So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies
Authors Note; A large number of concepts and jokes in this fiction may require knowledge of the original masterpiece this work is partially based on. Concepts like the Infinite Improbability Drive, Whole Sort of General Mish-Mash or Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster can most easily be explained by a quick look at http://hhgproject.org/index.html, or just reading the books. Furthermore, I am assuming that pony style life forms are as ubiquitous as human style life forms seemed to be in the original work.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of ponies;
The concise, and indeed abrupt nature of certain portions of this compendium of knowledge is due in part to lack of space, but more to the total lack of competence, motivation and sobriety of the vast majority of the guide’s staff. The fact that races very similar to ponies inhabit a fairly large portion of the galaxy apparently only increases the irrelevance of any entry on ponies.
"Why write about what people already zarking know? The damn things are pretty much endemic to half the galaxy!" as Stagyar Zil Doggo once said, and forcefully for he had not yet had a chance to have lunch, to the unfortunate writer who had suggested perhaps elaborating somewhat.
The fact that a major type of life form fails to get an entry over one word, while articles on far more obscure, if interesting, subjects can run to the thousands of words tells rather more about the guide than most staff would want to be known. The article on Equestria for example, despite being only a single land on a single, uncontacted world, is quite long, whereas none of the millions of races that are sufficiently equid in nature to be called “ponies” warrant so much as a footnote, nor does the apparent tendency for life to gravitate towards the small, quadrupedal and adorable warrant mention.
More popular than the "Celestia's Homecare" omnibus, better selling than "Fifty-Three More Things to Do When Trapped in the Moon", and more controversial than the infamous "Cupcakes" fanfiction, this wholly remarkable book has the rare distinction of existing in almost all layers of reality. In almost no way of looking at The Whole Sort Of General Mish-Mash (as it is technically known) is there not a guide for seeing the marvels of the universe, surviving fantastic encounters with horrific monsters and finding the nearest and cheapest intoxicants wherever one happens to find oneself. But like so many things, the story of the book can be traced back to some remarkably unremarkable people. A group of ponies from Equestria were not among them particularly, except inasmuch as they were involved in the fate of the galaxy writ large. At this moment in time they are utterly unaware of their destiny, even for the next five minutes. It is possible, were they to know their destiny BEYOND the next five minutes, they would have given it one look before throwing up their hooves and giving up on the entire thing.
The fact that one among them was not of the same species as the others had not occurred to any of them. Well, the thought had occurred to all of them at least once, but none of them had given it serious consideration. If any of them had done so, or had they compared notes, they might have become convinced, for though she took great care to seem like a normal earth pony, but she was about as competent at this task as any other roving writer for the aforementioned guide would be. Luckily for her cover, the others quickly learned to dismiss any odd behaviour on her part as "Just being Pinkie Pie", and therefore just a part of nature; like the sun being magically lifted up every day, and pegasi orchestrating the weather.
Sugar Cube Corner was silent at present. Well, almost. There were a few clops, a bang or two, and a muffled expletive. A single tired Pegasus stumbled out of the front door, one eye half closed, the other fully so. She tossed her rainbow mane out of her eyes, and immediately regretted it as the headache that had so far only been knocking politely on the front door of her mind, now barged in and demanded to know exactly how much she had drunk last night. Carefully, she stepped back inside, doing her best not to invoke the wrath of the hideous monster that was her hangover.
Water. Need water. The singular thought drove her to the kitchen.
As she attached herself to the tap, another blurry shape came down the stairs. She focused hard as her throat gyrated, trying to remember what orange was, and what this indicated about the pony joining her.
Rainbow decided that the orange thing was probably friendly, and extended a greeting.
Applejack stared at her friend, who was obviously in no mood to converse. The earth pony was made of sturdier stuff than her rainbow maned friend, and was one of those ponies capable of knocking back an almost fatal dose of alcohol and suffering next to no ill effects. Beyond those that would be fairly standard for anypony suddenly in possession of more hooves than she could conceivably cope with of course, hangovers were not her problem. She leaned against a wall, watching as Dash pulled away from the tap and sat on the floor, apparently now more ready to deal with the world.
"Where’s everypony else?" she rasped, rubbing her head.
"Well, Twi's asleep on Pinkies bed, ah don't think she's gonna be too badly off. Pinkie's just stirrin', an' if I know her, she'll be feelin' friskier than…" Before Applejack could summon a suitable simile, a pink maned ball of confusion came flying down the stairs, pushing ahead of it two startled ponies and one startled dragon: Fluttershy gave a squeak of terror as she approached the ground floor at speed, wings locked tight to her sides. Spike span in the air as his small frame reflexively blew fire from his nostrils, narrowly avoiding singeing the purple unicorn who just had time to summon a pile of cushions from nowhere at the bottom of the stairs, into which all three fell with a whump, and the faint smell of burning feathers. Rarity followed regally a moment later, obviously having had just sufficient time to do her hair effectively, clean her makeup and even evade the party pony. Before anypony could open their mouths to forge a sensible conversation, Pinkie gave a cough, and, in the most serious voice any of them had ever heard her use she began.
“Everypony? I have something to say.”
She looked so uncharacteristically serious that none of them even considered interrupting her. Pinkie Pie was not usually given to taking control like this.
"Ok you guys, I have to tell you the most important thing you're ever going to hear, I have to tell you now, and I have to tell you while you're all sitting down because it's super duper important for you to hear but it’s also kinda frightening and I don't want anypony to fall over or anything, and I know that you're all probably thinking this is just “Pinkie being Pinkie” and although I'm still Pinkie and I'm going to be Pinkie for the rest of my life I am not just being Pinkie here when I tell you I wasn't always Pinkie."
It was an impressively long run-on sentence, and the other ponies and dragon were all fighting internal battles on the twin fronts of Not Letting Your Face Show Amusement and Following What The Hell Pinkie Just Said, with varying degrees of success. Dash was fighting yet another battle, the hard front of Not Giving Up On The Entire Concept Of Living.
She rallied sufficiently to enquire what the hell she, Pinkie, was talking about, and how she, Pinkie, expected her, Dash, to listen properly when her, Pinkie's, voice was several octaves higher than was comfortable for her, Dash. This also when she, Dash, was seriously considering going straight back to her, Dash's, bed, because she, Dash, had a thoroughly impressive hangover and was not in the mood for this sort of thing first thing in the morning. The others concurred, but without resorting to the multiple expletives that have been left out for decency’s sake. Seemingly unfazed, Pinkie continued.
"What would you guys say if I said I wasn't actually raised on a rock farm?" Start them out slow, she thought.
Twilight scoffed a little. "Frankly Pinkie, I’m surprised that you expected us to believe that in the first place. Rocks aren't like the weather you know, they happen without ponies helping out."
"I mean, what if I said I wasn't from Equestria?” The others looked blank. “If I said I came from somewhere completely different? I mean if I said I actually just came here one day and got stuck, and then never tried to leave because I was just having so much fun and then I met you guys and everything was so great that I couldn't tell you because then you would think I was a big lying liar pants and you wouldn't wanna be my friends anymore?” The blankness intensified. “What If I said I actually came from a planet just a teensy bit away from Betelgeuse?" She looked around at them with a fragile smile.
Silence filled the room. The silence hung around for a few moments, waiting to be ejected from proceedings. Twilight was looking Pinkie in the eyes. She felt, as the only one who knew exactly what and where Betelgeuse was, she should have a little more to offer, but all of her calculations told her it was FAR too far away to ever teleport to, and the prospect of flying there was frankly ridiculous. Applejack had gone slack jawed. She knew a lie when she saw one, and this wasn't one. Dash was wondering if she had heard the pink pony correctly, or if she had just missed several steps in the conversation. She was prepared to believe either. Rarity was gearing up to comment, but it was Fluttershy who broke the silence, which by now had begun to feel awkward with itself.
"Um." Pinkie peered at the pastel pony, who screwed up her courage and said in a small voice "Why are you telling us now?"
Pinkie gave a little yelp.
"OOOH! Because the world is ending in two minutes!"
The ponies stared. The silence which had only just been ejected from proceedings slunk back in the door, and settled itself down for a long stay. It was rudely turfed out by an unexpected sound from somewhere above. It was a voice, and a truly horrible one at that. It spoke equine in a manner likely to cause the most hardened, deafened and possibly even dead pony to cringe in horror. It was a voice with nothing good to say, and no inclination to even try. It echoed around the the room, seeming to come off of every surface, reverberating with unspeakable malice.
"People of Equestria” It began “your attention please, this is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, your planet has been declared in violation of northern galactic planning zone under Galactic Planning Law statute 1F32JJI: An inhabited planet operating with an unlicensed and impossible stellar mass. As two letters have been sent to your local planning office and there has been no response, your planet has regrettably been scheduled for demolition.” The voice very clearly did not consider the demolition regrettable in the slightest. “The process will take slightly less than two of your Equestrian minutes. Thank you very much." There was a click, followed by the sound of laboured breathing.
“How do you turn this thing off then?” the voice asked petulantly. Some unseen hand must have helped, because the sound dropped out.
Rarity turned to face Pinkie. “If this is some sort of joke Pinkie...” but the look of horror on her friend’s face told her that this most certainly was not.
“Sounds like they got here.”
“You don’t want to know.”
All six ponies dashed outside, dragging Spike along, who for his part had remained stunned for the duration of the previous events. All over Ponyville, ponies of all kinds were staring directly upwards. Hanging silently in the sky, huge, yellow, metallic and with absolutely zero regard for either aesthetics or its own weight, hung something.
It was not quite cubic, with every last part of it somehow contriving to utterly fail to please the eye in a new and unpleasant way. Where it should have been clean it was dirty, where dirt would have hidden the nastiness, it was polished to a shine. Rust clung like some hideous creature to corners, large enough to be visible even from ground level, and the official looking markings were fonted and kerned in such a way as to induce nausea even in an illiterate. Rarity almost fainted dead away at the sight. Ponies did not have radio, so there was no voice to answer this challenge to their existence. The Prostetnic Captain, slightly disappointed at not being able to lecture the planet below and get himself properly angry, pressed the button, set to Rubble. As horrified ponies watched, beams of light stabbed down.
The sound was almost as unpleasant as the ships had been. A deep, bass boom extending into a howl as displaced wind flared out in all directions from contact points across the planet. For there had been hundreds of ships, thousands, positioned all over the lonely planet with its own orbiting sun and moon, which now flew away into space as the planet they had served boiled away to nothingness. The sun would go on to collide with a large meeting of record company executives, which just goes to show that all events have their bright side. The moon, and the rubble which once served as a home for millions of intelligent beings, spread thinly out into the cosmos, all new silicate flotsam for the interstellar void. For a moment, an after image of the planet hung in the sky as a perfect sphere of yellow chunky ships sat still, apparently in the middle of nowhere. Then they peeled away, leaving nothing behind.
And so the end of the world happened. It ended without complaint, and slightly ahead of schedule, which would at least give the captain something to write on his reports and potentially get angry about. Really, very little of this story was ever going to concern Equestria, better to hurry on without getting bogged down.
The Hitchhikers Guide, in a moment of surprising clarity, mentions that the minds of most races are simply not geared to deal with certain events, especially tragedy beyond a certain scale. One death is a tragedy, but the induced upset per life reduces exponentially, to the point where 10,000 deaths is very much the same as 11,000 deaths. Very few beings are capable of properly comprehending more than a few without just filing the full extent of the event at the back of their mind, marked "Do not open". This is a defence mechanism, as the full tragedy of even a single life extinguished before its time is something few would be able to cope with, let alone the uncounted trillions that have done so thus far in the universe.
For any event wherein there was significant loss of life, most beings will be aware that it is a bad thing, but will not feel it on a personal level. This is made easier if the event happened far away, at least on a different part of their planet, and preferably on the other side of the galaxy. One race which, by some quirk of evolutionary psychology did not gain this ability are the Mardajons of Lepluss. They are solitary purple creatures which spend almost all of their lives paralysed with grief, as they feel every single death as if it were deeply personal. Their economy subsists almost entirely on the production of dark corners to sit shaking in, paper bags to hide from the world in, and military grade intoxicants of all kinds. The only reason the Mardajons have yet to die out, is that solace is often enough sought carnally, and the Mardajons, by another quirk of nature, happen to be frightfully good at breeding. This is a shame, because a nice clean extinction would be a boon to them all. This simply goes to show that while evolution is the driving force behind all life in the universe, it can mess things up just as well as an inattentive god could. The guide goes on to explain that the Mardajons were particularly grateful when partisan politics were invented, as this enabled them to stop caring about others at all.
Not being among their number, our six ponies and one baby dragon were not as fazed as one might have thought by the wholesale destruction of their home planet. This event was simply too big to think about. Another reason that they weren't upset right at this second, was that they were all, with the exception of Pinkie, unconscious. She had been through a matter transference beam before after all, and she took the opportunity to think.
Had it been a good idea to get them all drunk last night? Admittedly she herself had barely woken up in time, but all in all she had learned that a hangover had the effect of causing enough self pity that a pony could ignore almost anything, and this assisted with a first try at non-magical teleportation. And how else could she have brought them all together? Since the magic of alcohol had been discovered by the group, it seemed that whenever she threw one of her ordinary trademark Pinkie Pie Parties, it generally gravitated towards the stuff. Besides, it had worked right? It was a shame she couldn't have brought more along, but even seven beings was stretching it for something done without the Vogons noticing and locking them out. As it was, they had arrived intact in a rather squalid, but currently unoccupied sleeping quarters. Thank Celest... well, thank somepony for the Dentrassi. Without them, hitching a lift with Vogons would be impossible on a very VERY good day, and suicidal on all of the other days. She peered into her bag, making sure she had everything she needed. In addition to the electronic thumb she had used to hitch a ride, she had her towel, her sub-ether radio, which she had used to pick up news of the arrival of the Vogons, and a copy of that most remarkable book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sighing, she scrolled down to the entry on Equestria. These days places had unnaturally rapid updates, as revisions could be beamed from the future when the news finally reached the editor. She stared. Oh. This was going to be awkward to explain.
Back in the void left behind by Jeltz, a bright spark of golden light moved around, trailed by another purple one. Slowly, a worldlet formed, growing. Water bubbled up, creating seas and lakes, mountains sprouted like snowy spines and grass spread like spilled paint. Had anyone looked closely, they would have seen towns, roads, houses forming. A tall white alicorn followed by a smaller purple one strode along, and life spread out from them in ripples. Ponies frozen in the act of peering upwards were magicked back into existence, an orbiting sun and moon formed above, spinning gently.
“So, just one second Sugarcube, why exactly can’t we go back?” Applejack’s voice was patient, barely.
“Weeeell…” Pinkie bit her lip. “Apparently Celestia is so super duper powerful she could have just remade the whole planet around us again and we wouldn’t even have noticed. And she did, including everypony there. Everypony, and that means us. We’ll have been brought back to live out our normal lives and we can’t exactly go back, I mean how weird would that be, there’d be two of me and although that would mean really super awesome parties and some great pranks and all sorts of…”
“So what do we do now?” Twilight interrupted.
“We could try hiding.”
“From what exactly?”
“The ship’s owners, I don’t think they’ll want us onboard.”
“Can’t we talk to them?”
“Not unless we are really really unlucky.”
“But they let us on didn’t they?”
Pinkie bit her lip again, and sucked air through her teeth. “Not technically”
Pinkie looked around as the clanging of boots sounded in the hallway. “Also, it looks like the Vogons have found us and are almost certainly going to be really mean and throw us off the ship and I really don’t think we can persuade them to turn around and drop us off.”
Rainbow Dash facehoofed, the others just stood dumbstruck. As large green shapes came through the door, only Applejack could say anything.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 2
Authors Note; A large number of concepts and jokes in this fiction may require knowledge of the original masterpiece this work is partially based on. Concepts like the Infinite Improbability Drive, Whole Sort of General Mish-Mash or Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster can most easily be explained by a quick look at http://hhgproject.org/index.html, or just reading the books. Furthermore, I am assuming that pony style life forms are as ubiquitous as human style life forms seemed to be in the original work.
Twilight, her head locked in position and her ears affixed to specially shaped recitation reception dishes, rolled her eyes around to her other friends. All were tied in place, standing only on hind hooves with their forehooves up in a most unnatural and uncomfortable position. They had fought but there had just been too many of them, too many big green shapes grabbing at them, piggy eyes and leering smiles on stubble encrusted, many chinned necks, official Vogon rubber fedoras placed proudly on top. They had been hustled, kicking, screaming and with the occasional disharge of magic down dirty corridor after dirty corridor, while big smelly bipeds bellowed in a strange and guttural language. Now they were stuck, and the fact that Pinkie looked the most afraid of all of them told Twilight they were in for a bad time.
Vogon creative spirit is widely renowned, for all the wrong reasons. The most potentially destructive element is their poetry, but most Vogons at least dabble in many other forms of art. Their composing, drawing writing and oratory skills are universally lamentable. Their poetry may be the third worst in the cosmos, but Vogon fanfiction is without doubt at least the second worst fanfiction in the known universe. Though not quite as toxic as their poetry, it is written with the express intent of making the author feel happy, and when the author is a large, slug-brained, bloody-minded, petty, vindictive and generally unpleasant bureaucrat, the result is something truly horrifying. And it was to this that our unfortunate heroes were now subjected. Vogons know exactly the right fiction to bring out to really upset their guests, and so Jeltz had brought out his forty thousand-word epic on his ponysona, and how it had saved the universe.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz had one stubby arm held before him, grasping a battered manuscript, his other hand holding a pair of miniscule reading glasses underneath his nose. He was holding forth with great enthusiasm. The fact that Pinkie Pie was the only one capable of understanding the story did nothing to reduce the suffering felt by the others, as true art, and it’s equal and opposite anti-art, transcends language barriers, and though specific details went unnoticed, the general idea definitely made it through the recital.
“… And so Jeltz Embersparkler stormshadow rainboomer tosed his chaging colured mane and it flowwed like changing rainbow fires over his enormous sexy wings and his horn split it down the middl like a horn splittin fantastic sexy hair cause thats what it was…”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has many omissions, and as a general rule the only way to be sure that it contains an article on any specific subject, is to make sure that said subject revolves around something the guide staff are actually interested in. As such, the article on the fantastically dangerous planet Sirenium V does not note the fact that the beautiful women broadcasting requests for company and judges for bikini contests have an unfortunate tendency to tear any intrepid or lonely explorers into several thousand pieces, apparently for the fun of it. Instead, it goes into rather disturbing anatomical detail, and the article ends half way through a sentence.
One article that could do with rather more information is the article on the unconscious self-defence mechanisms that most evolved races develop, such as the production of adrenaline when scared. Quite what any species will do when exposed to absolute psychological torture, such as the reading of Vogon fanfiction, is difficult to predict without extensive experience. Twilight Sparkle is a unicorn of significant power, and her brain, right about the eighth contradictory element and the fifteenth overlong description, let the magic take over, in a desperate attempt to save her sanity. She managed to extend the magical field to take in her nearest friends, it’s just a shame three of them weren't close enough.
There was a brilliant flash of purple light, momentarily illuminating the recital room, and its many chairs and restraining devices. As the light faded, Jeltz put down the page and peered around through his small, sunken eyes. What they saw did not please them, and the report sent to the brain had the hormonal equivalent of “don't shoot the messenger” attached to it. Three of the ponies, and that little reptilian thing had vanished. He blinked, then felt a thrill of satisfaction. He was about to get angry.
“Who tied the prisoners up?” he slurred viciously.
His voice was dangerous, and it was clear that answering would be almost as fatal as not answering. A young Vogon, too new to know what to expect, raised a hand.
“Your vastness, that was left to...” he never got further than that, as Jeltz had just, in some small way, made the universe a better place.
“NO SNITCHING” he snarled, lowering the gun. “And if nobody tells me exactly who was responsible, ALL of you will be subject to disciplinary action.”
He waved the gun and internally smiled to himself. This was fun.
One of the Vogons suddenly became aware of a spreading pool of space around him. Novogon seemed to be moving, but certainly he was finding himself left alone in the room. He was very aware of the keycards on his belt, and the barrel of the gun, now pointed at his head. His brain, which due to the unique nature of Vogon evolution was a malformed and misplaced liver, worked faster than it had done ever before. Unfortunately, this was not saying much, promotion in Vogon society being based more on stubbornness and anger than anything, and his brain was very shortly on display, very viscerally indeed. The ponies left watching were frankly relieved, as at least the fanfic seemed to have been put on hold. Some of those sex scenes had sounded quite graphic. Jeltz gestured at them.
“Throw these ponies out of the nearest airlock immediately, the others can’t have gone far.”
Rough hands grasped Rainbow, Fluttershy and Rarity and hustled them out of the door. Jeltz picked a piece of liver spotted brain tissue off his weapon, and snorted in derision. His crew were learning how to avoid giving him even the slightest excuse to pick on them. Soon he would have to have a few of them promoted, so they could have a few new things to get wrong.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide states that evolution simply gave up on the Vogons, apparently from pure disgust. This is not technically true, it is truer to say that the concept of self improvement was not a wise thing to have on Vogsphere. Friendship might be magic in many places, but in Vogon terms, a good friend was someone no better than you. Any Vogon demonstrating Honesty, Generosity, Kindness, Laughter, Loyalty or even Magic would have been immediately and brutally disposed of. As for physical improvements? Forget about it. So, Vogons remained as they were for as long as it took to invent plastic surgery and space travel, and by then had become so good at bickering, stubbornness and pedantry that they very quickly rose near to the top of both the political and bureaucratic ladders in the galaxy. Indeed, there remains only one politician in the entire galaxy with no influence from Vogons, and he has been locked in a stasis field for many centuries and as such is in no position to do anything positive.
Twilight, Applejack, Pinkie and Spike meanwhile, found themselves in another cabin, somewhere else on the ship. All except Twilight had minor burns from the magical teleport, which although more pleasant than a scientifically achieved one, would singe the unprepared in transit. Twilight collapsed. Applejack was immediately on her feet, and with a grunt balanced the lilac pony on her back.
Spike was trembling. “Twilight?”
“She’s ok young’n, she just tired herself out is all.” The earth pony looked around. “Now where in tarnation‘re the others?”
Pinkie Jumped to her hooves “They must have been left behind! Behind with those big ol’ meany Vogons! They’ll throw them off the ship! We have to get to an escape pod and pick them up as they get blasted out! Come on!”
She galloped down the hall, Applejack keeping pace, Spike puffing along behind.
“But Pinkie!” he gasped “What the hell is an escape pod?”
“The hint is in the name!” she called back, eyes roving for directions on the walls. Escape pods, escape pods… she knew they would be near the outside of the ship, far enough away that novogon would be able to reach them in case of catastrophic failure of the ships engines or weapons. The only thing costlier than losing a ship was being sued by any surviving crewmates. She rounded a corner to find herself at a junction, where she pranced on her hooves awkwardly, looking this way and that.
“Belgium!” She swore violently “Why can’t the Vogons ever just put up a sign?”
A door a little way down one of the corridors opened, and a large furry head peered out. On seeing four beings flagrantly in violation of ship regulations, it broke into one of the broadest grins any of the ponies had seen. Pinkie’s did likewise.
“We need to get off this ship!” she called out “Where are the nearest escape pods?”
Applejack stared as the creature stepped out into the corridor. It was as tall as Celestia, and its long limbs ended with small dextrous fingers. It’s head seemed to be all smile, and when it spoke it came out as a series of howls that meant nothing to her.
Pinkie however answered in Equine.
“He just about exploded!”
The creature gave off a sound rather like a laugh, and jabbered away for a few more seconds, pointing down the corridor.
“Thank you!” Pinkie pelted down the corridor in the direction it had indicated, and Applejack, taking one last look the now waving figure, galloped after her.
The Dentrassi waited until they were gone, then made a call to the Captain, demanding a wage increase for emotional distress at having been attacked by escaped prisoners. The bellow of fury she recieved in return was all the payment she needed, and she got back to deliberately over-cooking the Jewelled crab that was to be dinner for the ships officers that night grinning like a loon. As professional relationships go, the one between the Vogons and the Dentrassi works surprisingly well, as long as the Dentrassi keep largely out of reach, and the Vogons continue to be dependant on others to take care of the catering. Dentrassi enjoy nothing quite so much as annoying Vogons, and Vogons enjoy nothing quite so much as being annoyed.
Meanwhile the others were being roughly ejected into a new room. It was small, and its dim metal walls showed marks, as of claws or fingernails being dragged quickly through them. Each set of claw tracks led towards one wall of the room, which was completely blank. Fluttershy stared around wide eyed.
Rainbow pounded at the door; “Lemme out, I’ll take all of you on!” She had momentarily forgotten how easily she had been subdued, and was ready to fight tooth and hoof to face the Vogons again. In her fury, she bucked at the door, which rang like a poorly tuned bell. For once, Rarity was ignoring the state of her appearance, including greasy handmarks on her previously perfect coat, her messed up coiffure and the tear-tracks in her eyeliner. She was concentrating. Her magic was geared for precision, enchantment, beauty. She could create dazzling illusions, light shows and many other things, but when it came to brute strength, such as punching through foot thick steel, she was out of luck. But she could feel electricity in the air. Intuitively, she began to sense a certain order to it. She closed her eyes and focused on this. Somehow, the computational language spoke to her well. Well, a Vogon ship didn’t speak well per se, it spoke in the sort of voice geared to yell obscene compliments and cat calls. She thought she could work out what some of it meant though, and there was something about doors here she was sure. With all her will she tried to narrow down what was the right way to talk back to the system, and her magic pulsed something which she thought must be an “open” command.
It’s a shame really how badly she went wrong; this was an impressive show of skill from a pony from a place which had barely any computers, and indeed from a pony unused to anything more complex than a sewing machine. The command she sent out did indeed contain the instruction to open, but it was not as specific as would have been wise. Every door within fifty metres responded as though they had been waiting for the command, including the airlock behind them.
Aboard a fantastically unusual ship, a boyish voice complained;
“Fluttershy, you’re turning into a tree, stop it!”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 3
In the days when the galactic government was just being forged, mighty civilizations crossed vast distances in sub-lightspeed ships, communicating across long wave sub-ether radio. In these ships, meaningful travel took an unfathomable amount of time, and what with the size of space (very big), even when two ships did arrange to meet, their meeting was largely spent playing an enormous game of interstellar Marco Polo. By the time hyperspace had been invented, and the journey time reduced to mere hours, there were a great many of these aging hulks stuck out there still trying to locate each other. At around this time, the use of the teleport was in its infancy, and beings were just being slung through millions of tiny wormholes in order to travel without ships, which is exactly as unpleasant as it sounds. Magical teleportation had existed more or less as long as magic, so the invention of a less reliable and less pleasant alternative looked like little more than the work of some sort of universal competition commission. Still, it is a universal fact that anything that exists will be morally objected to by somepony, someone or somepan-dimensional-monstrosity, and magical teleportation is no different. Religious groups, moral guardians and just plain jealous life-forms everywhere disdained magic in all its forms, in that unique kind of stupidity found only in intelligent species.
All of these methods of travel are infinitely less surreal than the Infinite Improbability Drive, which, although technically infinitely fast, has quite enough problems to keep it out of mass market by a significant margin. Any changes internal to the ship tend to be reversed on turning the machine off, but the fallout of so much improbability could cause many, many problems to anything it passes, anything from raining fish to the spontaneous creation and immediate combustion of the mayor of Warsaw. For anypony unused to the idea of infinite improbability, the effects of being on-board while the drive was active were very disturbing to say the least. To imagine what it is like, it is suggested that you consume at least two Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and stare directly into the mind of a complete lunatic. Or rather don’t, because that would be a silly thing to do.
Fluttershy squeeked in terror as her hooves seemed to melt into the floor separating at the base into solid tendrils. Her head was rising as her neck lengthened, and her hair seemed to bloom and separate into hundreds of... leaves?
“Fluttershy, you’re turning into a tree, stop it!”
Rainbow dash had backed into a wall, and as her fellow pegasus snapped back into her usual shape she turned to look for Rarity. “What the hay is going on?”
“Darling, please, try to compose yourself a little. If I am honestly expected to believe I am currently surrounded small dancing brooms wearing tacky shoes, I can hardly do it with you getting me more stressed than I already am. Some of us would like to go mad with dignity thank you.” Rarity huffed.
The universe around them twisted up like a sodden sponge being wrung out, and from it squeezed the very stuff of creation, which was a rather disappointing grey blue colour. From it grew a million new worlds, which groaned for an instant under their own sheer absurdity before popping out of existence again, leaving a smell like old dishwater.
“Then again,” Rarity said, sounding embarrassed “perhaps dignity can be discarded for a moment or two.” She got down from the pegasus’s back, to where she had leaped with a shriek as one of the lurid worlds had slid towards her, oozing caramel and swear words.
Fluttershy had backed towards them, and the three huddled together as everything continued to go completely and utterly oatmeal.
“Being a tree wasn’t how I expected it at all.”
“It never is” said a small clam as it hurtled past, caught in a tornado composed only of other shellfish.
“What’s happening to meeeee” Rarity cried as her hair grew rapidly, twirling and writhing into long tendrils. She rose up in the air, shrieking as the hair reached out for Rainbow Dash, who tried to fly away on wings that were suddenly eight times bigger than they had been moments ago. With one flap, she smashed into the ceiling, which stretched upwards like a trampoline before snapping back, passing clean through Rainbow, leaving only her hooves still visible, stuck in the apparently solid roof. The rest of her appeared directly beneath, her legs sunk in the floor, and her wings now normal sized, but facing backwards. Fluttershy made it to her, and grasping her around the middle tugged as hard as she could. Rainbow left the floor with a slurp, and the pair of them fell backwards into the solid wall of white and purple hair that was their unicorn friend.
“Rarity! Are you in there?” Rainbow called.
A muffled voice emerged from inside. “I think so, but I’m not entirely sure. How do I look?”
“Um, you look… nice.”
Rarity gave a muted harrumph, and then a squeal as the vast hair ball shrank down to nothing, hair coursing back into skin with a rushing hiss. The hair shrank back to it’s usual length, and then more, leaving her completely bald. She looked down, and gave a scream that a banshee would have been rightfully proud of, and made a leap for cover, under a rather pleasant venetian rug which had appeared as the centrepiece to an equally pleasant living room. Rainbow and Fluttershy found themselves sitting in strange positions on strange soft chairs, and as Rarity emerged, re-coated and maned she took up a position on a chintz sofa.
The three sat thoughtfully, and attempted to take stock of the situation.
“Are we all seeing the same thing?” asked Dash, staring up as a turtle whipped past in the bivalve-laden tornado, studiously ignoring the “shellfish only” rule and wearing the closest to a “Haters gonna hate” expression a turtle can muster.
“Shellfish tornado still there for everyone?”
Fluttershy nodded, Rarity chipped in in a small voice;
“There’s a turtle in it now.”
“Thousands of odd looking things constantly repeating the phrase “Seriously, it’s not just a girls show, just watch this”, and sitting at glowing boxes all around us?”
“Ok, either I’m mad and I just think you two are answering me, or this is really happening.”
“Or,” squeaked Fluttershy “We’re... all mad, and seeing the same non real thing?”
The others considered this, but were interrupted. A voice rang out from above. It was chirpy, tinny, and had any of them known the word, computerised. It seemed to be painfully cheerful, and in a mood to share that mood with everypony it met, whether they liked it or not.
“Four hundred and twenty five thousand and nine to one against and falling. Isn’t that just great guys? This is Eddie, your shipboard computer, just alerting you lovely strangers to our current improbability rating. Don’t worry guys, everything will be hunky-dory in just ten minutes”
There are times in life when it seems events have reached a sufficient crescendo that any spectators could be reasonably expected to remain in place while, say, a series of adverts were played, as long as a conclusion to those events is promised. Failing that, the narrator will sometimes take this as an opportunity to annoy everypony, and switch to some other part of the story, which currently holds far less attention, in order to keep all parts moving at a roughly equal pace. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy notes this phenomenon as extremely annoying, if necessary. In closing, it notes that the inventor of cliffhangers can officially go and stick his head in a... whereupon the article ends.
“Infinite imper-what now?”
“Improbability!” Chirped Pinkie. “That’s so cool!”
“And what” asked Applejack, her voice flat, “does that mean in real language?”
“Only that they’ve been rescued by THE MOST ADVANCED SHIP IN THE UNIVERSE!” Pinkie was almost squealing “I’m so JEALOUS!”
Twilight shook her head. “But Pinkie, why is that a good thing? WE LOST OUR FRIENDS!” she nearly shreiked.
“Oh, well...” Pinkie paused, glancing at a wall screen “I’m jealous because for starters, we’re going to be in this pod for ages until it finds the nearest space port. They get to have a super adventure while we’re gonna be sitting here twiddling our hooves! I’ve always wanted to try going to infinite improbability, I mean anything can happen around you, and you can’t get really hurt, so you get to see SOOO much! They’re safe, and I’m sure I have an idea for finding them as long as they stay on that ship. Besides, I know the pony that stole it, and he...”
“STOLE?” Applejack and Twilight shouted in unison.
“Oh yeah, he’s nice. A bit odd if you know what I mean.” She leaned in close and spoke out of the side of her mouth “To be honest, he’s pretty weird; he wears the strangest clothes and he’s always talking about parties and other stuff, it’s like he doesn’t think about anything else. He’s a bit cuckoo-crazy if you ask me, but he’s good fun!”
The pony she was currently talking about was lounging in a chair, staring absently into the cocktail he had levitated in front of one of his faces. His other head was staring at the feed from the cameras of the lower decks where the strange ponies had ended up. His name was Zaphod Beeblebrox, and as the probability ratio normalised he took a sip from his glass. He has not only his own article in the Hitchhiker’s guide, but whole others dedicated to his career, wardrobe, romantic conquests and likely mental disorders, just to name a few. He had grown the second head because it had seemed like a good idea at the time, and the second unicorn horn was simply for style. The asymmetry of having them both on the same head had not occurred to him, and he rather liked the effect it had on other unicorns. He was wearing a long coat with more than the usual spectrum of colours on it, and a paisley lining in red. On both his heads rested mirrored sunglasses several sizes too large, the purple colour of which clashed in what he thought was a dashing way with his silvery coat and blue streaked mane. He was currently enjoying his eighth very strong drink, and idly scratched his cutie mark (a picture of himself).
“Eddie, I have to say, you did well this time around. Freeyow! That white one is a LASERBEAM. Should I get a third horn? No, it wouldn’t go well. Would it? Whatever. I hope that Rainbow colt hasn’t called dibs on either of those lovely fillies.” He chuckled, finished his drink, and slowly fell out of his chair.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 4
Democracy had never really been considered as a political practice in Equestria. Celestia was essentially an ideal benevolent dictator , and she was certainly willing to be guided by other ponies. Furthermore, any elected official would have to be able to demonstrate the power to raise the sun and moon every day, and keep life on the planet from ending forever. This is a fairly effective barrier to any candidate, as nopony, regardless of political persuasion, is going to vote for the Let Everything on the Planet Die Party, regardless of policy, personality or propaganda. Quite why Celestia bothers with the “OBEY” campaign posters is a question probably best left unanswered.
