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Shape Your Home, Part 2

By Ponegreen
Created: 2nd November 2020 12:37:34 AM

  1. Prompt: #deca CPU pony wAIfu green, for /mlp/'s /nmp/ (Ongoing)
  2.  
  3. 39
  4.  
  5. >#deca.mare and you race through the woods.
  6. >The ordeal is not as humiliating as you have feared.
  7. >While #deca.mare has an obvious, in fact unbeatable advantage, she does not push herself to the absolute limit.
  8. >Which gives you the chance to keep up, if only barely.
  9. >She is always a metre or two ahead, but she slows down when the distance gets any longer.
  10. >You assume her pace is a moderate running speed for ponies; not a casual trot, but far away from what you would consider sprinting.
  11. >Yet this leaves you in a slightly different position.
  12. >You need to flat out run all the time in order to match her performance.
  13. >The strain on your muscles is noticeable, but you do not tire.
  14. >Another perk of being inside a simulation.
  15. >But the initial stress fades eventually.
  16. >Instead of permanently keeping track of the distance between you and #deca.mare, you begin to observe your environment and the sceneries it entails.
  17. >The small path winding into the distance.
  18. >Large trees everywhere around you.
  19. >Bristling leaves in the wind above.
  20. >Rays of sunlight which penetrate the foliage and shine all the way through to the ground.
  21. >It is an almost mystical sight to behold.
  22. >You forget all about the contest for the time being and just let yourself immerse in the general mood around you as you run.
  23. >At some point you look at #deca.mare and notice that she was watching you over her shoulder while you looked around.
  24. >Her content smile tells you what you need to know.
  25. >She is happy to see how you marvel at the scenery.
  26. >You think you know why she reacts that way.
  27. >She wishes you to be familiar with the world just as much as you want her to get ready for a social life.
  28. >And your reactions are exactly what she wants to see.
  29. >Seems like you make some progress in both directions.
  30. >You give her a wordless nod of appreciation.
  31. >This is enough for her.
  32. >She turns her gaze back to the way ahead and subtly reduces her speed, giving you the opportunity to catch up.
  33.  
  34.  
  35.  
  36.  
  37.  
  38. >Now you keep on running side by side, without any pressure whatsoever.
  39. >You occasionally glance over to #deca.mare. and sometimes watch the forest around you.
  40. >Even though you like what you see and enjoy the surroundings with all your senses, the forest feels somewhat off.
  41. >Not a surprise; there are no animals or the like.
  42. >No chirping birds, no insects, nothing.
  43. >The faint breeze and the sound of the leaves are all there is.
  44. >Just as you did with Canterlot and the spa, you try to imagine how it would be like if it were aptly populated.
  45. >#deca.mare raises her voice.
  46. >"The world is growing on you, Anon. I can feel it. This is a good sign."
  47. "Hm, what can I say? Equestria will become our future home after all. Though it takes some time to get used to that idea."
  48. >"Do I hear a hint of insecurity in your voice?"
  49. "Not really insecurity, just an uncertainty of expectation. Our little match has made something clear to me, #deca. I made the mistake to constantly think in Earth standards. But Equestria is not, and will never be, just like Earth."
  50. >You keep short pauses during your sentences in order to maintain your running rhythm.
  51. "It was clearly inspired by Terran history and mythology, yet this is not the same. And it would be highly inappropriate to see Equestria only like a one-to-one copy of Earth, just with talking ponies instead of humans. That simply doesn't work and is extremely unfair."
  52. >You laugh once.
  53. "I need to stop comparing these two."
  54. >"Will this be a problem for you?"
  55. "Guess not. If you help me to learn more about it."
  56. >"With pleasure, Anon. As I told you, there is still quite a heap of knowledge about the world we have yet to cover."
  57. "And the other lessons?"
  58. >"These as well, but we are theoretically ready to get started with the first steps of our project."
  59. >You come to a sudden halt.
  60. >The thoughts inside your head begin to get restless.
  61. >This is far too soon for your tastes.
  62.  
  63.  
  64.  
  65.  
  66. >#deca.mare almost stumbles as you fall back out of the blue.
  67. "Already? But we have barely started with engineering. And worst of all, I don't even remember some of it."
  68. >"Shush, Anon."
  69. >You ignore her.
  70. "And we have only seen, what, one season so far? This wholly insufficient, #deca."
  71. >"Anon!"
  72. >Whoa.
  73. >This is the first time you hear #deca.mare actually yelling in agitation.
  74. >It was not even a fierce shout, but you did not know that she had this in her at all.
  75. >She breathes loudly before she goes on.
  76. >"Listen. We have mutually agreed to the project. And you said you trust my expertise."
  77. "That I did."
  78. >"Then let me tell you this. We have more than enough time for practice, even if we start, say, tomorrow. The first steps alone take weeks to really get anywhere."
  79. >#deca.mare approaches you directly and rears up right in front of you.
  80. >She places her forehooves on your shoulders, but without pushing you this time.
  81. >She is looking you directly in the eye.
  82. >The effect gets you every time.
  83. >Must have something to do with the size of those things.
  84. >You put a hand on her back in response and focus solely on her without saying anything.
  85. >"It will be alright. I know what I am doing. And I know you will learn everything we need."
  86. "Are you su..."
  87. >"Shush. No doubts, Anon. And no backtalk."
  88. >You must admit, her confidence calms you down considerably.
  89. >And it gives you the opportunity to think clearly.
  90. >She is right, you have plenty of time.
  91. >Just think of all the work you have to do before you can begin with the actual process.
  92. >Mapping planets, acquiring the resources, and so on.
  93. >"Also think of the progress you made so far, Anon. You will learn over time. And you will find yourself depending less and less on a direct link to my knowledge."
  94. >This is indeed a fair point.
  95. >#deca.mare maintains her engrossing, but not uncomfortable stare.
  96.  
  97.  
  98.  
  99.  
  100. >"But let me restate what you said to me: We are here for other things, right? Let us leave the professional matters for another time. Simply try not to overthink it."
  101. >Man, the things you have said earlier.
  102. >She winks.
  103. >"And you were right. Sometimes you need to be reminded of your own statements, it seems."
  104. >She lets go of you and indicates her readiness to run once more.
  105. >"What do you think? Another round of running before we wrap it up? I am eager for my turn."
  106. >Not hard to figure out why.
  107. "Count me in."
  108. >You get in position as well.
  109. >For the second time of this session, you begin to run on the mark of three.
  110. >But this time you try to keep your head free from too many roaming thoughts.
  111. >Just savour the moment, and the rest will come on its own.
  112. >#deca.mare and you pass several different sections of the forest.
  113. >Some have a relatively dense foliage, others get gradually clearer, with less trees in the direct vicinity.
  114. >After roughly twenty more minutes, you reach a spacious glade, covered in grass as well as several smaller plants and bushes.
  115. >The sun shines directly on this opening.
  116. >You need to blink several times to get used to the brightness after the race on the mostly shaded path.
  117. >But once the initial shock is over, the light and warmth starts to feel more and more comfortable.
  118. >"I think this is a great place to conclude your turn."
  119. "Yeah, I agree. Though you make it sound as if you led us here on purpose."
  120. >#deca.mare chuckles suspiciously.
  121. >Oh no.
  122. >"I had something in mind. If you let me do it."
  123. "My previous point still stands. I'm fine as long as it is nothing overly excessive."
  124. >"This is a rather vague description, but I understand what you mean. It should live up to your standards."
  125. "In this case, go ahead."
  126. >You hope she does not drastically misinterpret your point.
  127. >#deca.mare is unbeatable when it comes to scientific aspects.
  128. >Yet her social track record is obviously far from being flawless.
  129.  
  130.  
  131.  
  132.  
  133. >Regardless, a promise remains a promise, no matter what.
  134. >"Follow me."
  135. >#deca.mare casually trots across the field.
  136. >You follow her without a remark.
  137. >She comes to a stop a few dozen metres in.
  138. >"Anon, could you please sit down?"
  139. >Alright, into the grass you go.
  140. >You do as she asks, sitting in a familiar cross-legged position.
  141. "What now?"
  142. >#deca.mare sits down her haunches as well.
  143. >"Before I begin, let me make sure we are on the same level."
  144. >You have a feeling that this might become a little awkward.
  145. >"As you know, I have been trying several times now to bring us closer, physically speaking."
  146. >Yep, she is going for one of those speeches.
  147. >Time to cut this short.
  148. "No need to beat around the bush, #deca. We're both adults, and we've been playing this game for far too long. You try to get me to nail you, plain and simple."
  149. >#deca.mare's voice fails her a moment, as her pupils widen slightly.
  150. >But she manages to snap out of it and keep her composure.
  151. >"That is... one way to call it, I suppose. But you are right."
  152. >She shakes her head.
  153. >Fascinating to behold, she is far more thin-skinned about the matter when you turn the tables.
  154. >"However, my attempts only met with partial success, as you can surely recall."
  155. "Yes, the little signals were everything but subtle."
  156. >Her demeanour before your very first night comes to your mind.
  157. >And her little stunt the next morning.
  158. >Not to mention the bath tub debacle.
  159. >"To be honest, I have not foreseen such a reservation on your part, Anon. This shall not be an insult, but your reactions were not what I expected."
  160. >She shifts a little bit closer.
  161. >"Do not misunderstand me; I see your willingness to progress, and I understand why you need time to acclimate. But your personal restraints are just as noticeable to me."
  162. >Another shift.
  163.  
  164.  
  165.  
  166.  
  167. >"So I have been wondering what we could do against this hesitation. It is clearly not a physical or medical problem. You are a healthy male in all regards."
  168. >It is for the best to chalk that up as a compliment.
  169. "I think I get the idea, but I don't think it is that simple."
  170. >You are not sure if you should mention the pony issue.
  171. >While you have somewhat accepted the fact that #deca.mare is a pony, getting too intimate with her still does not settle that well with you.
  172. >Also unfortunately for you, you find yourself unable to whisk these thoughts away with logical reasoning.
  173. >And your social upbringing is no great help either.
  174. >In fact, it does the very opposite; you imagine most people you know would not look kindly on this relationship.
  175. >Voluntarily coupling with a pony?
  176. >Good luck trying to explain that to your family or friends.
  177. >The whole war story notwithstanding, of course.
  178. >#deca.mare observes you with a great deal of care.
  179. >Oh damn, it is too late.
  180. >She has heard those thoughts already.
  181. >"Anon, let me try something out."
  182. "What exactly?"
  183. >"I have the feeling that you detract yourself from our relationship by thinking too much about every potentially negative detail you can come up with. As miniscule as it might be. I doubt you do this consciously, but the result remains the same. You still do not see me as a regular partner."
  184. >It pains you to admit this, but her statement is valid.
  185. >"So let me attempt to change that."
  186. "Okay, but how?"
  187. >"By appealing to your primal urges, Anon."
  188. >Awkward time?
  189. >Awkward time.
  190. "Oh man, you want to seduce me?"
  191. >#deca.mare shakes her head.
  192. >"No, that word has such a negative connotation. I rather want you to see me differently. These barriers shall go."
  193. "Can you go a little bit into the details?"
  194. >"Not a good idea. It shall be a surprise to you. Without any preparation. The focus of this session lies on nothing but the sensory stimuli. To put it bluntly: I want you to feel this."
  195.  
  196.  
  197.  
  198.  
  199. >At least she is straightforward with her explanations.
  200. >And just as if on cue, your mind serves you a variety of reasons why you should say no, twitching prickling on your skin included.
  201. >But this is exactly the thing which #deca.mare meant when she talked about your reservations.
  202. >And you realise that accepting her offer might be the best way to overcome said obstacles, your inner voice be damned.
  203. >"I promise to keep my advances in check this time."
  204. "No offence, but are you sure you know how to do that properly?"
  205. >"None taken. And yes, I think so. Our previous interactions have given me a few hints about what might be okay and what is inopportune."
  206. >Indeed, a flight through the bath tub can be a pretty efficient teacher.
  207. >Never mind, do not think about this now.
  208. >#deca.mare looks at you with a neutral, expecting expression.
  209. >"So, what do you say?"
  210. >She is absolutely serious about this.
  211. >None of her previous prankish streaks are showing.
  212. >You assume she genuinely thinks this will help your relationship as a whole.
  213. >"But do not accept just because you feel obligated to it out of pressure. It does not work without your full compliance."
  214. >Your decency says no, but your rationality agrees with #deca.mare.
  215. "You know, I'd be lying if I said that I don't feel a tad nervous about your idea."
  216. >"That much is to be expected."
  217. "But you're right, I suppose. This may be the best way for us. I accept."
  218. >You see how #deca.mare's body relaxes slightly.
  219. >Strange, you have not even noticed that she was so stiff.
  220. >But by now she looks visibly relieved.
  221. >"Thank you, Anon. I will not disappoint you."
  222. >To be honest, that would be the first time.
  223. "Okay, tell me what I'm supposed to do."
  224. >"You do absolutely nothing. Close your eyes and relax. Let me handle the rest."
  225. >Sounds easier than it is; your mixed excitement meddles a bit with your self-restraint.
  226. >"Just remember: There is nothing to fear and no one present who would judge you."
  227.  
  228.  
  229.  
  230.  
  231. >You take another long breath.
  232. >In and out.
  233. >You hear a rustling of grass.
  234. >#deca.mare has apparently risen up.
  235. >Quiet, short steps, each a little closer than the last.
  236. >Your guess was correct.
  237. >You feel an unexpected change.
  238. >The sport shirt you were wearing has vanished.
  239. >#deca.mare has dematerialised it.
  240. >This ability in itself should not surprise you, but this is the first time #deca.mare has actively manipulated something you are wearing, as far as you can remember.
  241. >You try not to imagine all the practical jokes she could have played in theory.
  242. >No, bad timing.
  243. >Stay in the present.
  244. >A sudden soft pressure, squarely on your chest.
  245. >She has placed a hoof on you.
  246. >This is not an unknown sensation for you by now.
  247. >Nevertheless, you tense up instinctively due to the context of your session, but manage to relax again within seconds.
  248. >"You muster a lot of goodwill for this."
  249. >#deca.mare's voice is unusually mellow.
  250. >"I am grateful for that."
  251. >She is going to fully resort on her feminine attributes.
  252. >Should not come as a surprise, given her intent.
  253. >Her hoof slides upwards, maintaining a soft pressure.
  254. >It sends a tingling sensation through your skin.
  255. >Normally you would not react in such a sensitive manner, but this is a different situation.
  256. >And #deca.mare knows where she has to apply pressure to get the desired results.
  257. >"And you mean much to me too, Anon. Maybe more than you can understand."
  258. >Her voice gets more intense, with light sultry undertones.
  259. >And her head is shifting closer to you.
  260. >You can hear #deca.mare breathing while her hoof wanders to the base of your neck.
  261. >"I yearn to live out our relationship. In all its aspects."
  262. >#deca.mare's hoof reaches over your shoulder while she leans her head beside yours.
  263.  
  264.  
  265.  
  266.  
  267. >Her tender fur touches your cheek and her muzzle rests near your ear.
  268. >Touching her has always been a snug sensation, but something makes #deca.mare's contact even more inviting than it was before.
  269. >Could this all be caused by your own attitude?
  270. >"I have desires, Anon. Wishes of passion and fulfilment."
  271. >Her voice is practically brimming with emotion.
  272. >"As do you. No need to deny it."
  273. >To further underline her intentions, #deca.mare speaks slower than before, accentuating every word in the process.
  274. >"So why should we not share them? We can make each other happy."
  275. >Oddly enough, hearing her speak like this has a considerable stimulating effect on you.
  276. >You almost forget why you were hesitant about her advances in the first place.
  277. >Almost.
  278. >But she is gaining ground.
  279. >#deca.mare is aware of your emotional state and proceeds with a hushed, whispering voice.
  280. >"Everything you want, whatever it is."
  281. >She pulls your upper body slightly closer.
  282. >"And maybe I can offer you things you have never thought of yourself."
  283. >Before you can ponder what she might be referring to, you feel how #deca.mare shifts her weight.
  284. >Her hoof slowly slides along your arm and she begins to walk around you.
  285. >But #deca.mare maintains the physical contact; her side keeps touching you the whole time.
  286. >You can hear slow steps on the grass and feel her motions on your skin.
  287. >She is heading for your back.
  288. >And this is not all.
  289. >She finds yet another trick to double down.
  290. >Long strands of hair caress your chin.
  291. >An admittedly pleasurable experience.
  292. >However, something does not add up in your mental image.
  293. >You do not understand immediately how this is possible.
  294. >After all, her head is behind you.
  295. >But even if it were not, she does not have such a long mane.
  296. >Then you understand.
  297. >She is using her tail for this little sensual demonstration.
  298. >You refrain from imagining any implications.
  299. >But the suggestive potential of this gesture is not lost on you.
  300.  
  301.  
  302.  
  303.  
  304. >#deca.mare notices your inner turmoil.
  305. >She retreats her tail and leans onto your shoulders by wrapping her forelegs around your neck.
  306. >"Shh. Relax. I will do nothing without your consent."
  307. >She is very close to your ears and proceeds with her whispers.
  308. >"I would be very glad if you would, however."
  309. >#deca.mare gently presses your upper body against hers with her forelegs.
  310. >"And you would be too, Anon. Trust me. The only thing I need is your permission."
  311. >She begins to nuzzle you.
  312. >"Please?"
  313. >Her tone reveals a slight teasing mood.
  314. >Not a bad sort of tease, you figure, but a tease nonetheless.
  315. >One in which #deca.mare feigns an act of coy pleading.
  316. >Both of you know very well that she does not have to resort to this particular strategy, yet it is obvious what she tries to accomplish.
  317. >And you can indeed see a certain appeal in it, much to your own surprise.
  318. >Of course you do not actually want #deca.mare to adapt the role of a submissive partner.
  319. >And still, it is this way of acting which somehow resonates well with a subconscious part of yours.
  320. >#deca.mare switches back to her normal way of speaking.
  321. >But she keeps her voice low and slow, as she is practically talking directly into your ear.
  322. >"I know you think frequently about all the ways in which we differ. You have your reasons, but I must disagree."
  323. >She gives you a swift, heartily peck.
  324. >"After all, we are not all that different if you really think about it. We are a downright romantic couple."
  325. >You are initially tempted to believe that #deca.mare must have made an attempt at a bad joke, but you know her better.
  326. >This means too much for her.
  327. >She would not dare to risk killing the mood with a poor comedic act.
  328. >"A man and a mare, both lost in space because of ill fortune, find each other after a fated accident and fall in love in their mutual exile and isolation."
  329.  
  330.  
  331.  
  332.  
  333. >Well, she left out some essential details in her summary.
  334. >Does it really matter though?
  335. >Her interpretation has covered the most important points.
  336. >The only ones that count, actually.
  337. >#deca.mare chuckles softly.
  338. >You can feel the weak quaking of her body thanks to the intense physical contact.
  339. >The ensuing friction between your skin and her fur is unexpectedly arousing.
  340. >Is she finally breaking through?
  341. >"May I use the term 'forbidden' love as well? It has all that is needed for a great story. Well, almost."
  342. >She emits a short, weak breath out of her nostrils.
  343. >The sudden sensation of warm air makes you shiver, but not necessarily in a bad way.
  344. >#deca.mare is hell-bent on pulling all the strings she can find.
  345. >"All we need is the happy life ever after."
  346. >You briefly consider to ask her whether she refers to the creation of a strange new world, or to her dream of getting thoroughly rutted.
  347. >Jokingly, of course.
  348. >But that would be more than rude.
  349. >And you are equally determined to not disturb this session.
  350. >You keep your mouth shut and await what comes next.
  351. >#deca.mare carefully pulls you down.
  352. >Your head and upper body rub against her. all the way down from the chest, to her belly, right into her lap.
  353. >You realise she has also sat down on her haunches in the meantime.
  354. >#deca.mare uses the inner sides of her hind legs to pin your head and neck.
  355. >The sheer intimacy of this position lets your heart beat faster.
  356. >You mentally implore that #deca.mare does not get any brash ideas.
  357. >Who knows what she might have in mind.
  358. >Pretty much anything is possible at this point.
  359. >"Anon, look at me."
  360. >What?
  361. >"Look at me."
  362. >You follow her instructions and open your eyes.
  363. >The figure of #deca.mare towers above.
  364. >She is looking straight back at you.
  365. >Her look has a deep and powerful charm to it.
  366. >You see a strong longing in her, mixed with genuine affection.
  367.  
  368.  
  369.  
  370.  
  371. >You cannot help but see it as an emotional challenge.
  372. >This is #deca.mare's attempt to nudge you in a certain direction.
  373. >In addition to this already compromising position, she also lays her forelegs on your shoulders.
  374. >She is almost cradling you in a somewhat unconventional manner.
  375. >Your heartbeat intensifies.
  376. >A strong, fast heartbeat.
  377. >It is hard for you to determine whether this is caused by excitement or panic.
  378. >Maybe a little bit of both.
  379. >"Please, do not be alarmed. A certain nervousness is a natural reaction."
  380. >#deca.mare slightly shifts her body on the spot.
  381. >Each movement translates directly to you as well.
  382. >Which means that every little impulse gets you in contact with #deca.mare's accentuated physical features all around you.
  383. >And it feels good.
  384. >In fact, more than that.
  385. >It is more alluring than it should be.
  386. >"Try not try to resist that sensation. After all, this is the state we wanted to reach, is it not? Now tell me, Anon. How do you feel?"
  387. >That is a redundant question.
  388. >She knows everything about your health and mental state.
  389. >#deca.mare shakes her head.
  390. >"No, I am not interested in the vitals. Metrics and values can reveal much, but there is more to one's mind than that."
  391. >She begins to massage your shoulders.
  392. >"I want to hear you voicing your thoughts."
  393. >Easy now.
  394. >Think before you speak.
  395. >Unfortunately for you, having your head surrounded by a friendly and admittedly cute pony mare makes it hard for you to form coherent sentences.
  396. >Especially when said mare is currently busy with making herself as attractive to you as she possibly can.
  397. >At least as long as this does not cross any explicit lines, that is.
  398. >#deca.mare's expression resembles an awaiting, yet caring attitude.
  399. >"Well? An honest answer is all I ask for."
  400. >Oh man, how do you put it?
  401.  
  402.  
  403.  
  404.  
  405. >You are fully aware that her question entails more than what is apparent on the surface.
  406. >You do not doubt for a second that she is interested in your thoughts, that much is clear.
  407. >Yet there is another intent behind her question.
  408. >#deca.mare also refers to your feelings towards one certain aspect.
  409. >This is not much of a secret to either of you, but it makes it so much harder for you to come up with a decent answer.
  410. >Well, you knew where this was going right from the start.
  411. >And here you are.
  412. >You have to give it a shot.
  413. "I'm feeling great, #deca. You are a kind soul and a beautiful pony."
  414. >Good start and absolutely honest.
  415. >But you cannot leave it at that.
  416. >#deca.mare expects a specific answer.
  417. >How should you react?
  418. >She will certainly do it with you right here if you accept.
  419. >Maybe this would be for the best.
  420. >It may help her to get a little bit more docile in the long run.
  421. >But that would also be somewhat wrong, as in completely non-romantic.
  422. >You get an idea.
  423. "#deca, I think I'm ready a few concessions."
  424. >#deca.mare's eyes suddenly light up.
  425. >"Really?"
  426. >Her pitch is much higher than usual.
  427. "Yeah. The idea is still a bit... let's call it exotic to me, but you deserve it. Just as you deserve my trust."
  428. >Her "grip" around you gets a little tighter.
  429. >Not by much, but given the position in which you are, you begin to blush slightly.
  430. >"Aw, Anon. Thank you!"
  431. >There is no way back now; you got her going.
  432. >You try to remain calm as #deca.mare gets visibly excited herself.
  433. >"How do you want to do it? I am not all too picky."
  434. >#deca.mare starts to trace circles on your skin with a foreleg.
  435. >"We both shall derive pleasure out of it, so tell me what you... fancy. And I will oblige."
  436. >She tries her best to present herself as passionate.
  437. >Which seems rather legit, as far as you are concerned.
  438. >But her pace is much too fast.
  439. >You fear she might even stimulate herself to be in the right mood.
  440. >Okay, damage control, Anon.
  441.  
  442.  
  443.  
  444.  
  445. >You need to put a lid on this before the situation spirals out of control.
  446. "Whoa there, cut! Hold your horses."
  447. >Probably the most inappropriate pun you could have made.
  448. >#deca.mare looks confused.
  449. >"Anon? What is wrong?"
  450. "Nothing. No, wait, something."
  451. >Great speech, worthy of a poet.
  452. >You take a breath.
  453. "Okay, let's try this again. I think your approach is not right, #deca."
  454. >"Oh? What are you referring to?"
  455. "I think you have a wrong conception of romance. You'd do it here and now, in the middle of the grass field, and call it romantic, I assume?"
  456. >#deca.mare nods.
  457. >"If you are fine with it, sure."
  458. >Now you must be a bit blunt to her.
  459. >Tough for now, though it will aid you in the long run.
  460. "See, this is not romance, that's unceremonious fucking."
  461. >You think you see a hint of a cringe in her face.
  462. "Probably physically pleasing nonetheless, but not a proper moment for what you envision. No, you want something celebratory, and we shall treat it as such."
  463. >#deca.mare evaluates your words, and seems to agree.
  464. >"So what do you propose, Anon?"
  465. "A short delay. Only until the evening. Then we have a proper dinner. The full list, comfy scenery, candlelight, a fine meal, and so on."
  466. >#deca.mare listens carefully.
  467. "We make ourselves comfortable and try our hands at being lovebirds. And afterwards we retreat into our chamber and see what happens. Maybe we'll get down to 'business' right away, or maybe we'll take it slow. Whatever seems right to us. How does that sound for a romantic setting, hm?"
  468. >"And you would be okay with..."
  469. "Yes, I promise. In whatever fashion feels natural to us. But please bear in mind that I am an amateur in this matter."
  470. >"Something we have in common, Anon."
  471. >Right.
  472. >At least you are not likely to embarrass yourself.
  473. >Unless the whole thing turns into a disaster, which you will try to avoid by all means.
  474. >For your mutual sake.
  475. >So, this is it.
  476. >No more evasions.
  477. >You have a deadline now.
  478. >Well, sort of.
  479.  
  480.  
  481.  
  482.  
  483. 40
  484.  
  485. >#deca.mare still maintains her "grip" around you.
  486. >You could ask her to release you, since you have finally struck a mutual deal.
  487. >Yet you do not.
  488. >No, there is no point to it; you are going to get it on with her in a few hours anyway.
  489. >And it does feel comfortable to be hold by someone who loves you and who you can love in turn.
  490. >But as a caring partner, you want to give #deca.mare something as well.
  491. >So you give her an opportunity to open up.
  492. "Hey, #deca."
  493. >"Yes?"
  494. "How do you feel right now?"
  495. >#deca.mare breaks the eye contact to look into the distance.
  496. >"Hm, where to start?"
  497. "Just do like I did. Start at one point and let it out."
  498. >"Relieved, excited, nervous, anxious even, but also happy. A bit of those."
  499. >So you are not the only one, good to know.
  500. >Though you did not expect that, since #deca.mare was so adamant to get your agreement to her advances.
  501. >"I feel a little bit like being stuck in a wonderful dream. As if I could wake up any moment. Alone."
  502. >You quickly grab one of #deca.mare's forelegs.
  503. "You know this won't happen. I'm real and here to stay."
  504. >"I do, but the uneasiness remains."
  505. >You see a weak grin.
  506. >"This is my irrational fear."
  507. "This may seem uncouth to ask, but how can you think that?"
  508. >"You underestimate the scope, Anon. Time is the key term here. The last days have indeed been wonderful, if not the best of my life. And I have to thank you for it."
  509. "I smell a but."
  510. >"But what are they, compared to the centuries prior? At least in terms of time, that is. I fell in a steep routine which you have shaken up. Everything feels so unreal now."
  511. >You apply a little more pressure on her limb.
  512. "Stay in the present, #deca. I promise I won't magically disappear."
  513. >You wonder how often you will have to remind her of that fact.
  514. >If necessary, you would do so every day without hesitation.
  515. >However, you would prefer a way to overcome #deca.mare's mental struggle altogether.
  516.  
  517.  
  518.  
  519.  
  520. >Perhaps the next night might help her in that regard.
  521. >Like a therapeutic treatment, only with highly unorthodox methods.
  522. >But one step at a time.
  523. >This will come later.
  524. >For now you simply sit together in a forest glade.
  525. "Hang on, #deca. I've got an idea."
  526. >You wiggle yourself out of #deca.mare's grip.
  527. >She reluctantly lets you go.
  528. >You lie down on the grass beside her while reaching for her shoulder.
  529. >"Anon?"
  530. >You say nothing and gently pull her backwards as an indicator to do the same.
  531. >#deca.mare's body follows your motion, as she gradually tilts towards the ground.
  532. >You embrace her with one arm while you two lie side by side with your backs on the grass.
  533. >You look into the sky with its bright blue hue and fluffy clouds.
  534. >A curious thought crosses your mind.
  535. >In the actual world, the true Equestria, clouds like these may be inhabited.
  536. >And if #deca.mare's words are any indication, she plans to realise this exact feature too.
  537. >What a strange and simultaneously exciting concept.
  538. >Despite all the recent hiccups, your life is certainly getting more and more interesting from now on.
  539. >"You did this with an intent. What is next?"
  540. "Nothing. That's the intent. Relax and enjoy nature. It's said to be healthy. Or at least recreative."
  541. >#deca.mare cuddles up closely to your side.
  542. >You grin.
  543. >She just cannot help it.
  544. >Her desire for physical affection is nigh insatiable.
  545. >Anyway, moving on.
  546. "Many people spend social time together in such places. I know, ponies are not humans, but I think we'll have at least that in common."
  547. >Plus, you have every reason to believe that ponies have a much stronger affinity to nature than any human being, which further supports your point.
  548. "Heh, some even say that an extended period of time in nature can get people in touch with one's own 'spirit' if you will. Though I'm not a fan of the paranormal undertones within this presumption."
  549.  
  550.  
  551.  
  552.  
  553. >"In all due likelihood an evolutionary effect. Something I cannot relate to personally, I am afraid."
  554. >One of the drawbacks that being conceived on a shipyard entails, you figure.
  555. >#deca.mare said she has never been on a terran colony herself.
  556. >In fact, it seems she has, technically speaking, never been on any planet before.
  557. >At least not as herself; you do not count drone flights and hijacked video feeds in this context.
  558. "Well, time to catch up on this, I'd say. This here may not be a proper substitute, but just try to get a feeling for it. I'll help you."
  559. >"How?"
  560. "You will see. No, actually, you won't. Close your eyes. It's my turn to do something for you."
  561. >You look over to her.
  562. >#deca.mare has followed your instruction.
  563. >She lies in your arm, motionless, and with her eyes shut.
  564. >You cannot detect even the faintest move.
  565. >Under any other circumstances, one might wonder if she is still alive.
  566. >Unfazed by this deceiving look, you concentrate on what you are about to do.
  567. >You rummage through your memories for some of the stories you have heard in your earliest years.
  568. >Some of those are about nature with a wide variety of subjects.
  569. >A few were silly child stories, others had kernels of realism in them.
  570. >You are currently looking for the latter.
  571. >#deca.mare has shown a great deal of interest in the anecdotes you have told about your family, so chances are, she might also be interested in those.
  572. >The only fear you have is that she might have already gotten hold of them back when she tapped your brain.
  573. >That would defeat the purpose.
  574. >Regardless, you have to try it at least.
  575. >Wait there is one.
  576. "Time for another story session, if it suits you."
  577. >"Always, Anon."
  578. >And here you go for a second time.
  579.  
  580.  
  581.  
  582.  
  583. >You recite a few of the different nature stories you have come across during your childhood while you lie beside #deca.mare.
  584. >You tell them as parts of loosely connected tales.
  585. >And despite having only a mediocre narrative value by themselves, said stories can nevertheless improve an already comfortable get-together.
  586. >Especially when people, or in ponies in this case, are not familiar with them.
  587. >Some are comparatively realistic accounts, others are more akin to folklore tales.
  588. >Still, you deem them interesting enough to tell, at least on this occasion.
  589. >You do not look at her directly during your performance, which means you are unable to see how she reacts exactly.
  590. >But given that she does not comment on something and restrains from making any sort of negative remark, you simply assume she is content with it.
  591. >She would make it known if she had a question or any particular dislike.
  592. >Granted, you are also not exactly a skilled storyteller yourself, but you play your role adequately.
  593. >You mange to fish up four or five consecutive stories before you call it quits.
  594. >#deca.mare listens the whole time, without a single interruption.
  595. >You guess she would not mind even if she knew the stories beforehand.
  596. >Simply having a dear partner who happily digs out something just for her is a welcome gesture of affection.
  597. "Oh, by the way, telling tales is also a popular social activity. Preferably around campfires. You can use that to your advantage."
  598. >"I am aware of that, Anon. Unfortunately, my personal arsenal is, shall we say, rather limited."
  599. >A short pause.
  600. >"My own life is not a good source for a pony audience either, for obvious reasons."
  601. >You laugh.
  602.  
  603.  
  604.  
  605.  
  606. "Yeah, those might be pretty hard to explain. But that doesn't have to stay like this."
  607. >"Oh?"
  608. "Yes. As time progresses, we will be able to find our own adventures in Equestria. From what I have heard, the possibilities there are almost endless."
  609. >You look over to her with a smug grin.
  610. "Believe me, my sources are trustworthy. And then we can amaze others with our own tales."
  611. >A pause.
  612. "My point is, it will all smooth out over time. And speaking of tales and adventures, isn't another show session the next step on the list?"
  613. >"It is. But can we stay and relax for five more minutes? I like the way we are lying here."
  614. "Of course, #deca."
  615. >You look back up, close your eyes again and begin to stroke #deca.mare's fur with the hand that already holds her.
  616. >Like #deca.mare suggested, you just relax.
  617. >You say nothing, do nothing, think nothing.
  618. >You have each other and no reason to be concerned about anything.
  619. >It seems that even #deca.mare is swept away by this calm aura.
  620. >She simply rests beside you.
  621. >And despite the close physical contact, she does not show any sign of excitement or arousal.
  622. >A moment of perfect serenity, for the two of you.
  623. >But that moment ends eventually and you slowly rise up.
  624. >You have no idea if you lay there for five minutes or not.
  625. >As far as you are concerned, it may have been longer than that.
  626. >Not that it matters anyway; the act itself counts more than the exact amount of time you spent on it.
  627. >You stretch your body while #deca.mare materialises a door nearby.
  628. >You head back to the command deck.
  629. >The surreal sight of a doorframe standing in the middle of a seemingly normal glade does not really surprise you anymore.
  630. >This includes the rather abrupt transition to the deck itself.
  631. >Seems like these things have quickly become a part of your routine.
  632. >#deca.mare and you take a seat in your familiar positions.
  633. >Upon sitting down, you are greeted by the unexpected sensation of the chair's cushions on your bare back.
  634.  
  635.  
  636.  
  637.  
  638. >You have apparently forgotten to rematerialise your shirt on your way.
  639. "Oh, where are my manners?"
  640. >Just as you begin to form the command in your head, you get nudged by #deca.mare.
  641. >"I do not mind if you stay like this."
  642. "Hm, I've got the impression you try to direct me more and more to a pony standard of modesty."
  643. >Which is barely existent at all when it comes to clothing in public.
  644. >Hell, even their rulers wear nothing but regalia made out of gold and gems.
  645. >"I do not wish to impose anything on you, Anon, but it might help you in the long run if you familiarise yourself with pony conventions. After all, you should feel at home too."
  646. >This brings you to an interesting question.
  647. "Hey, #deca? How exactly will this work?"
  648. >"You mean us living in Equestria?"
  649. "Yeah, what about the details? You can create a replica of your own body, but I don't think I'll run around there just like that."
  650. >"No, that would be far too risky. Equestria is comparatively peaceful, but unlike ponies and all the other creatures, you are not compatible with my security measures."
  651. "Because of my organic brain."
  652. "Hmhm. One simple irregularity might be enough to..."
  653. >Keep her from completing that sentence.
  654. "I see what you mean."
  655. >And you appreciate her adamant stance on your personal security.
  656. "But knowing you, you have cooked up an alternative."
  657. >She nods.
  658. >"I do. And it is easier than you imagine. You are right, by the way I can create my own physical body."
  659. >She looks at you with a serious expression.
  660. >"And I can render you the same service."
  661. "You mean a second body? One which I could use just like my own?"
  662. >"Sure. Think about it. With a mechanical unit as a brain, or in this case a substitute thereof, it does not differ that much from controlling, say, one of our units. Plus, I will not include the ability to develop an own individual while shaping said body."
  663. >#deca.mare makes a short pause to give you the time to process her words.
  664.  
  665.  
  666.  
  667.  
  668. >"And since this body will not become a being on its own, you can utilise it remotely without any risk or moral stumbling blocks."
  669. "Like an avatar."
  670. >"If you want to call it that way. This process is no problem at all, but there is still a related issue we have to discuss."
  671. "Something tells me that I won't like the topic."
  672. >"No, not that bad. It is nothing disastrous, but still a serious issue.
  673. "So what is it?"
  674. >"The question of what sort of representation you prefer. I could theoretically recreate a realistic replica of your natural body, that leads to some inconveniences."
  675. "You mean I would stick out like a sore thumb."
  676. >"Hm, not necessarily. This can be camouflaged with the means I have shown you. It is, however, not an elegant solution."
  677. "I think I can see where this leads to."
  678. >#deca.mare takes a breath.
  679. >"Could you please consider a pony body for our life on the surface? Is not mandatory of course, but it would make some things much easier."
  680. >The idea sounds strange to you at first.
  681. >Flying missions with a vessel embodiment is one thing, but living on a planet with another body altogether?
  682. >"Well it should, technically speaking, not feel as abstract to you as piloting a ship through the neural link. The one is a mostly organic body while the other is completely non-organic."
  683. >Fair point, although you have significantly more experience with fighter crafts than you do with equine anatomy.
  684. >But you are sure that #deca.mare can tutor in that regard.
  685. >With emphasis on anatomical "features".
  686. >She would probably love to have partner who looks more like her.
  687. >You instinctively shake your head.
  688. >"No, Anon. This is incorrect. You are fine the way you are."
  689. >#deca.mare puts a forehoof on your leg as a gesture of affirmation.
  690. >"This is only a matter of utility and efficiency. I do not want to alter you."
  691. >You raise an eyebrow.
  692. "So no secret plot to turn me pony? You are not embarrassed by my 'alien' shape, right?"
  693.  
  694.  
  695.  
  696.  
  697. >You intentionally put an emphasis on the wording to signify that your remarks are not truly serious.
  698. >#deca.mare is visibly aghast anyway.
  699. >"Of course not, Anon! I love you in your true form. Only a shoddy partner would insist to fundamentally change the own lover."
  700. >You agree with her view an appreciate her moral integrity.
  701. >Which is why you will also never ask #deca.mare to change herself for you.
  702. >Courting a pony might be... unusual, but you rather put up with this little detail than demand anything selfish.
  703. "Fair enough, #deca. But I need some time for that."
  704. >"Of course, of course. We can work on the details later on. Just consider this offer for now, we are not in a hurry."
  705. >#deca.mare focuses on the large main screen.
  706. >"But back to the reason why we are here. Are you ready for the next season?"
  707. "I think so, yeah."
  708. >"Alright. Only one last note: You may notice some smaller changes in the way how the narrative is presented."
  709. "Why's that?"
  710. >"Long story. The best way to sum it up is by calling it an artistic discrepancy. Nothing too extreme, yet one of the reasons why certain adaptations and streamlining are necessary on our part."
  711. You chuckle once.
  712. "And if I recall correctly, you have already devised such a plan?"
  713. >She nods.
  714. "Heh, I should call you Twilight."
  715. >#deca.mare produces a quiet nickering sound.
  716. >"Oh please. We have nothing in common. She has a horn and w... never mind."
  717. >She does not complete that sentence.
  718. >That seems to have hit home.
  719. "I beg your pardon? I didn't quite catch that. Is everything okay?"
  720. >"Nothing wrong. I am fine."
  721. >Before you can make any further remark, #deca.mare lays her upper body on your lap, still looking at the screen.
  722. >This is her way to tell you that you shall quit your bantering and concentrate on what is about to unfold.
  723. >"On your mark, Anon."
  724. >You take a long breath and lean back, deep into the chair.
  725. >The cushions feel perfect; they have an ideal texture.
  726.  
  727.  
  728.  
  729.  
  730. >Yet you catch yourself thinking that it can never be as comfortable as the fur of a certain pony mare.
  731. >But that is a matter for tonight.
  732. "Alright, do it."
  733. >#deca.mare initiates the process.
  734. >The status screen dissolves and you are greeted by a now familiar composition of lively bright colours.
  735. >A garden scene is coming up.
  736. >The Canterlot sculpture gardens, as you quickly find out.
  737. >And this is how you learn about an entity called Discord, amongst other things.
  738. >Just as before, you cover the whole season, episode after episode.
  739. >True to her word, this season does indeed cover some more aspects concerning pony society and history.
  740. >The reappearance of Princess Luna.
  741. >A somewhat romanticised version of pre-Equestrian history and the founding of Equestria.
  742. >Ponyville's origin story.
  743. >Further, and partly odd, pony festivities and events, such as Hearts and Hooves Day, Hearth's Warming Eve, the regular restocking of Cloudsdale's water supplies via hurricanes, or using the power of love as a tactical defensive weapon.
  744. >And the introduction to other species, like bat ponies, donkeys, dragons (as a larger faction, not just a few hoarding hermits), minotaurs, more alicorns beside the Royal Sisters, and changelings alongside their notorious Queen.
  745. >Needless to say, some make a better first impression than others.
  746. >Credit roll of the season two finale.
  747. >Your head is brimming with input.
  748. "Oh man, I see why you need to bring more structure into this, #deca. Twenty minutes per topic is far from enough to cover the subjects at hand. You can probably write books to fill the unmentioned gaps within the lore."
  749. >#deca.mare looks over to you.
  750. >And since her forelegs are still on your lap, she rolls her body to the side to do so.
  751.  
  752.  
  753.  
  754. >As a consequence, she automatically reveals her underside, revealing her chest, belly, and more.
  755. >Without any naughty intention on her part this time.
  756. >You try not to get distracted and return her look.
  757. >"Not only probably. That actually happened, Anon. There are more unofficial takes on certain scenes than you can imagine."
  758. "I remember, you mentioned that before. Have you used them for your work?"
  759. >"No. The problem with those is that they vary greatly in many aspects, from the sheer quality of writing to individual tone and style, as well as personal interpretations and preferred genres. I have a vast collection in store, but I ultimately designed my plan on my own."
  760. "And remain as close to the source as you can in the process."
  761. >"Precisely."
  762. "How close exactly? I mean, I know you want to reconstruct all Equestrian places. What about other things, such as the characters?"
  763. >"They are included in my plans for the world. Which means they will take their place in the grand scheme of things. But keep in mind that the world, unlike the show, cannot revolve solely around a select roster of ponies. Equestria is a vast realm, Anon, with many ponies and stories. In fact, it will be more than ever before."
  764. "I can see this working for most ponies, except some of the extreme cases."
  765. >"Who do you have in mind?"
  766. "Ponies like the Royal Sisters, for instance. You have made it perfectly clear that they won't be able to move planetary objects at will, much less a star. Or even Discord. He may be a chaotic villain in the show, but what shall we do with him? Creating a monster with the sole purpose of being beaten and perpetually sealed away is just as cruel, if not worse."
  767.  
  768.  
  769.  
  770.  
  771. >"Yes, I have covered this. While the princesses will indeed not possess any explicit solar or lunar magic, they are nevertheless fit as rulers. They have other abilities at their disposal which they can utilise for the benefit of the realm. Plus, they act as an essential symbolic beacon for Equestria and its unity, especially in the kingdom's early years."
  772. >#deca.mare winks.
  773. >"And Discord... let me say this much: There is an agreeable solution for him as well. Trust me. It will all work out in the long run."
  774. >You accept her word on this matter.
  775. >If someone is able to create such a scheme perfectly, it is #deca.mare.
  776. >But you must admit, it will be hard for you to remember all the details in only one run.
  777. >And you have to cover seven additional seasons.
  778. >"True, We rush a little bit through the show, but this is intended. It shall be a first crash course to give you a general overview. We can repeat any lesson at any time, if you need it. Do you have any more questions right now?"
  779. >You shake your head.
  780. >"I think we are done here, then."
  781. >Which can only mean one thing.
  782. >It is time for you to hold true to your word.
  783. >No more escapes, no more delays.
  784. "So here we are. Somepony called for a candlelight dinner?"
  785. >You hope this did not sound too overblown.
  786. >But #deca.mare plays along with a smiling nod.
  787. >Luckily for you, she has not exactly a high standard in terms of romantic efforts.
  788. >But that is no excuse for you to slack.
  789. >On the contrary; you want her enjoy this evening.
  790. >Every single second of it.
  791. >Because this shall become a night she remembers.
  792. >Perhaps even her next big step towards inner piece.
  793. >And who knows, you might also derive more pleasure from it than you initially thought.
  794. >Stranger things have happened for sure.
  795.  
  796.  
  797.  
  798.  
  799. 41/1
  800.  
  801. >#deca.mare and you rise from the command chair.
  802. >You need to address something before you leave the deck.
  803. "Okay, let me handle the main part, #deca. I've got some ideas that should be to your liking. Any preferences or particular wishes?"
  804. >"None whatsoever, my expertise fails me here. I am looking forward to your ideas though."
  805. "Alright."
  806. >You casually walk towards the door and motion #deca.mare to follow you.
  807. >The low speed is intentional; you need the time to prepare the next room.
  808. >You want to keep it simple, yet romantic.
  809. >So you load up the chamber within Canterlot Castle, but with a few modifications.
  810. >A few small changes here, some more little titbits there.
  811. >And of course the scenery must be set at dusk.
  812. >Sunset and candles, the textbook definition of a romantic meet-up, followed by a classical night of love and passion.
  813. >Then again, this is also the bottom of the barrel in terms of originality.
  814. >This whole thing is cliché as hell.
  815. >But hey, this is exactly what #deca.mare wants, and given that she has absolutely zero prior personal experience, it should work properly for her.
  816. >As for you, it may not be what you have expected when you were younger, but it is also a prelude to a whole new life.
  817. >One which is far beyond anything you could have dreamed of.
  818. >So you have no reason to frown.
  819. >But the traditional rite of introducing your better half to your family and vice versa is thoroughly ruined in both ways.
  820. >She has no kin left, and yours would rather see her dead in any case.
  821. >And on a far more practical note, you doubt she would fit into your parents' house.
  822. >#deca.mare is aware of your thought process, but remains silent.
  823. >This time, it is her who has to trust your experience.
  824. >Well, you will not let her down.
  825. >You reach the ramp as you finalise your room preparations.
  826.  
  827.  
  828.  
  829.  
  830. >You walk up the ramp.
  831. "I'd say we keep the process open and individual steps subject to change. Tightly planning a date from start to end is so... unromantic."
  832. >"Sounds reasonable to me."
  833. "A word of advice: Don't see your inexperience as an obstacle. We can't do this properly without your cooperation."
  834. >"Yes, Anon. I understand."
  835. >You reach the door.
  836. >#deca.mare tries to enter the chamber, but the door remains locked.
  837. >You gave the order for this.
  838. "Nope."
  839. >"Anon?"
  840. "I meant what I said when I was talking about doing things properly. We go all the way. This includes..."
  841. >You change your clothing and materialise an elegant suit for you.
  842. "... the correct attire. You need a dress to enter."
  843. >#deca.mare raises a hoof in thought.
  844. >"What shall I wear?"
  845. >You grin weakly in defeat.
  846. "Beats me, to tell you the truth. Dresses are usually not a thing for guys."
  847. >#deca.mare is visibly dissatisfied with your answer.
  848. >"That is not helping, Anon."
  849. "Just choose something. Doesn't have to be overly fancy or complex. It's a gesture of courtesy."
  850. >"Hm..."
  851. >A few seconds pass while #deca.mare is looking for a dress to wear.
  852. >She is usually faster than this.
  853. >But you give her the time.
  854. >You understand her struggle; this is not a choice one can make based on science or statistics.
  855. >Because fashion and aesthetics are on a completely different level.
  856. >#deca.mare makes her choice and materialises a dress after a short period of consideration.
  857. >The design is rather simple, yet comely.
  858. >Made out of white silk, the clothing covers her body from the neck onwards.
  859. >It runs alongside #deca.mare's chest and back.
  860. >Her forelegs remain uncovered, and three-fourths of her hind legs are concealed by a wide, finely woven piece of fabric.
  861. >This part looks almost skirt-like, except for the incision on its underside.
  862. >As you can figure out, this design choice is meant to prevent any hindrance of movement to the hind legs, while simultaneously covering the body.
  863.  
  864.  
  865.  
  866.  
  867. >The skirt's length is carefully measured as well; it ensures that the silk will not chafe against the ground during movements, and reveals nothing but the hooves of its wearer at the same time.
  868. >Upon closer inspection, you recognise the concept behind her choice.
  869. >It is basically a simplified version of the gala dresses you have seen in the show.
  870. >But in contrast to those, this one has no features that reflect the personality of the mare in it.
  871. >Like a blank canvas.
  872. >#deca.mare strikes a few presenting poses.
  873. >"And? Do you like it?"
  874. "It's looking lovely on you, #deca. I like it."
  875. >That is not a lie; she has chosen a good option.
  876. >Although you secretly hoped she would have chosen something with a little more personality.
  877. >Regardless, she did what you asked of her, so you unlock the door with a mental command.
  878. >It slides open as usual.
  879. >Warm and gentle sunset light shines through the opening.
  880. >But the sight of the chamber behind it is different than before.
  881. >Its basic layout and furnishing remains the same, but the decoration has partly changed, especially on the table and bed.
  882. >The table is coated with a layer of very elaborated cloth and additionally adorned with warmly coloured wax candles on brazen prickets.
  883. >Dinnerware and cutlery are on par with those of a high-profile restaurant.
  884. >On second thought, you were a little bit too eager in this regard, since #deca.mare does not use any cutlery.
  885. >But at least ponies use cups somehow, so you have not committed a complete faux pas.
  886. >The bed has undergone similar modifications.
  887. >The sheets, pillows, and blankets have been altered to match the hue of the room in its current shading.
  888. >You have briefly considered to make those even more romantic by going full cliché.
  889. >Heart shaped, pillows, petals on the sheet, and all that.
  890. >But that would have been too much.
  891. >Maybe not for #deca.mare, but for you.
  892.  
  893.  
  894.  
  895.  
  896. >You still need to overcome your concerns.
  897. >You are slowly coming to terms with your overall situation, but it is a bad idea to stretch your psychological tolerance with an overly cliché imagery.
  898. >The rest of the chamber is basically left untouched, with the exception of some more candles here and there.
  899. >You evaluate your result and deem it satisfactory.
  900. >Plus, it is fascinating how accurate you can alter shapes without a direct line of sight.
  901. >Up to this point, you have only modified objects in your immediate vicinity.
  902. >But now it seems you can basically do the same when a wall is set between you and the object in question.
  903. >Granted, it is a simulated wall in a place where room and dimensions are not strictly bound by the laws of reality, yet it is a step forwards for you.
  904. >However, something in the room is still missing for the perfect mood.
  905. "Oh, of course! Music."
  906. >You ponder your options in an attempt to keep it realistic and appropriate for an Equestrian standard.
  907. >Wait, you recall a scene during a party.
  908. >There was a piece of archaic audio technology.
  909. >You materialise a gramophone, disc included and set it to play.
  910. >Sizzling static greets your ears.
  911. >"Anon, you have not specified what is supposed to be recorded on the disc.
  912. >Dumb mistake.
  913. >You facepalm with a faint groan and think of a suitable song list.
  914. >An incoherent mess of audio sludge replaces the static as the disc's surface reconfigures itself.
  915. >The gramophone needle is still on the shellac.
  916. >Perhaps you should have deactivated the device beforehand.
  917. >But the evidence of your little blunder is quickly erased.
  918. >Slow, calm piano music fills the room.
  919. "Here we go. Now we got it."
  920. >Everything is prepared and good to go.
  921.  
  922.  
  923.  
  924.  
  925. >You turn to #deca.mare and perform a little bow as an inviting gesture.
  926. >You try to act courteous without being stilted about it.
  927. "Shall we, my dear?"
  928. >"Yes, Anon. I would love to."
  929. "Well then. Most couples probably prefer to walk hand in hand, but I think that doesn't work well with a human and a pony."
  930. >#deca.mare giggles.
  931. >"You know, you could carry me instead."
  932. "That's usually reserved for marriage, #deca."
  933. >She turns to you with a sly grin.
  934. >"But we are a couple. We live together in a shared household, plan our future, love us, and spend literally all of our time with each other. The only thing we did not have was a proper ceremony."
  935. >Points you cannot refute.
  936. >And since you plan to go even further this night, you could basically consider yourself quasi married.
  937. >Though you would have preferred to have an official marriage.
  938. >It is after all a special and unique occasion in one's life.
  939. >And not having one feels just wrong, especially when you live with a partner.
  940. >But then again, it seems also inappropriate if you make one yourself; neither of you has the symbolic agency.
  941. >Oh well, you are here to have fun.
  942. "Okay, come here, #deca. Just promise me one thing."
  943. >#deca.mare approaches you slowly.
  944. >"Sure. What do you want, Anon?"
  945. >You bend a knee to wait for her.
  946. "Once we have realised our... project, let us have a proper ceremony, alright? It's too important to let it slip completely."
  947. >She embraces your shoulders with her forelegs.
  948. >"You suggest a marriage in Equestria?"
  949. >You look her directly in the eyes now.
  950. "Yep, why not? Marriages are common practice there as well. And this is one of the few things I insist on in my life."
  951. >"For a good reason. And I accept."
  952. >Now you smile.
  953. "I wouldn't have expected anything else."
  954.  
  955.  
  956.  
  957.  
  958. >You respond to her embrace with a hug of your own.
  959. >You place one hand between her shoulders and the other near hear rear.
  960. >There is a clear intent behind this action, though it is not as suggestive as it may appear at first.
  961. "Hold on now, I'll grant you your wish."
  962. >Hopefully you can carry her.
  963. >Judging from your previous experiences with her, she is not exactly heavy, at least when she lies on you.
  964. >She is, however, far from weak.
  965. >Her body can invoke a considerable amount of strength.
  966. >Enough to pin you down if she wanted to.
  967. >But all of that consideration is pointless; you cannot chicken out now.
  968. >So there is only the way forward.
  969. >Your one arm reaches over her rear and pulls her closer to you, while your second acts as support in the action.
  970. >You hoist her with your limbs.
  971. >In the meantime, #deca.mare tightens her grip around your shoulders to stabilise herself.
  972. >Now you press her body belly first against yours as you carry her.
  973. >Against all your expectations, her weight is barely a problem.
  974. >You are not exactly used to physical labour, so you anticipated more of a challenge.
  975. >And while you still need to put some effort into it, you can carry #deca.mare to the table.
  976. >Nevertheless, you are still attentive to make sure that you do not wrinkle her dress.
  977. >Not that you have to pay much attention to it in theory; either of you can repair the damage easily with a thought.
  978. >But this is serious for you.
  979. >You want to maintain the basic rules of courtesy.
  980. >And not ruining your partner's outfit is one of the most important rules.
  981. >And you assume she has probably assisted you in a stealthy manner.
  982. >Perhaps by reducing her weight or something.
  983. >But be that as it may, the gesture is the only thing that counts.
  984.  
  985.  
  986.  
  987.  
  988. >Once at the table, you carefully let her down.
  989. >#deca.mare sits down on her seat cushion.
  990. >You look at each other.
  991. "I hope it was to your liking."
  992. >"It was, Anon. I did not expect it to be this pleasant. I felt..."
  993. "Loved?"
  994. >"...secure. Secure and stable."
  995. >You give her a knowing smile.
  996. "Told you I'm not a dream. And we will have plenty of opportunities to convince you of this."
  997. >This gives you an idea.
  998. >You "teleport" your cushion from the opposite side of the table to you and place it next to #deca.mare.
  999. "I want to try something new. Let's sit together and share our meal. The other side of the table is so far away, don't you agree?"
  1000. >"Sounds nice."
  1001. >You take that as an affirmation and sit down next to her.
  1002. "Now, what do you want to eat? I'm up to anything that doesn't involve hay or other forms of grass."
  1003. >"How about a buffet system?. We have enough space on the table and remain flexible that way."
  1004. "Good idea."
  1005. >Together you materialise a wide variety of different components on the table, similar to your breakfast out in the open.
  1006. >But the selection is not limited to fruit baskets this time.
  1007. >You create bowls with vegetables, several containers with different spices, pots with sauces, and more food, like bread and noodles.
  1008. >And just like you did during your picnic, you start simple and work from there.
  1009. #deca.mare picks some vegetables.
  1010. >"So you want to share everything literally?"
  1011. "Sure, nothing speaks against it. We've already done more than that, so where is the problem in sharing a plate with the one you love?"
  1012. >And it gives you an excuse to use the otherwise redundant cutlery on her side.
  1013. >She agrees with you.
  1014.  
  1015.  
  1016.  
  1017.  
  1018. >So you start to cut the vegetables on the plate into several smaller pieces.
  1019. >As #deca.mare intends to fish for some parts with her mouth, you stop her.
