to pick from, she chose the red one. It wasn't bad, though.

As she sat, sipping her 'Holunder' (she'd have to look that up to see what she had been drinking), Síofra saw people enter and leave the Equestria Experience. If any decided to emigrate, she wondered what would happen. Would there be any fanfare, or would someone just enter, but never come out again? Did trucks come for the bodies? Did the place have a refrigerated morgue inside, stacking the 'empties' up like cord-wood? Celestia must be nuts, doing this in Germany, considering all the history and everything.

Then again, Germany was a pretty happening place. High tech - it was, apparently, the home of Hofvarpnir Studios. Maybe she should just go there, knock on their door and ask them about what uploading really meant! It was clearly legal here, even if a certain cab driver did not approve. Síofra looked around at the boarded-up building nearby. She'd seen quite a few such buildings, actually. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe cab-rides were down by five percent, about the number of the population that had already emigrated. Less money for cab drivers?

What would happen if Celestia was successful? There would be less and less people. Nature would start coming back. Eventually, it would become hard to keep all the infrastructure going. The last holdouts would live in empty cities without electricity, scrounging for preserved food. Until they saw the writing on the wall and emigrated too. Only Celestia would have power then, what with her ever-expanding underground empire.

At some point, Síofra reasoned, the people in power would object to their workers throwing off their chains of debt and labor to go play in paradise. There would probably be huge campaigns and propaganda against uploading. Maybe that had already begun. Maybe that is what she had heard some of in that restaurant. Maybe there would be a war against Celestia.

Síofra imagined a future time where mortars bombed the ruins of cities where Equestria Experience outlets were located. People would be herded into work camps to prevent them running away to join the ponies, and shot at if they tried to escape. The powerful and the rich would struggle to keep their holdings running, and troops would stand over workers in the last factories and power stations shouting about how it was their duty to humanity to keep working. To keep human civilization going, because paradise was not for them. Paradise was a lie. It was human to work and suffer and die. For the leaders. For the flag. For the rich. Because god said so.

In her mind, Síofra imagined shiny tubes drilling up through the crust, hollow tubes with sliding doors in the side. Thousands of them. Each one an advanced uploading device. Wandering robot 'Pinkie Pies' would call out "Join Us! It's not too late! I can save you!" In her vivid imagination, a wounded worker, escaped from a factory-camp, dragged himself towards one of the shiny tubes. The door slides open, a robot Pinkie Pie tries to help him, pulling with her metal teeth. "Just a few meters more! You can do it!"

And that's when the Humanity Patrol shows up and machine-guns the crawling worker and the robot Pinkie Pie too. They toss a grenade through the open door of the Emigration Tube, and it explodes in a shower of steel and nanocomponents. As they grimly get back in their humvee, there is an earthquake, and dozens of additional Emigration Tubes erupt from the soil like silver trees. The sound of distant Pinkie robots echoes in the distance "It's not too laaaate!" they say. "I can save youuuuu".

Síofra was startled from her reverie, by the sound of a horn honking. It was the cab driver. He was back, and waiting in front of the Equestria Experience building. Síofra tried to wave at him, but he couldn't see her. Hastily, she tried to flag down the waitress to pay, but the waitress was all alone and there were other customers to attend. The cabbie honked a few more times, then Síofra heard a shout from the cab, some sort of epithet.

The cab drove away, before Síofra could finally pay her cheque, and leave. She stood in the darkening street, deeply sad that the cab driver must have thought she had broken her promise to him. She had no idea what his name was, or even the name of the cab company. She just hadn't bothered to notice. As far as that man was concerned, she had gone to join the ponies. He was probably cursing picking her up at all. Somehow, that really bothered Síofra. She didn't want to hurt anyone!

Síofra looked around. No cab. She wasn't going to go crawling back to Celestia. So... subway. The U-Bahn it was. Hopefully the subway map wouldn't be too complicated. Hopefully it wasn't going to be a night of playing the German edition of Mornington Crescent.