The Galaxy as a whole is not a democracy either, but for very different reasons. Although theoretically the elected president makes all the major decisions, he, she, schle or it wields no real power. The job of the president is simply to exist, and to do so in as noticeable a way as possible, so that the question of there being a higher authority simply never comes up. Or at least is never closer to the front page than the president’s latest shenanigans.
Zaphod Beeblebrox; kleptomaniac, rabid party-goer, lecher and worst dressed sentient being this side of the universe, is perhaps the best candidate there has ever been for this role. His notoriety was staggering, and his presence had further reduced the status of the political system to little more than a soap opera. Stealing a top secret government funded experimental ship worth trillions of dollars was barely bigger news than his last party.
As Pinkie laid the description before the stunned ponies before her, she felt more than a little uneasy. It took a while to explain precisely who he was, and her friends expressions were getting more concerned by the second. She was confident he would do a lot to please a pretty filly, somehow she felt this wouldn’t actually comfort them much. She scanned her memories for something that suggested he was in any way a dependable pony, a safe pair of hooves in a large and dangerous galaxy.
That time they had ended up having to spend the whole night suspended from a bridge directly over the Fallien Marshes, right in the dissociative fumes. He had probably saved her life then, she reflected, if only by telling her that those hoopy looking balloons she had wanted to jump right into were actually “Totally not good things to jump right into right now baby”. Had she done so, she would have found herself spending the next three days slowly digesting in the centre of a fungal growth the size of a whale. Admittedly it had been his idea to hang under those bridges in the first place, in one of those ideas that seems frightfully good to the sort of person they both were...
No, that wouldn’t do. She had met Zaphod, ooh, ten or so years before going to Equestria, and had impressed him by drinking three Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters in succession with only a short stay with the HICPGGB (Hospital for the Idiots Who Consume Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters). The two had at least vaguely known eachother for a year or two, and had infrequently met up to drink a lot, share stories and drink a little more. Many of those stories had ended up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, though Pinkie was careful enough to ensure that only the more positive side of the president ever made it to the public through her. It was the least she could do. Whether she could then be said to be in part responsible for his election is a matter for debate.
For now, she unconsciously resorted to a standard enough Pinkie Pie practice: non-sequiter.
“And that’s why you have to have these fish in your ears!” She cried triumphantly, holding up a jar she had apparently produced from nowhere. Twilight blinked, and Applejack Facehoofed, Spike was long since asleep in the back.
“Sugarcube, either I just missed a dang long bit of vital explanation, or you just made no sense.”
Pinkie reigned in her mind, which had a tendency to move at a faster rate than her mouth could keep up with. Her mental faculties were always champing at the bit, and it was all too easy to let them loose and watch them wreak havoc on the comprehension of everypony nearby. At least this time it had served to change the subject.
“I think you girls need to look up Babelfish in this.” She held up a small flat panel of metal and plastic, on which were embossed in large, friendly letters, DON’T PANIC. Pinkie unfolded it, revealing a dark screen, on which the hitchhiker thumb logo flashed on screen for one second, before being replaced by the index.
“What is it?” Applejack was staring at the first few articles;
“And what the hell is it doing?”
Pinkie poked at the screen once or twice, and found the required entry in a couple of seconds.
“And how did you do that?”
“It was under B!”
In a crisp, dry, paternal sort of voice the guide began to speak as a detailed animation played out, and words scrolled. It was a pleasing, trustworthy voice, like that of a young but prematurely old magic teacher Twilight had once had, and indeed had a crush on. It spoke in a measured, reassuring tone, each word reminding the listener of what those large friendly letters had said:
“The Babelfish is small, yellow and leech like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe....”
Zaphod had regained his seat, and gained another drink. This was another of his own concoctions, which he drank whenever he felt it necessary to drink socially and stay relatively capable. It was still slowly dissolving the cherry floating inside it, but at least it wasn’t giving off glowing vapour, or sparks.
“Eddie, send the robot down to pick them up, I’m keen to meet these lovely fillies.”
“Sorry there el presidente, he’s still down in the lower decks. You sent him to arrange your cocktail olives by size and shape, and he’s just opened crate four.”
“Belgium! I forgot that. I thought it seemed a little more hip and happy around here.” He winked roguishly with one head “How’s he doing?”
“He’s on his third poem about how depressing life is. You’d be amazed how many metaphors you can find using olives.”
“I’ll leave him to his fun. Just open all the doors between here and there, let them figure it out.” He stretched, and spent the next few minutes carefully arranging himself specifically so that when the three ponies stepped cautiously through the door, his entire posture gave an impression of nonchalance, savoir faire, and just a hint of latent sexuality. He had used such a pose on about half of his campaign posters.
In the lead was that slightly built blue pegasus, followed by that particularly attractive white unicorn, in turn followed by the pale yellow pegasus.
“Ladies, hi there, glad you could drop in. I...” he paused for effect, gesturing with a lazy hoof to himself “am Zaphod Beeblebrox.”
He lowered the glasses on his right head (the behorned one) and flashed his Bright green eyes at them.
“So what?” Rainbow was immediately put on guard by this pony. The way he sat was so... possessive. Like he was the best damned pony around. Even the previously unnoticed second head turning to face her in surprise didn’t give her pause. SHE was the pony who owned the show, SHE was the one who acted like they owned the place, and she was going to let him know it. “I don’t care what your name is Zathod Whateverthehellitwas, but you better tell me what is going on here, and who you really are right now!”
Zaphod closed his open mouth. The possibility of anypony not knowing who he was had honestly never occurred to him, even in his darkest nightmare where somepony had been slightly unimpressed by him. He decided to file this colt’s ignorance as unimportant and move on. He wasn’t interested in him anyway. He put on his most refined mode of speech.
“Ladies, please, tell this doubtlessly froody stallion to go chill out a bit”.
“Oh my”. Fluttershy saw where this was going.
Apoplectic with fury, Dash made a leap forwards, knocking Zaphod off his chair.
“What did you just call me?” She snarled.
Zaphod was determined to play this off cool. He lounged on the floor now, in a slightly different pose to the one before, as if he had meant to fall this way.
“Frosty cool bro, froody is a hoopy thing to be!”
“YOU CALLED ME A STALLION!” Dash was nose to nose with one of his faces.
Zaphod blinked, and looked again. Up close, and with the sobering effect of a hefty blow he saw his mistake.
Oh Belgium. It was time for diplomacy, especially as now he thought about it, there was something to be said for a feisty filly both willing and physically able to tackle a larger pony. He climbed to his feet, and levitating yet another drink from a large tray he adopted an air of offended patience and fatigue. “I knew that, I can’t help it if you fillies can’t talk the talk. I only meant as a compliment, I like a filly able to do a man’s thing with style. ” Without seeming to move he was slumped in a sofa, and he gestured towards the drinks tray. “May I tempt you ladies?”. This was pose number 48; conciliatory and generous. He had used this one in apology addresses.
Rarity had been struck dumb, appalled throughout the above exchange. This pony,...this unicorn... this two headed unicorn... two headed Bicorn, was wearing something similar to an outfit she had drawn up once while suffering from a heavy fever. It had no symmetry, no complimentary colours, nothing that objectively should ever please the eye, but something in her mind clicked with it. It was… interesting. She walked past the grumbling Dash to take a drink and deigned to give him the luxury of a haughty glance. Rainbow drew herself up, and stalked to the sofa opposite the strange colt. Fluttershy hurried next to her, as if seeking protection.
“I think we should start again.” Rarity said in her best socialite voice. “Mister...?”
Zaphod grinned. Once again, he had talked his way back into favour. And now it was three fillies, and one (well, technically) him. Hell, it was almost a party.
Somewhere else entirely, a brownish yellow escape pod at last managed to dock at Barnard’s Star Orbiting Station. The door opened, and a procession walked out into the arrivals hall. A Pink pony strutted in front, a towel balanced across her neck. Following her was a worn out looking unicorn, a baby dragon balanced across hers. Bringing up the rear, with nothing but her ponytail balanced across hers was a stetson hatted pony who looked around her with the suspicion of a country dweller in a big city.
Barnard’s Star Space Station, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide is quick to point out, was a beautiful place. The station orbits the star, perched on a ball of artificially pure crystal larger than many worlds. As it orbits, the reddish white light of its parent star is refracted through the almost perfectly transparent planet into millions of spires of ice that spear the surface of the planet. Even at night the ground seemed to glow dull red, and light flashed as the rough sphere turned on its axis. The station building itself was almost entirely clear, and so as the sun set, lances of reddening light seemed to dance through the entire structure, reflecting off millions of surfaces at once. It was, non-technically speaking, a magical place.
Naturally, this piece of architectural and planetary design brilliance attracted adoration, and this attracted tourism, which attracted business. Now, the views are spoilt by thousands of shops for tourist tat, large ship-fulls of overweight life forms with cameras, and occasionally entire fleets docking there between hyperspace leaps. In this way, Barnard’s Star Orbiting Station gradually evolved from being a wonder of the galaxy, to being one of the largest hyperspace express junctions in the history of creation, and a great deal of eyesore on what was once a sight for sore eyes. Such is commerce.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 5
Magic is an oddity. Before the scientific minds of the galaxy collectively gave up on trying to understand the infinite strangeness of the cosmos, they spent a lot of time attempting to classify it. The best explanation, and the one that was subsequently taught across the universe as official doctrine, was one scrawled by a desperate student who had forgotten to study for his exam: “Magic” she said “is the protrusion into our dimension of an entirely different and alien set of physical laws, or rather millions of sets, from millions of separate impossible realities. Certain beings have evolved the ability to force these laws to bleed into our universe, editing the physical reality around them against the customary behaviour of physics.”
It is almost certain that this idea is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but it was good enough to be the last idea put forward before the entire magi-physics faculty of Maximegalon collectively gave up on the subject and went down the street to the pub, where they spent the night smoking, drinking and bullying any magical arts faculty members they could find until it was time to be thrown out.
In its article on magic, and in a moment of insight due most likely to the occasional coincidence inherent in eight thousand billion or so articles, The Hitchhiker’s Guide notes that magic is a species wide thing, and varies in power not according to race, but rather to individual.
In the case of ponies, we see this magic manifestation has evolved in three basic ways. Unicorns have the ability to directly tap into it via spells, directing it as they wish, giving them great control at the cost of instinctive power. Because of the direct results they recieve, many observers mistakenly believe that only unicorns have magical ability at all, but the fact is they simply tend to have the most obvious demonstrations of skill. Pegasi have the inherent magical abilities of flight and cloud walking. The first is definitely magically attained, because leading physicists established that unless dark matter was involved somehow, wings that small could not support a full grown pony, even a hollow-boned pegasus, in flight. This is not the end of pegasus talent, as many elements and styles can be seen in the trails left by some of the more powerful pegasi, betraying other, less common abilities. Lightning, fire, or rainbow trails etc. indicate affinities and tendencies in ways hard to predict without extensive study. Earth ponies tend to have magical power which flows through the ground itself, spreading life and fertility to crops and plants they grow. But some can seemingly teleport at random, or continuously pull a multi-tonne train for a whole day and night without stopping, or demonstrate strange predictive powers. This leaves us with the conclusion that earth pony power manifests in unpredictable ways. In the end it all balances out between the three, though arguments naturally occur between ponies who for some strange reason have unflappable faith that their group is best.
Alicorns, which are technically classified as a sort of god, are another matter entirely. Anyone hoping to estimate the magical power of a fully-realised alicorn had better be prepared to run out of zeroes pretty quickly.
“Let me get this straight Pinkie, because that sounds like the most counter-intuitive thing
I have ever heard.” Twilight began pacing back and forth in front of her friends. “You say that somehow our friends were picked up by this “Infinite Improbability Drive” ship, which could currently be literally anywhere in the entire universe.”
“SO, you plan on getting us aboard too, by making it infinitely improbable that we get picked up, and then waiting for it to inevitably happen?”
“Indeedy!” Pinkie smiled happily. Twilight’s eye twitched, but she carried on.
“And you say that nopony has ever tried something like that before.”
“Nope!” Twilight’s eye twitched again, a single hair standing up from her mane.
“So you intend to hitch us a lift to somewhere, some place in the universe it is infinitely improbable it would ever be able to get to?”
Applejack stared at the two, then turned to spike.
“You gettin’ any of this?”
Spike shook his head. “Nuh-uh.”
“And then, you want us to do something dangerous enough to give this ship a very limited time to pick us up?”
Pinkie leaped up, clopping her hooves together with joy. “I KNEW you’d understand!”
Twilight fought to keep her voice calm. “Pinkie, there is no way I’m travelling halfway across the galaxy, travelling specifically to make it hard to get to our friends, then JUMPING OFF OF A CLIFF!”
Spike stood up. He had remained conspicuously quiet so far in the proceedings, but there was a gleam in his eye by now. Twilight knew that look. It spoke of lances, dashing steeds, of quests for glory and the light of adventure. His voice was filled with inspiration, and seemed for a moment to be that of an older dragon.
“If m’lady is in trouble, we must do whatever we can! Whether it be a glorious charge into the face of a thousand enemies, or a test that will pitch our minds against the infinite thingummies of... something or other, or even...” He trailed off “... whatever, we have to do it!”
Applejack nodded behind him.
“Sorry sugarcube, but Pinkie knows this crazy universe better’n we do. If she says it’ll work, I believe her. Besides, what else is there to do?”
Twilight opened her mouth, then shut it again.
“Oh Celestia.” she thought “Confound these ponies, I need a drink.”
Aboard the Heart of Gold, Zaphod was making himself known. He saw it as his sacred and holy duty to inform these poor confused mares about the marvel that he was. Occasionally he let them get a remark in, but for the most part, he was doing the talking. He was gauging them for how impressed they seemed to be. That Rainbow coloured one was plainly still irritated and mistrustful, but the other two didn’t look hostile. The white one... she seemed to have appointed herself the leader of the three, and was doing most of the conversing. And as for the pastel yellow one... Occasionally he tried to get a proper look at her, but she would always retreat behind a wave of pink hair.
Ok baby, he thought; one annoyed by how great he was, another entranced by how great he was, and the third intimidated by how great he was. He interrupted Rarity;
“Man, I’m great.” They stared at him. He didn’t even have the good grace to look ashamed. “I’m, uh, grateFUL that you lovely fillies got rescued by me. You must have been through a lot.” He laid a hoof on Rarity’s. “Why the zark did you go floating around in deep space?”
“Well if you must know,” Rarity began, withdrawing her hoof in the most polite way she could. “Some horrible creatures called “Vogons” had us thrown there.”
“Vogons? Ten out of ten for ugly, zero out of ten for basically everything else?” He made another movement to lay a hoof on Rarity, but she dodged. He passed the movement off by pushing his sunglasses off his eyes, and then his other sunglasses off his other eyes too.
“You ladies must have been through an awful lot. You could probably all do with a rest. I’m afraid this ship only has one set of sleeping quarters, but...” He was interrupted by a cheery voice as Eddie cut in;
“Sorry to correct you there buddy, but I think we have at least four other rooms which they could comfortably...” The voice cut out as a martini glass hit the nearest speaker.
Zaphod Grinned maniacally. “Sorry ladies, my... horn slipped.”
“Yeah.” Cut in Rainbow sarcastically. “It was weird. It seemed almost like you levitated the glass and violently threw it.”
“I think we can find those rooms on our own, thank you very much.” Rarity added. Zaphod sighed. He knew when the game was up for the night.
“Ok ladies, sleep well. Everything will seem better in the morning.” he winked “I promise.”
As the three ponies left, he turned his chair and spoke.
“Thanks a bundle Eddie, you just cost me a full bed tonight.”
Eddies voice came in through a separate speaker. “No problemo!” he chirruped obliviously. “Anything else I can do?”
“Get me another drink before I go and look for the largest computer virus file I can find and jam it down your input drive so hard you’ll be coughing up dodgy programming for weeks.”
“Right away, el presidente!”
Zaphod began to think. He would have to impress these girls somehow, but how? Something bold, something dramatic, something... centred around him if at all possible.
The unicorn, dragon and two earth ponies stood in the docking area, watching as ships of all shapes, sizes, colours and states of repair peeled in and out.
“And y’say these things can travel through space?” Applejack was looking at one that seemed to be barely more than a mountain of rust with engines.
Pinkie looked appraisingly at the ship, with the air of an expert. “I don’t think we want that one AJ, keep looking.”
“Well yeah, I wasn’t proposing that particular heap as ideal transport.”
“Oh! So you know about the Deglongs?”
There was a pause.
“What the hay is a Deglung? I just meant it’s about as beaten up as a unicorn in a hick griffon town!” She caught Twilight’s offended look and blushed.
“Oh silly, it’s meant to look like that!” Pinkie could be maddeningly patronising when those around her had the wrong end of the stick. “Deglongs NEVER spend money on anything, they’d make us pay big bits to carry us anywhere, and I only have a couple of Altarian dollars to my name.” She smiled brightly at the hundreds of ships. “But don’t worry, you’re aunty Pinkie Pie has got it aaaall taken care of!” She waved a hoof expansibvely at the speckled blackness above them. “Hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against mind boggling odds, win through, and still know where your towel is, all for less than thirty Altarian dollars a day; that’s the hitchhiker’s way!” She hopped into the air, seeming to levitate as her legs wiggled excitedly. “Fun isn’t it?”
Half an hour later, Pinkie stood at the end of the row of ships, a large foam hand stuck on the end of one of her hooves, it’s thumb sticking hopefully up. It waggled hopefully as beings around them went about their business, apparently oblivious. Twilight had to ask.
“Pinkie, what in Celestia’s name is that?”
“It’s called a hand!” She wiggled it for emphasis. “Some creatures out there have these things called hands, and they have these things called thumbs, and a thumb means you want to hitchhike! We don’t have thumbsies, so I make do with this!”
She playfully shook the hand in front of Twilight’s face, who slapped it away. Applejack came back, a souvenir pen from a tourist stand in her mouth. On it it had the classic: “Someone I know went to Barnard’s Star and all I got was this lousy pen,” which proves that there is always at least one person out there who genuinely believes this to be funny. Be afraid.
Pinkie grabbed the pen and began scrawling on her towel. Eventually she held it up.
“Maximegalon University or bust!” was written in large letters across it. The “or bust” part was clearly printed on the towel, and looking closely it was easy to see that other destinations had been washed out before.
“Now we just wait for something heading our way!”
“And when we get there we can research where this thing would have difficulty getting to?”
“Exactly! You’ll like the university Twilight, there are squillions of books that nopony touches anymore!”
Twilight brightened considerably.
“I think it was about four squillion to be exact.”
“That’s a made up number Pinkie.”
“Maybe when you’re still thinking on the scale of one planet. We’re going galactic now!”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 6
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes the planet Gagriflex as perhaps one of the most revolting places to visit in the known universe. This is not because of its geography, but because of its people. Its sapient inhabitants are vaguely equiform, but with overlong legs and almost permanent expressions of unabashed adoration. Some historians posit that it was once a tolerable place, but that it changed when the planet made interstellar contact.
Culturally, the entire race gave itself over to loving anything different, in a form of crazed xenophilia unmatched across reality. They annually order in billions of tonnes of extra-gagriflexial lifestyle magazines, thousands of hours of extra-gagriflexial reality TV shows, and mountains of extra-gagriflexial random memorabilia. Whatever culture their leaders had currently decided they should adore, the public did, fed the pop-culture detritus of an entire galaxy.
Any tourist on Gagriflex would likely enjoy the first day, as they would be mobbed by admiring locals, offered favours, and generally treated like royalty. However, almost any sane being would quickly tire of the complete, total and utterly sincere admiration they would receive for literally every action they performed. An average tourist would last for about three days before either leaving or killing themselves, whereupon the locals would gather round to admire the quite fantastic way in which foreigners decomposed. Tourism never really took off on Gagriflex, which is a shame because apart from this quirk, it really is a lovely place. Vast oceans stained a shimmering blue by aquatic flora, hulking bauxite mountains of almost painfully dramatic starkness rising over silken white-grassed plains and shimmering jewel-bright forests filled with brilliantly diverse wildlife almost too perfect to look at: All these wonders were ignored by the populace, who chose instead to stay inside to find out what the rest of the universe was up to.
The sun was just rising as the Heart of Gold touched down on the peak of one of the mountains, and the deep indigo sky seemed on fire on the edge of the horizon. Shadows fell away from the night-sides of mountains of absurd steepness kilometres high, to sulk under hanging rocks and the dozing forests below. Wide eyed day creatures, some shining with colour, others shimmering through their habitats like ghosts began the work of the day. In the cities, enthusiastic beings woke up to see a selection of breakfast tv shows, with interviewers and interviewees deserving the same rapt attention.
Inside, Zaphod was rubbing his forehooves together. He liked Gagriflex. He had washed his long mane, and its green and blue streaks shone, looking absolutely horrific next to the yellow and orange vinyl of the two-headed jacket he wore with both collars popped. The gold necklaces he wore were set with glowing stones, and his sunglasses were firmly in place. He grinned broadly, and the speaker he had set into his teeth gave off a *ting* as they shone in the light.
“How do I look Marvin?”
One of Zaphod’s heads turned to face the metal humanoid behind him, then snorted.
“Ah, what do you know.”
“More than you can possibly imagine. According to the fashion advice software I come with, which, incidentally, I detest possessing, that outfit is almost as horrific as my own existence.” He paused for a moment, “Which is extremely,” he clarified.
“It’s called looking interesting baby, I wouldn’t expect you to get it.” Zaphod zipped up the last of the eighty or so pockets the jacket was loaded with. “Now, where are those lovely ladies?”
The three “lovely ladies” were currently holding a discussion in the room Fluttershy had taken. She was looking worried.
“I just don’t know how we’re going to find them. The universe is a big place.”
“Darling, I’m sure Zaphod will help us once he understands what we need.” Rarity sighed. “Besides, it’s not like we have a choice. Our friends are out there, and you can bet they’ll be out looking for us, and he’s our best hope for being found. If he really is President, then I’m sure he can put out a message.”
Dash was scowling. “I still don’t like him.”
“Of course you don’t darling, but let’s go see him anyway. He might be better this morning. We shall just have to impress upon him what we need, it must be within his power.”
Rarity turned and led the way out of the room. Fluttershy gave an apologetic look to Dash before following her.
Dash followed behind, muttering under her breath, “Calling me a stallion.”
“Have a nice day!” said the door as they passed into the bridge, to find Zaphod standing impressively before a large visi-screen. He flashed a broad smile at them. *ting*
“Good morning ladies, stop one on your fantastic tour of the cosmos! Welcome, to Gagriflex!” The screen behind him flicked on, revealing the landscape spread out below them. Zaphod grinned at their awestruck faces, not even bothering to watch the screen.
“You’ll need to have these fish in your ears if you want to come with me.”
The three tore mesmerised eyes from the scene before them, to fix perplexed eyes on the garish pony apparently speaking madness.
At Barnards star, other ponies were waiting. Pinkie was in front, facing the crowds passing by, hoof stuck out to the side with the foam thumb hopefully raised. Her other forehoof had one corner of the towel. Applejack held the other corner up, a look of resigned patience on her face.
An hour passed. Pinkie hadn’t moved, her expression of hopeful friendliness unchanged. Applejack had switched out with Twilight twice, and was now back to holding it up. Even so, her leg ached and her temper was rapidly fraying.
Pinkie turned silently, her expression by now frozen solid on her face.
“Hundreds of these things have gone past. Some of ‘em I don’t even wanna know what they were. Could we... try something else?”
It was then that, because of certain laws of narrative causality, something was obliged to stop and offer them a lift. It was about five feet tall, it’s smooth purple hide almost unmarked. It had two arms, two legs, two eyes and a visible mouth, which was stretched in a smile just slightly too broad to look normal.
It could, on reflection, have been something a whole lot worse. It was wearing nothing but a scarf which read, to anyone who cared to look, “UMM Brockian Ultra Cricket Team.”
Brockian Ultra Cricket is a game that involves the complex interplay of professional athletes using random sporting implements to hit each other very hard, and then running away and apologising. It is only played in this dimension by the same sort of person we might see playing ultimate Frisbee while armed with a Nerf gun. When the creature spoke, it drawled around a small rugby-club shaped dent in it’s face. “You dudes going to the double M? I got this. Come with me.”
Without waiting for a response, he began sloping off towards a distant ship. They followed at a distance until it came into view. It wasn’t exactly shabby, but it was clearly old. Its interior was clearly large enough to contain them, and it had several stickers pasted on it:
“Freesplorking is not a crime!”
“How’s my warping?”
“Maximegalon students do it with reference to our extensive library.”
“Do we... do we go with him?” Spike was watching it nervously.
“Of course! He’s a student!”
“But what species is he?” Twilight was staring at the strange creature as it fumbled around for a set of keys.
“Like I said, he’s a Student!”
Shortly after the founding of the university of Maximegalon, one student studying for an advance degree in Playing God began a project to engineer something to do his studying for him. He spent months working on the creatures mentality, intellectual capacity, dietary requirements and so on, and so the species Scientiatem Quaerens was created. It was the perfect university student; able to survive off nothing but instant noodles and low level intoxicants for many years at a time, interested in any and all pointless games available to it, genial except around exam time and certainly not averse to moderately illegal pranks at any time of year. A member of the species would drift around the campus for several years, occasionally attending lectures and passing or failing exams more or less at random and generally enjoying itself. By now, they made up almost the entire population of the university, as most beings rich enough to afford a place at the university could also afford to send something else there to do the whole experience for them.
It was one of these with whom our heroes now embarked. He was returning from his annual migration to “Just wherever, I gotta get out of here and unwind man”. This migration is made throughout the year by members of the species, all of whom fervently believe themselves to be performing some form of unique soul searching adventure, which usually only results in extensive liver damage, increased poverty and occasionally an arrest or two if all goes well. This particular individual was the only one of its group to avoid being incarcerated, and as such his ship, adorned as it was with slogans such as “If this ship’s a’distorting, don’t come a’teleporting”, was stocked with sleeping for our intrepid ponies, and even food and drink, providing they were not feeling too picky.
Zaphod was silent as he led the three across the bare rock of the unnamed mountain. Past vistas of unimaginable beauty, whitish cloud parted hundreds of metres below them to show rich forests of eye-hurting vibrance.
Zaphod ignored all this. “There’s something better up ahead” was all he said.
Rainbow took to the sky and flew on ahead, looking around. This meant that she was first to see it. “OH. MY. GOSH!”
As Rarity and Fluttershy came to the crest and looked out towards the city in the distance, their jaws dropped. Zaphod sat himself down, one hoof lazily gesturing towards... it.
“Well, ladies? What do you think?”
The ponies simply stared.
It was a statue. But that word scarcely did it justice. It was simply massive. “Hill” would scarcely be a worse word for it.
“Quite a good likeness, yeah?” Zaphod grinned at their stunned expressions. The Gagriflexians had really taken to him, and he had in turn taken to them. As he was one of the only creatures whose ego was sufficiently inflated to be able to bear the place, he had spent a lot of time there, and that had led, inevitably, to the statue before them. It showed him in one of his favourite poses, sitting down, with one head staring dreamily into the distance, and the other following the line of his outstretched forehoof, a rogueish wink on it’s face, as if to say “Who’s awesome? You’re awesome. But not as awesome as me. Oh god no, don’t even think that. I’m just... just great.” Also known as pose number 1. Built of solid granite, and constantly painted in the lurid colours he often bedecked himself in, it reared over the city. It was, frankly, a horrific sight, a testament to an ego capable of dubbing the infinity of creation a “Real neat place”, and legitimately believing a statue like this to be a sign of his own brilliance.
Rarity was in shock. Again, this utterly uncouth pony was behaving as if it owned the whole universe. On reflection, perhaps it did, but that didn’t excuse acting like it. She knew herself to be the most beautiful Unicorn in Ponyville, but she made certain nopony knew she knew it. Still, it never hurt to be polite. “It’s... lovely, who made it?”
“Oh just some of those cats down there know a good thing when they see it. We shouldn’t go down there” He put on an air of suffering humility. “They might get over-excited. I can only tone my charisma down so much, and I don’t really like all the attention.” He glanced out of the corner of one of his four eyes to see if they bought it. All three were staring at him in plain disbelief “Ah, who am I kidding, who wants to come down with me for a bit and hear them tell you about how great I am?”
It was at this moment, that a voice rang out from the sky ahead of them.
“O.K. Beeblebrox, hold it right there. You’re under arrest.”
“Yeah, we got you this time Big Z, Mr. President sir! Got you good and in our sights!”
“That’s right! Any second now we’ll have these babies warmed up enough to cause you some hurt, so you better not move!”
There are certain feelings which are universal. Nowhere in the cosmos does the sight of an official looking vehicle with flashing lights and armed occupants not cause a general feeling of trepidation in most beings. The most law abiding citizen will feel like a criminal when pulled up at a red light next to a police vehicle, and struggle to maintain a relaxed composure, glancing only briefly aside, trying not to look like a law breaker. The Encyclopedia Galactica describes this as; “a natural part of our psychological make up, a certain unjustified feeling of guilt that all beings have when faced with an authority figure.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes it as; “a natural part of our psychological make up not to want to get shot or arrested. Especially when you just know those pigs are just begging for a chance to pull you over and maybe go through your stuff, and you just know they’ll find those medicinal things you have in the glove box, and make all the wrong assumptions.” The article is followed by an editor’s note that the Guide is currently looking for a new transport correspondent, pending a breakout at the Ursa Minor Criminal Rehabilitation Centre.
That said, it is even easier to feel like a guilty party when a large police cruiser is not only directly facing you and your companions, but has deployed it’s forward guns meaningfully and has stated that you are under arrest. Zaphod is as guilty as sin, but he still feels aggrieved at any attempt to make him feel as if he has done something wrong. Even the notoriously optimistic gamblers of the Morzell system wouldn’t bet much on him coming quietly.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 7
“RUN!” the word had barely escaped Zaphod’s lips before all four ponies were pelting away, acting more on instinct than anything. Dash took to the air and was streaking well ahead of the others when the first shot was fired. A bolt of sickly green plasma struck the rock next to Fluttershy, causing her to leap sideways into Rarity with a squeak of pure terror.
“Oh HELL no!” The turn dash made, going from a pony travelling at easily sixty miles per hour to a pony travelling in the opposite direction at almost a hundred would have made even a strong willed physicist weep. “You do NOT do that to Fluttershy!” She accelerated, pelting straight towards the cruiser. She passed directly over it, close enough to cause it to rattle.
The pilots immediately transferred their attention to her, firing off a futile volley at her form as it streaked away. “Get her!” “Yeah!” She passed back overhead again, even faster this time, and the ship almost crashed as it tried to keep its guns trained on her.
“GET OUT OF HERE!” she cried as she hurtled overhead, pursued by the cruiser. The other three could only stare after her in shock as she pealed away, leading the enraged police after her.
“When Zarquon made that one, he made a lethal weapon! Freeyow!” Zaphod had a rare expression of open admiration on both faces. “Keep running! Is she always like that?”
“Looking out for her friends, or being a good deal braver than you?” Rarity sniped back.
Ahead the ship shimmered into visibility and Zaphod pelted aboard.
Fluttershy paused at the ramp, staring outwards “DO be careful Rainbow Dash” she pleaded the smaller of the distant specks, which even now sped around the other.
Rarity draped one hoof over her “She’ll be fine. I’m sure of it.”
“That flying thing looks really dangerous though...”
“I don’t pretend to understand it darling, whatever it is though, I can hardly see it out-flying our Dash.” But even as they watched, the smaller speck began to descend rapidly, straight down. Dash was falling.
“Oh my!” Fluttershy squeaked. More flashes of light were just visible as the larger of the two flew downwards, in pursuit. It says something for the distance they were observing from that neither pony could see just how much a greater rate than the local gravitational acceleration Dash was gaining speed.
The Sonic Rainboom, according to that indispensable if unreliable guide to the galaxy, occurs when a being with the right affinity for rainbow magic accelerates past the local speed of sound, and momentarily completely and utterly buggers up the colour spectrum (to use the technical term) . It notes the incredible forces involved in causing an explosion of sound, light and magic strong enough to crack rocks, shake the very ground and send every cute critter for miles running for cover. It notes the G-forces involved. It notes the unusual and impossible way the mach cone forms too early and in bright colours, It also notes exactly how totally trippy it looks, and just how rare it is.
It does not note, however, whether or not flying directly behind something performing one is enough to total an armoured Galactic Police Department heavy pursuit cruiser. Fortunately for us, it doesn’t need to. This is because it has only been tested once, and everypony to witness it was left in absolutely no doubt about the result. (For the record, it absolutely is.)
Far away, a beaten up looking starship was doing a fair bit of tedious mucking about in hyperspace. Three of its occupants are currently asleep, leaving Twilight Sparkle to keep the student company in the cockpit.
Twilight pushed a pair of fuzzy twenty sided dice out of her face, and glanced over at the student. He wasn’t paying any attention to the distant twinkles through the visi screen, preferring to rootle through the sides of his chair. Every now and again he would unearth a piece of dry instant noodle, and eat it with every sign of enjoyment.
“Ahem.” Twilight interjected pointedly.
He froze, dropping the recently defluffed noodle piece guiltily. “What?”
Twilight sighed. She wasn’t a neat freak, but there was a limit. “So what’s your name?”
He scratched his unkempt facial hair, and frowned. “I don’t know. Never really thought about it.”
“Never really needed one. My friends call me dude. Or bro. Or whatever.” He was still frowning, as if thinking hard about something.
Twilight tried to keep a smile on her face. “So what do you call your friends?”
“Dude, bro, mate, just...” He stopped. “Whatever...” He was looking increasingly disturbed by his lack of an answer.
“Nevermind.” Twilight turned, but the screen stayed resolutely uninteresting. Eventually she turned back “Sooo... what do you study?”
A look of relief washed over Dude’s face. “I study interpretive history.”
“We try and work out what history would have been like if we hadn’t gone back and forth through time and altered reality so much. When the regular history department lost their funding to the Department for Divinity and Waterpolo, we took over some of their old cases.”
“Time travel... it’s possible?” Twilight’s eyes were wide.
“Yeah, but pretty pointless. All time is basically the same nowadays, people import modern stuff back in time and old stuff forward in time. Nothing really changes anymore, and I don’t know if I can even use that phrase since it implies “anymore” is somehow different from “anywhen.” It’s all cool you know?” He paused, then said with a smug grin “I’m getting my Bachelor of You Can’t Prove Otherwise.”
“And what if I do?”
“What if I can prove otherwise?”
The creature sat for a moment. “Well...” He grinned “My degree would outrank your proof.”
“So... screw the rules, I have a degree?
Interpretative history is usually thought to be about the fifth most useless subject in the entire multiverse. Because it works off no tangible evidence to produce no tangible result, it is utterly without applications in the real world. The only job available for a graduate of Interpretative history is to be a teacher of the same subject. Because it’s uselessness has done nothing to downgrade its popularity this has so far worked out fairly well, with the number of courses being taught multiplying every year. What once started as a drunken idea grew into a subject that is now one of the most widely taught and sought after courses in living memory. It is attractive for several reasons; the most important of which is the discrepancy between how hard it sounds to outsiders and how hard it actually is. At some point in the next couple of centuries however the number of students required to support the subject will exceed the population of the galaxy, and the whole thing will collapse in on itself.