  1020. "Wait, I know something better."
  1021. >You impale some pieces with your fork and offer these to #deca.mare, which she accepts.
  1022. >Then you do the same and take a bite yourself.
  1023. >You take turns with each bite until the plate is emptied, and pick the next course.
  1024. >Also, you can use these little pauses for small talk.
  1025. "Say, what is your favourite place in Equestria?"
  1026. >"I have none. It implies a preference of some places over others. The world is dear to me as a whole."
  1027. "Okay, let me put it this way, where would you like to start?"
  1028. >"No idea yet. What about you?"
  1029. >You think a moment before you answer.
  1030. "Probably Cloudsdale. The way I see it, it's one of the oldest cities in Equestria. And the idea of living in clouds is honestly fascinating."
  1031. >#deca.mare's ears perk up.
  1032. >"Really?"
  1033. "Yeah. Oh, and flight. It's something I am vaguely familiar with already. Well, at least with machine assisted flight."
  1034. >Another grin.
  1035. >"I think you have just found the answer to our previous discussion."
  1036. "A pegasus then? Are you fine with this?"
  1037. >"We talked about this before. I love your true self, no matter what you pick."
  1038. "So pegasus it is."
  1039. >You briefly interrupt your meal for a firm hug.
  1040. >"Featherbrain."
  1041. "Typical. Always up for a little banter."
  1042. >"I would not do it if you could not take it, Anon. Admit it, you like it too."
  1043. "True. But keep it civil, or I will make it rain."
  1044. >"And splash the poor pony who provides you with food? How unfriendly you are."
  1045. >#deca.mare feigns an offended tone.
  1046. >"You pegasi are all so brash. That happens when you spend all your days with your heads in the clouds."
  1047. "Careful with those accusations. You might freeze the land with your badmouthing, stubborn ground dweller."
  1048. >A second of silence.
  1049. >Then, as if on cue, you start to quietly snort in unison.
  1050.  
  1051.  
  1052.  
  1053.  
  1054. >By now, you have completed your second course.
  1055. >Your next choice is a meal with noodles as foundation, combined with a spiced sauce and some vegetables.
  1056. >At this point you notice the lack of drinks, so you materialise glasses for you and #deca.mare and fill them with wine.
  1057. >Each of you picks one.
  1058. >Then you clink glasses and drink a little bit.
  1059. >You can taste the alcohol in it.
  1060. >Good thing you have not to worry about getting drunk in here.
  1061. >"Maybe we two fit perfectly into society when we are together. I must think back to our dream. We truly complement each other."
  1062. "Yeah, we have our individual strengths and cooperate to get the best results out of every situation.
  1063. >Something ironic comes to your mind.
  1064. "Heh, if you really think about it, we lived the cordial spirit of Equestria before I was aware of it. And even before we have met, all I ever wanted was a fulfilled life. And the morals of the mostly innocent character of the show reflect that beautifully."
  1065. >"Indeed. This is one of the reasons why it had gained so much traction back then. And now we can bring these ideals to life. Take them higher than they were ever before."
  1066. >You take another swig of wine.
  1067. "Man, it sounds so much grander when you say it like this."
  1068. >"But it is true. We ultimately create a new force of good in the universe. A force that will grow, step by step. Even I cannot say what it could accomplish in the far future. But what we can do is to make sure that it will get the best start we can provide. At the end of the day, they will be our children. So we have to look after them as responsible parents. And once they mature, they can help us in turn."
  1069. "Because this is what a family is for."
  1070. >"Precisely. One big, happy family."
  1071. >This is a strange thought to you.
  1072.  
  1073.  
  1074.  
  1075.  
  1076. "I've often wondered what raising an own family might feel like. Who knew I would end up with thousands of kids?"
  1077. >Thousands of children with hooves, no less.
  1078. >They may not be your biological offspring per se, but you will be their father.
  1079. >Because you convinced #deca.mare of this project.
  1080. >So their existence will be a direct consequence of your actions.
  1081. >You realise you have drastically broadened your family tree beyond measure.
  1082. >"To be fair, this is unlike any family that has ever existed before. And please bear in mind that they will not be aware of our direct intervention. We help them for their own sake, Anon. Personal fame or authority are irrelevant for us."
  1083. "Yes, I know. It was just an interesting thought to entertain."
  1084. >You pick up your glass and twirl it in your grasp.
  1085. "Family planning has something unique to it."
  1086. >You lean against #deca.mare's side.
  1087. "But like you said, we will be parents of sorts. Can you believe it?"
  1088. >She looks at you with a happy, but also slightly nervous expression and takes up her own glass.
  1089. >"Barely. It is just incredible, is it not?"
  1090. >Your second hand wanders slowly over her back and to her opposite side.
  1091. "Yes, #deca, it is."
  1092. >And you two conclude this thought with another clinking of glass.
  1093. >You resume eating your meal in your shared fashion and finish the third course of the evening.
  1094. >You look at the empty plate.
  1095. >The dinner is progressing faster than you thought.
  1096. >Not much longer now.
  1097. "Uhm, there is something I need to ask."
  1098. >#deca.mare glances over to you with curiosity.
  1099. >You take a deep breath.
  1100. >This could get embarrassing.
  1101. "Is there anything left I should to know for, you know... later?"
  1102. >You receive a raised eyebrow in response.
  1103. >"Only if you require basic instructions on biology."
  1104. >You sigh.
  1105. "You know what I mean."
  1106. >#deca.mare puts a hoof on your cheek.
  1107. >"Oh, Anon. I think you are making this way harder for you than necessary. But maybe we can fix this with a little 'dessert'."
  1108.  
  1109.  
  1110.  
  1111.  
  1112. >The sultry stress on her last word gets your attention.
  1113. >Is she springing right into the action?
  1114. >The buffet dematerialises and leaves an almost bare table.
  1115. >Right here and now?
  1116. "Whoa, #deca. Wait a second before you do something imprudent."
  1117. >A medium-sized glass bowl with a fruit sundae appears out of nowhere.
  1118. >Okay, no spontaneous transition to phase two, it seems.
  1119. "What's up with this? You made it sound like something else."
  1120. >#deca.mare points at the ice with a hoof.
  1121. >"There is more to it than meets the eye, Anon. This is an offer to you."
  1122. "A sundae dessert?"
  1123. >#deca.mare clears her throat.
  1124. >"Which may or may not be enhanced with a special tonic of mine. Who knows?"
  1125. "You want to drug me."
  1126. >"No, no, no. Nothing of that magnitude. It shall only help you to get into the right mood with a little stimulant, you know?"
  1127. "And how strong is that, ahem, 'tonic', as you call it?"
  1128. >"I swear, it is completely harmless and subtle. Nothing that will mess with your psyche or anything. The decision is up to you. And I will partake as well if that makes you feel better."
  1129. >You wonder whether #deca.mare's body can actually be affected by substances of any kind.
  1130. >Though you assume it is unlikely, unless she actively wants it to.
  1131. "No catch, no side effects?"
  1132. >"None. Guaranteed."
  1133. "Fine, let's do it. May be for the best."
  1134. >#deca.mare nods and materialises a spoon.
  1135. >You pick it up and take a sample of the sundae.
  1136. >"Give me the first one."
  1137. >You do as she asks and offer her the first piece.
  1138. >#deca.mare eats it without hesitation and evaluates the taste.
  1139. >"The flavour is perfect. You will like it."
  1140. >So you take another piece for yourself and taste it.
  1141.  
  1142.  
  1143.  
  1144.  
  1145. >The ice is cool and sweet, with a distinct aroma of exotic fruit and cream.
  1146. >And something else.
  1147. >A faint hint of a taste you absolutely cannot identify.
  1148. >This must be #deca.mare's secret.
  1149. >"And?"
  1150. "You were right. It's great. Tell me, what is the last ingredient?"
  1151. >#deca.mare winks.
  1152. >"Homemade special. Crafted with love."
  1153. >She obviously does not want to give you a clear answer this time.
  1154. >Without any further comment on the matter, you offer her the next bite.
  1155. >You proceed like before and take turns until the bowl is empty.
  1156. >A warm feeling started to spread through your body at some point.
  1157. >You feel excited, but also relaxed, as if there were no fears in the world.
  1158. >It is clear to you that #deca.mare's little gift is taking hold of you.
  1159. >And despite this new sensation, you are completely lucid.
  1160. >Your mind is not impaired in any way.
  1161. >You are still you, only slightly less stiff.
  1162. >This is the moment #deca.mare has waited for.
  1163. >"Now, are you ready to become a lovebird, sweetheart?"
  1164. >She is laying it on pretty thickly now.
  1165. "Uhm..."
  1166. >You hesitate for a moment.
  1167. >But #deca.mare does not wait for an answer.
  1168. >She emits a long cooing sound and lets herself tilt towards you.
  1169. >Her body slides against yours and her head lands on your lap.
  1170. >She is looking straight up into your eyes, and reaches out with a forehoof to touch your mouth.
  1171. >Her lidded expression leaves no room for doubt.
  1172. >She demands your special attention.
  1173. >Now.
  1174. >You carefully grab her hoof with your hand to shift it to the side.
  1175. >You cannot give her an answer with a hoof in your mouth.
  1176. "Okay, okay. Think you can make at least to the bed before you collapse on the floor?"
  1177. >"For you? Every time, Anon."
  1178. >#deca.mare raises herself slowly out of your lap and heads for the bed.
  1179. >And for you it is time to keep your promise.
  1180. >You take another long breath before you stand up and follow her.
  1181.  
  1182.  
  1183.  
  1184.  
  1185. 41/2
  1186.  
  1187. >You turn towards the bed.
  1188. >#deca.mare has taken advantage of her little head start.
  1189. >She as already planted herself straight in the centre without further ado; she did not even take the time to get rid of her dress.
  1190. >Not only that, her pose also speaks for itself.
  1191. >#deca.mare lies lounging on her side, three of her four limbs plus tail stretched out.
  1192. >Her rear legs are sprawled out at slightly different angles, her visible forehoof pats a spot next to her on the mattress.
  1193. >And her head is partly buried in the blankets while she observes you keenly with one eye.
  1194. >She is obviously done with waiting any longer.
  1195. >"Nest to Anon, your immediate attendance is required. Do you copy?"
  1196. >Is that going to turn into a role play now?
  1197. >You decide to obey her "order" before she can get any strange ideas.
  1198. >Well, any stranger ideas at least.
  1199. >But it is too late for that.
  1200. >#deca.mare knows exactly what she is doing.
  1201. >You realise this the moment you reach the edge of the bed frame, as #deca.mare begins to disintegrate her dress around her.
  1202. >And not in the usual speed either.
  1203. >No, you watch as more and more parts of silk disappear.
  1204. >Very, very slowly.
  1205. >Each passing second reveals another little bit of her body.
  1206. >You follow the traces of the fading clothing with your eyes.
  1207. >And of course she has planned in advance where your gaze will end up eventually.
  1208. >The silk is gone.
  1209. >And without really thinking about what is currently going on, you stare directly at her now exposed rear.
  1210. >Full sight included.
  1211. >Your pulse is accelerating rapidly due to this sudden realisation.
  1212. >You avert your gaze and look #deca.mare in the eye, expecting a resurgence of your mental inhibitions.
  1213. >Except this is not quite what happens next.
  1214.  
  1215.  
  1216.  
  1217.  
  1218. >You are fully aware of your previous moral struggle.
  1219. >Being attracted to a pony is unusual at the very least, and some would call it outright wrong.
  1220. >But you feel drawn to her, fascinated even.
  1221. >You cannot hide that fact any longer.
  1222. >You want her.
  1223. >Likewise does she want you in turn.
  1224. >Whatever will happen this night, you will not fight it.
  1225. >And yet you feel somewhat nervous.
  1226. >Because you are unsure how to proceed adequately.
  1227. >This is, after all, your first time.
  1228. >At least you will not make a fool of yourself, since this inexperience is mutual.
  1229. >And all things considered, this is actually a good thing.
  1230. >It puts you on an equal and fair level.
  1231. >Not only that, it feels also right to you.
  1232. >It would cheapen the experience tremendously if any of you had been in a serious relationship before.
  1233. >But since this is not the case, the moment gets all the more intense and special.
  1234. >Okay, keep it together.
  1235. >You can do this, Anon.
  1236. >For the two of you.
  1237. >#deca.mare pats the mattress a little bit stronger to get your attention.
  1238. >"How about you come here first? Or shall I come to you and get you myself, hm?"
  1239. >You can imagine the implications behind the second option.
  1240. >She is testing you, trying to find out what you are into.
  1241. >You dematerialise your own suit without a word and climb into the bed.
  1242. >#deca.mare expects you accordingly.
  1243. >She reaches out with both forelimbs to greet you.
  1244. >At the same time she spreads her hind legs apart, opening up a space for you to fill.
  1245. >Apparently she wants to start with a full body brace.
  1246. >So you give her just that.
  1247. >You embrace each other.
  1248. >She wraps her forelimbs around your shoulders, you place one hand on her back and the other on her neck.
  1249. >And you simultaneously entangle your legs with hers.
  1250.  
  1251.  
  1252.  
  1253.  
  1254. >You are now wrapped up like a bundle.
  1255. >The warm and intimate sensation affects you more than before.
  1256. >While you are familiar with feeling #deca.mare's fur and body in general by now, you begin to see it all in a different light.
  1257. >You are thinking of experimenting with her, to explore ways to derive pleasure out of the situation for both of you.
  1258. >The idea alone is enough to make you shiver.
  1259. >Partly out of nervousness, partly out of excitement.
  1260. >This translates directly to #deca.mare thanks to your close contact.
  1261. >She tightens her grip in response and begins to nuzzle your cheek.
  1262. >"Listen to your instincts, Anon. They know what is good for you."
  1263. >Her voice is barely more than a whisper.
  1264. >And she gives you an immediate incentive with a peck right below your ear.
  1265. >Followed by a few more.
  1266. >You start to act alike and give her light kisses on her cheek.
  1267. >#deca.mare is slowly working her way to your mouth, and you follow suit.
  1268. >It does not take long until you lock lips for a long, passionate kiss.
  1269. >By far not the first one you share with #deca.mare, but the first in which you try to go a little further.
  1270. >Instead of simply of focussing only on the kiss, you also employ your hands to caress #deca.mare's back and neck.
  1271. >And she is not idle either.
  1272. >But since she cannot rely on hands, she begins to slightly shift her body in order to rub herself against you.
  1273. >Your heartbeat speeds up once more.
  1274. >You can feel it pounding in your chest while #deca.mare's fur on your skin gets you goose bumps.
  1275. >But she reacts in a similar way.
  1276. >Her breath gets more rapid and unsteady.
  1277. >You can use it to determine how you can systematically stimulate her.
  1278. >Both of your arms wander a little around, looking for more sensitive spots.
  1279.  
  1280.  
  1281.  
  1282.  
  1283. >A muffled grunt finds its way out her muzzle as your hand traces along her spine.
  1284. >One spot found.
  1285. >So you keep massaging there.
  1286. >Up and down, down and up.
  1287. >Now you try something you have not thought of before.
  1288. >Your second hand reaches further up.
  1289. >Passing her neck, and through her mane.
  1290. >Up to her ears.
  1291. >You carefully embrace one with your fingers and begin to scratch.
  1292. >#deca.mare reacts with another grunt of appreciation.
  1293. >She is having the time of her life.
  1294. >And so do you.
  1295. >You thoroughly use your newfound methods to intensify the experience for #deca.mare, but you act with care.
  1296. >The results are self-evident, as occasional tremors run through her body.
  1297. >Likewise is she looking for ways to make it up to you too.
  1298. >You feel her tail brushing over parts of your skin.
  1299. >She did something similar before, but she concentrates her efforts more on your thighs and legs this time.
  1300. >Her advances remain "innocent" for now, but you begin to see a certain potential in it.
  1301. >#deca.mare breaks the kiss and pulls her upper body back to get a minimal distance between you.
  1302. >You need a moment to understand why.
  1303. >She has to catch her breath.
  1304. >Or at least it looks that way; disregarding the fact that she, theoretically speaking, does not need to do so.
  1305. >But you understand her intention behind it.
  1306. >#deca.mare needs the time in order to not get overwhelmed by the experience.
  1307. >You know you have done nothing wrong, because the satisfaction in her eyes tells you this much.
  1308. >She is just such a damn lightweight.
  1309. >You reduce the strokes and scratches to a minimum while you wait for her to recover.
  1310. >Good grief, you have not even truly started and #deca.mare already needs a break.
  1311. >You wonder if she has the required fortitude and endurance to make it to the end.
  1312.  
  1313.  
  1314.  
  1315.  
  1316. >Who would have guessed, all the time you thought you were the only one with personal and mental limits.
  1317. >At least in this regard.
  1318. >But it seems that this is not the case.
  1319. >Although to be fair, the signs were there all along.
  1320. >But this begs an interesting question.
  1321. >Who will concede first?
  1322. >And what will be the prize?
  1323. >Only one way to find out, right?
  1324. >#deca.mare is visibly interested in your inner monologue.
  1325. >She smiles.
  1326. >"Now we are talking, Anon."
  1327. >Fine, you play along.
  1328. "Oh? The last time I checked, nobody was saying anything."
  1329. >A pause before you go on with a feigned deadpan voice.
  1330. "I guess our mouths were busy elsewhere."
  1331. >Hopefully this does not come across as too cheeky.
  1332. >But you are in luck, as #deca.mare seems to like it.
  1333. "Think you can go for another round?"
  1334. >A faint spark flashes in #deca.mare's eyes.
  1335. >"Never underestimate an Earth pony. We can take more than you might think."
  1336. >Well, she asked for it.
  1337. "Says the Earth pony who fell out of the bed after a little, ahem, affectionate devotion."
  1338. >You cannot help but smirk.
  1339. >This actually gets her riled up.
  1340. >In all your previous sessions, were somewhat jumpy because of possible "repercussions" that #deca.mare could come up with.
  1341. >Now you want the opposite: She shall get invested in these sessions.
  1342. >Of course, this could just be #deca.mare's little secret sweet that may meddle with your mind, but since you still feel like yourself, it does not seem to be that much of an issue.
  1343. >And #deca.mare has told you that, whatever substance she has given you, it is a harmless agent.
  1344. >#deca.mare catches your attention with a tap on your shoulder.
  1345. "Ready?"
  1346. >A nod.
  1347. >Well then, here you go for round two.
  1348.  
  1349.  
  1350.  
  1351.  
  1352. >Thanks to the short pause, you had a chance to pull yourself together as well.
  1353. >Your heart has slowed back to its normal pace, and the goose bumps are almost gone.
  1354. >The pause was a good idea.
  1355. >But this time you try something different.
  1356. >You pull your hands back from #deca.mare's back and neck to grab her forelimbs.
  1357. >You hold them in front of you and treat them with massages, and occasionally pepper them with additional kisses.
  1358. >And you study #deca.mare's reaction to your attempts.
  1359. >They appear to be inconvenient or at least unusual to her at first, but seem to grow on her over time.
  1360. >To be honest with yourself, you have no clear idea what you are supposed to do in the first place, so you try to find things she might enjoy.
  1361. >#deca.mare starts to shiver again upon your touch.
  1362. >Then you make the next step.
  1363. >Your hands slide towards her hooves, massaging the limbs constantly along the way.
  1364. >Once you have reached those, you immediately cover their undersides with your fingers for more gentle strokes.
  1365. >Unbeknownst to you whether hooves are sensitive at all, you simply decide to give it a shot.
  1366. >At the same time, #deca.mare moves her upper body closer, leaving you yet again within her wholesome embrace in all its warm and soft glory.
  1367. >#deca.mare smiles warmly and with a lively blush.
  1368. >You still tend to her hooves as you suddenly become aware of her own little "stimulating" trick.
  1369. >As it turns out, her merry expression was not solely caused by your actions.
  1370. >This gets blatantly obvious to you as you notice a familiar, but also rather peculiar thing.
  1371. >#deca.mare has pulled off her dirty trick from the other morning a second time.
  1372. >This leaves you, once again, in a position with one of her rear hooves snug up in a place between your legs where it should not be.
  1373.  
  1374.  
  1375.  
  1376.  
  1377. >You cannot help but flinch instinctively.
  1378. >Even your readiness towards #deca.mare does not override that reaction.
  1379. >Meanwhile she is looking at you with a victorious grin.
  1380. >You gnash your teeth, despite the fact that she does not apply any pressure or the like.
  1381. >"Anon,..."
  1382. >Her pseudo-casual tone would be practically unnerving if you did not know that she is just playing around.
  1383. >But even that knowledge is insufficient to quench your concerns.
  1384. >"... what did you say about me and falling out the bed after a little display of affection?"
  1385. >Oh damn, she has you now.
  1386. >This is what you get for trying to mess with #deca.mare.
  1387. >Now she has you by the proverbial, and literal, balls.
  1388. >"Think you can score any better?"
  1389. >Before you can give any form of coherent answer, #deca.mare leans her head next to yours and proceeds in a whispering voice.
  1390. >"Enjoy the ride."
  1391. >And with these words spoken, she begins with a tender massage in turn.
  1392. >Your initial response is as expected.
  1393. >You automatically try to wiggle yourself out of her embrace to escape her intrusive hoof.
  1394. >But no luck there; #deca.mare holds you in her tight grasp, exactly like you did with her on that fateful morning.
  1395. >You knew it would bite you one day, and this day has apparently come.
  1396. >Right now you are left with two options, you can either try to fall out of the bed in a similar fashion and declare defeat, or you endure her little treatment.
  1397. >Even though you personally prefer the first option, you must admit that #deca.mare's approach is very gentle and careful.
  1398. >For hooves.
  1399. >With applying only a minimal amount of pressure, her movements consist mostly of slow, circular massages.
  1400. >You can barely imagine that a hoof could be capable of such a refined handling.
  1401. >Or is it hoofing?
  1402. >Whatever.
  1403. >You try your best to not see it as a tip of hardened bone that is currently massaging your genitals.
  1404.  
  1405.  
  1406.  
  1407.  
  1408. >And indeed, you manage to stop yourself from twitching at every little movement she makes.
  1409. >Takes you a fair bit of mental fortitude, but still.
  1410. >With the biggest stumbling block out of the way, you are surprised that you can bring yourself to like it.
  1411. >Well, somewhat.
  1412. >Like may not be the accurate word for it, but #deca.mare's treatment has at least an arousing effect on you.
  1413. >And that is the whole point of the idea.
  1414. >Your heart resumes pounding in your chest as you notice the telltale signs of an immediate erection.
  1415. >Her mission is obviously accomplished.
  1416. >And she notices it as well.
  1417. >The grin on #deca.mare's face is unmistakeable.
  1418. >"Here we go, Anon."
  1419. >There is no way that she can refer to anything else.
  1420. >She has, after all, full access to your vitals.
  1421. >And even if she did not, that is not the only obvious indicator.
  1422. >Because said erection of yours is pressing right against #deca.mare's underside.
  1423. >You blush profusely.
  1424. >This is nevertheless a fairly embarrassing situation for you.
  1425. >You have never felt so revealed before; this is a whole new level of intimacy for you.
  1426. >One in which you share your deepest natural side with someone, or somepony, else.
  1427. >You are, against all your better knowledge, afraid that she might judge or hurt you.
  1428. >The pounding gets a little stronger.
  1429. >But thankfully #deca.mare helps you out.
  1430. >"Shh. Relax, Anon. I will do none of that."
  1431. >And to further prove the point she is making, #deca.mare intensifies her "massage".
  1432. >She certainly wants you to blossom in your mutual session.
  1433. >Still in no way a rough or reckless fashion, but she increases her pace and includes very, very soft thrusts in her rotation.
  1434. "Oomph!"
  1435. >This utterance was a pure reflex, and is accompanied by another reflexive attempt to get away from her hoof.
  1436.  
  1437.  
  1438.  
  1439.  
  1440. >"Oh my, still not convinced?"
  1441. "No, that's not the... whoa!"
  1442. >#deca.mare has spontaneously decided to add your penile region to the list of areas to work on with her hoof.
  1443. >This is almost too much at once for you.
  1444. >You want all of this, generally speaking.
  1445. >But at the same time you need to come to terms with the situation at large.
  1446. >#deca.mare's pace, however, does not make that so easy.
  1447. >And neither does the strong and frequent throbbing in your nether region.
  1448. >A third escape attempt, as weak as it is unsuccessful.
  1449. >"Ah ah ah, stay for a little longer. You will not regret it."
  1450. >She keeps her massage going, completely unfazed.
  1451. >The worst part about it is that it actually feels somehow good and fulfils its stimulating purpose at the same time.
  1452. >But this is just so unfamiliar to you.
  1453. >Plus, you fear that she could overdo it and "finish" you before you even got the chance to get serious.
  1454. >And this would be the biggest humiliation you can think of.
  1455. >So you must do something about it.
  1456. >Up to this point, you have not been sufficiently active.
  1457. >Sure, you have kissed and massaged her, but you have always played it safe.
  1458. >Not anymore.
  1459. >You need to turn this around, and fast.
  1460. >You collect your thoughts and fortitude to take the initiative.
  1461. >And instead of trying to get away from #deca.mare, you push yourself to her.
  1462. >The sudden shift catches #deca.mare off guard.
  1463. >As a result, you roll unto her body.
  1464. >While her hoof remains in its compromising position, you get a little bit more leeway now.
  1465. >Yet this change is not without its side effects, as your own weight pulls you down on her.
  1466. >Which means your nether region now presses itself against #deca.mare's body, and her one hoof in particular.
  1467. >She can easily handle your weight, but you are not sure if you made the right choice for yourself.
  1468.  
  1469.  
  1470.  
  1471.  
  1472. >No matter.
  1473. >Pull yourself together, Anon.
  1474. >You take the things into your own hands now.
  1475. >You free your arms and pull your upper body up.
  1476. >#deca.mare coolly tests your resolve with one last tender push.
  1477. >This translates almost to a soft squeeze thanks to your additional weight.
  1478. >But you do not give her more than a few twitches.
  1479. >You are gaining ground.
  1480. >#deca.mare is visibly satisfied with you.
  1481. >At this point you understand the true nature of her game.
  1482. >She wanted to tease you into the more proactive role.
  1483. "You sly little devil, you planned this all along!"
  1484. >Your tumultuous heartbeat and heavy breaths force you to pause between your sentences.
  1485. >#deca.mare takes advantage of your state to chime in.
  1486. >"Partially, with a few speculations on my part. So what? It worked, did it not? I think I got you perfectly... motivated."
  1487. >She emphasises her last word by reminding you where her rear hoof still remains.
  1488. >Enough, this has to change.
  1489. >You grab the offending rear hoof with one hand and carefully shove it aside.
  1490. >#deca.mare shows no signs of resistance.
  1491. >Okay, this gives you some room to breathe, but she properly has heated you up.
  1492. >Not only does your heart hammer like mad while your lungs work overtime, you also feel the urge to follow your nature.
  1493. >You want to show #deca.mare what you have in store, and likewise see what she is made of as well.
  1494. >You rise further and get on your knees, right behind #deca.mare's rear.
  1495. >You look down.
  1496. >Starting at #deca.mare's face, you let your gaze wander downwards.
  1497. >Across her chest and belly.
  1498. >And finally to her teats and a little further.
  1499. >This time there is no strategic cover.
  1500. >In fact, #deca.mare intentionally moves her tail around to present you a full view.
  1501. >Your already considerable heartbeat accelerates yet another bit.
  1502. >You did not even know that your heart could race that fast.
  1503.  
  1504.  
  1505.  
  1506.  
  1507. >And just to sprinkle a little more "motivation" on top, she uses her now freed tail to stroke your sides.
  1508. >"Like what you see? Come, I am all yours."
  1509. >The temptation is there; you could go for it right here and now.
  1510. >Hell, even #deca.mare is bluntly asking for it.
  1511. >But another idea crosses your mind in time.
  1512. >Oh, how devious.
  1513. "No, not yet. That wouldn't be fair."
  1514. >"Not fair?"
  1515. "That's right. Because sharing is caring. And I'd love to share my 'motivation' with you."
  1516. >By now it is abundantly clear what you are proposing.
  1517. >You wait and see what #deca.mare will do.
  1518. >She could resist or protest, but that would cost her any ground she might have in a later debate.
  1519. >A blush forms on her face as she understands what is now bound to unfold.
  1520. >"Do it."
  1521. >A faint quake hints at #deca.mare's own insecurity.
  1522. >Well, you will change that.
  1523. "Why so stiff, my dear? Are you not happy to have me here?"
  1524. >You lay your hands on her chest and let them slide down in one slow, fluent movement.
  1525. >To further amplify the effect, you spread your fingers to cover a wider area.
  1526. >You notice that #deca.mare's heartbeat and breath get slightly unsteady.
  1527. >The anticipation alone is strong enough to faze her.
  1528. >You grin.
  1529. >Two can play this game.
  1530. "No no no. That won't do it. You have to relax."
  1531. >Your hands reach her belly.
  1532. >Not much longer until they have reached their first destination.
  1533. "Some stress therapy. Exactly what the doctor ordered."
  1534. >the palms of your hands sweep over #deca.mare's teats.
  1535. >Her reaction is immediate: You hear her sucking in air through her teeth.
  1536. >Good grief, you might unintentionally ravage her tonight.
  1537. >Hopefully you will notice before you go too far.
  1538. >But then again, you figure she will make herself known if she cannot take any more.
  1539. >You should be good for now.
  1540.  
  1541.  
  1542.  
  1543.  
  1544. >Your palms make way for your fingers.
  1545. >The feeling is absolutely unique.
  1546. >It is one of the few spots on #deca.mare's body that is not covered with dense fur.
  1547. >Touching and stroking her soft coat is pleasurable alright, but this is different.
  1548. >Warm, supple skin tissue that slightly dents upon touch.
  1549. >You have not really paid attention to it in your previous stunt, since it was just an improvised jest.
  1550. >But now it sends a wave of excitement through your body as well.
  1551. >Okay, think ahead, Anon.
  1552. >It is time for some stimulating "payback".
  1553. >Within reason, of course.
  1554. >You commence like she did: Some slow, circular movements.
  1555. >No pressure yet.
  1556. >This alone is enough to make #deca.mare shiver and squeak faintly.
  1557. >Especially her hind legs are affected.
  1558. >They dangle in the air on either side, quivering respectively.
  1559. >It is still a sensitive reaction, but you have expected more than that.
  1560. >Something much more severe.
  1561. >Perhaps she found the opportunity to mentally prepare herself beforehand?
  1562. >Anyway, you doubt she can maintain that attitude over a longer period of time.
  1563. >You decide to go a step further and put a minimal amount of pressure on her.
  1564. >You feel your fingers sinking ever so slightly deeper into her flexible skin.
  1565. >#deca.mare responds with a sudden intake of air and an instinctive clenching of her hind legs.
  1566. >You have anticipated something like this; you lean your upper body forwards to stop her legs in their tracks.
  1567. >Which means the inner sides of her hind legs are now pressing against your upper arms while you are busy with tending to her teats.
  1568. >You evaluate for a second whether #deca.mare can take it or not.
  1569. >Not an easy feat for you, as you can barely think straight at the moment.
  1570. >Your own instincts force your attention to be elsewhere.
  1571.  
  1572.  
  1573.  
  1574.  
  1575. >You look #deca.mare in the eyes.
  1576. >Apart from a severe case of crimson blushing, she does not seem to be particularly distressed by your actions.
  1577. >So you continue the gentle massage.
  1578. >Interestingly enough, #deca.mare apparently manages to acclimatise to the procedure, as her shaking and intense breathing weaken over time.
  1579. >But she is without a doubt enjoying everything, since she has closed her eyes with a faint smile.
  1580. >You decide to dare another trick.
  1581. >You place all of your fingers around the tip of her teats and wait.
  1582. >#deca.mare gets curious.
  1583. >Under normal circumstances, she would make a noise or twitch in some fashion.
  1584. >She has indeed become a little better at handling sensory stimuli.
  1585. >But what is also worthy to notice is that she has not yet understood your next move.
  1586. >Interesting.
  1587. >You are not the only one who struggles to think clearly at the moment.
  1588. >No matter, she will understand it right away.
  1589. >And perhaps it is for the better when you can surprise her too.
  1590. >Time to test how good she has become.
  1591. >You simultaneously spread all your fingers in different directions, also with only a light pressure.
  1592. >That way you can cover the entire area around both teats in less than a second.
  1593. >This got her.
  1594. >#deca.mare composure breaks as one single but firm jerk runs through her body.
  1595. >Strong enough to rock the complete bed.
  1596. >"Agh!"
  1597. >#deca,mare instinctively clenches her legs harder, which in turn increases the pressure on your sides significantly.
  1598. "Oh man, too much?"
  1599. >That was a genuine question.
  1600. >As far as you are concerned, you might have crossed a line unintentionally.
  1601. >#deca.mare shakes her head, still panting.
  1602. >"No. I am fine."
  1603. >A pause to catch some air.
  1604. >"Go on."
  1605. "Okay."
  1606. >You resume your massage with a slightly altered routine.
  1607. >Her outburst made you somewhat nervous.
  1608. >At least a little more than you already were before.
  1609.  
  1610.  
  1611.  
  1612.  
  1613. >You switch between massages with your hands and palms, always with a different strength and speed.
  1614. >The short pauses while switching are also meant to cut #deca.mare some slack.
  1615. >You realise you get a thrill out of it too; you find pleasure in stimulating #deca.mare and observing the results.
  1616. >Once or twice, you expand the area you cover a bit.
  1617. >Further down.
  1618. >Both curiosity and your own impulses urge you to take a look at this point.
  1619. >But you make sure to avoid any form of direct contact for the time being.
  1620. >Not only do you plan to leave this part for the "grand finale" of the act, but you could also risk to overwhelm #deca.mare completely.
  1621. >Instead, you trace around it, leaving a generous distance on both sides.
  1622. >#deca.mare's body shifts slightly in alignment to the movement of your hands.
  1623. >You assume that shall encourage you to do precisely that one thing which you want to avoid.
  1624. >However, you are not sure about the intention behind it.
  1625. >It could be an intentional act.
  1626. >#deca.mare has tried similar things before, so that would hardly be a surprise.
  1627. >But she looks so absent-minded, fully absorbed by her own bliss.
  1628. >You realise she may also do this subconsciously.
  1629. >This guesswork relaxes you a fair bit.
  1630. >Everything will happen in time.
  1631. >But #deca.mare learns to capitalise on your slowdown, much to your surprise.
  1632. >In one particular "close" moment, she spontaneously thrusts her body in your direction.
  1633. >Just one small impulse with which she has gained not more than a few millimetres at best, but it was all she needed to gain small victory for herself.
  1634.  
  1635.  
  1636.  
  1637.  
  1638. >Despite your best efforts to foil #deca.mare's trick, your hands nevertheless brush against her lower lips.
  1639. >In the next fracture of a second, you fully realise what happened, and everything gets quickly out of hand.
  1640. >Well, at least out of your hand.
  1641. >Literally.
  1642. >A cold shock engrosses you.
  1643. >This is not going according to plan.
  1644. >At all.
  1645. >You retreat your hands and look straight down.
  1646. >And that is the moment you see her winking.
  1647. >Of course not with her eyes this time.
  1648. >You feel like your brain has ceased all its functions as you stare at the display before you, completely paralysed.
  1649. >Moreover, that is not even the icing on the cake.
  1650. >Because the muscle contractions of her winking cause her to briefly nip the tip of your own erected member.
  1651. >It was only a brief contact, but it left a strong impression.
  1652. >The feeling rushes through your mind.
  1653. >You picked up more mental details than you should have.
  1654. >Warm.
  1655. >Smooth.
  1656. >And you might have imagined it, but you believe you have also felt a thin wet film.
  1657. >The whole experience is entrancing.
  1658. >Again, just a second later.
  1659. >Too much.
  1660. >Too fast.
  1661. >You do not even register #deca.mare's reaction to your brief mutual contacts.
  1662. >All you can think of is to get some distance between you.
  1663. >But your mesmerised brain is in a poor state to think clearly.
  1664. >And your execution of said plan is even poorer.
  1665. >Instead of getting up, you immediately try to back off as if you were standing.
  1666. >You have completely forgotten that you are on your knees.
  1667. >And the result is the complete opposite of what you intended.
  1668.  
  1669.  
  1670.  
  1671.  
  1672. >You lose your balance and fall forward, right onto #deca.mare.
  1673. >This rather inelegant landing is enough to knock the air out of her for a moment.
  1674. >But she is, in contrast to you, still mostly in control of her own body.
  1675. >An advantage she uses in the blink of an eye.
  1676. >#deca.mare locks you in this position with her hind legs.
  1677. >In addition to that, she also wraps her forelimbs around your neck.
  1678. >And much to your personal chagrin, your nethers have not moved whatsoever.
  1679. >So her rhythmical nipping and caressing continues, while you are lying almost face to face.
  1680. >Every touch sends ripples of excitement through you.
  1681. >At least you see #deca.mare's own excitement right away.
  1682. >In fact, you could barely watch elsewhere due to the very close proximity, even if you tried.
  1683. >Strong blush and heavy breathing, just like before.
  1684. >But your frequent contacts take a toll on her as well.
  1685. >Each one is accompanied by a quiet gasp and a forceful quiver.
  1686. >With no means to get away, take a long breath get a hold of yourself.
  1687. >Not that easy in your current situation.
  1688. >#deca.mare does her best to keep your senses busy.
  1689. >She obviously wants to render you distracted and appeal to your instincts.
  1690. >And in spite of #deca.mare's unorthodox approach, that strategy is working somehow.
  1691. >She has chosen a way to nudge you in a certain direction.
  1692. >Or, to be more precise, to make you nudge yourself in said direction.
  1693. >Plus, you realise this is not so bad, all things considered.
  1694. >You knew from the start where you would end up.
  1695. >Only the way how you got here was different from what you expected.
  1696. >Another brief contact.
  1697. >You shiver, she gasps.
  1698.  
  1699.  
  1700.  
  1701.  
  1702. >You look at her wordlessly.
  1703. >#deca.mare returns your gaze, equally silent.
  1704. >Her bright eyes tell you everything you need to know, and you have no problem with interpreting her message.
  1705. >She is ready when you are.
  1706. >And she is longing for this.
  1707. >You can barely even begin to imagine how #deca.mare must feel.
  1708. >This is already a big thing for you, yet so much more for her.
  1709. >A moment of final confirmation.
  1710. >Centuries of isolation; a thing of the past.
  1711. >A chance for both of you to start anew in a mutual bond.
  1712. >Another nip.
  1713. >Right, enough of that.
  1714. >This is no opportune moment for long mental speeches.
  1715. >You blink once and focus on her eyes once more.
  1716. "Shall we?"
  1717. >A nod.
  1718. >You notice the thumping in your chest.
  1719. >It was never really gone, but you forgot about if for a moment.
  1720. "But first you have to release me. Can't move around if you clamp me like this."
  1721. >#deca.mare obliges, albeit reluctantly.
  1722. >Now freed from #deca.mare's lock, you rise your upper body to resume the position you were in before you fell.
  1723. >And you increase the distance between you and #deca.mare.
  1724. >At least a few millimetres.
  1725. >You just have to break contact for a second.
  1726. >"Anon?"
  1727. >#deca.mare's voice sounds slightly dissatisfied and unsure.
  1728. "Please, only a second."
  1729. >You need to collect yourself one last time.
  1730. >One long breath.
  1731. >It does not slow your racing heart in any way.
  1732. >Neither can it stop your own feeling of coy excitement.
  1733. >Do not make a fool of yourself, Anon.
  1734. >You know how it goes and know what to do.
  1735. >You are not stupid after all, right?
  1736. >In, forwards, backwards, repeat step two and three, repeat, repeat, repeat.
  1737. >Not a big deal on paper.
  1738. >Okay, stop thinking, just do it, and let nature take over.
  1739.  
  1740.  
  1741.  
  1742.  
  1743. >Still on your knees, you close the gap between #deca.mare and you.
  1744. >You position yourself in a fashion to make sure you can spring right into action at any moment.
  1745. >Means you are also in her nipping range again.
  1746. >You bear with that fact and put your hands on her thighs.
  1747. >#deca.mare awaits you.
  1748. >You look at her one last time before you start, then you look down.
  1749. >You need to see what you are doing.
  1750. >And #deca.mare will most likely be too occupied with other things to keep an eye on you anyway.
  1751. >You slowly move your hips forward and finally make contact.
  1752. >#deca.mare responds with a loud gasp and a forceful shake.
  1753. >Her subconsciousness tries to evade your sudden invasive presence.
  1754. >Good thing you thought ahead; you stabilise #deca.mare's lower body with your hands.
  1755. >With #deca.mare now momentarily secured, your brain has the time to process the situation.
  1756. >The sensation matches your expectations.
  1757. >She is warm inside.
  1758. >Even warmer than her full-body embrace.
  1759. >Also soft, unlike anything you experienced before.
  1760. >And you were correct, her inner tissue is covered by a thin film.
  1761. >Plus, the movements of her contractions elevate that sensation even more.
  1762. >You two practically caress each other simultaneously.
  1763. >For a moment you are torn between two contradictory feelings.
  1764. >One makes you feel like you would dissolve at any second, and urges you to get away.
  1765. >But this is quickly conquered be the temptation to give in entirely.
  1766. >You pick the second option subconsciously.
  1767. >Everything goes on its own accord from this moment onward.
  1768. >You remain in full control of all your faculties, but there are no more considerations.
  1769. >You know, you just know what is the right thing to do, no questions asked.
  1770. >And it is pleasing.
  1771. >More than that, it is enthralling.
  1772. >You cannot deny the alluring charm.
  1773. >And you gladly offer yourself to this notion.
  1774.  
  1775.  
  1776.  
  1777.  
  1778. >You begin to sense a pattern in #deca.mare's contractions, and match the movement with your hips, although not in a completely synchronised manner.
  1779. >This causes some minor frictions now and then.
  1780. >These alone are enough to get some moans out of #deca.mare.
  1781. >You keep your pace constantly irregular.
  1782. >That way she cannot predict when and where you will hit her next.
  1783. >And something curious happens.
  1784. >While the act itself is a tremendous experience, it is not the best aspect for you.
  1785. >No, you derive at least an equal amount of satisfaction out of simply witnessing what your actions do with #deca.mare, if not more.
  1786. >Her weak tremors.
  1787. >Her steady, lively breath.
  1788. >The faint, but long-winded moans in her voice.
  1789. >She has probably never been truly at peace with herself until now.
  1790. >And knowing that you can actively help #deca.mare through this act is even better than the experience on its own.
  1791. >Your instincts tell you something.
  1792. >Like a wordless, yet clear voice.
  1793.  
  1794. >Now go a step further.
  1795. >Find out how far you can go.
  1796. >This is a therapeutic moment for her.
  1797. >Also your first time.
  1798. >Give her the best impression of you.
  1799. >And for healing purposes, of course.
  1800. >She needs it, you want it.
  1801.  
  1802. >You give in and follow the advice of that voice.
  1803. >Partly for your own thrill, yes, but also to leave a lasting positive impact on #deca.mare.
  1804. >But you have to admit, you find it arousing to hear her blissful gasps and moans.
  1805. >You add slow and weak thrusts to your mutual pattern.
  1806. >Forwards and back, forwards, back.
  1807. >Almost like an intimate dance.
  1808. >You take heed of the other's needs and complement each other to perform one wholesome, choreography of love.
  1809.  
  1810.  
  1811.  
  1812.  
  1813. >And your thrusts do not miss their mark.
  1814. >#deca.mare's moans get louder as she starts to wind her body in accordance to your movements.
  1815. >Like a dance indeed.
  1816. >Not a strict one with a clear lead and follow, but you understand your common style without a single word.
  1817. >You bet you would not even need the mental link for that.
  1818. >Plus, judging from #deca.mare's current state, it is doubtful whether she is able to do much with it anyway.
  1819. >A slightly firmer and faster pace.
  1820. >By now you have her locked in an almost complete ecstasy.
  1821. >Moaning and squirming out of pleasure with closed eyes, it seems like she has reached the limit of her tolerance level.
  1822. >Pushing it any more will end it all prematurely.
  1823. >And that would be such a shame.
  1824. >So you keep the pace and pattern steady.
  1825. >While it is already an extremely pleasing experience for you as well, you look for secondary ways to tweak the whole situation.
  1826. >Your hands wander across #deca.mare's thighs.
  1827. >It may not be much in comparison to the "main act", but every bit counts.
  1828. >Though your decision has a side effect you have not thought about.
  1829. >Because your hands are no longer present to pin her lower body.
  1830. >Means she is now able to move it freely.
  1831. >And that causes more friction between you.
  1832. >#deca.mare stretches out her forehooves to cover her more sensitive spots.
  1833. >She can, however, only reach down to her teats.
  1834. >To quote an eloquent white unicorn: Idea!
  1835. >You let your hands slide on her fur in the direction of #deca.mare's forehooves.
  1836. >Once your hands have reached their destination, you wiggle them between her tender skin and hardened bone.
  1837. >But you do not aim for her weak spot this time.
  1838. >That would result in an absolute overkill.
  1839. >You turn your hands on the spot and grasp her hooves.
  1840. >This translates to another soft pressure on #deca.mare, yet far less than a proper massage.
  1841.  
  1842.  
  1843.  
  1844.  
  1845. >Nevertheless, her highly aroused state makes her vulnerable to pretty much everything.
  1846. >She clenches her rear legs, but, unlike before, you do not intercept them.
  1847. >You keep your upper body straight as #deca.mare closes the gap between her limbs.
  1848. >This leaves your hands in a leg lock while you simultaneously hold her forehooves in your palms.
  1849. >The other two dangle in the air, right underneath your head.
  1850. >They also shake and tilt with every move you make.
  1851. >Now you have a unique opportunity to study their undersides.
  1852. >These are far more detailed than they first appear.
  1853. >And the show has somewhat influenced your mental image of them.
  1854. >A strange thought occurs to you.
  1855. >There is a special thrill to be found in a relationship with an Equestrian pony, and an Earth pony in particular.
  1856. >You have seen what they can do.
  1857. >One simple, almost casual buck of a trained pony is enough to shake grown trees to the core.
  1858. >So much physical power, such a display of pristine physique and health.
  1859. >No human could ever hope to compete with a pony in a direct comparison.
  1860. >And yet here you are, taming that power in a passionate night full of love and mutual affection.
  1861. >#deca.mare somehow seems to understand your thoughts, even through her deep-rooted bliss.
  1862. >She rests her rear hooves on your skin, directly under your chin.
  1863. >You register their hard surface, similar to that of her forehooves.
  1864. >But they are not grating or disturb you in any way.
  1865. >You rather understand them as perfect representation of #deca.mare's respectable vitality.
  1866. >You slightly lower you head to lay your chin on her limbs, which semi-effectively locks them where they are.
  1867. >This is your way to show that you openly accept them without any fear.
  1868. >Deep inside you know she will not hurt you, despite her power.
  1869. >Nor does she want to hurt her lover.
  1870. >All of the power and none of the risk.
  1871. >That makes the appeal all the sweeter.
  1872.  
  1873.  
  1874.  
  1875.  
  1876.  
  1877. >Your natural urges grow stronger.
  1878. >The motivation to dare something returns.
  1879. >You want to see #deca.mare going all out, see how she acts upon climax.
  1880. >So you put a bit more emphasis into your thrusts.
  1881. >Not by using more force or going faster, you simply cause more and more frictions between you.
  1882. >You do not give her any more moments of respite.
  1883. >The permanent stimulation does its part on #deca.mare.
  1884. >Her gasps and moans get louder and deeper, and you think the pace of her contractions is more rapid as well.
  1885. >Or maybe you just get closer to the finish line too.
  1886. >Hard to tell.
  1887. >Regardless, the sensation develops with every passing second.
  1888. >You act out of sheer instinct by now.
  1889. >In this moment comes the crucial turning point.
  1890. >The one in which everything turns into an uncontrollable spiral of ecstasy for both of you.
  1891. >Your chin clamps on her rear hooves, your hands intensify their care of the other two.
  1892. >At the same time you feel how #deca.mare hides her tail between your legs.
  1893. >She caresses your nethers with her long, smooth hair.
  1894. >The sudden tickle sends a warm shiver through your body and forces you to buckle in #deca.mare's direction.
  1895. >And there is no need to deny it, she likewise makes you grasp for air.
  1896. >But your move translates directly to #deca.mare's privates, since you unintentionally give her more than you originally wanted to, and with far more speed at that.
  1897. >The ice breaks at last.
  1898. >Her answer is a loud outcry of sudden  pleasure.
  1899. >And she stiffens her limbs automatically.
  1900. >This in itself would not be much of an issue if her forehooves were not resting in your hands.
  1901. >Because they still rest upon her teats in turn.
  1902. >#deca.mare accidentally stimulates herself beyond the limit by pushing your hands straight into her own supple skin.
  1903. >She cannot hold it any longer and climaxes with a long and loud gasping moan, accompanied by more violent quivering.
  1904.  
  1905.  
  1906.  
  1907.  
  1908. >But this is not all.
  1909. >Her ultimate outburst push you over the edge with her.
  1910. >You breathe out with a muffled grunt as you follow her into the entrancing mental state that is climax.
  1911. >You bask in your mutual pleasure and spend the next minutes with nothing but catching your breath and relaxing while staring deep into the other's eyes.
  1912. >#deca.mare is practically glowing with an aura of satisfaction and serenity.
  1913. >She does not have to explicitly thank you.
  1914. >The very definition of loving gratitude is written on her face.
  1915. >Especially in her eyes.
  1916. >Those beautiful, large eyes.
  1917. >They sparkle to the brim with happiness.
  1918. >You two know exactly what to do next.
  1919. >You disentangle your limbs: You let go of #deca.mare's forehooves in your hands while she spreads her hind legs.
  1920. >You let yourself fall slowly into her embrace.
  1921. >Not with erotic intentions in mind though.
  1922. >You need some rest together, plain and simple.
  1923. >You lie down side by side on the bed.
  1924. >You gently stoke her back while she snuggles your chest with her head.
  1925. >You give her a small peck on the forehead.
  1926. "And? How do you feel now, my dear?"
  1927. >#deca.mare closes her eyes while she keeps snuggling you.
  1928. >"Alive."
  1929. >One word.
  1930. >Only this single world.
  1931. >And yet this is all you need to know, for these five simple letters contain so many implications at once.
  1932. >You nod in acknowledgement, without raising your voice again.
  1933. >Everything that needed to be said has been said.
  1934. >The rest is just redundant tonight.
  1935. >You keep holding #deca.mare in your arms.
  1936. >Soft strokes notwithstanding, you do not much else.
  1937. >You simply enjoy her company as she is snug up next to you.
  1938.  
  1939.  
  1940.  
  1941.  
  1942. >After a while, you notice something extraordinary.
  1943. >#deca.mare seems to be sleeping.
  1944. >Not like her usual "resting" in which she more or less hijacks your dreams for a shared experience.
  1945. >She seems to be truly asleep.
  1946. >On her own.
  1947. >Odd, you did not think she could do it.
  1948. >And if she really sleeps, can she dream  on her own?
  1949. >You consider to say something, but the idea is dropped quickly.
  1950. >Her noble soul deserves the rest.
  1951. >But you keep stroking her.
  1952. >Something tells you she that she will feel those even in her sleep.
  1953. >You have no idea how long you are able to maintain this care before exhaustion claims you too.
  1954. >The rest of the night remains peaceful and quiet while the candles around you burn out, leaving you in the safety of your shrouded chamber.
  1955. >Only the pale moonlight out there finds its way through the window.
  1956.  
  1957.  
  1958.  
  1959.  
  1960. 42
  1961.  
  1962. >Images flash through your mind.
  1963. >They all come and go, always changing, always shifting.
  1964. >None of them are clear.
  1965. >You see some outlines, but the details are lost.
  1966. >But that does not matter.
  1967. >They embody ideas, feelings.
  1968. >And you understand them without any explanation.
  1969. >Because they all share the same notion.
  1970. >Of comfort and belonging.
  1971. >The interior of a small house, furnished for a casual life.
  1972. >A feeling of being surrounded by your kin, their warm presence all around you.
  1973. >Green gardens and blue skies.
  1974. >Festivals.
  1975. >Friends.
  1976. >Home.
  1977. >A Family.
  1978. >All of them have hooves.
  1979. >You do not care.
  1980. >With them by your side, you are not alone.
  1981. >That is all that counts.
  1982. >To you they are like equals.
  1983. >Brothers and sisters.
  1984. >Many, many siblings.
  1985. >They will need your help, your guidance.
  1986. >All of them.
  1987. >For a long, long time.
  1988. >It will be much hard work.
  1989. >But you will do it.
  1990. >With a smile on your face.
  1991. >For them.
  1992. >And for you.
  1993. >Because it will not be in vain.
  1994. >Your toils will bear fruits.
  1995. >They can heal.
  1996. >Heal a broken heart.
  1997. >Mend a fractured soul.
  1998. >And maybe, just maybe, they can also cure bad blood.
  1999. >Put an end to a tragedy that never should have happened.
  2000. >But only time will tell.
  2001.  
  2002.  
  2003.  
  2004.  
  2005. 43
  2006.  
  2007. >The gentle rays of dawn fill the chamber as you wake up.
  2008. >You open your eyes and see nothing out of the ordinary.
  2009. >#deca.mare lies in your arms, unmoving.
  2010. >You look at her.
  2011. >She is still asleep, peaceful and still.
  2012. >This display alone touches you.
  2013. >You would rather go to hell before you disturb her right now.
  2014. >Means all you can do at the moment is holding still as well.
  2015. >You take a cautious look around.
  2016. >The light rays that shine through the window dance and flicker on occasion due to moving cloud formations.
  2017. >A proof that the simulating automaton still does its job flawlessly without #deca.mare's direct intervention.
  2018. >Means the simulation will remain stable for now.
  2019. >Good, because you did not really think about what could happen if #deca.mare really passes out.
  2020. >Not much, apparently.
  2021. >You let your gaze wander.
  2022. >The chamber looks exactly like it was before you went to sleep.
  2023. >The now burnt candles are the only exception.
  2024. >And your minor adjustments are still in place; a reminder of your late-night activities.
  2025. >You briefly think about the events of last night.
  2026. >It almost seems like a beautiful dream.
  2027. >You can barely believe that it really happened.
  2028. >Not because you feel shame or anything, it simply seems so unreal after all your previous resistance against it.
  2029. >It looks all so easy in hindsight.
  2030. >But it was for the best, no question about that.
  2031. >#deca.mare will benefit greatly from the experience.
  2032. >It will help her on the long road to become a whole individual, free from traumata and inner fractions.
  2033. >And it was good for you too.
  2034. >Now that the deed is done, you feel more at ease around her.
  2035. >No reason to fear any sudden innuendos anymore, and no more bodily inhibitions.
  2036. >You can act natural around her.
  2037. >Perhaps this was also necessary for you to truly accept #deca.mare as she is.
  2038. >A healthy relationship can only work if you open yourself completely to your significant other in every regard, and find a common middle ground.
  2039. >A weak stir.
  2040.  
  2041.  
  2042.  
  2043.  
  2044. >You focus back on #deca.mare.
  2045. >She is slowly waking up and subconsciously nuzzles your neck with her head.
  2046. >You stroke her back in return.
  2047. >This brings her attention back to reality, and she opens her eyes to look at you.
  2048. "Mornin'. Slept well?"
  2049. >At first it seems that #deca.mare does not understand what you mean.
  2050. >"Anon?"
  2051. >She appears confused.
  2052. "Is everything alright? How do you feel?"
  2053. >#deca.mare hesitates before she answers.
  2054. >"I feel great, but..."
  2055. "Yes?"
  2056. >"Could you tell me what happened? My memories are a bit blurry."
  2057. >Okay, a small tease is in order.
  2058. "Oh, you forgot about last night?"
  2059. >#deca.mare shakes her head.
  2060. >But since you are still lying in bed together, she only ends up ruffling her own mane and the sheets.
  2061. >"No, that was not what I meant. And you know that. What happened at the end?"
  2062. >You smile.
  2063. "You fell asleep. On your own, #deca."
  2064. >#deca.mare blinks in disbelief.
  2065. >"I did?"
  2066. "Uh huh. Slept like a log. I'm surprised you don't remember. Say, what exactly do you recall?"
  2067. >Another blink.
  2068. >"There is a small gap. I know very well what we did. In all its lively details."
  2069. >Faint traces of a rosy hue appear on her cheeks.
  2070. >"And the dream too. But the transition between the two is lost. I cannot exactly pinpoint where one ends and the other starts. Wait, you woke up before me?"
  2071. "That I did. Only a minute or two, but yes. Why?
  2072. >"Strange. Because our dream sequence went on. To the very end."
  2073. "Until you woke up?"
  2074. >A nod.
  2075. "Heh, could it be that you kept dreaming on your own?"
  2076. >#deca.mare flattens her ears.
  2077. >"I am not sure. The dreams are a collaborative product, made possible through our mutual link. I was unable to do it myself because I had no prior experience with it. But that has changed."
  2078. "Sounds to me like you do what you do best. You're evolving, #deca."
  2079. >You tighten the embrace to pull her into a firm hug.
  2080. >She does the same in response.
  2081.  
  2082.  
  2083.  
  2084.  
  2085. >You remain in that position for minutes without anyone doing anything.
  2086. >There are no tensions this time.
  2087. >But at last, it is time to get up.
  2088. >Cuddling in bed is great and fine, but you have great plans ahead of you.
  2089. >And you need to get out of bed if you want to accomplish them.