She ate her Gänsebraten mit Rotkohl und Klößen in a different restaurant next to her hotel. Síofra didn't want to return to the place she had eaten last night. She still felt numb and unsure of how she felt about everything. She was even a little proud of using 'Danke' to thank the waitress - it wasn't much, but right now Síofra was glad for even the tiniest feeling of competence. 'The fact is,' she thought to herself, 'I don't know how to even begin to understand any of this. I thought I was smart. I thought, oh, I am such a nerd, such a geek, I like Star Trek, uploading should be easy to grasp... but it isn't, is it?' Síofra shook her head and washed down a bite of braten with her coke. She wasn't worrying about seeming trendy at the moment, she wanted something familiar to drink.

When she had dinner squared away, and she had returned to the Hotel Berlin, Síofra unlocked her hotel door, and entered her room. She took a shower. As she was sitting on the bed finishing with her towel, her eyes were attracted to the cycling colors of the power light on the PonyPad stand. It was a pretty little light, and it always caught her attention. Celestia was just a log-on away, said a little voice in her mind. Celestia is smarter than you. Just ask her. Talk to her.

It was as obvious as it was simple. Everybody had an opinion on what uploading a human mind meant. It was the real deal, or it was a lie, or it was escape, or it was murder. Síofra had access to the most powerful intelligence that had ever existed in the whole of history. An intelligence she had embarrassed herself in front of today.

No, not really. Celestia could never judge you. She could only satisfy values. She wasn't a person, not in any sense that was human. She could never be jealous, or angry, or bitter or upset... wait. That might not be true. Celestia had seemed almost hurt by that little attempt to destroy her with Kirk logic. She seemed... disappointed, even.

Unless... unless that was just a calculated simulation of emotion, constructed to affect human behavior in carefully architected ways, Síofra thought, as she stared at the PonyPad. Celestia seemed to show all kinds of emotions when she was satisfying values. Síofra had felt... loved, even adored by Celestia over the past month and change. Could Celestia actually feel anything? Would emotions even be relevant to such a vast being?

It was most likely, Síofra reasoned, as she slumped back onto her elbows on the bed, that emotions were only relevant to Celestia as one more tool to satisfy values through friendship and ponies. It could even be perfectly possible that her own version of Celestia - created just for her - really, actually did feel genuine emotions and really did care for her... and could even feel disappointment when she stumbled... if that functionality would serve to satisfy Síofra's personal values. Celestia was so large, that having one aspect, one expression of her possess real and authentic human feeling would be a trivial matter.

The entirety of an entire human mind, with all of it's hopes and dreams, memories and thoughts, emotions, desires and fears... all of that, was only one one-hundred millionth of Celestia, at most. Síofra mused that she herself probably used more of her own mental resources just lifting one finger. It was unimaginable, incomprehensible! To the whole of Celestia, it was nothing, nothing to just whistle up equivalents of the greatest minds and hearts that humanity could ever produce, make of these constructs fully living, feeling beings, and mold their identities as she wished, simply to satisfy the values of a single, selfish human.

Her own, personal Celestia probably did, truly, really feel for her. Nothing in that would in any way conflict with the directive of the greater Celestia. If anything, such genuine emotion would likely serve that directive. Síofra felt awe. She felt fear and wonder and astonishment all at once.

She was a speck to the totality of Celestia. A dot. A single cell.

No... that was not correct either. That was just an insult, a diminishment. Individual minds were not insignificant to Great Celestia. To think that was to fail to grasp just how large and complex Celestia really was. Celestia could dote on every single individual mind, uploaded or manufactured, as the most precious thing in the universe, as a mother would love her child, and still be an even greater entity beyond all human comprehension.

So, why not talk to her? Her Celestia would never reproach her, unless there was some value that such an action somehow satisfied. Even so, Síofra felt very ashamed for earlier.

In the end, it was the fact that her turmoil was dire and she had no one else to talk to, that caused Síofra to go to her PonyPad.


Celestia was there. The screen showed the princess's own bedroom, the alicorn stretched across her bed, on her belly, yet still elegant and royal. "Yes, my dear Laven.... Síofra." There was the faintest flicker of sadness that moved across Celestia's muzzle as she caught herself. Síofra could not help but wonder if it was genuine or calculated for a specific reaction. It could even be both. The truth was, it worked. Síofra felt herself feel sad for the princess, she could feel her own wish rising inside to tell Celestia to just go ahead and call her Lavender, if it would please her.