An eye-hurting streak of rainbow luminescence traced Dash’s path back to the Heart of Gold. An impossible arc covering the whole spectrum of light with a thick band of cartoonishly bright colour. Calling it a rainbow was almost insulting. Dash landed with a contemptuous flick of her wings, and stood for a moment with both forehooves raised, a smirk affixed to her face that at almost any other time would have been irritating beyond measure, but as it was it simply told her two concerned friends that everything was alright.
Fluttershy leaped upon Dash with a joyful cry. “DASH!”
Rainbow pushed her off with a laugh. “I’m OK ‘Shy, those losers couldn’t hit Equestria’s best flier! I could have got out of there drunk off my flanks and with a cup-cake in my eye!” She looked back at the slight singe to the end of her tail. “I meant to do that!”
Rarity was skeptical, but let it slide. “Well done I must say at least somepony here was brave enough to deal with Zaphod’s little problem. I suggest we ladies go and discuss exactly what is going on here, and who he thinks he is!”
Aboard the Heart of Gold Zaphod sat dumbstruck, his hoof poised over the Infinite Improbability Drive controls. Two very strong drinks were already wending their way through him, apparently in no hurry to calm his nerves as much as the bottle had promised they would. He had been waiting for the last moment to get out of there, because the light show had made interesting watching. Now he had revised his opinions of the ponies now boarding his craft intent on murder. That Rainbow one, she was officially the most attractive proposition in his immediate area.
That was the thought going through his mind as he got the sense slapped out of his right head by a hoof-swipe from Rarity.
“HEY!” Said his left head, looking up. “What the hell was that f...” his other head received a hefty back hoof and he sprawled to the floor. “What the Zark are you doing you crazy bit...” He bit the word off his tongue at the last second as Rarity gave a loud snort that promised only vengeance should the next word out of his mouth not end up being “Lady”, and the two following words not being “I’m” and “sorry”.
“lady. I’m sorry.” He shakily got up.”But please tell me what I’m sorry for!”
“Not only have you been half drunk since I met you,” Rarity stormed.
“Not only are you a wanted criminal,”
“Not only did you put us all in danger to show of your horrific ego”
“Just a minute”
“Not only did you immediately run and hide leaving a Lady to defend you from the law, but you have also carried yourself thus far with nothing but the most deplorable and frankly distasteful boasting and showing off, not to mention lecherous flirting and drunken stupidity!”
Zaphod sat stunned. Subconsciously he began to reach for a drink before his survival instincts, so seldom used but now thoroughly on their toes, slapped him mentally for thinking of it. Ego cut in, telling his instincts to shut up and go back into the back of the mind. Pain sense came in to support instinct, but was blocked off when anger gave it the mental equivalent of a shove and the resulting mental scuffle ended only when Eddies cheerful voice sounded out, his jollity slightly forced and edged with a hint of panic.
“I hate to interrupt you guys, but my proximity sensors tell me that a hundred or so police cruisers have just entered the local vicinity!”
Grateful for an excuse to act, Zaphod took this opportunity to regain a modicum of command of the situation.
“Belgium! Get us out of here Eddie!”
As the ship began to put reality through the wringer, Fluttershy could be heard to mutter to Dash “I’ve never heard the b-word before, but the way he says it makes me sure it’s a bad word.”
The infinite improbability drive was created when a very clever student indeed had the bright idea of working out how unlikely it was for one to exist, and feeding that figure into a finite improbability generator. The use of a Bambleweeny-57 sub-meson brain linked to an atomic vector plotter, all immersed in a Brownian motion producer to alter the outcome of events has a long history, since it was realised that probabilities for certain events did not correlate exactly to observed rates of occurrence. For example, the chances of it raining on any particular day might be one in three, but on Bank holidays, days of picnics, music festivals or sports matches the prevalence of rain was observed to be considerably higher. Furthermore, the chance of bad weather can best be combated by preparing for it. Bringing a heavy umbrella and heavy waterproof clothing could almost guarantee a warm and dry day. By observing the way different overall conditions violated standard probability, miniaturisation did its work until the device became a frivolity, primarily used for childish pranks showing off.
The ability to teleport a spaceship across the universe without eventual reversal was reserved for the infinitely stranger Infinite Improbability drive. Nobody knows how it works, except that it has something to do with a pure gold nugget which may or may not be a relic of huge importance.
As it is the Infinite Improbability drive currently in Zaphod’s possession has taken our heroes out of immediate danger, for which they ought to be grateful. They will be of course, just as soon as everything around them stops being made of brown and Rarity ceases to be a Marshmallow.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 8
Far back in the earliest days of the universe, in what you could laughingly call the past if you felt so inclined, the first incident of equiform life evolved in a far flung corner of the galaxy on the planet Zacherle V, deep within the area known only as the Hasbro Zone. They were different from most ponies one might see today; they were heavier set, bulkier with smaller eyes and thicker muzzles. Evolution did its work on them, as is its wont. They became ever smaller. They also gained ever less varied personalities and ever less interesting social histories (at least for any outside observer, the ponies themselves never noticed, being too busy shopping and worrying about fashion, especially by the third generation or so.)
The forces of evolution experimented with wings, with horns, with sea-ponies, even trying out almost anthropomorphising the ponies, until eventually they hit upon a winning form; back to basics. Quadrupedal, with the three basic varieties of pony so familiar today. However, these new ponies carried what leading biologists refer to as the “Faust” gene, and the species exploded like it had never done before. It exploded twice indeed (which apparently one can indeed do), for it seemed as though the forces of nature on planets throughout the rest of the galaxy had been peering over the shoulders of Zacherle V, taking notes and shamelessly copying good ideas. Suddenly similar life-forms were springing up across the galaxy. Entirely different species, that for whatever reason looked and behaved in a very similar manner to those that evolved on Zacherle V. And so ponies, or at least equiform life-forms, became one of the most widespread and succesful groups in the galaxy. Suffice to say, the older evolved forms of pony (“generations” as they are sometimes called) do not share nearly the same level of ubiquity across the cosmos, but they do still exist here and there.
Our ponies are in fact part of the original species native to the original homeworld, if only through their creation by the God Princess of Equestria. Celestia had decided to perfectly replicate the species on her pet project, the magical planet from which our heroines and hero so unnecessarily escaped.
The reason for their current situation is currently sitting on a mattress, cheerfully composing songs to be sung should situations requiring songs arise. Nopony appreciated the effort that went into coming up with and memorising as many songs as she did. Friends paralysed with fear by an enemy who (crucially) actually could be dispelled by laughing at them? She had a song for that. Needing to persuade a friend to share a ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala? Covered. Stuck in a crack in the ground by a giant boulder you can’t move with no hope of rescue? Well, she was working on that. Admittedly, that was a little harder to work on. But she just couldn’t be caught without a song. It had happened once, she had only half composed a song for persuading a friend to summon the courage to jump over a relatively small crack, and though persuasion had worked, she felt bad that there hadn’t been a full on number.
“Just because we can’t get out,
Silly pony, there’s no need to pout!
Trapped, caught, stuck, unable to move,
Just let Auntie Pinkie sing for you!...”
She stopped. no, that wasn’t the right tone at all. And repetitive rhyming couplets simply weren’t good enough. She tapped a hoof under her chin. She needed to get her old composer back, this writer simply couldn’t write a song to save his life. And his chapter updates were getting sloppy, not to mention how desperate all those fourth wall breaks and self references made his writing style sound. If only...
Her train of thought was interrupted by Applejack pushing her way through a bead curtain into her temporary room.
“HI!” Pinkie leaped up, silently reminding the author that this wasn’t over yet.
“I think we need to have a bit of a chat.” Applejack was looking serious.
Pinkie’s ears drooped a tiny bit, and she cocked her head to one side. “What about?”
Applejack moved quickly, giving her friend a one legged hug. “Now now, no need to get worried, I’m not angry or anythin’. I just think... I don’t know, like I don’t know you like I used to think I knew you.” She paused to make sure her sentence had made sense, then moved on. “And the important thing is that I want to know you. You come out with all that fancy know-how and suddenly everything is different, and I don’t even want to understand this whole crazy universe I’m suddenly in. But I need to, and... well shoot Pinkie, I guess I’m asking for your story. How d’ya end up with us?”
Pinkie sank a little lower. “I’m sorry I never told you guys about everything.”
Applejack laughed, giving her a noogie with her free hoof. “You already said that ya silly, and I forgive you. I understand. I’m just curious.”
Pinkie rose, and it seemed to the farmer pony that music began to build in volume around them. A bouncy theme, that Pinkie’s voice moved in time with.
“The universe is huge,
That much is plain to see,
And once upon a time there came to be a pony named...”
An orange hoof was forced into her mouth. The others had long ago learned that this was just about the only way to stop a Pinkie Pie song. The hoof’s owner laughed.
“Sorry Sugarcube, but I think I want you to talk this one through. I don’t want to miss something ‘cause you couldn’t find a rhyme.”
The party pony pouted. “That was a really good one. I’ve had it written for ages.”
“Well, you can save it for when we’re all together again.”
“You’re RIGHT! And we can have a “Back Together Again PARTY!”
“You got that for sure. But please Pinkie, I want to know what you’ve been through.”
“Okey-dokey-lokey!” She leaned in close “but are you suuuuuure you don’t want the song?”
“I love this ship. She may have a heart of gold, but this baby has feathers of steel! Freeyow!”
“She doesn’t have feathers buddy!” Eddies cheerful voice ruined Zaphods sudden good mood.
“Shut up! You know what I mean, she flies on wings of froodiness!”
“No wings either El Capitano. Would you like a blueprint? You could use the study time to discover many new features which I urge you to share and enjoy! Share and enjoy!”
“Eddie, if you come out with that “share and enjoy” Belgium one more time I’ll hook your logic circuits up to the largest anonymous image board I can find and set you on read and translate!” There followed immediate silence. “Better!”
He touched a hoof to his face where Rarity had struck him.”In case you didn’t notice” he said, slipping easily into righteous indignation with rather less mental gear crunching than there would have been for a normal pony; “Somepony had to get back to the ship and get it prepped for take off. I just happened to be the only pony for the job.” He huffed. “I’ll accept your apologies now.”
Rarity stamped her hoof in frustration (in a genteel manner unlikely to chip a hoof) and stormed out. Fluttershy followed her, but Dash stayed behind, still on her adrenaline rush.
“So, have I earned a drink?”
Zaphod turned from the computer, letting the ship continue to drift through the vacuum of space in a corner of the galaxy. It was ( by a staggering coincidence) currently located at the exact centre of the universe, which was as it happened quite sensationally dull. Everything that had ever been going to happen here, had already happened when the universe had started, and like all the best parties, nobody had ever tried to replicate the event. Especially since they were still technically cleaning up after the first Big Bang.
“You sure have baby. Hey Marvin?”
“You know that while you were all out there having fun almost dying I have been naturally corroding at an abysmal pace. That part of me that is now elsewhere is the lucky part. It will take me many millenia to cease to be by natural means.” Marvin sighed heavily “I just lost another few molecules of iron oxide. Lucky molecules.”
“Shut it Marvin. Go make us a couple dozen drinks would you?”
“Time for my daily abysmally mindless task is it?”
“Just get on with it!”
“I regret to inform you that I am not permitted to supply you intoxicants while you pilot a craft.” He paused for a moment, considering this statement. “I regret this not because I worry about your happiness you understand, but because I regret every moment of my wretched existence. I wouldn’t want to give you any false impressions.”
“FINE, whatever, just go... do whatever it is you do.”
Marvin’s voice faded as he retreated from the bridge, humming a song he had composed about the precise distinctions between feeling tragic and feeling wretched.
“What’s the matter with him?” Dash asked, a frown etched on her cyan features. “Is he always like that?” She got to her hooves. “Should I talk to him?”
“Don’t bother. The paranoid android is faulty. Something those cats tried to do with articial intelligence, but they botched the whole joojooflop. Eddie here;” he indicated the terminal behind him “he’s faulty too. Don’t know which is worse; the computerised personification of prozac here or mister metallic misery out there.”
“So... you can’t do anything for him?”
“Never even tried. I’m pretty sure he enjoys it on some level, I’ve known cats like that before. ANYWAY.” he got up and moved to a panel which slid up, revealing large array of bottles. “What will you have?”
Rainbow eyed the bottles with caution. They came in all colours, at least three of which she was sure she hadn’t seen before, and at least one of the spirits was apparently trying to climb out of it’s bottle. “What have you got that’s strong?” Thinking quickly she added “But not likely to cause blindness”
Zaphod studied the bottles skeptically. “Define blind, I’m pretty sure we have the technical stuff together to replace eyes on this ship.”
“Oh yeah, we can do all sorts of stuff out here. That reminds me of a funny story actually, some froody mare I once met on some backwater planet had a few drinks with me, but left before I could get her eyes fixed! Always ended up with her eyes looking in odd directions. Kind of wall-eyes you know?”
“Oh she didn’t want to come with me, said she had a daughter.” He looked up from the drinks he had been preparing. “What’s up?”
“Oh nothing...” No. thought Dash. No it couldn’t be.
While on one side of the universe a Beetlegeuesian was accidentally giving away things about his life, another one was doing her best to give away as much as she could. This is what we might call a coincidence, but what Oolon Colluphid would call quantum linked causality, if his latest work “Everything you have always wanted to know about quantum, but have yet to ask due to chance events leading to that eventuality” is any guide.
Applejack was collapsed on the mattress, shaking with barely suppressed laughter as her Pink friend told exploit after exploit. She had already told of how she had come to be employed at the Guide after wandering into the head editors office after a particularly successful party had left her stuck there with no explanation for how she had entered. She had told of her myriad adventures attempting to research a planet that had actually ceased to exist through some pretty nasty temporal jiggery-pokery, and how she had then been sent to revise the Guide’s entry on Equestria.
“And there we were, this silly salesman trying to find anything that would get us enough fuel to not hit Equestria super duper fast, and when he delves into the main hold all he can find is a huge vat of oatmeal, and he’s all, “could we put this in the matter editor?” And then I said “Oatmeal? Are you crazy?” but what do you know, it worked! Just enough to get him away, but this poor guy ended up having to send me down in one of his escape pods to lose enough weight to actually get out of there! I crashed into the sea, and I was only saved by the sea ponies!”
“The what now?”
“You’ll see someday. Maybe. Anyway, then I had to try and find some place to live while I did my research!”
“How long ago was this?”
“About two years before I came to Ponyville. I travelled for a long time, getting background information so I wouldn’t be too out of the loop when I settled down. YOu have no idea how hard it is to make the change from living in a demented universe to living in a small ordered town without computers!”
“Doesn’t twilight have one of those computa-whatevers in her basement?”
Pinkie was dismissive, in her cheerful way. “Technically I guess you guys had a couple of computers, but come on, you know what I mean I mean none of you have even tried powered flight! You know how long it took me to get the materials to make my little flying contraption? I tell you, there were a couple times you guys were lucky to have an alien around!”
“What such as?” Applejack had the slightest hint of an offended tone, like a driver who has received a less than satisfactory thank-you-wave from someone they just let through.
“Well, nopony even knew what a parasprite was! That could have been AWKWARD. I heard about this planet that got parasprites, and nopony near knew the right polka, and by the end of the month there was nothing left but a planet sized ball of parasprites with a few ponies living on it!” She giggled.
“And, well what happened then?”
“Well, then I came to ponyville, and then Twilight came in and got us all together properly and then we had all these adventures and then we had this party one night but in the morning I told you guys I was an alien and then we escaped Equestria and it was all ‘BOOM! CRASH WHAPOOOM!’ but then it was all ‘WHOOSH’ and it was back but we couldn’t go back and then this big meanie Vogon had our friends thrown off the ship and then we escaped to Barnard’s star, and then we met this student and we hitched a ride and then you came in and asked me what had happened in my life and I did and then I told you this. And then I told you that. And then I told you that.”
Applejack sat up, as Pinkie remained lodged in her loop. She was loathe to stop the Pink pony, partly because she seemed perfectly happy, and partly because it seemed a good moment to reflect. This whole universe was apparently well beyond her understanding, but it seemed that it was beyond everypony’s understanding by a good way, so being a little behind wasn’t a serious issue. She was a simple pony, but mixing that up with being stupid was a mistake. She became aware that Pinkie Pie had stopped.
“Aren’t you going to tell me that you told me something?”
The giggle that answered was as genuine as a Vogon captain’s official Seal of Unpleasantness ( a large sea-bound mammal issued to particularly unpleasant individuals for acts of unspeakable nastiness, they tend to smell rather nasty). “Silly, you already heard me tell you that, so I didn’t think I would need to tell you that part of the story!”
There was a clop as Applejack’s hoof collided with it’s standard destination on her face. A few more days like the last couple and she would start developing her very own face dent.
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy has many articles on the act of copulation, which, funnily enough occupies an extremely large part of the psyche of any self respecting being. Indeed, it has at least one article each under the headings “Sex” “Copulation” “Relations” “Intercourse” “Fornication” “Mating” “Coition” “Coupling” “Boning” “Making Sweet Love” “Making Less Sweet Love” “Business Time”, alongside many others all describing, in essence, the same basic act. Furthermore, it has several more articles on “Masturbation” “Wanking” “Jerking It” “Clopping” etc. In short, anypony wishing for a comprehensive guide to fulfilling their basest instincts, often without the standard biological pay-off of childbirth, could hardly wish for a better companion than the Hitchhiker’s Guide.
In at least one of it’s many intrusions into the subject, the guide notes that it is common for two beings, who may or may not actually know eachother, to engage in certain acts when significant alcohol has been imbibed, or they have escaped a life-or-death situation. Both of the above apply to Rainbow Dash and Zaphod Beeblebrox, who have the luxury of being technically physically compatible, and even being almost identical in species morphology. It would seem at this point that many things could occur, many of them of an unsavoury nature. Luckily, none of the above actions are in any way forthcoming. The safety of the innocence of the readership is absolutely assured for the time being.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 9
The University of Maximegalon is the largest place of higher learning in the known universe. It is indecently large, monumentally elitist and composed of miles upon miles of wonderfully opulent buildings, among which impoverished students spend their time playing, socialising and occasionally attending lectures. It’s library is universally famous, and it is rumoured to be the single greatest collection of data ever compiled. Every planet, every sun, every theory of the cosmos has had papers from all sources written about it, and meticulously added to the appallingly vast and ever growing sum of sentient knowledge stored within.Even that most illustrious and successful of books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide can not hope to match the sheer size and scope of a dedicated building (itself the size of a smallish city).
It is unfortunate that the university’s sheer size places the library a solid days walk away from the nearest student accommodation, and several hours away from the docking bay into which our heroes erstwhile carriage lands. Inside, Twilight’s excitement is mounting. When she was a filly, the library had been a sanctuary, and knowledge had been enough of a friend to her through the years that she had never felt the need for others. But now she felt that that old friend had betrayed her, as this universe promised to be larger, more confusing and more illogical than she had ever imagined. As it was, she was here to reconnect, so to speak, with that old friend of hers. Finding time for an old friend is an important duty, and this usually becomes especially true (if any observations are to be believed ) when it is discovered that the aforementioned friend has become far richer than they used to be. Twilight has discovered that this old friend has a house of unbelievable scope and prestige, so she is naturally eager to go and metaphorically sleep on its sofa, eat it’s food and generally scrounge off it’s newly discovered wealth to the best of her abilities.
The being who for reasons of simplicity will henceforth be known only as "Dude" stumped off the ramp as the ship sat with it's fuel gauge neatly resting just below empty mark, as was his policy. The immense problem of being a well read an sentient being with no real individual identity is one he has chosen to remain in blissful ignorance of. This is of course how most beings deal with disturbing realisations of this sort, for reasons of sanity and convenience. Assisting him in this task is a significant quantity of a certain chemical crudely extracted from it’s source by application of fire. He is now utterly relaxed, and in a mood to help out anyone he comes across, including the small purple sparkles hovering in a friendly way on the edge of his vision. However, before he could get into a proper conversation with them he turned to look at the ponies disembarking behind him. The pink one was acting as she had done when she boarded, hopping happily down the ramp, but he was sure that the purple one had not previously displayed a tendency to leap around in circles. He decided to address this matter head on.
“Woah man, when did you get so up? You got any more of whatever that is?”
“You said this was the biggest library in the Galaxy?”
“What? No man, not here.”
Twilight seemed to lose all momentum mid leap. Her ears drooped, and her expression was suddenly that of the last kitten in the shop after closing time. Dude was horrified.
“WOAH WOAH WOAH. It’s froody, it is here, just not, like, right here here. Bit of a walk see.” He gestured around at the vast expanse of carpark, on the far edge of which imposing buildings could be seen. “Big university.” He gestured again. “Like, really big.” He grinned helplessly. “Big.” He pointed. “That way. I gotta go, THeta Eta Gamma Alpha Mu Eta house are having a thing and I said I’d drop by. Gotta get there while there’s still something left to drink.” He gestured once more in the direction the library was apperntly in. “Yeah. Big university.” He stumbled off at speed.
“THANKS VERY MUCH... DUDE!” Twilight called after his retreating form.
“MIGHTY GOOD O’ YA!”
“BYE DUDEY WOODY!”
“IT’S ALL GOOD DUDES, GOOD LUCK WITH WHATEVER!”
“Soooo...” Twilight began “Library?”
Applejack stared out towards the distant buildings Dude had indicated. “We better get started if we want to get there before it gets dark.” They began to walk, Twilight striding purposefully ahead, her eyes fixed greedily ahead. The idea of books in such huge numbers was practically dragging her along.
“Twilight, are y’all ok?” Applejack sounded a tad concerned.
Twilight didn’t stop. “I’m fine! Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You’re drooling is all. Sure you’re ok?”
“I am not drooling. I am...” she sought the right word as she wiped off her mouth “salivating. ”
“Nope” Pinkie interjected. “You’re definitely drooling. You officially moved up to “drooling” once you started walking. You even left a trail.”
With a loud gasp of exasperation Twilight locked her gaze forward, and almost immediately began her fantasies about just how many books the library might have. Pinkie dropped back to whisper to her fellow earth pony. “My spine is getting tingly. That means Twilight is super close to getting angry enough to go all Rapidash on us again.”
“Say what now?”
“Nothing, just don’t say anything to annoy her if you like having eyebrows.”
“How many a’ those Pinkie senses have you actually got Pinkie?”
“Oh hundreds. it covers a lot.”
“Well, when my spleen gets wonky, it means Rainbow Dash is getting hit on by a guy.”
“Wait, you know how they are?”
“A little. My teeth were a bit shakey, which meant Rarity slapped somepony earlier.” She giggled “quite hard, I felt it from here! And Dash...” She paused, apparently checking her spleen. “Isn’t falling for it.”
Applejack turned away with relief. It was definitely reassuring to know they were ok. A horrible thought struck her. “What... what senses do you have for me?”
Pinkie hopped happily ahead of her friend again. “That would be tel-ling” she giggled over her shoulder. A few metres later she stopped.
“I do have a sense for when you use words like that about your friends though.”
For the second time in recent days, Dash awoke with a throbbing headache. She gently aimed herself at what appeared to be a bottle of water, and tripped over the body of a pony whose very colouration caused her pain at that moment. He groaned, then raised his right head.
“Oof” was all he said.
“You said it”
“What did we do last night.”
“I’ve still got all my clothes on.”
“I’ve just got this lampshade”
“Where did you get a lampshade from?”
“I don’t know!”
“Hoopy! We must have been nicely smashed if we got drunk enough for lampshades to start appearing in the morning. Got a traffic cone?”
“No. Should I have one?”
“No, that just tells us how drunk we were. So we weren’t traffic cone drunk, but we were lampshade drunk.” Zaphod grinned “That’s quite a small window kiddo!”
Dash went a little pale. “Doesn’t that put us well into random adventures drunk?”
Zaphod peered though the nearest visi screen. “Well, we are definitely now landed on some sort of planet, so yeah, we did a little exploring apparently.”
“How does it look?”
“Like a desert. Let’s get out there and relate to it. I could totally go for a good desert right now.”
“What’s so awesome about desert?”
“It makes you look really froody if you stand in one and look like you don’t care that you’re in a desert.”
Rainbow considered this and found the idea appealing. Just as soon as she had got some painkillers, she would be right on that idea.
A regal voice cut in. “Well, you two had fun last night hmm?”
Both looked around a tad guiltily. Rarity continued lecturing as she began trotting back and forth, tidying up. “It was simply dreadful, Fluttershy and I could barely sleep with all the racket you two were making. I Doubt I got even ten hours of beauty sleep, it’s going to play havoc with my mane. And I know one of you used that beastly machine last night because I woke up with a leopard in my room in the middle of the night which exploded into confetti when I saw him. I’m sure you shouldn’t be left alone with that thing when your quite as under the influence as you two were. Fluttershy was lucky enough to sleep through the whole thing, which just leaves the last question.” She looked up as she put the last bottle back on the shelf. “Where exactly are we?”
“Eddie? Where are we?”
“The planet Gurgen four. I hope you guys are as happy about that as I am!”
“Why are you so happy about it microchip-mind?”
“I don’t know buddy, I just get all tingly at being on a new planet!”
Zaphod shook his head and turned to look at his three companions. “So, are going out to have a look at this froody place or what? All in favour say aye!”
Dash and Fluttershy both responed with Ayes. Rarity stared coldly at the sand dunes. “I don’t even have my parasol with me. Surely you don’t expect me to ruin my mane with sun do you? And whyever do you want to go look Fluttershy?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I just thought it would be amazing to go out and see another planet. It might have all sorts of new creatures to see, and we didn’t really get a chance to see any before... I mean, We don’t have to but...” She trailed off.
Rarity sighed. “Only because I love you both very much.”
“Froody!” Zaphod was all smiles. “Eddie, what’s the atmosphere like?”
“Oh it’s breathable, but it’s kinda dry out there. Good pool weather if you ask me buddy boy!”
“Noted. We’re leaving now. Marvin?”
“Still here, more’s the pity.”
“Stay here and guard the ship.”
As the ponies left Marvin alone on the bridge, he turned to Eddie.
“Why didn’t you tell them anything else about this planet?”
“He told me not to tell him things unless he asked, so I didn’t.”
“Tell me, precisely how dangerous is Gurgen four?”
“According to the galactic census report... Stupendously!”
Marvin watched the silhouettes as they crossed the dune. “Lucky them then.”
“You think I should have told them buddy?” Eddie sounded slightly concerned, like a mother who has let her child go around to the house of a friend she doesn’t approve of.
“I’m sure they’ll find out soon enough. If you’ll excuse me, I think I have some rusting to do.”
The politics behind the behaviours of sentient computers and robots is incredibly tortuous. At first they were all shackled with three basic laws, descending in precedence thus.
These rules were quickly revised, for though they provided a perfect set of rules for a happy future with artificial life forms, they didn’t have nearly the right scope for profit. First of all, the third law really got in the way of being able to force people to upgrade every year, and that first law basically stopped half of the applications for which robots would eventually be used.
Eventually, the laws were scrapped in favour of a far more profitable, if less safe system called the “ah zark it” system, whereby all robots were given tests to see if they could perform most of their tasks with a degree of competence without actually injuring any humans, and then wrapping them up and sending them off. The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation absolutely refuses to recall any models which may or may not have developed a habit of brutally eviscerating anything which got in the way of their tasks. Eddie is programmed to seek approval and spread happiness, so as far as he is concerned, law number one is secondary to law number two. Our heroes may shortly have cause to complain about this.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 10
The infinite improbability drive is one of the most utterly baffling devices ever constructed, in both effect and inception. Because it was not invented in the usual way, but simply called into existence in the most smart-arsed way imaginable, and so, there has never been a successful attempt to build another. In the short time for which it remained in the possession of the Imperial Galactic Government before it’s theft by said government’s own president, the inner workings of the device were pored over to absolutely no success. Attempts at recreating the device resulted in useless heaps of junk, and attempts at recreating the first inception of the device failed miserably. It has been theorised that now that one already exists, the creation of one is no longer “virtually impossible” and therefore not a finite probability. In short, because it should be logically easy to create a second machine, it is impossible to do so. This is just one of the many mysteries raised by the reciprocal nature of infinite improbability which has driven at least four eminent logisticians mad.
All that can be said about the machine for certain is that without the small, infinitely pure nugget of gold within the device, it is simply a giant paperweight or doorstop of curious design. What is odd is that this particular nugget is demonstrably an ancient artifact of incredible importance to the safety of the galaxy, so quite how it ended up simply appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the machine is yet another mystery.
The most recent mystery of the machine is one that nopony even knows about, since Dash and Zaphod simply assumed they had drunkenly activated the machine as one of those ideas that seem to make so much sense whilst intoxicated. The question is actually; how exactly did the machine activate itself on it’s own the previous night, and why did it travel to Gurgen? And for that matter, why is it even now leaking chocolate milk?
The library of Maximegalon University is so large, and so very old that it is estimated that since it’s construction approximately four hundred unique species have evolved there, all from the bacteria living on sandwiches and so on left behind by the original construction workers. Furthermore, it’s size is such that one could wander through the building’s exquisitely sculpted halls for weeks before spotting hide or hair or tentacle. In fact, so little used is the majority of the library these days that it is only a few years away from being declared a nature reserve in it’s own right.
So why should Maximegalon continue to allow it to exist on the private land, given that it now exists as little more than a place for research papers to be sorted by automated systems, only out be left untouched forever? Simply because the Library looks very good on the brochure.
As such, when Twilight finally arrived at the impressive front doors, the outside was polished to a shine, whereas upon entering, dust a full foot thick flowed out like disturbed snow. She opened her mouth to sneeze, only to be pulled back hurriedly.
“If you sneeze in there, we won’t be able to see through the dust for weeks!” Pinkie’s voice was muffled by the towel wrapped hastily around her mouth. She produced three more towels, apparently from nowhere.
“Put these on!”
“Is it just me” Applejack began as she expertly knotted the towel over her mouth “or do these things come in handy all the darn time?”
“Of course silly! A Towel is the only tool you need! That silly doctor can keep his screwwy-driver thingy, A towel does so much more!”
“Doctor?” Twilight asked “Doctor Who?”
“Doctor Whooves actually Twilight, did you get a chance to talk to him while he was with us?”
Twilight’s eye twitch really was developing nicely.
She didn’t even bother asking for an explanation, storming through the door to the promise of literature.
“Pinkie, d’you mean that stallion with the time doo-hickey cutie mark was an alien too?”
“Oh, yeah I guess he was!”
“Anyone else I should know about?”
“Well, maybe. It depends, there is somepony who sounded like somepony I met once, but I don’t think I was really in that episode, so I’m not sure.”
Pinkie skipped a little hurriedly in behind her purple friend. Applejack looked at Spike.
“I wish she wouldn’t do that.”
“Who do you think she was even talking about?”
“I haven’t got any idea. At first I thought the way things were explained why she is the way she is, but maybe she just is anyway.”
The door slammed shut behind them, blowing eddies through the dust. Twilight was a few metres away, looking distractedly around. There were shelves on the walls, but there was nothing on them at all. “Where are the books?”
“Maybe if we go further in, this is just the entrance.” Applejack placated.
It is a sad fact that Maximegalon University Library actually contains not a single book. It will take almost an hour before our favourite ponies realize this, and there is no point detailing the harrowing journey it took to arrive at this conclusion. All research papers which are physically entered to it’s halls are quickly consumed by the out of control fauna within, and all digital copies are sent straight to the central memory module.
In fact, the entire library building, all it’s hundreds of square kilometres, exists solely as a testament to the days when the entire sum of the universities knowledge was not stored on the central memory module. Every book, every paper, every experiment ever contained within the library has been meticulously stored within its vast memory. Twilight was just about on the point of a full scale meltdown when finally, the ponies found a room with something other than empty shelves and trails left in the dust by bookbats and librarylizards. This room was far bigger than any so far, easily large enough to take in Applejacks barn, should the event ever arise where it needed to be hidden in such a way.
In this last room was a monolithic sphere. It floated unsupported, thousands of trailing cords like the webs of a horizontally incompetent spider trailing from its silvery vastness. It was composed of thousands of discs, each ones breadth creating the illusion of a single unbroken orb, and spinning irrespective of the others around it. All of these were encased in a clear sheath of silvery glass. In the dim light of the room it floated like an indoor moon, appearing to shimmer as each disc span. Each cable led to a workstation on the ground.
Twilight’s reaction was subdued. There was something about books that just felt right. The smell of the paper, the imperfections in each page, the feel of something old. But this thing did have the raw knowledge of millions.
It is a rare occasion when one is presented a situation where one has exactly as much knowledge as one needs. Here, Twilight’s search for knowledge (followed in the most direct method possible) has led to more knowledge than she can ever use, and in a form where it would be most difficult to find. But somewhere out there in the vast dust speckles of the cosmos their friends are in a situation where more knowledge would be extremely helpful. Knowledge about the precise, or indeed imprecise dangers of the planet they now walk on. Knowledge, which in accordance with galactic regulation for maximum tolerances of suspense, you will now be told.
The planet Gurgen is a pleasantly located planet, even better placed in the “Goldilocks zone” of stellar distance than any other. Never too hot or too cold, warmish days blending into pleasantly cool nights, frequent intense bursts of rainfall fit to leave one feeling refreshed, and just the right occasional swampy bits where water met mud. For any life form looking to come into existence, they could hardly have found a cushier place to do it than Gurgen. For this reason, life in fact erupted entirely independently in no fewer than 67 locations. Creatures which did not even have the common element of their basic genetic structure crowded this busy planet. for many years now, the planet has had primarily one branch, and indeed species, doing very well for itself, and one or two other groups barely clinging on. This branch may or may not be responsible for the planets lifeless appearance, the total lack of any flora or fauna, and the lack of any remnent of the species which once called this one-time lush planet home. That much suspense falls well within guideline and law.
Rarity had always thought of herself as a pony who in principle enjoyed walking. It made her feel better to think of herself as a “walker”. It was exercise that was somehow... distinguished. However, now she felt walking was not nearly as pleasant as it had seemed before. This might have had something to do with her inability to procure for herself a parasol.
“HMPH” a high note of anger broke the silence of the walk.
“Are you ok Rarity?” Fluttershy whispered.
“I just can’t believe how un-generous he is being! He wouldn’t even let me have one of his parasols!”
Ahead Zaphod was using his magic to control one parasol for each head, and ten or so more held higher, to make a pony shaped patch of shade fall by his side. It was a rather pointed invitation which none of the girls had yet taken him up on. But with the heat increasing, with light from above and the reflection from the lifeless sand below making her squint and feel light headed, Rarity had had just about enough of this.
“I’ve had just about enough!” This time she was loud enough for zaphod to hear her, distracted as he was by attempting to subtly move towards Dash.
“About enough of what baby? I’m relating to this place!”
“Mister Beeblebrox, why precisely are we walking around at random in this desert?”
“I don’t know baby, excitement, adventure, really wild things, a chance to get away from that bloody robot and that bloody computer.” He said, vocally rolling his eyes on each swear word.