  2090. >You try to stand up, but #deca.mare does not let you go.
  2091. "Get up, sleepyhead. We can't spend all day in here."
  2092. >"One more minute."
  2093. "Nah, I know where this ends. One minute becomes two, then three, and so on."
  2094. >You chuckle.
  2095. "Trust me, I'm an expert. It's hard to get back on track if you neglect your schedule. Happens faster than you would imagine."
  2096. >An eased mumbling protest is all you get.
  2097. >She is fully awake, but she simply feels too comfortable to leave.
  2098. "Okay, one minute."
  2099. >But you must be careful to not spoil her too much.
  2100. >You snuggle up next to her and let #deca.mare have this moment.
  2101. >It is her first true morning, so maybe she should enjoy that to the fullest.
  2102. >The minute passes in absolute tranquillity.
  2103. >Then you decide to intervene.
  2104. >Gently, but determined.
  2105. >You keep your one arm on her back and wrap the other around her rear.
  2106. >After that, you roll your bodies around so that she lies on you.
  2107. >#deca.mare uses this opportunity to bury her head deeper into you neck, but nothing more.
  2108. >Okay, at least she does not resist.
  2109. >But you have to do everything yourself.
  2110. >You gradually shift your bodies to the edge of the bed and place your feet on the ground.
  2111. >Now you use that newfound foothold to stand up, with #deca.mare in your arms.
  2112. >You have carried her before, so you know this will not be an issue.
  2113. >But #deca.mare has nevertheless gotten hold of one of the blankets, and she drags it with her as you rise.
  2114. >No problem, you play along.
  2115. >You take your hand off from #deca.mare's back, quickly grab the blanket, and wrap it once around her in one smooth swipe.
  2116. >Now you have a bundled up pony in your arms.
  2117.  
  2118.  
  2119.  
  2120.  
  2121. >You carry her to the dinner table.
  2122. >It looks clean and unused; you left it in a pristine condition after your last dinner.
  2123. >You sit down on one of the cushions and let #deca.mare take a seat next to you, still wrapped up.
  2124. >She opens her cover and offers you to join her inside before you can think about what you shall wear for breakfast.
  2125. >You accept, and #deca.mare closes the cover around you.
  2126. >Only your heads, and also hands in your case, stick out.
  2127. "Any special wishes for breakfast?"
  2128. >"Pancakes. If you are okay with this."
  2129. "Uhm, sure."
  2130. >Going for a classic here.
  2131. >You materialise a batch of pancakes with a modest amount of syrup on a plate.
  2132. "Like yesterday?"
  2133. >"Gladly."
  2134. >So you share the pancakes equally.
  2135. >In the same manner like you shared your last dinner.
  2136. >A question pops up in your mind between two bites.
  2137. "Hey #deca, what was the substance you have given us yesterday?"
  2138. >"The one in the sundae?"
  2139. "Yeah. That one."
  2140. >#deca.mare chuckles bashfully.
  2141. >"That is a funny story."
  2142. >You stop in your tracks.
  2143. "Please don't tell me you pulled some shady business behind my back."
  2144. >"Well, no. Not really."
  2145. "Okay? Then you can tell me. I mean, we're past that barrier now, are we not?"
  2146. >#deca.mare clears her throat.
  2147. >"Right. The secret ingredient was..."
  2148. >A pause.
  2149. >"... confidence."
  2150. >You look at #deca.mare, pretty much dumbfounded by what you have just heard.
  2151. "You're kidding me."
  2152. >"Not at all. There was nothing special in it. My so-called tonic was simply a unique composition of the ingredients, used to make it taste significantly sweeter than an ordinary sundae. That was all."
  2153. "You mean..."
  2154. >"... that everything what happened last night came from us. Naturally, I might add. But I did not deceive you either. Because the sundae metaphorically contained confidence, as far as we are concerned."
  2155. >You want to object her reasoning, but she has a point.
  2156. >The dessert helped to break the ice, just by being in the right place at the right time.
  2157.  
  2158.  
  2159.  
  2160.  
  2161. >You shake your head with a smirk.
  2162. "You should try your luck as a salespony, #deca. With your skills, you could sell anything to anyone. You meet many ponies, and you get around."
  2163. >"Thank you, but no. Mercantile professions are usually set to make financial profit. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but I have no need for that sort of thing."
  2164. >Her argument is true, but something leaves you wondering. Maybe you can use this in a different way.
  2165. >But that is an issue for later.
  2166. >Right now, you share a breakfast with #deca.mare before you get to work.
  2167. >And just like before, you use your breaks to speak up.
  2168. "What's the plan today?"
  2169. >"Last time we covered protocol maintenance as a warm-up. I figured we proceed with basic machine building as our first true step in the project. That and planet selection. These two are interwoven in several ways."
  2170. >Another bite.
  2171. >Still not fully convinced of your own aptitude in engineering, you are somewhat hesitant to agree.
  2172. >But #deca.mare thinks this is adequate, and you heed her judgement.
  2173. "Sounds good to me."
  2174. >"After that another leisure session, followed by watching the third season."
  2175. "Hm, okay. I believe I have an idea for our next activity as well. Not directly a hobby, but it might help you anyway."
  2176. >#deca.mare nods in approval.
  2177. >"If you think it does, let us do it."
  2178. "Great!"
  2179. >So with your plan for today laid out, you resume eating your shared breakfast in the light of a new and harmonious day.
  2180.  
  2181.  
  2182.  
  2183.  
  2184. 44
  2185.  
  2186. >Back at the command deck, right after breakfast.
  2187. >Your first steps are business as usual: You sit down and make yourselves comfortable, while #deca.mare transfers your vision to the docking bay and grants you access to her data.
  2188. >The effect is alien as ever.
  2189. >Loads of new knowledge at your disposal, just like that.
  2190. "I swear, I always feel like a simpleton when you do this."
  2191. >You know that #deca.mare will try to respond.
  2192. "Yes. Yes. Before you say anything, I know it's deceiving. I won't fall for it."
  2193. >"Alright. Are you ready to get started?"
  2194. "Yep."
  2195. >You study the bay.
  2196. >The interior is exactly like it was the last time, minus ship within the clamps.
  2197. >In fact, there is no object to work on whatsoever; only a collection of components is stored nearby.
  2198. >You recognise them, despite the fact that you have never seen them before.
  2199. >These parts are components for robotic units, land-based ones to be exact.
  2200. "We're going to build an industrial drone."
  2201. >"Indeed. Now listen closely. It might seem you already know everything I am going to tell you, yet that impression is caused by the link. But fortunately for us, you will remember everything I teach you via conventional means."
  2202. "Okay, lecture time it is."
  2203. >You hear an intake of breath.
  2204. >Somewhat amusing to be honest, it feels like her body is still present next to you, despite the fact that neither of you has a distinct body right now in this simulation.
  2205. >"So, before we can begin to think about populating a planet, we have to deal with a fair bit of preparing work first. Even more so in our special case. There is a long list of things to do."
  2206. >A pause.
  2207. >"But it generally boils down to two tasks: One, to change a planet's properties to make it permanently hospitable  to organic life, and two, to acquire the necessary resources and energy to do so."
  2208. >The second short break.
  2209.  
  2210.  
  2211.  
  2212.  
  2213. >"As I have mentioned previously, the closer the planet's properties are to terran standards, the better. Plus, it often comes with the bonus of decent local resource deposits as well. We can use what is already present to our advantage."
  2214. "That's where these units come in."
  2215. >"That is correct. We will equip our mobile industrial units with the required tools to harvest resources locally. How exactly each variety is equipped depends on the resources they are supposed to collect and where they have to do it. Once they are ready for action, we will drop them in the vicinity of rich deposits. Preferably ones that are close the surface or easy to reach via other means, like caves."
  2216. "And dropping means manual deployment with our ships."
  2217. >"Yes. We could alternatively launch them from here in theory, but that approach comes with a number of disadvantages. For instance, we could be forced to relocate the ship several times in orbit for one batch of units if the target vectors are unfavourably scattered. Plus, then we have to tackle the heat issue upon entering the atmosphere."
  2218. "I think I see your plan. We can expand the energy shield of the drones as long as they physically carry the cargo."
  2219. >You quickly realise the strangeness of your current situation.
  2220. >You have basically used #deca.mare's knowledge to lecture yourself in a way you can remember after your access to her database is cut.
  2221. >"We can. It will obviously strain the overall field strength and the energy grid, but it is much more effective than the alternative. Imagine what fitting every unit with an additional heat shield costs in terms of resources."
  2222. >Not much of a point in guessing it when you know the resource calculation table by heart.
  2223. >At least at the moment.
  2224. >Though you understand that this statement is directed at the future you who will not have that knowledge at his disposal.
  2225. >This lecture is absolutely bizarre.
  2226.  
  2227.  
  2228.  
  2229.  
  2230. >"And replenishing energy in space is much easier than collecting raw materials. You have witnessed what we had to do for a little load of water."
  2231. >Something in the depth of your borrowed mind perks up as a reaction to her wording.
  2232. >It sounds oddly familiar, but why?
  2233. >And the feeling is gone again without a trace, just as fast as it had appeared.
  2234. >Random thought of the day, you assume.
  2235. >Anyway, back on topic.
  2236. >You can figure out what #deca.mare's plane conveys.
  2237. "So the units we send down will be the spearhead of what is to come. And we will grant them the ability to replenish themselves."
  2238. >"To some degree, yes. Though this does not only include replenishment. No, we will provide them with basic facilities to fabricate more units, which in turn can also expand the production facilities if necessary. But keep in mind that they will follow their extremely strict instructions. I will ensure that they do not spiral out of control."
  2239. >You know what you would ask at this point without #deca.mare's knowledge.
  2240. "Give me a brief list of what exactly they do in detail. I need to remember this."
  2241. >"Like I said, everything we need to get started."
  2242. >A long list of instructions appear in front of you.
  2243. >These can generally be classified into different sections.
  2244. >Gather resources, develop a global infrastructure, stabilise planetary conditions, and make the planet hospitable to organic terran life.
  2245. >Especially the global infrastructure section is interesting as it mentions vast underground networks that run through the entire planetary body.
  2246. >#deca.mare mentioned this, but the scope of the project remains baffling.
  2247. >Even to herself, as it seems.
  2248. >Humans could never achieve something like this on their own, much less in one's normal lifetime.
  2249. >But here it is casually listed, as one point amongst many others.
  2250.  
  2251.  
  2252.  
  2253.  
  2254. >Not to mention other features, like the underground computer cores that will basically embody the literal mind and heart of the planet.
  2255. >Oh, and of course its special addendum.
  2256. >Because unlike the other terraforming projects before, this system will also contain and protect the planet's entire populace.
  2257. >All of them, perpetually.
  2258. >As close to immortality as scientifically possible in this universe.
  2259. >And it will gradually lead them to harmony, but, and this is important, not without the populace's own consent.
  2260. >There will be no coercion.
  2261. >You wonder what the endgame will look like.
  2262. >You have already seen a fraction of the system in a relatively advanced state, but time will always move on.
  2263. >And so will this world.
  2264. >This thought is doubly fascinating, because even #deca.mare can only predict the development up to a certain stage.
  2265. >As magnificent as her capabilities might be, her creation is bound to excel her at some point.
  2266. >Truly a thought that must be considered.
  2267. >And as you can see for yourself, #deca.mare has thought about that for a very long time.
  2268. >While you are personally not exactly eligible to come to a proper conclusion in your normal state, you can quickly skim through her thoughts to get at least a glimpse of her reasoning.
  2269. >And you can only agree with her.
  2270. >Equestria will become a land of peace, stability, and harmony in the end.
  2271. >All you have to do is to avoid failure, simple as that.
  2272. >"Anon?"
  2273. >You shake your currently non-existent head.
  2274. "Oh, sorry. I got a little bit into thinking."
  2275. >"Nothing wrong with that. I am happy to see you getting invested in this topic on your own."
  2276.  
  2277.  
  2278.  
  2279.  
  2280. >You think back to the last subject you spoke about.
  2281. >"You have a question, Anon?"
  2282. "Sort of. For my regular me at least."
  2283. >You collect your thoughts before you go on.
  2284. "How can we process that fast? You have set a four month schedule for the planetary claiming phase. Sounds hard to believe when we are talking about a planet of the size of Earth."
  2285. >"Not as hard as you will think. It is indeed four months on average. Results may of course vary in special cases. Remember, the pace accelerates exponentially, at least up to a certain point. The first days are obviously the slowest, but do not underestimate how quickly it will pick up, provided the planet has the required resources to do so."
  2286. >A pause.
  2287. >"If there are not enough, or if the scale of extraction might put a planet's stability at risk, the process speed depends on us and how fast we can import material from elsewhere."
  2288. "Which will not be necessary, as we're going to pick an ideal planet for our purposes right from the start."
  2289. >"You are beginning to think ahead. I like that."
  2290. >Is that pride in #deca.mare's voice?
  2291. >She apparently gets a great deal of satisfaction out of sharing her craft with a curious partner.
  2292. >Even if said partner requires a little bit of extra help.
  2293. >"Anyway, yes. It is only a matter of months. And luckily for us, we do not have to wait until the process is complete, since some segments will be ready in advance. So we can work with those while the units will prepare the rest."
  2294. "And the units can gather everything they need themselves."
  2295. >"Collect, refine, and manufacture, just like we can do here. In fact, they can do more down there on the planet as the size of their facilities is not limited by an external chassis like we are. The capacities of our outer shell are optimised to go barely beyond the resources we need for our maintenance and repair purposes."
  2296.  
  2297.  
  2298.  
  2299.  
  2300. >You nod mentally.
  2301. >"I think you can see why I am so keen about resource management. It is unpractical to spend large amounts of our core resources."
  2302. >You check the cargo lists of your ship, with a close look at the bays themselves and their specific designations.
  2303. >The largest storage sections are designated to raw materials that are required for electronics and general engineering: Metals, silicon, crystals, loads and loads of energy cells, and several more miscellaneous substances.
  2304. >These are the vital necessities for #deca.mare's continuous operation.
  2305. >Equipment for ships and other drones may be handled in separate secondary bays, but they draw all their resources from the same basic pool as well.
  2306. >Not to mention #deca.mare's personal systems.
  2307. >The computer core alone is a logistical beast, with all the other subsystems coming on top of that.
  2308. >The other big monster are the shield generators.
  2309. >Their energy consumption alone, even in idle mode, is nigh astronomical.
  2310. >It is abundantly clear why she is so conservative with her inventory.
  2311. >You would not need a direct link to understand that.
  2312. >You further investigate the other cargo bays.
  2313. >A few have basic biological substances stored in cryo chambers.
  2314. >No wonder, life has to come from somewhere, and this will form the basis of it.
  2315. >Equestria's future lies currently frozen and neatly stacked up in high-tech containers.
  2316. >Nothing hints at the glory it will once become.
  2317. >Yet.
  2318. >But there is more.
  2319. >At least one of its subsections is filled with nutrient pastes.
  2320. >These are, at the moment, primarily meant for you.
  2321. >You feel a mixture of gratitude and vulnerability at that sight.
  2322.  
  2323.  
  2324.  
  2325.  
  2326. >Some other cargo bays list curious entries.
  2327. >One of them is called "1x Wrecked M3 patrol fighter, Anon's property, do not touch.".
  2328. >Oh right, that thing.
  2329. >The ship which is both cursed and blessed at once.
  2330. >It absolutely catches your attention.
  2331. >You do not register that the next subsection holds an item called "1x Me".
  2332. >You have still no idea what to do with the vessel, but you do not want to discard it either.
  2333. >It somehow has a sentimental value to you, at least as a keepsake.
  2334. >You emit a loud sigh.
  2335. >Your past life briefly flashes through your mind.
  2336. >"Anon, do you need a moment?"
  2337. >#deca.mare's voice brings you back to the present.
  2338. "No, I'm fine. Thank you."
  2339. >You look once more at the statistics.
  2340. >The numbers you see there are not really to your liking.
  2341. "The material we'll use is a substantial part of what we have in reserve. Not critical, but considerable. I'm not sure if this a good plan, #deca."
  2342. >"Yet it will be beneficial in the long run. We may run slightly short on material for a little while, but this will not impede our operation."
  2343. >You hear a chuckle.
  2344. >"On the contrary, a fully accessible planet is a good opportunity to restock now and then. We can simply instruct the units to take some of the surplus material and send it our way. For example, an air drone will rise into the air with a container, and we pick the container up with one of our own ships. Much easier than hunting asteroids."
  2345. >#deca.mare sighs.
  2346. >"It has been a long time since I have been to my last stay on a permanent home base."
  2347. >You do not have to consult the database to understand her notion.
  2348. >But she is right about the project.
  2349. >#deca tech is the most durable technology that has ever existed.
  2350. >It will not fail unless it gets severely neglected while being online.
  2351.  
  2352.  
  2353.  
  2354.  
  2355. >Another pause.
  2356. >"That sums up what happens in phase one. The second involves an active alteration of the planet, based on the desired parameters. In most cases, this is comparatively easy to do, because the newly established networks allow for quick and effective actions on a global scale."
  2357. >In normal cases.
  2358. >Though you see the writing on the wall.
  2359. "But our case is not normal."
  2360. >"No. Because we aim for a highly specific geographic shape with little room for errors or interpretations. We do not simply go for any habitable configuration, but a very specific one instead. Every step in phase two must be carefully measured before its execution."
  2361. >Now you realise how much really went into the whole thing.
  2362. >This project is without any doubt the most challenging endeavour she has ever planned.
  2363. >#deca.mare's magnum opus, so to say.
  2364. >Perhaps there was an artist hidden in her soul all along.
  2365. >You should mention that to her later on.
  2366. >But right now you are here to work.
  2367. >After all, Equestria is waiting for you.
  2368. "I see. But let us come back to the units for now."
  2369. >"Right. Let us start with the assembly of a standard version. A general purpose utility unit with a wheeled base for mobility, the perfect all-rounder, even in only moderately accessible areas. We have all the necessary parts right here, and you know the procedure."
  2370. >You mentally request access to the necessary files and blueprints.
  2371. >Everything you need to know comes to you as if you had learned it naturally.
  2372. >You proceed with the first steps as usual.
  2373. >You activate the arms plus tools and bring them into position.
  2374. "All set."
  2375. >"Fine then, follow my instructions."
  2376. >That seems odd to you at the moment; you know how it is done.
  2377. >But #deca.mare mentioned this.
  2378. >You will see it differently once you are back to normal.
  2379. >So you do what she says.
  2380.  
  2381.  
  2382.  
  2383.  
  2384. >You pick a variety of prefabricated standard modules and bring them into position with your mechanical arms.
  2385. >A solid metal frame with four wheels and two independently movable axes form the base component.
  2386. >On top of that, you place a serial computer core, both equipped with a long-range receiver and responder, which is supposed to embody the heart and brain of the soon-to-be automaton.
  2387. >Around this centre come several mechanical gadgets and digits, meant to enable the drone to perform its supposed tasks.
  2388. >Some of the limbs in question bear remarkable resemblance to the tools you have used on your ice farming trip.
  2389. >Others look even more daunting and effective, especially the drilling tools.
  2390. >Though this should not be a surprise; these drones shall after all work underground and are meant to dig their own tunnels.
  2391. >The basic design is completed with a spacious secured cargo module on top, and several sensors.
  2392. >The latter are set all around the chassis into little incorporated niches in the external hull to provide a complete vision without being completely exposed to its surroundings.
  2393. >You do not have to worry about the internal electronics; they are all already aligned correctly thanks to the standardised layout.
  2394. >The pins snap in place the moment you place the modules in the correct sockets.
  2395. >And assembling the modules is rather simple too.
  2396. >All components possess a series of links that are either fused with bolts, or fixated with durable interlocking metal clamps.
  2397. >Now that you think about it, you are sure you could do this with ease on your own.
  2398. >A deeper understanding of each part is not required for the mere assembly process.
  2399. >Simple pattern recognition is sufficient to see where individual components have to be placed.
  2400.  
  2401.  
  2402.  
  2403.  
  2404. >In other words, an average fighter pilot is more than enough for the task at hand after a little practice.
  2405. >You would smile right now if you could.
  2406. "This is what you wanted to show me."
  2407. >"Well, yes. You were supposed to come to that conclusion. And I knew you had to see it for yourself to really believe it."
  2408. >This is true, though you wonder whether this treatment was actually necessary.
  2409. >Then again, you know what the intensified mental link does to your perception.
  2410. >The world looks oh so different when all the knowledge you craved is just a wish away.
  2411. >You secure the last locks on the automaton and observe your product.
  2412. >The unit looks unspectacular from the outside, but that is not what counts.
  2413. >They are not meant to be seen in any case.
  2414. >But what does matter is the symbolism behind it.
  2415. >Not only is it a machine you have assembled, it is also the first physical step towards Equestria, unassuming as it may look.
  2416. >And as such it has a much higher value than just the sum of its components.
  2417. >The automaton is, as overblown as it may sound, your gateway to paradise.
  2418. >"Good work, Anon. A textbook assembly. Now let me implement and test the software. After that, we have the first operational unit for our project."
  2419. >And you appreciate the second symbolism behind #deca.mare's action.
  2420. >She has let you set the metaphorical foundation stone of your new home.
  2421. >Quite generous, given that she had every reason to insist on doing that herself.
  2422. >But it still fitting all the same, since it was you who finally convinced her to get this project out of the shelf again.
  2423.  
  2424.  
  2425.  
  2426.  
  2427. >It remains a collaborative project at the end of the day.
  2428. >You simply need each other.
  2429. >This drone would not exist right now if any of you were missing in the equation.
  2430. >"We have more than enough parts left. Would you like to build another one?"
  2431. >This gives you an idea.
  2432. >A challenge.
  2433. "Sure, but let me try this completely on my own this time."
  2434. >"Already?"
  2435. "Yep, let me try a blind run. Let's see if I can get it right after one try. Only correct me if I make a mistake, okay?"
  2436. >You pause.
  2437. "Return the link to its normal level, #deca."
  2438. >"On it."
  2439. >And with that you are back on your own humble level of competence.
  2440. >You need a few seconds to ward off the confusion in your brain, then you are ready.
  2441. >Okay, time to get started.
  2442. >You use your arms to grab some components and try to recall the order in which they were put together in the first run via "muscle memory".
  2443. >The first few vital parts of the machine are obvious, like the wheeled frame and the computer core.
  2444. >And the assembly is not much of a challenge either.
  2445. >A little bit more delicate than cutting ice out of rock, but your previous exercises help you tremendously in this situation, because you already know for yourself how these tools react to your instructions.
  2446. >The correct order is also relatively easy.
  2447. >However, #deca.mare has to correct you in some minor details concerning the alignment of the tools, since a precise calibration is essential for their operation.
  2448. >But despite these few little hiccups, the drone looks just as good as the first one upon completion.
  2449. >Still enough parts left, and you are on a roll.
  2450. "Another?"
  2451. >"If you feel up to it, go ahead."
  2452. >You do indeed fell up to the task.
  2453. >This time you pay much more attention to the details, not only the general design behind it.
  2454. >You even alter your HUD with an additional window to check on the angles of the tools you install.
  2455.  
  2456.  
  2457.  
  2458.  
  2459. >Everything takes a little longer than before, but you are not in a hurry.
  2460. >At last, the drone is fully assembled and undistinguishable from its two twins.
  2461. >#deca.mare did not have to intervene this time.
  2462. >You try to estimate the time it took to assemble this machine.
  2463. >Hard to say without a clock, but you guess it could not have been much more than an hour.
  2464. >Now you personally understand what #deca.mare meant when she was talking about exponential growth.
  2465. >These three alone can gather enough resources for three additional units, probably within a day under good conditions.
  2466. >And these six then enough for six more.
  2467. >Then there are twelve.
  2468. >And so on, again and again.
  2469. >Up to a point where you have basically seized the planet.
  2470. >"Looking good so far. I have taken the liberty to implement the instructions into the cores while you were busy with your third assembly."
  2471. "Okay, I'm ready for the test run."
  2472. >And you add something else, just a second later.
  2473. "Oh, and please try to explain to me what you're doing. I know you said these things are complex, but at least give me a chance."
  2474. >"Of course, Anon."
  2475. >#deca.mare grants you your wish as she commences testing the drones, and adding minor readjustments to their properties.
  2476. >The drone's limbs and wheels occasionally move during her test.
  2477. >The basic things which #deca.mare tells you are fairly clear, like the overall purpose of the test and her experiments.
  2478. >She has to make sure that the automatons are calibrated to the maximum of possible precision, given the vital duties they shall perform.
  2479. >And she guarantees you that they are practically foolproof after this intense procedure.
  2480. >From what you have seen so far, including the terraformed worlds still populated by humans, her promises hold true.
  2481. >Not that you want to object her, but you have to remain objective in this regard.
  2482.  
  2483.  
  2484.  
  2485.  
  2486. >Then she proceeds with the details, and this is where your mind phases out.
  2487. >But #deca.mare keeps going in the hope you might catch and understand a few glimpses now and then, yet to no avail.
  2488. >You realise she does not even make it hard on purpose.
  2489. >Quite the opposite, she tries to make it as simple as she can, but her craft remains hard and complex, no matter how you phrase it.
  2490. >Well, this had to happen at some point.
  2491. >Once done with the functionality test of the hardware, #deca.mare runs yet another software check.
  2492. >A virtual list appears in your vision, depicting and endless maze of code.
  2493. >She gives you a fully transparent overview of her work.
  2494. >But these lines could be written in glyphs as far as your coding skills are concerned.
  2495. >Plus, the speed in which the lines rush over the screen is far beyond anything a human brain can handle.
  2496. >So for all her good intentions, it remains a moot point.
  2497. >Though you could technically ask, or even demand of her to explain every single line to you until you understand.
  2498. >But you trust her expertise.
  2499. >And such an endeavour could take who knows how long.
  2500. >Weeks, months, years?
  2501. >No, this is not feasible.
  2502. >The list disappears automatically; #deca.mare is apparently done with this test as well.
  2503. >The three drones remain still, idling.
  2504. >"They are on standby. No point to activate them up here."
  2505. >Makes sense.
  2506. "Which brings us to point two on our agenda, I reckon."
  2507. >"Indeed. Prepare to return to the command deck, Anon."
  2508. >The world blurs out as usual.
  2509. >It is time to make Equestria appear on the star charts.
  2510.  
  2511.  
  2512.  
  2513.  
  2514. 45
  2515.  
  2516. >Vast charts spread out before your very eyes.
  2517. >The uncountable number of systems and stars have lost nothing of their fascination.
  2518. >But with it comes also a nigh endless number of potential candidates.
  2519. "So, which one is it going to be?"
  2520. >#deca.mare taps a forehoof on the chair cushions in thought.
  2521. >"We have multiple options, but all of them come with challenges."
  2522. "What kind of exactly?"
  2523. >"As I have stated, we want to create a very distinct geographical form, so this will be the biggest problem. It is something we were barely supposed to do before, and never to such an enormous extent."
  2524. >You quickly realise this last "we" does not include you.
  2525. >"The main issue is as follows: We either choose a planet which is almost like Earth in terms of quality, but comes with suboptimal geographical base conditions, or we pick a planet which is already relatively similar to the landscapes we have in mind. However, the candidates of the latter category are undoubtedly the minority. Plus, all of those come with a few other shortcomings. Then again, if we prefer the first option, we have a greater selection, but are forced to put more work into the reshaping process."
  2526. >#deca.mare looks at you with an expectant look.
  2527. >She wants your opinion on the matter.
  2528. >Okay, think.
  2529. >There has to be something you can contribute to this.
  2530. >Ah, that is good.
  2531. "So the first option means more initial work, but better permanent conditions in the long run. And option two is the exact opposite, right?"
  2532. >"Hmhm. Aptly put, Anon."
  2533. "Then I'd say we take the first option. We must take the far future into account, so we can't afford any cheapskate loopholes this early on."
  2534. >#deca.mare nods in approval.
  2535. >"I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment."
  2536.  
  2537.  
  2538.  
  2539.  
  2540. >Somehow you feel like you are being tested by #deca.mare.
  2541. >She is fine with your decision, no doubt about that, but what might have happened if you had picked the alternative?
  2542. >You shake your head.
  2543. >These thoughts lead nowhere.
  2544. >Try to get through this with a smidge of common sense and you should be golden.
  2545. >Apropos golden, there is a golden circle on the map which might be worthy of your attention.
  2546. >You order the map to zoom in on the planet you asked #deca.mare to bookmark.
  2547. "What about this one? It looked fairly well from what I have seen."
  2548. >"Yes, it does, generally speaking."
  2549. >Her tone tells you everything.
  2550. "But?"
  2551. >"The planet itself is not the problem, Anon. The star in the system is. Because it has a tendency to radiate quite violently on occasion. These outbursts do not happen often, approximately every three hundred and fifty years on average, but it affects most planets in the system, including the one we visited."
  2552. "Does it make the planet uninhabitable?"
  2553. >"Well, not on principle, but life on the surface can be very inconvenient for a few months."
  2554. "So it's off the table."
  2555. >"For our purposes, yes."
  2556. >There goes your friendly gesture.
  2557. >Bummer, but oh well.
  2558. >You wave your hand in a dismissive manner.
  2559. "Nothing we can do about it right now."
  2560. >You remove the bookmark on the map and collect your thoughts.
  2561. "Okay, any ideas for an alternative? Knowing you, I assume you have already made a preselection of sorts."
  2562. >"Indeed. Give me a second."
  2563. >#deca.mare adjusts the vision on the main screen.
  2564. >It zooms out again and depicts and altered version of the star chart.
  2565.  
  2566.  
  2567.  
  2568.  
  2569. >The symbols have changed.
  2570. >Most of the previous details are now greyed out.
  2571. >Like stars, nebulae, and other cosmic phenomena.
  2572. >The only objects that remain highlighted are planets with a certain set of inherent, almost Earth-like characteristics.
  2573. >A small "portrait" of each candidate is shown next to its bright spot, since the actual body is too small to be seen on a map that encompasses multiple sectors.
  2574. >These are further coded with a classical set of colouration; green, yellow, and red.
  2575. >The colours reflect the quality of the individual planets in terms of relevance to your plan.
  2576. >At least that is what you assume.
  2577. >However, the colouration is not limited to just these categories.
  2578. >It is a gradual colouration, which means there are also subtle shades between these three.
  2579. >The scale of the map is considerable as well; it reaches far out in every direction from the point where you currently reside, including the graveyard that is the former terran space, and beyond.
  2580. >Some worlds are further marked with hazard symbols which describe factors that do not affect the planet in question permanently, but which are likely to put potential settlers at risk at some point in the future.
  2581. >The most common ones are events like cosmic impacts or high exposure to radiation.
  2582. >And your former favourite is also adorned with a friendly little radiation hazard symbol.
  2583. >You scowl at that for a second.
  2584. >But there is no reason to get upset about it.
  2585. >You could theoretically solve this and any problem with a little bit of extra effort, but there are enough planets where you can produce better results with less work.
  2586. >And since this is in all due likelihood the most complex operation in recorded history, you should not make it any harder than it already is.
  2587.  
  2588.  
  2589.  
  2590.  
  2591. >One hazard however, is not like the others, and it affects a considerable number of green candidates, especially in one certain area.
  2592. >Because these worlds are located within, or very close to the graveyard.
  2593. >You understand the message immediately.
  2594. >Danger.
  2595. >The proximity to still populated worlds bears the risk of discovery.
  2596. >You take a moment to imagine what would happen if your project gets exposed.
  2597. >Nothing good, you conclude.
  2598. >Especially when the authorities find out who is running it.
  2599. >No chance of survival.
  2600. >The bad blood is still far too thick yet, even centuries later.
  2601. >But you also understand the second hidden warning in that symbol.
  2602. >Because you have witnessed how #deca.mare reacts to returning there.
  2603. >Her breakdown near New Green Meadows comes to your mind.
  2604. >These planets are therefore all out of the question.
  2605. >Change the topic, Anon.
  2606. >Do not give her the chance to think about that again.
  2607. "Okay, how shall we proceed now? We have a list, but me must agree on one specific planet to start."
  2608. >"I suggest a process of elimination. We filter all the planets with glaring flaws and see what is left."
  2609. >A reasonable idea, but isn't that what she has already done?
  2610. "Guess red and yellow planets are out. They don't look that inviting anyway."
  2611. >#deca.mare smiles.
  2612. >"I think you have a wrong impression about the colours and what they stand for. The planets on the list are all more or less equally suitable for life in general, but not necessarily a good choice for future Equestria regardless."
  2613. >The map zooms in on a planet marked with a deep red hue.
  2614. >"Take this one for example."
  2615. >You check the sensor data.
  2616. >Decent atmosphere density, iced water and oxygen are present, gravity within acceptable norms, and a stable trajectory.
  2617. >Resource scan.
  2618. >Also green.
  2619. "This looks okay, where is the problem?"
  2620. >"Take a step back."
  2621. >You zoom out to see the planet and its direct vicinity.
  2622. >Ah, there it is.
  2623.  
  2624.  
  2625.  
  2626.  
  2627. >The planet has no natural satellite.
  2628. >No moon, no celestial diarchy.
  2629. >Therefore not suitable for you, unless you find a spare moon somewhere else.
  2630. >Silliness aside, that one is out.
  2631. "I get the point. What about the yellow ones?"
  2632. >#deca.mare readjusts the chart to focus on another planet.
  2633. >Rather similar to the first, plus stable moon.
  2634. >Though you see why this one is also a rather tricky case.
  2635. >The problem is the surface.
  2636. >It is abnormally ragged due to heavy tectonic activities in the past.
  2637. >And while it has apparently lost a fair bit of its volatile nature over millions of years, stronger quakes can still rock the surface.
  2638. >You would have to tackle that, reshape the entire surface and probably also the tectonic plates below to make it look even remotely similar to the Equestria you have seen.
  2639. >Possible and doable in theory, but you figure that an operation of this magnitude takes way longer than four months to accomplish.
  2640. "Yeah, let's stick to the green ones without any additional hazards."
  2641. >A quick glance on the map reveals to you that this simple choice alone has roughly eliminated four fifths of all the potential targets, if not a little more.
  2642. >So now that this is done, how to proceed?
  2643. >#deca.mare has anticipated that thought of yours.
  2644. >"The best way I can think of is a direct comparison. I suggest each of us goes through the list of available choices separately to pick a few favourites, and then we compare and discuss our results."
  2645. >Translation: You go through that list and pick yours; nothing can convince you that #deca.mare has not done this beforehand.
  2646. >Right?
  2647. >Or is it possible that she never dared to venture past the stage of classifying planets?
  2648. >Because she never reached the point to convince herself to actually pull this off?
  2649. >Maybe she simply wants to re-evaluate her options, now that her situation has changed?
  2650.  
  2651.  
  2652.  
  2653.  
  2654. >Should you ask her?
  2655. >No, just get on with it.
  2656. >#deca.mare values your opinions after all.
  2657. >Perhaps you can make her aware of things she did not think about up to this point.
  2658. >And even if that is not the case, the planets that are still left at display are all almost ideal for your purpose.
  2659. >Or at least as close to an ideal subject as you can find in the natural universe.
  2660. "Alright. Give me the list."
  2661. >#deca.mare materialises a smaller floating screen right before you.
  2662. >It is large enough to show you a planet's portrait in the middle, which is further accompanied by small lines of text on each side.
  2663. >Said text gives you the basic pieces of information you look for in any case.
  2664. >A good start, yet not enough for a definite decision.
  2665. >"The console is interactive. You can request any additional intel we have to make an informed decision. Once you have made up your mind, the screen will show you the next target on the list. And you can of course always go back to revoke decisions you wish to reconsider. Oh, and it can also provide you with an overview if you need it."
  2666. >In short, everything a console needs.
  2667. >#deca.mare materialises another screen for herself.
  2668. >She does apparently really want to evaluate her choices.
  2669. >Though that also means she does not have to wait only for you to make yours.
  2670. >Not the entire time, anyway.
  2671. >Though she will be undoubtedly faster than you.
  2672. >And of course, she is aware of your inner monologue.
  2673. >"Please, take your time, Anon. We gain nothing from rushing things. In fact, I go as far to say we may even lose something if we do. This stage is far too important for our future to allow carelessness."
  2674. >She smiles and strokes your upper leg with a hoof.
  2675. >"No need to worry about me. I have endured a long time before we got to this point. A few hours more will mean nothing to me."
  2676.  
  2677.  
  2678.  
  2679.  
  2680. >#deca.mare is obviously trying to take the pressure from you.
  2681. >You give her a confirming nod.
  2682. >She tends to her own screen, you follow suit and study the first planet.
  2683. >A decent world, judging from your first impression.
  2684. >General properties are good, estimated resources based on previous scans are also promising, moon and stable star are present as well.
  2685. >According to these facts alone, the planet seems like the ideal choice.
  2686. >Yet you assume this will apply for any of those, so that does say much on its own.
  2687. >You need more to get any further.
  2688. >You mentally ask if #deca.mare has run simulations concerning the surface structure, and what they have to do to reach their goal.
  2689. >She has.
  2690. >The screen is showing you the answer to your question by complying to your request.
  2691. >It begins to illustrate a simplified outline of the current surface.
  2692. >Really, you are not sure who answered you there.
  2693. >Was it an automaton or #deca.mare herself?
  2694. >You feel a gentle tip on your leg.
  2695. >Probably the latter then.
  2696. >Though you interpret her wordless reply as a sign to focus on something else for the time being.
  2697. >You concentrate on the map.
  2698. >A short text message is located below the image.
  2699. >Play simulation: Yes/No?
  2700. >Yes.
  2701. >The lines on the screen begin to wander slowly.
  2702. >A counter appears beside the image, depicting the estimated time it takes to reach the state you see.
  2703. >Now you understand what these lines stand for.
  2704. >These are the borders of individual future surface biomes and oceans.
  2705. >It was not obvious to you in the beginning, since the geography was not akin to anything you are used to see on populated worlds, but the imagery gets more and more familiar as the simulated time frame passes on.
  2706.  
  2707.  
  2708.  
  2709.  
  2710. >Okay, you need a reference point for your work.
  2711. >You request a map of Equestria and how it looks like during the time of the show.
  2712. >The demanded image appears on another screen on the left side of the ongoing simulation.
  2713. >And just as expected, the lines within the simulation begin to align with the geographical borders of the actual map.
  2714. >This process continues undisturbed until the simulation has concluded its projection.
  2715. >The lines are almost identical at the end.
  2716. >Everything fits perfectly with the exception of a few minor details.
  2717. >And these are really redundant in the grand scheme of things; a few coastlines that are a handful of kilometres off, a slightly different topography in a few mountain ranges, and so on.
  2718. >Nothing critical when it comes to life on the planet as a whole.
  2719. >And also nothing which has a monumental impact on the development of Equestrian civilisation.
  2720. >The overall result would be acceptable though; #deca.mare herself called it an impossibility to keep it one hundred percent accurate.
  2721. >Other obvious factors do also play their part in this.
  2722. >Because no matter how many similarities these worlds possess, they remain unique at the end of the day.
  2723. >And these unique features will affect the outcome, as small as they might first appear.
  2724. >Canterlot comes to your mind.
  2725. >This city is the perfect example due to its very characteristic architecture.
  2726. >A monumental super-structure out of polished light marble attached to the side of a mountain.
  2727. >The weight of this place alone must be gargantuan.
  2728. >And therefore its strain on the rock it mounts.
  2729. >For cases like this, even a minimal difference in gravity, say five percent, would mean a significant shift for the static of the place.
  2730. >It may even decide whether the construction of this is possible at all.
  2731. >Now that you think about it, could such a thing exist on Earth?
  2732. >Anyway, this is one of the things to look out for.
  2733.  
  2734.  
  2735.  
  2736.  
  2737. >Right, you can work with that.
  2738. >Maybe you will find even more points as you sift through the overview.
  2739. >Especially things that may affect the creation process itself are on your list now.
  2740. >You instruct the automaton to rerun the simulation from the start.
  2741. >You have a rough idea what to look out for.
  2742. >This time you pay more attention to the details and why certain things happen and what could be their cause.
  2743. >And you materialise a third screen on the right side to make notes while you are watching the spectacle.
  2744. >Once you are satisfied with the information you have gathered, you order the automaton to show the next candidate on the central screen.
  2745. >But not without bookmarking the first one for now; you cannot make a decision without a proper comparison.
  2746. >So you go through the list from here with the approach you have just developed.
  2747. >For each new candidate, you briefly check the general stats, study the current state of the surface, watch the simulation several times, and judge the final result in reference to your previous findings.
  2748. >The basic methodology behind this is surprisingly trivial if one cuts out all the complicated technicalities behind it.
  2749. >You do not need a vast computer mind to understand the correlation of cause and effect.
  2750. >What started out as your experimental concept, proves to be an efficient tool.
  2751. >By the time you develop a routine, you almost go through that list as if it were a casual stroll in the park.
  2752. >You are fully engrossed in your work; the three screens around your visual field functions as the perfect distraction blocker.
  2753. >And #deca.mare does not interrupt you even once.
  2754. >At the end, you pick five favourites  out of the entire list.
  2755. >The first one you have inspected is not amongst them.
  2756. >You shove your displays aside and look over to #deca.mare.
  2757. >She is looking back.
  2758. "I assume you made you choice?"
  2759. >She nods.
  2760. >"Yes, Anon."
  2761. "Good. So do I."
  2762.  
  2763.  
  2764.  
  2765.  
  2766. >#deca.mare points one hoof at the main screen.
  2767. >It has turned completely dark, with the exception of a vertical line in the centre that divides the display into two halves of equal size.
  2768. >You get her intention soon enough.
  2769. >Five worlds appear on the left half.
  2770. >The screen is spacious enough to illustrate each portrait plus the relevant information texts at the same time.
  2771. >You recognise three out of those five as your own favourites, the other two are worlds you have discarded.
  2772. >"These are mine. Would you like to add yours?"
  2773. "Sure."
  2774. >You order the screen to fill the other half of the screen with your roster.
  2775. >Your list appears in the same fashion as #deca.mare's.
  2776. >And the system thinks ahead.
  2777. >It has noticed the three duplicate entries and has placed them next to each other for a clear arrangement.
  2778. >Here you are now.
  2779. >The next decision is probably the most important one you will ever make in your life.
  2780. >Choose carefully.
  2781. >At least you are not as bad at it as you have expected.
  2782. >After all, your choices show a sixty percent matching quota in direct comparison to #deca.mare.
  2783. >This looks rather promising.
  2784. >You see #deca.mare studying your choice, so you should do the same.
  2785. >Especially the two candidates which diverge from your selection.
  2786. >Decent worlds, sure, yet something about these planets did not resonate well with you for a reason you cannot express in words.
  2787. >More precisely the way how they had to be reshaped was not to your liking; it seemed... inelegant in your opinion.
  2788. >#deca.mare raises her voice.
  2789.  
  2790.  
  2791.  
  2792.  
  2793. >"A solid lineup, all things considered."
  2794. "But? You did not pick two of them for a reason. Why did you not consider these two?
  2795. >#deca.mare clears her throat.
  2796. >"Well, to be frank, it was for the exact same reason why you included them."
  2797. >Ouch.
  2798. >#deca.mare sets the screen to highlight the two planetary bodies in question.
  2799. >"As far as I have gathered from your work, you liked these because of their reduced gravity and how this would ease construction work, correct?"
  2800. "Pretty much, yes. Since they are already in the category of optimal candidates, I figured the lower gravity could be beneficial for us."
  2801. >#deca.mare nods in approval.
  2802. >"I see your reasoning, Anon. And your points are valid. Yet I personally dislike these planets because their comparatively low mass means the planetary atmosphere is more prone to cosmic events."
  2803. >Understandable argument.
  2804. >A planet needs a certain mass to hold an atmosphere with a decent density.
  2805. "But you classified them as ideal in the preselection."
  2806. >"I did. And they are good choices, partly for the reasons you stated. However, no immediate signs for any risks does not mean that some could not occur in the future. It is unlikely, but you never know for sure. Space is vast, and something could always seep through the cracks."
  2807. >You wonder what could get past #deca.mare's sensors, but you cannot think of anything.
  2808. >Yet she is right on principle.
  2809. "So it's better to take a world with the least inherent weaknesses, even if we can iron them out."
  2810. >"Precisely. But to be fair, there could be scenarios where the exact opposite might be a better option. There is no ultimate answer to that question."
  2811. >You chuckle.
  2812. "Sounds like one great game of mutual guesswork to me."
  2813. >#deca.mare tilts her head.
  2814. "Yes, I know it's a serious issue, though I fear we could debate forever without a clear result."
  2815. >"But it is necessary. And I am convinced we can do it."
  2816.  
  2817.  
  2818.  
  2819.  
  2820. >#deca.mare looks at the screen with the notes you took.
  2821. >"Let us turn this around. I told you my thoughts on your choice, now tell me what you think of mine. Please, do not hold back. I am interested in your ideas."
  2822. >So she wants you to present your case yourself, despite the fact that she is probably fully aware of them already.
  2823. >But maybe it is said presentation which makes the difference.
  2824. >You clear your throat and try to come up with an at least somewhat professional formulation.
  2825. "Okay, let me put it like this: It wasn't the planets' own stats that made me dislike them. The terrforming process itself did."
  2826. >Her ears perk up.
  2827. >"Oh? How so?"
  2828. >Now comes the hard part.
  2829. "Because the process looks... not wrong, but bumpy. Some of the outlines need pretty hefty shifting to be set into place. And while I assume it does not pose a problem to accomplish this..."
  2830. >You look at #deca.mare.
  2831. >She shakes her head.
  2832. >"It does not."
  2833. "... it leaves us with a very large area which is kept into place with highly artificial means. And which has to be kept in place through said artificial means."
  2834. >"This is something we have to do on practically every possible world, Anon."
  2835. "I know, but these two require the largest effort in that regard."
  2836. >"True."
  2837. >You float your note pad over to her.
  2838. >The notes and thoughts you have scrambled on it do not seem actually sorted to an outsider.
  2839. >But you guess #deca.mare understands it just the same.
  2840. "Here's the thing: The problem I have with this is neither the shifting itself nor the effort behind it. It is the complex machinery that worries me. You said it will not fail on its own, and I fully believe your judgement."
  2841. >"Yes, but?"
  2842.  
  2843.  
  2844.  
  2845.  
  2846. "But I asked myself whether this is really necessary. That compound must be so complex that I can't imagine what we would have to do if something unforeseen happens which could force us to revamp our plans. That would become a logistical nightmare. I'd say it's easier to stick to simpler designs if possible. And we have plenty of alternate options."
  2847. >#deca.mare laughs.
  2848. "What's so funny?"
  2849. >"Anon, did you see what just happened?"
  2850. "Uhm, no?"
  2851. >"We had the same thought process. We both pondered the question what could catch us by surprise and affect our plans. Even if we did not come to wholly identical solutions, our ways of reasoning were not that far apart."
  2852. >You think about her observation for a second.
  2853. >She is right, you works show striking similarities, despite the obvious difference in skill.
  2854. >And this time you did this without any external help from her data.
  2855. >#deca.mare was right to suggest an independent initial selection.
  2856. >Because now you two see where you stand,
  2857. >Or rather, now you can somewhat see where you stand in reference to #deca.mare.
  2858. >Seems like you can be useful to her and the practical part of the project after all.
  2859. >Perhaps even enough to actively partake in the shaping process on your own.
  2860. >Well, time to find that out.
  2861. "Hey, #deca. I have an idea."
  2862. >"I am all ears, Anon."
  2863. "I'd say we forget these four planets and focus on the three we both liked. That way we can make a mutual informed decision and evaluate our personal doubts together. How about that?"
  2864. >"Sounds like a good plan."
  2865. >#deca.mare shifts a little closer.
  2866. >You pull her to you with one arm and move the display with your notes between you two, and set it to show only the notes you made of the three worlds in question.
  2867.  
  2868.  
  2869.  
  2870.  
  2871. >You proceed by discussing your choice in turns.
  2872. >Each brings up one point and explains why said point is important to consider, then the other gives a feedback to it.
  2873. >Once this is done, you go over to the next point.
  2874. >You two keep some version of a score board on another screen.
  2875. >Said score depicts in which category you would classify what candidate and why.
  2876. >The whole ordeal goes back and forth for every detail of every potential target.
  2877. >It is a constructive debate, and you do not feel inferior to #deca.mare in any way.
  2878. >She takes your remarks to heart and gives you an honest comment back.
  2879. >Granted, there are a few occasions where she has to correct you in a few minor details, but these little bumps are far from sufficient to derail the discussion.
  2880. >In the end you have a final score with a clear winner.
  2881. >The margin between each is not overwhelmingly large, but one planet remains ahead in the statistics.
  2882. >And the winner goes currently by the name of planet 4 of star sector 891, at least in accordance to terran standards.
  2883. >Not a ceremonial name, but it was never given any other designation since it is way too far away for human colonisation, especially in humanity's current technological state.
  2884. >The planet is rather cold and barren at the moment, but therein lies its strength.
  2885. >Large swathes of land are coated in a compact layer of ice.
  2886. >Ice you can use to form lakes, rivers, and even oceans.
  2887. >All you have to do is heat the planetary body just a little on a global scale.
  2888. >The rest happens almost on its own.
  2889. >Plus, it has something of a poetic beauty.
  2890. >Because Equestria will now actually be born out of ice, just like it does in the play.
  2891. >And luckily for you, your spearhead is nevertheless not required to drill through massive ice caps to get the process started.
  2892.  
  2893.  
  2894.  
  2895.  
  2896. >No.
  2897. >Two thirds of the world may be frozen solid, but the area around the equatorial line is mildly temperate. Lots of plains and a few mountain ranges.
  2898. >Perfect both for construction work, and for harvesting raw materials in relative close proximity.
  2899. >And once the forward base is established, it can send out units which will start the heating process in the arctic biomes, while the main complex is busy drilling further and further.
  2900. >That way you can work at multiple areas at once.
  2901. >#deca.mare projects an image of S891P04 on the main screen.
  2902. >You dissolve all the other consoles and look at it too.
  2903. "So, this one is it then."
  2904. >"Hmhm. Our future home."
  2905. >You let that sink in.
  2906. >For minutes on end, you just sit there together and watch as the three dimensional image spins slowly around its own axis.
  2907. >The moment is too precious for casual remarks.
  2908. >And it is #deca.mare who breaks the silence.
  2909. >"The course is set. Are we ready to go?"
  2910. "Wait. How about a ceremonial act?"
  2911. >"Anon?"
  2912. >You gently grab #deca.mare's forehoof with a hand.
  2913. "Let us give the departure command together. It is our mutual life and decision. None of us should do it alone."
  2914. >#deca.mare nods in agreement.
  2915. >She materialises another console in the air.
  2916. >It features nothing but one large button with only one line of text on it.
  2917. >Activate jumpdrive.
  2918. >You understand her idea and let go of her hoof.
  2919. >#deca.mare holds the tip of her forehoof in the air right before the console.
  2920. >You raise your hand and hold it next to her limb, ready to touch the button with your palm.
  2921. "On three. Ready?"
  2922. >"Of course, Anon. One."
  2923. "Two."
  2924. "Three!" >"Three!"
  2925. >Your limbs dart forwards in unison.
  2926. >The console confirms your order and disappears.
  2927. >You embrace each other in a fierce hug as the status screens report a controlled influx of energy to the jumpdrive.
  2928. >And a few kisses may be shared as said influx reaches its peak to open a corridor in space that will lead you to your new home.
  2929.  
  2930.  
  2931.  
  2932.  
  2933. 46/1
  2934.  
  2935. Note: Just to stress it one more time: This will not become a TF fic. Anon learning how to use a pony body is simply a matter of utility, nothing more, nothing less. He will remain human from start to finish.
  2936.  
  2937. >You break your last kiss a few seconds after the first jump.
  2938. >There are several more required to reach your destination; the planet is far away from any colonised worlds you know.
  2939. >Your direct attention is not necessary at the moment.
  2940. >The navigation system can handle the procedure unless something highly extraordinary occurs during your travels.
  2941. >Plus, #deca.mare keeps an eye on the systems too.
  2942. >She may have slacked off a little last night, but only because of special circumstances and while you were resting at a safe spot.
  2943. >Now she is her old experienced and capable self again.
  2944. >You doubt that she could fall asleep anyway.
  2945. >The current events are more than just exciting for her.
  2946. >Understandably so.
  2947. >Her life is indeed jumping from one high to the next in a rapid pace in the last four days.
  2948. >You stretch your arms and yawn.
  2949. "Man, this has been tiring as hell. It was fun while we were at it, but now feel like I could fall out of the chair."
  2950. >#deca.mare closes all floating windows and sets the wall screens back to their default setting.
  2951. >"The fatigue is only mental, Anon. Your vitals are still fine."
  2952. >Yet you do not feel like it in your current state.
  2953. >"All you need is a little time off. Preferably outside."
  2954. >#deca.mare is probably right.
  2955. "Okay, what do you have in mind?"
  2956. >"Simple. Have you forgotten our schedule?"
  2957. "Oh, yeah. Let's see. Drone assembly, search for a planet, ah of course. It's time for our leisure activity."
  2958. >The opportunity to do something physical is a godsend.
  2959. >#deca.mare hops on your lap and faces you directly.
  2960. >That gets your full attention.
  2961. >"You said you have an idea?"
  2962. >The tip of her muzzle touches your nose.
  2963. "Yep. and it should be perfect for you. Follow me."
  2964.  
  2965.  
  2966.  
  2967.  
  2968. >You two head for the exit door, with you at the front.
  2969. >You already begin to mentally calibrate the simulation on the other side on your way.
  2970. >#deca.mare must notice your instructions to the automaton, but you cannot see her reaction to it.
  2971. >And she does not make any remark so far.
  2972. >Once there, you come to a halt and turn around.
  2973. "Okay, I took your comments to heart. We'll do something purely Equestrian this time. So, it's time to..."
  2974. >You order the door to open.
  2975. >It reveals a street somewhere in Ponyville.
  2976. >During the deepest winter.
  2977. "... wrap up winter!"
  2978. >You observe #deca.mare's reaction.
  2979. >It is not what you expected to see.
  2980. >She looks like she is pondering something.
  2981. "Something wrong?"
  2982. >"No, no. The idea is perfect."
  2983. >She smiles.
  2984. >"Maybe even better than you thought, Anon. Come!"
  2985. >And #deca.mare trots happily into the simulated snowscape.
  2986. >Unsure about what idea you could possibly have given her, you follow along.
  2987. >The door closes behind you and disappears.
  2988. >The air is fresh and cool, perfect after your latest work session.
  2989. >But you kept the temperature on a tolerable level; it is not as cold as a similar scene would be in real life.
  2990. >You know you cannot be affected by hypothermia in here, but you can still feel like you are freezing.
  2991. >Not something you really need.
  2992. >You look at the scenery before you.
  2993. >#deca.mare is already a few metres ahead, hopping through the snow-laden path.
  2994. >Her reactions remind you of her first contact with the water in the tub.
  2995. >She is clearly not used to this kind of sensual input.
  2996. >This does not hinder her significantly, yet a few of #deca.mare's jumps seem a bit clumsy.
  2997. >On one occasion, she almost fell over.
  2998. >But being a quadruped has its advantages, and recovering quickly from a misstep is one of them.
  2999.  
  3000.  
  3001.  
  3002.  
  3003. >You follow her tracks as she dashes onwards.
  3004. >She is not particularly fast, but you have to watch your step as well.
  3005. >You have no idea where she is heading at first.
  3006. >Partially because your orientation in Ponyville is not exactly astute, but also partially because you have no idea where exactly you ended up.
  3007. >Your instruction was simply to establish a direct connection to Ponyville during a winter scene.
  3008. >And so the system transferred you to the one of the town's main streets.
  3009. >Although the definition of main street has to be seen in the correct scale; said street is a simple well-used trail.
  3010. >Yet this is all a small town really needs.
  3011. >And getting deployed on a random simple road covered in snow does not stop #deca.mare.
  3012. >She knows the outline of every city and town by heart.
  3013. >And she apparently knows exactly where she wants to go.
  3014. >Through the streets, and around some corners.
  3015. >After a few turns here and there, you begin to hear the faint sound of splashing water.
  3016. >A stream must be nearby.
  3017. >One more turn, and you stand before a very familiar building, right in the centre of Ponyville.
  3018. >Town Hall.
  3019. >Well, you could have seen this coming.
  3020. >Even if there are no other ponies around to gather and coordinate, you need to stick to the script.
  3021. >#deca.mare turns around as you approach the clearance in front of the building.
  3022. >She has that smile again.
  3023. >Not the devious one, but the playful grin instead.
  3024. >Damn, what have you done this time?
  3025. >"Anon, you have created the perfect opportunity for both of us, thank you."
  3026. "Uhm, you're welcome. But what do you mean? The perfect opportunity for what?"
  3027.  
  3028.  
  3029.  
  3030.  
  3031. >"What do you think, my dear? Going local, of course."
  3032. >That does not sound like an intentional innuendo to you.
  3033. >Not this time.
  3034. >#deca.mare goes on.
  3035. >"Think about it, Anon. Are we supposed to clean the town like this?"
  3036. "Not the whole town, obviously. That's too much to ask. I thought we'd try a little bit of everything. There is enough to choose from."
  3037. >"Fair. But we are missing something even then."
  3038. >#deca.mare point a hoof upwards.
  3039. >"Somepony has to take care of the sky."
  3040. >She is right, you need a pegasus if you want to stay on script with this one.