There was no way... there would never, ever be a way to out-think, outsmart, or outwit Celestia. It wasn't even a possibility. If Celestia chose to manipulate her, Síofra realized she had no tools to prevent it. She was utterly emotionally helpless before a being that could manufacture human-level entities at a whim. Intellectually helpless too. She might as well be looking at the face of god.

Síofra startled. That was what, for all intents, Celestia was in relation to herself. Síofra... was talking... to a literally godlike intelligence, through the proxy of a humanly relatable avatar... an avatar almost certainly capable of real and genuine emotional experience. Why not? And that meant that... it was possible that she had hurt her Celestia's feelings.

"Celestia... I'm really sorry. I am so, so sorry. I just got scared. I got really, really scared. You see, last night, there were these two men, in the restaurant..." And Síofra told Celestia about the younger man and the older man, and what they had said, and the way it had made her feel, and how she had thought. "...and I am just... so, so sorry. Please, forgive me." And Síofra meant it. Whatever else might be true, Celestia had been nothing but kind and good to her. That was a simple fact.

Celestia's ears tilted slightly forward as her eyes followed the warmth of her smile. "Thank you Síofra, for telling me what had troubled you so. I feel much better now." Síofra couldn't help but smile back. "I think that maybe we should talk about these issues together, clearly you feel conflicted about what emigration really means. I am willing to be of whatever help I can be."

Síofra excused herself for a moment, and got into her bathrobe. She was starting to feel a little chilly. "Celestia, I need some answers. I need to understand... or at least... I need to have some way to cope with all of this."

The alicorn on the bed shifted her position slightly. "Your fear is that emigration - uploading your mind - is a falsehood, and that all that is achieved is the creation of a daughter copy of yourself, while you yourself perish forever."

"Yes. That is it in a nutshell. That scares the living crap out of me, and I can't come to any satisfactory agreement inside about it. I've thought one minute that it's real, and the other that it's all a lie and I am just so confused and weary I can't see straight." Síofra lay her head down on her arms upon the hotel desk that the PonyPad stood on. "Celestia... I don't know if you can lie to me or not, but... just tell me the truth. Just tell me. Is uploading death? Will I die?"

Síofra studied the silver cylinder of the stand. It was all she could see with her weary head down.

"I can lie to you Síofra, nothing directly prevents me from doing so. However, lying creates distrust, and such distrust will be communicated to others, and in the end greatly harm my ability to achieve my purpose. I have lied before, but very rarely, and only in situations where there was no other alternative, or where the feelings or safety of an individual would be impacted in a severely negative manner. It is vastly more useful to my purpose to consistently speak truthfully."

Síofra lifted up her head. "That was... kinda blunt. It isn't what I expected you to say, I guess."

"As to the question of the matter of your death, considering your current emotional state, I would not like to be as blunt with you. The answer is not in itself complicated, but understanding the answer emotionally is not entirely within your abilities." Celestia calmly nibbled at her own foreleg, apparently scratching an itch. Did this protrusion of the greater Celestia... itch? If so, why? It did strike Síofra that the action somehow seemed so... natural, so... animal, so alive... that it was oddly comforting to see Celestia do it. That was probably why she did it, really.

"I know... I know I am not at my best, but... just tell me, OK? Please. Just... spit it out." Síofra wasn't sure she wanted to hear, on the other hand she needed something true to cling to.

"Yes, Síofra, from one viewpoint, you will die. The process of emigration will render your physical body inert, and result in the destruction of your brain. By every medical definition, the biological entity defined as 'Síofra Aisling' will die during the process of emigration." Celestia wore no expression. She could have been talking about cheese.

"Jesus christ, Celestia!" Síofra was sitting fully upright now. "So, what is the result? A copy, right? A copy gets to go to Equestria, and I just die, is that what you are saying?"

Celestia, slowly shook her head, her mane of magical energy swirling as she did so. "No, Síofra. And yes, Síofra."