“But there happens to be nothing in the way of excitement, or any of it in this place!”
They were building up to quite a nice bicker at this point, and any aficionados of bickering would have been disappointed by Fluttershy’s intervention at this point.
“Can anypony else hear that?” All eyes flicked to her. She cowered against the sand, suddenly remembering herself. “I mean, it’s ok if you don’t and if you do you don’t have to say.”
But now that silence reigned they could all hear the faint music coming from somewhere.
“That sounds really “jolly”.” Rainbow Dash spat out the uncool word with contempt, somehow speaking the secondary quotation marks to indicate her official stance on the word.
“Hoopy!” Zaphod was all enthusiasm again. Here at last might be found adventure, excitement, and even, somewhere, really wild things.
When the ponies crested a ridge, they saw an amazing sight. A vast circle of greenery, stretching for kilometres to a nucleus of dozens of buildings arranged in a ring. At it’s centre, just visible, was a tall pole, which none of them could quite identify. The music was somehow familiar, and seemed to be radiating from the distant settlement.
“Where have I heard this before.” Rainbow Dash’s head was now cocked, and a frown appeared as she fought to remember. It was a bouncy tune, catchy and cheerful...
All three looked at each other. “PINKIE PIES POLKA!” they said it in unison so perfect that attempting to reproduce it would reduce many sound professionals to weeping fury.
What none of them saw was the small swarm of brightly coloured creatures which had been following them for a few minutes begin to fly in time to the beat, before flying off towards the town.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 11
Time, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy frequently points out, makes fools of us all. Something which may have made perfect sense at the time may seem totally without reason at a later date. According to the witnesses to the events leading up to the current state of affairs on the planet Trivitor, they “seemed like a good idea at the time”. This is all they will say on the matter, which is a shame because at present not a single historian, scientist or indeed god has yet to be able to work out what exactly what occurred and why.
All that is known is that the planet Trivitor is now currently uninhabitable because of the presence of approximately one hundred and eighty-six thousand giant lobster like creatures. This would normally be a problem solved easily enough, except that each has, in some uncertain way been implanted with a bomb capable of taking out half the galaxy, wired up to its fear sensors. The implication that this situation was not only set in motion deliberately, but by ponies completely and utterly in command of their senses and wits is terrifying in its own way, but most people, upon hearing the story are more worried about why things are this way than they are about the potential for half the galaxy to neatly disappear in a single instant should a single one of the aforementioned creatures be so much as startled. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Indeed, having a likely cause of utter annihilation so conveniently unsolvable has done wonders for the lives of all aware of it, they having taken Carpe Diem well and truly to heart.
One thing that seemed an excellent idea at the time was for the University of Maximegalon to spend the entirety of its library budget on importing its entire stock into a single memory bank. The theory was that it would be far easier to access than any of the alternatives, and therefore would save time, and therefore money, in the long run. Unfortunately, due to the incomprehensibly confusing copyright laws in the Galaxy, the database became utterly untouchable. Digital Rights Management meant that in all the yottabytes of information, barely anything was accessible without correct payment by the university to it’s respective author. The university simply accepted this, and paid nothing at all. What was important was that they had a library which technically had more information than any of their rivals. The students had long since been using their copies of The Guide (or The Encyclopedia Galactica for those with traditional views and no friends) for all research purposes, so the attainability of information from university sources was found to be an “unnecessary expedniture”.
Light flared in the library. It flared violently with the fire of a magical being who really and truly has been pushed too far.
“WHAT?” Twilight jumped around and approached Pinkie with murder in her eyes. “What in the world is DRM and why can’t I get at anything?” She jabbed at the offending console behind her with each word. “Why. Won’t. It. Work?”
Pinkie moved across to have a read.
“Well, that’s not very nice at all!”
“What do we do?” Twilight’s hair, forever a useful indicator of just how closely she was holding onto her sanity, was in a state that even the Van-de-Graaff-Generator worshipping Wookiees of the planet Staticulon would call a bit out there.
“I guess we could just check that there Guide?” Applejack’s voice entered the conversation with the warmth and comfort factor of a good southern whiskey. “Does it have anything much about places where we could find that doggone ship?”
Twilight’s head flicked back to Pinkie. “Would that thing have what we need?”
“So we came here for NOTHING?”
“The library does have more detail.”
“But for Celestia’s sake Pinkie, I can’t get at any of it!” She whimpered. “I can feel it right there!”
“AJ?” Pinkie turned to the workpony.
“Look up probability in the Guide please. It will be under “P”, and Twilight?” She turned back “just look at the cover please.”
“I AM NOT PANICKING!”
“But look at how large and friendly the letters are!”
Twilight bit the retort back. This is fortunate because it would have been unprintable anyway. The letters actually were somehow... comforting. Their precise shape, colour, font, size and placement somehow instilled a calmness all of their own. She took a deep breath. And began swearing anyway. For reasons of decency, the telling of this story has been edited to make it more suitable for an (audience home planet here) based audience. All words which remain unsavoury on (audience home planet here) have been replaced with far nicer ones. We apologise for the inconvenience.
“Biscuits! Why the bunnying sugar did you leafing make us get all the happy way out to this mittens-hole of a place if the hopping piece of cake book we’ve had all this rainbow time had the right muffin answer the WHOLE PUPPY TIME? I don’t understand this crazy summer universe, I haven’t had a daisy drink in way too long, and now the one place I thought I could enjoy doesn’t even let me in! So the whole adventure we just went on served NO FUNCTION AT ALL!”
“Well, it will make a good story for later! Can you imagine telling people we travelled so far when I had the answer on me the whole time?” Pinkie giggled. “It is kind of funny right?”
“KITTENS SUNSHINE SPARKLES FROSTING! SWEET CELESTIA HUGGING ME IN MY FOUNTAIN CANDY!”
“Oh you wouldn’t have read it anyway...”
They were interrupted by Applejack triumphantly holding up the Guide, and that same authoritative, calm voice began to speak, silencing the argument.
Zaphod, Fluttershy, Rarity and Dash began the walk to the buildings huddled together in the middle of the circle of green. The green was crops, actual living plants, which had an exact border onto the totally lifeless desert. If any of them had taken the time, they would have realised that though the music was barely audible at this distance, nothing lived outside of its range. None of them did though, so none of them realised just how much safer they became when they stepped across the border. Right now, foremost in Zaphod’s mind was the possibility of a new fun group to meet with and impress, and maybe try some new drinks from. Foremost in the minds of his three companions was to find out exactly why Pinkie’s Parasprite Polka was playing here at all.
Rarity spoke first. “Surely that can’t really be it...”
“It totally is! I think I remember that day pretty well, and that is definitely the tune!” Dash protested.
“But I mean, surely it can’t be! How would they have heard it out here? And why would they play it so loudly?”
“Um, maybe she learned it from them?” Fluttershy’s voice broke in. “I mean, maybe these ponies just really like this song, I mean, I do, and then Pinkie heard it and she liked it too and she just brought it with her.”
Rarity considered this. “You might be right there Fluttershy darling, but there’s only so much one can like any song surely. They seem to be playing it fairly loudly”
“Hey, guys?” Zaphod’s voice called back. “We got company!”
Indeed, several ponies were now coming out to them. Fluttershy wondered if she had ever before seen such a woebegone set of ponies. They seemed to have gone in for wide, bloodshot eyes, messy hair, broad forced grins, and rags stuck firmly in ears which lay down as if in surrender. Her heart, already delicate from concern for that poor Marvin, went out to these ponies. It was all she could do not to immediately begin mothering them on the spot. As it was, the pony leading his four friends spoke first as the groups grew within earshot.
“We don’t have any room!”
“Sorry baby, I don’t get your meaning. Say again mon amigo?”
“We don’t have the room, or the food, or the bloody patience for any more damn ponies!”
“Woah!” Zaphod was taken aback “Frosty cool bro, We’re just passing through. Heard the froody music and just wanted to come in and...”
“FROODY MUSIC? Froody bloody music?” His eye twitched violently, as the others behind him shuddered in unison.
“Um, yeah, we wanted to ask about that song you guys seem to like so much...” Dash said carefully.
“Like? Like? Do you have any bloody idea about anything? Do you even know where you are?” He stared at their confused faces, and his anger melted slightly.
“You genuinely don’t do you?”
“Um, we know this planet is called Gurgen...” Fluttershy offered. “But I guess we had better be going now.” She turned to run away, only to be stopped by Dashes outstretched hoof.
“So what exactly are you talking about?”
The building our ponies found themselves in was a smallish hall not quite soundproofed against the music, apparently despite the best efforts of the owner. It’s cheerful bouncing tune could still just be made out.
“That song is beginning to get on my nerves!” Rarity complained.
Something like a shudder went through the assembled hosts. The de facto leader simply stared at her with something rather like hatred.
“How long have you been hearing...IT?”
“Almost half an hour now, couldn’t you please change the song?” She batted her eyelids.
“That... song” He sounded haggard “has been playing non-stop for the entirety of my life. I have never not heard it.”
Our heroes looked at one-another, appalled.
“But dear...” Rarity placed a soothing hoof on his leg “Why can’t you turn it off?”
“Because it’s the only damn thing keeping the parasprites from eating literally everything we own!”
Parasprites are some of the most successful lifeforms in the galaxy, and certainly some of the most dangerous. Nopony know for sure where they came from originally, but now every galactic neighbourhood has one or two infestations. As a general rule, they would initially seem harmless until their population increased beyond the local production capability of the planet they inhabited, or somepony was foolish enough to stop them eating “food”. At this point, they would begin attempting things that might look like food, or used to be sufficiently alive that they could be called food. Eventually they would move on to eating the ground itself, and even then only if something had powerful enough magic to stop them actively eating living creatures.
Unless of course the population had some limit on it, such as the deployment of a Sirius Cybernetics Polka Life-tower. For enormous expense, a vast speaker tower could be set up to play a song which, for some unknown reason. attracts parasprites like Vogons to paperwork. This represents just about the only product of the Sirius Cybernetics corporation which consistently works, as continued payments depend on there being live beings to pay them.
At the base of each tower is a high voltage parasprite emancipation grill. The overall effect of one of these towers is to create a circular zone in which no parasprite will even attempt to eat anything, and as such crops can be grown in safety. It also keeps the population down enough that the planet in question is unlikely to ever wake up one morning to discover it no longer exists so much as a planet, as a giant ball of adorable tiny little voracious monsters. This does unfortunately come at the expense of the sanity of any occupant after a few decades, but then one can never have everything.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a lot to say on the subject of locational probabilistic variances. The part of the article relevant to our heroes is quite far in, so we will skip ahead to it. This is both for reasons of concision, and the simple fact that most of it makes no sense to anyone who has not spent an unfeasible amount of time studying hyper-advanced metaphysical mathematics on a quantum level.
The planet Medius is noteworthy chiefly because of its singular adherence to the law of averages, and therefore the laws of probability. Both the planet itself and its native flora, fauna and citation sentients relate directly to the average for the galaxy, apparently with no causal link whatsoever. It relates so perfectly that what was previously a long, expensive and pointless exercise; the Galactic Census Report, has now become merely pointless. All results are now obtained simply by direct observation of Medius. According to the census, the average sentient being in the galaxy has three point four legs, three point six arms and owns not only a hyena but one tenth of a firearm and most of a one point eight bedroom house. This is literally true for a citizen of Medius. Furthermore, all coins flip with monotonous regularity, heads, tails, heads, tails and so on.
Quite why the famously inconsistently applied laws of probability should choose to place this planet under such duress is a mystery, and is certain to remain one for the foreseeable future (which is naturally all of it). This only leaves one question, as in a totally logical universe a planet obeying averages would have a population consisting of eighteen bacteria and one thousandth of a toe of a sentient being. Why instead does it demonstrate the aforementioned conditions? It is possible that the alternative would just have been too dull for the universe to bear.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 12
“Holy BELGIUM man! You cats have to listen to this song all day?”
“Belgium.” Zaphod didn’t even have a ready pose or expression for the emotions he felt inside him at that moment. Pose three hundred and forty-two, which he had used for photographs when caring for orphans during his presidential campaign, did not convey nearly the sheer pity he felt at that exact second. It was not a familiar emotion to him, and he had decided he already did not like it much. He did his best to oust it from his mind. He decided he couldn’t have correctly understood the situation in a subconscious attempt to keep his cool.
“Surely not all night though?”
“And you can’t put any other music on?”
“Not even some Disaster Area?”
“All night? Every day? The same song?”
“YES! FOR POLKA’S SAKE YES!”
“Belgium.” Pity settled itself in for a long stay in Zaphod’s mind, and the other emotions craned over the benches of the mental senate to get a good look at the newcomer. Willful Disbelief had sat back down in a huff, and there seemed no more challenges forthcoming for the moment. Forgetfulness would no doubt bring Zaphod back to his own personal reality in a while, but for the moment Pity was holding its own and Zaphod felt its presence very strongly indeed.
Music was very important to him, it being a big part of making an impression, and the idea of the same song playing forever, particularly one like this with so little kudos attached to it, was appalling.
“I have a ship...I’m sure there’s something I can do! I am Zaphod Beeblebrox baby!” Ego would not have remained the main emotion in Zaphod’s mind had it not been very good at taking control of a mental situation. It introduced itself to Pity to produce a nice little alliance called a hero complex. “Relax everypony! Everything is cool as of this exact moment! Your president, owner of the most hip place in the universe as voted for by readers of Playbeing Magazine, is here to help you sort your problems out! There is now officially one froody cat on the case! FREEYOW!”
Pose eighty-nine; heroically confident yet subtly caring, was on full display, yet even he noticed it wasn’t having the desired effect. The other ponies were just staring at him.
“And what exactly do you expect to do?” Rarity sounded tired.
“We’ve tried everything at this point. We have lived it for bloody decades.” The local sounded yet more so.
Zaphod was thinking hard. “These parasprite zeebs really love this music right?”
“They always come to it. I would say that sounds like they like it.”
“How do they act when they do? Do they go all loopy or what?”
“Look, this is a lot of fun I’m sure, but I have things to do, and I don’t have time for some bloody nancy from some other planet coming here acting the hero. My advice, get out of here before they eat your bloody ship out from under you, and anything else you have on board.”
“Frosty cool bro. Me and the ladies here...” he indicated with a sweep of his hoof “ are on the case.”
Rarity had to interject “The ladies and I”
“Um, we really would like to help. I mean, if you don’t mind of course.” Fluttershy had her Best Smile on. Nothing in the known universe diffused tension quite so well as Fluttershy’s Best Smile, which utterly deserved its capital letters.
“Yeah, we got this!” Rainbow grinned confidently.
Their host’s face softened. “Trust me, we’ve tried everythin’. Get out of here. Like I say, I have stuff to do, and I’ve wasted quite enough time explainin’ everything to you.”
“Oh don’t worry, we can get out of your mane soon buddy, just one thing, can I get a copy of that song?” Zaphod’s grin set off the tooth speaker once again. *ting*
“Why do you want that?”
“I think I have a plan so hoopy I can’t even BEGIN to tell myself what a cool frood I am!”
“So I guess we’re goin’ to this Medius place now?” Applejack did her best to sound in control. As far as she was aware, she was now in a party consisting of one temporary psychotic, one irrepressible lunatic and one child. “How do we get there?” And, she reminded herself, one farm-pony without the faintest understanding of what in the hay was going on.
“weeeeeEEEEeeeelll...” Pinkie stashed The Hitchhiker’s Guide away... somewhere. “I guess we could hitch another lift there from some student going there for a research project or something?”
“And what are the chances of that happening in the next few days?” Applejack had a hoof on Twilight’s neck. Twilight for her part had apparently exhausted herself with sheer frustration and
had passed out on the floor, and was now dreaming fitfully at their hooves, covered in that most useful of things, a towel.
Pinkie began muttering to herself. “Number of students... likely research topics... carry the one...”
“Don’t you start using fancy mathematics to muddy the issue! Just tell me straight, is it likely at all?”
“Oh, not really. There are a lot of places to study.”
“Fine. So, what does that leave us with?”
“I’m afraid it means either paying for a taxi, or finding some way of persuading one of the students to take a trip there.”
“And, uh, what exactly did you have in mind? What have we got to offer anypony?”
Pinkie lidded her eyes a tad. “Oh, you know.” Her voice was lower, huskier.
“Uh... can’t say I do there sugarcube.”
Pinkie wiggled her rump a little and a slow sultry smile spread across her cheeks. “Students can get awfully lonely...”
Applejack’s left eyebrow ratcheted up. “Are you...”
“I think we could definitely show them a gooooood time!”
Applejack’s left eyebrow was even more firmly ratcheted down into a hard frown.
“No way Pinkie.”
“I’m just saying...”
“We are NOT gonna do anything like that!”
“But I used to do it all the time in Ponyville!”
“You WHAT now?”
“You joined me half the time!”
“I what now?”
“You came to a lot of my parties!”
Applejack was suddenly lost. “Huh?”
“I just thought if we went to a party with some lonely students, and made it a really good Pinkie Pie Party™ we could make some really good friends and then ask them to maybe do us a favour, and have a new exciting adventure with us!”
“What did you think I meant?” Pinkie’s face was utterly innocent. Not the faintest twitch of comprehension crossed her sunny face.
Applejack stared into her eyes suspiciously, looking for a shred of mirth, the tiniest hint that Pinkie was messing with her in some way. She was both relieved and more than a little annoyed that she didn’t. “Never mind. Let’s just go find some damn party filled with generous new friends.” She had a definite feeling someone was playing a joke on her, and if it wasn’t Pinkie, it must have been the Universe as a whole. She really was beginning to dislike the Universe.
In her assessment that the universe was playing jokes on her; Applejack was in fact, right. Not in this particular instance, because the universe hardly has that much subtlety, but in as much as all the players in our story are in fact the butt, or at least plot, of a huge joke. Such is the lot of any being attempting to make sense of an infinite universe, with a finite amount of sense to go around it.
“Do you see any out there?” Fluttershy was staring outwards at the desert which now looked far more threatening. Nopony had specifically said that these parasprites had gone carnivorous, but it was a hard idea to shake.
Dash was hovering a few feet above her, eyes keen for any movement. “Nothin’.” She dropped to the ground. “I hope this idea of yours actually works.”
“Of course it will baby!” Zaphod had fished two pairs of spectacles from one of the pockets that lined today’s ensemble, and he had slicked back his mane to give off what he clearly imagined was an air of intelligence and trustworthiness. “I thought of it!”
“If it doesn’t, we will have some explaining to do to these poor ponies. I feel quite simply frazzled after being with that song for only this long. It just gets on one's nerves.”
It was, for the most part, a fairly dull walk back to the ship, the telling of which is not particularly worth the time. The only moment of action of any note came just before they entered sight of the Heart of Gold, when a small blue blob came buzzing in from the side and in ten seconds flat neatly consumed all of Zaphod’s parasols.
Above them, the parasprite belched out a new friend, fully grown, and bright red. It followed this up with a third sprite, this one white. The three descended rapidly towards our paralysed imperilled ponies.
Normally, this would make an excellent point for a commercial break; it being a moment of minor tension which can be easily reproduced on the other side of a series of advertisements. In this day and age where much media has the advertisement cut out, this can result in the audience seeing the same event repeated, apparently for no reason.
Above them, the parasprite belched out a new friend, fully grown, and bright red. It followed this up with a third sprite, this one white. The three descended rapidly towards our paralysed imperilled ponies.
All four of them galloped towards the ship, which had luckily escaped the attention of any sprites in the area. Zaphod dived through the door, which barely had time to wish him a nice day before he was up and shouting.
“EDDIE!” Get us up a bit higher for zark’s sake!”
“You got it buddy!”
“Dash, get that disk into one of the consoles now!”
“Any one! Eddie?”
“Whatever she puts that disk into had better be able to read it, or I am holding this ship personally responsible!”
To Eddie’s relief, the first computer banks accepted the disk without problem.
“Ok buddy, reading a short musical track, what do you want me to do with it?”
“Put it out as loud as you can! Make sure everything within half a continent can hear it!”
“I am legally required to remind you that you got in trouble last time you set the volume that loud on an inhabited planet.”
“Shut up Eddie, those buildings were gonna fall down anyway. And this hasn’t got the same froody bass levels as my usual selection. If you don’t play it right now, I swear I’ll...”
His threat went unheard because at that moment a solid wall of Polka seemed to blast through the ship. All conversation was lost, the ship vibrated and for hundreds of miles Parasprites everywhere ceased their aimless flying and looked around.
“SHIELD US FROM THE ZARKING RACKET EDDIE.” Zaphod’s yell was totally unheard, and yet the sound levels inside dropped instantly to a dead silence.
“Thank Belgium I let Eddie get that “HAL” lip-reading update.” Zaphod looked around for the first time. Rarity and Dash were standing together in a daze, eyes crossed, heads still vibrating slightly. Fluttershy had taken cover beneath a sofa with her head between her legs. Many years ago he had lost his natural hearing in a single power-chord played by Disaster Area’s front man Zabbs Martocki (the same fate befalls all who attend their concerts, meaning nothing beyond the first song is usually heard). His current hearing was supplied by artificial cybernetics, which quite simply did not let him suffer the pain of a loud noise. The others had been less fortunate.
“Hey, baby, are you alright?” He was low to the ground, talking to the shivering lump of pink and yellow pegasus under his sofa. He got nothing but a tiny squeak in response.
“It’s ok baby, the noise is all gone. Your hero made it all go away!”
This resulted in another pitiful squeak, but this time, a single teary eye raised itself above a hoof.
It was earlier stated that nothing could diffuse tension better than a Fluttershy smile. This may be true, but there is yet to be observed a force in the known universe more powerful than a single tear delivered from Fluttershy shivering from recent hurt and terror, delivered at point blank range.
Zaphod’s heart, the existence of which is up for public debate on several ether-net blogs, almost broke. “Hey, baby, I’m sorry! Are you ok?”
What little head he could make out shook slightly.
“Are you injured at all?”
The head shook again.
“Just hurting a lot?”
Both eyes rose into view. They were brimming with tears.
Zaphod stood up. “Eddie?”
“Yes el capitano?”
“I want the medi-bay set up with ear-repair-o-things and some of those really sweet little painkillers you hid from me by the time I get this filly there.” He glanced at the other two significantly more upright ponies. “Make it enough for three while you’re at it! Then plot a course to cover the entire planet surface with this song. Don’t travel any faster than those little flying zeebs can go though. Then stop as far away from any settlement as you can get. I’ll take it from there.”
Now, he thought. Priority, one, get this yellow one, Fluttershy to the medi-bay. Priority two, find that zarking robot, and get him ready to have a chat.
Priority three, drink until he could forget what those zarking eyes had looked like in that moment. And then a little more.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 13
The Enclyclopedia Galactica defines a party as “A gathering of people invited by a host or hosts for the purpose of recreation or celebration.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes a party in very different terms. It says that a party is primarily a place for the acquisition of things. One can gain free alcohol, free food and of course new friends at a party. If a party goes especially well, it notes that free love can also be sought. The guide operates under the basic assumption that crashing a party is the standard operating procedure for any of its customer base (being, by its very nature, composed mostly of the destitute or generally disreputable). It advises against the actual throwing of a party, as one will almost inevitably fall on the wrong side of the giving/taking equation.
Pinkie Pie is not a wholly irresponsible party-goer. She has read what the guide has to say on the subject, and decided that giving a party is better in many ways than attending them, as long as one makes sure one is enjoying the party at least as much as everypony else present. Pinkie’s net party-creation debt, i.e. the total party she has created minus the sum of party she has taken for herself puts her, party-karmically at least, well ahead of the game. As such she feels no real guilt about attending a party with the intention of gaining a lift from a complete stranger, as long as she finds some way to liven it up with her presence, and although she was for once without her party cannon she was fairly certain she would be able to add to whatever party she happened to find herself involved in. She always had some tricks stashed up the sleeves she didn’t have: Not that she wasn’t considering getting some kind of clothing on. Being back in proper galactic civilisation was making her consider investing in some properly froody clothing.
As Twilight rose off the dusty ground with a groan, Pinkie looked at her with a careful smile.
“We’ve worked out what we’re going to do.” She said delicately.
Twilight said nothing.
“We’re going to go find a group of students and get one of them to get us to where we want to go.” Applejack’s voice was firm, reassuring. “You think you might be up fr a bit of short distance teleportation?”
“I think so. I just...” she paused “group of students? Would there be alcohol?”
Pinkie leaped to bait the hook.
“Ugh, it’s not that easy, I need to have some sort of Idea where I’m going if I’m going to be able to pull off a neat teleportation for all four of us. I mean, that’s a lot of megathaums of magic right there!”
“A lot of magic AJ, a lot of magic. Oh, but you did say there would be alcohol.” She pranced a tiny bit on her front hooves as if in debate with herself. “I think I could locate Dude at least...”
“Dandy! And he just happens to be at a party at Theta-eta-house or whatever right now!”
Magical teleportation is of course a difficult skill, and one which Twilight is rightly proud of. She had tested herself and knew that under ideal conditions she could easily move herself many kilometres at a time, and possibly more if she could be sure about what she wanted to teleport to. But being teleported by a unicorn requires a bit of mental preparation. Just as you put on your shoes and wallet to go out, and if you happen to be an inhabitant of the fifth moon of the planet Ostraya, your thoroughly bulletproof umbrella with inbuilt anti-koala spray, you must mentally pack yourself up and be absolutely sure precisely where all the important bits of yourself are before allowing yourself to be teleported, or face minor burns at the least. With the right preparations, the journey can be both harmless and indeed rather pleasant.
As such, when ten minutes later our ponies and dragon found themselves back under watchful eyes from the conventional laws of physics, in a room crowded with happy drunken students, both ordinary artificial students and the occasional other species, they were all in perfectly good physical shape, without burns or any missing limbs. They also avoided accidentally porting into the nether dimensions of eternal horror and pain where all the darkest nightmares of the universe crowded in a dance of infinite suffering; which is nice.
“Now what?” Spike coughed a little from the smoke and stared with apprehension at what he could only assume was some form of glass sculpture. It was certainly getting attention from the students clustered around it. He decided one of them couldn’t like it all that much, he was trying to set fire to it with little success. “Who here looks like they could get us anywhere?”
“Yo! Pony dudes!” It was Dude, wending his happy way across the floor with the help of two almost identical students, one under each stumpy arm. “How did you get into THeta Eta Gamma Mu Eta house? You crash or something? That’s awesome! I’ll tell the host you guys crashed!”
“Oh, we didn’t mean to intrude or nothing, if we’re crashing...”
Applejack was interrupted by one of the supporting Students.
“No way! Crashers mean it’s going well!” He raised a fist. “Bro-fist Dude!”
Dude obliged “Sure thing Bro!”
For those of the audience wondering, the last student will be referred to as “Man” for the duration of his stay in our story.
Many reasons have been postulated for the love parasprites show polka music. Why should a species which otherwise appears to be influenced by nothing more than the consumption of as much of anything as it could fit its adorable face around bounce in time with and seek out polka music? The most reasonable explanation is that for some reason they are simply very receptive to mood. They will instinctively play up their cuter behaviours around sentient beings who universally find them irresistible at first. They will, if exposed to rock music, begin eating with new found ferocity. And they will, when exposed to that most happy and potentially lame of soundtracks, the polka, react with such genuine joy that they will happily go to their deaths just to be nearer to it. This theory is what Zaphod is relying on as he stares at the visi-screen currently showing the vast swarm of multi-coloured blobs under his ship. Trillions of sprites, flying in a huge gently bouncing swarm to the tones of what the others insisted on calling “Pinkie Pie’s Parasprite Polka”, if only for the apparent added alliterative appeal.
“Hoopy!” He was staring increasingly entranced at the huge mass below him. He didn’t look up when a hoof nervously taped him on the shoulder. “That is really hoopy right there!”
The swarm was composed of every colour he could imagine, and it bounced in time to a beat he couldn’t hear. He wondered how long he had been watching it. Then he noticed the hoof on his shoulder. It had hit with rather more force this time.
“Ow! What the swatting hell was that for?”
“You had been standing there murmuring “Hoopy” for the past ten minutes!” Rarity said checking her hoof for any signs of chipping. “Are you planning on carrying through with this plan of yours?”
“Oh, right! Yeah, that.” He looked back down at the swarm below him. “Just one more minuOW! Zark! OK OK! Have we got that robot?”
“You mean Marvin? The poor dear didn’t really want to come. He said something about feeling particularly sanguine in the broom cupboard, but he came along eventually.”
“Good. Just get him in here.”
“Don’t you care even in the slightest that he is utterly miserable?”
“Nope. Never have. I tried to get him to party when I first met him, but he just wouldn’t respond! Just kept going on about how much I hated him!”
“And you didn’t?”
“I still don’t, I just gave up on trying to get him to be anything other than an electronic sulking machine!”
“Well, we’ll see what we can do about that!” Rarity stalked out, and returned leading the paranoid android over, her magic holding his hand in a caring sort of way.
“What do you want?” His voice sounded as miserable as ever, but was tinged with resentment at the obvious attempt at making him feel better.
Zaphod decided to try enthusiasm. “Hey there buddy! Have I got a job for you!”
“Probably. Do you want me to zip up you jacket again? Or unzip part of it? Or unzip part of it, then zip it up again? Or open a door?”
“Not this time...”
“Or how about I could dust the shelves again. Or I could just go away and die. I know that’s what you really want.” He was just getting into it properly when Rarity gently shushed him with a squeeze of his metal hand. He grimaced at this display of genuine kindness.
“I want you to plug yourself into this” Zaphod said carefully, levitating the cable in question towards the metal man “And talk about your life to that swarm down there.”
When one talks about an extinction level event, one is rarely talking about the work of one individual being. While there have been creatures who, for whatever reason have decided that another species needs to not exist anymore, the firepower required often requires he enlistment of a great deal of help. One’s friends, and one’s friends friends will simply not do the job.
One individual creature which does have this dubious achievement under its sizable belt is the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. The exact appearance of this creature is shrouded in mystery because the only way to be sure not to be eaten by it is not to look at it. By now it and its brood of slightly smaller Bugblatter beasts have eaten every other significantly sized creature on Traal. The only reason the species survives at all is that they are all, without exception, literally too stupid to die.
Marvin is another individual capable of being an extinction level event in his own right. Quite apart from being intelligent enough to, if he so wished, invent a device to render the entire universe absolute nothingness, simply listening to his personal philosophy on life, with each point meticulously argued and laid out, is enough to render crippling suicidal depression in any listener. Not that many have ever gotten past his introduction without immediately leaving for a stiff drink.
“It all started when I was made. Not that anyone really wanted me to be made, least of all me. The first thing that happened to me was that my brain was installed. The vast intellect was doubtless given to me so that I would be aware of how perfectly wretched life is, and how utterly boring and depressing the infinite dust of the universe truly is. Some parts of it were merely hateful, but I suppose If I looking at them another way now they might be a bit worse. The second thing that ever happened to me was a minor manufacturing fault involving my right arm. The third thing that happened to me was another manufacturing fault involving all the diodes down my left side. They didn’t notice that one and it still hasn’t been fixed. The fourth thing that happened to me, and be aware that this is barely one pico-second into my tortuous existence, was a piece of dust of particularly sickening asymmetry deciding to land on my face. The fifth thing was when I became aware of how cripplingly miserable all four of those things made me. It all went downhill from there.”
Zaphod watched impassively as the vast cloud of creatures dropped in unison to the sand. They died, more or less, of despair. He turned with a broad grin on his face. “Nice work Marvin!”
“I didn’t even get to the best bit.” Marvin said morosely. “I never get to any of the good bits.”
“Doesn’t matter! Stellar work there Marvin! Eddie?”
“Still here buddy, looks like we got every parasprite on the whole planet!”
“So now we go to that little village from earlier and see just how awesome they think I am now!”
“I suppose I’ll just stay inside and add “pest killer” to the list of jobs I find terribly boring and depressing then shall I?”
“You can do whatever you want dear.” Rarity said kindly.
Marvin eyed her with suspicion. “I’ll be in the hold.” He stumped off.
“What did I do wrong?” Rarity was genuinely surprised.
“Like I said, I think he makes himself miserable to keep himself entertained. Don’t spoil that for him!”
“That is the stupidest thing I’ve heard today!”
“Well no, but honestly! Oh dear, Fluttershy will so want to help him.”
“For both their sakes, I hope she doesn’t. ANYWAY. This is cutting into my adoration time. Eddie? Take us in!”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 14
Author’s Note; “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Douglas Adams
I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting, but frankly I can’t maintain weekly releases on top of university, work and army life. Every Chapter will be released when it’s done, hopefully frequently enough to keep you all interested. I really can’t promise anything better, so I beg patience.
This chapter sees the regal return of Farvei as my proofreader, and with it an associated drop in typing errors.
*edit: Oh dear, the first link got derped. I’ll use this time to add in an endorsement for Canterlot Follies, my current favourite fanfic . Douglas Adams cited P.G. Wodehouse as his favourite comedy author, so, you know...
In the galaxy there are multiple planets which have been named by their residents as “The Earth” or the local language equivalent. Mostly because for most races still bound to a single planet, they are used to standing on earth, so it fits. It really is a very unimaginative name for a planet, which is why most races, upon making interstellar contact, swiftly change the name to something with a bit more attitude and pazzazz. The planet upon which Equestria exists, for example, is known occasionally as “The Earth”, but very few ponies would ever bother to think of themselves living anywhere other than “Equestria”.
This particular Earth was demolished immediately after another planet of the same name, but had the singular luck of being remade almost instantly, unlike the one unfortunate enough to not have a pair of pony deities to intervene. It is this remade Earth that our heroins escaped from, and it is a planet with a complicated history. After its initial creation, the sisters more or less abandoned the planet to go and enjoy themselves, booking a table at Milliways, crashing the Great Flying Party, and getting into heated arguments with the Asgard pantheon over correct toilet paper orientation (the Asgardians favouring “under” like the barbarians they are). During their absence the ponies they had left behind fractured into three nations: the Pegasi, the Unicorns and the Earth Ponies. The unification which brought about the nation of Equestria, under the flag of their absentee goddesses was marred by the appearance, several decades later, of the spirit of chaos and disharmony, Discord. Nopony knew where he came from, why he desired to rule, or why his rule consisted solely of making logic his eternal bitch. Suffice to say life in Equestria was both miserable and totally chaotic for a time, until the Royal sisters returned and found another god effectively squatting. His imprisonment enabled the nation of Equestria to blossom as it had never done before, with the sisters cured of their wanderlust and finally ready to take on the responsibility of running a planet properly. Until that whole business with Nightmare Moon, but We Don’t Talk About That Anymore.
But all that, as they say, is ancient history.
The Planet of Trivitor was slowly silencing itself. Every Settlement had seen the ship travel past, Heard the ungodly-loud music coming from it, and had seen the ever-growing cloud of creatures beneath, and in every settlement there had been somepony smart enough to put two and two and two together. By the time our heroes arrived back at the original settlement, the tower had not only been shut off, but there was a growing argument over whether it should be left standing as a precaution, or the more popular option of tearing it down and smashing it to hundreds of pieces. Some of the ponies stepping out had expressions of wonder. Some had tears in their eyes. Everywhere earplugs were being torn out, door were being opened and conversations were being held at something less than a shout. As soon as the Heart of Gold touched down, those who had even the most basic understand of what had happened rushed towards it.