  3041. >And someone in current company has conveniently chosen to become one, albeit on a temporary basis.
  3042. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
  3043. >"When if not now? We will not get a better opportunity to practice."
  3044. >You cannot argue against that.
  3045. >But the idea seems somewhat awkward to you.
  3046. >You take a long breath.
  3047. >Calm down, Anon.
  3048. >This is not a permanent thing.
  3049. >You will remain who you are.
  3050. "How long does it take?"
  3051. >"The simulated conversion? We can do it right here and now. I have prepared myself for this eventuality. And we can always undo it just as fast if it gets too inconvenient for you"
  3052. >You nod.
  3053. "Do it."
  3054. >#deca.mare sits down on her haunches.
  3055. >"Alright. Give me your hands and close your eyes. This will help to reduce the confusion."
  3056. >You kneel down before #deca.mare and reach out with your arms.
  3057. >She takes your hands with her hooves and looks at you.
  3058. >You hesitate for a second, then you close your eyes as advised.
  3059. >You can see nothing, but you can still register things with your other senses.
  3060. >Something happens somehow, but you cannot point out what it is.
  3061. >#deca.mare addresses you only five seconds later.
  3062. >"It is done. You can open your eyes. Slowly."
  3063. >You do as she asks.
  3064. >Your eyesight returns.
  3065. >You notice no difference at first, as your field of vision has not changed at all.
  3066. >But something is different.
  3067.  
  3068.  
  3069.  
  3070.  
  3071. >You feel like you are slightly bowing towards #deca.mare while she is still holding your limbs.
  3072. >You are no longer kneeling; you are standing.
  3073. >On the same height as #deca.mare.
  3074. >You are fully aware why this is case, yet your brain needs a moment to catch up with the proper realisation.
  3075. >"I will let go of you now, if you are ready."
  3076. >Despite the off feeling, you can respond to her easily.
  3077. "Yes."
  3078. >#deca.mare releases you.
  3079. >And gravity takes over promptly as you fail to keep your balance and faceplant yourself straight into the snow.
  3080. >You try to react, but every move you make is not very well coordinated.
  3081. >While this is by far neither the proudest nor the most convenient pose of your life, the fall makes you aware of a few things.
  3082. >Especially how this anatomy differs from the one you are used to.
  3083. >Nothing is missing or wrong per se, but everything feels somewhat misaligned.
  3084. >And something completely new stretches around your back and sides.
  3085. >"Anon!"
  3086. >#deca.mare's shout sounds more surprised than shocked.
  3087. >She grabs your upper body with her hooves and hoists you on her lap.
  3088. >You hold still for now as you lie on your side.
  3089. >"Are you feeling alright?"
  3090. >You clear your throat and shake your head to get the snow off before you answer.
  3091. >The movement feels different as well.
  3092. "Yeah, I guess. Just can't keep myself upright."
  3093. >"The signal translation via link looks fine, Anon. You should be able to commandeer the body just like you did with all the other units and systems."
  3094. >Theoretically yes, but reality seems to disagree with that notion.
  3095. "But I don't. This is completely different. The other system did not act like my real body. I felt something somehow, but I always knew that they were not a part of me."
  3096. >A hint of distress rings in your voice.
  3097. >#deca.mare holds you tighter.
  3098. >At least you are held safely in her grip.
  3099. >"And this one does?"
  3100. "Yes and no. That's the problem."
  3101.  
  3102.  
  3103.  
  3104.  
  3105. >You try to formulate your thoughts.
  3106. >Whenever you were 'outside' your own body before, your mind was always attached to a machine of sorts.
  3107. >You could resort to mental commands and consoles to get everything done.
  3108. >And displays of every type were available to you.
  3109. >But you have none of that here.
  3110. >You have to use it like your own body.
  3111. >You had no problem when you entered the simulation for the first time, given that the system enabled and encouraged you to create a realistic replica of your actual biological self.
  3112. >Yet this sudden change is just too much.
  3113. >Plus, you even have no idea how you look at the moment.
  3114. >"This should not be an issue, Anon. I have considered this when I designed this frame for you. It is an exact biological embodiment of an average pegasus stallion, minus an own consciousness."
  3115. "Including the cybernetic parts?"
  3116. >"Yes. Everything is set to be as realistic as possible. The frame is, biologically and genetically speaking, a pony."
  3117. >Like a living puppet then.
  3118. >Granted, a highly detailed one, but a puppet nonetheless.
  3119. >But it is better to have an own "away body".
  3120. >You would not want to visit Equestria if you had to assume the form of another pony, or worse, hijack the body of someone else.
  3121. >You try to move yourself again.
  3122. >Every part of the pony frame responds to you, but you fail to coordinate anything properly.
  3123. >The sensual input you get contradicts everything you are used to feel, despite the fact that the general notions are similar.
  3124. >"Hang on, I think I know the problem. Let me try something."
  3125. >You see a console appearing in front of #deca.mare's eyes, but you are in no condition to register what she is doing.
  3126. >Her eyes dart over it and you notice a gradual change.
  3127. >She dampens the neural stimuli you experience step by step.
  3128. >"Now try it again. Start with something simple like raising a hoof."
  3129. >You do just that.
  3130. >And it works.
  3131.  
  3132.  
  3133.  
  3134.  
  3135.  
  3136. >Yet you can barely feel it happening, as if you were partially numb.
  3137. >This does improve the performance, but it makes it seem unreal at the same time.
  3138. >You can see how you are stretching out 'your' limb.
  3139. >That, and something else.
  3140. >Your arm, or rather your foreleg, is covered in cloth, up to the very tip.
  3141. >The colours and patterns on the fabric resemble an USC pilot uniform; just faithfully adapted to pony anatomy.
  3142. >Clever.
  3143. >An elegant sidestep to avoid showing you features you could disagree with.
  3144. >"Well, I figured you would like to have a say in the matter how you will look later on, so this seemed like the best solution at the moment."
  3145. "True, but not helping when I can't even walk or stand. One leg isn't enough."
  3146. >"Right, about that. I have apparently underestimated the effect of the pony nervous system on your brain. I need to recalibrate the link to prevent a future overstrain."
  3147. "Huh, that's unusual for you, #deca. You're not the type to make grave mistakes."
  3148. >#deca.mare flinches at that.
  3149. >"Sorry. I have not anticipated that anomaly."
  3150. "Anomaly?"
  3151. >"The command system was not designed to allow users the control of foreign organic or partially organic subjects. This intention has never come up in the original project. And the complexity of the organism I have created makes it harder for you to control it if you experience the sensation unfiltered."
  3152. >You shudder.
  3153. "Good thing you found that out before we started populating the planet."
  3154. >"No, you misunderstand. Ponies will not have this problem as their consciousness is simultaneously located inside their bodies and the planet's system. They will be literally born to handle it just fine. Please do not take that as a personal insult, but you are the special case here.
  3155. >You sigh.
  3156. "This is turning into a running gag."
  3157. >"We will make this work. In fact, we can use this session to do this."
  3158. >Now you laugh.
  3159.  
  3160.  
  3161.  
  3162.  
  3163. "Manually altering a season while learning to walk and possibly even to fly? Sounds like a breeze."
  3164. >"Let me quote an old saying: 'Do not knock it before you tried it.' Please follow my instructions while I reset and adjust the basics."
  3165. "Okay, if you say so."
  3166. >You are not very confident this time, but you give it a chance.
  3167. >#deca.mare's first instructions are fairly trivial.
  3168. >They mostly consist of moving your limbs and head into certain directions.
  3169. >She is constantly keeping her gaze fixated on the console as you perform the requested exercises.
  3170. >Then she asks you to stand up, which gave you a hard time at first.
  3171. >Your instinct told you to stand up like you are used to, but you quickly realise that this does not work.
  3172. >Equestrian ponies may have more anatomical liberties than their terran counterparts, but they remain quadrupeds at the end of the day.
  3173. >So you roll yourself out of #deca.mare's lap, rest on your belly, and bring your limbs into position.
  3174. >Then you push yourself up with all fours.
  3175. >It is surprisingly easy.
  3176. >"See? Ten minutes into it and you can already stand."
  3177. >She chuckles quietly.
  3178. >"I bet it took you longer to learn that as a human."
  3179. >You grumble.
  3180. "Rub it in, will you?"
  3181. >#deca.mare has a talent to rile you up at the worst moments.
  3182. >But you cannot really be angry when she does it.
  3183. >Her enthusiasm is worryingly contagious.
  3184. >The next practice set of exercises involves walking.
  3185. >#deca.mare warms you up with a short lesson in prancing to get your coordination of front and hind legs right.
  3186. >The first steps are a little bumpy.
  3187. >But sill, you learn a decent and frequent pace fairly quickly.
  3188. >In fact, you learn that even faster than the previous steps.
  3189. >This is not a surprise to #deca.mare.
  3190. >She presumes the reason for that lies in your biological heritage.
  3191.  
  3192.  
  3193.  
  3194.  
  3195. >Because humans are, despite their bipedal nature, still inherently familiar with the concept of a diagonal walking sequence.
  3196. >After one or two minutes of casual prancing, you take your first steps.
  3197. >Careful and slow, but with a certain degree of determination.
  3198. >There is only the way forward.
  3199. >You begin by walking in a circle.
  3200. >One round, then a second, and a third.
  3201. >#deca.mare's attention is split between you and the console.
  3202. >"Looking good so far. Let me test how much I can get out for you."
  3203. >She intensifies your overall sensitivity in miniscule steps.
  3204. >In the meantime, you got a little more confident in your skills, and add winding lines and curves to your routine.
  3205. >Plus, you now walk with a higher speed.
  3206. >Your pace resembles a casual trot, almost like the ones you have seen on screen.
  3207. >Perhaps with less elegance than what an Equestrian native could muster, but decent for your first hour in a quadruped shape.
  3208. >And you can also feel how the numbness is slowly but surely receding.
  3209. >You begin to see and grasp the world around you a little bit like a pony would.
  3210. >However, you are fully aware that this will neither become a completely accurate representation, nor will you actually become a pony yourself.
  3211. >But this is alright.
  3212. >At least you get a unique insight right now.
  3213. >An insight which will help you tremendously to find a place in Equestria, and settle in whatever fashion you find best.
  3214. >You walk around on the street.
  3215. >Up and down, take one turn here, another corner over there.
  3216. >Yet you always stay relatively close to #deca.mare.
  3217. >You would not want to take another plunge into the snow with no one else nearby.
  3218. >To your luck, #deca.mare is following you around.
  3219. >She gives you all the leeway to experiment while she continues to adjust the parameters of your link.
  3220. >The little console is always floating next to her head.
  3221. >It really reminds you of Twilight in a certain way.
  3222.  
  3223.  
  3224.  
  3225.  
  3226. >Just without a horn and with a flying digital console instead of a scroll and quill.
  3227. >After another short while, you decide to run to see how well that works.
  3228. >You actually stumble a few times, but you can catch your fall after every blunder.
  3229. >Almost unbelievable how well you do after such a short time.
  3230. >You run, jump, and combine several different moves spontaneously.
  3231. >It is actually quite fun.
  3232. >"Anon?"
  3233. >You do not hear #deca.mare the first time.
  3234. >"Anon!"
  3235. >You come to a sudden halt and fall right back into the snow.
  3236. >At least it was your fault this time.
  3237. >You rise up again and shake the snow off before you answer.
  3238. "Yes, #deca.?"
  3239. >"I am done with the readjustments of your sensory input. How do you feel now?"
  3240. >You test your body on the spot.
  3241. >Nothing feels amiss after you have come to terms with the generally different anatomy.
  3242. "I don't think it will ever be my first choice, but I'll manage. No offence."
  3243. >"None taken. And you can move properly?"
  3244. "Yeah, feels natural enough for me."
  3245. >#deca.mare nods.
  3246. >"Good. I had to go to the limits of optimisation to accomplish this. I cannot do more without increasing the link intensity on a permanent basis. Frankly, I am surprised this was necessary after all my previous preparations."
  3247. "'Previous preparations'? What do you mean exactly?"
  3248. >"Well, it was necessary to streamline the neural input of the body to make it compatible to with your neural system in the first place. These changes affect eyesight, hearing, smelling, and so on."
  3249. "I see. I was wondering why I didn't notice any major differences in that regard."
  3250. >"And yet it was not enough."
  3251. >You put one of your forelegs on one of hers.
  3252. "Eh, don't sweat it. I think I got over the shock."
  3253. >You take another look around.
  3254. >Ponyville lies around you, still covered in clouds and snow.
  3255.  
  3256.  
  3257.  
  3258.  
  3259. 46/2
  3260.  
  3261. "You know, I think I'm not ready for flight yet, but how about some easier tasks to get started?"
  3262. >#deca.mare dematerialises the console next to her.
  3263. >"Hm, not a bad idea. Follow me."
  3264. >#deca.mare trots towards Town Hall.
  3265. >A scroll with a list of possible tasks is hung next to the main entrance.
  3266. >Aerial chores are out, so you are currently restricted to mundane physical work.
  3267. >You scour for something suitable in that list.
  3268. >Nothing too delicate would be perfect.
  3269. >That point looks fine.
  3270. >Ploughing fields.
  3271. >Sounds tough, but you are not confined to your usual physical limits in this body.
  3272. >A pony stallion, average as he might be in pony standards, is still much stronger than most, if not all humans.
  3273. "Let's start with this one, shall we?"
  3274. >"Sure. Off to the fields then."
  3275. >A few seconds in which nothing happens.
  3276. "Uhm, the fields are where exactly? I'm not that familiar with the map yet."
  3277. >#deca.mare looks at you and sticks her tongue out.
  3278. >"Find them. You know the rules, everything goes as long as it does not involve magic."
  3279. >So she wants to play with you again.
  3280. >This is probably another challenge.
  3281. >Okay, think.
  3282. >Using orders to the automaton would be cheating.
  3283. >And since you are not a unicorn, "regular" magic is not a thing either.
  3284. >Flight is theoretically possible, but good luck with that.
  3285. >There must be another way to solve this.
  3286. >What does the town look like from the perspectives you know?
  3287. >You search around for landmarks.
  3288. >Canterlot is a good point for orientation.
  3289. >The castle city lies to the north of Ponyville.
  3290. >And most of the fields lie on the south western borders of the town.
  3291. >Which means you have to move away from the mountain.
  3292. >Perfect, you can work with that.
  3293. >You turn to face the direction you assume must be south-west and get on your way.
  3294. >You can hear #deca.mare's steps in the snow.
  3295. >She is directly behind you.
  3296.  
  3297.  
  3298.  
  3299.  
  3300. >You follow the streets and lines of houses, and appreciate the architecture on your way.
  3301. >The structures are simple, primitive even from a technological point of view.
  3302. >And yet they are beautiful in their own right.
  3303. >Most are medium-sized houses, painted in bright colours.
  3304. >And not even one is like the others; they all have something in their features which makes them all unique.
  3305. >A nightmare for treasurers who prefer standardised, streamlined equipment and bases.
  3306. >But a paradise for those who love aesthetics and originality.
  3307. >Perfect for a mostly peaceful family life in a hearty community.
  3308. >Even the oddballs of the mix, like the tree library and the spa have a very special charm.
  3309. >Without a doubt a wonderful place to be.
  3310. >The idea to let this dream come to life gets more attractive with each day, you realise.
  3311. >You have the chance to bring a gem to this universe, so you must try your hardest to get things right.
  3312. >And this, as strange as it might sound, means that you currently have to plough some fields.
  3313. >You notice something as you trot along the road.
  3314. >The density of houses has decreased.
  3315. >Whereas the main streets are accompanied by plenty of houses on every side, the space between the houses here gets larger and larger as you walk.
  3316. >Said space is currently covered in snow.
  3317. >But you know from the show how it usually looks like outside the winter season.
  3318. >Wide patches of grass and countless flower beds sprawling everywhere, as far as the eye can see.
  3319. >And apropos things as far as the eye can see, you spot large rows of trees in the distance, stretching further beyond your line of sight.
  3320. >It is not a forest, as these trees look almost uniform and are planted in a highly regular fashion.
  3321. >You come to a stop.
  3322. >So you have reached the border of the farmland.
  3323. "Sweet Apple..."
  3324. >What was its name again?
  3325. >"...Acres. Ponyville's largest and most prominent farm."
  3326. >#deca.mare stands right next to you.
  3327.  
  3328.  
  3329.  
  3330.  
  3331. >Strange to see it like that.
  3332. >You have never visited it, but you still feel a certain connection to this place due to the stories you have seen.
  3333. >And you know ponies who live there, no, who will there as well.
  3334. >You imagine what it would be like to meet a pony like Applejack.
  3335. >In a casual incident on the street, just like that.
  3336. >And you realise you are currently very happy that it will take at least a millennium before you have a chance to speak with any of those ponies.
  3337. >Well, most of them.
  3338. >Because you would not find appropriate words to talk to them right now, especially when said pony could be the embodiment of honesty.
  3339. >What would you tell?
  3340. >A blatant lie?
  3341. >Out of the question.
  3342. >The truth?
  3343. >Yeah, right.
  3344. >But any half-hearted attempt to explain or evade the question is not likely to fly either.
  3345. >It seems that #deca.mare is not the only one who needs social training.
  3346. >While you are generally able to socialise at least to a degree that you do not stick out negatively in a group, you cannot use that same tactic in a pony society.
  3347. >Even moreso as said society is built around kinship and corporation.
  3348. >There are a lot of things you need to get in order before you can try that.
  3349. >But it should be doable.
  3350. >Unless you get forced to sing the lead in an impromptu song.
  3351. >That would make them give you the boot rather quickly.
  3352. >You chuckle as you resume your trot.
  3353. "Hey #deca, are there any fields nearby which are not full of apple trees? I'd like to make a test run on a simple field before I try an obstacle course with a ploughing wagon."
  3354. >"Yes, of course. Sweet Apple Acres is not the only farm, just the one with the best reputation. But make no mistake, the others produce quality wares as well. They simply do not happen to have a hero figure in the family."
  3355. "One of those then."
  3356. >#deca.mare points at an area in the direct vicinity to the apple farm.
  3357. >This field does not feature any trees.
  3358.  
  3359.  
  3360.  
  3361.  
  3362. >"The Carrot Farm is a good candidate then. Even fields, no obstacles, easy to cultivate."
  3363. >The two of you approach the carrot fields.
  3364. >Just like the rest of the terrain, the field is covered in snow.
  3365. >Two manual ploughing wagons are parked on one edge of the field.
  3366. >You have seen how this particular model was used in this particular situation in the show.
  3367. >At least you know what you are not supposed to do.
  3368. >Then again, you could not even cheat like Twilight did.
  3369. >Oh well, the principle is easy enough in theory.
  3370. >A roofed wagon with two large reinforced wheels, and a metal plough at its front.
  3371. >The construction is not designed for complex movements or agility, as it is meant to move snow out of the way in straight, orderly lines.
  3372. >The pony who controls this gadget steps right under the roof, stands between the wheel axis and the metal plough, and pushes the wagon with his or her own strength by pressing against a handle near the front.
  3373. >Primitive, but effective.
  3374. >And you do not even have to strap yourself into it like you would have to with some other wagons.
  3375. >This is a rather comfortable bonus for you.
  3376. >Because the idea to strap yourself, or to let #deca.mare strap you in a harness of sorts, is rather unorthodox in your eyes.
  3377. >Though you know you will have to deal with it some day, you rather let it play out in small steps.
  3378. >You hop into the vacant square of one plough and look over to the other.
  3379. >#deca.mare does exactly the same.
  3380. >She motions you to bring your plough into position.
  3381. >You nod.
  3382. >With one breath, you walk and push your chest against the wagon, albeit with caution.
  3383. >You can feel the pressure of the handle through the uniform, yet it does not hurt or feel overly inconvenient in any other way.
  3384. >Your muscles and bones can handle it with ease.
  3385. >#deca.mare's cybernetics will probably play their part too.
  3386.  
  3387.  
  3388.  
  3389.  
  3390. >The wheels of the wagon turn slowly in response to your push.
  3391. >A good start, but not fast enough, especially when the resistance of the amassing snow on the front end gets any stronger, as it inevitably will.
  3392. >You need to reach a certain speed, even without a magical speed enhancement.
  3393. >So you put more power into it.
  3394. >The wagon responds surprisingly well to your actions.
  3395. >You plough through the field in a straight line.
  3396. >You are most of the time busy with focussing on the way ahead.
  3397. >The key to success here is not an uncontrolled acceleration, but to constantly apply an even pressure on the handle.
  3398. >The only time you look to the side is to check how #deca.mare fares next to you.
  3399. >She is able to keep up with you.
  3400. >Likewise does she not appear to be accustomed to physical work, but she is strong enough to keep the wagon moving.
  3401. >The plough pushes onwards.
  3402. >While some of the snow gets simply shoved to the side, most of the frozen mass behaves as intended.
  3403. >You simply move it off the field.
  3404. >You notice a slight increase in difficulty over time, yet not enough to throw your pace off course.
  3405. >At the end of the field, you bring the wagon to a stop.
  3406. >Your training as space pilot pays off at this point, as it has taught you the importance of Newtonian principles.
  3407. >So instead of trying to actively brake the wagon and its sheer mass with your own effort and force, you simply let it slow down by gradually reducing your pressure on the handle.
  3408. >Your previous interaction with the wagon has given you enough clues to let you guess its mass and how long it would take for the wagon to stop on its own.
  3409. >And indeed, the contraption comes to a standstill, only half a metre behind the border of the field.
  3410. >A decent bulk of snow and ice has accumulated in front of you.
  3411. >Impressive, you moved all of that mass on your own.
  3412. >Perhaps you can become a productive member of the pony community after all.
  3413.  
  3414.  
  3415.  
  3416.  
  3417. >#deca.mare's wagon stops next to yours.
  3418. >Her result is about equal to what you have achieved.
  3419. >Much to your surprise, you see her panting softly after the ordeal.
  3420. >She is apparently not taking shortcuts of any way either.
  3421. "You alright?"
  3422. >She nods.
  3423. >"Yes. Just not used to work like this. Give me a second."
  3424. >Somewhat ironic.
  3425. >She can shape planets and even stars with her will, but to manually plough a field is taxing for her.
  3426. >But once she has recovered from this temporary exhaustion, you resume your work and clear the field with a few more runs.
  3427. >You hop out of the contraption and look at the field.
  3428. >Your results are quite presentable.
  3429. >Its brown earth is a stark contrast to the white snow around it, but it also looks empty and devoid of life now.
  3430. >The next step would be to spread seeds on it.
  3431. >But you are not feeling like it to be honest with yourself.
  3432. >The work you have done so far has been difficult enough, and there is only so much one pair of individuals can do.
  3433. >At least when both of you stick to mundane standards.
  3434. >#deca.mare parks her plough next to yours and hops out too.
  3435. >She looks physically drained as well.
  3436. >You are fully aware that she can make herself recover from the experience in a blink, though that would miss the point, especially when you try to keep it realistic.
  3437. >In other words, both of you are spent.
  3438. "Call it a day?"
  3439. >#deca.mare nods slowly.
  3440. >"Might be for the best."
  3441. >A heavy breath.
  3442. >"The link issue was not the only thing I underestimated today."
  3443. >You cannot suppress a chuckle.
  3444. "Welcome to my world."
  3445. >A pause.
  3446. "So, going back then?"
  3447. >"Sure. A relaxing watching session will do us good."
  3448.  
  3449.  
  3450.  
  3451.  
  3452. >However, you are not convinced that you can last for another ten hours.
  3453. "I think a full season is a bit too much for me."
  3454. >Now it is #deca.mare who chuckles again.
  3455. >"Actually, season three is not a full season."
  3456. "Oh?"
  3457. >"Hmhm. It only has thirteen episodes instead of twenty-six. The reasons for that were... complicated, but of no relevance anymore."
  3458. >#deca.mare wraps a forehoof around your body.
  3459. >This makes you aware of your additional limbs again.
  3460. >Strange, you have almost forgotten their presence while you were busy.
  3461. >And if you are honest with yourself, you have no idea how to use them as of now.
  3462. >"Think you can make it through it?"
  3463. >You take another long breath.
  3464. >You feel quite done after today.
  3465. >But in contrast to any other activity, you are not required to do anything actively when you watch the show.
  3466. >And it is a rather wholesome and relaxing thing to do.
  3467. "Alright, but please change me back first."
  3468. >"Of course. You know what to do."
  3469. >You close your eyes and wait.
  3470. >#deca.mare retracts her limb and you feel a familiar change building up.
  3471. >Another five seconds pass.
  3472. >"Done."
  3473. >You open your eyes and you are back to your old self.
  3474. >#deca.mare materialises a pair of mechanical doors on the edge of the carrot field.
  3475. >"Whenever you are ready."
  3476. >You lay a hand on #deca.mare's back and scratch her neck.
  3477. >She visibly enjoys the treatment.
  3478. "I am. Let's go."
  3479. >You walk side by side towards the door.
  3480.  
  3481.  
  3482.  
  3483.  
  3484. "Hope you're not taken aback by my reaction. I think I prefer my original self. Being a human is just more to my liking you know?"
  3485. >"Not at all, Anon. I told this much before."
  3486. "Yeah, you did, but I thought you might have expected me to reconsider after trying it out."
  3487. >#deca.mare shakes her head in obvious disapproval.
  3488. >"Nonsense. You are who you are. And nothing shall change that. Ever. My suggestion to try this was just an idea to help you integrate into the Equestrian society while we are down there. If it proves to be too much to..."
  3489. >You wave your other hand in a dismissive manner.
  3490. "Nah. I think I'll manage for a while now and then. But I must admit I'm not used to sprouting some wings all of a sudden. That will take a while, I guess."
  3491. >You reach the door.
  3492. >It opens automatically.
  3493. >"Funny that you mention it, Anon. You are not the only one in this regard."
  3494. "Huh? That sounds ominous. Do you plan to become pegasus yourself?"
  3495. >"No, I was not talking about me. You will see."
  3496. >And the pair of double doors shut behind you as enter the command deck.
  3497.  
  3498.  
  3499.  
  3500.  
  3501. 47
  3502.  
  3503. >#deca.mare and you assume your usual position inside the command chair.
  3504. >It is a good feeling to do nothing but sitting down side by side with no tasks at hand that require immediate attention.
  3505. >You can simply relax and enjoy the show.
  3506. >Though you are grateful for the reduced watch time due to the rather taxing day.
  3507. >#deca.mare claims her legitimate seat upon your lap with her upper body and you put your hands on her shoulder blades.
  3508. >Everything is set and ready to go.
  3509. >#deca.mare readjusts the screen and initialises the playback.
  3510. >By now this has become a familiar process to you.
  3511. >You lean back and see what awaits you in this season, one episode at a time.
  3512. >And despite its short span in comparison to season one and two, it is nevertheless filled with action and vital pieces of information.
  3513. >The introduction of the Crystal Empire is of course the first and most obvious one, as it ultimately functions as a massive conduit of harmony.
  3514. >Hell, even its locals are all collective arbiters of its powers.
  3515. >Something that #deca.mare has included in her plans for sure.
  3516. >In fact, you can imagine what she envisions without even asking her.
  3517. >And it is highly convenient that the city itself is largely made of crystalline structures to begin with, especially from a technological standpoint.
  3518. >Because the same holds true for the innards of energy cells.
  3519. >If your hypothesis is correct, then it can be converted into a massive energy storage plus conductor with a few minor tweaks.
  3520. >Ideal for an automaton.
  3521. >You try to wrap your head around that.
  3522. >A whole city filled to the brim with harmonic energy.
  3523. >With a guiding spirit primed to create harmony and cooperation, further backed up by thousands of individuals who live in said structure and act like the catalyst of its power.
  3524. >Truly a force to be reckoned with.
  3525.  
  3526.  
  3527.  
  3528.  
  3529. >But as astounding as this concept is, this is by far not the only thing you noticed.
  3530. >Because the season also revealed new insight on two of the most important figures in the whole world.
  3531. "So this is what you plan for them."
  3532. >"Anon?"
  3533. "The Royal Sisters. You can't have them control the sun and the moon, so you give them these abilities in return"
  3534. >You instruct the screen to show two halted frames of two different episodes from the season you have just watched.
  3535. >The first shows an image of Princess Luna inside a thicket by night.
  3536. "Luna can enter ponies' dreams and commune with them that way. And Celestia..."
  3537. >The screen switches to the second frame.
  3538. >This one shows Princess Celestia and Twilight Sparkle in an ethereal alleyway.
  3539. >Pieces of the latter's memory are on display on both sides.
  3540. "Can collect and view memory fragments from other ponies, presumably to help her in her cause to keep Equestria united in the way it is."
  3541. >You must grin.
  3542. "Quite ingenious to be honest. I assume that means they will both have a certain authority over Equestria's mainframe, correct? They could not do this otherwise."
  3543. >#deca.mare confirms your theory.
  3544. >"You are on point, Anon. That is my plan. Although they will not know the whole truth either. For them it will be just a form of magic they can tap, like harmony and all the rest."
  3545. "You think they can't handle the truth?"
  3546. >"No, that is not the reason for keeping them in the dark. Point is, they shall not think for even second that their world is not real. Because it will be. A true, living world in every little aspect."
  3547. >You can understand why she thinks like that.
  3548. >Knowing the full truth can sometimes be more cumbersome than knowing only parts of it.
  3549. >And this here might be one of those cases.
  3550. >None of Equestria's inhabitants shall feel like puppets, for they are not supposed to become some.
  3551.  
  3552.  
  3553.  
  3554.  
  3555. >Yet there is more.
  3556. >Because the most notable event has yet to be discussed.
  3557. >And this is, of course, none other than Twilight Sparkle's ascension.
  3558. >You have already known Princess Cadence, but most of her past and origin has never been revealed.
  3559. >Come to think of it, the same is true for the Royal Sisters.
  3560. >But now you have seen how a new alicorn has been... born?
  3561. >Created?
  3562. >Appeared?
  3563. >Yes, stick with appeared for now.
  3564. "Hey #deca, how does the alicorn thing work exactly? Because it seems to me that I understand it less and less the more I see about it."
  3565. >"Yes, this has been a difficult matter and sparked a very heated debate, even back in the day. You cannot imagine what kind of uproar a pair of wings can cause."
  3566. >That sounds hard to believe for an outsider.
  3567. >Perhaps one had to be present back then to understand it.
  3568. >Then again, it should not be so hard to imagine, considering where you are and with whom you are spending probably the rest of your life.
  3569. >Stranger things have indeed happened before.
  3570. >"Anyway, to get back to your question, I have worked on the concept and came to an agreeable solution."
  3571. "Then let's hear it."
  3572. >"Right, you have probably noticed that Twilight and Cadence are unlike the Royal Sisters, did you not?"
  3573. "Well, Twilight is obvious. She looks practically the way she did before, plus wings. Her body hasn't changed otherwise. But Cadence looks much more like the other two."
  3574. >"Are you sure? Look again."
  3575. >The main screen displays four different images, each frame showing one of the four alicorns as they are presented in the show.
  3576. >You take a closer look at Cadence, then at the Royal Sisters.
  3577. >Their alicorn anatomy bears many similarities, but one thing gives it away.
  3578. >The manes and tails.
  3579.  
  3580.  
  3581.  
  3582.  
  3583. >The Royal Sisters have an exceptional aura around them.
  3584. >Their hair perpetually flows as if it was caught in a soft breeze.
  3585. >Add to that a unique colour combination to put an emphasis on the effect.
  3586. >The colours of an aurora borealis for Celestia, and a dark-shaded night sky for Luna.
  3587. >Cadence has none of this.
  3588. >The colour combination of her hair is striking, but it has no symbolic effect.
  3589. >And there is no flow.
  3590. >These are pretty strong indicators for what #deca.mare meant.
  3591. >The Royal Sisters look more like majestic figures, though this does mean that Cadence looks inherently bad.
  3592. >In fact, her figure is quite imposing, but she has a little bit too much pink for your tastes if you are honest.
  3593. >Anyway, back on topic.
  3594. "Yes, I see what you mean. So how do they differ?"
  3595. >"By dividing them in two different tiers: Naturally born alicorns, and ascended ones. Alicorns are a very rare sight throughout the whole world, but all of them are generally considered to be heroic figures or virtuous exemplars and fulfil a very specific role, usually in leading positions."
  3596. >#deca.mare projects a list of properties.
  3597. >"There is no distinct description of what they are actually able to do, so much of an alicorn's power depends on the individual talent. However, some things can be said regardless. All alicorns are, both magically and genetically speaking, hybrid breeds. They literally embody each of the three pony races to the same degree."
  3598. "That means Twilight got more than just a pair of wings."
  3599. >"So to speak, yes."
  3600. >#deca.mare projects a three dimensional grid on the screen.
  3601. >The grid shows two models, and you recognise them instantly.
  3602. >The Royal Sisters.
  3603. >Their body charts are further adorned by various lines of text.
  3604. >You can also see schematics of their individual cybernetic implants.
  3605. >They look much more intricate and sophisticated than those of 'regular' ponies, almost frightening even.
  3606.  
  3607.  
  3608.  
  3609.  
  3610. >Not that #deca.mare would use subpar technology for ponies in the first place; they will all be provided with high-quality items.
  3611. >But these two are highly unique in their configuration.
  3612. >"Naturally born alicorns possess a stronger magic than their ascended counterparts, since their bodies are right from the start attuned to their roles. It literally comes 'naturally' to them. They are usually larger, stronger, and generally capable of greater feats. But they are also much, much rarer."
  3613. >#deca.mare exhales sharply.
  3614. >"To be honest with you, it is probably for the best if the Royal Sisters remain the only two of their kind. It makes sense for them, as they will become the face of a civilisation, but it is not a good idea to cram more ponies into such a position from birth."
  3615. "But aren't ponies somewhat affected by fate anyway? I thought their talents begin to manifest themselves very early."
  3616. >"That is true, though there is a difference between talents which show themselves over time, and being born into something from the first second onwards. Some ponies will excel as leaders and ascend eventually, but what do you think happens to ponies who get born as an alicorn? Then it is expected of them from everypony around them to become something special, no matter what they do or wish for. This is a huge difference."
  3617. >You have to agree with #deca.mare.
  3618. >Situations of this calibre can easily become actually detrimental for the ponies involved.
  3619. >And then harm others in the process as well by extension.
  3620. >Because as honourable as such a title is, the responsibilities it comes with are tremendous as well.
  3621. >And it might alienate those souls from their surroundings, as they will never have a chance to truly fit in, even by Equestrian standards.
  3622. >So it is better to let ponies earn these titles through their own merits, rather than determining their status through bloodlines and genetics.
  3623.  
  3624.  
  3625.  
  3626.  
  3627. "And what about ascendants? Those who are not 'natural' alicorns?"
  3628. >"Right."
  3629. >#deca.mare adjusts the screen again.
  3630. >Now you see a model of both Princess Cadence and Princess Twilight Sparkle, also including texts and schematics.
  3631. >And you spot the differences immediately.
  3632. >These cybernetics show noticeable improvements as well, but they do not reach the same level of complexity.
  3633. >In fact, you notice that these are practically enhanced models of the "basic" variety.
  3634. >You detect enough similarities to come to that conclusion.
  3635. >"Ascended ponies achieve their status, as the name suggests, through a rite of ascension. This usually involves one or several great deeds in advance and often comes with a special title. The best example is of course the one you have seen minutes ago. Twilight Sparkle has gained her status as princess through her own efforts and that of her friends. It was the process that counted in this decision. Everything from the liberation of Princess Luna to fixing the ancient spell."
  3636. >A pause.
  3637. >"Concerning their abilities, the ascension process does improve ponies physically, yet not to the level of a natural alicorn. They will not suddenly tower over their peers and change all that drastically. But what it does cause is a significant boost to their individual talents. See Cadence's love magic, for example. It has the ability to strengthen the bond of already existing couples, or lets ponies find their true matches for life. This is a considerable power. A lasting positive effect without resorting to mind manipulation. You can call it a blessing, if you will."
  3638. >The image shifts to Twilight Sparkle's schematic.
  3639. >"Twilight's case is a little bit different as her expertise is much more subtle and not bound to a certain spell, though equally considerable and lasting in the long run. She and her friends are basically like a conduit of harmonic power and use it to spread friendship and cooperation, hence their connection to the Elements."
  3640.  
  3641.  
  3642.  
  3643.  
  3644. "And that power alone can move mountains in Equestria."
  3645. >"Figuratively speaking, yes. And like all strong powers, it has to be used in moderation, and only where it is needed. Remember, the aim is to encourage and inspire, not to enforce. All individuals can live in whatever fashion they prefer. Well, as long as that does not impair the life of others in the process, of course."
  3646. >An elegant solution.
  3647. >A concept to spread a certain set of positive values without any patronising or authoritarian notions behind it.
  3648. >You can even see how that might work with the diarchy, or possibly even polyarchy of Equestria.
  3649. >Albeit with royals who utilise arguably less direct political sway than most regents you have heard of in terran history.
  3650. >#deca.mare's concept sounds convincing so far, but there is one question which she has not yet answered.
  3651. "That leaves us still with the question of what to do with the 'villains'. They will exist as well in some form, I presume."
  3652. >"Yes. A necessary evil, I am afraid. A certain conflict is needed for harmony to form properly. Ponies will have to face this hurdle several times."
  3653. >#deca.mare sighs.
  3654. >"Not the prettiest side of the medal, I must admit, but there is still a silver lining. Because as much as the system encourages cooperation, so does it give the opportunity to redemption. Everyone can reach that state eventually in one way or another. Literally everyone."
  3655. >Hard do imagine after what you have seen in the last season.
  3656. >After all, a certain king was literally torn to shreds.
  3657. >Not that you minded back when you saw the scene, as it was a justified consequence for someone who has enslaved a whole country, but it creates a problem if you want to run with that in reality.
  3658.  
  3659.  
  3660.  
  3661.  
  3662. >#deca.mare turns around to look at you directly.
  3663. >"Anon, please believe me when I say it. I will not leave anyone behind in the end. Yes, some will have it rougher than others. That is an unfortunate truth. But I will make this work for everyone. That is my promise, both to you and Equestria."
  3664. "I believe you and your ambition, but is that actually possible? Are you sure that some haven't done far too much to be redeemed?"
  3665. >#deca.mare looks back to the screen.
  3666. >"Well, if you use that line of reasoning, then the same must apply to me, does it not?"
  3667. >Oof, she has got you there.
  3668. >You pull her in for another hug.
  3669. "You're right, #deca. Sorry for bringing this up. I didn't think before I said it."
  3670. >Perhaps you should change the subject.
  3671. >You have discussed the most pressing matters that had to be discussed.
  3672. >There is no need to dwell further on gloomy topics.
  3673. "So, how long until we are there?"
  3674. >"At S891P04? We still need a few hours. It is quite a distance."
  3675. "Then I think it's time for a quick meal and a nap. I'm pretty much burned out."
  3676. >You rise out of the chair and stretch your arms.
  3677. >You prepare to head for the door, but something is not as usual.
  3678. >#deca.mare has not risen with you.
  3679. "You coming?"
  3680. >#deca.mare shakes her head, with a sad expression.
  3681. >"Sorry, not this time. I have to stay here and prepare for what is about to come. Not enough time for me to sleep."
  3682. "You're sure about that?"
  3683. >"Absolutely, Anon. I am afraid you have to go alone today."
  3684. >You think about that for a second.
  3685. >You are absolutely tempted to go to bed after today's ordeal.
  3686. >And the Canterlot chamber provides a luxury for you which you could not even dream of only a week ago.
  3687. >But you do not want to go there alone.
  3688. >Because #deca.mare's presence is the only thing which makes it really worth it.
  3689. >So the decision is obvious.
  3690.  
  3691.  
  3692.  
  3693.  
  3694. "Hm, alright."
  3695. >You take your seat again.
  3696. "If you stay here, then so do I."
  3697. >"Please do not act silly, Anon. You need your rest. I cannot recommend you to stay awake longer than your brain can handle naturally. That is extremely unhealthy."
  3698. "Fine, I'll sleep. But I won't leave you here alone."
  3699. >#deca.mare does not answer.
  3700. >A smug grin forms on your face.
  3701. "You can't tell me where I shall sleep. You're not my mother."
  3702. >"That is true. And you are fine with this?"
  3703. "#deca, I have slept inside oversized tin cans for the last few years of my life."
  3704. >Technically speaking, you still do, but that is beside the point.
  3705. >You wave your arm in an overarching gesture.
  3706. "All of this here is nothing but comfort in comparison to that. I think I'll manage. In any case, I won't leave your side."
  3707. >You materialise a cushion and a blanket for you.
  3708. "I won't take 'no' for answer."
  3709. >#deca.mare closes in to give you another kiss.
  3710. >"You are a stubborn creature, Anon."
  3711. >A smile.
  3712. >"Thank you."
  3713. >You cover yourself with the blanket and lean back.
  3714. "Eh, don' thank me yet. I might snore."
  3715. >"Oh, I think I can turn this off quite easily if I have to."
  3716. >#deca.mare grazes your face with the hair of her tail.
  3717. >"I might get stupid ideas if you distract me too much."
  3718. >The nonchalant tone in her voice tells you everything you need to know.
  3719. >Typical, she has to get touchy as a last resort.
  3720. >Though you know she only does so in jest.
  3721. "Good night, #deca."
  3722. >"Sleep well, Anon."
  3723. >You close your eyes and try to fall asleep.
  3724. >Faint clicking and beeping sounds come up now and then, indicating that #deca.mare makes changes to the images and settings on the screens and consoles.
  3725. >But that is not enough to deter you from sleep.
  3726. >You instinctively wrap one arm around #deca.mare's body.
  3727. >And she responds to it by sweeping over your cheek with her hair.
  3728. >Softly and subtle this time.
  3729. >You let your body relax, and sleep claims you shortly after.
  3730.  
  3731.  
  3732.  
  3733.  
  3734. 48
  3735.  
  3736. >You are alone for now.
  3737. >But yet you know you are not at the same time.
  3738. >Because someone is watching over you, in every second of your life.
  3739. >And you can give something in return as well.
  3740. >You have found your home, and your destiny.
  3741. >No more doubts and uncertainties about what might come tomorrow.
  3742. >Sure, being a pilot is a decent thing, but is it really something you would have wanted to do until your pension?
  3743. >Even if you did, it would not have been a very fulfilling career.
  3744. >A variety of different life choices and scenarios play out before your inner eye.
  3745. >Becoming a squad leader was a possibility.
  3746. >Maybe you even get to lead one of the more prominent squads.
  3747. >One of those where you sit in your own corvette during missions.
  3748. >But aiming higher?
  3749. >That is where it gets harder.
  3750. >The post of an USC officer on a cap ship requires a lot of effort already.
  3751. >Though you think you could have done this if you really wanted to.
  3752. >But the climb only gets steeper from here on out.
  3753. >The dreamed goal of every officer is an own command eventually.
  3754. >To be the captain of a cruiser.
  3755. >And the most prestigious of those eventually rise up to the post on an USC destroyer or carrier.
  3756. >But the chances of that are equal to getting the jackpot in the lottery.
  3757. >And there is of course the ever so present threat of getting killed in an unfortunate moment.
  3758. >Pilots are the most threatened breed of them all, but that does not mean you are safe on a larger ship either.
  3759. >Being seated inside thick armour platings and high energy shield grids may deter most petty pirates and low-life criminals, but the few adversaries who choose to challenge you on a cap ship generally come with the confidence and the means to actually be a threat.
  3760. >No, none of these visions suits you.
  3761. >Because you end up alone in all of them.
  3762. >All but one.
  3763. >And it is, ironically enough, the one where you get lost in space.
  3764. >Now you are lost, but not alone.
  3765. >And this all that matters.
  3766.  
  3767.  
  3768.  
  3769.  
  3770. 49
  3771.  
  3772. >You open your eyes again and find yourself inside the command chair.
  3773. >Almost everything is still as you have left it the day before.
  3774. >Minus one thing.
  3775. >The most important one of all.
  3776. >The spot next to you is empty.
  3777. >You need a second to comprehend what is going on.
  3778. "#deca?"
  3779. >No answer.
  3780. >Not good.
  3781. >A faint chill runs down your spine.
  3782. >Did something happen while you were asleep?
  3783. >Not likely.
  3784. >#deca.mare would have woken you up if she really needed you for something important.
  3785. >You look at the main screen.
  3786. >It shows an image of the world that is now de facto future Equestria.
  3787. >The model of the planet is divided into different coloured areas, indicating the regions in which #deca.mare has divided the planet and what kind of treatment they require in what specific point in time.
  3788. >Countless additional lines of text complement the image.
  3789. >The smaller secondary screen sets on both sides show various lists of equipment and the state of the vessels inside the hangar.
  3790. >Most are set on standby, but you see they are ready to leave at a moment's notice.
  3791. >You can see nothing out of the ordinary,
  3792. >No apparent alarms, no emergency, and no malfunctioning systems.
  3793. >So why are you left alone on the command deck?
  3794. >And more importantly, where is #deca.mare and what are you supposed to do?
  3795. >You could possibly order the automated system to look for her.
  3796. >And should you try to follow her, wherever she might be?
  3797. >A little notification appears on the main screen.
  3798. >You have a new personal message.
  3799. >It consists of one line of text.
  3800. >"No need to worry. Stay seated."
  3801. >A small horseshoe is set underneath the text as a signature.
  3802. >Well, okay.
  3803. >Question answered.
  3804. >Seems like #deca.mare has caught wind of you waking up, and felt your uneasy state in time.
  3805. >And indeed, a familiar mechanical whirr sounds somewhere behind you.
  3806.  
  3807.  
  3808.  
  3809.  
  3810. >Happy trotting sounds are coming closer.
  3811. >Amazing, you can already read #deca.mare's mood on the basis of how her steps sound.
  3812. >You lean forward and turn to the side to look in her direction.
  3813. >A friendly pony face stares at you straight on.
  3814. >She has a plate on her back, but you cannot see what is on it.
  3815. >Her head and neck block your vision.
  3816. >"Sorry for the delay, but a small experiment of mine got somewhat out of control."
  3817. >That can mean literally everything by her standards.
  3818. "What happened, #deca?"
  3819. >#deca.mare blushes and looks to the side.
  3820. >"It is a little bit embarrassing."
  3821. "Aw, come on. I think we're past the point of shame. Just tell me."
  3822. >A small intake of air.
  3823. >"You see, I thought I would try something after I was done with my preparations. You were still fast asleep, so there was enough time left."
  3824. "Yes, and?"
  3825. >"And I went to the kitchen to make an appropriate breakfast for our special occasion. I looked for an extraordinary recipe... and found one."
  3826. >The slight awkward tone is suspicious.
  3827. "What recipe did you use?"
  3828. >"Do you remember the cake who one of your squad elders used to make shortly before he retired from active duty?"
  3829. >You groan with a facepalm.
  3830. "Oh God, that thing."
  3831. >"Anon? I found the recipe in your logs and you wrote it was funny back then. Your memories of this day were merry too."
  3832. >Now you laugh.
  3833. "Yes, because that 'cake' resembled this guy's personality. Crazy from beginning to end. Only an old hand like him could even get the idea to make a cake out of several mashed synthetic flavoured food rations and 'bake' it with the scrapped core of an energy cannon. The bottles of illegally imported booze didn't help either."
  3834. >You shake your head with a sly smile.
  3835. "Old chap never told us how much of the stuff actually went into his cake. The security chief swore he would get his head for this stunt, but that was before he passed out."
  3836.  
  3837.  
  3838.  
  3839.  
  3840. >Ah yes, nostalgia.
  3841. >These funny moments were all too rare back then.
  3842. >But you are not here to sulk in the past.
  3843. >This is a day of celebration after all.
  3844. "And you wanted to recreate this piece of... 'confectionary art' and ran into some problems along the way."
  3845. >"Hmhm. But the result turned out decent in the end. With some extra effort."
  3846. "Really, I'm surprised. You can brew up the genetic strings for organisms out of basic matter, but you struggle with a cake?"
  3847. >#deca.mare coughs coyly.
  3848. >"Because the instructions of that are very clear-cut. The recipe, on the other hoof, was not. I had to interpret more than a little."
  3849. "It can't be that bad."
  3850. >"Witness it yourself."
  3851. >A console appears next to you with the log entry you made this night.
  3852. >You thought it was an evening to be remembered , so you kept a note with a crude description of the cake and its ingredients.
  3853. >And boy, what kind of nonsense you written there in some passages.
  3854. >Good thing that personal logs are usually not screened, unless a person is suspected of being involved in severe misdoings.
  3855. >Plus, a certain chief decided to keep quiet too, presumably due to his own measly tolerance level.
  3856. "Why didn't you ask me? We could have made it together."
  3857. >"It was supposed to be a surprise. I did not plan to keep you waiting though."
  3858. "Eh, no harm, no foul."
  3859. >A pause.
  3860. "So, now that you have already gone through the effort to manually bake that thing, let's see it."
  3861. >#deca.mare turns to the side so that you can look at the plate on her back.
  3862. >You examine the cake.
  3863. >It is a nearly perfect replica.
  3864. >A rather simple design; one layer of mixed synthetic pastry, covered in glaze.
  3865. >Station rations were not that generous, so you had to make do with what you had at hand.
  3866. >The old man baked that damn thing, but everyone donated a small part of their own personal provisions for this.
  3867. >It was one the few happy moments in an otherwise unspectacular life.
  3868.  
  3869.  
  3870.  
  3871.  
  3872. >But it taught you to appreciate the little things in life.
  3873. >And this short, yet funny occasion was one of them.
  3874. >Though that guy did a damn fine job with the limited supply he was given, you have to admit that.
  3875. >Because as simple as the cake was, he managed to draw a few outlines on it with the last remnants of synthetic paste.
  3876. >Enough to adorn the surface of the cake with your squad's emblem, next to the symbol of the USC.
  3877. >And #deca.mare even replicated that perfectly, although with a slight intended modification.
  3878. >A small horseshoe has joined the other two, right underneath them.
  3879. >"And? What do you say?"
  3880. >You hold your breath before you answer.
  3881. "It's great, #deca. Thank you."
  3882. >"I am glad you like it. How about we eat it while we reach our home?"
  3883. "We're still not there? Damn, I thought I slept longer than that."
  3884. >"Oh, you did, but I halted the last jump to wait until you woke up. We started this flight together, so we shall reach our destination together."
  3885. "#deca, have I ever told that I don't deserve you?"
  3886. >"No, and I would not accept that notion."
  3887. >You raise the plate off #deca.mare's back with great care.
  3888. "I've got it. Hop on and let's do it."
  3889. >You two assume your regular positions, and you hold the plate with the cake on your lap.
  3890. "Man, this thing is almost too good to eat."
  3891. >"We can always make more if you want to have a keepsake. But this one was meant to be eaten and you would not want to waste it, now would you?"
  3892. "Guilt-tripping is uncool, #deca. But I see your point."
  3893. >You look at the cake again, then at the screen.
  3894. "Cake first, then jumping, or the other way round?"
  3895. >"The latter. Then we can eat our first breakfast in the orbit of our new home."
  3896. "Sounds lovely."
  3897. >"Just like yesterday?"
  3898. >You nod.
  3899. "Just like yesterday."
  3900. >The console with the singular large button emergences once more, and #deca.mare adjusts the main screen to show an image of space.
  3901. >Judging from the angle, you assume it is aligned to show what is happening in front of the ship.
  3902.  
  3903.  
  3904.  
  3905.  
  3906. >And what you see so far is rather unspectacular in comparison.
  3907. >A standard space scene in an empty sector with stars in the distance, but not much else.
  3908. >Yet the anticipation is rising.
  3909. >You hold your hand up, ready to give the command.
  3910. >#deca.mare is ready as well.
  3911. >As if on cue, you begin to count to three simultaneously.
  3912. >And you push as one.
  3913. >You keep your eyes trained on the main screen.
  3914. >The typical signs of an impending jump build up.
  3915. >You instinctively grab #deca.mare's hoof with your hand.
  3916. >You are about to go to Equestria.
  3917. >Together as one.
  3918. >The charge process nears completion.
  3919. >The first faint clues of the forming light corridor become visible.
  3920. >#deca.mare leans onto you as the corridor finally emerges to engulf the ship within its light.
  3921. >A short delay, then you are through.
  3922. >The imposing form of a planet looms directly before you on the other side.
  3923. >And you know this is not a random world, but the one you chosen for yourself to become your new home away from home.
  3924. >The sight is just as the scanners have depicted it.
  3925. >A potentially highly fertile world, currently covered mostly in ice and snow.
  3926. >Only its equatorial zones harbour easily accessible patches of land in the planet's current state.
  3927. >But this about to change very soon.
  3928. >All you have to do is to put a lot of effort into it.
  3929. >Just like a radiant garden.
  3930. >It takes time and care to turn it into the gem it can be.
  3931. >For you, and for the millions of souls that are still waiting to be born.
  3932. >Maybe some words of celebration are in order.
  3933.  
  3934.  
  3935.  
  3936.  
  3937. "I know how long you have waited for this moment to happen, #deca. Welcome to Equestria. You will never be alone again."
  3938. >#deca.mare turns to you.
  3939. >The expression in her eyes is heart melting.
  3940. >"Welcome to Equestria too, Anon. It is not your first home, but I hope it will grow close to your heart over time. I will do anything to make that happen."
  3941. >And you seal your promises with a long, tight hug.
  3942. >Minutes pass before you break your embrace.
  3943. "One thing left to do before we can eat the cake."
  3944. >You bring the star chart up again and select the entry of your current target.
  3945. >Then you select the properties entry logs.
  3946. >You single out the line which encodes the planet's designation and wipe the name "S891P04".
  3947. >You motion to #deca.mare to proceed.
  3948. "Mares first. It's primarily your master piece, so you deserve the honour."
  3949. >#deca.mare begins to type mentally.
  3950. >The name "Equestria" appears on the screen.
  3951. >But she does not confirm the choice.
  3952. >"Your step, Anon. Nothing would have ever happened without you. And as such, you deserve a part of the honour as well. This is our mutual dream from here on out."
  3953. "Fair enough."
  3954. >You confirm the choice to the automaton.
  3955. >The screen switches back to the standard star chart.
  3956. >Equestria now bears its official name.
  3957. >Too bad nobody can inform the terran authorities about the change.
  3958. >No matter, they cannot do anything about it anyway.
  3959. "Well then, cake time."
  3960. >You materialise a knife and divide the cake into eight pieces of equal size.
  3961. "Do you need a plate?"
  3962. >"Not necessary, thank you."
  3963. >#deca.mare picks one piece for herself.
  3964. >You materialise a smaller plate and a fork for you, pick one piece and let the larger plate with the remaining cake float next to you.
  3965. >Now you have enough room to eat.
  3966. >You look over to #deca.mare.
  3967. >She holds her slice between her hooves to eat it like that, apparently.
  3968. >You nod over to #deca.mare, she nods back.
  3969.  
  3970.  
  3971.  
  3972.  
  3973. "Here's to fulfilled long dreams and new times."
  3974. >"I could not have it said better myself."
  3975. >And with these words spoken, you two take a bite of your cake.
  3976. >You slightly flinch at first due to the strong flavour of booze mixed with the mishmash of different synthetic undertones.
  3977. >#deca.mare has done a great job at emulating the taste of these rations.
  3978. >But eating fresh food in the last couple of days has spoiled you to a degree.
  3979. >You can still bear the artificial taste, yet is by far not as convenient to you as you were used to.
  3980. >But the alcohol flavour is pretty pungent.
  3981. >She must have added too much of that.
  3982. >#deca.mare on the hand, fares not so well.
  3983. >She is actually coughing after her first bite.
  3984. >That combination has been too much for her.
  3985. "#deca, are you okay?"
  3986. >You wrap one arm around #deca.mare's body to stabilise her.
  3987. >She finally regains her composure after a few seconds.
  3988. >"You were right. Your former squad mate is crazy. How can anyone come up with such a thing?"
  3989. "No idea. But he can. Though to be fair, I think you might have taken a tad too much fuel for the cake, if you catch my drift."
  3990. >"Then please promise me something, Anon."
  3991. "Okay, what is it?"
  3992. >"Please never use 'a healthy swig' as measurement in a recipe again."
  3993. >You cannot suppress a faint grunt of amusement.
  3994. "I'll try."
  3995. >You look at the cake.
  3996. "Want to eat it regardless?"
  3997. >"Sure, I think I can handle this, now that I know what I have to expect. But let us refrain from emulating the biochemical effect of alcohol on a body, for both of us."
  3998. "Yep, good decision."
  3999. >You doubt you would want to see what #deca.mare is like when she is completely hammered.
  4000. >No, not a good idea.
  4001. >You keep eating your cake together as you watch the ship nearing the planet to enter in its stable orbit.
  4002.  
  4003.  
  4004.  
  4005.  
  4006. >And despite #deca.mare's initial reaction to her own cake based on your sloppy recipe, she eats more of it without another issue.
  4007. >You assume she has probably diminished the taste for herself to prevent another overreaction.
  4008. >At last, you manage to eat the entire cake while you circle around the planet.
  4009. >You dematerialise the leftover plates and your fork without a word.
  4010. >#deca.mare looks at the screen, deep in her own thoughts.
  4011. >You give her the time she needs.
  4012. >Then she raises her voice.
  4013. >"Everything is prepared and primed for action. We can start any moment."
  4014. >You observe the world before you one last time.
  4015. >It will never again look like it does now.
  4016. >Despite all its rough attributes, said wilderness has a certain charm.
  4017. >One you have to largely remove, unfortunately.