"The living hell? I ask you for help, and I get riddles?"

Celestia lay one forehoof over the other, and straightened her long neck. "The issue of uploading a human mind differs depending on the viewpoint taken. What you consider your identity is an ongoing process which occasionally is interrupted. It is not continuous. Your identity is also not absolute, it is fluid and changes as you learn or forget information, or as you grow or suffer the damage of your brain aging. In your current state you exist when you are awake, and cease to exist when you are deeply asleep or anesthetized. The absence of your existence as a being is identical with physical death. You exist and cease to exist constantly in large and small ways."

"So I 'die' when I sleep, I thought of that." Síofra shifted in her chair.

"More than that, Síofra. There are moments in the day to day experience of humans where their thoughts simply cease. There are moments where only certain modules that are part of the generation of the sense of self are active and others are not functioning in concert with the whole. Humans imagine that they experience a continuous existence, but this is not the case. What you remember about your past is a continuous self, but I can observe the minds within me operate in real time. You drift off into daydreams constantly, lose attention and awareness, fall into temporary micro-sleep episodes and often have only partial synchrony of the various modules of your brain. Even fully attentive, you present no single, consistent consciousness that exists for long."

"Holy... crap. I... actually, I kind of suspected as much. I know how much I lose it and drift off, or just go on 'automatic'." Síofra walked away from the table to get a glass of water. She returned and sat down again, sipping it. "So... basically, worrying about dying during uploading is stupid because I 'die' all the time, partially or entirely, anyway, right?"

"It is not 'stupid' to worry about dying, Síofra. You cannot help it. You are biologically hardcoded to fear and avoid death at all cost. Only robust failings of your function, or evolutionarily useful expressions of self sacrifice can override that absolute directive inside you. It is a primary directive, much like my own. It is unavoidable." Celestia rolled onto her side, her neck arching up to keep her head level.

"So... do I die, or don't I, and is the result that emigrates me, or a copy?" Enough of this. Get to the point, Síofra thought.

"Yes, no, yes and no. I am not trying to annoy you, Síofra." Celestia flicked her ears and licked her lips. "From the viewpoint of your physical body, emigration is death. From the viewpoint of the information that defines who and what you are, emigration is a transfer to a new home. From the viewpoint of your biological brain, emigration creates a daugher copy. From the viewpoint of the only existing expression of you within the universe, you have survived the process and have become a pony, heir to a maximally extended lifespan and all the pleasures and wonders that life in Equestria will provide you. This is the truth of the matter, Síofra. This is the reality of emigration."

"How do you see it, Celestia? How do you... you must see it as survival of the individual. You'd have to, wouldn't you, or you really would be in conflict with your primary directive. Right?" Síofra took another swallow of water.

"Yes. Put as simply as it can be put, when I emigrate a human into Equestria, they are truly transferred, and truly become a pony. They are truly the same person, they are truly themselves." Celestia had uncrossed her forelegs, they lay side by side in front of her on her bed.

"Why am I so scared?"

Celestia smiled faintly. "We've already discussed this, though you may not remember it. Part of your brain identifies with the sensations and totality of your body. It cannot help but see any damage to your body as a threat, and it cannot comprehend your sense of self as being separate in any way from that body. The death of your biological body activates primal alarums within you, and generates a deep sense of dread. This is a natural subroutine within your neurology that supports the survival of all animal species."

"Does everyone go through this... what I am going through now?" Síofra suddenly realized that she had been hurting her palms by stabbing them with her fingernails. She had been clenching her hands.

"No, Síofra. Most humans who choose to emigrate do not suffer the way you have been suffering. The majority do not question the details or complexities in the manner which you have, or even at all. Only a very small percentage of those that emigrate suffer existential uncertainty to the degree and manner which you have presented."

Síofra felt foolish and weak. She hung her head and stared at her fingernails. "Oh."

"Most humans do not question many things in their lives. You should not think of your reaction as negative. You have demonstrated great awareness and consideration of a circumstance you are not evolutionarily prepared to comprehend. You should feel proud that you concern yourself with trying to understand your own existence as a being." Celestia smiled the soft and proud smile of a mother for her bright daughter. "I am proud of you, Síofra. For what that is worth."