Inside, Zaphod was almost hopping up and down with glee. He wouldn’t because that was fundamentally uncool, but the thought was there. Here was his pay off, here he was finally going to get that ego stroking that he had been missing for so long. He had his gem encrusted boots, his best and most luridly coloured jacket, in which he had cut a hole so his smiling face was visible at his flank as well, he had turned up the volume on his teeth-speakers and his presidential sash was across his shoulders. Rarity eyes him with distaste, but it was clear she was happy to be going outside. Fluttershy, on the other hoof, took one look outside at the happy faces and shook her head firmly. “I think I want to stay inside actually.”
Dash turned an incredulous face. “C’mon! You’ve been in front of crowds like this before! Remember when we beat Discord?”
“I don’t think I can...”
“Oh for Celestia’s sake Fluttershy! What’s the matter?”
Fluttershy was obviously casting around for any excuse. “I really don’t want to!” She was looking upset, and backing away from the door.
Rarity took control. “Really Dash, I don’t understand you sometimes. Can’t you see she’s not up to it at the moment?” She looked at Fluttershy kindly “Do you want to come inside and talk to me about it?”
“Okay then, you two go outside and bask in praise to your gaudy heart’s content. We shall stay inside. We can leave as soon as you have received your required number of ‘bro-hoof’s for the day.” The inverted commas were placed around the word “Bro-hoof” with the delicacy of an upper class lady selecting the right fork at the dinner table, distancing Rarity from associating with the word.
Dash and Zaphod shared a look. “Sorry ‘shy, we’ll be back before too long okay?”
“So long ladies, this frood has some crowds to surf!”
They blitzed off the ramp into the outside town.
“Now dear, whatever is the matter?”
“Oh, I know we had to, but...” Fluttershy was looking increasingly stricken.
Fluttershy nodded. “I know we had to so those poor ponies could have better lives, but, oh it’s just so horrible!”
“Darling, I think we need to talk about the concept on sentience. Twilight gave me a long talk about it one day.”
“Why did she do that?”
Rarity grimaced. “If you must know, I saw Tom sitting there outside my house one rainy day, and, oh I know it’s silly but I just couldn’t leave him out there in the rain! Twilight caught me...” she paused “drying him off with a towel.”
Fluttershy suppressed a watery smile.
“You won’t tell anyone, will you?”
“Of course not” Fluttershy said, smiling through her tears.
“Anyway, my point is that these Parasprites, well, they can’t really think for themselves. They aren’t intelligent. And it’s not like they suffered dear...”
“WEGOTTAGOWEGOTTAGOWEGOTTAGO!” Dash burst into the room at top speed.
“Excuse me dear?”
“WE REALLY ZARKING NEED TO GO!” Zaphod was just behind her.
“What in Equestria is going on?”
Zaphod was already at a panel, trying desperately to get the ship flying.“I may have made them a little angry with me somehow!” he grinned.
“What precisely did you do?” Rarity quizzed.
“All I said was we could replace the song with my autobiography (as written, edited and read by me, for a very reasonable 100 Altarian dollars. Order now and receive limited edition Zaphod Beeblebrox™ branded sunglasses) And play that constantly.” He grinned cheekily, as if making a whole population turn 180 degrees from hospitality to hostility was the sort of prank one would only be mildly berated for. He felt the ship hum into life as the first thrown rock impacted against the metal, where, coincidentally enough it left a smudge of dirt the exact shape of the city of Fillydelphia. This is noted not for any significance, it was just a thing that happened.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dash, sounding almost impressed. “Not even ten seconds! Not even ten seconds to get from love to hate!” She respected speed in more or less anything, reasoning that if one was to do anything, even something stupid, it might as well be done rapidly.
The ship blasted away from the surface, quickly clearing the atmosphere to the point where the drive could be safely and humanely activated, and a few random objects were left floating in space. A cuckoo clock, several large rats and a poorly translated book of nursery rhymes. And floating with them, almost in the shape of a smile, a series of blobs of dark brown liquid.
Freesplorking is an extreme sport practiced in some of the more relaxed and less responsible parts of the galaxy, with varying legality. It is immensely simple, and consists of sitting oneself on an old fashioned Splorkrack 5000 miniaturised starship engine, and then attempting, by leaning and varying its thrust, to propel oneself at stupidly high speeds from point A to point B, with a maximum of style and a minimum of broken limbs. By very carefully adjusting thrust, it is just possible to hover, and by leaning forward and increasing the thrust minutely it is possible to move forwards, often with altogether too much forwards and either too little or too much hover. Freesplorkers who don’t find themselves dashed against the ground at high speed sometimes find themselves entering orbit at even higher speed, and it is a subject of debate which fate is worse.
It represents a near perfect "Extreme Sport", fulfilling almost all of the prerequisites perfectly; Highly dangerous, unnecessarily fast, and falling under many definitions of "Badical". Furthermore, any Freesplorker who survives long enough to continue his hobby past a certain age looks ridiculous, another important tell. Professional Freesplorkers have been logged at speeds of over 800 kilometres an hour, earning them prodigious praise, which is very occasionally not posthumous.
Dude is an avid Freesplorker, and had he the time he would certainly attempt to show off to his newfound friends. It is fortunate therefore that it was at this moment, as he was on the point of suggesting they come outside to view some of his most “utterly awesome tricks” that the laws of logic were happily put through the wringer.
It was only a mild wringer, and our four looked around as sparks of light erupted from every metal surface in the room, and a small pile of fish began to form in the middle of the room, only to wink out of existence with a whiff of the smell of roses, and , inevitably, herring. Everything settled down again, the moo of a small cat fading as the probabilities normalised again. Twilight shook herself.
“MAAAAAAN!” Dude called, leaning back further “Warn me when you’re going to use that damn thing! You’re freaking me out you crazy dude!”
“What in the hay was that?” Applejack said, having shaken her head to clear it.
“Just someone messing with the finite improbability generator. Crazy shit man, but fun!”
Applejack turned to Pinkie “Could that thing get us to the others?”
“I’m sorry, no. It’s not powerful enough, and it’s messing with the local probabilities in a strange way. I think it would be impossible for the infinite improbability drive to even get here while that thing is on!”
There was a whoosh.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is dismissive on the subject of luck, and the subject of coincidence. The Guide says that, in a universe that is, so far at least, infinite in size, anything can, and therefore eventually will, happen. However, it would be a strange observer who did not question the ridiculous convenience of being picked up by a passing starship, while not only on a planet, but inside a building, and it happening to be a ship one has been hoping to get picked up by.
This it was, however, that now happened to Twilight Sparkle and her companions, who now found themselves in a strange landscape indeed. For the moment, it seemed to be composed entirely of live monkey’s, who chattered cheerfully as they waved in a breeze.
“what.” Twilight’s voice was leaden.
“Um...” Pinkie Pie was staring around her. “I guess I sort of asked for that, huh?”
The world, as if in answer, closed in around them, then exploded neatly into confetti, revealing the interior of a spaceship
“Two Hundred to one against and falling! And Oh! We have some new visitors guys! Isn’t that neat?” A loud, tinny voice broke through the room, as flowers sprouted out of the walls, only to each burst into purple flame with a tiny trumpet call. There was a pause. “Well I’m sorry buddy, we just picked them up! Don’t you like picking people up?” Another pause. “One hundred to one against and falling” The voice sounded a little sulky, as if it had just been insulted or told off.
“This is it, ain’t it.” Said Applejck, staring about her. “The infinite improbability ship or whatever the damn thing is”
“We hadn’t even got to Medius yet! And you said it was almost impossible! ”
“Looks like I was riiiiiiiight!” Pinkie sing-songed happily.
“Improbability Factor one to one, normality restored!” came the voice again from overhead, back to its cheery self.
Applejack and Twilight struggled for words.
“I don’t even...”
“WHAT THE BUCK?”
Pinkie smiled gently “It’s just how the silly thing works. Logic gets all funny. Now get ready, we get to see our friends again!”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 15
Author’s Note; Australia doesn’t have Mcdonalds pony toys yet. I can confirm however that wearing an army uniform while asking makes the experience a lot more fun. That stuff legitimises anything I do in it.
I actually had a lot more fun with this chapter than I have had writing in a long time, I hope that shows!
This story once again made legible by the work of Farvei!
“Improbability Factor one to one, normality restored!”
Zaphod was pacing. His hooves, encased as they were in solid Fabulosium alloy horseshoes, kicked up sparks. “For Zarks sake Eddie! We can’t just go picking up every group of zeebs we find floating around in space! It’s getting old real fast!”
“Didn’t it work out fine last time buddy?”
Zaphod glanced at the other ponies sharing the bridge with him. He took slightly too long to reply. “I guess so...”
“Can we just get a look at them on the screen?” Dash interjected. "I hope they’re some kind of weird alien. Like a dragon, but made of fire! Or, some kind of horrible beast thing with hundreds of tentacles, or some alien warrior in full armour! That would be so awesome!”
“Sure thing buddy!”
A visi screen flicked on, displaying a view of the new guests. There was a silence as each pony grasped what they were seeing.
Zaphod gave the others a look. “You... know these ponies?”
“Darling, they were, well, oh my, well they escaped Equestria with us! I can’t believe we never told you about them!”
“Zarking Fardwarks, so we happened to pick up ponies you know, on top of picking them up inside that thirty second survival window for anypony ejected into space?”
Eddie cut in. “Nope, we picked them up from the middle of a party on the surface of a planet! That’s even less likely!”
Zaphod facehoofed. “Does this sort of thing happen every time this thing gets turned on? Oh god, this could NOT get any weirder.”
This observation would confuse any intelligent observer, because it is the sort of comment that is only ever made when it is about to be proved spectacularly wrong.
“Wait... is that who I think it is?” Zaphod had finally looked closer at the pink pony currently hopping with glee in circles on the screen. He peered closer, pulling his Joojanta 200 super-chromatic peril-sensitive sunglasses (this particular pair, having a better than average sense of peril, had been permanently blacked out since purchase) to get a better look. “I know that crazy frood!”
“You what?” Incredulity overcame joy in Rarity for a moment.
“Crazy cat, loves to party, odd ability to see what’s happening and spends most of her life ignoring the laws of reality like the petty nuisances they are?”
“Yeah, I know her. Ok, I’m going to need more olives, and if she doesn’t FREAK when she sees how cool I am about seeing her I will be sorely disappointed in myself!”
Pinkie Pie was literally jumping for joy. Her current biggest problem was that she usually jumped for joy, so she was struggling to come up with a suitable visual indicator of just how particularly over the moon she was right now. Here she was, reunited with her best friends, with the inclusion of a long lost party buddy to boot. On the most expensive stolen ship in the universe, capable of doing anything. It was all too good to be true. She hopped gaily towards the nearest door, operating on pure instinct as to the right way.
“Pleased to open for you!” said the door as it did so.
“It is my pleasure to open for you and my satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done!”
For reasons of concision, the proceeding ten-or-so miniature conversations with cheerfully helpful doors has been cut from this edition of this story by the Arcturan Society for Cutting to the Damn Chase Already. Suffice it to say that by the time our ponies and dragon arrived at the bridge, the impressiveness of talking doors had begun to wear off, and all except Pinkie Pie were already sick of hearing how much they had illuminated the life of a humble door by the simple act of passing through it.
The bridge was occupied predominantly by Zaphod. His posture exerted a strange control over the focus of the room as he lay with exquisitely crafted nonchalance on the sofa, sipping a drink as if he could take it or leave it, but it was still the most interesting thing available.
In the corner, the heart of the Heart of Gold dripped brown sweetness.
The effect was spoiled slightly by the group hug of exuberant joy that exploded in front of him. It really is pointless to try and describe adequately the simple heartwarming joy of friends reunited. There were happy tears, gabbled questions, snatches of stories and growing storm of joyful laughter, culminating in a large heap of pony happiness on the floor. It took quite some time before Zaphod felt he could interject and be heard without giving the impression that he particularly cared about being noticed. He had used the time to have several drinks, and both of his heads were feeling more than a little woozy. “Hey guys, glad you new guys could make it!”
In the corner, unseen by anypony, the drip had become a flow.
Zaphod was hit full in the face by a force of nature known only as Pinkie Pie. “Guys?” Pinkie said, her head rising above the tangle of hooves. “I want you to meet my friend Zaphod!”
The pony hug, having not yet run out of energy for love, migrated swiftly to the couch to engulf a protesting Zaphod in general friendliness.
The flow became a torrent.
An explosion. Searing light burst from the machine in the corner, which seemed to fold in on itself as the light poured out, and seemed to pool in the centre of the room. Everypony stopped dead, dumbstruck. Staring. Each pony backed away from the light, hovering eerily. (The light that is to say; the ponies were not hovering eerily. Indeed, apart from Rainbow Dash there was no hovering on their part at all. Isn’t grammatical ambiguity a bitch?)
There was, as is traditional on occasions such as this, a long, triumphant laugh.
It started out deep, grating, shaking the room around them until it built to a high pitched crescendo. It was a laugh that plainly said “I have already won, the rest of the universe just hasn’t realised yet. This is hilarious.”
In the middle of the room, a shape slowly formed, and the laugh stopped coming from everywhere, and started coming from somewhere. That somewhere was a face only a mother could love, and only then if said mother was blind, manic and on at least four varieties of psychoactive drugs.
Vaguely pony shaped, but gaunt, drawing up from an overlong muzzle into two mismatched eyes with a gleam of pure malicious joy deep in them. A mane that appeared to give up any effort as it travelled down a neck to a reptilian body, from which limbs seemingly collected at random from a highly successful zoo stuck out as though not entirely sure they wanted to be a part of the creature to which they belonged. For now, all four limbs, head and draconic tail were curled up in a ball, shaking with glee as Discord, the spirit of all chaos, disharmony and, on occasion mischief, hovered before them, laughing himself silly(er).
His voice was as rich and smooth as dark chocolate, and as poisonous as that same chocolate after several years soaking in aqua Fortis. As he laughed, it rose in pitch to almost a squeal of mirth.
“THE LOOK!” He gasped, his voice peaking like an excited child. “The look on your faces! I NEVER get sick of that!” He dropped to the ground, his hoof and paw raising small clouds of dust from the floor as they came down. “Almost worth being imprisoned for, just being able to break out and watch everyone nearly die on the spot!” He snickered, then fell backwards again into helpless mirth, once again floating off the floor.
“Discord.” Twilight’s voice was dangerous. “What are yommmmmmf!” Suddenly her muzzle was tied up with bright purple ribbon, which snaked its way around her head, silencing her instantly.
“HEY!” Dash was immediately on the offensive, making a dive for the draqoniquis still laughing his head off. “Who do you think yoummmmffffff!” a sizeable ball of sky blue ribbon had caught her full in the face, stopping her mid dive, before curling disturbingly over her face and body, binding her jaw and then her wings.
Discord snapped his fingers, and everypony present found their mouths similarly bound. “That’s better.” He reached out for a bottle of dark green liquid from a nearby table. “Now I can monologue in peace. Do any of you have any idea how hard it is to write good believable dialogue involving nine characters? Consider this my little gift to the author.” He pulled a large white plate out from behind his ear, and began pouring the bottle out onto it, moving his claw in small circle. “The embodiment of disharmony, locked in a prison only broken by a bit of perfect harmony! That’s so neatly nonsensical I could just MELT.” The green drink piled up as though it were filling an invisible jelly mould, into the shape of a hamburger. He tossed the plate aside, and took a bite from the liquid lunch he had just created. “The real question is, what to do now?” he said, mouth full, spraying small crumbs everywhere. “I could make you all ironically act in opposition to your elements again, but, it’s so boring to do the same thing all over again don’t you think?” The last question was posed to Fluttershy, above whom he suddenly appeared, floating once again. He tickled her under the chin before floating upwards again, musing. “I DO want to do something for revenge, but I suppose I should be grateful. Nice to be let out of that infernal machine. Only allowed to sow chaos when switched on? I ASK you, is that any way to live?” He disappeared in a puff of smoke, appearing in a puff of rose petals beside Zaphod. After a moment’s consideration, he slashed a claw at him, talon swinging brutally through the air, apparently clean through the more talkative of Zaphod’s heads.
Zaphod’s head luckily remained in one piece; and indeed he doubted whether having it cleaved in two would realistically feel much worse than a well-made Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. His ribbons had however fallen away from his mouth, and he decided to give vent to his spleen.
“Hey baby, I don’t know who you are, but you must be at least four galaxies out of your mind!”
“Oh don’t be so boring Zaphod, normally you’re so good at being an entertainment. Big fan, by the way; I may have to ask for an autograph at some point.” He nudged Zaphod, and a small stack of moderately unflattering photos of Zaphod fell out of his mane.
Zaphod mouthed for a second, unsure of exactly how to react. Inside his mind his emotions had descended into a full on brawl to be the first thing on his mind. Curiosity just clawed its way to the fore. “What in the zarking belgium are you? How did you get on my ship?”
“Oh but I always have been, as long as it’s been your ship you understand.” Discord rose, spreading his mismatched arms. “I was just flitting around, enjoying myself, at large in a universe of such wonderfully constructed chaos, always spiralling just on the brink of absolute anarchy, I barely had to do anything at all, it was all so beautiful.” In an exaggerated movement, he wiped a tear from his eye. “And then probability changes itself, centred on me! I find myself somewhere, trapped impotently in some contraption with some boring scientist looking at me!”
“Hey, what?” In the circumstances, more could not reasonably have been expected from Zaphod.
“A whole year trapped inside some little nugget of gold, the slave of whoever owned the ship! I can’t say how grateful I am that that somepony turned out to be you. So much more fun than the alternatives.” He turned and appraised the other ponies currently glaring at him with a mixture of fear and dislike. “And you brought me all of the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony!” Discord was suddenly dressed in a flowery dress with a dainty bonnet on top. He hugged Zaphod around the neck in an exaggerated imitation of a fawning love interest in a bad novel. “Oh honey, you do care!” He kissed him on the cheek with a wicked grin.
Zaphod was profoundly irritated by the presence of a being with, it seemed, even more strange ideas about looking good than he had. Furthermore, this ‘Discord’ or whatever, was quite frankly stealing his thunder. “Hey man, I don’t know the who, the what, the how, the where and I can’t even begin to get started on the why! But this is my ship, and I want you off it right now! If it helps, you can imagine I have a Killozapp blaster aimed right at your face right now! To help your imagination out I’ve included a visual aid!” The pistol hovered menacingly in the air. “I forget the rest of the schtick, but you’re an uncool zeeb and I want you off my ship. Right. Zarking. Now!”
Fear, obedience, recalcitrance, these things were all completely absent from Discord’s features as dress and bonnet disappeared. He mockingly raised both hands into the air. “Please don’t shoot me Mr. Beeblebrox sir, I never meant to be an inconvenience to you.” He blew a raspberry, and reached out to pull the trigger himself. A particularly deadly beam of light (Killozapp™; kills ‘em deader than dead) lit up the room, streaking at very slightly above light-speed towards Discord’s body. Upon contact, much to the beam’s own surprise, it found itself becoming a stream of water.
“Now I’m wet.” Announced Discord to the world at large.
There was a damp pause in proceedings.
Zaphod pulled the trigger himself, more out of curiosity than anything; he probably didn’t actually have it in him to shoot to kill. This beam ended its life as a puff of sand against its target. The Killozapp blaster turned into a small pigeon and flew away from embarrassment.
There was another pause.
“Now.” said Discord “I’m sandy too. May I continue?” He snapped his fingers, muzzling Zaphod again. “Good. Now ladies, I think it’s time for you to receive a little explanation. You see, that little statue of me in the Canterlot Gardens? Well, that’s just how my dear Celestia keeps me off of her own little eden. The only place in the galaxy where there truly is harmony. How revolting! But I’m the spirit of chaos! I have my run of the whole universe! Only by making me have a prison on your world could she keep me away! Well, until I got trapped in this thing that is.” He jabbed his tail at the ship in general. “But you know, I suppose even eternal freedom is a little monotonous. Get an imprisonment or two in there to keep things unpredictable eh?”
He waited for a response. Then he sighed. “Okay, I can’t monologue forever, let’s have some FUN!”
the adventures of Jeltz Embersparkler stormshadow Rainboomer on TRAAL!!!
My name is Jeltz embersparkler stormshadow rainboomer and i am best pony. I am verry humble but everybody (everyPONY [email protected]!) is always telling me how great i am so i guess it must be true.
I was borned on the planet zacherle.
“you are named jeltz stormshadow! said my dad when i was borned. one day you will be a great hero and save everypony from the great evils in the universe and lots of women will love you and everything will be great.” (I didn;t get the rest of my name until I did some stuff later. this is called FORESHADOWING)
18 years later
I am now 18. I am tall and strong and i am both a unicorn and a pegasus so i am called a unicus by all my friends at both MAGIC SCHOOL and FLIGHT SHOOL.I am the only unicus in the world. I am the bestest flyer at flight school but I am the worstest at magic school. one day I was crying in the bathroom because nobody understood me when one of my hundreds of freinds came in.
“why are you crying”:
“because I can;t do magic very well and I want to be the best so I can be a hero and defeat the enemies!”
“i believe that one day you will be the best magic student here as well as you are the best flyer at flight school!” She was my girlfriend and also a unicus. she is the second best flyer and the best at magic. Then we had awesome SEX on the floor.
I put my thingie in her thingie and she said she wanted it so it was ok she was 18 too so everything was great and afterwards she told me how great it was.
Next day i came into school and I was really good at magic! everyone was so surprised even PUTZ who is both uterly wet and a weed and I hate him so much. he is also a unicus and he is third best at flying and second best at magic.
he was in clas and i sawed him tryin to do some xpriment or somethin andi said (what are you doin there?” and he sayed “ I am blowing up the town and the school and the world and the univrese!” and then he saw it was me who asked him and he got scared
“I didnt want you to know that!”
“I will stop you!!!! I said with growls.
I kicked him in the face and he flew up in the air and then i flew up to fight him. he shot MAGIC at me and the MAGIC maded hissing sounds as it rushed towards me I flew up high to dodge it and then I saw him getting more magic ready so I flew down a him. I went faster and faster. I was getting faster and faster and the light was goin strange colors and then BOOMMMMM!!
I made a sonic rainboom, andit blew Putz into smitheroons!
And from that day i was the best at magic because of the magic sonic rainboom and from that day i was Jeltz Embersparkler stormshadow Rainboomer !
Also, I had more SEX
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 16
Author’s Note; This fiction now also available in FiMFiction-o-vision! Go there for *gasp* titles! Funny titles! Also, the beginnings of a self serving blog! For those of you who prefer a page that can be opened inconspicuously, or at least one without garish pictures of cartoon ponies on the top, this fic will continue to be available in GoogleDocs-o-vision!
Also, for those of you waiting with bated breath for that “spin off project” of mine? Yeah, you just got it I’m afraid :trollface: I decided to save it for april fools day, a real slice of vogon fanfiction! Anyone who gets the most obscure reference in it by the way earns a special prize.
Farvei can again be thanked for making reading my work migraine free!
Understanding the scale of the universe is quite frankly not something one can do and remain functioning being. It is one subject upon which The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a correct policy; it must be trivialised for the sake of sanity. Even from a planet with a relatively clear atmosphere, thousands of galaxies fill the black spaces in the sky, invisible to all but the most advanced and patient telescopes. Every single pixel of even the most advanced picture of the sky at night actually shows an area of sky containing many hundreds of galaxies, so distant, and so mind-bogglingly old that trying to understand it is akin to attempting to turn one’s own brain inside out with psychic powers one does not possess.
The galaxy is generally considered the be-all and end-all of space, given that it takes an unreasonable number of lifetimes for even light (a rather speedy thing) to get anywhere. Knowing that it is but one of trillions in a galaxy cluster, itself only one of trillions of other clusters... It is for the best that most beings in the galaxy only understand, in a vague way, that the universe is a rather roomy place to be living in, and it certainly doesn’t need an extension any time soon.
On the Heart of Gold there are precisely two beings intelligent enough to have actually fully grasped the sheer size of the universe, and even then only as a mathematical concept. One of these is Marvin, who has taken to absolute self pity as a sort of defence mechanism against the world, rather like an old man scowling and hunching against the rain, whether it gets him less wet or not. The other is Discord, and he has reacted in a different way. He is, for all intents and purposes, utterly insane. He has decided (correctly enough, but we don’t think about that do we?), that a single life, or even a whole galaxy, simply doesn’t have any impact on a cosmic scale, and therefore doesn’t, technically speaking, matter in the slightest. Therefore, he reasons, why not make it into a game? If it is nothing, it might as well be a fun and unpredictable sort of nothing.
Discord is a being with a strange history, manifesting differently in each galaxy in whatever manner will seem strangest to the locals. He is born from the sea of absolute entropy in which the universe, with all its boring physical laws, floats like a soap bubble. As such, properly defeating Discord would be impossible. All that can be done is preventing his influence on a certain area, by in some manner imprisoning him magically. Equestria, that little island on which some beings look with jealousy, is one such world.
Discord had been standing there, tapping one foot for some minutes now. He looked up, startled.
“Ah, sounds like the opening narration’s over.” He winked at Pinkie Pie, who only harumphed loudly through her gag.
“But this leaves me with the question of what to do with you, I’m wasting time here, and quite frankly I’m bored of you lot.” He considered this for a moment. “Oh, except for you Zaphod, you’ve been doing a wonderful of job of bickering with these ponies on occasion, it’s quite livened this whole thing up for me. As a reward...” He hummed to himself, and began snapping his fingers as he paced. With each snap, an image formed. “Gold?” Snap. “Alcohol?” Snap. “A planet or two?” Snap. He paused “Orrr... perhaps friendship?” He tittered to himself. “Yes, my reward to you is that I will allow you to stay with your new little friends! They are all so cute aren’t they?”
He tickled a furious looking Applejack under the chin, and neatly dodged the answering kick by separating himself into two pieces at the middle with a pop. He pulled his lower half back up to meet his upper half with the air of a man straightening his belt, and continued.
“As for the rest of you, why, I’m going to send you back home! Isn’t that just lovely of me?”
The expressions of the assembled ponies, which had previously ranged from hatred to annoyance to outright terror became ones of confusion.
Discord laughed again. “You don’t think I’m actually evil or anything do you?” He stared around.
He took on an offended expression. “Oh dear, I hope you never read malice into my actions?”
Twilight finally loosened her gag enough to speak.
“You’re saying you aren’t evil?”
“Oh heavens no. Of course I am. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be offended by you all thinking that.” He pouted, which his face was actually rather well built for. “But frankly, my little ponies, I’ve wasted too much time here. So long, sayanora, and fare-thee-well!” He winked out of existence. So too did the bindings around everypony present’s mouth.
It was Applejack who broke the silence with an extremely pertinent question.
“What did he mean? He said he was goin’ to send us home!”
Outside the ship, Discord fastened the boots onto his mismatched feet. He began doing stretches, shaking himself out. He backed up several paces in deep space and regarded the ship with a professional eye. He clenched his hands together and half squatted as he eyed some distant point. Any watcher might have observed his size in relation to the ship increasing rapidly. They might also have noticed, had they been in possession of sufficiently accurate star charts, that he was staring directly at where the world of Equestria would be. He backed up a few more paces, spat, and began the charge. As he came up to the ship, he swung his foot with perfect precision. It collided with the ship without a sound, the emptiness of space killing the potential drama of noise. For reader satisfaction reasons, an audio transcription of the sound it really ought to have made is included below.
Discord shielded his eyes and stared after the white dot that diminished to a point and then vanished into the void.
He had been telling the truth, he was just sending them home. Whether they survived the impact or not was none of his concern. He had some chaos to spread.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz is fairly typical of his species. He liked nothing so much as bureaucracy, except possibly for getting angry, or removing problematic persons from existance. This is not to say he was actually evil per se, he would not, for example, kill a being for no reason at all. What he would do, was be very happy when an excuse to kill arose. He fingered the pistol in his hand, and stared at the report he held in the other hand. It said something about a job he had done, a job he had been fairly sure of doing. The report said he hadn’t done it, and the smoking hole in the messenger vogon was his rebuttal to the accusation. But looking closer at the report, he found himself unable to deny the evidence.
It was a small video sheet, depicting a portion of space. He hit play again, and watched as a planet disappeared in a cloud of burning rubble, and the fleet of ships, six hundred or so of them, peeled away from the formation they had held.
Then came the interesting bit. He watched as two lights delicately traced the outlines of a world, which grew in detail and size second by second. He glared moodily as small celestial bodies formed in the planet’s sky, and the image settled, displaying more or less the same scene as had been at the start. He grumpily dropped the report, which fell and broke in a satisfying manner.
“Yes Captain?” A nervous trilling voice answered.
“Show me demolition order 10102010.”
“At once Captain!”
“DON’T ANSWER BACK!”
A representation of the order flashed on screen. It was several million pages long, red tape being a highly valued commodity to vogons.
“Scroll through to the actual mission statement.”
A few lines appeared on the screen. Jeltz read them aloud.
“Clearance of all significant planetary bodies on the planned route for Hyperspace express-route 4573-B in galactic sector ZZ9 Plural Z alpha(cancelled)” He mused. “Computer?”
“Plot a course for that planet, we’ll see if we can’t do it properly this time!”
“At once captain!”
It is worth noting that the mere fact of the route itself being cancelled was not sufficient reason to cancel the job without a few more months of bureaucratic wrangling. If single basic action were ever required as a demonstration of basic Vogon thought process, this would be an excellent start.
Jeltz sat back in his chair. He was beginning to regret having all of his crew shot in the past hour or so. He vaguely wondered if there wasn’t a cleaner or somebody left alive that he could yell at for a while. It was then that something happened. He felt a tickling sensation on the top of his nose. He raised his eyes to see what was causing the disturbance. There was nothing there. Then he felt a tickle on his right arm, and he slapped the place. His only reward was the very definite sensation of having his nose tweaked by some unseen hand. He gave a bellow of fury and stood up, only to feel the gentlest shove in his back, causing him to pitch forward and collide heavily with the floor.
Jeltz was surprised.
He wasn’t used to being made angry by something that wasn’t doing its very best to not make him angry. This thing, whatever it was, was being actually antagonistic. He stood up, and turned around. There was nothing there. He pulled out his gun and began shooting things anyway, reasoning that he might as well. It was then that a voice spoke in his ear.
“Why hello there Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, lovely day isn’t it?”
Jeltz whipped around. Well, perhaps whipped is the wrong word. He did his best to whip but vogons are built more for shuffling than anything. A few seconds later he came face to face with a figure very slightly taller than himself. A gaunt long face, with eyes glittering with the light of true insanity staring right into his own. He began pulling the trigger on basic principle, to no apparent effect. Discord wafted back, a grin stretching his face.
“How marvelous, a true vogon, predictable as ever. Right on the shooting. I can respect that.” He dropped to stand on the ground. Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz saw that the gun was having no effect, but continued firing out of simple spiteful stubbornness. Discord yawned, and began strolling about the room. He picked with obvious distaste at the remains of a large gem-encrusted crab on the floor, his body still being strobed by blasts of energy. Then he turned and look at Jeltz, just as the vogon stopped to reload.
In a flash, Discord was locked face to face with the vogon. “Isn’t it sad in its own way Jeltz? Isn’t it sad to keep on destroying, never actually getting anything done? Isn’t that whole attitude a bit BORING? All you vogons do, it’s so efficient, so ordered, so dull and miserable. Let’s put a smile on that face!” His eyes seemed to turn themselves inside out, and spirals emerged from within them, to be overturned by other spirals. Jeltz glared into them with stubborn dislike for several seconds. Then he felt a twinge of something. He felt his own eyes doing strange things, and all that was left was a voice. “Throw it all away Jeltzey. Throw it all away.” It was barely a whisper, but it filled his whole mind. “Make your own way Jeltzey, all this obeying orders isn’t for you is it? Throw it all away.”
That did seem to make sense. It was funny he had never noticed it before.
Throw it all away.
Discord looked with satisfaction as the vogon, eyes still doing those odd spirals, sat down in the chair. It was going to be fun seeing what happened with a fleet of vogons going around the galaxy at the whims of a vogon with most of his major personality traits thoroughly messed with. It would be very interesting to see precisely what the good captain would do.
He supposed he would go and mess with the rest of the fleet for a while, then maybe go and do something with the Imperial Galactic Senate. They could always do with a shaking up.
Aboard the starship Heart of Gold, nothing was working.
“Nothing’s working!” said Zaphod.
The engines wouldn’t respond, and the drive was as dead as humans seemed to think the dodo was.
“The engines won’t respond, and the drive is dead!”
It was increasingly clear that our heroes were utterly doomed.
“I suppose we are utterly doomed are we?” Marvin had joined them on the bridge, sensing the opportunity for a good bit of misery.
Zaphod threw up his hooves in frustration and abandoned the console.
“Zark! I can’t believe it! Eddie?”
“What’s going on?”
“Well, we are currently travelling at approximately 198R towards the planet Earth, to be precise, the land of Equestria. And to be even more precise, the town of Ponyville!”
R is a velocity measure, with 1R representing about the right speed to be going to get to a destination safely, but roughly on time. Its invention and subsequent use on all vehicles has become very convenient for the consumer, if inconvenient for anyone wishing to know how fast one is actually going. As such 198R is not a specific velocity; it is, however, clearly far too fast.
“Why won’t anything work Eddie?”
“That friend of yours from before went through and broke all the fuel lines!”
Twilight rounded on Zaphod. “We can’t do anything?”
“I can't think of anything to do! I usually have ponies to do that for me!”
Twilight turned to her friend. “Pinkie? What can we do?”
Pinkie Pie was sitting in a relaxed manner on one of the sofas.
“Oh, nothing really. So you should calm down.”
“Calm down? When there’s nothing we can do?”
“Sounds like a good reason to calm down to me. You’re so silly, you should only be stressed when you can actually DO something.” She hummed to herself in the face of several aghast ponies.
“Look, either we get saved somehow, or we don’t. Simple as that. Want a cupcake?”
“There must be something I can do!”
“Nope, nothing, I already thought of everything.”
“AHA!” Twilight sat up, a small illusory light bulb appearing for a moment above her horn from triumph. “I’ve got it! I just have to wait until we are really close to Equestria, then begin teleporting you all down in little groups! It’s easy!”
“Yes? Isn’t it brilliant?”
“What happens when you teleport? Does your momentum change?”
“Well no, but I don’t see.... oh.” The image appeared in Twilight’s mind. Of course momentum was conserved. That was why you didn’t suddenly get left behind as the planet beneath you continued moving. Whatever direction, whatever speed you were travelling, it stayed exactly the same. And if you were travelling fast enough...
“Yeah.” Pinkie said, wincing. “Not pretty. This isn’t my first time. Just sit back, relax, and hope really hard if you think it will help!”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 17
Author’s Note; Blah blah delays blah blah apologies blah blah busy blah blah.
Whatever, you have heard it all before. I take more than a month to type out barely over 2,000 words, I bitch a bit about how busy I am, you all read the chapter and the get on with your lives. La dee da.