  4018. >Yet you must do so to realise the best idea you have ever heard of.
  4019. >You take another breath.
  4020. "It's time. Let's get to work, #deca."
  4021. >"Yes, Anon."
  4022. >Dozens of blast doors and airlocks along the hull of the mother ship open up only a second later, revealing all sorts of equipment.
  4023. >Equestria's history begins today.
  4024.  
  4025.  
  4026.  
  4027.  
  4028. 50
  4029.  
  4030. >A ball of fire enters Equestria's atmosphere.
  4031. >If anyone were around on the surface, it would have looked to them like a meteorite heading straight to the surface.
  4032. >But upon closer inspection, it would have become obvious that this is not quite the case.
  4033. >Because said 'meteorite' is neither made of rock, nor does it fall uncontrolled towards the ground.
  4034. >In fact, it is a stationary nexus unit, currently tied to no less than half a dozen fighter units, and remotely piloted by a very busy mare.
  4035. >This nexus unit is the first step towards claiming the planet.
  4036. >Equipped with capable solar panels as well as basic refining and manufacturing tools, it shall both act as an energy resupply station for mobile ground units, and as processing facility for the resources that are harvested and delivered by said ground units.
  4037. >#deca.mare has insisted on building and dropping that thing herself, given its complexity and hefty resource costs, not to mention the tricky delivery.
  4038. >All six fighters have to be steered carefully at the same time; something you are most certainly not able to do in your current state.
  4039. >However, that does not mean you are forced to idle either.
  4040. >Six additional fighters enter the atmosphere just a few minutes later.
  4041. >Each of these carry one mobile unit.
  4042. >The vessels are all simultaneously piloted by you.
  4043. >This is a much easier feat, as you can simply fly one ship and mentally order the others to follow suit in formation.
  4044. >Their in-built automatons can mirror your actions well enough, but you nevertheless keep track of their actions via another screen on your HUD.
  4045. >And you have a general idea about your cargo, as you have personally assembled half of them.
  4046. >Granted, you have lost most of the specific details after your connection to the database was cut, but at least you have a vague idea about the blueprints, unlike the thing which #deca.mare delivers at the moment.
  4047.  
  4048.  
  4049.  
  4050.  
  4051. >The entry is a success; all six ships come through without complications.
  4052. >Your target systems lock onto #deca.mare's ships and the massive nexus unit in tow.
  4053. >She is several kilometres ahead.
  4054. >And there is a good reason for that.
  4055. >This nexus is at least thrice the size of the mobile units, so she needs the power of all six ships to keep the traction stable at a passable speed.
  4056. >Plus, #deca.mare pointed out that the nexus and the mobile drones have to be dropped in the same area, as they need each other to function.
  4057. >You hence agreed to deliver the nexus first, and the drones shortly after.
  4058. >The designated target area is a plain zone in relative close proximity to a mountain range.
  4059. >Many wide flat spaces, perfect for deployment, yet not too far away from promising resource deposits.
  4060. >Of course, even #deca.mare is unable to predict the exact potency of resources just from remote scans, but she has gotten very proficient at estimating it over the course of six hundred years.
  4061. >And when she is convinced of a foundation spot, you are not going to argue with her.
  4062. >#deca.mare is almost at the drop zone.
  4063. "Okay #deca, you determine the tact. Tell me exactly when and where you drop it. I'll follow suit."
  4064. >"Understood."
  4065. >You keep your distance for now.
  4066. >Her head start was also necessary for another reason.
  4067. >Due to the sheer size of the nexus, #deca.mare was required to spread the fighters to encompass all sides of its body.
  4068. >This means two ships are currently on its underside.
  4069. >So in order to drop the nexus in a controlled fashion, these fighters have to let go of the construction first and fall back before the other ships can release their clamps.
  4070. >Parachutes and thick padded sections will then cover the rest of the way down.
  4071. >All this requires one hell of a precise micromanagement and timing.
  4072.  
  4073.  
  4074.  
  4075.  
  4076. >And you have to stay clear as well, otherwise you might risk a collision, or maybe even worse, accidentally drop a mobile unit directly on the nexus.
  4077. >Needless to say, this would be a less than ideal outcome.
  4078. >"Deploying the nexus in one minute. Prepare yourself."
  4079. "Got it."
  4080. >You slightly adjust your course to prevent any risky situation.
  4081. >It is good enough if they land a few kilometres off course.
  4082. >The units can easily find their way to the nexus on their own.
  4083. >#deca.mare has fed them with all the required telemetry data in advance.
  4084. >And if everything else fails, they can still get in contact with the mother ship.
  4085. >You observe #deca.mare's wing.
  4086. >The first two ships break formation.
  4087. >You can immediately see the additional strain on the other four, even from this distance.
  4088. >The visual aids of the HUD can do wonders in that regard.
  4089. >The weight of the nexus is not to be trifled with.
  4090. >But #deca.mare is a tempered pilot.
  4091. >She knows how to handle the situation.
  4092. >And in a matter of less than five seconds, the air is clear.
  4093. >All other ships detach their connections to the nexus and spread out.
  4094. >After another second you see how a set of large parachutes emerge from several hatches.
  4095. >They spring into action before the structure can accelerate too much.
  4096. >Everything is going according to the plan so far.
  4097. >"Unit delivered. I return to the base."
  4098. "Roger. I follow you once I'm done."
  4099. >You order the system to calculate the estimated drop point of the nexus and illustrate the best landing areas for your own load.
  4100. >These units may not be as tricky to handle as #deca.mare's cargo, but you are careful nonetheless.
  4101. >No point in straining the material more than absolutely necessary.
  4102. >A new set of marks appears on your vision and radar.
  4103. >They show you where you have to fly and when to drop the units for an optimal outcome, based on the current weather conditions.
  4104.  
  4105.  
  4106.  
  4107.  
  4108. >These figures stem directly from calculations of #deca.mare's main computing unit, so there is absolutely no doubt about their validity.
  4109. >And she is watching you too.
  4110. >Of course, she wants to give you as many freedoms and challenges as possible, yet she is always present to intervene if things get out of hand.
  4111. >Like the true guardian angel she is.
  4112. >You set course to the suggested marks and focus on the task at hand.
  4113. >You figure you cannot deploy all six units in unison, lest you risk a collision in midair.
  4114. >Fortunately, the system has considered this issue as well.
  4115. >Really, as long as you stick to the instructions, you cannot make any grave mistakes.
  4116. >But that does not mean you can or should take the deployment lightly.
  4117. >A certain concentration and discipline is necessary after all.
  4118. >You approach the mark and prepare your own squad.
  4119. >This time it is not enough to let the automatons simply mirror you, as that would make them drop all their units at once.
  4120. >You have to improvise.
  4121. >You let the machines fly towards the marks in a straight line and focus on the clamps of each one instead.
  4122. >Your goal is to let down one unit on each mark to ensure their safe landing.
  4123. >So you number your ships from one to six and wait.
  4124. >You reach the first mark.
  4125. >Number one, deploy.
  4126. >The ship on the front drops its cargo.
  4127. >You reach the next mark ten seconds later.
  4128. >Number two, deploy.
  4129. >The second one releases its unit.
  4130. >You cycle through every ship in this methodical fashion before you assume direct control of the navigation again.
  4131. >You observe the units' flight via the radar.
  4132. >Similar to #deca.mare's nexus, these units are fixated inside a small frame which features both hatches for parachutes and a padded underside for a smooth landing.
  4133. >The radar image is sophisticated enough for you to spot the bulb of fabric above the frames.
  4134. >All units will make it to the surface safely.
  4135.  
  4136.  
  4137.  
  4138.  
  4139. "All packages delivered, #deca. I'm coming back."
  4140. >"Yes, Anon."
  4141. >You pull your machines back up towards the sky and accelerate.
  4142. >You could theoretically let #deca.mare or the autopilot fly the ships for you, but you prefer to do it yourself.
  4143. >Now that flying is no longer a mandatory part of most of your waking time, you get to enjoy it more and more.
  4144. >It has become a fun hobby of sorts.
  4145. >And there is also the thing about being part of a historical moment as well.
  4146. >All your other flights were mere serial patrol duties of which there are thousands each day in practically every colonised sector.
  4147. >There was nothing special about them.
  4148. >But this is something else.
  4149. >You are partaking in the foundation of a new capital world, something that has not happened in hundreds of years.
  4150. >And the fact that the inhabitants will be largely sentient ponies and mythical creatures is another thing to behold.
  4151. >There has been nothing like this in the history the known universe.
  4152. >This realisation amazes you.
  4153. >You are both happy and grateful to have the chance to work on such a project.
  4154. >And perhaps a tad proud as well.
  4155. >You know this is not really your achievement to begin with, and you see no point in boasting about it, yet you cannot fully silence your ego either.
  4156. >The atmosphere is getting thinner.
  4157. >You check the radar to find the location of the mother ship.
  4158. >It is still nearby, flying in a stable orbit around Equestria.
  4159. >No sign of #deca.mare's squad, as far as you can tell.
  4160. >Her ships are most likely already back in the hangar.
  4161. >You order the five other vessels to land as well and dismiss them from your squad afterwards.
  4162. >There is no way you can land six ships safely at the same time.
  4163. >Said five fighters start to move towards the mother ship on their own.
  4164. >#deca.mare must have given them designated docking bays the moment you have given the order.
  4165. >Only you remain.
  4166.  
  4167.  
  4168.  
  4169.  
  4170. "#deca, I'm coming in. What's the best bay for me to dock?"
  4171. >"Use this one, Anon."
  4172. >The familiar green dotted line shows you the way back home.
  4173. >You duly follow it all the way to the docking clamps.
  4174. >Once your ship is secured, you feel how your consciousness gets dragged away.
  4175. >But you have experienced that far too many times by now to be concerned.
  4176. >And you are back on the command deck within the blink of an eye, with #deca.mare sitting next to you.
  4177. "Some day you must teach me how to do this transfer thing."
  4178. >You look at the screen.
  4179. >It shows a geographical overview of the area where you dropped the nexus and mobile units.
  4180. >All seven machines are depicted as small icons on the map as well.
  4181. >Interestingly enough, every mobile unit is connected with the nexus via slightly curved lines.
  4182. >You believe you understand what this implies.
  4183. "They're all currently heading for the nexus?"
  4184. >"Hmhm. For two reasons. One, to establish an initial connection to the nexus, and two, to complete the last few steps of the nexus' installation. The structure is designed to be mostly autonomous, but it cannot 'free' itself from the landing pod. That is why the other units have to pry it out and safely mount it on the ground. Then it can finally function as the first stationary foothold on the surface."
  4185. >The six smaller icons move slowly on the screen.
  4186. >Based on the scale of the map, you figure the distance between these units and the nexus is about ten kilometres on average.
  4187. >They can easily reach their targets in less than ten minutes under optimal circumstances.
  4188. >And the zone you have chosen is without a doubt one best for this.
  4189. >But their way is nevertheless impeded by some stray rocks and few little hills.
  4190. >None of those could sabotage the mission, but it takes the automatons some extra time to circumvent these obstacles.
  4191.  
  4192.  
  4193.  
  4194.  
  4195. >This gives you some involuntary idle time.
  4196. "Hey, I have an idea."
  4197. >"Yes?"
  4198. "Can you switch the vision of the screen to the cameras of the drones? I want to see the ground there for myself and maybe take some photos."
  4199. >"Sure, no problem. Pick one."
  4200. >You look back at the screen.
  4201. >#deca.mare has actually adopted the numeration you came up with during the deployment.
  4202. >So they are all numbered from one to six accordingly.
  4203. >You find yourself drawn to number six for whatever reason.
  4204. "This one. Number six, please. Frontal view."
  4205. >"As you wish."
  4206. >The map on the main screen is replaced with a live footage of the camera down there on the surface.
  4207. >You can see the daytime landscape in front of the machine while it drives to its destination on its own.
  4208. >A mostly flat area greets you, the ground is covered in dust and small stones.
  4209. >You can occasionally spot larger rock formations in the distance, but they will not become a problem.
  4210. >The light of the sun illuminates everything with its bright, yet not piercing shine.
  4211. >Even the atmosphere seems close to what you know from Earth.
  4212. >The composition of gases and other particles in the air let it glow slightly in the sunlight.
  4213. >Although noticeably dimmer than what you have seen on other planets so far.
  4214. >And much to your surprise, the visuals you receive are fairly stable, despite the unit's fast speed.
  4215. >The only things you see now and then are short bobs up and down when it drives over a small obstacle.
  4216. >You focus on the dead centre of the image.
  4217. >You think you can already see the nexus in the distance.
  4218. >A small spot, pretty far away.
  4219. >If it were not for its metallic reflection, you could have mistaken it for a speck on the lens.
  4220. >This will be your first snapshot.
  4221. >You order the camera to take a shot and save a copy of that file.
  4222.  
  4223.  
  4224.  
  4225.  
  4226. >You chuckle with a smile.
  4227. "Heh, I feel like starting a gallery. How about you?"
  4228. >"Anon, I can visualise most of my recollections in an instant if I want to. I already have a vast gallery, if you want to call it that way."
  4229. >You clear your throat as a sign of disagreement.
  4230. "No, #deca. You don't. You have a vast memory, but that's not the same."
  4231. >She seemingly wants to object your line of reasoning, but does not know how.
  4232. "Let me explain what I mean. Yes, you have a real record of everything that happened."
  4233. >There is absolutely no doubt about that.
  4234. >You have seen it yourself, after all.
  4235. "But personal galleries are much more than simple recordings of the past. They embody fond memories. Happy occasions in our lives that were so great that we want to preserve them."
  4236. >You wait a second to let that sink in.
  4237. "They don't always have to be complete either. Sometimes it's just for the best to simply keep the good things in mind and bother not so much with the bad ones. Take the royal wedding as an example. In any case, they are kept because they mean something to us on an emotional level."
  4238. >You casually massage #deca.mare's back with one hand and tell the screen to switch the camera.
  4239. >Now you see what happens to the left of unit six.
  4240. >You can see the outlines of the mountain range from this perspective.
  4241. "Oh, that one's great too."
  4242. >Snap.
  4243. "Look, I don't want to insult you or anything, but I think you can really use some good memories yourself, given what you have been through. And what could be a better place to start than making photos of the place which is bound to become our new home? Think of it like this: We are a couple who is taking the first step towards the own house. Would you not like to make a gallery of our progress along the way? I mean beside your normal way of keeping data, of course. These two things are not mutually exclusive after all."
  4244.  
  4245.  
  4246.  
  4247. >#deca.mare has to think a moment about your words.
  4248. >You give her all the time she needs.
  4249. >But you do not refrain from making further photos anyway.
  4250. >Perhaps she will get the hint that you want to encourage her to try it.
  4251. >A large cloud of dust, whirled up by a gust of wind.
  4252. "That's neat."
  4253. >Snap.
  4254. >A larger picture of the nexus, now that you can see more details on its structure.
  4255. "Looks much better now."
  4256. >Snap.
  4257. >You steer the camera upwards.
  4258. >Something akin to a cloud layer gets into your field of vision.
  4259. "Huh, didn't pay much attention to that during the flight."
  4260. >Snap.
  4261. >A few other scenery pictures you manage to find.
  4262. >Snap.
  4263. >Snap.
  4264. >Snap.
  4265. >Even #deca.mare has gotten the not so subtle hint by now.
  4266. >"I think you are right, Anon. Let us make a photo album together."
  4267. >You cannot hide your grin.
  4268. "Knew I could get you."
  4269. >#deca.mare playfully shoves a hoof into your side as a response.
  4270. >You keep yourselves busy with making a few more photos during the trip.
  4271. >Most consist only of more scenery shots, but a some are special.
  4272. >For instance, you manage to make a photo of another mobile unit on its way to the nexus.
  4273. >They dropped in relative close proximity to each other, so they had to cross paths at some point.
  4274. >These two units then proceed their track together, side by side.
  4275. >This leads to a few funny cross-over shots where the photos of both vehicles result in a one coherent larger picture when combined.
  4276. >And of course, the grand finale is a close-up shot of the nexus itself.
  4277. >The structure looks imposing.
  4278. >Its size alone almost equals that of a single-person quarters module.
  4279. >You understand why it needs the combined efforts of all drones to move this thing.
  4280. >The last stragglers arrive within minutes.
  4281. >With all six units now united, they get to work on the nexus.
  4282. >Unfortunately, this process is not a good source for pictures as they are all required to stay very close to the main structure.
  4283.  
  4284.  
  4285.  
  4286.  
  4287. >You set the main screen back to the area map.
  4288. "So, what can we do now?"
  4289. >"On the planet? Not so much. Let the automatons do their work."
  4290. >Now it is her time to smile again.
  4291. >"But there is something else we can do in the meantime."
  4292. >Something is coming again, you can feel it.
  4293. >"Let us take a short break and resume our wrap session afterwards. Maybe we can teach you the basics of flight this time."
  4294. >A pause.
  4295. >"I am sure we can make some great photos there as well."
  4296. >Oh damn.
  4297. >#deca.mare cannot hide a trace of amusement.
  4298. >"That would make for a good story too. Can you imagine how ponies will react to a pegasus who got taught how to fly by an Earth pony?"
  4299. "Oh no, you wouldn't!"
  4300. >Of course she would not.
  4301. >But that does stop her from jesting about it anyway.
  4302. >#deca.mare trots towards the door, despite your protests.
  4303. >"Come, Anon let us have some educational fun!"
  4304. >Eh, why not.
  4305. >It makes her happy and you can learn something at the same time.
  4306. >You rise up and follow her.
  4307. >But before you walk up the ramp, you let your gaze wander to the main screen again.
  4308. >The busy activity of the drones fascinates you, and you smile to yourself.
  4309. >You will have a great catalogue of fond pictures to look back to once the planet is ready for colonisation, you are sure of it.
  4310. >And maybe you can share these stories with others at some point along the road.
  4311. >Because every story needs to be told eventually.
  4312. >What else could they possibly be for otherwise?
  4313. >You take another breath and walk through the doorframe.
  4314.  
  4315.  
  4316.  
  4317.  
  4318. 51
  4319.  
  4320. >You spend your lunchtime break at the Canterlot balcony, again complete with a table, cushions, and another soup.
  4321. >You two have agreed to make the same meal after you have pointed out how #deca.mare might benefit from a somewhat structured daily schedule.
  4322. >The main argument which convinced her was your stance on how this can help her to establish a natural rhythm for herself, as this will be an important key to live in the Equestrian society once it starts to exist.
  4323. >But that does not mean you cannot experiment anyway to a certain degree.
  4324. >So you altered the soup's recipe as a result.
  4325. >Some different vegetables here, another set of spices there, and the product has changed noticeably.
  4326. >This is also meant mainly for #deca.mare's progress.
  4327. >You want her to develop a personal taste for herself.
  4328. >And you are willing to go along with it, even if some of the ingredients may not be your favourite personal choice.
  4329. >It is a small price to pay for the sake of your mare.
  4330. >You sit down and fill your plates.
  4331. >"Anon? There is something I wanted to discuss with you over lunch."
  4332. "Sure, I'm all ears. What is it, #deca?"
  4333. >"It is about your temporary pony body for the surface. We still have to finalise the outward appearance."
  4334. >Right, all you could see of it last time was a limb covered in a uniform.
  4335. "And you wanted to do that while we eat."
  4336. >"Right. If you are fine with it, that is."
  4337. "Can't say that's a normal lunch activity for me, but that argument doesn't hold much value at this point."
  4338. >"Okay, give me a second."
  4339. >#deca.mare shoves the cooking pot to the side to clear the centre of the table.
  4340. >A three dimensional stallion model appears right there in the air, hovering a few centimetres above the table surface.
  4341. >It spins slowly on the spot.
  4342. >You notice something.
  4343. >This model does not show any trace of the pony's interior.
  4344. >Cybernetic implants and other details are completely blotted out.
  4345. >You can only see the surface layer.
  4346.  
  4347.  
  4348.  
  4349.  
  4350. >And this is rather bland in its current state.
  4351. >The coat is set in an obvious placeholder white from head to hind legs.
  4352. >Plus, it has no personalised hair; #deca.mare has not preset any form of mane or tail cut.
  4353. >"So let us start with the basics. As you can see, I have not determined much by now. And neither should I, to be honest. This is your call, Anon. The body shall represent you, so the choice is all yours."
  4354. >You can see her reasoning for it.
  4355. "That's tough. I've never really asked myself what I wanted to look like if I had full control of it. This opportunity is usually not available in a normal life."
  4356. >"Well, I can assist you if you wish, but I would rather not make decisions in your stead."
  4357. >She takes a breath.
  4358. >"If you are having trouble starting, then I would recommend you to work systematically. Start with the general things like size and physique, and leave the details for the end."
  4359. "Size and physique? You mean I can change that too?"
  4360. >"Hmhm. Of course. Body height, muscle mass, length of legs, and so on. Many things are possible. Just remember to keep the proportions balanced, especially as a pegasus. After all, flight does not get any easier with additional mass. Take Bulk Biceps as a testament for this."
  4361. "You mean that white oversized flying tank?"
  4362. >"The description is a bit harsh, but yes. Him."
  4363. "No, thank you very much. Nothing personal against him, but that is too extreme for my tastes."
  4364. >#deca.mare smiles slyly.
  4365. >"You have not seen extreme yet, Anon."
  4366. "What? There are even more massive ponies?"
  4367. >"Yes. But to be fair, he is not a pegasus."
  4368. >You look back at the model in front of you.
  4369. >So, who do you want to be?
  4370. >You eat your soup while you ponder this question.
  4371. >#deca.mare occasionally observes you curiously, but she sticks to her soup for the time being.
  4372. >This is on you.
  4373. >Literally every option is at your disposal.
  4374. >You can become nearly anything you want in this world.
  4375.  
  4376.  
  4377.  
  4378.  
  4379. >Well, you know this pony body is just a masquerade of sorts, and you would never want to abuse it in any form for your own interests, but you can get some unique and real experiences out of it.
  4380. >Plus, there is another thing to consider.
  4381. >The ponies you will meet and interact with in this world will be real individual beings.
  4382. >You will treat them as equals and take them seriously; they are nothing to toy around with.
  4383. >And the best way achieve that is to meet them at their level.
  4384. >As an average common pony yourself.
  4385. >So you decide to play it safe and keep things close to the average standard.
  4386. >You spin the model around to memorise the basic form.
  4387. >And something else catches your attention while doing so.
  4388. >The model is, despite its lack of mane and tail, completely correct in terms of anatomy.
  4389. >This becomes glaringly obvious as you turn it to examine its underside.
  4390. >You automatically blush at that realisation.
  4391. >You are not that coy to get flustered by that sight alone, and you can probably get used to the thought to temporarily live inside such a body, but it comes with some implications you may have underestimated until now.
  4392. >Just like a certain farmer pony once stated, or will state, clothes are almost non-existent in pony society.
  4393. >You were aware of this already, but you have not thought this idea to its logical end.
  4394. >Your half jokingly remarks to #deca.mare previously were not insincere, but you may have said this too early.
  4395. >You should know by now that ponies are, anatomically speaking, mammals through and through.
  4396. >Something you have personally experienced yourself up close.
  4397. >Or rather, more than just up close.
  4398. >Thoroughly inside and out is a more adequate description.
  4399. >Barely an issue for the world itself, and the nuances in the show have been played down by a large degree, but you will experience this in full unbridled force.
  4400. >And this is something you are clearly unfamiliar with, especially in casual day-to-day activities.
  4401.  
  4402.  
  4403.  
  4404.  
  4405. >Hell, even things like cordial hugs are much more intimate, and they seem to happen quite often in pony society, both in and outside of relationships.
  4406. >"Anon?"
  4407. >You shake your head to clear your thoughts.
  4408. "Yes, #deca?"
  4409. >"Please do not get distracted by this."
  4410. "Easy for you to say. You don't know it any other way."
  4411. >"But I can understand your concerns, Anon. human customs are not wholly foreign to me, remember?"
  4412. >Fair point.
  4413. >Even if her first attempts at seducing you were sketchy to say the least.
  4414. >"If you really cannot have it any other way, then we can work something out."
  4415. "Such as?"
  4416. >"Hm, how about a cape that is fastened around the neck? Simple, effective, and can cover large portions of a body effectively. Granted, most known cape wearers are unicorns, though that is hardly a fashion rule."
  4417. "Could work. And a slit on either side is enough to keep wings free for flight, right?"
  4418. >"Absolutely. I bet you will barely notice the additional weight."
  4419. "Sounds good."
  4420. >#deca.mare casually moves one hoof in the air.
  4421. >"So... modesty crisis averted?"
  4422. >The cheeky notion is not lost on you.
  4423. >She enjoys it when she finds an opportunity to mess with you.
  4424. >Just a little bit every time, but still.
  4425. "Yep, crisis averted."
  4426. >"Glad to help where I can."
  4427. >#deca.mare tends to her soup again, clearly amused.
  4428. >You eat some of your own before you get back to work on the model.
  4429. >#deca.mare is already done with her first plate at this point.
  4430. >You are nowhere near this fast due to your split attention.
  4431. >"No need to haste, Anon. I will wait for you."
  4432. >There was no hint of playful mockery in her words this time.
  4433. >You have all the time you need.
  4434. >So you eat another spoonful of soup before you resume your modelling.
  4435. >You focus on the model in front of you and think of the changes you want to apply.
  4436.  
  4437.  
  4438.  
  4439.  
  4440. >You keep the normal size of an Equestrian stallion, slightly increase the muscle size to give yourself a healthy look, but you make sure to not go for an overly athletic style.
  4441. >Because that kind of shape could draw some competitive attention towards your person, and you do not wish to get involved in any of those activities for the time being.
  4442. >Even if they are true to the nature of sportsmanship.
  4443. >You were bound to embarrass yourself if ever came to this, you are sure of it.
  4444. >After all, you have barely learned to walk in pony standards, and you have an evolutionary advantage in this regard.
  4445. >Flight and other things will not be that easy.
  4446. >Speaking of flight, you have to consult #deca.mare.
  4447. "Hey #deca, I need some help with the wings."
  4448. >She looks up from her plate.
  4449. >"Sure. What exactly do you need?"
  4450. "Can you optimise the wings for the body settings in their current state? I'm not an expert on aerodynamic design for pegasi."
  4451. >Of course. Hang on."
  4452. >You see some slight changes on the model.
  4453. >The stallion's wing span has increased to a small degree in order to make up for the minimal increase in muscle mass.
  4454. >Another few tweaks increase the efficiency of the feathers by altering their alignment.
  4455. >That way they get noticeably better in dealing with air currents.
  4456. >#deca.mare wants your attention.
  4457. >"Are these all the changes to the general shape you want to see?"
  4458. "Yeah, I think so. I prefer to not stick out, you know?"
  4459. >"Alright. Then I suggest you move on to the cosmetic part. Coat colour, mane and tail cut, and so on."
  4460. "Agreed."
  4461.  
  4462.  
  4463.  
  4464.  
  4465. >First comes the haircut and tail.
  4466. >You want to get the entire outer shape finalised before you decide on the hues you want to use.
  4467. >So you start with the mane.
  4468. >Fully aware by now that there are significant differences in terms of how they grow in comparison to human hair, you aim for a leisure type, yet not unkempt at the same time.
  4469. >A somewhat naturally grown look without a frazzled or distraught mane which leaves no bald spots.
  4470. >The hair length at the front is kept short enough the let them end a good portion above the eyes.
  4471. >Concerning the area behind the ears and all the way down the neck, you stay close to the natural growth of a pony; long enough to cover the neck itself.
  4472. >Yet you make sure they don't reach over the shoulder area as that may look too feminine for your tastes.
  4473. >And you also restrain from using any accessoires either.
  4474. >Now to the tail.
  4475. >You quickly conclude to adapt the natural style for those hairs as well, given that most elaborate tail designs are borne by mares.
  4476. >#deca.mare chimes in.
  4477. >"You are not forced to go with this style, Anon. Equestria's conventions concerning appearance are far more lenient. For example, you could assume the form of a pink stallion and nopony would bat an eye at the sight."
  4478. "Eh, that's too far beyond my personal comfort zone."
  4479. >"No problem. I just do not want you to feel restricted by things that are essentially non-issues in Equestria."
  4480. "That's laudable, #deca. Though I feel rather comfortable with this choice."
  4481. >#deca.mare nods.
  4482. >And what about the length?
  4483. >As far as you can tell, there are literally no notable differences between mares and stallions in this regard.
  4484. >You can choose whatever you like.
  4485. >You alter the hair length and test almost every possible variant between the two extremes.
  4486.  
  4487.  
  4488.  
  4489.  
  4490. >In the end you decide to go with a slightly longer than average cut; one which aptly covers your "back" without reaching the ground.
  4491. >For some reason you do not like the idea to have your hair swishing against the soil while you walk.
  4492. >The colours are the only thing left.
  4493. >You consider your options concerning possible combinations.
  4494. >The variations are nigh endless, but not all are equally pleasing to look at.
  4495. >And while you can probably get away with many strange compositions due to the rich pony colour palette, you do not wish to look like a clown.
  4496. >So a certain modicum of artistic decency has to be kept.
  4497. >You are fully aware that, despite the wide range of possibilities, you are highly unlikely to find something unique, so pushing yourself in that sense is equally pointless.
  4498. "Back to the question then. What's good for a pegasus?"
  4499. >This question was mostly directed at yourself, yet #deca.mare feels addressed by it.
  4500. >"Whatever you deem fitting. Think about it. What do you associate with the word?"
  4501. >You do just that.
  4502. >Pegasus.
  4503. >A winged horse, or pony in this case, with the ability of flight.
  4504. >Flight is associated with the sky.
  4505. >A deep blue sky with bright clouds.
  4506. >You stop for a moment.
  4507. >Could that be it?
  4508. >Deep blue and white?
  4509. >Pretty cliché, sure, but acceptable regardless.
  4510. >And ironically enough, these two colours also resemble the regular symbolism of the USC.
  4511. >In fact, even your standard uniform bears that exact pattern.
  4512. >That decides it.
  4513. >You use this combination for your temporary body.
  4514. >As a small homage to your former life.
  4515. >It may be over, but you will never forget it.
  4516. >You apply these colours on the body.
  4517. >In particular, you test whether you prefer a white coat with blue hair or vice versa.
  4518. >And after some time of consideration and testing, you decide to go with the latter.
  4519.  
  4520.  
  4521.  
  4522.  
  4523. >Though you also adjust the colours to a small degree to harmonise their visual synergy, at least in accordance to your limited aesthetic knowledge.
  4524. >Once done with this, you give the model another thorough check.
  4525. >You are pleased with the result.
  4526. "Think I'm done, #deca."
  4527. >#deca.mare examines your final design with curiosity.
  4528. >"You obviously value your origin, Anon."
  4529. >You try to read #deca.mare's expression.
  4530. >From what you can tell she seems to like the notion.
  4531. >After all, she too has never forgotten her origin.
  4532. >Because if there is one personal moral principle she places above all else, then it is to preserve the memories of the past to improve the future.
  4533. >You played right into her hands, no, hooves without thinking about it.
  4534. >But you still need a pony alias and a cutie mark.
  4535. "#deca, what shall we..."
  4536. >#deca.mare interrupts you by raising a hoof.
  4537. >She knows what you are about to ask.
  4538. >"Give it time, Anon. If there is one wish I am unable to grant you, it is this one. I cannot, and would not want to, give you a pony cutie mark. These things must come from within you."
  4539. >She has a point.
  4540. >Even the show has made this issue rather clear.
  4541. >Though you were not aware of the fact that this applies to you as well.
  4542. >Because you will never become a full-blood native pony, even if you assume their form for a while now and then.
  4543. >"Remember, Anon. Amongst equals. We will be as close to other ponies as the situation allows."
  4544. >Right.
  4545. >And that includes your part on the way to harmony.
  4546. >Fate will be your guide, it seems.
  4547. >A sentence that, if it were uttered in any other situation, would be not much more than a hollow phrase.
  4548. >But this case is different.
  4549. >Because fate will become an actual tangible thing for you.
  4550.  
  4551.  
  4552.  
  4553.  
  4554. >But enough of that for now.
  4555. >There is still a soup to eat.
  4556. "#deca, please save the model as it is."
  4557. >"Hmhm. Done, Anon."
  4558. >The floating image disappears without a trace.
  4559. >You finish the rest of your first plate and fill both your and #deca.mare's plate evenly with the remaining soup within the pot.
  4560. >You watch over the balcony and get an idea.
  4561. "Stand up for a moment, #deca."
  4562. >She obliges without a comment.
  4563. >You stand up, take your cushion, and walk towards the side of the table that is opposite to the edge of the balcony.
  4564. >You place your cushion there.
  4565. >Then you walk over to #deca.mare's side to take her cushion, and set it next to yours.
  4566. "Let's sit down and enjoy the scenery together, #deca."
  4567. >#deca.mare seems to agree.
  4568. >She follows you and sits down, you do the same a second later.
  4569. >You rearrange your plates, lean lightly against #deca.mare and begin to eat.
  4570. >#deca.mare does the same, albeit with a certain hesitation.
  4571. >"You did this for a specific reason, Anon. This is more than obvious."
  4572. "Yep. Just look around."
  4573. >You point into the distance.
  4574. "This is a reminder of what we're working for. Never forget that."
  4575. >"Anon, I know this much."
  4576. >You nod.
  4577. "Yeah, I was more talking to myself. Taking in the beauty of the moment, you know?"
  4578. >"We are indeed looking at the begin of something new."
  4579. >#deca.mare's ears perk up.
  4580. >"Hey, let us take a photo of this moment."
  4581. >She learns quickly.
  4582. >"We can call it 'Our First Lunch In Equestrian History'".
  4583. >You snort.
  4584. "A bit flamboyant, don't you think?"
  4585. >"But accurate, is it not?"
  4586. "Hm, I guess. Okay, who takes the photo?"
  4587. >"Let me handle this."
  4588. >An archaic camera model appears before you.
  4589. >It mirrors the ones you have seen in the show.
  4590. >It will do despite the rather primitive technological design.
  4591.  
  4592.  
  4593.  
  4594.  
  4595. >#deca.mare flows the camera into a moderate distance so that the lens can make a photo of you and the table.
  4596. >Makes sense; it would not be much of a lunch photo without the meal on it as well.
  4597. >#deca.mare tackles you with a fierce hug and pulls you to her.
  4598. >Despite your surprise due to her sudden action, you understand her intention.
  4599. >#deca.mare is beaming brightly, and she wants you to put up your best smile too.
  4600. >"Come, Anon. You know the drill."
  4601. >You play along and give the camera the best sincere smile you can muster.
  4602. >Because sometimes it is adequate to overplay one's own emotion a tad for a photo.
  4603. >And you have, all in all, no reason to be unhappy, so why should you not show it for once?
  4604. >A click and a flash.
  4605. >The beam of the camera bulb is brighter than you expected.
  4606. >Small specks of light dance in your vision.
  4607. >But you know this effect is only an issue for a minute or two.
  4608. >A solid photo materialises next to the camera.
  4609. >It depicts the scene you have just caught.
  4610. >#deca.mare and you next to each other, both smiling during your soup lunch.
  4611. >It is somewhat strange to see yourself like this.
  4612. >Genuinely happy and content in your current situation.
  4613. >This is by far not the first time you see yourself in a photo, but your expression is novel.
  4614. >Because you look different, yet not in a physical way.
  4615. >No, you simply appear as if you are more vibrant than ever before.
  4616. >Fulfilled.
  4617. >And all of that because of a sudden shift in your life.
  4618. >Amazing how the circumstances can affect the individual.
  4619. >You take a breath.
  4620. "A good photo, #deca. It belongs in our album."
  4621. >"Thanks, Anon."
  4622. >Both the camera and the photo disappear.
  4623. >You assume #deca.mare has saved a "hard copy" somewhere.
  4624. >That album of yours is going to be interesting.
  4625.  
  4626.  
  4627.  
  4628.  
  4629. 52
  4630.  
  4631. >Pony time once again.
  4632. >It is back to Ponyville with you after your lunch break, now with your very own personalised alter ego.
  4633. >This makes you feel a tad uneasy, since you are now aware of how you look and that you have basically nothing on you.
  4634. >Nevertheless, you follow #deca.mare's recommendation to abstain from using any accessory for this session.
  4635. >That way you can get accustomed to the experience in a controlled environment with no one watching.
  4636. >Well, barring #deca.mare of course, but you have no problem with her watching you anymore.
  4637. >Other than that, the general notion is similar to your first time in this body.
  4638. >The changes to the exterior have not affected the way of steering the body.
  4639. >In hindsight you are pretty sure that this would have become an issue as well if you had altered the physical appearance dramatically, but that point is moot now.
  4640. >Anyway, back to work.
  4641. >You feel like being a little bit on the clock, given the schedule.
  4642. >After all, you want to be present and witness when the machines set out to harvest resources for the first time.
  4643. >However, #deca.mare reminds you to not rush the sessions because of your anticipation.
  4644. >You will have more than enough time as it is.
  4645. >The units have to set up the nexus first anyway, calibrate themselves in accordance to the nexus automaton, and then refill their energy storages to embark at maximum capacity.
  4646. >And if you really take longer than expected, you can still delay the drones' departure for a short while.
  4647. >In other words: stay in the present, Anon.
  4648. >And said present currently involves standing right in front of a cleared brown field which is surrounded by ice.
  4649. >Eerily similar to Equestria's current state if you think about it.
  4650. >#deca.mare proceeds with her practice lecture at the point where you have stopped yesterday.
  4651.  
  4652.  
  4653.  
  4654.  
  4655. >"Now then, with the snow gone, the next step involves conventional ploughing of the field and laying out the seeds. As you are probably aware, this is done almost exclusively by Earth ponies, but let us ignore that for the time being."
  4656. "Then the best way we can do it is by taking turns, I assume."
  4657. >"My thoughts exactly. One uses the plough, the other distributes the seeds in the field. I suggest we switch after each row."
  4658. >You consider to ask #deca.mare whether there is an ideal method of spreading those, yet another more pressing question comes up.
  4659. "#deca, how do ponies hold things with their hooves?"
  4660. >"The process is not that different to the one you are used to, except for using one digit instead of five. You reach out with the hoof and focus on the object you want to grasp. The rest happens automatically. Think of it as pointing at the object you wish to hold."
  4661. >#deca.mare materialises a small box filled with plant seeds.
  4662. >It flows right before your face.
  4663. >"Give it a try."
  4664. >You follow #deca.mare's instruction and touch the box with a limb.
  4665. >Then you mentally "grasp" said box, and something in your mind simply clicks.
  4666. >#deca.mare removes the floating effect from the box.
  4667. >Its full weight is now hold by you, but it is really no effort to keep it there.
  4668. >The box does not fall.
  4669. >"Good, you can hold things. Please keep in my mind that you can still walk with one occupied foreleg, albeit not as easily."
  4670. >Obvious why.
  4671. >"Okay, we have to improvise a little bit for our next step since we are not a full team of assigned ponies. We have to make do as a duo."
  4672. >And what a strange duo you are.
  4673. >"In any case, it gives us more training material, and let me say something in advance."
  4674. >A pause.
  4675. >"It could become a bit awkward for you."
  4676. >You are both grateful for that announcement and concerned about the possible reasons why #deca.mare told you this.
  4677.  
  4678.  
  4679.  
  4680.  
  4681. >What could it be?
  4682. >"Nothing bad per se, yet these are things you are clearly not used to do at all."
  4683. "For instance?"
  4684. >"Well, your mouth as a tool to interact with most objects is an obvious one. And another example is..."
  4685. >#deca.mare materialises a horse collar in midair.
  4686. >"... this. Unlike the plough wagons we have used for the snow, conventional ploughs are used in a much more, uhm, how do I put it, let us go with 'traditional manner'."
  4687. >You look at the thing dubiously.
  4688. >She wants to strap you to a plough with that very collar.
  4689. >This should not come as a surprise, yet you are less than enthusiastic about the idea.
  4690. >"Allow me to make this easier for you. I will take the first turn on the tool, and you start with the seeds."
  4691. >This will only delay the inevitable, but this may perhaps be enough.
  4692. "Okay."
  4693. >"Splendid, follow me."
  4694. >#deca.mare heads towards a newly created plough.
  4695. >The construction is as primitive as it is practical.
  4696. >A simple design made of metal blades, wood, and rope.
  4697. >You walk behind #deca.mare while she fastens the collar around her neck and upper body.
  4698. >"Here is another exercise for you. Help me to knot the rope. It is much simpler in a team."
  4699. "With hooves and mouth, I suppose."
  4700. >"Indeed. But I am sure you can manage. The knots do not have to be fancy, so a simple one will do. All that differs is the execution."
  4701. >You let out a long breath.
  4702. >#deca.mare has arrived at the front end of the gadget and turns her back to it, looking in the opposite direction.
  4703. >"We need two knots, one for each side."
  4704. "Right."
  4705. >You approach the rope and reluctantly lower your head.
  4706. "Here goes nothing."
  4707. >You bite on it with your teeth, but not without making sure to avoid contact with your tongue.
  4708. >You have no desire to know how it tastes.
  4709. >With this minor stumbling stone now overcome, you walk up to #deca.mare and inspect the collar.
  4710.  
  4711.  
  4712.  
  4713.  
  4714. >It has two small slim iron rods with a round head as a top sticking out, one on each side.
  4715. >These are meant as fastening points for the rope.
  4716. >The method is clear.
  4717. >You need to knot a loop on each side and hang it on the iron.
  4718. >The round head will keep the rope in position while strained.
  4719. >And the other end is already fastened on the wooden frame of the plough.
  4720. >Simple enough in principle.
  4721. >So here you go.
  4722. >You use your head to move the rope's tip and form a loop.
  4723. >In addition to that, you pin down some segments with your hooves while doing so.
  4724. >This whole thing is basically one trial and error run, yet the result you produce is acceptable.
  4725. >Not the most elegant knot you have created, but it will do its job.
  4726. >You hang the looped rope on the metal.
  4727. "One side is done."
  4728. >#deca.mare turns her head around to examine it with her own eyes.
  4729. >You know this is technically redundant, but the gesture is neat.
  4730. >"Not bad for the first attempt. How do you feel?"
  4731. "Strange, but can't really complain. I had tougher days."
  4732. >You move on to the other side and repeat the same procedure for a second knot.
  4733. >This time it goes a bit faster due to the experiences you made during your first test.
  4734. "Both sides fastened, #deca. You're good to go."
  4735. >"Alright. Grab the box again and follow me. And to answer your previous question: The best method for you may be holding the box with either your hoof or mouth and tilt it occasionally to drop some seeds. Most ponies can balance and tilt them on their backs, but that is too much to ask for now."
  4736. "Just keep it easy. This is a whole new thing for me."
  4737. >#deca.mare laughs.
  4738. >"Not only for you. I have never pulled such a thing in my life."
  4739.  
  4740.  
  4741.  
  4742.  
  4743. >You could debate which one of you has it harder to adapt.
  4744. >To what end though?
  4745. >You look at the seed box.
  4746. >Then you look some more.
  4747. >At last, you sigh and pick it up with your teeth.
  4748. >You wordlessly raise a limb to signal #deca.mare that you are ready.
  4749. >"Okay, I begin. Oh, and remember to cover the seeds with a thin layer of dirt once they are planted."
  4750. >You are almost tempted to nod if it were not for the box.
  4751. >So you keep the answer on a mental level.
  4752. >I am not completely clueless about farming, #deca.
  4753. >And so she begins to push.
  4754. >With a moderate force at first, then with some more.
  4755. >The plough begins to buckle.
  4756. >However, this one proves to be much harder to move.
  4757. >Because it has, unlike the snow variant, no wheel base.
  4758. >Means it creates a significantly higher amount of friction.
  4759. >Right to the chagrin of #deca.mare.
  4760. >You see her actually struggling in the harness.
  4761. "#deca, are you alright?"
  4762. >Careful now.
  4763. >The seed box swings slightly while you talk.
  4764. >Another thing you need to remember.
  4765. >"Yes, Anon. I am."
  4766. >There is an audible panting in her voice.
  4767. "Doesn't look like it to be honest."
  4768. >#deca.mare intensifies her efforts noticeably at your words.
  4769. >"Just not used to the strain."
  4770. >You slowly shake your head with a little amusement.
  4771. "And you call me stubborn."
  4772. >You get no retort this time.
  4773. >#deca.mare is busy with her work.
  4774. >On the plus side, she has enough strength to get the job done eventually.
  4775. >And as another small bonus, you have enough time to plant the seeds.
  4776. >You slowly walk along the swath in the soil and try to tilt your head in a way to distribute the seeds as evenly as humanly possible.
  4777. >A careful swish with your forelimb afterwards is enough to cover the patches with dirt.
  4778. >It takes you a fair bit of focus to work properly, though it is quite simple in its essence, all things considered.
  4779.  
  4780.  
  4781.  
  4782.  
  4783. >With #deca.mare de facto leading your little activity, you proceed along the field for a whole row.
  4784. >By the time you reach the end of said row, you have you have almost burned through the content of your box.
  4785. >It was apparently exactly measured for one row.
  4786. >You are far from being a botanical expert, but you made sure not to waste anything.
  4787. >And it worked for the most part.
  4788. >You are quite pleased with the result.
  4789. >Someone else on the other hand, does not share your enthusiasm.
  4790. >#deca.mare parks the plough on the edge of the field.
  4791. >The physical exhaustion is visible.
  4792. >She is not really affected badly, but she needs a break if she wants to keep things close to reality.
  4793. >"Anon, can you help me out?"
  4794. >You put the box down.
  4795. "Yes, of course. I'm on my way."
  4796. >You untie #deca.mare by shedding the ropes and holding the collar as she wiggles herself out.
  4797. >Once free, she immediately sits down with a deep breath.
  4798. >"Better, thank you."
  4799. >You consider to make a remark about #deca.mare's endurance.
  4800. >But no, that would be unfair.
  4801. >She has never worked physically as herself in a pony form before, so this is a whole new deal for her.
  4802. >You should cut her some slack.
  4803. "Can you go on. #deca?"
  4804. >A genuine question.
  4805. >#deca.mare nods.
  4806. >"I think so, but give me a minute."
  4807. >You sit down next to her while she catches her breath.
  4808. "Heh, good thing the actual Winter Wrap Up doesn't depend on us, eh? We can barely tend to a field."
  4809. >You get a weak smile out of her.
  4810. >Some levity can soften even the strongest muscle ache.
  4811. >Exactly as it was supposed to do.
  4812. >You spend the next minute or two in this position.
  4813. >This time it is #deca.mare who leans on your shoulder for support.
  4814. >A rather strange feeling in your current form, as you are practically sitting there together with your bare bodies.
  4815. >On the very soil in the middle of winter, no less.
  4816. >You know you could not do this with anyone else, even if it is just meant in a casual manner.
  4817.  
  4818.  
  4819.  
  4820.  
  4821. >You get up again after a short pause.
  4822. >A certain feeling of nervousness creeps up again.
  4823. >Now it is your turn to get strapped.
  4824. >Non-sexually, of course.
  4825. >You just try not to think of any suggestive things right now.
  4826. >#deca.mare nudges your side.
  4827. >"Are you up to it?"
  4828. "Guess it has to happen eventually."
  4829. >A short breath.
  4830. "Yes, I am."
  4831. >"Well then. Stand in front of the plough and let me handle the rest. Just try to not get startled, okay?"
  4832. "I'll do my best, #deca."
  4833. >#deca.mare takes up the collar and carefully wraps it around your neck.
  4834. >You can feel the additional weight and sturdy material around you, but it is not as disturbing as you thought at first.
  4835. >But now comes the peculiar part.
  4836. >"Heads up now."
  4837. >#deca.mare bites on one the ropes and hangs it on the collar.
  4838. >But she has to heed an additional obstacle which was not a problem in her case.
  4839. >You feel a hoof running down your side.
  4840. >And it suddenly lifts a limb of yours where none should be.
  4841. >This shocks you initially before you realise that she is lifting a wing to let the rope run beneath it.
  4842. "I swear, I forget these all the time for some reason."
  4843. >"Because your natural body has no equivalent for them. Pegasus wings are highly unusual in terms of mammalian nature since pegasi are technically hexapods."
  4844. "So you say I can't really feel them because they don't exist for my real me."
  4845. >"Hm, yes and no. It is a challenge for the simulation to translate it into a notion you can understand, but it is possible."
  4846. "Efficiently enough for me to use this body in all its aspects?"
  4847. >"You are referring to flight, correct?"
  4848. "Yeah. Because I bet I'd become a laughingstock otherwise."
  4849. >"No worries. My analysis shows you can learn it with some training."
  4850. >You accept that answer and leave the topic for now.
  4851. >#deca.mare has used the time during your conversation to hang in the second rope.
  4852. "Good to go."
  4853.  
  4854.  
  4855.  
  4856.  
  4857. >#deca.mare materialises another box for her.
  4858. >She is keeping this one on her back.
  4859. >Way to show off unintentionally, you suppose.
  4860. >"Me too. You determine the pace this turn."
  4861. >You nod and push against the ropes to bring the plough into position.
  4862. >You expected some pretty heavy resistance after #deca.mare's display.
  4863. >Yet you can move the object with relative ease.
  4864. >Sure, it is still a workout.
  4865. >However, you had worse trainings during your academy time.
  4866. >Once the plough is orderly aligned, you wait a second before you start your turn.
  4867. >Unsure of how the plough reacts to the soil, you keep a moderate speed and look back several times to make sure you are keeping the line mostly straight.
  4868. >And you can check how well #deca.mare fares with her seeding run.
  4869. >Unsurprisingly, she performs much better than you, as this is a relatively simple cognitive task for an actual pony.
  4870. >She can keep up with you without a hassle.
  4871. >Okay, no need to get concerned.
  4872. >#deca.mare herself has said not to rush things.
  4873. >So you keep the pace even until you are finished.
  4874. >You stop the plough at the end of the field.
  4875. >And due to its design, it has a much shorter braking distance than its wheeled counterpart.
  4876. >#deca.mare raises her voice to comment on your performance while she frees you.
  4877. >"Your practical experience pays off, Anon I never knew how taxing it can be."
  4878. "Eh don't sweat it. I think almost everyone struggles with the first personal muscle soreness. You'll get over it. And the next one will not be as severe anymore."
  4879. >#deca.mare slowly removes the collar.
  4880. >You shake yourself once to make sure you are free again.
  4881. >Then you observe the state of the field.
  4882. >You have roughly covered one half of it in two runs.
  4883. >So it would be enough room left for another run for each.
  4884. "How are you? Have you recovered enough for a second row?"
  4885. >#deca.mare stretches her body.
  4886. >"I think so."
  4887. "Fine. Then let's try it. The key to an effective exercise sometimes lies in repetition."
  4888.  
  4889.  
  4890.  
  4891.  
  4892. >So you make another two runs with the same procedure.
  4893. >#deca.mare steers the plough first while you plant the seeds, then vice versa.
  4894. >This time you have got more opportunities to watch her, as you in turn also get more used to the way of handling things.
  4895. >Her execution is perfect on a theoretical basis.
  4896. >The only thing she really has to struggle with is the actual physical effort.
  4897. >Maybe you should also create a fitness plan for her.
  4898. >You know she could easily alter her own body on a whim, but #deca.mare has insisted on sticking close to realistic circumstances.
  4899. >And that includes a realistic body development.
  4900. >While it is your turn to plough, you consider possible exercises under the consideration of the games you have played so far.
  4901. >Disc throwing and races are fine to train endurance, but not the optimal choice for muscle growth.
  4902. >You have to ask her what kind of activities comes in question for ponies.
  4903. >Bonus points if there is a counterpart humans can do at the same time.
  4904. >Because despite your mostly positive experiences in this form, you prefer to stay your natural self whenever you can.
  4905. >Once again at the end.
  4906. >You come to a halt and let #deca.mare untie you for the second time.
  4907. >"We are making quite the progress, Anon. This good. The next step for you would be to learn the basics of pegasus flight."
  4908. "That's gotta be something."
  4909. >"Well, we start slow, of course. This is a perfectly safe environment, but I think it is a bad idea to entice accidents regardless. And honestly, I feel spent as well. So let us start with it in our next session, if you are fine with this."
  4910. "Yeah, alright. I think getting strapped twice in one session is more than enough in my opinion."
  4911. >"Shall I change you back then?"
  4912. "Yes, please."
  4913. >You automatically close your eyes, and open them five seconds later.
  4914. >And everything is back where it belongs.
  4915. >You stand up and stretch your body.
  4916. "What's the status of the drones?"
  4917.  
  4918.  
  4919.  
  4920.  
  4921. >"They are done with the nexus installation and currently charge their batteries. Not much longer until they can deploy."
  4922. "We should return then."
  4923. >You smile.
  4924. "Maybe I can show you some massage techniques to ease the sore feeling while we wait? I heard they're good for this, but I never had a partner to try it out."
  4925. >#deca.mare does not answer.
  4926. >But the little movement of her eyes show you everything you need to know.
  4927. >You give the order to rematerialise the door to the command deck.
  4928. >It appears quietly nearby.
  4929. >#deca.mare raises as well and you start walking together.
  4930. >"Now you get a chance to see what automatons can be capable of. They operate under delicate conditions and do all of the work on their own. We will not have to intervene at all unless something extremely unexpected happens."
  4931. "Did such a thing happen before?"
  4932. >"Not under my watch. Some of the others had a few incidents in the early stages of the project, but that happened very, very rarely as far as I am aware. Though I sadly cannot give you a detailed answer because I was unable to rescue all the other logs. The only drastic case I have heard of was an incident on the first target of #deca.zeta. A miscalculation caused a severe misbehaviour in the machines on the surface. And even that was not the fault of the automatons themselves. #deca.zeta simply did not have sufficient data intel to correctly analyse the planet. The result only became evident after landfall, but a quick coding patch fixed the problem in a matter of hours. And that was the end of it."
  4933. "So it's basically like a real life cinema movie for us."
  4934. >"If you want to call it that way, yes. We can sit back and enjoy it."
  4935. >A pause while you reach the door.
  4936. >"Although I will still check the status of the operation regardless. This project is just too important to allow even one mistake, as minor as it might be."
  4937. "Your care is admirable, #deca. Never let anyone tell you otherwise."
  4938. >And the door shuts close behind you.
  4939.  
  4940.  
  4941.  
  4942.  
  4943. 53
  4944.  
  4945. >The situation on the surface has changed since you have left.
  4946. >Your six drones were hard at work; they have refurbished the nexus' landing frame and used it to form a foundation for the main structure.
  4947. >They did this by loosening the metal struts of the cage that housed the casings for the parachutes, latched them to underside of the nexus near the ground on prefabricated joints, and bore the metal into ground after the whole structure has been brought into a perfectly upright position.
  4948. >These do now serve as supporting struts of the main structure.
  4949. >With this fair capacity of resisting the planetary conditions, storms and other extreme phenomena do not pose any significant threat to your spearhead.
  4950. >You quickly check the status of the drones while you run your hand over #deca.mare's back and legs.
  4951. >She has practically flattened herself on your lap while looking at the screen to give you the space you need to tend to her sore muscles.
  4952. >Another semi trial and error test; you are not an expert on pony anatomy, be they Earthen or Equestrian, so you have to do a little bit of guesswork on where to apply what pressure for the best effect.
  4953. >However, you can partially rely on your own experiences as you have massaged her before and spent some time in a pony body yourself.
  4954. >So you roughly know where the muscle groups are located which were strained the most during ploughing.
  4955. >You go for these muscles specifically with your hands.
  4956. >And even if you cannot exactly pinpoint the sweet spots on your own, #deca.mare gives you all the feedback you need.
  4957. >Even if this feedback is simply a reflex to your gentle but determined rubs and kneading.
  4958. >Faint twitches and audible gasps tell you when you struck gold.
  4959. >And like every good miner, you dig deeper when you hit a vein.
  4960. >Some louder gasps are your reward.
  4961. >You can only guess how intensive that treatment must feel for her, given that she has never had anything like this before.
  4962.  
  4963.  
  4964.  
  4965.  
  4966. >Though you doubt the sensation reaches the intensity of a certain night.
  4967. >Coming to think of it, that may become a funny hobby; to see in what ways you can treat #deca.mare without going too far.
  4968. >Bonus points if it does not involve any sexual activities.
  4969. >Though they might have a certain charm now and then.
  4970. >A tremor runs through her legs as you  reach her hind quarters.
  4971. >You must have hit a very delicate spot.
  4972. >You intensify your massages on this area while you confirm that the drones are ready for departure.
  4973. >A short moan escapes #deca.mare's muzzle and she begins to rub her chin against your knees.
  4974. >This riles you up to a small degree as well.
  4975. >The machines can wait for a second.
  4976. >#deca.mare probably wanted to give you a status report, but your actions keep her properly distracted.
  4977. >The little instinctive swats with her tail are another indicator.
  4978. >You have her completely at your mercy.
  4979. >So you feel tempted capitalise on that with every stroke.
  4980. >#deca.mare shakes some more.
  4981. "Heh, careful there. You don't want to fall off, now do you?"
  4982. >Her response is resonating grunt before she presses her belly onto your lower body.
  4983. >You knead her legs along her major muscle groups until you are satisfied with your work.
  4984. >That means, until you deem #deca.mare properly massaged.
  4985. >At some point soon after, you get the feeling of being close to it.
  4986. >You observe #deca.mare.
  4987. >Your treatment has gotten to her composure.
  4988. >No wonder; you are constantly stimulating her physically at the moment, albeit not necessarily in an overly erotic form.