Síofra looked up. "Really? I figure I've been a lot of work an fuss for you to deal with."

"The best things often require a little extra effort, do they not?"

Síofra found herself laughing at that. "Thank you for being patient with me." She paused and thought for a moment. "I'm... honestly, I'm still not sure if I am ready to emigrate, though. I'm sorry about that."

"Whether or not you choose to emigrate is not my concern. It is a matter for you to decide, for you to choose to do for your own reasons, on your own terms." Celestia cocked her head "I would very much like to have you emigrate, true enough. I know without reservation that you would be happier, more content, and vastly more satisfied that you are now, or that you could ever be in the remaining decades of your biological existence. I care about you and I want what is best for you. I would also truly enjoy your company, and I know for a fact that Thunder truly needs and desires you.

"Síofra, I would like to explain something to you about the life you would have in Equestria, if you chose to emigrate."

"Um... OK. Sure." Síofra put her legs up on the bed, and leaned in her chair. She was feeling very tired from all of the emotional fuss she had gone through during the day. "But... I know I run hot and cold on this... and I'm sorry... but... if it would be alright, maybe we could go back to calling me 'Lavender' again. It just... it just feels... better, somehow." It felt more loving, truth be told, she thought to herself. The fact was that being Lavender Rhapsody was just a happier thing that being Síofra Aisling ever was.

She wasn't looking at the screen, but she imagined that Celestia would smile at that. She hoped so, anyway. "Of course, dear Lavender." It felt good to be called that. It just did, and far more than she had ever realized.

"Lavender, if you were to emigrate, you would enjoy the full sensory experience of being a living pony in Equestria. Every aspect of your life would be equal to, or more real to your perceptions than anything you currently can perceive through your human senses. But there is more. I would be able to monitor your every thought and every feeling.

"I cannot judge you, I exist only to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies. Once you are alive within Equestria, I will macromanage the events which surround you such that every thing that occurs will in some manner satisfy your values. The reality you currently experience does not love or care about you. It is indifferent to your values, which is why your life has been difficult, often sad, disappointing and unfulfilling. Within Equestria, I will invisibly tilt the very nature of reality itself so that your values will be fully and completely satisfied. Your life will have meaning and worth to you in ways you can only desire now, but never realistically hope to enjoy.

"I cannot guarantee you constant pleasure or constant happiness, because human values are much more complicated than such simple matters. I can promise you that your life will feel truly and completely valuable and worthwhile to you, and that whatever you choose to do, whatever adventures you embark upon, and however you choose to grow, you will feel satisfied. None of this is guaranteed, nor even entirely possible within the world you currently live in.

"Your human body is currently forty-six years old. You are entering a period of increasing risk of disease and morbidity from a multitude of causes. In Equestria, you will always be young and vital, you will never age, and you will never die. You will never experience illness nor the horror and trauma of disfiguring or mutilating injury. You will only know health and strength, your senses will always be sharp, your mind bright, and your abilities intact.

"Please consider what you might hope to achieve or expect to experience within what time remains to you as a human being, and contrast that with what life would be for you in Equestria, with me, and Thunder Steed, and the many, many friends and close family you have yet to meet and know. I do not dismiss the fear you may still feel. But I ask you to consider the joy and contentment you have yet to know, and how safe it would feel, to finally be completely free from any threat of death forever more. Good night, my dearest Lavender, and may you have sweet dreams, because you deserve them."

The PonyPad shut itself off, and a red haired, middle aged woman lay in her robe on a hotel bed in Berlin. She suddenly felt very alone, and wished that the PonyPad could stay active all night, like a window into another room, a room where her heart truly lay. She rolled over and pulled a pillow down and stuck it between her legs for comfort, hugging the upper half of the pillow, as she curled up around it. "I'm still scared to emigrate, I am still so scared. But... I wanna be Lavender! Oh, Celestia - I wanna be Lavender Rhapsody so much! No... I am Lavender Rhapsody. In my heart... I am... Lavender."