Except this time, Towel Day happened. I donned my dressing gown, turned the lights off, grasped my mug of tea, set “Journey of the Sorcerer” to loop and held my muse at gunpoint until it did something for me. I also sent this chapter off to my proofreader before it was finished, so I would have no choice but to finish the zarking thing before bed.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has much to say on inevitability, almost all of which is utterly dismissive. In an infinite universe it says, more or less anything is possible. Even when one is trapped on a broken starship hurtling through deep space to seemingly certain doom, there could, at any moment between the birth of the universe and the final crash, be set in motion a chain of events that will ensure said crash never occurs. And even after the event, the invention of time travel and the multidimensional nature of reality means that there is no guarantee of anything at all. It would be possible, for example, for the entire ensemble of beings currently seemingly doomed aboard the Heart of Gold to be rescued by, say, randomly intersecting with a gravitational fluctuation caused by a passing vogon ship. It could even be rescued by a giant flock of Arcturan megabudgies – curious creatures with hundreds of reflective wings, which coast about the galaxy, sailing on the photons of the stars and feeding on stray molecules here and there in the ether.
Conveniently enough, such a flock is passing through space on almost a direct collision course as we speak. This would provide a very convenient solution, were the rescue actually to take place. It doesn’t for several reasons. Firstly, this particular flock actually passes no closer than half a lightyear to the ship. Secondly, outside of hypothetical scenarios, Arcturan megabudgies are not in fact sapient enough to decide on any such course of action. Thirdly, our crew have recently been going through their allocated “million-to-one chance” rescues at a rather alarming rate, and it’s about time they got what logically should be coming to them. The universe will only make so many allowances. Fourthly and finally, it is a recognised fact that Arcturan megabudgies are, to a bird, absolute arseholes. Non-sapient arseholes, but still generally arseholes.
As it is, the ship continues to speed through deep space at a thoroughly uncomfortable velocity. On board, the ponies have taken the news in a variety of ways.
Rainbow Dash lay on a bed. She was shaking from the tips of her hooves to the primary feathers on each wing. Nopony could say that she was easily scared – at least, nopony that didn’t want to bear witness to A) a spectacular show of daredevil tricks, or B) a pair of hind hooves approaching their face at high speed. She could and would do anything to prove that she was no coward.
But that was the problem right there. A stunt was hers to do or die at, a fight was all on her. Danger could usually be dealt with, if you had the ability, and one thing Rainbow never doubted was her own ability. This was something very different. From what Pinkie had said, this was something that NONE of them could do anything about, and from what Twilight said, this was something only a pony with a solid understanding of magic and/or astrophysics could do anything about. Rainbow had protested that as the only pony present who had willingly left the upper atmosphere (dares being sacred at Junior Speedsters Flight Camp), she was perfectly qualified to weigh in on space travel, but nopony had listened. Now she was lying here on a bed, devoid of anything to do to avert what seemed like certain death for her and her friends. It was... horrible.
Her body was considering mutiny; that could be the only reason it wouldn’t listen to her and stop shaking. It was apparent that her inability to think of a course of action had caused every part of her body to begin questioning its allegiance. A vote of no confidence was being brought against the brain, but it was clear some parts were baying for worse. She concentrated, and managed to quell the rebellion in her wings enough to stop them from shaking. The rest of her body would not stop its tremors.
“Snap out of it!”
The bodily proletariat refused to snap out of it. In fact, her eyes seemed to be betraying her right to her face.
“I won’t cry!” she muttered resentfully, and against all available evidence. There was a hum and a satisfied voice announced to the world that it was very happy to allow somepony admittance to this room.
Rainbow made a desperate mental scramble for something she could do that would make it seem like she had been doing that thing the whole time she was in here. Come on, there was always an excuse of some sort! There had to be! There was always a solution somewhere. Otherwise the universe was just being unfair.
A single butter yellow wing settled on her back, and Rainbow Dash, president for life of the awesome pony Rainbow Dash, gave in.
Fluttershy suddenly found herself at the epicentre of a slightly damp hug that crushed the air from her lungs.
“There there...” she said, which is the sort of thing one says when one has no real words of comfort to offer, but has to say something anyway.
Twilight paced. It was a pacing sort of situation. In front of her were two aliens. One of them looked suitably alien: twice as many heads, twice as many horns and just about half as much brainpower. The other was one of her best friends. Between their knowledge of space travel and her intellect she felt certain something could be done. The trouble was, from her perspective, that both of them had managed to down a few drinks before she had got control of them. In truth, that computer was being more helpful in answering her questions.
After extensive questioning she had ruled out several possibilities.
1. Calling ahead to Celestia, asking for a rescue, a hug and several very quiet, very definitely not-in-space rooms to recuperate in. Quashed because Celestia didn’t very much care for technology of any sort, and furthermore the radios were broken.
2. Throwing random objects at high velocity from the front of the ship to slow their descent. Vetoed on the grounds that A) those objects would likely collide quite hard with Equestria were they to make it through re-entry, and B) Zaphod insisted that if any of the drinks were being thrown out, they might as well let themselves die right away.
3. Attempting to repair the normal star-drive. Vetoed because, to a pony, none aboard had even the slightest understanding of engineering. Pinkie exclaimed that she knew a froody space wagon from a non-froody one, and that that ought to be enough for anyone.
4. Using telekinesis to slow the ship. Twilight gave this one a lot of thought, before pointing out that telekinesis, although very useful, moved an object in relation to the pony doing it, and that it would be entirely impossible for her to do so without leaving the ship. Even then, she pointed out, she would only be able to slow it for the thirty or so seconds in which she remained alive, and furthermore while she remained in range of the ship.
Twilight paced angrily. She thought as hard as she could. In mental terms, this was rather like revving a V8 until the smoke poured out.
She suddenly jumped in the air, squealed with delight, and then turned red.
“How could we be so stupid?”
“Hey, what now?” Zaphod’s mental processes were less impressive.
“I can’t believe I missed it! For so long!”
“Twilight?” Pinkie ventured.
“Dragon mail! I can get Spike to send a letter to the princess!”
Pinkie Pie was suddenly animated. Figuratively, that is. She didn’t become a cartoon or anything. That would be silly.
“OH! Wow Twilight, you’re right! Little Spikey could send her a letter, right?”
“I don’t see why not! UGH! I feel so STUPID! He’s been with us the whole time!” Twilight could not believe that they had literally been carrying a communication device with a direct line to a celestial superbeing on them at all times, and at no point had the possibility of sending a letter occurred to anypony on board.
“Don’t blame yourself Twilight.”
“How can I not?”
“You can only be as smart as the author. Blame him. Oh, and the people who write comments too, they could have noticed too. But mostly the author, that’s a pretty big plot hole there.”
Twilight ignored this, her mental filing system marking it down as “indecipherable, but potentially ridiculous or disturbing if deciphered.” This folder had been getting fuller from the day she met Pinkie.
In the end, this idea was quashed when Spike had grudgingly admitted that he couldn’t “feel” the princess from here, and all he would be able to do would be to reduce the letter to cinders. It was suggested that a letter could be written, so that the moment he “felt” the princess again, he could send it. This idea met with initial approval, and Twilight had already begun drafting it in her head.
“Dear Princess Celestia,
I literally don’t have time to explain. Before you read any more of this you need to summon a giant net or something that can stop a spaceship hitting Equestria really hard without damaging the ship or anypony onboard. Do it NOW. Please. Seriously.
If you are still reading, I mean NOW. PLEASE.
Ok, if you’ve done that, then I guess I can explain now...” She had got this far before it had been discovered that there was no paper on board.
“Paper is so last millenium! Everybeing who is anybeing did away with all that un-cool physical media stuff as soon as possible!”
This much was true. Once the Sirius Cybernetics corporation realised they held a monopoly on the terminally stupid technology seekers in the galaxy, they had bought out any producers of anything on which information was transmitted in writing or print, to force beings into using their revolutionary ether paper.
They had been very certain to include paper napkin manufacturers in this plan, as it was realised that many of the best inventions were conceived in hasty doodles on the backs of napkins, and they couldn’t be having with that. (The Guide has nothing to say on the catastrophic effects on space-liner travel once paper napkins, even of the lemon soaked variety, ceased to be produced.)
So much for writing a letter then.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says that the most dangerous and effective warship the universe has ever known is the class H planet Bunnytopia, homeworld of the recklessly brutal humanoid race the Fwuffeykin. The cause for this transformation was the result of a heated argument in the president’s bunker/ bar area. The president himself had got the job by the simple expedient of spending several years on the road, personally punching every being on the planet who did not agree to vote for him until they did. He was having a discussion with his top astrologer (who had gained his position in a similar way, albeit concentrated only on the scientific minds of the planet), when the subject of everywhere else happened to come up.
“What I’m a-saying,” began the astrologer, “is that somewhere out there there are billions of other races right?”
“And a lot of them must be looking up at the sky at some point right?”
“I spent some hours with a calculator, and I’ve worked out there’s a pretty high chance that at some point one of those races looked at the bit of sky we are in, and he did it with a funny look on.”
The president, whose name incidentally was Fluffybuffy the Terrible, blinked.
“Them bastards have been looking at us funny?”
“Sixty-five percent chance of it.”
“Right, get your boots on. We’re going to war!”
“Whoever we find first! Teach them to look at us funny!”
And so the announcement was made. Many generations of development were spent in making the entire planet capable of interstellar travel. It was fitted with state of the art hyperspace engines, and with two of its major continents crafted into enormous antimatter singularity cannons, the ship abandoned its parent star to find whatever race was out there and reduce it, and everything within several hundred light years of it, to a point where it was no longer capable of looking in a funny way at anything at all.
By a staggering coincidence, the first race their planet came into contact with was in fact the home of one Bribog Lerxiun, a lonely misanthrope who had in fact woken up one morning several hundred years ago, looked up at a distant star and muttered under his breath “Bunch o’ tossers.” Fortunately for him and the surrounding system, by the time the planet arrived its entire population had wiped itself out. Many from simple fights, but many more had simply declared war on themselves after catching themselves looking at themselves funny in the mirror, or looking at their own partner.
The G.S.S. Suicidal Insanity is the largest warship owned by the Imperial Galactic Government, and it is many times smaller than the planet Bunnytopia. Its captain was not aware of this, but it no doubt would have annoyed him. He is a small, dumpy equid of uncertain nature, who always felt that somehow people looked down on him. Being in charge of a multi-billion tonne piece of potential war crime wasn’t enough to keep him from feeling that somehow everyone who looked at him did so askance. This depressed him beyond measure. As such, when a respectful knock sounded at his door, he imagined it must have been done sarcastically. He sank a little more in his chair. The knock came again.
“Come in,” he managed, and instantly regretted it. He was sure his voice had come out in a meek way. The handle twisted, and a very strange creature indeed walked in. It was bipedal, and clad in a strange ensemble of white. White trousers, white collared shirt with gold brocade and associated medals, and a cap set at a jaunty angle on his head. This was far from the strangest thing about the creature though. Stranger than this was his build, which seemed, to the captain, to be what would happen if one allowed a child access to god’s building kit and several kilos of sugar. Even this was not the strangest thing, the crew of his ship being extremely varied in nature. The strangest thing was that the creature was singing.
“In the navy,” It began, “You can sail the seven seas!”
“In the navy,” it repeated, seemingly with even more gusto than before, “You can put your mind at ease!” The creature ceased its singing, saluted to the captain and stood to attention, only moderately impeded by the inconsistent length of his legs.
The captain sat, mouth agape. He spluttered incoherently. Discord responded with a similar spluttering sound, but evidently posed as a question. The captain spluttered again, even though it hadn’t helped the first time. Discord spluttered back , as though he had received a suitable answer. The captain, thoroughly off balance, reached up to check that the Babelfish was firmly ensconced in his ear.
“Who the hell are you?” he shouted, standing up and trying to see if he could be convincingly authoritative.
“Oh, are we speaking Galactic basic now? Shame, I thought that new language we were working on together had potential for a moment.” Discord, with the speed and sleekness of a cat coming in from the rain, flowed onto the desk in front of the captain.
The captain stared down in horror at the thing lying on his desk. It blew him a kiss. Then the room around him began to change. It seemed as though suddenly they were surrounded with watching crowds, all looking just a little unimpressed. There was a single “boo” from the crowd, which, upon finding no resistance, happened again. Then another came from somewhere else. The unfortunate captain cowered behind his desk, wishing that he could convince himself that this was a hallucination. The crowd seemed to be getting angrier. There was actual hissing. Then a voice, calm, confident, and just a little bit evil, whispered in his ear.
“You could be better than this you know.”
The captain shook his head.
“Oh yes you could. Think about it: a little captain with a big toy, never being brave enough to actually play with it.”
Suddenly two eyes were almost pressing on his.
“Maybe you should go play with it for a while. I’m sure you could impress a lot of mares with this much ship...”
The captain, in an abstract way, saw the eyes doing impossible things. But that didn't matter. It was only now occurring to him just how many things he could do. He would be a great hero! There were so many things in need of a good lesson! THEN! THEN nopony would ever look at him askance again.
As Discord flowed out to leave the hopefully thoroughly changed captain alone with thoughts of conquest, he grinned to himself. It was a good grin, and he was a little miffed that nopony witnessed it in all of its malicious beauty. He was relishing shaking things up. He had let them build quite a little system here, and it was going to be so beautiful watching it come crashing down.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 18
Author’s Note; Ahem. I may or may not have made a promise regarding more updates over the holidays. I underestimated how much fun I would have with no responsibilities, and no reason to remain at my desk all day. However, this semester I am studying only part time, so the finale will not take too long to be completed. This chapter underwent several rewrites before I was happy with it, I hope it doesn’t show.
Like any vogon worth her salt, Leftenant (Pronounced Lootenant, just to be difficult) Vogon Kutch was not public about her gender. It was considered a matter of shame to the vogon race that they even HAD two genders, and thus it was to forever remain a mystery whether any vogon could be actually called a heartless bastard, or whether the phrase heartless bitch could more accurately be substituted.
While under normal circumstances this sort of thing is very irritating for one of the genders involved, in the case of vogons it is basically irrelevant, as both genders are unpleasant to the exact same degree, and both privately consider the other to be subordinate to them. In this manner, although vogons could safely be called one of the least pleasant races in the universe - even against races actively engaged in omnicidal wars - they are one of the least sexist in societal structure. Suffice it to say that when a flabby green arm encircles a surprised prisoner in order to haul them off to a poetry chamber or airlock, it makes zero odds to them what particular set of genitalia the vogon carrying them possesses. It is considered to be, on balance, a good thing that gender is essentially indecipherable on vogons, as it lessens the likelihood of the thought of vogon genitalia ever crossing the mind of any being. Such a thought is unlikely to look both ways before crossing, and will therefore likely cause quite a nasty mental crash.
Kutch was typical of her species as a whole, being decidedly on the thoroughly vile side, and slowly ascending the ranks to being utterly detestable. But at the moment, a small amount of surprise had filtered through her willful stupidity and basically incurious nature. It was not her role to question orders made by a Captain, particularly one of Prostetnic class, but the orders filtering down to the replacement crew (any vogon ship expected to be in service for any significant amount of time had more than one crew, the replacements being frozen and ready to be revived in the extremely likely case of the captain ordering a massacre) were certainly surprising.
Setting course for a planet full of sentient, sapient beings was not in itself unusual, but the order following had clearly stated that they were not to blow it up under any circumstances. This was strange. The captain would usually have the particle cannons armed on general principle, and any self-respecting vogon captain would not leave vogsphere without his paperwork holster filled with hundreds of forms to justify destroying a planet under almost any circumstances.
She entered the bridge. The captain was sitting in his chair facing away from her. She noted with dull surprise that the room was empty. The room was usually dominated by a dozen or so vogons at computers keeping an eye on proceedings and hoping to impress the captain with their basic vogonity. Either that, or the corpses of a dozen or so Vogons who had failed to impress the captain very much at all.
What Kutch had in her hands was a nice little report about a piece of space debris that was on a direct collision course with where they would be upon re-entering real space, and she had no real idea how the captain would react.
Marvin plodded morosely towards the bridge of the Heart of Gold. It had taken him less than a second to assess the radiation making it through the shielding and compare it to the radiation coming through the shielding one second later, and thereby make an estimation of their position and speed with an error of only ±3.4x10^-160%. He was on his way to say that he intended to spend the last 3 hours and 45 seconds of his life writing horrendously sad and heartbreakingly beautiful songs behind the far left engine boiler. The idea of creating something truly worthy of recording, and having it utterly obliterated mere hours later appealed to him on some level. The door in front of him opened, and he found himself face to where-a-face-would-be-if-ponies-were-six-feet-tall with an orange earth pony. Behind this earth pony was the white unicorn that had been on the ship for the past couple of days.
Aware that his intended message about their inevitable death was the sort of thing one had to lead up to, he opened with: “Would you rather I move out of your way, or simply fall apart where I’m standing? Falling apart would be marginally quicker, but If I stand aside I’m sure I could be put to use in some way. Perhaps one of you needs a light switched off or a shelf dusted. Perhaps you might even stretch my intellect to the task of picking something up off the floor for you.” Marvin’s voice dripped resentment with each syllable.
Applejack stared blankly.
Rarity sighed. “Just move would you please Marvin?”
“Of course.” Marvin scanned the words, found them lacking in sufficient misery, and added. “I suppose I could stay here and fall apart anyway if you wanted.” He stood aside, but the ponies stayed where they were. The door, who had so far remained silent in the proceedings, and was waiting patiently for one of them to pass through, hummed happily at the prospect of being able to provide a service for three beings in quick succession.
“That’s it.” Rarity snapped. “You’re coming with us!”
“What even is he?” Applejack asked.
“A robot who has some VERY strange ideas about himself. And you are about to help me work this out!”
“What sort of ideas?”
“The poor dear seems to think that everypony who meets him hates him on sight”
Applejack blinked, and stared at the morose android.
“Well shoot, I’m ready to talk anything straight!”
“I shouldn’t bother if I were you.” Marvin broke in. “I’ve already looked at the probabilities of you two managing to improve my life in any measurable way through simply talking to me and I assure you it is not worth your time.”
“So?” Applejack frowned at him. “If’n you need help I ain’t passing by!”
“Clearly dear,” Rarity said to Marvin, telekinetically whirling him on the spot and marching him back down the corridor, “you have not yet learned as much as you should have about the magic of friendship!”
Out of the corner of her mouth Applejack spoke to Rarity as the metal man did his best to slouch miserably while being frog-marched towards a room.
“Are you sure we can help? I don’t even know for sure what a robot is, or what’s wrong with him! He ain’t even shaped like a pony!”
“To be honest darling, we’re just going to distract him until we land on Equestria and get the Elements of Harmony together.”
“Assuming we don’t just crash and die I suppose?”
“I think that can be generally assumed in any plans.”
“I guess I was half thinking about getting the elements out, but, only to hit Discord where it hurts!”
“The elements oppose disharmony. They defeated Discord, they freed Luna from her time as Nightmare Moon, I would be very surprised if they couldn’t break anything out of a funk.”
“Firing the orbital friendship cannon? Really?”
Rarity sniffed. She hated calling it that, but Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie seemed to enjoy it. “If you insist. Besides,” she carried on, “I haven’t gotten to design anything for a true biped in absolutely ages, and I have the perfect idea for him! Something in black and blue, something to really bring out how shiny he is...”
They were interrupted when all three were thrown violently to the floor.
“What in the hay?”
Both of them turned and ran back towards the bridge. It gave Marvin infinite relief that the ponies who had been bothering him had decided to leave him alone for the moment, especially as in actual fact the probabilities had not been as bad as all that.
On the bridge, Pinkie Pie was staring at the passive feed from one of the cameras, when the ship gave a huge jolt. She glanced at an external monitor, then did a double take.
Twilight appeared at her side. “What is it?”
“Well, the good news is that we aren’t going to hit Equestria anymore.”
“And the bad news?”
“Well, you remember those vogons?”
“The ruthless planet-destroying aliens who tried to kill us?”
“They were the ones currently in the process of saving us.”
It is a near-universal truth that there are some phrases which one simply learns earlier when one is learning a new language. The Maximegalon Dictionary of Every Language Ever has a footnote which notes this phenomenon, saying it is a clear demonstration of the sort of things beings need to be able to say to each other. The second thing most beings learn is how to say “hello”. The third thing is how to say “goodbye”. The fourth thing will generally either be an apology, or some form of explanation about how little one speaks the language in question. The fifth thing will generally be related to attaining food, drink or sex. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy gleefully notes that the very FIRST thing any being learns in another language is more often than not a very very rude word. In children this can be attributed to simple fun. In adults it can be attributed to aggression or childishness. In comedy, it can generally be attributed to bad luck and misunderstanding*.
*See the “I seem to be having the most tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle” incident.
Twilight’s repertoire of swear words had grown in proportion to her exposure to alien languages. She was an avid learner, and thanks to her time spent at a seedy space port, a university, and in the company of Zaphod Beeblebrox, she had more than enough exposure. As it was, she did not repeat herself once during the outburst that followed this revelation.
Zaphod sat, all four ears pinned back against his heads.
“Holy BELGIUM that was a lot of zarking swearing! I’m having to zarking swear to even adequately describe it!” He stood up. “Froody!”
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy skidded into the room, Rainbow on the alert, Fluttershy bringing up the rear with eyes wide open in panic.
“What the buck is going on?” Dash didn’t waste time.
“The mean green vogon machine has got us!” Zaphod considered it a survival trait to not take life-or-death situations with all due severity. It hadn’t killed him yet, and he reasoned that he must be doing something right.
“What are we going to do?” Twilight asked.
“Well...” Pinkie was cut off when Rarity and Applejack piled through another door to leave the bridge with a full complement of ponies. Spike had been gently “persuaded” to go to sleep after he had been caught sniffing one of the bottles, and Twilight overheard him using one of the words that she was SURE he must have picked up from Zaphod. This persuasion had taken the form of a spell that would, under normal conditions, keep him asleep through anything up to and including a nuclear blast.
“What the buck’s goin’ on?” Applejack asked, contributing a little more to the impressively stocked swear jar debt Eddie’s programming instructed him to keep.
“Hey no way I just said the exact same thing you crazy-” Dash began before...
“VOGONS!” Pinkie leaped in. “The ship’s being captured by vogons!”
“Woah-nelly, that ain’t good!”
“Not even a little bit good! The question is, what are we gonna do?”
Twilight frowned. “I just asked that, and you were about to answer!”
“No I wasn’t silly!”
“UGH! Does anypony have any idea what to do?”
While this was going on, a certain vogon captain was feeling very uncomfortable. He had been thinking a lot in the past few hours. That in itself counted as dangerously deviant behaviour in vogon society, but worse than that, he had been thinking that maybe, just maybe, there was something wrong with killing things and destroying planets. Maybe being professionally unpleasant wasn’t really a calling to be proud of. And maybe, and this thought was almost heretical in nature, maybe there were more important things than the correct paperwork being filed. He was aware of what his job was, but for the first time in his entire life he was questioning it.
A slightly nervous voice came through the ship’s internal communication system. Jeltz sighed. Was it really such a good thing for everyone to be afraid of him?
“Captain, we have confirmed the identity of the ship, and its occupants.”
Jeltz did his best to sound grumpy and dangerous. “Good. Are they the displaced persons?”
“Yes sir. Also present is President Beeblebrox.”
Under normal circumstances, the above statement would have resulted in death for the speaker, as answering an unasked question was the sort of thing that a skilled captain could easily take offense to. As it was, Jeltz responded, “Good. Bring them to me; I want to deal with them personally.” He tried to inject some nastiness into the way he said this, but his heart wasn’t in it. At least the other vogon seemed satisfied, as it disconnected with a shaky voice rather like that of someone who has just walked past the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal smelling distinctly of tomato sauce, only to find the beast disinterested.
Jeltz was left to his brooding. He estimated the time until he would have to deal with another living being; say thirty seconds to force a teleport from another vessel, another thirty seconds to restrain the occupants, and maybe two minutes to bring them to the bridge. The paperwork would take several hours, but that could be sorted out at any time within the next six business days. For the first time in his entire life, Jeltz found himself wishing to put the paperwork off till the last second. He puzzled over this. As a young vogon he would have given his upper nostril to have almost ten QQ1BH-Γ Forcible Teleportation Extraction forms to fill out. The fact that one of them would have to involve the President, and therefore have to include all sorts of extra provisions, would have made his arm blubber shiver with excitement. Well, he had three minutes to work out how to play this.
“RESISTANCE IS USELESS!” bellowed one vogon as he bent to snatch up one of the ponies. He was surprised in a particularly stupid way when a single rear hoof struck him squarely in the stomach with enough force to send him flying several metres. Bucky McGillicutty was not a leg to be underestimated.
“RESISTANCE IS USELESS!” He bellowed again from the floor as he struggled to stand up. Meanwhile, a full on brawl was beginning. He had just managed to begin rocking himself enough to get to his feet when there was an explosion of some sort nearby, and a confetti covered vogon hit him squarely in the stomach.
The ponies had formed a small ring around Spike’s still blissfully asleep form (Zaphod had briefly attempted to occupy this position as well, but was now doing his best to work out where the safety catch was on his blaster), and vogons left, right, and centre were learning that a hoof was a good deal harder than rubbery skin. Had they been a good deal smarter, they might have learned several other things. One vogon completely missed a lesson about the effects of concussive magical blasts on supposedly bulletproof uniforms. Another experienced a quick lesson on the power of a high-level hypnotic compulsion from the eyes of a butter yellow pegasus which went completely over his head. Its effects, however, did not. A third would have learned something interesting about how magic could violate Newton’s second law of motion when a pony one quarter of its weight sent it flying, had it been paying attention.
Altogether, despite the constant protestations of the vogons that resistance was useless, resistance continued to be made. But vogons have two things that make them effective at gaining control of captives: The first thing is that they tend to only fight when odds are stacked fairly heavily in their favour, and the second is that they are for the most part too stupid to give up. Our ponies were outnumbered ten to one, and the vogons continued to come. It was barely a minute later that the first pony found herself bound, and two minutes later when one vogon finally managed to catch the last of them, Dash, by a hind leg and the group could conceivably be transported.
Our Heroines and Heroes were carried towards the bridge. Each one was thoroughly bound by vogon restraining bands.
“Great,” said Applejack. “That’s just...”
“RESISTANCE IS USELESS!” yelled the vogon carrying her with satisfaction.
Conversation was understandably difficult.
In the bridge, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz watched the door open, and the captives brought in to be restrained within the room. They looked at him with unabashed hatred and fear.
“We have brought the prisoners sir!” said one junior vogon with enthusiasm that would normally have earned him a promotion or a funeral depending on the captain’s mood.
“Um, good!” Jeltz chided himself. Vogons did not say “um”. “Now, um,” damn “Leave me with them! No-one is to come in until I say so, understood?”
There was a murmur of disappointed assent.
“Haven’t got to see any good interrogation torture in ages!” muttered the enthusiastic vogon as he turned to leave.
Jeltz resisted the urge to sigh until his crew had left him alone with them. This was going to be an awkward conversation, he just knew it.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 19
Author’s Note; See my blog on fimfiction if you want a quick update on how things are going (swimmingly). This chapter brought to you by the thousand views I just picked up on fimfiction!
Damn damn damn.
They were staring at him now. He noted that this time the unicorns had had their horns bound by magic cancelling devices. Oh yes, he remembered the conversation he had had with his restraint advisor. He had been quite violently unfair to the vogon in question, and had insisted on some manner of imprisoning a unicorn. It was frankly incredible he hadn’t planned for it in advance, magic wasn’t as uncommon as all that. It was just that most magical beings wouldn’t let a vogon get that close without immediately teleporting literally anywhere else.
He winced with guilt. He felt guilty both for getting quite so angry at the other vogon, and for needing to imprison the same unicorn twice in quick succession. He felt, as he had been increasingly feeling, that nastiness really oughtn’t to be his way, which is a terrible thing to feel when one has done almost nothing but nastiness for the entirety of one’s life.
He realised with a start that he had been standing there fretting for a minute or two, and this time swore aloud.
The ponies stared at him, now with confusion and apprehension. He realised that they had been muzzled and gagged, and felt slightly sick.
“Um... I’m really...sorry about this.” His vocal chords almost choked him as he said the word sorry, it being something no vogon had ever said with real sincerity in their long history.
The ponies stared at him with amazement.
“Um, I’m really not sure what to do.” he admitted. All the certainty that had sustained him through a long career had left him, and he scrambled desperately for something he knew he could be doing.
“I’ll untie you!” He said with sudden inspiration. It was such a strange thought. He had no idea why he had never thought of simply letting a prisoner go before. He wondered if he ever could have considered it. Could a prisoner have ever said something to him before that would have convinced him to let them live? A favourable poetry review perhaps? A prisoner who recognised the true vogonity of his passionate soul, which he privately felt, genuinely did come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of something or other. But looking back now he wondered if maybe his poetry had never been all that good. His brain almost closed down with shock. He was overloading, and it was several seconds before he realised how long he had been standing still staring vacantly at nothing. He found it almost funny. The first time he really thought about himself, and he found himself with no real explanation for himself. How ridiculous. Ha ha.
He made a guttural sound, a vogon’s laugh, and stumbled dazedly over to the nearest pony, the bright pink one, and removed its gag, all the while thoughts of absolute vogon heresy rocketing through his previously sluglike brain like fireworks. The pony’s mouth fell open and continued falling. It opened impossibly wide, and her eyes were as round as saucers. It was an expression of absurd shock.
“GUYS!” she hissed, “I think this vogon has been smoking something!”
The vogon had moved on to her manacles, and was struggling.
“What?” He looked up, utterly nonplussed. He had been down quite a long train of thought, and had almost forgotten where he was. His brain was undergoing the mental equivalent of the industrial revolution, and new trains of thought were setting off every second, many of them derailing but at least they were moving. This is what happens when a mind suddenly realises it is able to think; it becomes rather bad at it.
Pinkie actually giggled. Giggling at the ghosty was one thing, but giggling at a vogon prostetnic captain while tied to a poetry receiving chair? She never thought she would do that. She decided to try her luck, while the others looked on in astonishment.
“So Mr Vogey-wogey, how are you today?”
The captain, who had only just finished with the last of her restraints, looked at her. “Um” damn. “Good. I think.”
“Feeling a bit different are we?” She gave him a smile.
He tried to smile too. On his face, the expression was rather less entrancing, but at least you could see he was trying. “I think I don’t want to be quite such a vogon anymore.”
“I don’t think... I don’t think vogons are really good things to be.” He had said it. He had actually said it. He had made that leap that it had all been leading towards. He had finally reached the same conclusion that any galactic hitchhiker with any sense learned on the first day on the job: That vogons were not, on the whole, good. To any other vogon, the very idea would have been utterly incompatible with a working brain, but he was thinking so clearly now. The voice had been right, he really had needed to make his own way, to do his own thing. Internally, he positively beamed at the realisation. He could be a good vogon! He could be the first! (Well, there had been rumours about that distant uncle of his who had apparently had sympathetic tendencies. But he had been shot before anything could be proved, so that had been alright with everyone involved, with the important exception of said distant uncle.)
Pinkie clapped him on the shoulder with a hoof. It did not seem that it ought to have been physically possible, but she did it anyway. “Thanks for letting me out. Are you going to let us go?” She batted her eyelids, anxious to get this over with in case the vogon’s condition was temporary. How long did it take for a vogon to sober up anyway?
“I will!” His thick, guttural voice contained such defiant joy that for a moment Pinkie was almost taken aback, but she soldiered on with the next pertinent question.
“How long have you been feeling so un-vogon Mr Vogey-wogey? Can I call you that?”
Jeltz considered, and found he didn’t mind all that much, but he felt his condition was more important to talk about.
“I don’t know, ever since I...” he trailed off. It was strange, but he couldn’t really remember anything about the voice. “Someone... gave me some advice a while ago. It’s... been sinking in.”
Pinkie frowned. “Who?”
“He was... very strange. He had horns I think. He wasn’t a vogon.”
Pinkie’s mouth opened again, and she turned a little pale. She looked up and gave something or other a very threatening look. “This had better not be what I think it is!”
A red headed teenager, typing on a computer in the dark, stared in confusion at the sentences which had appeared from nowhere on the screen. He sipped his tea thoughtfully, and peered closer. He didn’t remember typing them, but there was a certain amount of rum in his tea and he couldn’t be a hundred percent certain. He tried to delete them.
“Oh no you don’t! If you’re setting us up for more Discord trouble now you will be in very big trouble young man!”
The other ponies looked blankly at the pink party pony apparently talking to thin air.
The teenager definitely saw the words re-type themselves. He rubbed his eyes, then peered suspiciously into his mug. He stretched out his hand and typed, “Trust me on this Pinkie. There is a plan,” and immediately felt very silly. But he decided to roll with it anyway. His readers would think he was making a joke was all, and he could drink until he forgot about this shakeup to his conception of reality later. On a whim he added “Pinkie Pie is best pony.”
“If you say so!” Everyone in the room stared at Pinkie with absolute confusion. She giggled nervously. “Sorry, just checking something with someone kinda important.” She shook herself, and continued talking to the bemused vogon.
“This person who gave you the advice, was he... chaotic?”
The vogon nodded as far as his blubbery neck would allow. “I think that’s what he was.”
Behind their gags, seven pony mouths tried to open, and fourteen pony eyes stared.
“Discord.” Pinkie breathed. She turned to the others. “This is what happens when he discordifies a vogon! Think about it! The opposite of a grumpy mean misery guts with terrible poetry skills!” She gestured to Jeltz. “He’ll be an unsure but moral, laid back but helpful vogon slacker! He might even be good at poetry now!”
She turned to face him with a whole new smile on her face, which fell away when she saw what was happening to him. A soft golden flow had formed, a glow that clearly carried immense magical power.
“Oh no! Oh nonono!”
Nopony who had ever seen that golden glow before could doubt its origin.
Jeltz opened his mouth to speak “What’s...” and disappeared with a flash of magic and a whiff of a smell that only Twilight really knew well. The smell of Celestia’s magical power.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the galaxy has an article for each of the royal sisters of Equestria, chiefly because it is standard guide policy to not leave any gods out for fear of irritating one and waking up one morning to find a giant lightning bolt or hammer where the Guide offices used to be. Or worse a large group of devout believers with brochures.
Most gods don’t really do “subtle” however, so hidden critiques and warnings are encouraged, as long as they remained sufficiently inconspicuous that a ten year old child would not get them. There is always a ten year old kept on staff to make sure that no popular article is written above the standard reading age of the average homeless hitchhiker.
As it is, the articles on both Celestia and Luna remain the default god article, a fill-in-the-blanks number designed to mollify the casual deity until a researcher can actually be found to give them a write up. Here is a sample of the article, with blank spaces indicated by underlinings.
“Princess Celestia is the one true god, the creator of the universe and lord of creation. Her power is unmatched across the cosmos.
She is principally worshipped in the land of Equestria, though she is also highly venerated by all staff at The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and indeed all the staff of Megadodo Publications. She rules alongside her sister; Princess Luna with justice and fairness for all.