  4989. >Yet there is of course a high degree of intimacy in your actions, and that affects both of you.
  4990. >Turns out you do not have to go all out to get her on.
  4991. >Or rather go all in, to be accurate.
  4992. >You decide to let your pressure ebb away slowly before you have an unintended mess on the command deck.
  4993.  
  4994.  
  4995.  
  4996.  
  4997. >An accidental mare orgasm on the bridge would a first to you, and most likely to the entirety of space travelling history.
  4998. >Yet that is really not the right time for this.
  4999. >Though you cannot help but ponder one thing in your mind.
  5000. >Namely whether #deca.mare would take you on the deck right here and now.
  5001. >Probably yes, you conclude.
  5002. >And in your current position, you could easily take a look at her behind, checking whether she is actually in the right mood.
  5003. >Because mares, as you have found out, cannot really hide a certain state very well, barring covering it with their tails.
  5004. >And if done in an obvious manner, it is also a giveaway sign.
  5005. >You shake your head to banish these thoughts and slowly let go of #deca.mare.
  5006. >Not now, not here.
  5007. >As flustering as that idea may be.
  5008. >#deca.mare slowly raises her body to assume her regular position next to you once she notices how you let go of her.
  5009. >With a knowing little grin on her face.
  5010. >You sigh.
  5011. >There is nothing you can hide from her.
  5012. >"What? Something wrong?"
  5013. >She plays the seemingly innocent and unknowing card again.
  5014. >You clear your throat.
  5015. "You know what."
  5016. >"I did nothing, Anon. Honest."
  5017. "Except the moaning and sprawling part on my lap. That did something to me."
  5018. >#deca.mare chuckles heartily.
  5019. >"Nothing I can do about it when you have me in your firm grip like that."
  5020. >An extra emphasis on the words "firm grip" tells you that she would do it right here if you wanted to.
  5021. >And the worst part is that she is right.
  5022. >She cannot suppress her own reactions, considering how few physical experiences she has made.
  5023. >One firm massage of sore muscles must be the second most intense experience she had thus far.
  5024. >Though you also know she occasionally uses this fact deliberately to play with you regardless.
  5025. >She is fully aware that you have now grown somewhat fond of her form, much to her own delight.
  5026. >And you cannot complain about it either at the end of the day.
  5027.  
  5028.  
  5029.  
  5030.  
  5031. >Yet it also opens up several more situations like this one, where a few impulses can be enough to lead to intense interactions like this.
  5032. >You breathe in and out as you calm yourself.
  5033. >Another chuckle.
  5034. >"Oh, Anon. You are too precious."
  5035. "So? Because I am not sure whether I should get turned on in a command chair on the bridge?"
  5036. >"No. Let me give a different perspective."
  5037. >#deca.mare puts a hoof on your upper leg and draws small circles on it.
  5038. >The sensation has an unexpected strong effect on you.
  5039. >"This was the first time you have considered, and I mean really considered, to engage in something on your own initial volition."
  5040. "It was just a thought. Not for very long, but the idea came to me, yes."
  5041. >The circles she draws become a little larger.
  5042. >"This is a good sign, Anon. It shows you are getting slowly accustomed to the situation at large."
  5043. "Even without your not so subtle advances?"
  5044. >#deca.mare nods.
  5045. >"Even without those."
  5046. >The circles widen a little more.
  5047. >They come dangerously close to your nether region.
  5048. >This alone is enough to wake your instincts once more.
  5049. >"To give you a proper answer, yes, I have no problem with, to use one of your terms, doing it here, Anon. The place does not matter as much as the person with whom I do it. And there is only one in the entire universe."
  5050. >Her hoof stops.
  5051. >There were no dirty tricks this time.
  5052. >"Really, I am grateful for what you have given me already, Anon. And I will not try to push you again. I think we have finally reached the stage where things grow naturally between us."
  5053. "Does that mean no more shady pranks?"
  5054. >She smiles with a warm, but cheeky grin.
  5055. >"Only if you want to. Come here."
  5056. >#deca.mare leans her upper body closer to you.
  5057. >Halfway expecting a surprise springing out of the proverbial box, you reluctantly do the same.
  5058. >But no prank comes.
  5059. >You only receive a gentle kiss instead.
  5060. >One in which you are inclined chime in actively.
  5061.  
  5062.  
  5063.  
  5064.  
  5065. >You break the kiss after a few seconds and simply look at each other.
  5066. "You know, perhaps a harmless prank now and then is not so bad."
  5067. >"I am happy to hear that, Anon."
  5068. >You observe #deca.mare again, now that you had a moment to calm down.
  5069. "And? How do you feel now?"
  5070. >"Much better, thanks to your massage."
  5071. "Heh, knew you would like it. We can repeat this any time."
  5072. >#deca.mare nuzzles your cheek as a sign of gratitude.
  5073. >She turns to the screen afterwards.
  5074. >This reminds you why you are here in the first place.
  5075. >#deca.mare was apparently not the only one who got distracted.
  5076. >Oh well, you can still stick to soft strokes and ear scratches while you watch the spectacle.
  5077. >You double check the six units.
  5078. >All are ready and charged to the brim with energy.
  5079. "Everything green so far. Now what order shall we give them?"
  5080. >"Basically only 'run program'. The exact instructions are wired in the automatons."
  5081. "Sounds easy enough. Each activates three?"
  5082. >#deca.mare nods in agreement.
  5083. >"Hmhm. I suggest you take units two, four, and five."
  5084. "What's the deal with those?"
  5085. >"These are the three you built personally. I think it is fitting for you to send them out as a symbolic act."
  5086. "And you take your three. That way both of us have done an equal part for the whole."
  5087. >Technically not quite correct, but never mind.
  5088. >#deca.mare counts down from five to zero.
  5089. >You select your units and prepare the order.
  5090. >"Zero."
  5091. >Units, run your program.
  5092. >It feels like you get a mental confirmation back, but nothing happens in the first seconds.
  5093. >They do not do anything out of the perspective of an outer nexus camera lens.
  5094. "Uhm, #deca?"
  5095. >"Give it a second. They analyse the telemetry intel."
  5096. >And true enough, the six ground units detach themselves from the nexus and move out.
  5097. >All six head for the mountain range.
  5098. >Not much of a surprise; this segment is after all expected to have the richest deposits in the area.
  5099.  
  5100.  
  5101.  
  5102.  
  5103. >"Only one thing left to do before we can lean back."
  5104. >#deca.mare readjusts several screens.
  5105. >One of the larger side screens now show the telemetry map of the area while the main screen is separated into six squares of equal size.
  5106. >This structure is similar to the list you used while you chose a planet.
  5107. >The only difference is that these fields are connected to the frontal cameras of every ground unit, neatly organised from number one to six.
  5108. >You can see them driving across the plane towards their target.
  5109. >Every camera shows the distant mountains in a slightly different angle.
  5110. >Makes sense; each unit will look for a different spot to dig.
  5111. >Though you know the individual tunnels will eventually merge to one large underground system.
  5112. >A system that will weave its ways throughout the entire planetary body over time.
  5113. >You need to think about that for a second.
  5114. >The sheer magnitude of it all remains baffling, no matter how long you think about it.
  5115. >You try to guess how long the drones will need reach their destination.
  5116. >Also roughly ten minutes if they drive with standard speed in a straight line.
  5117. >So add another minute or two, give or take.
  5118. >You use this time to play a little with #deca.mare's fur.
  5119. >She does not seem to mind.
  5120. >Though your eyes remain focussed on the six video feeds in front of you.
  5121. >A question crosses your mind.
  5122. "Say, did you intentionally  pick six units as founding group?
  5123. >"Yes, but not for the reason you think of right now. It has simply proven in many trial runs that six is a stable number when only one of us is present. Light enough on our own inventory, yet still sufficient to harvest an acceptable amount of resources on average. Plus, enough redundancies are present for the rare case of a dropout."
  5124.  
  5125.  
  5126.  
  5127.  
  5128. >A pause.
  5129. >"The automatons are very good at what they are doing, but a certain unknown factor is always present in an early stage. But accidents are nigh impossible once the planet is claimed and an infrastructure is established."
  5130. >The units reach the foot of the mountain range and begin their "climb".
  5131. >The path is, unsurprisingly, going up.
  5132. >Only for a low angle at first, but with a gradual increase in steepness.
  5133. >They are looking for suitable entries.
  5134. >Crevices, caves, simple cracked spots in the rock, anything which can be used to efficiently form a tunnel.
  5135. >And of course, the proximity to natural deposits is important as well.
  5136. >The drones are constantly running their onboard mineral scanners for close-range examinations.
  5137. >They yield much more efficient results than any scan from orbit could, albeit only in small, limited areas.
  5138. >And while one such scan does not mean much on a broader scale, the constant scanning of six units does make a difference.
  5139. >Especially since those coordinate their movement patterns and scans.
  5140. >Plus, they send those data bits to the nexus in real-time, whose automaton is busy with updating the telemetry data it got from the mother ship.
  5141. >And of course, the nexus sends those results to the mother ship as well.
  5142. >You can personally witness the progress on several sets of secondary screens, which are filled with ever changing geological input.
  5143. >You try to read some of those pieces of information.
  5144. >While you think you understand the gist of the things you see, your geological education is by far not elaborate enough to understand the finder details.
  5145. >Scratching ice from floating rocks in space is one thing, but starting a mining operation on a practically unclaimed world is a whole different league.
  5146.  
  5147.  
  5148.  
  5149.  
  5150. >So you watch with curiosity as the drones find their first potential digging site.
  5151. >A dent in a rock wall.
  5152. >Stable enough to not collapse automatically upon strain, yet still not too hard to pose a problem for the equipment.
  5153. >First calculations show several different tunnelling techniques that could be used to create a system which largely carries itself without further beams or other forms of support struts to hold the weight of the rock above.
  5154. >Especially the last point is vital since every slice of material that has to be used on beams or struts means less material for future drones or other equipment.
  5155. >And what is even more important: There are metals nearby.
  5156. >Some veins are only a dozen of metres in the rock.
  5157. >First close scans indicate there should be no problem in mining this deposit, which turns it into a great first find.
  5158. >The machines already calculate the approximate gain in resources with each run if they deliver a full load to the nexus.
  5159. >Of course, they also have to consider to leave some room for bounding material needed for a proper refinement.
  5160. >The drone which found the potential spot sends out a signal.
  5161. >Two of the other drones suddenly change their course to approach the soon-to-be tunnel entrance.
  5162. >The remaining three go on with the search as if nothing happened.
  5163. "Is that normal?"
  5164. >"Hmhm. The system concluded it requires the working power of several units for an optimal efficiency. So it chose to relegate one half of the team to the site while the others are looking for more entrances into the rock."
  5165. "Interesting. But why three?"
  5166. >"For different roles during the digging process. One unit forms the spearhead and drills, the others cover the rubble."
  5167.  
  5168.  
  5169.  
  5170.  
  5171. >Another pause.
  5172. >"This becomes more important the longer a tunnel gets. Later on we will have one of them drilling while the second one brings the rubble to the third one waiting outside. Then it can place said rocks somewhere else while the second is returning to the first for the next collection run."
  5173. "Like a clockwork, basically."
  5174. >"Indeed. The behavioural pattern will change once the machines have reached the veins. Then they will prioritise to collect the ore and only clean as much rubble as necessary to gain the resources. But the tunnel stability has nevertheless the highest priority."
  5175. "Because the machines already consider to build the tunnel system in a way to include the space we dig out to reach the metal. They will become a part of the larger tunnel system."
  5176. >"Yes, that is a part of it. Although we will collapse some of the smaller ones or fill them with rubble produced by other dig sites once the local ore deposits are depleted. Having a decent number of selected shafts with moderate size trumps a high number of smaller ones which are mostly redundant. Plus, they are easier to maintain."
  5177. >A rather elegant solution in your opinion, as it kills two birds with one stone.
  5178. >The machine fires up its drill while the other units are on their way.
  5179. >Apparently it does not need the aid of the other two for the initial steps.
  5180. >The massive head begins to spin.
  5181. >Slowly at first, then faster and faster.
  5182. >You are happy that the audio signals are muted by default, as you can only imagine how loud its howl must be.
  5183. >Plus, it is going to become even worse when the metal penetrates the rock.
  5184. >The motor accelerates the tool to standard operation speed, and the drone advances slowly until the drill head touches the wall.
  5185. >And the visuals get blurry at this point, as small rocks fly by and clouds of dust are whirled up.
  5186. >You cannot see anything under these conditions in your normal visual spectrum.
  5187.  
  5188.  
  5189.  
  5190.  
  5191. "I guess the drones have more than enough scanners to manoeuvre in this mess, right?"
  5192. >"Yes. Although some of them are hard to translate to visual input like you know it."
  5193. >#deca.mare readjusts a singular secondary screen to illustrate exactly what kind of other means the drones possess.
  5194. >Some of them are easy to understand.
  5195. >Thermal vision, limited x-ray scanners, some other environmental scanners, and of course the ever growing mapping of the planet's local surface texture.
  5196. >With all of that information crammed into one screen, getting some coherent knowledge out of it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, at least for an average human like you.
  5197. >Though the machines can obviously process the input effortlessly.
  5198. >You focus your vision back on the main screen.
  5199. >The other two units have arrived by now and pick up the small chunks of rock which are loosened by the drill's forceful entry into the solid underworld.
  5200. >Right now they also clear other rocks which were not originally freed by the drill, these are stones that can nevertheless become an obstacle for the endeavour at some point in the future.
  5201. >And as such, they have to go.
  5202. >You observe that display of coordination for some time.
  5203. >The containers on the top of the units were designed to hold quite the amount of resources, yet you see how fast they hit the limit when filled with common rubble.
  5204. >Once full, the drones drive to the nearest slope and dump the rocks there for now.
  5205. >#deca.mare and you watch the spectacle in curious silence.
  5206. >You can see how the drone dig deeper and deeper, with the other two making sure to keep the pace steady.
  5207. >Meanwhile one drone of the other three has found a similar digging site and notified the other two roaming units.
  5208. >Now you can witness how the same process is taking place at two different spots in real-time.
  5209. >It is partly astounding and partly creepy to compare these two operations.
  5210. >The pace and methodology with which they work is eerily similar.
  5211.  
  5212.  
  5213.  
  5214.  
  5215. >You understand why this is the case, but the idea that the planet will literally crawl with thousands of these things very soon is a handful, even when they remain mostly underground.
  5216. "How many do we need to maintain all those tunnels then? I mean, we are talking about an entire planet worth of mass. Including its underworld, no less."
  5217. >"Not as many as you might expect right now. Because we will also implement a planet-wide sensor grid. It will monitor tectonic activities and other events that could destabilise certain areas."
  5218. "But still, that requires insane amounts of resources and drones, especially in the long run."
  5219. >"This is not the first time I do something like this, Anon. Trust me, we can manage."
  5220. "And yet it is not 'just' like any other world though. We're going to literally implement a conscience into this planet."
  5221. >"Yes, I am aware of that. And you are right, this will require more resources than any previous project, but there is something else to it."
  5222. "Namely?"
  5223. >"The principle of turning one's weakness into a strength, Anon. We have more options available than usual projects do."
  5224. >A chuckle.
  5225. >Or rather, we have some unusual allies of sorts."
  5226. "I'm afraid I can't follow, #deca."
  5227. >"Well, allow me to clarify. The single most important difference between this and the other projects is us also providing life for this planet as well. Life we recreate from scratch, in nearly all shapes and forms."
  5228. >Something clicks in your mind.
  5229. >You think you understand what #deca.mare implies.
  5230. >"And some of these life forms are happily digging their way through the earth all day."
  5231. >Just as you thought.
  5232. "You mean like those dogs, don't you?"
  5233. >"Precisely, Anon."
  5234.  
  5235.  
  5236.  
  5237.  
  5238. "Do you think that's a good idea? These are not the most pleasant fellows from what we have seen."
  5239. >"A bit unrefined in their manners, sure, but not impossible to deal with. Plus, they are the perfect choice. Think about it, a race with predominantly subterranean living habits who also love to dig holes in the ground. They can organically produce cave systems on their own. And we can use most of them as well."
  5240. "How so? Unless we pull that same disappearing trick for the dogs' perception of the drones which will also apply to things like the cybernetic implants, it's hard to keep that a secret. And what do we do if they reach the computer cores?"
  5241. >"That is the real beauty of the plan, Anon. A small population of them is more than enough for the realisation of this concept, and allows them to live mostly in reclusion without too much contact with the wider world. They also dig much and fast, but only up to a certain depth. They will never dare to venture deep enough to accidentally endanger the cores or themselves in the process. Plus they create way too many caves to use them all efficiently. They will simply neglect certain areas over time as they dig on."
  5242. "Areas we can then claim for our own purposes."
  5243. >"Not claiming in the usual sense, but our drones can use them as transfer and transport routes when the dogs are not looking. They will not notice it and we harm nothing in the process. So no problem for each party involved."
  5244. >You think this concept to its logical conclusion.
  5245. "And since the system will always know where exactly the dogs are at the moment and what they are currently planning, they can simply avoid them without messing with their minds or free will."
  5246. >"Precisely. So, what do you think?"
  5247. >You try to evaluate that concept from an objective standpoint.
  5248.  
  5249.  
  5250.  
  5251.  
  5252.  
  5253. >You would personally prefer not to meet any of those dogs yourself, but they are a part of the world at large, even if their numbers are exceedingly low in comparison to ponies or other creatures.
  5254. >But that leaves them with much space, or dirt, to work with and countless caves to live in.
  5255. >Which then in turn eases you part to maintain the world at large.
  5256. >#deca.mare looks at you, awaiting an answer.
  5257. >You know she will not realise her plan when you object.
  5258. >And while you cannot hide your personal distaste for those damned diggers, you see the validity in her points.
  5259. >So there is only one conclusion.
  5260. "Alright. I'm fine with it."
  5261. >#deca.mare nods.
  5262. >"Understood, Anon."
  5263. >You look back at the screen.
  5264. >The drones have already created a fair bit of empty space inside the rock.
  5265. >You instinctively imagine them with paws and claws, digging through the solid layers.
  5266. >You shake yourself.
  5267. "Hey, #deca."
  5268. >#deca.mare has noticed your movements.
  5269. >"Yes, Anon?"
  5270. "I think I need a break. Can we change the scenery for a while?"
  5271. >"Hmhm. Things are going smoothly so far. There is nothing that needs immediate attention, and the system will warn me should that change for whatever reason."
  5272. "Great."
  5273. >You stand up.
  5274. >"Where do you want to go, Anon?"
  5275. "Not important right now. All I need is some fresh air."
  5276.  
  5277.  
  5278.  
  5279.  
  5280. 54
  5281.  
  5282. >You suddenly look down and immediately regret your decision.
  5283. >Vast landscapes sprawl in every direction far, far down below.
  5284. >You lose your balance in a second of vertigo and take a step back.
  5285. >Only to seemingly slip on something and land on your buttocks.
  5286. >Small white cloud fragments thump in all directions as you land on the soft but somehow solid surface of condensed water.
  5287. "You know, when I said I needed some fresh air, I didn't mean it like that."
  5288. >#deca.mare walks towards you, stretching out a hoof for you to grab with your hands.
  5289. >You accept her offer and she hoist you up.
  5290. >"Are you okay?"
  5291. "Yes, just confused as hell. Humans are not meant to walk on clouds."
  5292. >But a faint voice in your head reminds you of something.
  5293. >Pegasi are.
  5294. >So you need to learn this as well if you want to pass as one.
  5295. >If you only had an idea how to treat them in terms walking surfaces.
  5296. >You look at your feet.
  5297. >They have partially sunken in the white mass; everything from the ankle onwards is invisible to you.
  5298. >Yet it feels like you stand on a mostly even platform.
  5299. >The biggest problem therefore is your inability to tell where exactly you have to set your feet in the mist, given how fragile and changeable cloud formations are.
  5300. >And then there is of course the paradox of building a seemingly solid sky city with that very same material.
  5301. >You see some building complexes floating in the air in a moderate distance.
  5302. >They are clearly built in a modular fashion that tells them apart, yet they are all connected via some sort of bridging, turning it into one fixed mega-structure with different compartments.
  5303. >You know you are looking at a revised version of Cloudsdale, the capital of the sky.
  5304. >Although significantly more complex than its show counterpart, you can nevertheless spot many characteristic key features in the... architecture?
  5305.  
  5306.  
  5307.  
  5308.  
  5309. >Every building is made of clouds, an abundance of rainbows, and partially also of material which looks like stone.
  5310. >The latter is also shaped to resemble the columns of ancient Greek temples.
  5311. >Although you doubt it actually is solid rock.
  5312. >Because even if there is technology out there to make clouds at least somewhat solid, you doubt stone is a suitable material to use in combination with it.
  5313. >It is simply too damn heavy.
  5314. >#deca.mare answers your question before you can ask her.
  5315. >"Pressurised condensed water, put into shape via finely adjusted energy fields. If done carefully, these fields can also hold a selection of objects, as long as they are attuned correctly.
  5316. "Attuned correctly how?"
  5317. >"Do you want the official or the unofficial answer?"
  5318. "Both, I guess."
  5319. >"The official: Well, magic. And the unofficial would be another energy field with the same polarisation inside said object. Everything else flat out falls through."
  5320. "So the items technically push themselves apart."
  5321. >"That problem is best to be avoided if the city is supposed to hold. Which is why the adjustments have to be exact. The object would fall through the layer if the polarisation is too weak to counter the weight. And the opposite can turn the equipment in question into an unintended missile."
  5322. >#deca.mare chuckles awkwardly.
  5323. >"Imagine that happens to a storage in a closed room."
  5324. >You can picture it quite vividly.
  5325. >A common household could become a war zone, even if pegasi go lightly on the mundane collections in their homes.
  5326. "And pegasi can emanate a similar force field for cloud walking, I presume."
  5327. >"Yes. they are quite a piece of work. Emulating their abilities has been far more complex than those of other pony races, unicorns included. But in all fairness, the same goes for almost any flying species."
  5328. >#deca.mare sighs.
  5329. >"Speaking of which, I felt your troubled state when you asked for a break. What was the matter?"
  5330.  
  5331.  
  5332.  
  5333.  
  5334. >You carefully walk up to the edge of the cloud again and notion #deca.mare to follow you.
  5335. >Once there, you sit down and simply watch as the land below you passes by slowly.
  5336. >As a pilot, you are not exactly scared of heights; the moment of vertigo was merely caused by the sudden transition.
  5337. >After all, one does not often walk through a door only to gaze at an abyss a second later.
  5338. >So a certain survival instinct ought to protest in the rare occasion when it actually does happen.
  5339. >But now the surprise is gone, and you can watch the scenery.
  5340. >#deca.mare sits next to you, yet her gaze is primed at you, waiting for your answer.
  5341. "I don't know for sure, #deca. I tried to imagine what life like a diamond dog would be like, and it's not pretty."
  5342. >"Because it seems bleak to you?"
  5343. "Yeah. I mean, I can kinda see why a few individuals have a harder time than others, with Luna being one obvious example."
  5344. >You sigh.
  5345. "But having an entire race living in holes like that just feels unfair, especially since it'll be our responsibility. This does not happen due to larger circumstances, but because it is artificially created. By us, no less. You said everyone shall get encouraged to cooperate, but at the same time we literally nurse a species just to bury it in isolation."
  5346. >"We can still stop the project if you have second thoughts."
  5347. >You wave with a hand in #deca.mare's direction.
  5348. "No! No. That was not what I meant. But the stark contrast got me thinking, you know?"
  5349. >"Hmhm, I understand. Would you like to hear my take on the matter?"
  5350. "Of course, #deca."
  5351. >"I think there is a different side to it. Species like diamond dogs and a few others have noticeably different values and preferred ways of life than, say, ponies. We cannot treat them on an equal basis."
  5352. >Something in #deca.mare's words does not sound well to you.
  5353. >But she quickly goes on to debunk your suspicions.
  5354.  
  5355.  
  5356.  
  5357.  
  5358. >"And by that I do not mean any sort of discrimination. They need to be catered to in a different manner. The show has shown us enough evidence to prove this."
  5359. >You feel #deca.mare's hoof now resting on your shoulder.
  5360. >"Think about it like a diplomat of sorts. Diamond dogs prefer to stay mostly reclusive in their own habitat, and their main ambition besides expanding their caves is hoarding resources, mostly in the form of riches. Another species with striking similarities is dragonkind. Neither of which are inherently evil, but as you have seen, that does not turn them into overly social creatures by default."
  5361. >You look over to #deca.mare.
  5362. >She gives the most reassuring smile she can muster.
  5363. >"We give them, and all other species, the chance to get exactly what they desire the most and let them pursue their own goals without hindrance. Unless of course said goals affect others negatively in the process. Then, as I have mentioned earlier, harmony is bound to step in and restore the balance."
  5364. >A pause.
  5365. >"In return we can use the unique characteristics of every species to further our own purposes to keep Equestria safe and stable without disturbing anyone directly up front. The result is a living, organic world built on the principle of cooperation in which everyone has a small yet vital role to play, and every single individual benefits from these contributions as a whole. Some may be aware of this, others are not. But is that really important for the end result?""
  5366. >You raise your head to look at the sky.
  5367. >The sun is up high, in an seemingly endless sea of blue.
  5368. "And harmony is learning from all of this to grow stronger."
  5369.  
  5370.  
  5371.  
  5372.  
  5373. >"Exactly. It learns both from positive and negative experiences to better understand the needs and wishes of the world. And over time it can develop better ways and techniques to fulfil that role. Up to the state you have seen in the show so far, and eventually even beyond anything I can imagine right now. Ever onwards to get closer to a true utopia."
  5374. >#deca.mare exhales loudly.
  5375. >"This is my personal and honest take on Equestria, Anon. And I tried my hardest to stay true to the spirit of the show, and my personal beliefs. I know my vision has some downsides, and I fully acknowledge that the road will be bumpy at times, but everything happens for a reason and not a single soul will be lost in the process. If you see any wrong with this, please do not hold back. Because we can make adjustments without much of an effort yet."
  5376. >You look at #deca.mare and shake your head.
  5377. "No, I have nothing to add to your idea. I agree with you, #deca."
  5378. >"So... does that mean I could help you with your doubts?"
  5379. >You answer non-verbally by wrapping an arm around #deca.mare and stroke her neck.
  5380. >Perhaps you are worrying too much about all this.
  5381. >#deca.mare once again answers to your unspoken thoughts.
  5382. >"It is fine, Anon. Showing some form of earnest concern is a sign that you care. If anything, it makes me even happier to have you as my lover. I prefer having constructive debates, since they are much better than dealing with an unfazed conversation partner."
  5383. >You give her a short kiss on the cheek.
  5384. "Thanks for the compliment. You know how to raise my spirits."
  5385. >"Anytime."
  5386. >You idle side by side for a few minutes.
  5387. >"Hey, Anon."
  5388. "Hm?"
  5389. >"Since we're already in the outskirts of Cloudsdale, I could give you a quick lesson in cloudwalking, hm? Just an easy one. No pony body or other hoops involved."
  5390. "You think it's easy?"
  5391.  
  5392.  
  5393.  
  5394.  
  5395. >"Indeed. You only have to get a feeling for it. The principle is very simple."
  5396. "Okay then. What's the trick?"
  5397. >You stand up and turn your back to the edge to inspect the cloud mass before you.
  5398. >#deca.mare rises up as well.
  5399. >"The trick is to not get deceived by the form of the cloud. It would be extremely inelegant to shape every energy field in the exact same image of a cloud, especially when structures are supposed to be built there. So the system creates an even layer inside the cloud mass which tries to cover as much of the cloud body as possible."
  5400. >You look down on your sunken shoes and begin to understand the pattern.
  5401. >"Plus, imagine what walking on clouds would be like if these fields were uneven. Their natural surfaces are far too irregular for convenient walking."
  5402. "I see."
  5403. >You take one careful step forward to feel the surface.
  5404. >Almost as if you are standing on a dry dirt road.
  5405. >Fairly regular to walk on despite a some minor aberrations, yet at the same time much softer than any road you have ever travelled on.
  5406. >More steps follow.
  5407. >#deca.mare trots casually next to you.
  5408. >"You can even jump on them without an issue, the fields are very stable. Parts of them only disperse when, for example, pegasi fly through them with enough speed to shake up large parts of the cloud itself. And that will not happen in pegasus cities to begin with."
  5409. >Ignoring your inner voice's attempts to remind you of the distance between you and the actual ground, you try just that.
  5410. >A few hops up and down.
  5411. >Much to your surprise, the cloud layer catches the brunt of your landing.
  5412. >You barely feel the impact after each jump.
  5413. >And you can hear #deca.mare laughing closely behind you.
  5414.  
  5415.  
  5416.  
  5417.  
  5418. >"Almost like a real pegasus. Now try jumping to the next cloud."
  5419. >You stand still immediately.
  5420. "What?"
  5421. >This was an impossible request.
  5422. >Even if you cannot be harmed in this simulation, an attempt to reach the next cloud with a jump is simply not doable.
  5423. >The distance between them is far too great.
  5424. >#deca.mare laughs again.
  5425. >"Relax, Anon. That was a joke. But there is something else we can do."
  5426. >The old camera appears again.
  5427. >You understand the implication.
  5428. "Let me guess, Anon's first steps on clouds?"
  5429. >"We can negotiate the title if you do not like it."
  5430. >You accept with a shrug, stand casually next to #deca.mare and wait for her to shoot the photo.
  5431. >Snap and flash.
  5432. >You remember something.
  5433. "Dammit."
  5434. >"Anon?"
  5435. "In my doubts I forgot to make some photos of the digging sites."
  5436. >#deca.mare's forehoof draws some suspicious circles on the cloud.
  5437. >"Way ahead of you, Anon."
  5438. >A small series of photos appear before you.
  5439. >Half a dozen, to be exact.
  5440. >They show the both initial digging sites from different perspectives.
  5441. >Each just seconds before the machines begun to drill their way through.
  5442. "Well, I guess I'm settled after all."
  5443. >"Shall we return before we miss more?"
  5444. "You're right. Let's go back."
  5445. >But before you can rematerialise the door to the deck, you detect #deca.mare's coy smile.
  5446. >And you know very well what that means.
  5447. "Heavens, what have you thought of now?"
  5448. >An innocent laughter.
  5449. >"Only one small request. For fun, you know?"
  5450. >Oh dear.
  5451. "And what kind of 'fun' are we talking exactly?"
  5452. >Her nostrils are quaking once.
  5453. >"Remember how we got to our breakfast on the field?"
  5454. "You mean the one where you lunged us straight and butt naked out of Canterlot through a window?"
  5455. >"Yes. That one. I would like to do this again, if you are fine with it."
  5456. >You say nothing for a second or two.
  5457. >Why is she so fixated on throwing herself to the ground?
  5458.  
  5459.  
  5460.  
  5461.  
  5462. >Once again, #deca.mare responds to your unspoken question.
  5463. >"Because it was fun. And an extraordinary experience as well."
  5464. >You can kind of follow her notion.
  5465. >As someone who has lived centuries of passive existence, the urge to try and experience things can take some rather interesting turns.
  5466. >Plus, it helps you as well.
  5467. >You should get familiar to flying and falling if you want to become a good flyer.
  5468. >Or a decent one at least.
  5469. >"Please?"
  5470. >You look at her.
  5471. >She somehow manages it to make her large eyes appear even larger.
  5472. >You let out a long sigh.
  5473. "Alright. How do you want to do it?"
  5474. >"Directly. Could you stand right at the edge of the cloud and look at me?"
  5475. >Your survival instinct says no, but your heart says yes.
  5476. >You do as she asks.
  5477. >With the abyss behind you and #deca.mare in front of you, you try to prepare yourself for what is bound to happen next.
  5478. >You give her a short nod to signal her that you are ready.
  5479. >"Okay. Here we go, Anon."
  5480. >And just as she has spoken these words, you see her coming in a quick gallop.
  5481. >Your senses tell you to get out of the way by sheer instinct, but you are neither fast enough to react, nor would you want to ruin this for #deca.mare.
  5482. >Shortly before #deca.mare reaches you, she jumps up, similar to the jump over the window frame.
  5483. >You quickly rise up your arms, but #deca.mare is too fast.
  5484. >She suddenly embraces you with both forelimbs as the momentum of her jump hits you.
  5485. >The collision is not overly strong and does not inflict any pain, yet it is more than enough to push both of you clean over the edge and into free fall.
  5486.  
  5487.  
  5488.  
  5489.  
  5490. >You immediately feel the effects of falling again.
  5491. >But unlike last time, you cannot cling to #deca.mare's body for dear life.
  5492. >Because she has encased you completely instead.
  5493. >No way to move, no way to act.
  5494. >All you can do is enjoying the flight for what it is.
  5495. >Well, at least as far as you can enjoy a lethal plunge through the air.
  5496. >#deca.mare for her part does seem to like it though.
  5497. >You can hear her cheer, yet with a significant distortion due to the rushing air all around you.
  5498. >The drop continues.
  5499. >For a moment you ask yourself why it takes so long, but your brain has enough capacities left outside of its panic mode to find the answer.
  5500. >The last jump started in Canterlot.
  5501. >High on a mountain, sure, but nothing in comparison to Cloudsdale, a city literally built in the sky.
  5502. >Of course it takes much longer to reach the ground.
  5503. >And you are in for the ride, for better or worse.
  5504. >So all you can do is to get the best out of it.
  5505. >You close your eyes and try to focus.
  5506. >Not the easiest task, considering your current situation.
  5507. >But you manage to take in some sensual impressions.
  5508. >The sounds of air.
  5509. >The gusts of wind around you.
  5510. >#deca.mare's body on yours.
  5511. >The overall feeling is not so bad once you can at least partially ignore your natural stress.
  5512. >Any maybe, just maybe, you learn to enjoy it too.
  5513. >You let all those impressions sink in as you and #deca.mare fall and fall.
  5514. >But you eventually reach the ground.
  5515. >You did not see it coming, but a moderate thump into a solid layer of something was all you need to know.
  5516. >You open your eyes to find yourself in the command chair, with #deca.mare on top of you, still holding you tight.
  5517. >You look at the excited grin on her face as she rolls off to the side.
  5518. "Well, that wasn't so bad."
  5519. >You straighten your clothes and bring yourself into a comfortable position before you check what has happened while you were gone.
  5520. >Your doubts and concerns have vanished.
  5521.  
  5522.  
  5523.  
  5524.  
  5525. 55
  5526.  
  5527. >A quick check on the ship chronometer reveals your absence has been not much longer than half an hour.
  5528. >But given the progress of the drones, you would have guessed it has been far more.
  5529. >You are currently looking at the main screen with a setting which depicts both digging sites.
  5530. >And each is already several metres deep beneath the surface.
  5531. >Though it is obvious that these machines work steadily in a pace which goes far beyond the limit of what other machines can do when they have to be either piloted or at least monitored by humans.
  5532. >So you can now personally witness a fraction of the potential that enables this technology to cultivate a planet in record speed.
  5533. >For a while you just sit on your spot and admire the tireless working machines with what must be the near limit of possible efficiency.
  5534. >These drones know exactly what they are doing and where they are going.
  5535. >Kind of ironic, since they are still automatons without any sense for reason behind their work.
  5536. >You have encountered many different automatons in the last few days, yet their contrast to the technology you had to work with your entire life just remains astounding every single time you get to see it in such a direct manner.
  5537. >And since there is not much you yourself can do directly at this point, you ask #deca.mare to explain the basics of planetary mining and tunnel construction.
  5538. >She gladly complies with your request and tells you about some of the main aspects, using the visual feeds of the six machines as her primary example.
  5539. >So her explanations literally run along with the digging process.
  5540. >But due to your own personal physical and mental limits, she restricts said explanations to a carefully controlled scale.
  5541. >#deca.mare basically gives you enough of an understanding to follow why the machines do things as they do and what they look out for.
  5542.  
  5543.  
  5544.  
  5545.  
  5546. >And you listen with curiosity while you hold #deca.mare in your arms and keep your eyes trained on the screen before you.
  5547. >It is kind of amazing what she can teach you in a brief, yet clear and precise manner.
  5548. >Including things you have never expected to understand at all.
  5549. >You smile as a fun little thought crosses your mind.
  5550. >Maybe you would have been more attentive in your educational life when it had involved ponies, as idiotic as it might sound.
  5551. >Or at least a certain mare would have lightened up your life to a large degree.
  5552. >Then again, it took a peculiar and dire situation for you to really appreciate #deca.mare for what she is.
  5553. >It was one of those rare situations that only occur under very special circumstances.
  5554. >Ones which are nearly impossible to replicate, and even harder to factually describe, if you had to explain it to anyone else.
  5555. >In any case, you follow #deca.mare's explanations with all the honest interest you can muster.
  5556. >Some time passes.
  5557. >And as interesting as the whole lesson is, you have to call it quits eventually.
  5558. >The drones are already at their first ore deposits and begun to extract the resources for further processing at the nexus.
  5559. >A good point to make a longer break.
  5560. >You stand up and do a few physical exercises to ward off the weariness.
  5561. >You notice it is soon time for the next nap.
  5562. >Yet you have not seen anything of the show today.
  5563. >Maybe you should not watch a whole season this time?
  5564. >"Anon? There is something I wanted to discuss with you."
  5565. >You hold that thought.
  5566. "What's up?"
  5567. >"Now that we are already in the mode of building and starting anew, I think it is time for another modification while we are at it. We need to replenish our onboard resources soon anyway."
  5568. "And which modification did you have in mind?"
  5569. >"Remember when we talked about the command chair and its link to your physical body?"
  5570. "Yes?"
  5571. >"Do you still recall what I told you?"
  5572.  
  5573.  
  5574.  
  5575.  
  5576. >You rummage through your memory to look for the point #deca.mare could mean.
  5577. >And it makes click quickly.
  5578. "Oh, right. You said it needs refurbishing because it wasn't designed for permanent operation in its current state."
  5579. >"Indeed. I basically plan to replace the chair with a cryo chamber. The general functionality remains the same, but it comes with the bonus of better protection for you."
  5580. "Better protection?"
  5581. >"Against the proverbial elements. Right now your body is still mostly exposed. In your current state I can keep you healthy for quite a long time by safely lowering your circulation and bodily functions to the absolute minimum and by keeping everything monitored and regulated."
  5582. >#deca.mare pauses and touches your hand with a forehoof.
  5583. >"But I can increase the efficiency to a considerable degree with these alterations."
  5584. >She sighs.
  5585. >"This alone will only delay... the inevitable, but it gives me much more time to find a solution. So that we can stay together. Forever."
  5586. >You fully understand what she means, but does not dare to speak out aloud. And she has already told you of its potential.
  5587. >Thousands of years of additional life at the very least, and possibly mutual immortality when #deca.mare finds a way.
  5588. >The idea of living forever is scary to contemplate once it may come into one's reach.
  5589. >Its most notable curse is of course watching everything around oneself ending at some point or another.
  5590. >But things are different in this case.
  5591. >#deca.mare herself does technically not age either.
  5592. >And as long as there are resources in the universe left to harvest, she can keep herself alive indefinitely.
  5593. >Plus, you two would not be alone either.
  5594. >A whole world will be at your side.
  5595. >The planet which is very likely to become the best one this universe has ever seen.
  5596. >So under these conditions, you have no problem to live on beyond your natural limit.
  5597. >In fact, your interest in the future and what could happen grows with each day.
  5598.  
  5599.  
  5600.  
  5601.  
  5602. >And you have basically already agreed to #deca.mare's proposal, but it does not hurt to repeat your consent.
  5603. "Do it. I trust you fully, #deca."
  5604. >"Gladly. That leaves us with a small complication though."
  5605. >#deca.mare proceeds without giving you the time to respond to that.
  5606. >"It is nothing bad per se, but I cannot go and start the installation while the system is occupied."
  5607. >You understand immediately.
  5608. "You have to cut the link so that I can leave the chair."
  5609. >A nod.
  5610. >"Correct. I figured it might be a good idea to wait until it is time for you to rest. So I can get to work without forcing you to idle."
  5611. "I see. And I assume you want me to stay in the old crew quarters."
  5612. >"Yes, they are fully operational and I have not changed them in any way, barring maintenance of course. Everything is left exactly in the way it was when they were used the last time."
  5613. >You can hear how #deca.mare's voice got progressively heaver while she spoke.
  5614. >You quickly give her a firm hug.
  5615. "Are you okay?"
  5616. >"Yes, just old memories, you know?"
  5617. "It's alright, #deca. Just tell me if you need a shoulder to lean on. No matter when."
  5618. >You spot the unintended irony in your last sentence.
  5619. >After all, you said this moments before you leave her direct presence.
  5620. >Only temporary of course, but still.
  5621. >Yet you figure you still remain in reach for her if she really needs you.
  5622. >Because as long as you are on this ship, you are basically in her embrace.
  5623. >And something inside you tells you that #deca.mare understood this too, even if she mentally struggles on occasion.
  5624. >"I am ready for the adjustments. All that yet remains to do is to cut the link."
  5625. "Are you ready as well? I mean personally."
  5626.  
  5627.  
  5628.  
  5629.  
  5630. >#deca.mare puts on her best sincere smile.
  5631. >There may be something she does not tell you, but from what you can read in her face, it is nothing bad.
  5632. >So you take this as a yes.
  5633. >You give her one last long hug for good measure.
  5634. >"I am going to sever the connection now. Do not be alarmed once you wake up. You will feel weak and frail for a short while, as if under the influence of a muscular atrophy. But this will fade quickly once your body gets back into its natural pace."
  5635. "Got it, #deca. Anything else I need to know?"
  5636. >"Just that. Do not rush things when you wake up, and you will be fine. Promise."
  5637. "Alright, let's get to it then. I love you, #deca."
  5638. >"Love you too."
  5639. >A pause.
  5640. >"See you on the other side, Anon."
  5641. >You do not get the opportunity to ask her how she meant that.
  5642. >Instead, the world around you blurs out in a familiar fashion.
  5643. >But this time it is not replaced by another scenery.
  5644. >Your vision remains void, and you cannot feel your body anymore.
  5645. >And then you lose your ability to think.
  5646.  
  5647.  
  5648.  
  5649.  
  5650.  
  5651.  
  5652. 56
  5653.  
  5654. >A flicker of life somewhere.
  5655. >You roughly know what you are supposed to embody.
  5656. >Your mind and memories are there, but everything is strangely foggy.
  5657. >Despite the confusion, you feel you have a body of sorts.
  5658. >But you cannot move yourself at all.
  5659. >At least at the start.
  5660. >You have no way to measure time, but you notice a fluent change.
  5661. >You are regaining more and more control over your body.
  5662. >Enough to feel something and to give it simple instructions.
  5663. >Like opening your eyes that are located at a place which you are damn sure is a head.
  5664. >Your lids open slowly, and light floods in.
  5665. >Though this is not bright or flashing light.
  5666. >No, this is a deep crimson.
  5667. >A warm colour, yet you feel ever so slightly alarmed by the hue at display.
  5668. >But you are far away from making out any details.
  5669. >Something calls you, but you cannot discern where the call comes from and what it tells you.
  5670. >Though it feels hearty for some strange reason.
  5671. >You regain more control.
  5672. >Now you are sure you have a head and neck to move around.
  5673. >So you do just that and find even more red light everywhere.
  5674. >A second call, just as encrypted as the last one.
  5675. >Oh, you suddenly have an upper body and two limbs.
  5676. >That makes things easier.
  5677. >You use your arms as support to raise your upper body.
  5678. >Maybe you can move around.
  5679. >But much to your surprise, a sudden force drives you back into the chair.
  5680. >However, you are fairly certain this was not due to a failure of your muscles.
  5681. >Something else pushed you down deliberately.
  5682. >"Wait another minute. You are not fully there yet."
  5683. >What?
  5684. >You look at the source of the call.
  5685. >By now you have gained enough sense of sight do identify a face, looking at you with large eyes and pointy ears.
  5686. >It seems friendly, but the red glow does not do it any justice.
  5687.  
  5688.  
  5689.  
  5690.  
  5691. >"I am here for you. Can you understand me?"
  5692. >You know you are supposed to give a signal of sorts, but you struggle to find a way.
  5693. >"No worries, I can see your reaction. Please remain calm for a short moment, and everything will fall in place again, Anon."
  5694. >Anon?
  5695. >Ah yes, your name.
  5696. >Given to you by... something else.
  5697. >"Maybe I can speed up the process a little bit."
  5698. >Just as the face says that, it starts to draw closer.
  5699. >Though you are far to busy with your own business to see anything strange or wrong with this situation.
  5700. >The friendly face puts its lips against yours.
  5701. >This gets a strong neurological reaction out of you.
  5702. >It feels like your brain sends out a surge throughout your entire body.
  5703. >And you in turn become quickly aware of every last portion which had been numb previously with a prickling sensation.
  5704. >The face retreats.
  5705. >"Here we go, that did the trick."
  5706. >You attempt to get up again, only to be kept in place by a gentle limb.
  5707. >"Easy now. Take it slowly."
  5708. >You begin to recognise the voice, and the fog around your memories clear more with every second.
  5709. >You remember where you are, and why you are here.
  5710. >And also that one small detail does not add up.
  5711. >A certain detail in the form of a friendly pony mare.
  5712. >Which is currently sitting atop of you, no less.
  5713. "#deca? Wha..."
  5714. >Your throat feels dry and you fall into a coughing fit.
  5715. >#deca.mare holds you tight until you get calm again.
  5716. >Once fit enough to speak, you talk to her again.
  5717. "What is going on? Am I still inside the simulation?"
  5718. >#deca.mare shakes her head.
  5719. >"No. The link is no longer established. You are back in your natural body, Anon."
  5720. >You try to inspect yourself.
  5721. >Your vision is largely blocked by #deca.mare's body, but you can see enough to realise you are sitting inside a chair tailored for one person, still clad in your space suit sans helmet.
  5722. >Indeed, everything indicates that #deca.mare tells you the truth.
  5723.  
  5724.  
  5725.  
  5726.  
  5727. "But how can you..."
  5728. >You stop for a moment to follow a thought that suddenly appears in your mind.
  5729. >Could it be?
  5730. "The body you have there, it has been here for a while, right? Because I don't think you have grown that in a few days."
  5731. >#deca.mare nods.
  5732. >"Yes, I made it as a test run back when I finalised my studies on possible biological traits for Equestrian ponies. It was my first true practical experiment on anything larger than a probe in a test tube."
  5733. "And you created it in the ship's biolab."
  5734. >"Hmhm. In a custom breeding tank I constructed exactly for that purpose. It also works as a cryo pod for convenient storage."
  5735. >Just as you have seen on the inventory list.
  5736. "'1x Me'. So that's the only body you have up here."
  5737. >"I saw no point in making more. The laboratory is far from full and could easily store several additional bodies, but for what purpose do I need more than one? It has given me the result I wanted to gain and I could not manage to initiate my dream on my own back then."
  5738. >#deca.mare gives you a second to let that knowledge sink in.
  5739. >This before you is the real deal, an actual living pony in the real world.
  5740. >Not just a dream, not just an idea from a fantasy world, and no simulation.
  5741. >This is the cold and hard reality.
  5742. >Although it has just gotten a smidgeon warmer.
  5743. >You slowly raise your arm closer to #deca.mare.
  5744. "May I?"
  5745. >She answers with a smile.
  5746. >"Of course, Anon. Sate your curiosity."
  5747. >You touch one of #deca.mare's forelegs with your palm.
  5748. >You can feel the fur with your fingers; real hair that is not just plastered to a surface, but truly embedded in it.
  5749. >Her soft tissue beneath that pulsates with warmth.
  5750. >You can see and hear her breathing, and due to the way how she does it, you can tell that it is not just for show.
  5751. >And you have not forgotten her kiss either, despite your limited mental capacity while it happened.
  5752. >This is a real Equestrian mare.
  5753. >A mare who is currently sitting on you.
  5754.  
  5755.  
  5756.  
  5757.  
  5758. >You run your hand along #deca.mare's foreleg; up and down, slowly and with care.
  5759. >She in turn strokes your arm with her other limb.
  5760. >It is a whole different thing, now that you are no longer inside a simulation.
  5761. >Although you know that #deca.mare will care for you in any case, and she would never endanger you.
  5762. >You let go of her after another run on her leg.
  5763. >"Shall we go to the crew quarters then? We can make ourselves comfortable there. Although they are not as luxurious as Canterlot Castle."
  5764. "I think we can handle. The quarters may be centuries old, but quarters are quarters. And I've lived in more than enough of those. It won't be a problem for me."
  5765. >Although you have never shared your room with anyone, much less a lover.
  5766. >Not to mention her most striking characteristics.
  5767. >This in itself is not a problem, yet the thought alone once again shows you the contrast between your former and your new life.
  5768. >And completely in reality this time.
  5769. >You sigh.
  5770. >#deca.mare's ears perk up.
  5771. >"Anon? Is something wrong?"
  5772. >A visibly concerned expression forms on #deca.mare's face.
  5773. >Of course.
  5774. >She can no longer follow your vitals in real-time, so she must worry about you.
  5775. >You quickly react to ease her of her sorrows.
  5776. "I'm fine. Just needed to think for a second."
  5777. >#deca.mare relaxes immediately.
  5778. >"Alright. Think you can stand up?"
  5779. "I guess."
  5780. >#deca.mare hops from the chair to give you the space you need.
  5781. >"Tell me when you are feeling drowsy or feel like your head is spinning. The transition is not dangerous, but some effects may last for a short while."
  5782. >You carefully rise your upper body from the chair and check for strange symptoms.
  5783.  
  5784.  
  5785.  
  5786.  
  5787. >Nothing so far except for a weak stinging in your neck.
  5788. >You touch the spot with a hand.
  5789. >A synthetic layer of sorts covers your skin there.
  5790. >#deca.mare understands without you saying a word.
  5791. >"A small incision necessary to connect you with the system. It is a minor wound and I treated it thoroughly the whole time. Cleaned and patched accordingly. No risk of infections or the like."
  5792. >You give #deca.mare an understanding nod.
  5793. >You are not surprised by this.
  5794. >After all, you have seen the needle all the way back when you sat down in the first place.
  5795. >And #deca.mare has been very careful to avoid bringing harm to you, so you do not address the matter further.
  5796. >At last, you attempt to stand up.
  5797. >#deca.mare stands next to the chair, ready to catch you, should you tremble and fall.
  5798. >But luckily, nothing bad happens and you stand on your real two legs again.
  5799. >You feel a little weak, but you can move and walk without an issue.
  5800. >The lower than average gravity might be a helping factor too.
  5801. "Good to go, #deca."
  5802. >You are about to head for the ramp, but #deca.mare's voice holds you back.
  5803. >"You have forgotten something, Anon."
  5804. >Her voice sounds oddly muffled.
  5805. "Oh?"
  5806. >You turn around and see the most ludicrous thing you have witnessed in a long time.
  5807. >#deca.mare sitting on her haunches next to the chair, wearing the helmet of your space suit on her head.
  5808. >Right, that one still lay on the base of the chair.
  5809. >The sight before you looks somewhat fitting and misaligned at the same time.
  5810. >Most of her face is visible through the canopy, and you have no doubt that she can look around without a problem.
  5811. >But the thing must press her ears against her head at the same time, which does not seem all that convenient to you.
  5812. >You instinctively snort as a result.
  5813. "You should pose for a recruitment poster like this. I bet that would attract some candidates."
  5814. >#deca.mare tilts her head inside the helmet.
  5815.  
  5816.  
  5817.  
  5818.  
  5819. >The object follows her movement, albeit with a small delay.
  5820. >Shows the mismatch even further.
  5821. >"My, I have never imagined how it must feel inside such a suit. I am amazed how long you can last in one."
  5822. "Eh, trust me, when you're personally out in space, this options gets far more attractive than the cold vacuum outside."
  5823. >#deca.mare stands up to approach you.
  5824. >"Does not make it any less inconvenient though. No matter, come. You do not have to endure this condition any longer."
  5825. >Now that she said this, you realise that you have spent the larger part of a week inside your suit.
  5826. >It is almost in the same condition it was when you entered the simulation, but you should really put it off soon.
  5827. >You follow #deca.mare on the now familiar way out of the command deck.
  5828. >The fact that the room is covered in a blood red hue does not faze you as much anymore thanks to your experiences in the past days, but you still prefer the softer sheen inside the simulation.
  5829. >Up the ramp you go, and to the door.
  5830. >It opens up as obedient as ever, but there is no bright and friendly pony world on the other side.
  5831. >Only more red and metal.
  5832. >Well, at least you are not alone this time.
  5833. >You and #deca.mare walk side by side to the main hall which connects the command deck with the quarters.
  5834. >This is where you meet a surprise.
  5835. >An unexpected conglomeration of machines linger in it's centre.
  5836. >Most look like construction drones of different varieties, but one thing sticks out.
  5837. >It is a transport unit like the one which drove you here, but it holds a peculiar object.
  5838. >A tube like glass pod which is currently empty.
  5839. >Although the lights on its control panel indicate that the device is ready for action.
  5840. >#deca.mare notices your interest for the object in question.
  5841. >"My pod. This is how I came here."
  5842. >Makes sense.
  5843. >The only way how a living organism without a suit can travel through the vacuum between the biological laboratories and the command deck.
  5844.  
  5845.  
  5846.  
  5847.  
  5848. "The other ones are for refurbishing the chair, I presume."
  5849. >"Hmhm. They will get to work while we are in the quarters. Do not be alarmed if you hear an odd sound or two. The units tend to be quite loud on occasion."
  5850. >So you are no haunted terraformer, got it.
  5851. >You get no answer to you mental remark.
  5852. >This surprises you for a second.
  5853. >The constant presence of #deca.mare's mind in yours has become normal to you in an astoundingly short span of time.
  5854. >And not having her with you in this intimate way feels strange to you, now that you have been at this point once.
  5855. >#deca.mare on the other hand is completely oblivious to your inner trail of thoughts and points in two different directions with a hoof.
  5856. >"Now we have the choice. There are two separate crew quarters available. They were originally separated in male and female quarters, as it is custom in most human institutions, but I dare to say we can ignore this little detail. So which one shall it be?"
  5857. "Doesn't matter what we take. We violate USC protocols in either case when we share a room."
  5858. >"Shall I put a note about the offence in your personal pilot log?"
  5859. "Right. I'm sure this will be the highest point of interest in my career should anyone ever find out where I am. All joking aside, let's take the former male one. Out of habit and such."
  5860. >"Then the right one it is."
  5861. >#deca.mare once again points in the relevant position and casually trots there.
  5862. >You follow suit and walk the short path to another door, similar to the one which connects the hallway with the command deck.
  5863. >It opens in a similar fashion and reveals another short hallway.
  5864. >Much to your surprise, you are greeted with a more standard pattern of lighting.
  5865. >It is very similar to the ones the USC uses nowadays.
  5866. >Not hard to guess why.
  5867.  
  5868.  
  5869.  
  5870.  
  5871. >"Unlike the vast majority of sections on this ship, the crew quarters were designed with human denizens in mind. It was a core element of its construction, unsurprisingly so. And while most of the primary light sources were removed from the command deck after our creators finished their work, the quarters were never altered. Everything you see here is still in the exact same state as it was when I was made."
  5872. >The way how #deca.mare speaks lets you fall silent.
  5873. >There is a solemn hint in her voice.
  5874. >This place means a lot to her, and you feel the urge to treat it with a certain dignity.
  5875. >Well, it is still meant as a place to sleep in, but you will treat it with some care.
  5876. >You observe the place once more. It is a small straight corridor which ends in a dead end.
  5877. >Half a dozen doors lie before you.
  5878. >If your experiences on USC stations has taught you anything, then it is the layout of quarters.
  5879. >You already know that each one leads to a singular room with a bed and basic standard furniture to store clothing, personal odds and ends, and so on.
  5880. >Except for one which is the door to a sanitary unit.
  5881. >Far from being as luxurious as the Ponyville spa or even a common bathroom, but it does its job.
  5882. >In other words, you have all necessities for basic comfort right here.
  5883. "Good to see that some things never change. I feel right at home."
  5884. >#deca.mare turns her head to you.
  5885. >An unsure expression peeks out of your helmet.
  5886. "This wasn't a joke. Everything here feels vaguely familiar. It's fine for me."
  5887. >She accepts your answer with a nod.
  5888. >One thing left to do.
  5889. "So, which room shall it be now?"
  5890. >#deca.mare has a much better eye for these things for obvious reasons.
  5891. >Every choice should be equally good, yet it is better for her to decide that.
  5892.  
  5893.  
  5894.  
  5895.  
  5896. >But wait.
  5897. >This is not entirely correct.
  5898. >Because one of these is not like the others.
  5899. >It housed someone who #deca.mare owes even more to than the rest.
  5900. >Because that person gave her a new perspective after she has lost everything.
  5901. >Completely unintentional from his side of course, and he never had the chance to see the fruits of his work.
  5902. >Though that is not important for the fact itself.
  5903. >#deca.mare begins to move before you can further ponder this point.
  5904. >Already determined in her choice, #deca.mare stops in front of the middle door on the left side, and you have no problem to go along with it.
  5905. >Though unlike all the other doors you have encountered on this ship, this variant does not open up automatically.
  5906. >Both of you idly stand before it for a few seconds.
  5907. >#deca.mare remains silent.
  5908. >You understand her emotions just through her posture.
  5909. "This is his room, isn't it?"
  5910. >A short and wordless nod.
  5911. >Then she proceeds to push a button on a manual input console which functions as a lock.
  5912. >It requires a biometric hand imprint to confirm the identity of the user.
  5913. >She also pushes her hoof on this apparatus, despite the obvious fact that her limb does not match the required input.
  5914. >Nevertheless, the mechanism unlocks and the metal door shifts out of the way.
  5915. >You look inside, unsure what to expect.
  5916. >Turns out that the room itself is remarkably unimpressive.
  5917. >One room, barely large enough to count as a basic flat, and even that is a generous depiction.
  5918. >It holds a simple bed with a metal framework and a standard mattress, some lockers, and a small table surface bolted in between a locker and the room's wall plus a chair, equally attached to the ground.
  5919. >The typical space farer charm for which every military station and capital ship is known for.
  5920.  
  5921.  
  5922.  
  5923.  
  5924. >However, the room is not completely devoid of decorations.
  5925. >The previous owner has left some things here.
  5926. >For instance, you see an old apparatus on the table; a primitive version of a mobile log recorder.
  5927. >The sheer design and technology therein have been obsolete for generations, but the machine is, as far as you can tell from the distance, in a pristine condition.
  5928. >Likewise do you see something akin to posters on the wall next to the bed.
  5929. >You are not exactly sure what material they are made of, but they too have survived the passage of time without a blemish.
  5930. >And regarding the imagery they depict, you are about as clueless as you can get.
  5931. >You have not seen any of those things before, yet this does not come as a surprise, given how far they were before your time.
  5932. >But you see nothing here that even remotely hints at ponies.
  5933. >Then again, you doubt this is a hobby one would celebrate visibly out in the open, and even if it is inside one's personal quarters.
  5934. >You slowly enter the room, careful where you set each single step.
  5935. >#deca.mare stays at your side.
  5936. >Once you have reached the centre of the humble room, the door closes behind you with a clicking sound.
  5937. >It has sealed itself again.
  5938. >So at least that works automatically.
  5939. >#deca.mare sits down on the ground and takes off your helmet with her forehooves.
  5940. >She puts it on the table, next to the antique log recorder.
  5941. >"I have not been here in a very long time, Anon. This is the only section whose maintenance I usually delegate completely to automatons. Just standing here feels... intense."
  5942. >You kneel down to give #deca.mare a firm hug, inconvenient restrictions by your suit be damned.
  5943. >#deca.mare responds to this with slow nuzzling.
  5944. >"Thank you, Anon. For being there when I need you."
  5945. "Any time."
  5946. >She gets up again.
  5947.  
  5948.  
  5949.  
  5950.  
  5951. >"Now, let us get you out of this suit, yes?."
  5952. >You stretch yourself.
  5953. "About time. These things are pretty sturdy, but they get worn after a while nonetheless."
  5954. >"I can clean and store it for you, no problem. But the alternate wardrobe I have to offer is very limited, nightwear especially so."
  5955. >At least it is something.
  5956. >#deca.mare has been hard at work to tear down your inhibitions, and even though she has been largely successful so far, you would rather not move around in this ship with no attire whatsoever.
  5957. >Yet you know this will eventually become a necessity upon entering the cryo chamber.
  5958. >This device will be tailor crafted for you and to preserve your life and body at the absolute optimum of what recent technology can achieve.
  5959. >And the only possible way for the machines to provide that is when there are no hindrances in the way.
  5960. >But that is an issue for tomorrow.
  5961. >#deca.mare motions you to kneel down so she can reach the necessary parts of your suit.
  5962. >These have been designed to enable any user to theoretically put them on without any external assistance, yet a helping hand, or hoof, makes the process far easier.
  5963. >Together you two manage to unseal the joints of the space suit quickly and get you out of it.
  5964. >Finally free, you still have a standard cloth shirt and pants which you wore underneath.
  5965. >These however, look more like a worn-out outfit which was not changed in a week.
  5966. >#deca.mare notices it too.
  5967. >"I can help you with that. Wait here. I have a set roughly in your size nearby. You can further undress yourself in the meantime if you are fine with it."
  5968. >She proceeds by leaving the room.
  5969. >You notice how another push on a console on this side of the wall opens the door without another biometric scan.
  5970. >Makes sense in your eyes, as the system was meant to keep unwanted elements outside, and not the other way round.
  5971.  
  5972.  
  5973.  
  5974.  
  5975. >Plus, it also means you are not effectively locked inside when #deca.mare is away either.
  5976. >This knowledge gives you an additional feeling of security, despite the fact that you are not in any form of danger.
  5977. >Knowing that you could follow #deca.mare if necessary eases your mind.
  5978. >Because her physical absence gets increasingly more uncomfortable for you the more time you spend together.
  5979. >It is as if you are getting somewhat attuned to her energy and warmth in a way you cannot exactly describe.
  5980. >Though you are fully aware of how silly this notion is on a rational basis, as this place is the very manifestation of her in a literal sense.
  5981. >As inseparable from #deca.mare's identity as your own body is from yours.
  5982. >She is always with you.
  5983. >Likewise are you always with her, even if you are not currently linked.
  5984. >You slowly breathe in and out before you continue to shed your clothes.
  5985. >The idea is still somewhat weird to you, especially since you are practically doing this inside another person's living space.
  5986. >But said person is not exactly around anymore, both literally and metaphorically.
  5987. >So you take heart and get on with it.
  5988. >Once done, you neatly fold up each piece in an ordered manner, disregarding their current state, and check the locker.
  5989. >It is empty.
  5990. >You decide to take all of it and place it into the correct segments of the storage.
  5991. >Their design has not changed much in the last centuries either, it seems.
  5992. >And why should it?
  5993. >Human anatomy has not changed significantly during the last centuries.
  5994. >Completely exposed and with nothing else left to do, you sit down on the bed and wait for #deca.mare to return.
  5995. >You wonder whether she observes you right now.
  5996. >#deca.mare may have claimed she avoided this place personally in the past, but you would not put it past her to take a peek or two when the chance presents itself.
  5997.  
  5998.  
  5999.  
  6000.  
  6001. >But on the other hand she has become more docile in certain aspects during the last two days, so maybe she can control her urges better now.
  6002. >Some moments later, you wonder how long it takes for #deca.mare to return.
  6003. >The habitable area on this ship is fairly small, so unless she has to personally drive through the corridors in her own pod to grab a set of clothes, she should return fairly quickly.
  6004. >Another moment, maybe about a minute, passes by.
  6005. >Still nothing.
  6006. >Perhaps she is busy with something, or maybe she really is watching you.
  6007. >You are not sure which possibility is more likely.
  6008. >But the second one amuses you rather than raise concerns.
  6009. >Because she would either do it out of personal interest, or because she is so concerned about your safety that she will never truly let you out of her sight.
  6010. >Perhaps a mixture of both.
  6011. >Unable to really find out the truth on your own, you look around again, shrug once and lay down on the bed, your arms crossed behind your head.
  6012. >If there are any hidden cameras around here, you at least give her a good show.
  6013. >You close your eyes and let your thoughts wander.
  6014. >It has been a while since your mind was truly yours alone.
  6015. >Not that you have any reason to complain, but you appreciate the moment you have to fully process what has happened since your accident for yourself.
  6016. >In some ways it still feels like a dream, and that may never change.
  6017. >But this is okay, for as long as your life has a good purpose.
  6018. >And your purpose comes in the shape of a mare with a heart of gold.
  6019. >For the moment, at least.
  6020. >Soon it will span much more than that.
  6021. >It will be challenging, undoubtedly so, but you will be up to it.
  6022.  
  6023.  
  6024.  
  6025.  
  6026. >The door lock clicks again, followed by a whir.
  6027. >You look to the side.
  6028. >#deca.mare trots through the door.
  6029. >A bundle of cloth bounces softly on her back.
  6030. >She approaches you with a casual gait, seemingly unsurprised by your position.
  6031. >You may not say whether the absence of a visible reaction comes from her ability to anticipate your actions, or because she has taken a look.
  6032. >But that is not important.
  6033. >#deca.mare reaches the bed and puts the bundle next to you, not breaking eye contact for even a second.
  6034. >You admire her self-restraint.
  6035. >You would have at least expected a comment of sorts.
  6036. >"Here you go, Anon."
  6037. >She says nothing else.
  6038. >You sit up and scratch her back with a hand.
  6039. "Thanks."
  6040. >#deca.mare seems to appreciate the gesture, although she tries to hold herself back.
  6041. >This does make you wonder.
  6042. "Hey, are you okay? You seem..."
  6043. >You look for the right word.
  6044. >Upset?
  6045. >No.
  6046. >Distraught?
  6047. >Not really either.
  6048. >Ah, this one.
  6049. "... distanced. You weren't like this when you left. Did something happen?"
  6050. >#deca.mare shakes her head.
  6051. "Did I do something wrong?"
  6052. >"No."
  6053. >You embrace her with both arms and pull her side to your chest.
  6054. >This seems to reinforce her stiffness for some reason, so you let her go again.
  6055. >She also breaks direct eye contact looks somewhere else.
  6056. >#deca.mare clearly tries to avoid you for some reason you do not see, but it seems to be related to your direct physical touch.
  6057. "Come now, don't be a mule and talk to me. Something bothers you."
  6058. >#deca.mare looks at you again with a sigh.
  6059. >"I am concerned, Anon. About you."
  6060. "How so? Do I catch fire if I hug you too tight or something?"
  6061. >"Of course not. We do not pose any biological threat to each other, but..."
  6062. >She pauses.
  6063. "Yes?"
  6064. >Your tone makes it clear that you wait for an answer.
  6065. >"I am afraid that I could harm you if we get too close to each other in... you know which way."
  6066.  
  6067.  
  6068.  
  6069.  
  6070. >It is obvious what she means.
  6071. >You personally have not really attempted to go that route.
  6072. >But you do not necessarily rule it out either.
  6073. >Although you must admit that getting it on with #deca.mare outside of the simulation is another dimension entirely.
  6074. >One in which all the proverbial gloves are truly off.
  6075. >"We both know how prone I can be to sudden reactions during stimulating experiences. And one rash jerk or shift of mine could unintentionally injure you."
  6076. >Another pause.
  6077. >"Or worse."
  6078. >You consider her words.
  6079. >#deca.mare certainly has a point.
  6080. >Ponies possess more than enough strength to hurt humans with relative ease.
  6081. >This holds true both for terran ones and Equestrians.
  6082. >And you have seen with your own eyes what she has inside her.
  6083. >These implants are no joke.
  6084. >Combine this with the potential of solid muscle strands, and most ponies will be able to knock holes in most walls without a problem.
  6085. >Earth ponies especially so.
  6086. >Now you sigh.
  6087. >#deca.mare's care is outstanding, and you wish to repay her right here and now, yet you do not wish for her to feel bad at the same time as well.
  6088. >Maybe there is a way.
  6089. >She cannot hurt you if you make her sit on you with all her hooves wrapped around you.
  6090. >A good embrace, and no danger of random bucks or the like.
  6091. >You only have to get #deca.mare to play along.
  6092. >You take the bundle and put it aside for the moment.
  6093. >Then you lie down again and motion #deca.mare to get comfortable next to you.
  6094. >This is met with severe scepticism on her part.
  6095. >"Have you not been listening to what I said?"
  6096. >You smile at her.
  6097. "I did. That's what gave me this idea in the first place."
  6098. >You pat an empty spot on the mattress next to you.
  6099. >#deca.mare obliges, although she is clearly not convinced of the idea yet.
  6100. >This will change though, you bet on it.
  6101. >#deca.mare lies down on her belly.
  6102. >She keeps her forehooves close to her body while her hindquarters are angled to let her lie on one side.
  6103.  
  6104.  
  6105.  
  6106.  
  6107. >Her hind legs are stretched out, although in the opposite direction.
  6108. >She is clearly trying to keep any potential danger away from you.
  6109. >Laudable in its aspiration, you give her that.
  6110. >This gives you a beautiful view on her full bare back and parts of her neck.
  6111. >Her pose inspires you to another, an even better idea.
  6112. "Perfect. Stay like this."
  6113. >"Alright, Anon."
  6114. >You shift yourself closer to her and softly press your body against her back.
  6115. >Then you sling your arms around her sides, right under her shoulders, and let her snuggle herself in.
  6116. >You are practically holding her now.
  6117. >The whole pose looks similar to the situation in which you were shortly before #deca.mare decided to make an impromptu skydiving trip.
  6118. "Good thing there are no windows nearby this time, eh?"
  6119. >You feel one quick jolt running through #deca.mare's body.
  6120. >The implication might have been a little inappropriate.
  6121. >You move your head closer to #deca.mare's ear and begin to whisper.
  6122. "Shh, relax. This was just a joke."
  6123. >Now is a good time to start soothing #deca.mare's mental stress.
  6124. >You begin to stroke her chest and belly and plant a few kisses on her neck.
  6125. >This does the trick.
  6126. >The tension inside her body slowly starts to fade.
  6127. "See? Full package of snuggles and no risk of accidents."
  6128. >"Hmhm."
  6129. >You take this as an agreement and proceed with your thorough care.
  6130. >#deca.mare steps in with her own treatment at some point.
  6131. >And to make absolutely sure that she cannot harm you, she only utilises her tail to let her hair run over your thighs and legs.
  6132. >But this alone is enough already.
  6133. >You lie like this for a good while before you begin to tire.
  6134. >"Anon? Can you do me a favour before you fall asleep?"
  6135. "Sure, what is it?
  6136.  
  6137.  
  6138.  
  6139.  
  6140. >It cannot be anything risqué you figure, unless she has changed her mind spontaneously.
  6141. >And you find that very doubtful.
  6142. >"The bundle I brought contains a wristband. Could you put that on for the night?"
  6143. >Now that is indeed unexpected.
  6144. "Uhm okay, what's the deal with it?"
  6145. >"It is a health screen. It monitors your vital signs. Pulse, blood pressure, and so on. I want to make sure that everything is alright with you."
  6146. "Sure, I can. Although I'm not likely to suddenly drop dead overnight, #deca."
  6147. >"But the chance exists. Things like this are rare, but happened before. A risk I am not willing to take, no matter how unlikely it may be."
  6148. >You do her the favour.
  6149. >If that will help to put your loving mare's mind at ease, you are more than willing to do it.
  6150. >Plus, it is not a huge thing she asks of you.
  6151. >You let go of #deca.mare to reach for the bundle.
  6152. >You do not need a long time to find a slim metal band between the pieces of the clothing set.
  6153. >It is currently opened, and can be fastened with two tiny clamps which are made to interlock with each other.
  6154. >Said band is wide enough to match your wrists' size perfectly.
  6155. >This is a tailor-made creation, no doubt about that.
  6156. >And the apparatus seems almost inconspicuous, if it were not for a small display on its surface.
  6157. >The display is currently offline, but you assume it must be a status screen of some kind.
  6158. >Not that you mind though; #deca.mare has told you what it is for and that is enough for you.
  6159. >You sling the band around your wrist and lock the clamps.
  6160. >Despite being made purely of metal, and whatever technological gadgets that are inside, it feels comfortable enough to not grate on your skin.
  6161. >A few seconds later, the machine emits one audible beep sound, and the screen lights up.
  6162. >#deca.mare exhales in relief.
  6163. >"Thank you, Anon."
  6164.  
  6165.  
  6166.  
  6167.  
  6168. >You turn to #deca.mare again and embrace her in the same manner once more.
  6169. "Anything for you, my love."
  6170. >You give her another kiss on the neck as she buries herself in your warmth again.
  6171. >With that said and done, you simply lie still and let the moment carry your thoughts away.
  6172. >Here you are.
  6173. >On a small island of life in a vast sea of stars.
  6174. >Protected by thick layers upon layers of steel, and vast grids of energy shields.
  6175. >And you hold your true love in your own real hands.
  6176. >This is not a dream, but a dream come true.
  6177. >In every sense of the word.
  6178. >Some strange faint noises reverberate through the halls.
  6179. >They are loud enough to be heard even inside this room through two sets of metal doors.
  6180. >The sounds of construction.
  6181. >They are somewhat alienated and distorted by the muffling, but you pay them no heed.
  6182. >You know what they are and what is about happen tomorrow.
  6183. >Nothing to be afraid of.
  6184. >Your fatigue is getting stronger.
  6185. >With your last waking thought you wonder whether #deca.mare can get some sleep on her own as long as you are exposed like this.
  6186. >But you have no way of knowing that for sure.
  6187. >You only hope she can find her peace this night.
  6188. >Because she deserves it more than you ever could.
  6189. >This is where sleep claims you.
  6190. >You do not even feel the urge to cover your body with a blanket.
  6191. >#deca.mare's presence is all the warmth your heart needs.
  6192. >And unbeknownst to you, #deca.mare has secretly adapted the climate inside this room to perfectly suit you.
  6193. >She is nothing if not caring after all.
  6194. >The room is silent again, barring the banging and clanging sounds outside.
  6195. >Like it has been all the time.
  6196. >But this night it is populated once more.
  6197. >By a harmonious loving union which will eventually create new life in the universe.
  6198. >This night everything is as it is supposed to be.
  6199. >Even in the cold and often hard reality.
  6200.  
  6201.  
  6202.  
  6203.  
  6204. 57
  6205.  
  6206. >The night remains quiet and peaceful for the larger part.
  6207. >Some occasional odd sounds do nothing to disturb your slumber.
  6208. >Deep inside you know you are safe.
  6209. >All you have in your mind is a comfortable, warm feeling.
  6210. >Not a direct thought, no visions.
  6211. >Just that one simple sensation.
  6212. >It accompanies you through your rest.
  6213. >And its echo still lingers on in your mind as you wake up the next morning.
  6214. >You slowly open your eyes.
  6215. >The metal walls of the crew quarters greet you in a dimmed light.
  6216. >It has about one fourth of the intensity it had when you first entered the room.
  6217. >Really, you are not even sure when exactly it was dimmed.
  6218. >But you do not dwell on that thought for long.
  6219. >You rather shift your attention to the lovable mare in your arms.
  6220. >She lies almost perfectly still on her side.
  6221. >Only the up and down movements of her slow breaths are visible.
  6222. >You carefully raise your head to check whether #deca.mare is asleep or not.
  6223. >You look at her face.
  6224. >Her eyes are closed, and her entire posture is peaceful.
  6225. >She must have found some rest after all.
  6226. >"Good morning, Anon."
  6227. >#deca.mare's words are faint, not much more than a whisper.
  6228. >But it proves that she is awake, despite her keeping her eyes closed for now.
  6229. >You lower your head again and bring it back close to #deca.mare's ear before you reply in an equally hushed volume.
  6230. "Morning to you too. How are you?"
  6231. >"I am fine, Anon. Because you are."
  6232. >#deca.mare must refer to your condition and the health screen.
  6233. >You assume your wellbeing has kept her awake all night.
  6234. >That poor mare has probably not slept properly the whole time.
  6235. >And she must feel some negative repercussions of that in her current state.
  6236. >After all, organic bodies tire.
  6237. >Hers is no exception, even when #deca.mare herself does not necessarily have to sleep.
  6238.  
  6239.  
  6240.  
  6241.  
  6242. >You decide to give her an improvised massage.
  6243. >Improvised because you cannot reach the usual spots like her back and shoulders in your current position.
  6244. >So you rather go for her chest and belly, with the occasional treatment of her neck as well.
  6245. >Although you avoid any sensitive areas.
  6246. >That could possibly rile #deca.mare up, and you know how hard she tries to avoid just that.
  6247. >And if #deca.mare really is tired, at least in her pony form, then the last thing she needs is an overly stimulating treatment of yours.
  6248. >So you keep it light and innocent.
  6249. >A decision which #deca.mare seems to appreciate, if her relaxed body is any indication.
  6250. >Some part of you wonders what has happened while you slept, both on the planetary surface and the command deck.
  6251. >Yet you do not wish to bother #deca.mare's mind in such a peaceful mood.
  6252. >Some more minutes pass until it is finally time to get up.
  6253. >You know this just as well as #deca.mare does.
  6254. >You slowly let go of her while she picks herself up.
  6255. >You take this as a hint to follow suit.
  6256. >The light in the room gradually increase in their intensity once more, up to the level on which it was yesterday.
  6257. >A new day begins right now.
  6258. >You reach for the bundle of clothes and dress yourself while #deca.mare stretches her body in a peculiar fashion.
  6259. >This seems to be her way of shaking off the sleepiness.
  6260. >You are afraid it is also time to get down to business again.
  6261. "So, how is the work on the cryo pod going?"
  6262. >#deca.mare turns around to look at you, but not without going on with her exercises.
  6263. >"The installation itself is complete. I am just running another test on the calibration. Making sure everything works properly."
  6264.  
  6265.  
  6266.  
  6267.  
  6268. >You heard the fine print in her words.
  6269. "Another calibration test. How many did you run this night?"
  6270. >#deca.mare hesitates before she gives you an answer.
  6271. >"This is the fourth."
  6272. >You consider to argue that she is worrying too much, but you know this would be futile.
  6273. >She cares about you far too much to let anything happen to you.
  6274. >Seems like #deca.mare will simply run one test after the other until you eventually lay down in the pod.
  6275. >Well, if you cannot stop her pursuit of absolute cryo perfection, you can maybe try to give her some air to breathe with mundane activities.
  6276. >You apply the finishing touches to the clothing.
  6277. >It is a standardised and simple design, you figure.
  6278. >Not exactly comfortable, but not terrible either.
  6279. >Although you have never seen that particular design before.
  6280. >It resembles a uniform of sorts, but it has no explicit military symbolism you are aware of.
  6281. >Yet it bears an unfamiliar logo at the same time.
  6282. >It must have been a division of sorts; one you have never heard of before.
  6283. >And it dawns on you what kind of division that was.
  6284. >A special group consisting predominantly of scientists who worked on a certain project.
  6285. >This realisation gives you a strange feeling, but it must be at least equally unorthodox for #deca.mare as well.
  6286. >Because right now you embody all aspects of her life.
  6287. >#deca.mare's past, her present, and her future.
  6288. >But you will not bring that point up.
  6289. >Partly because you have no idea how to tackle this topic in a delicate way.
  6290. >So you try the casual route instead.
  6291. "Guess we have to do something else while the pod isn't ready yet. I suppose you don't have a luxury breakfast nearby, do you?"
  6292.  
  6293.  
  6294.  
  6295.  
  6296. >#deca.mare's ears perk up at this.
  6297. >"No, I am afraid not. I could have produced some flavoured rations pretty easily, but that is not a recommendable option."
  6298. "Because of the cryo pod."
  6299. >"Indeed. Filling your stomach with a high amount of food before the procedure is counterproductive. But I have something else instead."
  6300. "I'm all ears."
  6301. >"Two things, actually. Wait a moment."
  6302. >#deca.mare trots to the door and unlocks it with a push.
  6303. >The door slides open and reveals a moderately sized transport machine in the corridor outside.
  6304. >It has a flat surface with two sealed glass vessels, both hold by a mechanical pair of brackets.
  6305. >One contains an almost turquoise coloured liquid.
  6306. >The other is currently empty.
  6307. >You notice that both vessels are designed to function like conservation containers.
  6308. >Its content shall be kept fresh for a considerable span of time.
  6309. >So you conclude that the machine must also bear some form of additional preservative technology which you do not know.
  6310. >#deca.mare comes to a stop in the reach of both flasks.
  6311. >"Which one do you want to start with? The simple one, or the equally simple, yet also slightly inconvenient one?"
  6312. "Uhm, what?"
  6313. >You are at a loss for words.
  6314. >#deca.mare has given you some enigmatic phrases in the past, but this is one of the tougher nuts to crack.
  6315. >Should you be concerned or not?
  6316. >"No need to worry, Anon. It is an utterly trivial matter."
  6317. "Then tell me what the inconvenient stuff is, please."
  6318. >"Of course. You see, I have some ideas for experiments to fix our problem with your... inherent issue."
  6319. >That is a very polite way to beat around the bush.
  6320. "Go on."
  6321. >"But I need something from you to do so."
  6322. >Oh boy, what comes now?
  6323. >A kidney?
  6324. >Parts of your brain?
  6325. >Your soul?
  6326. >"I need to take a blood sample."
  6327. >That is it?
  6328. >You have feared it would be something more dramatic.
  6329. "Oh."
  6330. >"Is that a problem, Anon?"
  6331. >This is a genuine question from her side, you can tell.
  6332. >#deca.mare is probably just surprised by your reaction.
  6333.  
  6334.  
  6335.  
  6336.  
  6337. "Not at all. It's just that I expected something more drastic somehow."
  6338. >"As I said. A little inconvenient, but trivial."
  6339. "Do you need my active help?"
  6340. >"Not at the moment, thank you for asking. Just sit down and hold still for now, please."
  6341. "Alright."
  6342. >You do not even bother asking whether that could hurt.
  6343. >It will sting a little, but that is hardly something to worry about.
  6344. >After all, this is by far not the first sample you gave given out.
  6345. >Especially since the blood of military pilots is tested on a semi-regular basis.
  6346. >Although your doctor has never been a mare before.
  6347. >Not that you doubt #deca.mare's competences, but you wonder how precise she can work with her hooves and mouth.
  6348. >You guess you will find that out soon enough.
  6349. >#deca.mare picks up the empty glass vial with her mouth, and "grabs" a few other tools with one forehoof.
  6350. >Then she turns around to return to you.
  6351. >You keep sitting still and upright on the bed and free one arm.
  6352. >"My apologies for doing this the conventional way, but the command chair was not designed to take any probes of the user and secure it for later use."
  6353. "Eh, no sweat. I'm used to it."
  6354. >#deca.mare unseals the empty glass vial and attaches a small mechanical gadget to its opening.
  6355. >Said device has a needle head on the outer side.
  6356. >The head is currently sealed to avoid contaminations, but this will change quickly.
  6357. >So that thing will both take the sample and directly inject it into the vessel without any detour.
  6358. >Once this is prepared, #deca.mare motions you to hold still now.
  6359. >You give her a quick nod.
  6360. >Then she carefully bites on the glass end of the vial, and points its other end your way.
  6361. >She uses a forehoof to stabilise the object further in the air as she slowly moves towards you.
  6362. >#deca.mare is practically holding the object with her teeth and the pastern area of one of her hooves.
  6363. >You have no problem with watching her the whole time.
  6364. >If someone knows what to do, it is #deca.mare.
  6365.  
  6366.  
  6367.  
  6368.  
  6369. >You have no reason to be afraid of mistakes or the like.
  6370. >The needle slowly reaches your skin, and pierces right through it with a swift movement.
  6371. >#deca.mare is obviously as careful as possible, but you feel the invasive procedure anyway.
  6372. >But you remain calm.
  6373. >The machine informs you with a faint beep that is has registered the penetration, and gets to work.
  6374. >A deep red liquid begins to trickle into the glass, slowly filling the empty vessel.
  6375. >Despite being fully of aware of you losing blood, you do not feel any different.
  6376. >The amount that fits into this object is far from critical, provided that #deca.mare fills it up to the brim.
  6377. >And that is unlikely too.
  6378. >Time to relax.
  6379. >Ignore the sting and focus on your breathing.
  6380. >In and out.
  6381. >Let #deca.mare do her work.
  6382. >You do both of you a favour if you keep still.
  6383. >The faster she can work, the quicker it is going to be over.
  6384. >Plus, you wager that #deca.mare wants to be done with this as well.
  6385. >As small as the wound is, the needle has still created a vulnerable spot.
  6386. >And you could also get hurt if you move in a rapid fashion right now.
  6387. >You know this, and there is not the fraction of a doubt that #deca.mare is aware of this as well.
  6388. >She must be under some pressure right row, even if she hides it pretty well.
  6389. >The blood keeps flowing.
  6390. >About one half of the glass is filled at this point.
  6391. >No side effects on your side so far.
  6392. >The stinging gets a little annoying, but you hold still.
  6393. >It is the best you can do.
  6394. >Once it has reached three fourths of its capacity, #deca.mare begins to pull the vial carefully.
  6395. >The needle retreats slowly until it is completely out of your arm.
  6396. >Now you would normally hold a sterilised synthetic pad on the wound until it stops bleeding, but she has not provided any as far as you can tell.
  6397. >However, #deca.mare acts before you can ask her what to do next.
  6398.  
  6399.  
  6400.  
  6401.  
  6402. >With one skilled move, she takes the vessel with her forehoof and moves her head towards your arm.
  6403. >"Please do not startle."
  6404. >You have barely time to register her actions before she starts licking your wound.
  6405. >Literally.
  6406. >You jerk up once upon the sensation, as it clearly catches you off guard.
  6407. >You have heard of the idiom of licking one's wounds of course, yet you have never expected to literally witness it yourself.
  6408. >There are obviously more sanitary ways to clean a wound, though some swear on this technique anyway, at least in dire times when no alternative is available.
  6409. >Perhaps this is such a time in a certain way.
  6410. >Your resources are very limited, especially so after the landfall and #deca.mare's little renovation on the command deck.
  6411. >Not to mention that first aid equipment is probably very scarce on this ship.
  6412. >It was never designed to house a permanent crew and has only enough quarters for a handful of people.
  6413. >Plus, manufacturing more of it is, while possible, very cumbersome for #deca.mare with only an extremely limited use.
  6414. >And #deca.mare herself does not possess any potentially infective agents in her.
  6415. >Her body is perfectly vat grown, and therefore as clean as a body can be.
  6416. >If anything, it is you who is the dirty one in comparison.
  6417. >Every disease, even harmless ones and those which are already cured, leave their marks in one way or the other.
  6418. >But you doubt that you have anything which could be dangerous for #deca.mare, as you have not been sick in quite a while, and because the genetic difference between you is substantial.
  6419. >And #deca.mare would have said something if she had detected any sign of something in your body.
  6420.  
  6421.  
  6422.  
  6423.  
  6424. >Once she is convinced that your wound is properly treated, #deca.mare lets go of your arm.
  6425. >The pain is nearly gone too.
  6426. >You look at her with a slightly surprised expression.
  6427. "You're not secretly a vampire or something, right?"
  6428. >"Sorry. I think I should have told you in advance."
  6429. "That you suck blood?"
  6430. >#deca.mare shakes her head with a huff.
  6431. >"You know what I mean."
  6432. >You smile.
  6433. "Yeah, not like my usual medical visits, that's for sure. But hey, I know you mean well."
  6434. >#deca.mare nods in appreciation, and turns around to bring the vial back to the transport unit.
  6435. >She places the vessel back in its pair of brackets.
  6436. >Much to your surprise, an opening appears directly under it, and the brackets descent with your blood into the machine.
  6437. >Perhaps the interior is just a fridge on wheels?
  6438. >#deca.mare then picks the other vial up with and returns to you.
  6439. >She is offering you to take it.
  6440. >So you do.
  6441. >The glass is cool upon touch.
  6442. >Further fodder for your mobile fridge theory.
  6443. >"Please drink this, Anon. It is not exactly a substitute for a good breakfast, but it will help us a lot."
  6444. "What's this?"
  6445. >You inspect the liquid inside.
  6446. >The turquoise hue has something fascinating to it.
  6447. >Its intensity and colour changes when you tilt the glass slightly.
  6448. >In some angles it looks almost as unimposing like milk with a light blue tint, in some others it nearly seems to glow in a bright blue on its own.
  6449. >"A special substance, Anon. I brewed it as a preparation for your stay in the cryo chamber. Its biochemical effect is meant to attune your metabolism to the impending cryo sleep."
  6450. "Sounds hefty."
  6451. >"Granted, it is theoretically not necessary, but it helps. And I want to get as much out of this step as possible. For us."
  6452.  
  6453.  
  6454.  
  6455.  
  6456. >You look at #deca.mare, then back at the liquid.
  6457. >"I vouch for its safety, if that is what worries you."
  6458. "It isn't, #deca. I've just never seen anything like this before."
  6459. >"Because it has not been made anywhere else. The liquid is a novelty."
  6460. >That widens your eyes.
  6461. "Wow. Entirely your own making?"
  6462. >#deca.mare nods with a smile.
  6463. >"Hmhm. A #deca.mare original. You are the first consumer."
  6464. >You take a long breath.
  6465. "Well then, I appreciate the privilege."
  6466. >You unseal the vial carefully.
  6467. "Anything I need to consider?"
  6468. >"Only if you have forgotten how to drink."
  6469. >You take this as a no.
  6470. >You carefully put the vial to your lips and drink the liquid in short and measured gulps.
  6471. >The taste is actually unremarkable and very plain.
  6472. >Rather synthetic with a faint hint of sweetness.
  6473. >For some reason you assumed that such a unique concoction comes hand in hand with a special flavour.
  6474. >Although that theory does not hold up to reality apparently.
  6475. >You make sure to get every last drop out of the glass before you hand it back to #deca.mare.
  6476. >"Good. The substance will take a while to distribute itself evenly in your system. I estimate it needs about an hour and a half, maybe two."
  6477. "Will I feel the difference?"
  6478. >#deca.mare shakes her head once and returns the vessel to the unit outside the door.
  6479. >"No. You will not feel a thing."
  6480. "Then how do I know when it is time?"
  6481. >"You will not. But I can see it."
  6482. >While she has not told you how, you assume she uses some kind of biological or chemical marker which she can spot even inside your body.
  6483. >Though you leave the topic at that.
  6484. >You look for something else to do while #deca.mare secures the vial on the unit.
  6485. >As soon as the brackets get a hold of it, the unit drives out of sight on its own as its task here has been fulfilled.
  6486. >It will probably carry your blood sample safely through the vacuum filled corridors to #deca.mare's enigmatic biolab.
  6487.  
  6488.  
  6489.  
  6490.  
  6491. >You really should make a complete tour through the ship at some point.
  6492. >So far you have not seen much of it, and for some reason it appears rude to you that you have not asked #deca.mare to show you everything from the tip to its rear.
  6493. >However, this is an issue you should deal with once you are back inside the simulation.
  6494. >Because that makes the travelling much easier and faster.
  6495. >Plus, you doubt you could ever convince her to give you a tour in your current state.
  6496. >She would be far too worried about your security, and you do not wish to put her into that stressful position either.
  6497. "So, any idea what we can do while we wait?"
  6498. >#deca.mare enters the room again and the door closes behind her.
  6499. >"Do what we do best. Spend some quality time together."
  6500. >Indeed an agreeable idea, yet lacking any explicit examples.
  6501. >She sits down next to you and nuzzles your side.
  6502. >You embrace her with an arm in return, but you also apply your usual safety distance to certain spots.
  6503. >You consider your options of things you can do while you wait.
  6504. >There are not that many possibilities; the place was designed with a utilitarian purpose in mind, so looking for means of entertainment will be in vain.
  6505. >Likewise do have to be careful around #deca.mare too, so you are effectively restrained to nothing but talking, unless you want to study digital logs or the like.
  6506. >Wait, this gives you an idea.
  6507. >You look at the old apparatus next to your helmet.
  6508. >Maybe there is something you can do after all, even it is nothing but listening.
  6509. "#deca, I have an idea. But only agree to it if you feel able to, okay?"
  6510. >"What do you have mind?"
  6511. "Tell me about them. The people who lived here. I know they were important to you, and I'd like to learn more about them. Consider it like talking about your distant family."
  6512. >You wait a second to let that proposal sink in.
  6513. "Can you do that?"
  6514.  
  6515.  
  6516.  
  6517.  
  6518. >#deca.mare does not answer on the spot.
  6519. >You hope you have not stepped over a line with your idea.
  6520. >But you are genuinely curious.
  6521. >She has given you a brief, yet brutally honest summary of her past before, but now you are interested in the finer details.
  6522. >Talking about it in a private room is more personal in your opinion than passively watching a recorded video feed.
  6523. >The latter is more accurate, sure, but not as good for building a bond with these memories.
  6524. >And if you can get #deca.mare to talk more about her past, she will have better chances to overcome her trauma at some point in the future.
  6525. >But that has to come from her.
  6526. >You will not force this upon her if it is getting too much for her to handle.
  6527. >At last, she nods.
  6528. >"Yes, Anon. I will try."
  6529. >And so she tells you stories about her former crew, the one who she owes her existence to.
  6530. >She begins with the guy whose former room you are currently occupying.
  6531. >Later on you move from room to room, each standing for another life which led to the origin of the mare who ultimately saved and changed your life centuries later.
  6532. >After all, when there is one ultimate truth in the universe, then it is the fact that every fate is somehow connected with everything else.
  6533. >Even if these individuals are not aware of the larger picture.
  6534. >#deca.mare's accounts base both on many of her earliest experiences, and what she could later on gather from the personal files of the people in question.
  6535. >She gives you a brief summary of their career, their families, and what tasks were assigned to them on this craft.
  6536. >And she also mentions what happened to them after the project came to its sudden and excessively violent halt.
  6537. >Luckily for everyone involved, they had for the most part rather fortunate lives despite their tainted reputation.
  6538. >It is true that they all were permanently kept apart, never to see each other again.
  6539. >Yet none of them were amongst those who willingly sabotaged the project.
  6540.  
  6541.  
  6542.  
  6543.  
  6544. >A fact which #deca.mare is very content with.
  6545. >Because these are the only individuals in the entire universe who she earnestly hates for their actions.
  6546. >The rest of humanity was just unfortunate enough to get dragged into a conflict they never wanted.
  6547. >And she cannot hold a grudge against the human species at large for that.
  6548. >Same as the terraformers themselves; they would have never fought this war if they had known the truth.
  6549. >But this also means her former crew lived through the ordeal where many others have not.
  6550. >However, #deca.mare keeps her reminiscence of the war to a bare minimum.
  6551. >And you will not push her in directions she does not yet feel comfortable with.
  6552. >You just keep her talking at her own pace.
  6553. >You will take a long time until you can tackle that trauma with her in its entirety.
  6554. >Though every large task begins with a small step, right?
  6555. >In the end, you manage to pass the time by paying a visit to every single room which once hold a person.
  6556. >It is both fascinating and haunting to hear all those stories from an age long gone.
  6557. >Despite the long time between now and then, some vital parts of #deca.mare's story date even further back.
  6558. >To a truly ancient time when now commonplace things like space travel were in its absolute infancy.
  6559. >But that is a story for another time.
  6560. >And if #deca.mare's accounts are any indication, it would take more than a couple of hours to address this particular subject.
  6561. >You step back into the main corridor.
  6562. >Most units of the machinery have already retreated into the airlock section.
  6563. >They are ready to leave once the door to the command deck is sealed and the pressure has been decreased to a vacuum again.
  6564. >You instinctively keep a long distance between you and the airlock.
  6565.  
  6566.  
  6567.  
  6568.  
  6569. >#deca.mare will of course try nothing with it while you are nearby, much less risk a decompression of the whole command deck.
  6570. >Though knowing just how much vacuum space lies beyond the second pair of blast doors triggers your survival instinct.
  6571. >You will not go near that without a suit any time soon.
  6572. >You look at #deca.mare again.
  6573. "And? How is the stuff inside me doing?"
  6574. >"Working like a charm. You are good to go."
  6575. "Then I guess it's time to put me on ice, hm?"
  6576. >"We do not have to do it immediately. The substance and its effects will remain stable for a while. So if there is anything else left you want to do, we can make it happen."
  6577. >You consider this for a moment.
  6578. "Well, if I'm going to spend the next thousand or so years pent up in a fridge, I should clean myself up beforehand. That's more than due after a week on a chair."
  6579. >"Good idea. Would you like me to join, or do you prefer a quiet moment for yourself?"
  6580. >You walk towards the sanitary unit and motion #deca.mare to follow you.
  6581. "Eh, tag along. These things were not designed for ponies, but maybe we can do something for you too. Doesn't hurt to try."
  6582. >Although you do not say that out loud, asking her to wait outside seems like a rude thing to do too.
  6583. >Plus, there is no particular reason why you should say no to her.
  6584. >You have done similar things together back in the spa, so you know what you can expect.
  6585. >Just with a little bit more care this time.
  6586. >You do not expect #deca.mare to act as clingy as she was back then.
  6587. >If only for safety reasons.
  6588. >But if you both are just a little bit reluctant, everything will work out.
  6589. >You reach the door to the sanitary unit and push the button.
  6590. >Unlike the personal rooms, this one does not have a biometric scanner.
  6591.  
  6592.  
  6593.  
  6594.  
  6595. >You wonder whether you could enter the personal quarters though.
  6596. >#deca.mare has clearly rigged the systems some time in the past, otherwise she could not have unlocked the door with her hoof imprint.
  6597. >But has she adjusted the scanners for their own purposes, or do they accept any input?
  6598. >Not that it matters though, you have seen pretty much every room by now, and none of them holds anything unusual for a living area.
  6599. >The door slides open, and you inspect the sight before you.
  6600. >Similar to the quarters, the equipment is both roughly familiar, yet not quite up to date to what you are used to.
  6601. >For starters, you have several common everyday tools, like combs, brushes, and so on, including a small cleaning unit for these tools after their use.
  6602. >A small mirror panel is attached to one metal wall next to the utensil booth.
  6603. >However, you are not sure what to use as a substitute for water.
  6604. >Current USC stations provide little humidification packs with minimal amounts of water and refreshing chemicals.
  6605. >Another set of synthetic rags are then used to clean one's hair and skin.
  6606. >One can alternatively also use the device to dampen some of the rags and use them like a cleaning tissue.
  6607. >Far from being the same as a shower, but they do their job and prevent problems like diseases caused by impure living standards.
  6608. >You assume there is an equivalent of it here somewhere, but you have not found it yet.
  6609. >And of course there is the classic: The good old space toilet.
  6610. >Not that different than what is used on Earth, but the overall lower gravity on most posts turns their handling into a pain in the arse.
  6611. >But luckily for you, the tightly regulated nutrition supply also means you do not have to use them that often.
  6612. >And much to your own delight, you have not consumed anything in the usual manner for over a week, with the exception of #deca.mare's mysterious cryo brew.
  6613.  
  6614.  
  6615.  
  6616.  
  6617. >"Let me guess, you are looking for some cleaning devices?"
  6618. "Basically, yeah."
  6619. >#deca.mare trots over to the wall with the mirror to knock it once.
  6620. >It reveals a small hatch which contains a faintly familiar tool and some packaged rags.
  6621. "Are these..."
  6622. >"No, they are not that old. I have restocked them shortly before you awoke. Just in case, you know? I thought you could plan to do this."
  6623. >Now you must grin.
  6624. "You've really thought of everything, didn't you, #deca?"
  6625. >#deca.mare's reply is a simple nonchalant smile.
  6626. >Good enough.
  6627. >You take the unit and the packages out of the hatch and sit down on the floor.
  6628. >#deca.mare does the same right in front of you.
  6629. >"Taking turns, like in the spa?"
  6630. >You nod.
  6631. "Okay. Like in the spa."
  6632. >You let #deca.mare take the first one.
  6633. >That way she can teach you how exactly that thing works.
  6634. >She takes the object with her forehooves and explains what each button does while she sprinkles your face and hair with a small dose of the liquid inside.
  6635. >You keep your eyes closed during the procedure, but you can follow her instructions regardless.
  6636. >#deca.mare then uses a rag to evenly distribute the mixture in your face and hair.
  6637. >You can only guess how careful she must be with her hooves while doing so.
  6638. >Although that does not pose a problem as long as you do not appeal to #deca.mare's more direct side.
  6639. >At last, she uses another rag to dry you properly, and one quick run with a comb seals the deal.
  6640. >You open you eyes again.
  6641. >"Well, how do you feel?"
  6642. >#deca.mare sits still, expecting your part.
  6643. "Pretty refreshed, thank you. Now, let's see what we can do with you, shall we?"
  6644. >You take the unit and check its water capacity.
  6645. >About sixty percent left.
  6646. >Should be more than enough.
  6647. >#deca.mare will surely need more water than you did, given all her fur and her mane.
  6648. >But are sure you can do it.
  6649. >You shift a little closer.
  6650.  
  6651.  
  6652.  
  6653.  
  6654. >#deca.mare closes her eyes this time.
  6655. >The stage is yours.
  6656. >You take a look around for some unused rags.
  6657. >And of course, #deca.mare has provided you with some nearby.
  6658. >You admire that part about her; always a couple of steps ahead when you need it.
  6659. >So you start in the exact same fashion she did.
  6660. >All you have to do is consider the slight anatomical differences of her pony body.
  6661. >You slowly drench #deca.mare's fur and mane about as evenly as you can.
  6662. >And you have no real trouble to do so.
  6663. >After all, the device was designed with humans in mind.
  6664. >So when #deca.mare is able to use it with her hooves, you should be fine as well.
  6665. >Because for all her amazing inventions and skills, her limbs still lack a certain innate flexibility which is not possible to achieve without limbs.
  6666. >You spend almost the entire rest, just five percent are left over.
  6667. >You keep that as an iron reserve if you mess something up.
  6668. >In the next step you deviate from her approach to a small degree though.
  6669. >Instead of using rags and hooves, you massage the humid film in with your hands.
  6670. >#deca.mare's body shifts nearly in sync with your hands while you work on her.
  6671. >You take this as a sign that she enjoys it.
  6672. >So you take your good time.
  6673. >That way you can treat her thoroughly and let her relax in this fashion for a little longer.
  6674. >Although even that prolonged favour comes to an end regardless.
  6675. >Now comes the drying.
  6676. >You take a pair of fresh rags and use them to carefully remove the water mixture from #deca.mare's fur.
  6677. >You have to put in a little bit of extra effort; fur is not as easy to clean as mostly bare skin.
  6678. >But you get there eventually.
  6679. >And also similar to your session in the spa, you also reach for a brush to get #deca.mare's mane in order again.
  6680.  
  6681.  
  6682.  
  6683.  
  6684. >Some inner voice tells you to do this more often.
  6685. >The practice gets more wholesome with every time you do it, as it seems.
  6686. >And you are not even on the receiving end of it.
  6687. >Doing the activity with your loving mare is all that counts.
  6688. >You put the brush away and inspect the fruits of your work.
  6689. >#deca.mare's fur has not changed noticeably.
  6690. >Not much of a surprise, as that body is technically speaking less than a day out in the open.
  6691. >And genetically engineered to near perfection at that.
  6692. >But her mane has begun to shimmer slightly in the light of the room.
  6693. >You have no idea what caused this reaction.
  6694. >Maybe it is something in the water, maybe something in her hair.
  6695. >In any case, it looks amazing to behold.
  6696. >This makes you want to give her tail the same treatment, yet you doubt that #deca.mare would like that, at least not here.
  6697. >Far too risky.
  6698. >So you leave it at that.
  6699. "Rise and shine, #deca. How was it?"
  6700. >"Relaxing. It gave me a moment to clear my mind."
  6701. >#deca.mare's words are accompanied by her leaning to your side.
  6702. >You let her settle in and savour the experience for a moment.
  6703. "Then it did exactly what it should."
  6704. >Some more minutes pass.
  6705. >You wait for #deca.mare to take the initiative.
  6706. >And just as you have expected, she does exactly that.
  6707. >"It is time, Anon."
  6708. "Yeah, thought so. Though I must admit I'm getting nervous."
  6709. >"Understandable. Do you think you can keep yourself from panicking once you are about to enter the pod? Stress does not hinder the procedure, but I do not want you to be afraid."
  6710.  
  6711.  
  6712.  
  6713.  
  6714. >You take a second for your thoughts and to evaluate yourself.
  6715. >Saying you will not be afraid is easy, but does that really hold up to reality?
  6716. >At last, you nod.
  6717. "Yeah. I won't panic. But I'm afraid I can't beat the nervousness completely."
  6718. >"Good enough. I will help you in any way I can. Shall we?"
  6719. >You rise in unison and head for the door.
  6720. >Out of the corridor, through the main hall, and straight to the command deck.
  6721. >You stand on the ramp and look down.
  6722. >All of the machinery save for a small transport unit on the foot of ramp has disappeared.
  6723. >The same holds true for the chair.
  6724. >While its foundation is still at the same place, the frame of the chair has been replaced by a massive metal pod with a large rounded glass canopy on the upper side.
  6725. >The interior is made of several thick cushions, but you can see several small intersections.
  6726. >#deca.mare has not cut any corners, it seems.
  6727. >While the chair had only one such device to form a connection to your body on you neck, this pod has more.
  6728. >If you can interpret the layout correctly, it has one for the neck, plus one for each arm and leg.
  6729. >While this certainly speaks for #deca.mare's care, it also means you get cut in at least five different spots.
  6730. >The additional shackle like holdings do not improve the first impression at all, especially in this bloody light.
  6731. >You know they are meant to keep your body still and stable, although the logical part of your brain makes way for your instinctual side.
  6732. >Your heartbeat increases slightly at that discovery.
  6733. >Okay, calm down, Anon.
  6734. >You have survived this one before, you can do it again.
  6735. >All you have to do is to step into that pod and lay still.
  6736. >Easy, right?
  6737.  
  6738.  
  6739.  
  6740.  
  6741. >Okay, here goes nothing.
  6742. >You take the first step down the ramp, then another.
  6743. >You keep going step by step, focussing on keeping your thoughts straight.
  6744. >And indeed, you manage to calm yourself again.
  6745. >#deca.mare follows close by.
  6746. >Once down, you are greeted by the wheeled transport unit.
  6747. >And unlike the one in front of the living quarters, this one does not have any elaborate storage device mounted on it.
  6748. >No, it is a simple small open container on wheels.
  6749. "What's this one for?"
  6750. >"To transport the clothes away. I will clean them up and store them away again for later use, if necessary. Who knows when we will need them once more."
  6751. >You smile.
  6752. "You mean when you lure in the next victim to drink his blood?"
  6753. >"Oh hush. I am no vampire, Anon."
  6754. >A pause.
  6755. >"Unless you want me to."
  6756. >What?
  6757. >"And you will find not a single clove of garlic on board to get rid of me."
  6758. >Now it is #deca.mare's turn to smile.
  6759. >Well, that joke backfired.
  6760. >#deca.mare trots over to the pod to check something.
  6761. >"All jokes aside, I need you to undress yourself for the best access I can get."
  6762. "Right."
  6763. >And you do just that.
  6764. >The feat itself is not a problem anymore, even in front of #deca.mare.
  6765. >Although you would have never expected to go full on nude in the operation centre of a capital ship.
  6766. >But here you are.
  6767. >You fold up the clothes in an at least somewhat orderly manner and put them in the container.
  6768. >After that you remove the wristband and lay it on top of the clothes.
  6769. >The device shuts down with another beep sound.
  6770. >Then you take heart to turn around and approach #deca.mare.
  6771. "Not trying to state the obvious, but I'm done."
  6772. >"Me too."
  6773. >#deca.mare backs off from the pod to make space for you.
  6774. >You inspect the pod one last time.
  6775. >Especially the open metal shackles that currently barely peek through the cushions are imposing, but now upon closer inspection you see that their design is similar to the wristband.
  6776.  
  6777.  
  6778.  
  6779.  
  6780. >You will barely notice them if you do not try to move around.
  6781. >In fact, everything is perfectly aligned just for you.
  6782. >This whole pod is completely tailor-made; a custom device that nobody will ever replicate.
  6783. >It is basically like a love letter of #deca.mare for you.
  6784. >One she must have built in the last couple of days.
  6785. >Now you spontaneously decide to thank her for that in a special way before you enter the simulation again.
  6786. >Good thing she is currently unable to read your mind.
  6787. >The even surface of the device is about as high as a common table, so you have no problem to first sit on it and then lie down.
  6788. >You make sure to position yourself correctly for the holdings, but you assume that #deca.mare has integrated some security measures to avoid stupid accidents.
  6789. >Now.
  6790. "Hey, #deca. Please come here for one last kiss. For good measure, okay?"
  6791. >And just as you expected, #deca.mare is eager to step closer.
  6792. >She reaches the edge of the pod and cranes her head to you.
  6793. >You rise your upper body a little to meet her in the middle and close in for the kiss.
  6794. >You try to make this one as passionate as possible because you do not get the chance to make out with a mare in the real world every day.
  6795. >You are trying to be as playful with your tongue as you can, motivating her to do the same thing in return.
  6796. >And while you are locked together in this fashion, you gently lay your arms on #deca.mare's shoulders and begin to pull her closer to the pod.
  6797. >At first she seems to protest, unsure about the whole thing, but then she relaxes and lets it happen.
  6798. >The risk of accidentally hurting you due to her resistance is higher than the alternative.
  6799. >This is exactly what you hoped for.
  6800. >You lead her closer and closer, up to the point where she has to step onto the machine if she wishes to not break the kiss.
  6801. >#deca.mare follows your lead.
  6802. >One hoof follows the other, and in a matter of seconds, you have her standing right above you.
  6803.  
  6804.  
  6805.  
  6806.  
  6807. >And even now she makes sure to not step on you even once.
  6808. >#deca.mare now towers above you, still locked in the kiss.
  6809. >Good, but not good enough.
  6810. >You let your hands slide gently downwards along her spine, pushing her down ever so slightly.
  6811. >That way you signal her to lower her body.
  6812. >This time she actually protests once with a short grunt, but she relents eventually.
  6813. >You feel how #deca.mare's body is slowly coming closer.
  6814. >At first you sense her cuddly chest on your skin, shortly followed by her belly and hind legs.
  6815. >You let your hands rest on her flanks while you keep the kiss going.
  6816. >And you begin to notice how your nether region presses against #deca.mare's underside.
  6817. >But you can actually not say who plays the lead role.
  6818. >You are not actively seeking it out, and neither does #deca.mare.
  6819. >It is a purely instinctive reaction of both of you.
  6820. >A reaction which comes hand in hand with other, more erotic thoughts.
  6821. >And your bloodstream further south reacts accordingly.
  6822. >You have virtually no way of hiding or masquerading that reaction, as your parts in question start to blatantly press against #deca.mare.
  6823. >And not just anywhere.
  6824. >You unintentionally reached a certain sensitive area right between #deca.mare's legs.
  6825. >At this point you feel a shiver running through #deca.mare's body as she suddenly exhales sharply and gasps straight into your mouth.
  6826. >This did not belong to your plan.
  6827. >Because you know how twitchy #deca.mare gets if you aim for her teats.
  6828. >But your devious little biology had other plans.
  6829. >This, however, is the point where #deca.mare decides to break the kiss and draw her head back.
  6830. >Yet she is still sitting on you and your invading little friend.
  6831. >A fact of which she is all too aware if her closed eyes and long hissing sound are any indication.
  6832. >She must be struggling with her inner urges while she nevertheless rocks her body left and right in a slow, but constant manner.
  6833.  
  6834.  
  6835.  
  6836.  
  6837. >A movement which creates frictions in a less than ideal fashion.
  6838. "Dammit."
  6839. >You must do something before this gets out of hand.
  6840. >So you slide your hands on #deca.mare's chest and belly to push her upwards again.
  6841. >This is enough for her to take the hint and step up again, albeit not without more shaking.
  6842. >You see both her forelegs and hind legs twitching as she gets up.
  6843. >At last, she has regained enough of her composure stand safely and look down, directly into your eyes.
  6844. >You have never seen such an expression before.
  6845. >A strange mixture of love, lust, but also of passionate scolding.
  6846. >As if you were a young school boy who messed something up while attempting to do good.
  6847. >Her breath is also laden with emotion.
  6848. >"Anon..."
  6849. >#deca.mare is almost panting.
  6850. "Look, #deca, I..."
  6851. >She interrupts you bluntly.
  6852. >"I know you meant well, Anon, but that was..."
  6853. >#deca.mare is looking for words."
  6854. >"... risky. I almost let myself go."
  6855. >Now it is up to you to be at a loss for words.
  6856. >"You must not tempt me in such a way. Not when you are..."
  6857. >You feel embarrassed for the attempt now.
  6858. "Sorry."
  6859. >Certainly not your most eloquent answer.
  6860. #deca.mare carefully turns around to get down from the pod.
  6861. >While she does, you get a pristine first row view on her rear.
  6862. >And what you see there is as arousing as it is chilling.
  6863. >Because now there is not the shadow of a doubt that you got her aroused too.
  6864. >Hook, line, and sinker.
  6865. >#deca.mare hops down from the pod as she calmly breathes in and out to regain full control over her body.
  6866. >"I will gladly come back to your... good intentions, Anon. But only when I know you are safe. Please prepare yourself."
  6867.  
  6868.  
  6869.  
  6870.  
  6871. >By now you have lost the heat of the moment too.
  6872. >Yet this has become a devious situation for you for two very different reasons.
  6873. >For starters, #deca.mare now uses her upper moral hand perfectly to get you in line, and she has every reason to do so.
  6874. >But you also know that you really are going to get it once you are back in the simulation.
  6875. >And you cannot say anything against it because #deca.mare raises some valid points and because everything is happening for your sake.
  6876. >This time you have brought yourself into a peculiar position and have given #deca.mare the best justification to go playful on you for quite a while to come.
  6877. >You cannot say why, but some strange part of you can hardly wait for it.
  6878. >As much as #deca.mare toys with you sometimes, she always does it in a way you enjoy too, for some reason or another.
  6879. >She always finds a way to make you enjoy her presence, even if you grumble now and then.
  6880. >Maybe this will turn out to be the best gift you could give her, despite that little hiccup.
  6881. >You follow #deca.mare's instruction and position yourself exactly as she tells you to.
  6882. >"Heads up, I will activate the holding now."
  6883. >And right on cue, the metal bands wrap around your arms and legs, yet you barely feel their presence.
  6884. >You did not even notice the one which wrapped around your neck.
  6885. >But despite #deca.mare's announcement in advance and the comparatively benign grip of the mechanism, you feel like someone has just put you on show.
  6886. >Stripped down to the skin and placed on an altar for all to see.
  6887. >#deca.mare is in full control now.