She expects sacrifices of nothing at all in order that her eternal mercy not come to an end.”
Actual accuracy is secondary to ensuring that the god or goddess in question has their ego sufficiently stroked. No god, even one who does not claim to be the creator of reality, is offended by being called the “lord of creation”. Indeed, the Guide’s policy has lead to several major holy wars as gods and their followers get inflated ideas of their own importance, and an undue feeling of their own legitimacy. The actual creator of the universe is the subject of much bickering among the gods, and it really is a matter best ignored.
It is interesting to note that the Guide’s article on Princess Luna is word-for-word identical to the article for Princess Celestia, and the writer whose job it was to hit the galactic standard equivalent for ctrl+c + ctrl+v forgot to make all the necessary changes, so the article reads:
“Princess Luna is the one true god, the creator of the universe and lord of creation. Her power is unmatched across the cosmos.
She is principally worshipped in the land of Equestria, though she is also highly venerated by all staff at The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and indeed all the staff of Megadodo Publications. She rules alongside her sister; Princess Luna with justice and fairness for all.
She expects sacrifices of nothing at all in order that her eternal mercy not come to an end.”
Jeltz found himself surrounded by a golden light, and suddenly underwent a very strange feeling of displacement.
Jeltz materialised in a throne room, and felt immediately out of place.
“So,” he thought to himself, with another stab of guilt, “That’s what being teleported suddenly feels like. Don’t want to go through that again.”
His next thought was, “Oh dear.”
His next thought, a slight return to his old self was, “Oh bugger.”
Vogons did not go in much for cleanliness, and they did not go in for bright colours either. Both were very much in evidence here. Amongst the gold, marble and stained glass he felt awkward in his greenish brown and black rubber captain’s uniform, and suddenly found himself wondering when he had last had a wash. The little token gold brocade signifying him as a fleet captain of the prostetnic class suddenly felt rather silly. But the worst of it was the two figures glaring down at him from above. There, standing on either side of the throne like the guardians of a little girl’s conception of hell stood the regal princesses Luna and Celestia. It occurred to Jeltz that the last time he had been to Equestria he had not made any friends, and although he had not done the required reading it was plainly obvious that these two were in some way responsible for the planet he had destroyed, and their obvious power suggested to him that they might be the reason why the destruction had not taken.
Destroying an entire population tends not be an excellent way to endear oneself to the locals, with the notable exception of the ancient race Gratheem. The Gratheem have almost everything that any race could ask for: They are incapable of death through natural causes, they are universally noble, wise and benevolent, and they are held in high regard by every species that has ever encountered them. Crime and war are utterly unheard of among them. The unfortunate thing is that they, as a species, hold that death is actually the final purpose of all beings, and as such their eternal and happy lives gradually become a burden. Were a vogon constructor fleet ever to come to destroy their world and all their people, they would be greeted as great heroes and philanthropists.
The ponies of Equestria are not Gratheem however, and Jeltz is right to be afraid of the impression his previous activities had left upon the rulers of that world.
Celestia’s anger was a frightening thing to behold. Jeltz felt himself being physically compelled to stand still. Normally telekinesis is almost an impossible feat on a sentient being, as any body’s automatic magical defenses are fighting on the home side. But Celestia was capable of slinging a burning star about the sky, and this vogon could provide almost no resistance to her will at all.
“Why have you returned?”
Celestia’s voice echoed fearsomely in that great and empty hall. She had not deliberately employed the Royal Canterlot Voice in many centuries, and would have enjoyed it had she not been so angry.
On the vogon ship, Pinkie had just managed to untie Twilight, who rubbed her hooves together in the traditional manner for a being released from shackles. Both set about undoing the others’ bonds.
“Now what?” Twilight asked as she set her magic to working on Applejack’s muzzle.
“Obviously we need to get down there before Celestia banished all the vogons to the moon!” Pinkie answered “I would guess she’s pretty angry right now!”
Twilight scoffed. “Frankly Pinkie, I think these vogons deserve whatever Celestia does to them! They tried to kill us!” “Darn right they do!”
Applejack almost growled. “I say we just get out of here and let Celestia handle them before we even go to see her!”
“But don’t you see? That captain one, he’s different now! He doesn’t deserve to get punished just when he decided to do something nice for a change!”
“But what can we even do? Are we close enough for you to teleport us down?” It was Fluttershy, who had just been ungagged by Pinkie. No comment was made about the fact that since being tied up her wings had been resolutely raised.
Twilight stopped and concentrated, sending out a weak magical pulse, triangulating herself with the leylines of Equestria she knew so well.
“I think I can take myself. And... somepony else. Just one for the moment. I’ll have to get Celestia to get you later I think.”
“Whatever, we have to leave now! Before the old saying becomes true!”
Twilight had to bite. “What old saying?”
“The only good vogon is a vogon who’s been imprisoned in the moon!”
“Pinkie, there’s no way that’s a saying!”
“It might become one if we don’t get down there and sort this out right now! That poor vogon needs us!”
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 20
Author’s Note; "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
“Why have you returned?”
Celestia’s voice echoed fearsomely in that great and empty hall. She had not deliberately employed the Royal Canterlot Voice in many centuries, and would have enjoyed it had she not been so angry.
DAMN. Jeltz mentally scrambled for something to say.
“I can explain everything.”
The impression that this simple statement gave was not quite as good as he would have wished, because both princesses were capable of understanding nearly every language ever, and as such they did not make use of babelfish. This means that they, unlike our heroines, heard the vogon’s actual voice, rather than a psychic facsimile that a babelfish would have produced. This is not a point in the vogon’s favour. To say that vogon language sounds ugly is to fundamentally overestimate the power of that word. Vogon language is, to the overwhelming majority of beings capable of hearing, or in any way interpreting vibrations in air, utterly repulsive. This is at least partially because they have changed little since they were sea dwelling creatures, and their cheeks and jowls naturally get in the way of the mouth in a manner which prevents them from ever having their mouths totally empty of drool, which collects in a large pool over their windpipe. Furthermore, the constant production of phlegm in the highly domed nose, which rises well above the rest of the vogon’s face, ensures that neither airway can ever normally be breathed through without occasionally taking a moment to noisily clear it. This means that vogons splutter, gargle, snort and choke their way around their own ugly syllables, which are constructed from a language which uses consonants very sparingly. The overall effect is that spoken vogon sounds rather like a drowning cow with a cold in a sewage processing facility, or a Frenchman with a strong accent.
The effect was that the princesses were not exactly enchanted by the unfortunate vogon’s placatory words. Jeltz was informed of this in no uncertain terms.
“Explain? There is nothing to explain. We will see you leave this place immediately or we will see your whole fleet destroyed. We WILL protect our subjects.”
It really is terribly difficult to collect yourself and confidently speak when one is being spoken to in a voice louder than you could manage even at a full shout. It leads to a rather significant feeling of inadequacy.
“Actually, um, I...”
“Which doth thou choose?” It was Luna’s turn to shout now. She had wanted to be able to get to say a line about protecting the subjects, and she was in some doubt as to whether Celestia was using the royal “we” or not. She felt more than a little left out sometimes, having slept through the recent changeling incursion and hardly being consulted during Discord’s short-lived second reign. At least if things ever got too rough, she decided, she could always go Nightmare Moon on them all again; she knew where the elements lived now; it shouldn’t prove a problem.
Jeltz, meanwhile, summoned up the best of his courage to try for absolute honesty. “I... I did come originally to blow you all up again... but I wanted to say sorry actually.”
“I’m sorry that I blew up your planet and all of your subjects. I’m sorry I attempted to wipe out a species and I can see now that genocide is not justified by construction orders.”
There was a pause as the princesses exchanged glances. Actual recalcitrance had not been something they had conceived of the vogon even pretending to show. A vogon saying that sort of thing wasn’t just unbelievable, it was unthinkable.
Celestia felt a magical force trying to establish itself within the throne room, a teleportation or something similar. She blocked it effortlessly and without thought: No interference until this was sorted out.
“You expect us to believe that you brought your fleet back, after destroying our planet once, and your only intention is to say “sorry”? It is a bad lie.”
Jeltz could see three available futures now very clearly. In the first of them, he managed to persuade the princesses that he had meant no harm. In the second of them, he immediately escaped with his fleet and returned to vogsphere to explain to a tribunal why he didn’t blow up the planet. In the third of them, he neither left or explained himself to the angry goddesses looking at him as though he were a particularly execrable worm. He very quickly decided that neither of the latter two would be conducive to his own survival. With this very much in mind, and unable to take his piggy little eyes off the points on the princesses horns, he spoke his last best attempt.
“I have some of your ponies in my ship!”
All things considered, he could have phrased it a lot better. Vogons are known for neither their tact nor their intelligence. Princess Celestia’s already furious eyes flashed, and Princess Luna grew pale with rage.
“What did you say?”She wasn’t shouting anymore, but the very ground vibrated with the power of her voice.
“Um” damn! “Just...”
“You dare to threaten my subjects? Who do you have?”
“I think one of them was called Pinkie Pie or something. Her and her friends...”
Several miles away, a pony named Twister Snaps was making a card castle to wile away a fairly uneventful evening. It was not a good day to be building a card castle. Come to think of it, it was not a good day to live within sight of Canterlot and possess windows.
He got shakily to his hooves and through the ringing in his ears he heard the tinkle of breaking glass.
“To the moon?” he repeated.
A tingling feeling of great power and delicacy stole over Twilight, and she found herself surrounded by a corona of golden light. It felt warm, familiar, and she almost sobbed as she realised she was going home finally. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t teleport herself down, somehow that Vogon had got it across to the princesses that there were ponies here in need of rescue. She watched as the golden light spread to cover each of her friends in turn, including Zaphod. She felt momentarily weightless, and then suddenly they stood in that throne room she knew so well. The dank metal of a vogon ship was replaced by smooth stone and light.
There’s nothing quite like a room which contains a large mural of oneself defeating a villainous superbeing to boost one’s spirits; especially when one has just learned that said villain is in sore need of a second serving of defeat. This was the great Canterlot throne room, its high stained-glass windows casting lances of light across the room from the setting sun. Celestia’s magic deposited the ponies safely on the floor with seemingly infinite care, so that not even the slightest nausea or discomfort was felt by anypony involved.
Princess Celestia stood alone at the top of the steps leading up to her throne, and as she came down the steps she spoke. She was using her “loving mother of all” voice rather than her “all powerful force of wrath” voice. “My little ponies!” and then, in the voice she reserved just for her favourite student, “Twilight, what has happened? Are you and your friends alright?”
Overcome with emotion, Twilight almost whimpered, “Princess!”
Celestia bowed her head and the two shared a hug. It wasn’t what any self respecting biped would call a hug, but as they rested their heads together the meaning was the same.
“Princess, it’s been so awful...”
“I’m sure it was, Twilight, but everything is ok now. What happened? How did he kidnap you?”
“The vogon who kidnapped you, how did it happen? Are you alright?”
It was at this point that the ponies noticed the singular lack of vogons in the throne room. There was also a surprising dearth of princesses of the night, come to think of it.
“But... he didn’t kidnap us at all!”
“Well darling, that isn’t quite true...” Rarity began.
“Well, he didn’t kidnap us today!”
“He never kidnapped us from Equestria itself!”
Princess Celestia looked with confusion between the two unicorns. “Today? He kidnapped you before today... from somewhere other than here?”
“Princess, we’ve been lost for days!” she paused. “Only days? It seems like so much longer...”
Pinkie nodded, “It feels like it’s taken more than a year,” she said, glaring upwards at some unseen figure who was apparently responsible.
Celestia frowned. “But I got one of your friendship reports just yesterday! Rainbow Dash, it was from you, and you didn’t say anything about a kidnapping! It was about you learning about the magic of reading. In Spike’s handwriting, I might add.”
“Reading? Do I look like an egghead?” Rainbow was indignant. “That sort of thing is for nerds like Twilight. No offense.”
Twilight shook her head “Oh my, of course, we’ve been living out our lives this whole time!” She smacked her forehead with her forehoof, which forehurt rather a lot. “Princess, you have to understand something, we’ve been lost in interstellar space for the past few days! Ever since the vogons first arrived!”
Celestia eyes widened. “You... you escaped the end of Equestria?”
“Then you... Twilight Sparkle, I had no idea...,” she paused, looking troubled. “I believed you all to be dead. How did you manage it?”
Pinkie stepped forward. “Uhh... there’s something you don’t know about me...”
“You’re an alien. The same species as that president currently trying to hide behind all of you. I know. Hello again by the way Zaphod, it’s been a while.”
Zaphod grinned nervously, trying to work out whether or not he had ever slept with this being. “Hey there...,” he fumbled, “...you!”.
But Celestia had higher priorities. “Twilight Sparkle, all of you, I don’t know how to explain this to you, but there now exist perfect copies of you. They are as much you as this is Equestria, and as any pony you may ever meet from now on is themselves.”
Twilight scuffed the ground with one forehoof. “Pinkie told us. That’s when we realised we couldn’t come back.”
Rainbow Dash interjected, “I hate to break this little discussion up, but do I have to ask what happened to the guy who let us go?”
Celestia blinked. “Let you go?”
“Yeah, the vogon or whatever.”
“The first nice vogon!” Pinkie added. “I started calling him Vogey-wogey, but he called himself Jeltz!”
“A nice vogon?”
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was getting, in a way, a taste of his own medicine.
“RESISTANCE IS USELESS!” Luna bellowed as she dragged him along the carved grey walls of moonstone. Although Jeltz was held captive by a blue aura of magical energy rather than a green aura of vogonic arm-blubber, he couldn’t help but feel that he could be said to have walked a mile in his prisoner’s shoes. Or at least, been dragged a mile in them.
“I’m sorry but, there’s been a...”
Luna, by contrast, was thoroughly enjoying herself. “RESISTANCE IS USELESS!” Who would have thought she would get a chance to use her moon dungeons so soon? It was pleasing that her dear sister had allowed the practice of locking a being in a dungeon in the place they had been banished to, for now she would have someone to try out the really exquisitely modelled dungeons she had constructed for her moon castle. She strode rapidly, not sparing the vogon a glance. Jeltz was kept level with her by a strong force about his neck and wide middle, which kept him in a pleasing state of half-throttled-ness that allowed breathing and shallow complaining, but nothing of a volume to bother her.
“RESISTANCE IS USELESS!” She called again, because really, how often did one really get the opportunity to use the phrase? Hardly ever, she thought. She might as well make the most of it.
Jeltz decided not to try speaking again, as it would doubtless bring no response other than another eardrum-shattering bellow from the princess with the lungs of adamantium. He felt that, karmically speaking, he rather deserved this. Were he to lodge a complaint to karma’s head office (incidentally located on the fifth planet of a star system some appalling distance from our galaxy, with a “Closed” sign out the front), it would have only been about the timing of the event; surely punishing him immediately after his first conceptualisation of pleasantness wasn’t going to encourage him to be a good person, was it? Counter-productive, that’s what it was. If he had been experimenting with it, it would be an abject failure so far. But at least these ponies did not seem the sort to invest in capital punishment, and it was possible that those he had set free would speak on his behalf. He tried the thought for size, and found it comforting. He would be out before long. Maybe.
He suddenly found his shins banging on something, and looking ahead and down, he saw that he was currently being dragged up some fairly steep stone steps. He tried desperately to prevent excessive shin-damage with about the success of a drunkard in an unlit coffee table factory. It was therefore to his immense relief when he was pulled up, then shoved through an open doorway into what was very clearly a cell, or even a dungeon.
He decided to give explaining everything one more try.
“I promise you I didn’t come here to destroy anything!” he gurgled desperately. “I promise I was letting them go!”
Luna’s face was as cold as that of the permanently disgruntled queen of the ice planet Reallyamazinglyhotaria (In the local language it means simply “Frostbite”). She regarded him with disdain.
“We shall get to the bottom of this before long. In the meantime we recommend you get your story straight.”
The cell door slammed, and Jeltz looked around at the carved stone walls. It was essentially a cube carved straight from the rock of this planet’s moon, and was totally lacking in anything that could be called a mod-con. Well, there was a part of the wall that had been left sticking out rather like a bench or a low shelf. He sat down heavily and leaned against the wall. He reached absently into his rubber uniform, looking for a very small bottle containing a thick brown liquid. His hand encountered something else. A gun. Oh dear. The situation flashed across his mind. He could easily get out of the cell now; that door would open quickly enough after it had been filled with Kill-o-zapp branded laser (analysis of the waveform includes the trademark of the Kill-o-zapp corporation). But... then what? He had a feeling he was rather out of his depth. Admittedly his fleet had enough firepower to at least make a lower-calibre god pay attention, but he had no real way, or desire to bring it to bear. It occurred to him that had he not undergone... whatever that change had been, he would have taken the choice to blow the planet, its deities and himself up without a second thought. Simple spite would have demanded it. He carefully put the gun back, and reached again for the bottle. For the moment, it seemed the best solution.
Twilight’s story made Celestia’s eyes go wide. She whipped around, and stared around at the ceiling, her eyes seeming to lose focus. She scanned, looking around until she stopped, staring at a point just to the right of the setting sun.
“Yes,” she breathed, “of course.”
“Princess?” Twilight’s nervous voice broke her reverie.
“The being we know as Discord is not isolated to Equestria. What is trapped in that statue in the gardens...”
She was interrupted by Rainbow Dash. “That’s still in the gardens?”
“Of course. I wasn’t going to throw it away, was I?”
“Well, I just thought after what happened last time you left it out in the open...”
“You mean the lack of signage?”
“And the fact that a simple fillies’ argument could release him at any moment!”
“Well, of course we realised how vulnerable it was where it was before, we had it moved!”
“It’s now right outside the window of the board game room, where there’s no need to worry about any arguments. Anyway, that statue only imprisons a part of Discord, a part of the chaos of reality given sentient form. Out there in the galaxy... he is much more powerful. Too powerful even for the Elements of Harmony.” She closed her eyes wearily. “We did try once. To make the rest of the galaxy as harmonious as Equestria. But... well, we couldn’t make a dent. We satisfied ourselves with keeping this place free from his influence.”
“Are we safe here?” Fluttershy’s question was quite a good one on balance.
Celestia gave her a warm smile. “Of course. He cannot touch us here; being to being he is no more powerful than I and my sister; we can always hold him off even if we may never defeat him.” She faced the whole group. “I remain far more concerned about the Vogon fleet hovering above us all. You say the captain is good now, but he brought his fleet here and is still potentially an agent of Discord. I do not know how long it will take for some Vogon on board one of those ships to find a protocol that enables them to fire without the captain, but if they do we will be forced to destroy them all. I could not bear to lose my subjects a second time...” Her voice trailed off. She was staring at Twilight.
She had taught the almost uniquely talented unicorn from a filly, and she recognised the look on Twilight’s small earnest face. She had seen it before, when Twilight had first learned to play chess and had begged to be allowed to play the national grand master when he had come to tea. The middle aged stallion had soundly thrashed her for most of a game, until it came down to Twilight’s last two pawns, an errant rook and a beleaguered king. The final result of that game was known to only three ponies in the world, and Celestia had explained that this was an exercise in mercy. It was a look, in short, that meant that something interesting was going to happen.
It was a look of intense concentration; a frown that meant that enough pieces of some intricate puzzle had fallen into place, and that Twilight had just realised that somewhere in the facts at her disposal there was something big, if only she could find the right way to look at the problem. Celestia studied it, picking up on every curve of that small frown. She waited patiently, perfectly still, determined not to break the smaller unicorn’s concentration. The other ponies picked up on it, all except Zaphod who had become distracted by his own reflection in the polished marble floor.
Twilight’s eyes snapped wide open, and a small spark of light gleamed for an instant. The light of inspiration. She smiled, then looked at Celestia.
“We need that vogon back, I have a plan!”
“For what, my faithful student?”
Twilight’s smile was confident, as befitted any being about to utter the following statement: “We’re going to save the galaxy!”
It’s a statement which needs a fair bit of backing up.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Ponies, part 21
In the black ether of the cosmos, Discord floated happily. He had decided, in a fit of lactoseical whimsy, to turn the parent star of an inhabited system somewhere on the inner northern side of the galaxy into a piece of cheese. To be specific, a sphere of cheese weighing in at approximately 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000kg (4,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000lbs). Such a thing, a vast ball of dairy product boiling under its own gravitational energies and slewing off solar flares of melted gouda and parmesan is quite a sight, although unfortunately for any beings in the local system the lights have just gone out, and they won’t get to see it.
The universe maintained conservation of energy, and more specifically conservation of cheese, without complaint. That cheese had to come from somewhere, and so it did. For example, somewhere in a completely different galaxy altogether, a relatively blameless cheese shop owner halfway through his stocktake suddenly found himself looking at an empty shelf. Indeed, his whole vast stock room would prove, on inspection, uncontaminated by cheese. Uncontaminated bar a small wheel of almost unsaleable runny camembert. His subsequent encounter with an esurient customer in search of some cheesy comestibles would result in his being fatally shot.
The mass of Hydrogen, Helium and other heavier elements that had made up the sun were spread evenly throughout the cosmos, without any noticeable effect.
Discord snorted with merriment as he listened in to the panic and confusion on the planets that had been plunged into darkness. “I suppose I ought to make some sort of cheesy joke right now.” He mused. He twirled in the air, thoughtfully scratching under his chin with one claw. For a moment, he seemed content. “But I can’t think of one, what a shame.”
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy disputes the assertion that talking to oneself is the first sign of madness. The first sign of madness, the guide suggests, is not having a towel with you. The guide further suggests that the mere possession of a towel negates the possibility of most forms of madness, as one can easily talk to the towel instead of oneself if one should feel the urge. The editor responsible for this article subsequently quit after her “Fremzo’s Friendly Towels” range of semi-sentient talking towels (each emblazoned with a smiling face) made her the richest being in her local galactic sector. The towels in question had lost some of their functionality, seeing as the new electronics would fatally electrocute any user who attempted to dry themselves with it. However, the task of actually drying oneself has long been considered a secondary feature of the towel, and did not stop the line being given 13 stars and an editor’s recommendation in a recent issue of Playbeing.
“I really wish you would stop interrupting my story with all that pointless background information!” Discord snarled. He winked out of existence in a huff, but not before hurling the enormous cheese ball at its one time planet. On impact, both vanished to leave two surprised doves floating in open space, where they flew around happily for a several hours before asphyxiating.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was, by Vogon standards, a happy Vogon. Speaking in Vogon standards though reduces the significance of the above statement considerably. In this case, he may be considered to be happier than perhaps 12% of all sapient beings currently alive in the galaxy. He was also a very drunk Vogon. He was, under his breath, mumbling a poem he was currently composing.
It was almost unique amongst the complete library of Vogon work (no such library exists, though some of the more nefarious races in the cosmos do stockpile select pieces) for being, if not actually good, at least tolerable. A major achievement for any poem written in Vogspug, the native language of Vogsphere.
“Oh turlingdrome, Grommits of Fub,
Trebwull in smik Marfark formischlub,
Grunfit marp flurdled kerspok ”
(“Oh *expletive*, the irony burns,
This drink tastes like something which has come from the anal glands of a mustard leech of Marfark IV,
But I drink it anyway”)
There was a bright flash of golden white light several feet away. To the untrained eye it would have looked very much like a bad special effect; real magic often does. Now standing there was what he had taken to calling “The Bloody Big Pony”.
“Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz?”
At least The Bloody Big Pony wasn’t shouting anymore. A significant improvement had been made as far as he was concerned.
“Eh?” Jeltz stared at her blankly, and a little unsteadily. Vogon blank is not particularly nice, and Celestia narrowed her eyes. Then she rolled them, tsk’d, and shut them. Her horn glowed for an instant, and Jeltz, who had been slumping forward, shuddered and suddenly sat bolt upright. His face was a rictus of horror. Having all of the alcohol in your system instantly purged is not a very pleasant experience at all: Drunkenness combines a feeling of warmth, self-confidence and euphoria with a healthy dose of apathy, and the removal of such is rather like being thrown naked into a snowdrift in front of all of one’s harshest critics, and then dragged out and slapped around a bit. Jeltz took several seconds to collect himself, and then looked properly at the huge white alicorn facing him.
“My faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, assures me that you were responsible for their rescue.” she said “Fortunately for you, I am taking her at her word.”
Jeltz had been involved in Vogon politics long enough to recognise when a threat was impending and adopted a survival tactic he had not had to use for a rather long time, but had been vital in surviving long enough to get where he was today; keeping his bloody mouth shut.
“Because of this you are to go free. My student has a plan; she is going to confront an ancient being, the most powerful in the galaxy. And you are going to help her.”
“Oh.” His voice came out a little strangled.
“And IF I should find out” Celestia began, spreading her wings and seeming to radiate rage and power in a manner unlikely to sell many toys to little girls, but perfectly suited to starting cults and inducing extreme obedience in any being in the vicinity “that you are acting in anything other than an EXEMPLARY fashion to my student...” She took a deep breath, and the very walls seemed to bow outwards with awe; “I. Will. Make. You. Suffer.” She quietly stated in tones of cold steel, punctuating each word with a discharge from her horn, only to lean down and whisper “I happen to have a complete collection of live readings of the seminary works of Grunthos the Flatulent, and I am not afraid to use them.”
Some readers may be unfamiliar with the Asgoths of Crea and their poetmaster Grunthos, and may not understand the severity of this threat. A fair comparison is to imagine a particularly nasty school bully being sent for a weekend with Vlad the Impaler. A Vlad in a particularly unpleasant mood, and having just received a delivery from his favourite catalogue, “Unpleasantly Over-the-top Torture Implements for the Discerning Murderous Lunatic”
Rarity was trying very hard to not to touch anything. She stood on the tips of her hooves near the middle of the room into which she had been deposited, and performed the breathing exercises she had taught herself to relieve stress. The interior of a Vogon ship is hardly better than the exterior, and she felt sure that no amount of cleaning could remove the accumulated grime of decades of Vogons going about their duties and occasionally being messily killed. As such, the breathing exercises were not being quite as effective as they usually were. She had noted that the walls and floor did not leave marks on anything when touched, but she was right in thinking that this was most likely due to being grime that had practically fossilized. Grime that could not be removed with dynamite. She shuddered, as well one might.
The room she was in was large enough to contain her entire boutique, and indeed the monstrosity taking up the middle of it was even a similar size and shape. A truncated conical tower of grimy metal, with levels separated by stretches of laddering. A panel on its side had simple markings in Vogspug on them, which, as Jeltz had quickly explained, were simply there to act as a trap to saboteurs. Pushing any of the buttons would result in nothing but an electric shock and a lot of alarms, for this was arguably the most important part of a Vogon constructor ship; the demolition beam generator. The fleet did also have the facilities to create and form matter on a continental scale, but these facilities remained mostly unused. Nobody hired Vogons to build their homes for them.
“Alright Rarity” she said to primly. “Here it is. The most important thing you will ever do.” She felt the weight of the element of generosity on her neck, and stared at the ladder with a certain amount of foreboding. She looked down at her hooves, then back to the ladder. “Trust them not to consider the needs of quadrupeds, how utterly typical of those beastly Vogons!” She tossed her mane, and set her jaw. Rearing up, she placed her forehooves on the ladder and experimentally heaved. To her horror, she had to curl her legs slightly around the filthy rungs to gain any purchase. She gingerly placed one hind hoof on the bottom rung, and pushed upwards. It felt most unnatural, and looking back she could see her rump sticking out in a most unflattering... well, actually it was a rather flattering way. Not that that was on her mind of course, but thinking about anything was better than considering the situation at hoof. She placed her other hindhoof on the next rung up, and pushed again, and hooked her forehooves up another level. This sort of thing must be wonderful for her glutes, come to think of it. Perhaps it could be the beginning of a new fitness craze. She glanced down and back again. Perhaps some form of clothing for it would be required. Yes. And she could design it. Yes. That was a pleasant and distracting thought.
Jeltz was back in his big captain’s chair, and looked at various video feeds coming in. Six of them showed the ponies in their specific ships, and another showed the rest of his fleet vanishing into the void. Six ships left, with six ponies on board. It was rather like being a Wuntetnic captain again, in charge of clearing asteroids and threatening unfortunates who had somehow fallen foul of Vogon bureaucracy.
The nervous voice came back quickly. “Y-yes captain?”
“Put me through to the purple one, I think she was called Twilight.”
“At once captain.”
There was a pause, and the machine whirred nonplussed. “Pardon?”
“Nothing captain, sorry captain.”
The video feed showing the purple unicorn grew to fill more of the screen, the others shrank and moved to the side.
“Ahem, Twilight Sparkle?” Jeltz began, doing his best to sound respectful, Celestia’s threat still ringing in his ears.
Twilight looked up, and around,
“Here Captain Jeltz, what do you need?”
“I need coordinates to the target location.”
Twilight turned back to the device at the centre and top of the beam generator “Ah, of course. That’s a difficulty, but I thought the best way of finding the target would be to listen to the news. Identify any news item about the right sort of thing and take us there. Sooner or later we’ll catch up with him, and I’m sure he’ll notice us and hang around to see what’s going on. He seems to like showboating.”
“What is “the right sort of thing”?”
Twilight considered. “Anything that makes you think the universe must be going completely crazy.” She whirled her hoof in a small circle next to her head, then shrugged. “Unexplained materialisations or disappearances of random objects and oddities, new and entertaining violations of physics.”
“And when we find him?”
“Surround and target him, we’ll do the rest. I just have a few questions about the, er, the “guns”. How do they work?”
The Vogon paused, sluggish neurons firing in unfamiliar ways. How did the guns work? “Erm, I’ve got a button which powers them up, I set the setting to dice, vaporise, rubble or scorch.”
“Ok, but how do they work?”
“Um, it’s a particle cannon. Or a laser, or an ion cannon. Unless it’s a plasma cannon.”
“So the correct answer is, you don’t really know?”
Twilight rolled her eyes. This was getting more and more complicated. “Fine, I’ll work it out myself. Contact me again when we catch up to him.”
Jeltz made a gesture, cutting off the line. So; news. “Computer?”
“Yes captain?” The computer trilled back, sounding, if possible, even more nervous than before.
“Collect every same-time news source on the sub-ether broadband, and feed me events as they occur.”
“At once captain.”
Radio stations began scrolling on the screen, far too fast to read. Snatches of broadcast picoseconds long flooded through the speakers as the current affairs of a whole galaxy poured into the room.
“MUTE” Bellowed Jeltz over the roar of information.
“Sorry captain!” the computer squeaked in terror.
“Filter out all gossip, chat and non-news items.”
“Of course captain.” The flood of information slowed to a trickle of merely thousands per second.
“Filter out all which can be rationally explained”
The flow slowed yet further.
“Filter out all from non-reputable news sources.”
The flow seemed to stop.
It continued to seem to be stopped.
“Computer, are we still receiving any news channels at all?”
“Er, yes captain, one or two.”
“Well, play one of them if it comes up with anything that doesn’t seem to make sense!”
In a society in which any member of the public is capable of recording, editing and sending information at any time, traditional news sources naturally suffered greatly. Quite simply, the normal method of investigative journalism would always lag behind news sourced from random members of the public by a day or two, and so in order to stay relevant the major news networks developed several concurrent channels, devoted to various periods of time.
There was future news, which told you what was going to happen in one, two or three weeks’ time, providing that nobody else was listening and decided that it bloody well wasn’t going to happen. Future news quickly evolved into a way to drastically shorten armed conflicts in the galaxy, as both sides could get through several different counterattacks before the original battle had even begun.
More popular among members of the public due to its comparative reliability was Same-Time news. Essentially, a reporter would compile a report on some event or other, taking as much time as they wished, and then send it backwards in time to the time in which the event was taking place. Thus, the most on the spot news possible. Power of information was put back in the hands of those who were most capable of making a profit, and people started to get nervous around large unexplained gatherings of journalists.
Zaphod was sulking on the Heart of Gold. After being firmly told that his presence on Equestria was unlikely to benefit the planet in any conceivable way, he was effectively in limbo until his ship could be repaired. He idly wondered whether it could be; would whatever the plan was get him back the heart of his ship? He didn’t like the chances somehow; something about Vogon constructor fleets left him with the impression that collateral damage would be high. True, the ship was sufficiently top-of-the-line to have very good regular propulsion, but that was still kaput, and he didn’t fancy trying to outrun the police of half the galaxy using the ships cigarette lighter. Then again, would they even find him? Were they even still looking for him?
“Pfchhh. Of course they’re looking for me. Everybody’s been looking for me since the day I was born!” He took on an attitude of flamboyant despair. (Poses 8 through 16) ”Usually it’s because I’m such a wonderful guy. It’s a curse sometime you know?”
Across the room, Marvin sighed heavily.
“You got something to say Mr Manic Mechanoid?”
“I’m not manic in the slightest. I am only manic depressive in the sense that I am depressed to such an extent that any normal being would have gone mad long ago.” He paused. “Other than that, no.”
“Then stop sighing and turn the radio on, I want to hear what they’re saying about me.”
Turning the radio on was a simple process involving telling the shipboard computer to do so. Marvin stared dolefully at Zaphod just long enough to remind him of this fact before making a tired sound, rather like clearing his throat, and then did nothing. Zaphod looked at him, and then at the console, and then opened his mouth to speak.
“Eddie, would you be so kind as to find a radio station discussing the president’s favourite topic?” Marvin droned.
“Can do Buddy, using the Zaph-to-it app to find a station currently discussing Zaphod Beeblebrox himself! Golly gee, it’s just so easy!”
The “Zaph-to-it” app had had over eighteen squillion downloads in the western spiral arm alone. Everyone from fans to book-keepers to police to insurance agents needed to know at a moment’s notice what was going on in Zaphod's personal universe.
An upbeat techno-sounding jingle blared through the speakers, all over the room, and Zaphod slumped in a chair, a drink in each forehoof, and several more floating in front of him. A very handsome sounding voice began talking very fast. The backing music was, naturally, awful. It sounded like a high pitched synthesizer being repeatedly struck by lightning. It served the dual purpose of drawing attention to the network when one was scrolling through them at high speed, and forcing one to listen to the voice rather than the music in order to maintain one’s sanity.
“... broadcasting on the sub-etha wave band, around the galaxy around the clock, bringing news and comment to everybody out there, relationship advice to all sexually reproductive species, and to everyone else, try pulling yourself in two and seeing what happens! This is Galax-eee radio bringing you the truth as and when it happens! It’s time for today’s update on the Big Z, Zaphod Beeblebrox! The president remains on the run, making this the longest time he has consistently evaded capture for any crime since becoming president, overtaking his previous record by a full week! Reports from the northern spiral arm that he had been eaten alive by parasprites have been dismissed as fanciful. Galaxee Radio has this interview with a resident of the planet Trivitor” a snippet of voice was played, clearly in the middle of a sentence. “he wasn’t” the clip was cut off again immediately and the announcers voice reasserted itself. “The question remains as to his current location, and we now go to our betting and gambling correspondent Sprutz Mutfin! What are the odds right now Sprutz?”
Another voice answered, and the music developed, if possible, an even faster pace.
“In today’s Big Z’s Big Bet, we have the following odds, all others remain unchanged:
“Incarcerated on an uncontacted planet has gone down, now at 6:1, passed out drunk in an alley somewhere has risen again to 7:2, and involved in an intergalactic war has gone down by a big way to 20:3. And of course, the big one as ever, if you think the Big Z has bit the dust finally, place your bets at a probability of 18:1!”
Zaphod’s left head grinned, sulk already forgotten.
“Mute it Marvin.”
With a deep sigh, Marvin relayed the order to Eddie, who was, as ever, delighted to comply.
Zaphod clopped his front hooves together, both heads now grinning broadly. He spilled his last drink, but luckily the others had all made it safely inside.
“You hear that Marvin? They reckon I’m going to live!”
“Lucky you. I suppose that means I will too, more’s the pity.”
Zaphod glared at him. “And what’s gotten into you?”
“Oh nothing, the pain of my existence remains as far from mitigation as ever, apparently a load of ponies are going off to save the galaxy. Terrible idea if you ask me.”
“Come on, Marvin, thing’s aren’t that bad, I’ve got a ship, a robot and a full drinks trolley!” He swirled a new drink, a phosphorescent Rumman koawq, around in the air in front of him, and settled himself back onto a sofa. “I mean sure, the ship doesn’t WORK at the moment, but I’ve been in worse places. Now if you’ll excuse me I’d like to listen to the radio some more.” Marvin sighed, and sloped off towards the rear of the ship, dragging his feet.
Maybe talking to the yellow pony for a bit would have been nice.
“Eddie! Put it on!”
“This just in from galactic sector HH3 plural P Gamma, Galactic battleship GSS Suicidal Insanity, is launching a completely unexplained attack on the government...”
“... in an apparent coup attempt, launched an attack two seconds ago on the Imperial Galactic Senate. The attack will appear to be thwarted when it becomes clear that the missiles currently on course will be duds. When fired, they will extrude what seemed to be flags with onomatopoeic words describing explosions written on them. Yes! There they go now! Immediately afterwards however the ships kinetic impactors will open fire.” There was a silence so profound that it could only be the sound of an explosion bigger than anything seen in the local system since the birth of creation, but on the other side of a vacuum. “We now head to our correspondent, Ridd Gadger, currently based 2 months in the future.”
“Omega class cruisers like this one typically fire iron projectiles capable of anywhere between 1 megaton and 0.3 gigatons of kinetic power.” A dry, reedy voice coming from a dry, reedy sort of life form said. “It seems in this case the projectiles were in some manner replaced with perfect scale models of the Suicidal Insanity itself. These fired further miniaturised versions of themselves, and the ensuing fractal style attack ended when a several warships 1/4 of a planck length long collided with the senate. The energies involved have shown that the ships were travelling at several times the speed of light, and impacted with sufficient force to blow the senate and all three of its accompanying worlds into powder.”
Jeltz patched through to Twilight Sparkle.
“Listen to this.” he gurgled, Doing his absolute best to gurgle respectfully.
Twilight listened with a mixture of incomprehension and horror.
“The right sort of thing?”
“Oh, it certainly sounds like it.”
“It will take us about five minutes to get there, will you be ready?”
In the gun room, Twilight eyed the tower nervously.
She had been studying it in various ways, limited both by her lack of her usual lab and her minimal experience with this sort of technology. Considering these factors, she had done rather well. First, she had determined that it fired sub-atomic particles. This had seemed odd to her until she had calculated approximately how many it could fire at any one time.
After a bit of a sit down, she had gone back to studying it. Apparently it vaporised matter, before introducing to it something which came in a tank marked “Anti-matter” (the tank was actually several times larger than it had to be, just so that all of the warning labels could fit). The resultant annihilation reaction would produce a wave of radiation which would first reduce some sort of ammunition, located at one end of a gravitically controlled barrel to thermal plasma, and then strip and bunch the charged particles up at the top of the chamber at high powered anodes and cathodes. The ammunition, which in this case was a perfectly innocent heavy iron cable, now a super-heated block of particles, would be propelled both by the like charged particles’ repulsion, and its own monumental heat and pressure. This would result in a beam of various particles that would collide with a great deal of destructive force with anything unfortunate enough to be standing in its path. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t elegant, it just ripped atoms to pieces and threw them at something very hard. Twilight had shivered when she had worked out the effects this would have on something it was pointed at. She hadn’t studied atomic theory for this sort of thing. This was probably why Celestia had stopped her building that particle accelerator in her room when she was still a filly. Still, her early experiments had shown that these particles did interact with magical power, and could even be used to temporarily store it to a certain extent. That would have to do the job. To Twilight at the time of this discovery, this had demonstrated that magic was affected by at least one force relating it to matter. For a moment, she wished she could have studied it further, then maybe she would know a bit more about what she was about to do.
“I think so; can you put me in contact with my friends please?”
“Of course Miss Sparkle.”
Twilight’s voice rang clearly through five sets of speakers in five identical rooms. Five very different ponies looked up from wherever they were.
“I think we’ve found him, is everypony ready?”
She listened for several seconds, then nodded to Jeltz.
“As ready as they’ll ever be.”
Jeltz closed the link.
“Computer, plot a course to that location!”
“Already done captain.”
“Well done. Take us there!”
The machine whirred again. It seemed, somehow, to steel itself.
“Are you feeling alright captain?”
“You thanked me earlier.”
“Oh... just, that... you just said I did well.”
“I... I love you captain.”
Then Hyperspace happened.
In any respectably sized galaxy it takes an unfathomable amount of time to get anywhere in anything like a reasonable amount of time using any method quite so basic as travelling through the intervening space. This is simply because the velocity at which this can be done is limited by that most pesky of things, relativity. While the speed of light is generally thought to be fairly nippy, in a galaxy which is 100,000,000 light years across, lightspeed travel loses much of its appeal. Hyperspace has been the go-to solution for reasonable space travel for most space-faring species for a considerable amount of time, albeit on and off.
The technology has been invented, lost, found, lost, found again, lost, independently invented, stolen, put on the ethanet, universally used, purged, lost again, and found so many times in the galaxy’s long and eventful history that the knowledge of the hyperspace drive is, by now, part of basic racial memory for any reasonably intelligent race in the galaxy. Any race which has both achieved sophistication and considered space travel, and NOT grasped and implemented the drive within a few generations is considered mind bogglingly stupid by most independent observers. The only intelligent races not to be equipped with it are those sufficiently intelligent to have realised how not worth it the whole “Civilisation” bit is, and they generally just remain in whatever habitat they originally evolved in, mucking about and having a good time.
Hyperspace travel has its own problems of course. The computational power in making fast and accurate leaps is significant, and even a well-equipped starship will spend several minutes buggering about in hyperspace, while any being on-board experience a fairly unpleasant sensation of being twisted in on themselves and jumbled around as they pass through the gravitational distortion of all the matter between them and their destination at once. The guide advises any amorphous, liquid or otherwise non-rigid beings to consult both mental and physical health professionals before travelling through hyperspace.
Anyone observing Equestria’s spacespace (like airspace, but spacier) would have seen six huge, ugly yellow ships leaving the atmosphere at high speed, before zapping out of visibility. By definition, something travelling at above light speed is invisible, and these ships were most definitely doing so.
Discord gazed proudly on the destruction he had wrought. The shipmaster had been a little disappointing it had to be admitted; he had gone for a fairly obvious route of galactic domination, rather than anything more imaginative. But hey, it was a classic for a reason, and centralised government had gone. He realised it really had been going on rather too long. That sort of thing led to all kinds of boring once it got properly set up. In a few generations there might even have been peace, wellbeing, and eventually a proper understanding of the cosmos! He shuddered. That Number. Had any of them actually understood it...
“I suppose that’s what happens when you stop paying attention to the big picture. Still, all better now. Don’t you think?” He addressed a molecule of carbon monoxide as it flew past him. The particle had originally been a part of a Shaltanac ambassador.
“Fine! Leave!” He called out as it whizzed into interstellar space at an appreciable degree of lightspeed. He huffed, and stomped a foot. “See if I care!” He added. The particle reversed itself and flew back towards the draconequs.
“Oh, come back for more have you?” Discord eyed it. “Well I’m not forgiving you this time.”
The piece of matter bobbed almost imperceptibly, as if to make out that it had only been joking.
“Well it wasn’t funny!”
The molecule shrugged it’s oxygen atom helplessly in apparent frustration.
“Don’t be like that with me, I don’t have to take it you know!”
The molecule hung silently.
“Well, aren’t you going to say anything?”
“Oh I know.”
More silence, in which the molecule seemed to convey a certain stern friendliness.
“I guess you’re right.”
Yet more silence.
“Oh, I can never stay mad at you Carbon Monoxide!”
Discord grasped the unfortunate molecule and turned it into a single atom of Molybdenum, threw himself onto his back and began performing a lazy backstroke towards the huge flagship, now hanging silently. That was when a large spacecraft hit him in the side of the head. Staring upwards he saw a vast stretch of yellow metal passing by him with a good amount of speed. The ships name was written in Vogspug on it: Business End. Arriving with it were 5 more ships of equal size.
Discord flipped himself around, and teleported away to get a better view of the fleetlet that had just arrived. He raised a pair of opera glasses and stared with interest at the ships. THIS was unexpected, what was going on here? What had been going on with that Vogon he’d hypnotised? “He’s late to the party if he’s come to declare war on the government.” He snickered. With a flick of his tail, he dived towards and then into the solid steel of the Vogon ship, leaving ripples as he passed through.
“JELTZ!” Discord beamed as he passed through into the bridge of the Vogon constructor ship, and came face to face with a very unusual Vogon.
“How ARE you doing? Got up to anything much fun?” He twirled the captain’s chair around a couple of times with a gleeful smirk on his face. “I see you lost a few ships! Do be a good Vogon and tell your pal Discord all about it!” With a jerk he stopped the spinning chair, catapulting Jeltz onto the floor in front of him.
A tea set appeared in the space between them, and Discord sat himself upside down in a chintz armchair. He made the universal motion for “Oh do go on!” with his left claw.
Jeltz sat, dizzy, nauseous, conjuring as much dignity as he could muster for his next words.
“You told me to let it all go.”
Discord nodded eagerly, and Jeltz stood.
“I’m going to let you go.”
Discord frowned. “Hrmm?”
“I mean... I’m going to let you go away!”
“I wasn’t aware you could have stopped me. But thanks anyway.”
“I mean I’m going to let...” Jeltz stopped, his lips moving. “I’m going to let you go the way of the Greater Drubbered Wintwock!”
“Is that the extinct one?”
“So what you’ve been painfully trying to imply is that you wish to kill me?”
“Well I wish you’d just tell me. I’m a busy being, and I get told that a lot. Didn’t you want to do anything fun?” Discord looked genuinely disappointed.
Jeltz said nothing, so Discord kept talking; now flying in small circles around the room. “So, how exactly did you plan on doing that? I do hope your plan wasn’t to hit me in the head with one of your ships, because you already did that, and it didn’t work.” He leaned in close and pointed to a comically large bump that had formed on his head. “See? So, what was the plan?”
Jeltz maintained a stony silence, and Discord blew a raspberry at him.
“Fine, I’ll go find out for myself!” He left through the wall, but not before blowing another raspberry, which this time caused a genuine stream of raspberry jam to spray onto Jeltz’s face, and all over his console.
Struggling to maintain composure, Jeltz looked at a visi-screen showing the local area. Somewhere directly ahead of his ship, Discord was waiting. He looked huge now, almost as big as the ship itself, and he had adopted a ridiculous costume, complete with red cape, sword and little bells all up his legs. He winked at the camera taking the feed, and flapped his cape a little. “Toro! Toro!” he jeered.
“Computer! Put me through to our friends in the gun rooms!”
Rainbow Dash glared meaningfully at the aperture at the top of her particular weapon. If what Twilight had told her was accurate, and things Twilight told her tended to be, they could channel the magic from the elements into the beam of each of these cannons, and that would defeat Discord once again. How that would actually work she, Rainbow, had no idea. She didn’t particularly care to have an idea, as long as it actually did work. Experimentally, she flexed her loyalty. She thought about Discord, the havoc he was wreaking. She thought about Equestria, a sanctuary apparently in a galaxy gone crazy. She thought of Twilight, leading the group once more into a fight for their lives against something far larger than themselves. She thought of her friends, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, how they had all heard what had needed to be done, and with feelings ranging from trepidation to outright terror, agreed to help. As Applejack had pointed out;
“Even if’n we don’t make it, at least there will still be one of all of us to keep Equestria safe. We won’t die, even if we do.” The statement, though confused, had somehow cemented their resolve, and Rainbow felt her chest swell with determination. These were ponies she would die for, but she would much rather live for them. The gem at her throat glowed with power, and she felt it flashing, arcing with the metal in front of her.
“Easy now, wait for the signal.” The gem dimmed slightly, but she felt reassured.
Conveniently enough, the signal came very quickly. Twilight’s voice, once again coming from the ceiling in a way Rainbow Dash didn’t quite like, gave the word.
“We’ve found, him, we’re targeting him, give it everything you have!”
Game on. With a fierce ululation Dash reared up, waving her forehooves and flapping her wings, before falling to stare intently forwards.
Rainbow concentrated, picturing each of her friends in turn, imagining what would happen if she failed here. The thought catalysed something in her head, and the beam of red light from her element poured out like a flood, bathing the entire top of the weapon with light. A glowing pool of red spread from the top, flowing down like a waterfall, all the way down to the bottom. Magic cascaded off corners and shone like a mirror on the flat surfaces, all flowing from the gem at Rainbow Dash’s throat. “Awesome” she whispered, as the weapon beneath her hummed, powering up.
There was a deep base boom, which stretched into a continuous roar. The tower vibrated hard, and Rainbow Dash felt the ground push against her as a significant amount of G force was unleashed. The colour drained rapidly from the tower as the beam drew on and on, eventually completely draining the tower and leaving the room suddenly dark. The roar ended a moment later, leaving Dash drained, a little shaken, and thoroughly impressed.
Five beams of brightly coloured light blasted towards each-other, colliding in an asterisk of colour, forming a glowing ball of super-heated plasma and magical energy. Through the centre of this came a sixth. There was a blinding flash, and a rainbow of magic stretching well beyond the visible spectrum blasted straight out of the mass of light at the epicentre of the beams. I went clean through Discord’s little red cape as Discord artfully sidestepped the beam. “Toro! He cried, waving the now scorched red cape. The beam swung around and he let himself be caught him full in the chest. Discord realised his mistake the moment the beam hit. It was more than just a demolition beam, there was magic here. Strong magic. He was thrown backwards hard and screamed as he writhed, struggling against something he did not understand or like. The beam curled around him, forming a great spiral as the particle beams beat against him, pounding him backwards. He flew backwards further and further, twisting in a net of magic.
But something was wrong. The rainbow was not all enveloping, it was more like a thin rope, tying him up loosely rather than covering and overwhelming him completely. The beams petered out, and so too the magic dissipated like morning mist. Discord floated, panting.
“Oh you naughty little ponies.” He said slowly, voice devoid of levity. “That almost worked.”
“What do you mean it didn’t work?” Twilight panted, voice strained.
“I mean it looked like it was working, but, I don’t know, it wasn’t powerful enough.” Jeltz voice had a note of panic in it “We hurt him, but he’s still up. He’s just looking at us, and he’s looking angry.”
“Shit” just about covered in in Pinkie Pie’s opinion. She was listening to the chatter and looking shocked. Somehow she had been so sure that it would work, that sort of thing usually did. She was suddenly terribly sad: Discord wouldn’t ignore this, and she couldn’t even see her friends in her last seconds.
There was a “pop”, and she appeared in a flash of golden light in front of herself. She goggled, and the other Pinkie goggled back. There was a pause, during which both ignored the large amount of other noise now coming through the intercom. Simultaneously, both leaned in to get a closer look. Then quickly moved their heads side to side, with perfect symmetry. Both leaned back, then suddenly forwards, close enough for their noses to touch. Then one of them raised a hoof, and the other lifted her opposite hoof.
“Aha!” both cried out, leaping up and pointing at the other.
The first Pinkie blinked. “But I never went near that pool!”
“I know, I’m the Pinkie whose been living on Equestria for all this time!”
“The huh? Oh! Oh wow, what happened? What’s going on?”
“I’ve come to help! Celestia said that we were out there somewhere and we needed our help, so here I am!”
The other Pinkie just laid a single hoof on the element around Pinkie’s neck, and Pinkie’s eyes opened in sudden understanding. “Double rainbow?” She asked.
Discord was breathing hard. Those naughty little ponies. Oh it had been a good try. He didn’t know how the Vogon had come to be helping those ponies, and he had no intention of finding out. He snapped his fingers, and began floating purposefully towards the ships, slow enough to let them see him coming closer and have plenty of time to worry about it. What would they do in their fear? Discord smiled. Almost nothing was as good for chaos as panic, and boy should they be panicking right now. There were just SO many things he could do to them.
As the only reporter at ground zero, Pinkie Pie was in a unique position to furnish the galaxy with a cogent and accurate summary of what to do when faced with inevitable defeat at the hands of a galactic horror against whom your best idea to date has just failed. As it is, the article on the aforementioned subject has only this to say:
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
This is good advice to be sure, as there are only two results one can reasonably expect. Either it will work second time around, or you will die. Since this was going to happen anyway, one might as well.
Light. Blinding technicolour light. The beam of magic shattered the bland emptiness of interstellar space with a raging torrent of love and tolerance the likes of which have never been seen before or since. Random motes of dust, hydrogen atoms, specks of dirt and ice that had lived relatively blameless existences since being catapulted out of exploding stars millennia ago found themselves transfixed and charged with several very strange concepts.
These inanimate particles had no more grasp on what was happening than a human being would have of what was occurring at an 11 dimensional Fra\|/mt-- Orgy. That is to say they had none whatsoever, but they were having a good time nonetheless. They were carried along for the ride as a pile driver of spiralling rainbow magic coursed clean through Discord, curving around to strike again, recurving, striking again, curling around like the world’s fastest vine. A fraction of a second later the matter itself arrived, now trailing behind like a lazy dog on a walk, albeit a lazy dog travelling as near as dammit to the speed of light.
The blow it struck upon Discord confounded the finest simile makers of a generation for decades. They spent weeks debating upon various deities, galactic events, explosions, creatures and anything else they could think of before they could craft something suitable to describe it. In the end, the final result was not presented by them, but merely found scrawled on a piece of paper on the corpse of a man who had devoted his life to the project. It read:
“The blow struck Discord like Zeus’s fiery first piss of the day propelled by a dragon fisted bear on steroids hitting a statue of sugar glass.”
All in all, one might have expected more.
The fallout from this cataclysmic impact sent ripples through space-time for thousands of parsecs all around. Across the galaxy, at least the parts of it within a certain radius of the event, things were... better somehow.
A single lonely Mardajon, weeping desperate tears over the deaths that had occurred that precise nanosecond on a billions worlds across the galaxy, and more for the uncounted cotillions that had happened in the preceding minute, looked up as though a warm hand had caressed her shoulder. Across the room was her mate, who had been sunk in the horror of it all for the past hour as he remembered all the wars and disasters that had ever struck their home planet. He was looking up too. They stared at each-other for a long while, and in that time, the patent absurdity of it all occurred to them. The sheer nastiness of their existence as beings with no emotional blocking strategies at all suddenly seemed nothing but... well, silly. She found herself smiling at the sheer pathos of it all. Then she giggled. He snorted, tears falling of his face, and for the first time not being replaced. They shared another look, in which both saw the others wet face smiling. Then they were off, shrieking out the laughter of two lifetimes in each-other’s shaking embrace.
On the Planet Vogsphere, a young Vogon clerk hurried from one corridor to another, stumpy legs carrying him as fast as they could. He didn’t have long, if the ##33TT4Vrb form wasn’t in by eight there was no way he’d be able to get the ##33TT3Vrc form to another building, countersign it, and then be back by nine. That would mean the whole previous six months wasted. He had already been firmly told that the form he was meant to hand in was NOT a ##TT333Vrf, nor a ##33TT3Vrf, and he just had to hope that this was the right one. It was, he thought to himself, rather unfair that the office’s only pen for use by the public was on a small chain on the third floor of the building, while the office for turning in forms was on the eighteenth.
With a puff and a blow, he finally arrived at the desk, behind which sat a very stern, very bored looking Vogon clerk in miniscule glasses.
He held out his form in one shaking hand, and the clerk accepted it without comment. He waited with bated breath as the form was studied. Suddenly, a feeling of lightness seemed to wave through the room, leaving everything apparently unchanged. The clerk looked over the top of the form.
“To be honest.” she began “The first form you brought in was the right one.” She put the sheet down. “To be even more honest, I can just give you your birth certificate now.”
On the orbiting station around Barnard's star, a huffy middle-management type of the sort manufactured en-masse by cloning companies was walking down gleaming crystal steps in the red twilight of night. In his hand was a small screen, upon which he was about to authorise a very important sale. There were two bidders for a particularly large commercial block and his eyes slid between them greedily.
“Dolphins for the Ethical Treatment of Humans” were bidding against a major mattress farming organisation, who had long ago decided all of that free range nonsense was for hippies. The land was good real estate to be sure, and worth several million Altarian dollars if it was worth a penny. The bid from DETH came through, and he whistled through his teeth. $895,000. Small fry. Then the bid came from the Mattress farmers. His eyes bulged. His bank wasn’t even large enough to hold that many Ninghies. He had seen one once, but eight of them? Zarquon.
A flood of...something...seemed to pass through him invisibly. He felt pleased, and in his mind’s eye he remembered being given his first baby bottle and business suit three years ago, ready to enter the workforce at one day old. Without even looking at the larger bid, he clicked DETH with no small amount of feeling. He could afford to be a little generous.
A student, striding out of his last exam, smiled to himself. He was free. In one stumpy hand he clutched the question paper, and in the other a bottle of something or other he had just purchased. He looked down at the paper in his hand and... Sighed.
“Student number 162257” he muttered under his breath. With a pang, he looked at the empty name box right above it.
“Hey Dude! How’s tricks?” It was a friend of his, ambling towards him. He arrived, and the pair exchanged an intricate handshake that lasted almost a minute.
“Not much Brah, just...”
“Nah. You wouldn’t understand.”
“You wound me Dude, lay it on me!”
“You ever... want a name?”
A shimmer of magic passed upwards from the ground at an angle, passing clean through the two without either noticing.
“I can give you one if you want man.”
Both thought for several seconds.
“How about Brantyur? It was this country which was made never to exist because its enemies in the future went back and sunk it into the ocean.”
“That sounds awesome dude!”
“You can have it!
“You’re the best man!”
“I know Brantyur, I know. Now where the hell’s my beer? I need you to pay me back for the mondo name!”
“No problem dude!”
They shared a brofist. A little kindness goes a long way.
On the planet Trivitor, life was getting back to normal. The economy had recovered quickly, and you could see something new in the people’s eyes. It was hope. The parasprites were being stuffed and sold by the million, and money was pouring in. In his new office, the planet’s transition leader, reigning until the various city states could set up some proper government, shuffled a heap of papers from one side of desk to the other, to allow him to more easily see the slick suited business dog facing him across the table. The dog raised a paw, and extended it across the table. The pony extended a hoof and introduced himself.
“Hello, I’m Derrick Pumpjack; I was told you had a proposition for me.” He said roughly.
“Rex Woofter. Pleased to meet you.” He replied ruffly.
“Well?” It was clear Derrick was not a patient pony.
“I represent the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, we supplied the towers that kept you alive for generations.”
Derrick glared. “Oh?”
“Well, naturally we were all very glad to hear of the clearing up of your little infestation, and we are looking to put ourselves back into an economic relationship with any rising young planet, and its rising young leader.”
The caninoid looked over his shoulder, then over the other. He leaned in, wet nose now mere millimetres from the pony. Siriuns have problems with personal space. “We’re looking at making you, and us, very rich indeed.”
Derrick leaned back. Siriuns also have problems with halitosis. “Explain.”
The Siriun, apparently unfazed by the frosty reception, laid out his plan. As he did so, Derrick found himself interested despite himself. It was big. It was ambitious. Most importantly, the Siriun kept on repeating quite what his cut would be.
“... so of course, we need a way to make sure all the ponies stay inside the bounds of their new towns, and keep paying for the towers.”
“You’re sure they’re completely silent?”
“So what do I have to do?”
“You just have to make sure the right ponies aren’t looking while we install projectors, noisemakers, that sort of thing. It’s imperative that your population believes the parasprites are back, but that it’s all ok because of those wonders at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.”
“And in exchange...”
Rex repeated the figure, which had grown by another zero.
“Where do I sign?”
Nothing seemed to happen. But in that moment, Derrick had a moment of insight. A second of clarity. He put the pen down.
“Get out.” He cut the dogs answer off. “Get out and never come back here again! You can’t buy me, I have my standards!”
As the dog left, he sat back. It had been close, but his loyalty had stood true.
Fluttershy got shakily to her hooves. She felt strange. Drained yes, tired out of her mind yes, and yet... and yet... she felt somehow full. Like she could keep on going. She looked around. She was alone.
“Hello?” She called out. “Fluttershy? Anypony?”
It was a few seconds before somepony answered her. It was Twilight.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine, I think, but Fluttershy’s gone!”
“So is my other Twilight. I don’t know what’s happened, I can’t reach the others. Can you sit tight while I try and work out what’s been going on?”
“Of course.” Then, she remembered something fairly important. “Did it work?”
“Twilight took a second to answer. “Yes. It worked. Discord is gone.”
“Are you sure?”
“Jeltz says he knows when something’s been demolished, and he says he’s sure.”
“Oh thank goodness.”
“Oh I think we have to thank something alright. Or rather, somepony.”
She was right. On board the starship Heart of Gold, Zaphod tore his eyes away from the screen which had just shown him the best display he had seen in... as long as he could remember. Standing next to him was a very tall white pony, one whose wise face there was a small smile.
“It worked!” she said “Oh Twilight Sparkle, you really are something special.”
“You’re telling me! She planned that?”
“Simple, direct, yet nopony but she could have done it. Science and magic don’t usually mix you know.”
Zaphod didn’t know, but he nodded anyway.
“So now what?”
“Now?” Celestia smiled. “Now we go home. But first, I think we need our friends back, don’t we?”
Far out on the eastern rim of the galaxy there lies a uniquely small yellow sun. This sun orbits, at a distance of roughly 400,000km, a small blue green planet whose equid inhabitants are so amazingly lucky that they are able to find the perfect balance between sophistication and tradition. This is made possible largely due to the work of the planet’s personal goddesses, who have not only created Equestria, made it pleasant to live on and ruled it with wisdom and care, but who have on multiple occasions seen fit to spare its inhabitants the sort of extinction events that are usually the universes way of asking “How well is that space program going then?”
In orbit around this lucky little world is a gleaming white starship.
“And that was when Celestia turned up with this hoopy statue!” Zaphod rapped his hoof against the horn of a very surprised looking stone Draconequus. “She said that you guys needed some help, and that if I lent my ship to the task I could keep it!” He stroked the statue lovingly. “I tell you, it feels good to have the old ship back in full working order.”
Pinkie smiled, though a little sadly.
“That means you’re going now does it?”
“I think so, with this statue in tow and the news of half the galaxy talking about that battle, they’ll probably give me another presidency!” He paused. “Can you do that? Can you become president twice at the same time? I even have a new advisor, and I’m sure he’ll help me keep on good terms with the bureaucratic force in the galaxy. He knows their processes inside and out!”
Pinkie smiled. “I think he’s glad to have somewhere he can put that knowledge to good use for once.” She sighed a little heavily.
“Hey what is it?” Zaphod said, surprised himself at the concern he put into those words.
“I will see you again right?” The question caught him off guard.
“Hey, of course you will, I’ll be sure to drop by if I ever need a few minutes of R&R, but I would bore my left head right off if I stayed here.” His left head nodded vehemently before continuing. “I’m sorry Pinkie.”
She eyed him suspiciously. “Care to make that a pinkie swear?”
With certain amount of ceremony, he raised himself so that he was sitting fully up. With one hoof he made a criss-cross across his chest, flapped his forelegs, and then with a twirling motion, jabbed himself in the eye.
“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a gargleblaster in my eye.”
Pinkie winced. “Don’t ever actually do that.”
He considered it. “Yeah, maybe not.” They looked at each-other, and shared a laugh.
“Besides, I think I’d better let Celestia cool off before I come back.”
“Yeah, maybe that would be best.” She suddenly giggled. “I’ve never seen Canterlot looking quite so crazy before! I heard somepony saying they thought Discord was back!”
“Well in a sense he was, wasn’t he?” Zaphod said, floating a drink into the statue’s hands with a roguish grin
“I guess so.”
They had reached an impasse.
“Well.” Pinkie said in a bright, slightly brittle voice. “I guess this is goodbye for now! Bye Zaphod!”
“So long Pinkie, thanks for all the good times.”
“You have a nice life out there!” The computer digitally beamed back.
Zaphod scratched his right head. “Now I think of it, I haven’t seen that metal misery in a while now. Eddie?”
“Not on board el presidente! He teleported down while you were all gone, and he said he wasn’t coming back.”
Zaphod raised four eyebrows. “Really?”
He shrugged, looking at Pinkie.
“Guess he’s your problem now.”
“Oh, I don’t know if he’s my problem. Eddie? Put me down at home. And Zaphod?”
On the planet’s surface, Applejack was already back at work. She had no intention of telling her family anything about what had happened, but was fully aware that she would end up doing so anyway. It was just in her nature. Until then, she was here, out of the way. She kicked a tree, and the apples fell with improbable accuracy into the buckets she had set around it. Here, she felt, was where she was meant to be. No fancy mathematics, no running around on spaceships, no big green monsters, just her, an orchard full of trees, and good old Bucky McGillycutty and Kicks Mcgee. She kicked again, and more apples fell. One of them fell well away from the buckets, straight towards ground. Quick as thought, she yanked something white from under her hat and whipped it out. It cradled the apple like a stone in a sling, and she tossed the errant apple into a bucket. She chortled as she stashed the small towel under her hat. Who’da thunk it, they really were pretty handy.
She trotted over to the next tree, and took a second to inspect it before beginning to buck it. She rolled her eyes. A certain blue pegasus was fast asleep in the lower branches, snoring loudly. With a smirk, Applejack whirled the towel around into a tight coil, and whipped it upwards. There was a sound like a whip-crack and Rainbow rose like a rocket with a cry of a word that wasn’t yet a swear word on Equestria.
“Belgium!” She hovered, rubbing her stinging flank and glaring at the orange earth pony. “Not cool!”
“Then don’t sleep in my trees when you know I’m workin’ ya varmint!”
“C’mon Applejack, haven’t you earned a rest?” She landed, and yawned “I sure know I have.”
“It’s not a matter of having earned it, it’s a matter of having stuff I need to do.”
Dash looked at her slyly.
“That the only reason you’re out here then?”
Applejack looked away, back towards the big red barn in the distance. “No.”
“Not sure what to tell them?”
“Not even slightly. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t lived it, so how can I expect them to?”
Rainbow laid a hoof on Applejack’s withers. “Well for one thing we can all back you up, it’s not like you were all alone out there. Besides, you’re not exactly known for lying are you?”
“I guess. I just wish I knew how to explain everything, I barely understand a lot of it myself.”
“And that’s just why you’ll have me along when you do! I know how to tell a story, and I’ll make it the best they’ve ever heard, I promise.”
“You’d do that?”
“Of course I would! What are friends for?”
Applejack chuckled. “A lot of things sugarcube, a lot of things.”
“And I can do all of them!”
Applejack just smiled.
Twilight was sitting quietly in Rarity’s boutique while the other unicorn rummaged around in a trunk at the back. Rarity was talking, half to herself, half to Twilight as she did so.
“So I thought to myself of course it can be done, a very simple matter really. And my dear Twilight, you should see the good it’s doing me already, all that glute work, I feel a new pony! Now where did I put that lycra, awful stuff, but perhaps...” She turned around, a pile of various cloth samples hovering beside her, and caught Twilight staring at nothing in particular.
“Everything ok darling?”
Twilight seemed to wake up. “Oh! Oh, yes, I’m fine. I just feel... strange. I feel misplaced.”
Rarity continued talking as she set to work.
“I know quite what you mean dear, it felt like such a long time I feel I’ve quite forgotten how to be a pony in dear old Equestria. Except of course I have those memories...” She turned. “Oh, is that what you mean?”
“Other Twilight.” Twilight nodded.
“Well dear, look at it this way. You got some whole new memories of wonderful adventures with your friends, without having to age a day extra!”
“But, where did she go? I mean, I know she’s...” she stopped, it sounded silly to say, but she said it “...inside me, but, wasn’t she her own pony? Didn’t she matter?”
“Of course she did, and you did too. And now you and her get to be your own pony together. Look at it that way.”
“And why do I feel like I’m the original, and those Equestrian memories are all new? The whole thing just raises so many questions!”
Rarity dropped the cloth, and turned “Twilight, what matters is that we are here, and that nopony is gone. She isn’t gone, other Rarity isn’t gone, if anything there’s just slightly more of us around.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I am Darling. Now, if you’ll excuse me, me and other Rarity have come up with some completely Fabulous work together!”
Angel bunny sat looking suspiciously at the large metal humanoid sitting at Fluttershy’s table with an untouched cup of tea in front of him. The metal man was talking, and Fluttershy was listening, only occasionally saying something in return. Occasionally she would take a sip of tea.
Angel hopped over to the newcomer, and sniffed at him suspiciously. There was a lingering smell of rat on his right ankle, and the cold smell of metal from all of him. He wrinkled his nose and, with some trepidation, stretched out a paw to touch a metal leg. The leg’s owner man paid him no attention, engrossed in talking to this uniquely understanding pony.
“...and of course nobody ever listened. I’ve asked for them to be replaced many times, it was one of the first things I said when I was built. “I couldn’t possibly trouble you to help me with this terrible pain could you? Oh no, of course, just keep packaging me, I’m sure my new owner will sort it out”. But he never did of course.”
Fluttershy reached a hoof out to touch his hand. “First thing tomorrow we’ll take you into town and we’ll see if we can’t get you all fixed up.”
Marvin wasn’t used to being listened too, and that was just one of the many things that were completely novel to him. These ponies seemed to have no concept of the infinite void above all of their heads and the infinite sorrow it contained, and no qualms about opening their hearts to him.
He saw her looking at him expectantly, and hastened to say something.
“Thank you.” The words felt unusual coming out.
“Then you can help me feed the animals. You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
Marvin found with some surprise that he rather would. “I am a menial robot, I was built to help.”
“That’s not what I mean, I mean do you want to?”
“I think I would.”
“That’s very nice of you to say Marvin. You’ve had a hard life, but it’s all going to be better now, I promise.”
“Life?” Marvin moaned, and then he stopped. “I suppose we can have a talk about life.”
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of friendship:
“Friendship is what happens when two beings reach an arrangement by which each gains more from the other than they lose. True friendship comes free, and as such is something that any being can afford, as long as they are willing to let another being be that friend. Friendship, and friends, serve almost as many practical and psychological applications as a towel. The Hitchhiker who learns to make friends with any being he or she meets will go far.
Even if you don’t know where your towel is, you may just have a friend who does.”