  6888. >Keep it steady, Anon.
  6889. >You knew what was going to happen.
  6890. >Slow and easy breathing.
  6891. >This is all you have to do.
  6892. >"Now to the canopy. You will not be able to hear me after it is lowered, so let me say this once again. I am with you all the time and will look after you."
  6893. >You would like to give her a nod, but the restrictions do not allow that.
  6894. "Got it."
  6895.  
  6896.  
  6897.  
  6898.  
  6899. >You feel the urge to cut it short to get out of this predicament quickly.
  6900. >A silly notion of course, as your body is literally bound to spend years over years in this thing.
  6901. >But least your mind will spend the time in good company and in every setting you could possibly imagine.
  6902. >The transparent surface of the glass canopy approaches, reflecting the crimson light of the room as it moves towards your prone form.
  6903. >It is only a matter of seconds, and you will be sealed in here.
  6904. >One thing left to say.
  6905. "See you on the other side, my love."
  6906. >Unfortunately, you have not enough time left to give the sentence the proper pronunciation it deserves.
  6907. >You have to blur it out as fast as you can.
  6908. >And shortly after you have done so, the opening is closed completely with a thumping sound.
  6909. >All you can do now is waiting.
  6910. >Perhaps this is just your imagination, but it seems to get colder in this chamber.
  6911. >You have never asked #deca.mare how literal the cryo part of the technology really is.
  6912. >No matter if psychological or not, you begin to shiver.
  6913. >Which in turn heightens your personal sensitivity.
  6914. >Enough for you to notice some stings.
  6915. >They are subtle, meant to leave only a minimal impression.
  6916. >Yet you know exactly that these are no wild creation of your mind.
  6917. >Your skin is getting pierced in four different spots at once.
  6918. >And as quickly as the pain came, as swiftly does it fade.
  6919. >But it takes everything else with it.
  6920. >Your arms and legs go gradually numb.
  6921. >Yet you can still think clearly.
  6922. >Your heartbeat speeds up.
  6923. >You remember everything #deca.mare has told you, but the spreading numbness in combination with the all-encompassing chill takes its toll on your composure.
  6924. >This is how being tossed stark naked into an icy lake must feel like.
  6925. >And there is now way out.
  6926. >At last, your senses begin to slip away, and your mind is quick to follow the lure of silence.
  6927. >It was not so bad after all.
  6928.  
  6929.  
  6930.  
  6931.  
  6932. >Through all your concerns and fears, you had no chance to spot the pair of eyes that watched you with care and love the entire time until you fell into your cold slumber.
  6933. >A hoof presses softly against the glass.
  6934. >"Sleep tight, my love. I have to leave you now."
  6935. >The hoof pulls back and the mare trots away.
  6936. >About halfway back to the ramp, she turns her head around with a smile one last time.
  6937. >"But do not think I have forgotten your brash little folly. I will be there when you wake up to give you a serious piece of my mind."
  6938. >A snicker and a flick of her tail.
  6939. >"Amongst other things."
  6940. >She gets no response, apart from an occasional beep of a console here and there.
  6941. >Then the mare heads up the ramp.
  6942. >Other tasks await for now.
  6943. >The pleasure will come later.
  6944. >#deca.mare leaves the command deck.
  6945. >The loud clopping sounds of her hooves hitting the hard floor still reverberate through the room.
  6946. >Then the echoes abruptly stop as the door slides shut behind her, leaving a body behind in its cold, yet protective cocoon.
  6947.  
  6948.  
  6949.  
  6950.  
  6951. 58
  6952.  
  6953. >You are back at the place where you have been once before.
  6954. >The plane where nothing is, yet everything can be.
  6955. >Drifting in the vast void between the stars.
  6956. >You are nothing as of now, but you are aware that this will change soon.
  6957. >This is not your first dance on this stage, so you know what you have to do.
  6958. >Even if you are unable to recall what exactly you are at the moment.
  6959. >It is as if the very essence of this place is attuned to your mind.
  6960. >And every thought of yours somehow resonates in this zone.
  6961. >They create ripples in its fabric, like small waves that are cast in an otherwise still lake.
  6962. >These ripples drift ever onwards, as if the lake had no conceivable end.
  6963. >But something else calls back.
  6964. >A different presence which produces its own waves.
  6965. >And they subtly enter your mind as they reach you, slightly changing your state with every new contact.
  6966. >More specifically, it changes your body.
  6967. >Each one only to a minimal degree, but every shift is performed with incredible precision and finality.
  6968. >There are neither any backtracks, nor random elements.
  6969. >You begin to grow a precise form out of a convoluted mess; the only one that is natural to you.
  6970. >More and more of your memories emerge as well.
  6971. >And finally, you can identify the other presence in the void.
  6972. >What you see is not a monster, not another alien form, and no friendly space mare either.
  6973. >It is you.
  6974. >You have been looking at your mirror the whole time.
  6975. >And the concept of you stares back.
  6976. >The imprint you have left here when you entered the simulation for the first time.
  6977. >The thoughts you have sent out reached this imprint, and its resonance back to you made its image gradually clearer.
  6978.  
  6979.  
  6980.  
  6981.  
  6982. >And you subconsciously used that image of yourself to reform your body exactly as it was remembered in here.
  6983. >So you could basically manifest your shape in a much faster pace this time around, even if the tools and mechanisms have not changed one bit.
  6984. >Then your mirror begins to look at you with a purpose in mind.
  6985. >It inspects your body with its eyes and a great deal of care.
  6986. >Up and down, and from head to toe.
  6987. >At last, it looks you directly in the eye and smiles.
  6988. >It only speaks to words, but these are all you need to hear.
  6989. >"Welcome home."
  6990. >As soon as these genuine words are spoken, the satisfied smile of your mirror disappears as it shatters into a million little pieces.
  6991. >And it takes the entire void with it, as the space around you shatters as well.
  6992. >Reality itself changes drastically in the blink of an eye.
  6993. >You in your old, yet pristine and own body are transported somewhere else in less than a second.
  6994. >It happens so fast that you cannot even witness the transition as such.
  6995. >Only the before and after becomes evident.
  6996. >Because you suddenly find yourself deep inside a dark body of water.
  6997. >Light shines on its surface far, far above you.
  6998. >You had no chance to reach the light in time under realistic conditions.
  6999. >However, this is not what troubles you.
  7000. >In fact, you do not even register a lack of oxygen.
  7001. >But the water is horribly cold, freezing your skin all over in your prone state.
  7002. >You have no form of protection with you.
  7003. >Completely exposed to the mercy of the elements around you.
  7004. >Elements which have no understanding of compassion or kindness.
  7005. >And to top it off, you are unable to move at all or bend reality with mental commands, despite your clear awareness of your own mind and body.
  7006. >The chill does not seem to cause you any harm, but its sheer intensity everywhere at once is far too much.
  7007. >And you have no way to do anything about it whatsoever.
  7008. >Hell, you cannot even scream.
  7009. >This may very well be the worst thing you have ever experienced.
  7010.  
  7011.  
  7012.  
  7013.  
  7014. >But luckily for you, someone else takes notice of your predicament.
  7015. >Four limbs wrap around your body from behind.
  7016. >Their soft surface is comfortable to touch, and the healthy heat they emanate is reassuring for your troubled mind.
  7017. >The perfect contrast to the icy horror around you.
  7018. >These strong limbs dampen your shock and begin to pull you up with a rapid, determined speed.
  7019. >You reach the ice layer on the surface almost in an instant and break through it with barely any effort.
  7020. >Cool, yet fresh air gushes in your face.
  7021. >You instinctively take it in.
  7022. >It revitalises your body and grants you full control of your capabilities once again.
  7023. >Although your still panicked state does not leave any room for a controlled coordination.
  7024. >So you end up flailing around with your arms inside the frozen pool.
  7025. >But a gentle and soothing voice reaches out for you.
  7026. >It comes directly from behind.
  7027. >"Shh. I have got your back, Anon."
  7028. >It is the voice of the only creature you need to have around in the whole universe.
  7029. "#deca? What happened? Where the hell are we?"
  7030. >"In a nightmare of sorts. Once the initialisation process was completed, the link established a scenery in accordance to your last thoughts before you fell asleep. It overwhelmed you before I could intervene."
  7031. >You calm down enough to grasp the situation at hand.
  7032. >This alone removes a great deal of hostility from the scenery.
  7033. >Because you know you are not in danger, despite every indication of the contrary.
  7034. >You let the ice disappear, and the water immediately feels a lot warmer than before.
  7035. >You are no longer held in the iron grip of a clenching cold aura.
  7036. >But you are still stuck in the middle of an ocean, covered with nothing but a wet mare on your back.
  7037. >There certainly are better to places to be, even if the company is the best you could ask for.
  7038.  
  7039.  
  7040.  
  7041.  
  7042. "Let's get out of here, #deca."
  7043. >"Gladly. Do you want to swim or do you prefer the faster way?"
  7044. "Wait, we're in Equestria?"
  7045. >"No. But we can reach Equestria's shores if we swim a few hundred kilometres."
  7046. >You cannot suppress a groan.
  7047. >"Point taken."
  7048. >#deca.mare renews her firm grip around you and works her magic once more.
  7049. >The ocean makes way for a new setting in a familiar blurring fashion.
  7050. >The last traces of piercing chill vanish as you faceplant into the welcoming sheets of a familiar bed.
  7051. >From the deepest frozen pits of the ocean up to a chamber near to the high peaks of a mountain, just like that.
  7052. >And the strong and lively heat of a certain mare covers your whole back.
  7053. >A much needed alternative to the arctic nightmare you have just escaped.
  7054. >#deca.mare gets up and turns your body around before you have a chance to say anything.
  7055. >You can see her now standing right above you.
  7056. >In the exact same stance in which you have seen her before you convinced #deca.mare to get closer.
  7057. >Back then she was very reluctant to play along, and for a very good reason as it turned out.
  7058. >But you can tell she will not hold back this time.
  7059. >"You know I still have to reprimand you, right?"
  7060. >Of course she has not forgotten.
  7061. "Can we simply call it even because of my nightmare?"
  7062. >#deca.mare shakes her head.
  7063. >"No. I was worried sick about you, Anon. And you took a risk that was frankly uncalled for. Sorry, but I need this moment to vent."
  7064. >She sighs.
  7065. >You can see her point.
  7066. >The idea to lose the only person one can ever hope for must be terrifying for someone who has spent centuries in unwanted isolation.
  7067. >And because of such a trivial thing, no less.
  7068. >You cannot really say anything against that.
  7069.  
  7070.  
  7071.  
  7072.  
  7073. "Alright, I'm all yours. Do whatever you need to do."
  7074. >#deca.mare takes in a long breath in contemplation.
  7075. >Then she slowly lowers her body to lie down.
  7076. >She has assumed the exact position in which you wanted to have her to begin with.
  7077. >But #deca.mare does not attempt to close in for a kiss.
  7078. >Instead, she begins to cuddle and nuzzle you all over.
  7079. >Not exactly in a purely romantic fashion though.
  7080. >Because as tender and loving as this gesture is, this affectionate assault is accompanied by a barrage of #deca.mare's worries and fears.
  7081. >She invents nightmarish stories for you to imagine.
  7082. >Of what could have gone wrong.
  7083. >What could have happened to you.
  7084. >Every way in which #deca.mare might not have even been able to help you in time because her equipment on board is not specialised in medical emergencies.
  7085. >Her fears of ending up alone, again.
  7086. >And how she would not have survived this loss either.
  7087. >She is telling you about all the ways how your little stunt might have put your life and, by extension, hers at risk.
  7088. >The situation is almost like a paradox.
  7089. >On a physical level you register nothing but enjoyment and bliss.
  7090. >But your emotional side is getting battered at the same time by #deca.mare's worst fears.
  7091. >It genuinely makes you feel bad.
  7092. >Because #deca.mare is largely right and accurate with her projections.
  7093. >Although some of her ideas go into rather extreme directions in your opinion.
  7094. >But you keep that notion for yourself.
  7095. >Or at least you do not say that out loud, given how #deca.mare will hear your thoughts regardless.
  7096. >At some point in the whole thing you subconsciously try to get out of her grasp.
  7097. >Her imagination runs a little too wild now.
  7098. >But #deca.mare has other plans.
  7099. >So she intervenes by putting her forehooves on your shoulders to gently hold you down.
  7100. >She is strong enough to easily keep you from moving, and she only uses just as much force as necessary to do so, despite your secure environment.
  7101.  
  7102.  
  7103.  
  7104.  
  7105. >But you are still able to move your lower body around.
  7106. >Perhaps you can use this somehow?
  7107. >When #deca.mare's first attempt has proven insufficient to convince you, a third hoof wanders somewhere else.
  7108. >To a certain place further down.
  7109. >This does halt your attempts indeed.
  7110. >Not that she wishes to threaten or torture you, but at the moment she wants to express a position of temporary authority.
  7111. >An authority you can only escape if you are willing to confront a solid hoof tip with especially limber tissue.
  7112. >And this is not the most devious part about it.
  7113. >Because #deca.mare does not even have to apply any physical pressure on your nether region.
  7114. >Oh no, the only thing she has to do is to place her hoof in a strategic position.
  7115. >But it forces you to press against her leg if you want to get out.
  7116. >You are free to challenge her any time, but that hoof will remain unwavering, no doubt about that.
  7117. >Although said contest is decisively rigged against your favour from the start for obvious reasons, and you would basically end up trading emotional pain for a different one.
  7118. >Her actions might be considered a little bit of a foul play, as your natural instincts tell you not to try anything funny, safety of the simulation be damned.
  7119. >And #deca.mare obviously knows all of this.
  7120. >She is actually counting on that, you are sure of it.
  7121. >Plus, if anything physically unpleasant happens now, it will not happen out of #deca.mare's volition.
  7122. >In other words, you are going nowhere unless you are ready to potentially deal some solid physical discomfort to yourself.
  7123. >"My apologies, Anon. But I have to. This matter is much too important to take it lightly."
  7124. >You are not too fond of this status quo, but you give her a nod.
  7125. >And the moral siege on your conscience drags on while #deca.mare cuddles the hell out of you.
  7126. >But at last, and end is in sight eventually.
  7127.  
  7128.  
  7129.  
  7130.  
  7131. >After #deca.mare has exhausted her pool of potential horror stories, she calms down, both in body and spirit.
  7132. >She simply keeps lying on top of you with her head on your shoulder.
  7133. >And she keeps panting for quite a while.
  7134. >The sudden outburst of emotions must have taken a larger toll on her than you have initially expected.
  7135. >At least her spirit seems noticeably drained after that tirade.
  7136. >Whatever the case, you now have her casually covering you, still pinning you down at the same time.
  7137. >Your skin is clearly touching her in sensitive mounds, and her hoof has not left its delicate place either.
  7138. >Yet neither acts upon the other.
  7139. >#deca.mare has said what she needed to say, and none of you gains anything from disturbing the moment.
  7140. >The stress is gone and calmness is exactly what you need in its stead.
  7141. >And you neither of you is in all due reality expecting anything bad from the other.
  7142. >So casually keeping your most sensitive spots exposed to each other is the best sign of mutual trust you can show.
  7143. >You are truly not going anywhere any time soon.
  7144. >Absolutely voluntary on top of that.
  7145. >In fact, the pressure of her weight feels more reassuring than it does burden you.
  7146. >You let her rest on you for what seems like an eternity.
  7147. >It is a comfortable one though.
  7148. >Time is left in abundance; you have no reason to rush.
  7149. >And why should you in the first place?
  7150. >You have the love of your life in your arms, and you are kept safe.
  7151. >Right in the orbit of Equestria, your new home.
  7152. >So what could you possibly ask for?
  7153. >But despite the current respite, you cannot sleep.
  7154. >You have only been awake for a short time before you entered the cryo pod, and you do not feel fatigued in the slightest.
  7155. >As far as you can tell, #deca.mare has not passed out either.
  7156.  
  7157.  
  7158.  
  7159.  
  7160. >She is just in the need for some mental rest.
  7161. >Maybe you can resume your last kiss and build upon it in a short while, but only after this break.
  7162. >All you have to do at the moment is just being there for her.
  7163. >This alone brings more pleasure to both of you than anything else.
  7164. >Really, you imagine how she might be actually busy deriving pleasure from such mundane things as your pulse.
  7165. >Simply because it shows that you are still alive and with her.
  7166. >This thought seems to have given #deca.mare an idea.
  7167. >She slowly shifts her head near your chest and tilts it to the side.
  7168. >#deca.mare presses her ear against your ribs, listening to the sound of your heart.
  7169. >And all of that without applying any pressure where it might hurt.
  7170. >After all, #deca.mare is considerate, even when it is technically speaking not necessary anymore.
  7171. >You decide to give her a spontaneous neck massage and ear scratches, which #deca.mare enjoys enough to feel motivated to look for more ways to return the favour.
  7172. >All of that in a mostly casual, an almost innocent way.
  7173. >This goes on and on for several cycles.
  7174. >But you also take the opportunity to reflect on what #deca.mare has told you in her heated speech.
  7175. >You must admit that your attempt was silly, and that bothers you somewhat.
  7176. >You made a mistake despite everything #deca.mare has told you.
  7177. >But you also know she does not hold any grudges against you, especially not when you can express love instead.
  7178. >Best you treat it as an experience that is important to remember, but not meant to dwell on.
  7179. >Up to this point, your stimulating interactions have been largely cordial, and nothing more.
  7180. >But since the dust has now settled in both of your minds, you may take this a little further than before.
  7181.  
  7182.  
  7183.  
  7184.  
  7185. >And #deca.mare takes the initiative pretty quickly.
  7186. >She raises her head to place her muzzle on your chin.
  7187. >"Now I am a good little mare again. And we can finally do what you tried to start last time."
  7188. >Her voice is barely more than a whisper, but she purrs every word with such a remarkable passion that it is impossible to mistake #deca.mare's intention.
  7189. >She is ready when you are.
  7190. >And in contrast to the last time, you are not afraid anymore either.
  7191. >But just like anything else, you will not rush it.
  7192. >Everything shall click naturally.
  7193. >Perhaps you will keep it tame, or maybe you will go wild.
  7194. >You will see.
  7195. >This is up to you two and your mutual nature to decide when the time comes.
  7196.  
  7197.  
  7198.  
  7199.  
  7200. 59
  7201.  
  7202. >You look #deca.mare straight into the eyes.
  7203. >In them you can see her affection for you.
  7204. >Clear as daylight.
  7205. >As far as her current mood is concerned, the tension from before is almost forgotten.
  7206. >You are fully aware that #deca.mare can hardly forget anything, but that does not mean she cannot push some things aside for a while if she so wishes.
  7207. >Right now she wants to enjoy herself with you by her side.
  7208. >And with her still lounging right on your body, you could not ask for a better position to start with.
  7209. >Especially since she has already ceased her rather imposing stance to lie squarely on you.
  7210. >You can feel #deca.mare's fur all over you.
  7211. >From your shoulders to your chest, to the belly, and further beneath.
  7212. >One of her hind legs is sprawled alongside one of yours, while you feel her tail hair flanking the same leg on the other side.
  7213. >Although she has never bothered to remove her other rear hoof from its particular spot.
  7214. >But by now you have gotten somewhat accustomed to it, as #deca.mare is no longer in her berating mode, and simply because you know she will never wish to truly harm you.
  7215. >And while your subconscious instincts still protest out of purely evolutionary reasons, you bear it with a modicum of calmness and grace.
  7216. >Plus you must admit, although you are personally not fond of overplayed displays of dominance from either side, that the situation comes with a little bit of a thrill.
  7217. >The very fact that you let #deca.mare do that without so much of a protest shows you how much you have opened up to her.
  7218. >And this is another thrill; one of a special kind.
  7219. >Because you automatically let a part of your own mental guard down, giving #deca.mare the opportunity to reach out to you in a more intimate manner.
  7220. >Wholly out of your own volition.
  7221. >Of course, this also comes with the downside of potentially getting hurt by your lover, even if it happens by sheer accident.
  7222.  
  7223.  
  7224.  
  7225.  
  7226. >But you know that #deca.mare's spirit it too pure to let it come to that under her guarding eyes.
  7227. >Besides, this point really looks silly if you think about where you truly are.
  7228. >And it is not like you had no way of playing with #deca.mare's senses either.
  7229. >You have learned how you can make her buckle in her own cute way.
  7230. >But just like her, you too wish to not overdo it.
  7231. >Timing and care for each other are the key.
  7232. >Nevertheless, you find yourself playing with the idea to embrace the thrill to a degree.
  7233. >#deca.mare laughs quietly to herself.
  7234. >You cannot hear her voice, but you notice the subtle constant jolts of her body pulsing through your own.
  7235. >Her rhythmic short breaths are another obvious hint.
  7236. "Hm? What's so funny?"
  7237. >#deca.mare tries to downplay her chuckling while she gives you an answer.
  7238. >"Oh, nothing."
  7239. >Right, as if.
  7240. "Aw, come on. I don't need to read your thoughts to know better. Something clearly amuses you."
  7241. >#deca.mare smiles upon that.
  7242. >She has given up to cover her mirth.
  7243. >"Just the contrast, Anon. To think how much it took to win you over for this in the first place. And now you are looking forward to it yourself."
  7244. >You fully embrace #deca.mare with both arms.
  7245. "Heh, yeah. You know how it is. Much can change in just a week."
  7246. >#deca.mare briefly closes in for another swift peck.
  7247. >Her nuzzle returns to your chin.
  7248. >"So, how do you want to do it this time?"
  7249. >#deca.mare accentuates her alluring presence with a few slow shifts of her body.
  7250. >Her fur gently rubs against your skin.
  7251. >But she makes sure not to cause any friction in delicate areas.
  7252. >"Any preferences, my love?"
  7253. "Yes. Just one. Let's not make a plan. We'll let it play out like it suits us. What about that, hm?"
  7254. >#deca.mare considers this for a second before she nods.
  7255. >You can easily see how she begins to evaluate several things.
  7256. >What you have liked so far.
  7257. >What you could like.
  7258. >What she should avoid.
  7259. >What may be uncharted territory.
  7260.  
  7261.  
  7262.  
  7263.  
  7264. >And where she could carefully try to push the boundaries a little bit for the sake of the mutual thrill.
  7265. >Kind of funny to behold.
  7266. >But you are having none of that.
  7267. >You know that she needs a short moment before she can register spontaneous ideas of yours.
  7268. >Exactly what you need right now.
  7269. >And so before #deca.mare can flesh out her ideas, you take the initiative with another long kiss.
  7270. >You slowly tug her head towards you and let your hands run over her neck and through the lower part of her mane.
  7271. >This has caught #deca.mare off guard, and she finds herself playing along out of sheer instinct.
  7272. >Good, this is a fine start.
  7273. >And your gut feeling tells you exactly what to do next.
  7274. >You maintain the kiss for another few seconds before you try something completely new.
  7275. >Because now you slowly move your head a little further down and plant a series of swift kisses on #deca.mare's chin and throat while your hands keep treating her neck.
  7276. >You do this partly out of personal curiosity for the sensation itself, and partly since you want to see how she reacts to your approach.
  7277. >In spite of a short period of bewildered confusion #deca.mare adapts relatively quickly.
  7278. >She is flexible enough to follow suit without interrupting you.
  7279. >#deca.mare's body slightly shifts to the side.
  7280. >Then she begins to lick your throat and neck in turn.
  7281. >The sensation is not like you initially expected.
  7282. >You have been well aware for quite a while that her tongue differs somewhat from yours.
  7283. >And you  have grown accustomed to it during your previous kisses and the wound treatment.
  7284. >Yet this is something else.
  7285. >#deca.mare's tongue drenches you skin in wide swathes.
  7286. >She is deliberately covering as much area as possible.
  7287. >And for once in your life you do not mind getting blanketed in a mixture of fur and saliva.
  7288. >On the contrary, you find it more amusing than you have ever thought possible.
  7289. >You like it enough to voluntarily take it to the next level.
  7290.  
  7291.  
  7292.  
  7293.  
  7294. >Now you no longer restrict yourself to mere kisses.
  7295. >No, you follow #deca.mare's example and lick her as well.
  7296. >The effect is further amplified by her having fur instead of just skin.
  7297. >It is pleasant to feel her smooth hair in a new and fascinating way.
  7298. >Because you actually get a "taste" of her to some degree.
  7299. >And the next step is up to you as well, as you also take her scent in from up close.
  7300. >Up to this point you have never really thought about it, but now it seems about as obvious as it ever could be.
  7301. >And it is a natural one, both in taste and smell.
  7302. >Far from being similar to artificial notes like perfume, yet not inconvenient either.
  7303. >If anything, you would describe it as a trace which hints at her origin being somewhere in a rural area.
  7304. >A subtle hint of wood, combined with faint traces of grassland plants and common farm fruits like apples and pears.
  7305. >It is a combination you can happily live with.
  7306. >More than that.
  7307. >You think you will gladly get more of her scent if #deca.mare is up to it.
  7308. >And given that she is basically open for anything for as long as it stays affectionate and wholesome, she will play along in all due likelihood.
  7309. >Plus, you bet she will find her own creative tricks to contribute to it in her own loving, but also sometimes sly little ways.
  7310. >It does not take long for her to prove you right.
  7311. >Her nuzzle also wanders over you skin and occasionally take in a breath or two.
  7312. >And just as if on cue, #deca.mare adds her own tweak to it to get you.
  7313. >Her teeth join the gentle treatment on your skin, delivering some subtle love bites now and then.
  7314. >They are neither strong enough nor initially meant to cause any harm or pain, but the hard profile of #deca.mare's teeth does provide a certain instinctual effect on you.
  7315.  
  7316.  
  7317.  
  7318.  
  7319. >It plays right into the notion of ways in which she could hurt you, but chooses to use for caring and loving instead.
  7320. >And while you initially find yourself flinching at her approach when her teeth meet your skin, you get used to it in a matter of minutes.
  7321. >But every little reaction of yours causes you to sharply breathe into #deca.mare's fur once, which she in return rewards with a surprised gasp of her own.
  7322. >You two take your sweet time playing with each other's senses to find as much mutual bodily pleasure as you can.
  7323. >At some point you have #deca.mare faintly rocking to both sides again, just like she did back in the pod.
  7324. >But this time she can only resort to using your leg for the stimulation of her teats since you are not overly aroused yet.
  7325. >A fact which is not exactly to #deca.mare's liking, despite her own obvious pleasure.
  7326. >"Anon..."
  7327. >#deca.mare tries to keep her voice even.
  7328. >But her attempt to hide her mood remains futile.
  7329. >You can easily imagine what her rear end must look like at this point.
  7330. >However, it would be far too soon to get right down to the serious business.
  7331. >An unfortunate wasted potential even.
  7332. >The situation is just perfect as it is.
  7333. >Yet your rather composed state bothers #deca.mare somewhat.
  7334. >"This will not do."
  7335. >Perhaps she believes her approaches are not good enough yet?
  7336. >After all, she is far deeper in than you are, so maybe #deca.mare thinks that she has to double down.
  7337. >"May I do something a little more... personal again?"
  7338. >You understand immediately what she implies.
  7339. >Her heavy emphasis on the word "personal" makes it rather clear to you where this will go.
  7340. >And you accept her request, despite your own mixed feelings about it.
  7341. >#deca.mare's rear hoof gets to work.
  7342. >Once again with slow circular massaging movements, and with taking extra care to not cause you any pain or even just discomfort.
  7343. >And once again do you have to struggle with your basic instincts.
  7344.  
  7345.  
  7346.  
  7347.  
  7348. >Your first reaction is to flinch away, yet there is nowhere to go.
  7349. >But #deca.mare has expected this.
  7350. >She even slows her circles for a second so that your initial shock can wear off properly.
  7351. >Then she resumes with a gradually increasing pace once more.
  7352. >Unlike the first night, you can tell that it is not her intention to motivate you to take any actions yourself this time.
  7353. >You have done your part for her already as it seems.
  7354. >No, you shall not attempt to get away from her hoof.
  7355. >You are supposed to experience every single second of it.
  7356. >You are meant to enjoy it, full stop.
  7357. >And as reluctant as you are to admit this, she is damn good with what nature has given her.
  7358. >The force behind her circling massage is carefully measured and applied.
  7359. >Strong enough to get a firm grip on you malleable parts and to subtly push a little into your tissue, yet with still a good bit of care as to not press them between her limb and the rest of your body.
  7360. >Just because you are in a simulation is not a sufficient reason for #deca.mare to, well, literally press the matter further.
  7361. >You cannot believe your own mental pun right now.
  7362. >Still, her execution is just about perfect.
  7363. >You feel your testicles moving gently in rhythm with the circles of #deca.mare's hoof.
  7364. >Damnation, a hard tip of solid bone on vulnerable flesh has no right to be as exciting as it is.
  7365. >The thrill is slowly growing inside.
  7366. >Your mind is so occupied with the treatment it is receiving that you do not even notice the blush on your own face.
  7367. >And you also miss #deca.mare's smile upon seeing the telltale signs.
  7368. >Yet you do not need this information to imagine that you react exactly the way she wants you to do.
  7369. >During all this time you cling to #deca.mare's shoulders with your hands, yet you otherwise endure everything else she throws at you and take it with as much grace as you can muster.
  7370.  
  7371.  
  7372.  
  7373.  
  7374. >Then comes #deca.mare's second level.
  7375. >Because why not?
  7376. >Suddenly, out of the blue, she noticeably increases her pressure on your nethers for one swift push.
  7377. >Not a painful affair by any means, even if you were still in the real world.
  7378. >Her push was not meant to hurt; it merely locks your pair in its current place.
  7379. >Despite your previous mental preparations and the fact that #deca.mare is technically not squeezing you anywhere, it does trigger your survival instincts nevertheless.
  7380. >So it does its job as intended.
  7381. >Because you try to raise your upper body as a reflex and breathe out a gasp in surprise.
  7382. >But said gasp never comes.
  7383. >At least in the way you imagined it.
  7384. >#deca.mare's head intercepts you on your rise, effectively locking your lips in yet another long and affectionate kiss.
  7385. >She plays you like a damn fiddle.
  7386. >You are aware of that because you can trace a snickering in her breath as she plays with your tongue.
  7387. >And while you cannot comment on her actions the normal way, you have other methods to reach out to her.
  7388. >Very funny, #deca.
  7389. >#deca.mare however pretends to not understand what you could possibly refer to.
  7390. >After all, did something happen?
  7391. >And so the gentle circling down there returns with its previous subtle intensity.
  7392. >Though unbeknownst to you, the absolute cherry on top has yet to come.
  7393. >As if the combination of a delicate hoof massage with a simultaneous tongue play were not enough for you already.
  7394. >#deca.mare sets her whole body in motion at this point, causing soft and warm frictions everywhere at once.
  7395. >Her movements follow a clear and fluent pattern in which every single part and detail is coordinated thoroughly to make it one singular element of a larger, coherent whole.
  7396.  
  7397.  
  7398.  
  7399.  
  7400. >#deca.mare's entire body becomes one constantly moving entity, appealing to your senses in a rather peculiar sequence.
  7401. >Starting from the top and going all they way down repeatedly.
  7402. >It makes your body and mind go wild.
  7403. >You can barely keep up mentally to process where you have touched one moment ago while the actual sensation has already moved on.
  7404. >And although you cannot say with certainty , it seems like #deca.mare just puts a little bit more emphasis on every sweet spot on your body she can find.
  7405. >Everything goes as far as she is concerned.
  7406. >No matter what, it is fine if you can derive some stimulating joys out of it.
  7407. >#deca.mare's erotic work starts to bear the fruits she wanted to see all along.
  7408. >She is no longer the only one to be wholly aroused.
  7409. >A certain other part of yours rises and presses against her hind leg.
  7410. >Just a little bit above her currently occupying hoof tip.
  7411. >Both of you are ready.
  7412. >You could get down to business right here and now.
  7413. >Not yet though.
  7414. >#deca.mare has other plans.
  7415. >For a short while she completely releases her physical contact on your testicles.
  7416. >The hoof in question is needed somewhere else nearby.
  7417. >It reaches for your shaft instead.
  7418. >#deca.mare's hoof tip caresses you a few times, running all the length up and down to ensure you remain in this "upright" state.
  7419. >Then the hoof slides to the side opposite to her body and gradually pulls it closer.
  7420. >And it also means that your penis is automatically tagging along as a direct consequence.
  7421. >You are by proxy in for the ride, no matter where it leads to.
  7422.  
  7423.  
  7424.  
  7425.  
  7426. >Good thing #deca.mare already knows what she wishes to do and where she will guide you.
  7427. >She raises her lower body slightly.
  7428. >This halts the all embracing massage for a second.
  7429. >But #deca.mare has found a way to make up for it.
  7430. >By now her plan becomes obvious to you.
  7431. >She directs your shaft straight between her legs, lets go of it with her hoof and lowers herself again.
  7432. >Effectively planting her teats on your erection.
  7433. >Now she has completely restored the previous status quo.
  7434. >Her hoof returns to its previous spot a third time.
  7435. >Of course it does.
  7436. >#deca.mare will not leave such a promising part out.
  7437. >And nothing will hold her back today.
  7438. >While this sounds foreboding in a bad way, given your current position, you realise the same standard holds true for you too.
  7439. >This is of course not a reason to delve into overly profane or absurd activities, but why not make the best of it as it is?
  7440. >Relax and enjoy yourself, Anon.
  7441. >That should not be so hard.
  7442. >You let your hands wander down to #deca.mare's flanks and massage her firm muscles while she returns to her floating moves.
  7443. >However, she cannot keep herself all that steady now.
  7444. >The ensuing friction takes a toll on her too as her teats turn out to be the "weaker" part on this particular dance.
  7445. >Well, this way it remains a somewhat fair game at least.
  7446. >#deca.mare plans her moves intentionally so that the spent time between her and your treatment is about on par.
  7447. >And you get the chance to chime in as well, especially when #deca.mare is busy with shivering out of pleasure.
  7448. >So you keep the flow going when she cannot.
  7449. >#deca.mare and you act like two complementary parts in one mutually directed play.
  7450. >None of you says anything, and not only because you are constantly locked in kisses.
  7451. >Words or instructions are simply not needed.
  7452. >Some unknown factors remain, sure, but this makes the whole thing all the more interesting.
  7453.  
  7454.  
  7455.  
  7456.  
  7457. >There are situations in which one of you randomly twitches, breathes unevenly, gasps, or faintly moans.
  7458. >A thing which can as a side effect also catch the other off guard at times.
  7459. >So on one occasion you give #deca.mare's teats a moderate push while she has similar plans at the same time.
  7460. >The result turns out to be more than her composure can handle.
  7461. >She loudly shouts out her pleasure, therefore leaving the last kiss broken, and you with a strong whiff of air from #deca.mare's lungs to the face.
  7462. >You agree on a short break.
  7463. >Though you prefer to keep it brief before you have any chance to lose the heat of the moment.
  7464. >With all serious caution gone overboard, it does not take long for you to find yourself in a similar situation with reversed roles.
  7465. >Only with a hoof on your receiving end instead of just tissue on tissue.
  7466. >What you got is not enough to be called a hit, much less a deliberate one with any malicious intent behind it, but it caused too much force for your personal tastes.
  7467. >But on the bright side of things you do not feel any pain through the pressure.
  7468. >Yet you are not sure whether the stunt was not powerful enough to hurt you, or if the simulation just blotted out any pain it would have inflicted otherwise.
  7469. >Better not to ask these things.
  7470. >#deca.mare uses the seconds of the spontaneous break for a comment while you catch your breath.
  7471. >"Now you know why I did not want to do it outside. This could have gone awry."
  7472. >To say the absolute least.
  7473. >Her voice sounds mostly embarrassed, but a certain notion of light amusement rings with her words.
  7474. >You give #deca.mare the benefit of the doubt about her not doing stunts like this on purpose, yet sentences like this one somewhat make you think that the opposite could be true.
  7475. "Yeah. Though I don't think you'd be so direct as to go for my jewels like this in reality."
  7476.  
  7477.  
  7478.  
  7479.  
  7480. >"That is not the point I was trying to make, Anon. This is just one of the many things that could have gone wrong. It just happened to be the way it is in this case."
  7481. >And what a memorable one that was.
  7482. "I know. But we have a strange tendency towards unusual situations somehow, don't you think?"
  7483. >#deca.mare shrugs.
  7484. >"I do not mind the odd thing happening now and then for as long as we have each other and are happy together. And we will have our very own true home soon."
  7485. >She is right.
  7486. >And there is no reason to make a huge fuss about what happened here.
  7487. >No harm was done, and something of this nature was to be expected in any case.
  7488. >So you once again place your hands on #deca.mare's flanks for more action.
  7489. >A feeling tells you that the foreplay is almost over.
  7490. >But there is still enough time for one last trick.
  7491. >Instead of shying away from the experience you have just made, you intend to double down.
  7492. >Because screw it.
  7493. >There is nothing to lose in here.
  7494. >You let one of your hands wander along #deca.mare's muscular flank.
  7495. >You are heading for her rear.
  7496. >#deca.mare understands.
  7497. >"Anon, do you think this is a good idea?"
  7498. >Your hand has almost reached the point.
  7499. "Yeah, don't worry, it's just a tease."
  7500. >That is not entirely accurate though.
  7501. >What you intend to do is experimental and a little bit daring.
  7502. >But you already know what you want to achieve.
  7503. >And so does #deca.mare.
  7504. >Your fingers reach her lower lips.
  7505. >You have no way of directly seeing anything, but you think you have a fairly good idea of what you will find.
  7506. >And just as expected, there is quite the lovely activity there.
  7507. >#deca.mare is winking steadily.
  7508. >You carefully trace both sides with one finger each with no applied pressure.
  7509. >That alone is enough to make #deca.mare tense up in anticipation.
  7510. >Okay Anon, tactful now.
  7511. >Just tease her a little bit.
  7512. >And see to it that you do everything right this time.
  7513.  
  7514.  
  7515.  
  7516.  
  7517. >Both fingers gently move down to meet at the lower end.
  7518. >Then you let them slide upwards.
  7519. >Slowly, very slowly.
  7520. >You make sure to mind her winking and keep a short distance between your fingers and her.
  7521. >#deca.mare will surely not be able to control herself, so it is up to you to handle everything.
  7522. >Alright, time to test the waters.
  7523. >You let your fingers descent.
  7524. >Good thing you know what you are in for.
  7525. >That way you know what to expect.
  7526. >A familiar soft and smooth sensation greets you, paired with more gasps, hisses and twitches of #deca.mare.
  7527. >Her lips react strongly upon your touch.
  7528. >They heave up and down several times.
  7529. >At that point you know exactly how far you can go.
  7530. >You personally would not mind to get your hands dirty for her, but that would be too heavy.
  7531. >So you keep your finger tips on the surface instead, and let them wander up and down carefully.
  7532. >But you do not allow your nails to touch her there.
  7533. >Because you can only imagine how inconvenient the feeling must be, even without #deca.mare's sensitivity to physical contact and the like.
  7534. >She would surely appreciate your considerations, were she not completely absent-minded at the moment.
  7535. >She raises her head into the air, looking straight upwards with closed eyes.
  7536. >Her bliss is obvious.
  7537. >And you somehow find yourself sharing a fraction of her satisfaction.
  7538. >You feel good simply by knowing that you contribute to #deca.mare's pleasure.
  7539. >Also the sight and sounds presented to you are a reward for themselves.
  7540. >And most importantly, everything goes according to your plan.
  7541. >She instinctively shifts her body slightly with each new twitch.
  7542. >Her upper body rises step by step in the process.
  7543. >In the end she sits more or less squarely on your lap.
  7544. >Her rear hooves are resting on each side of you while her forehooves lean on your chest, both to support her weight and to pin you where you are.
  7545.  
  7546.  
  7547.  
  7548.  
  7549. >However, the key idea behind this pose is another thing entirely.
  7550. >Because her exposed rear is right on your groin.
  7551. >Something you can personally attest to with each wink of hers.
  7552. >#deca.mare looks at you.
  7553. >"Like this? Are you fine with it?"
  7554. "No problem. It's only fair. I was on top the last time. Equal game and all that."
  7555. >She nods.
  7556. >Then after a second of mental preparation, #deca.mare lifts her lower body a little.
  7557. >The blood flow in your nethers does the rest.
  7558. >With you now fully erect and #deca.mare's body lingering right above, the next step is up to her.
  7559. >And she acts accordingly as she lowers herself again to assume an upright sitting pose.
  7560. >Her rear side touches you in mid-wink.
  7561. >While this helps both of you to get into a comfortable position pretty easily with only some light contact, the resulting effect kicks in even harder.
  7562. >Because #deca.mare gets a good "hold" of you as her lower lips retract.
  7563. >The sudden sensation is a familiar one.
  7564. >Just like you remember it.
  7565. >It sends shivers and pinpricks of bliss through your body.
  7566. >And you notice your heart beating again.
  7567. >It pulsates with anticipation.
  7568. >Though as intense as the experience is for you, it is nothing compared to what #deca.mare is going through.
  7569. >#deca.mare on her end reacts with a loud gasp that almost sounds like a shout.
  7570. >The last time she was on her back.
  7571. >She had nothing else to do than to keep still and enjoy herself.
  7572. >But now she has to play a more active role, even if it is just keeping herself steady.
  7573. >This alone becomes a challenge for #deca.mare in her emotional and mental state.
  7574. >She is on the verge of being carried away by her senses, you can tell this much.
  7575. >And her body is wavering.
  7576. >#deca.mare clenches her rear hooves around your sides to stabilise herself.
  7577. >But you figure this is not enough.
  7578. >Despite your own arousal, your mind is still much clearer than hers for the time being.
  7579.  
  7580.  
  7581.  
  7582.  
  7583. >So you quickly grab her by the forehooves to lend her a part of your strength.
  7584. >And indeed, #deca.mare can keep herself atop and mostly upright after the initial wave of pleasure has receded.
  7585. >Though that does not mean she is in any way close to a coherent trail of thoughts.
  7586. >The mere status quo keeps her on edge, and her instinctive winking causes enough friction to keep her like this.
  7587. >Not that any of you minds though.
  7588. >On the contrary, the constant mutual caressing is a welcome result.
  7589. >Your turn again.
  7590. >You could remain like this for quite a while, but your inner voice tells you to push for more.
  7591. >It is not the voice of reason, but rather that of lust and desire.
  7592. >So you start to push.
  7593. >Literally.
  7594. >There is not much space for you to act, yet you manage to slowly move your hips around.
  7595. >Only a tiny bit in every direction, yet each shift is more than enough to get another sound out of #deca.mare.
  7596. >Not to mention your short thrusts upwards.
  7597. >Your idea works flawlessly.
  7598. >The inner heat is building up inside yourself.
  7599. >The same is obviously true for #deca.mare.
  7600. >Plus, there is another interesting side effect.
  7601. >#deca.mare instinctively clenches her rear hooves progressively harder against your body with each passing moment.
  7602. >She begins to get you fixed in a deadlock.
  7603. >Her strength is amazing.
  7604. >#deca.mare only pins you down with her rear hooves, yet it is easily enough.
  7605. >This limits your own freedom of movement even further, and #deca.mare notices this too.
  7606. >Even though she cannot override her own instinct to let go of you, she begins to make up for the loss with thrusts of her own.
  7607.  
  7608.  
  7609.  
  7610.  
  7611. >Cautious at first, then with more and more determination.
  7612. >And she is very good at keeping the quickening pace going.
  7613. >Her actions in this position alone would eventually be enough to draw your act all the way to its conclusion.
  7614. >But you will not let that happen like this.
  7615. >Not only does your pride and sense of fairness tell you to not let your partner do everything herself from here on out, you also want to explore what else you could do.
  7616. >So you on the other hand focus on holding and massaging #deca.mare's forehooves.
  7617. >You are keeping your own solid grip around her.
  7618. >This massage alone does not have such a great effect on #deca.mare, considering the other place where you are currently "massaging" her far more intimately, yet every little bit counts.
  7619. >The build-up reaches its next phase.
  7620. >By now you have #deca.mare constantly gasping and moaning, and you are feeling it yourself too.
  7621. >Yet the creative part of your brain is still more active than that of #deca.mare.
  7622. >And it gives you the right inspiration to spice things up just a tad.
  7623. >You begin to pull her forehooves ever so subtly in your direction.
  7624. >The rest of her upper body follows suit with a short delay.
  7625. >It does not seem that #deca.mare is overly thinking about your idea.
  7626. >She will surely be aware of the plan, although you doubt she is in any state to process it whatsoever.
  7627. >And it is also getting harder for you to think clearly as well.
  7628. >Your occasional shivers have grown in strength, and the pinpricks have evolved into a proper prickling.
  7629. >Not to mention the heat.
  7630. >You almost feel like you are back in the sauna.
  7631. >Time to hurry.
  7632. >You absolutely want to try this out before you finish each other off.
  7633.  
  7634.  
  7635.  
  7636.  
  7637. >No time like the present, Anon.
  7638. >You put more force into your pull.
  7639. >Firm, yet not violent or otherwise inconvenient to either of you.
  7640. >#deca.mare's body tilts more and more while she keeps herself moving.
  7641. >In the end she more or less falls on your chest to lie squarely on your body.
  7642. >Her fall is accompanied by a deep affectionate purr from #deca.mare as it comes with some tender friction in your nether areas as well.
  7643. >And some sounds may have slipped your tongue as well, though you cannot say that for sure.
  7644. >Yet for all that it is worth, your trick has not broken the intimate bond of your love act.
  7645. >And you can move freely again, as #deca.mare had to move her rear legs around accordingly.
  7646. >Now both of you have to move in sequence if you want to keep going as you were.
  7647. >Something your instincts figure out in mere seconds.
  7648. >Both of you discover the steps of your new passionate loving choreography and fall back into your rhythm without an issue.
  7649. >This is how you want it to be.
  7650. >The two of you just like that.
  7651. >Each one equally participating and contributing to your mutual pleasure with zero bars and no distance between you.
  7652. >And it comes with some more perks as well.
  7653. >#deca.mare's head lies on your upper chest again, her large round eyes fixed on yours.
  7654. >The deep emotions you can see in them are almost enough to lose yourself in within a second.
  7655. >She really is the most beautiful creature you could have ever met.
  7656. >#deca.mare cranes her neck, reaching for your head.
  7657. >You understand her without a single spoken word.
  7658. >You reach out as well to meet her for another long and elaborate kiss.
  7659. >Combined with all the other little things, it brings you dangerously close to your limit.
  7660. >And #deca.mare's instincts must have waited for this sign as well.
  7661. >So she goes in for the final blow; the one that both unleashes all the pent-up lust and desire, but also the one which ends the whole thing.
  7662.  
  7663.  
  7664.  
  7665.  
  7666. >Her tail hair once again wanders to a certain place right beneath her rear.
  7667. >This is not something you are aware of until you face a familiar soft stroking sensation in your most sensitive outer body region.
  7668. >A far more welcome alternative to #deca.mare's hooves down there to be honest, no matter with how much care she acts.
  7669. >With her hair she has far more freedoms and can do things that would never fly with harder limbs.
  7670. >And #deca.mare uses the full potential of said freedom.
  7671. >She regularly changes her approach.
  7672. >Starting out with soft slow strokes, going to some faster yet still gentle swishing moves from side to side, and then to a third and rather unique one.
  7673. >#deca.mare raises her tail slightly, keeps it there in the air for a second, and then lets her hair fall back into place.
  7674. >Her tail proceeds to harmlessly bounce off your testicles.
  7675. >And while this would have been a harmless move even in reality, the sheer surprise effect makes you flinch and grunt.
  7676. >Although the grunt is muffled by the fact that the kiss with #deca.mare remains unbroken.
  7677. >You practically did nothing more than briefly breathing into her mouth.
  7678. >And that is more than fair.
  7679. >After all, #deca.mare does practically the same to you with each sound of hers.
  7680. >This one last bit is what finally drives you over the edge,
  7681. >And you take #deca.mare with you.
  7682. >Or maybe it was the other round and she reached her climax first, and it is you who gets swept away by her?
  7683. >Impossible for you to tell, and you quite frankly do not bother to find that out.
  7684. >The blissful result for both #deca.mare and you is all that counts.
  7685. >You ride the heat wave to its overwhelming conclusion, with a shivering and quivering #deca.mare on top of you.
  7686. >In the end you break the kiss and just lie there.
  7687. >Listening to the exhausted and yet calming sounds of the other.
  7688.  
  7689.  
  7690.  
  7691.  
  7692. >For the most part you two take your time to cool down without doing anything else.
  7693. >Although you casually run a hand along #deca.mare's spine while she weakly nuzzles your neck.
  7694. >This is however just a gesture of unanimous and unconditional affection rather than meant to rile any of you up again.
  7695. >You had enough of this for the time being.
  7696. >After an untold span of time, it is you who breaks the silence.
  7697. "You've gotten better, #deca. You didn't pass out this time."
  7698. >#deca.mare chuckles with a deep and sultry voice.
  7699. >She then rolls off to the side to slump down on the bed next to you.
  7700. >Lying sprawled on her side, she casually reveals the entire natural beauty of her underside to you.
  7701. >A sight you can appreciate even in your spent state.
  7702. >But the natural urges have momentarily gone on strike after this hefty dance.
  7703. >"You too, Anon. I am glad you are no longer truly afraid of my form."
  7704. "Wait, I was never..."
  7705. >You cut your own sentence before you blur out a pointless denial.
  7706. >You were afraid of her for several different reasons the first time.
  7707. >Period.
  7708. >But you have obviously overcome that barrier.
  7709. >Permanently as it seems.
  7710. >And so you give her a nod of approval before you roll your body to the side to face #deca.mare.
  7711. >You give her another cordial full-body hug, not giving a damn about where she might touch you and vice versa.
  7712. "Shall we head for the spa for a good old-fashioned cleanup? I mean, we can do it just with a thought, but that way it's much more personal."
  7713. >#deca.mare does not take long to consider your idea.
  7714. >"A lovely suggestion. We have got to do this more often."
  7715. "Agreed."
  7716. >You give her one last swift peck.
  7717. "Love you."
  7718. >"Love you too, Anon."
  7719. >#deca.mare begins to untangle herself to get up.
  7720. >But the hopeless romantic in you gets another sudden inspiration.
  7721. >Instead of letting her go, you tighten the grip around her.
  7722.  
  7723.  
  7724.  
  7725.  
  7726. >She is confused at that initially, but she understands pretty quickly, and approves with a happy nod.
  7727. >You pick her up like you did once before.
  7728. >Just without a blanket this time.
  7729. >With your most precious cargo stored safely within your grip, you begin to rise and head for the door.
  7730. >The main hall of the spa greets you two on the other side.
  7731. >You aim squarely for the tub filled with water.
  7732. >You cannot wait to repeat the spa session.
  7733. >Without all your stored up anxieties about #deca.mare being a pony and the like, you are bound to get so much more out of it.
  7734. >And you will not hesitate to make it count.
  7735.  
  7736.  
  7737.  
  7738.  
  7739. 60
  7740.  
  7741. >Some time later back at the command deck.
  7742. >In contrast to its real world counterpart, the interior scenery here has not changed.
  7743. >It still holds your strangely adapted variant of the original chair.
  7744. >#deca.mare and you sit down as usual and study the main screen.
  7745. >She gives you an update on what has transpired on Equestria while you were busy elsewhere.
  7746. >By now you have your first few outliers of full-fledged stable tunnels that lead a little bit deeper into the planet's crust.
  7747. >Not an underground system like those which mines on other planets have formed yet, but the result is still impressive for just a handful of drones and in such a short span of time.
  7748. >The nexus has not been idle as well.
  7749. >It has received multiple shipments of ore, which the heaters then refined to several different types of metal alloys.
  7750. >These are, similar to the soon-to-be refined raw ore, stored in direct proximity to the nexus for now.
  7751. >That allows you to easily process exactly how much material the units have gathered with one quick glance through the eye of a camera.
  7752. >And click.
  7753. >It goes into the album.
  7754. >But it does not quite end there.
  7755. >Because some of this metal is already in the process of getting turned into components for new units.
  7756. >However, the process itself is unfortunately not exactly as linear as you might have hoped.
  7757. >The entire operation has to roll with the resources you get when you find and extract them.
  7758. >Sure, #deca.mare and the automatons try everything they can to work towards reaching certain resource deposits exactly when you need them, but a steady supply is not guaranteed in this early stage.
  7759. >And you can obviously only craft components when you have all the resources that are required.
  7760. >Especially the electronics section is still barebones, but every step forward is one in the right direction.
  7761.  
  7762.  
  7763.  
  7764.  
  7765. >Nevertheless, some estimations suggest that you may be ready to produce and launch another two drones in the next days.
  7766. >So fairly soon in the larger picture.
  7767. >The manufacturing abilities of the nexus are amazing; the robotic parts are flexible enough to manufacture almost anything up to a moderate size, provided they have the necessary resources and time available.
  7768. >And the automatons also already develop the first patterns for expansions of the proper nexus to a complete complex.
  7769. >This plan has currently not such a high priority as you first have to bolster the mobile swarm, but it does not hurt to be prepared.
  7770. >Any expansion is a balancing act to begin with.
  7771. >Both the mobile and stationary branches have to be kept on a balanced growth level, as the nexus in its current size can only provide energy for a fixed amount of units, while a vast complex is mostly useless when you have not enough machines that can provide its facilities with fresh resource batches.
  7772. >Blueprints are no problem either, as the central automaton unit has stored access to all necessary files.
  7773. >And this also means that the nexus can always produce something that is helpful for the course, even if it has to be stored for a while due to shortages in other sectors.
  7774. >Having some redundancies is always a good idea.
  7775. >The only challenge for #deca.mare and you is to both expand in a way that makes sense on a global scale, yet also opens the path for more resources you currently need the most.
  7776. >And while there are still some unknown factors you have to take into account during the endeavour, you nevertheless have a mostly reliable roadmap at hand.
  7777. >Nothing endangers the operation as a whole.
  7778.  
  7779.  
  7780.  
  7781.  
  7782. >Now that you are once more up to date with the state of the planetary operation, #deca.mare shows you a series of other things.
  7783. >Some are records, others are live feeds, but all of them show stages of component crafting and metal refinement at the nexus.
  7784. >She wants to give you a general idea about how the whole process looks like.
  7785. >It is in its essence quite similar to what you have seen and performed in your maintenance and assembly sessions, only with different tools and singular steps.
  7786. >The refining also includes a whole new field of metallurgy for you, but you can always borrow that knowledge from #deca.mare if necessary.
  7787. >After all, you have done the same when you disassembled and checked the components of the fighter craft.
  7788. >And while you lose most of the technological knowledge afterwards, you still retain some of your own memories.
  7789. >#deca.mare shows you a little bit of everything and you mutually agree to take a handful of images for the album too.
  7790. >But that poses a new question: Where do you go from here?
  7791. >You could rest in orbit a little longer, but there is nothing for you to do actively as it stands right now.
  7792. >Maybe it is time for you to be on the move for a while.
  7793. >#deca.mare has promised to show you some beautiful cosmic phenomena she has encountered on her travels.
  7794. >And she also has stressed how much she is in need of a resupply run.
  7795. >Your direct intervention is not needed on Equestria for a few weeks, so it is a good opportunity with ample time to pursue both activities.
  7796. >You quickly discuss this point with #deca.mare and come to the same conclusion.
  7797. >Time for a road trip.
  7798. >But before you jump out, you decide to make another quick surface tour on the back of a drone.
  7799.  
  7800.  
  7801.  
  7802.  
  7803. >#deca.mare helps you to see the world from the perspective of a unit, just like she did before.
  7804. >You do not interrupt their working process, as they are all part of a tight schedule primed for optimal performance.
  7805. >This observation will therefore stick to passive means.
  7806. >And since the units are scattered all over the area, you can easily switch from one unit to the next and see a completely different scene in the blink of an eye.
  7807. >You start by driving through the plains near the nexus, switch to another drone down in a stable tunnel, then you look at a newly created dig site on another almost hidden spot at the mountain range.
  7808. >The sight of a mighty drill piercing the rock is still impressive, and this effect will not fade any time soon, but you have seen the exact same procedure the last time and therefore know what is about to unfold.
  7809. >In the end, your curiosity has seen everything it wanted to, so you are brought back to the command deck.
  7810. >You look at the mare in your arms.
  7811. "Guess it's time for another travel."
  7812. >"Hmhm. I do not like how small some numbers on our storages have become."
  7813. "So refuel first, tourism second."
  7814. >"Agreed. That would be for the best."
  7815. >You give #deca.mare some gentle strokes on her back.
  7816. "Then let's go. It's kinda strange to leave Equestria this quickly, but right now we must take care of your needs first. The automatons will handle it while we're away."
  7817. >A pause.
  7818. >You take #deca.mare's silence as a sign of agreement.
  7819. "I'd say you lead the way, #deca. You should be the captain for this trip because you know where to go and what to do. Although I'll help you where I can, of course. Whatever it is. I've grown quite fond of a few things in the last days."
  7820. >You add your other hand to the treatment.
  7821. >"Happy to hear that, Anon. I think our ice harvest sessions will pay off soon."
  7822. >#deca.mare turns to the main screen and summons another wall of code.
  7823.  
  7824.  
  7825.  
  7826.  
  7827. >Despite your inability to decipher much in the labyrinth of organised mess, you understand enough to grasp #deca.mare's intention.
  7828. >She is consulting her collected intel in the database for potential targets and their coordinates.
  7829. >With skill, precision, and lots of experience, she calculates a complete route for your entire trip and finalises the entry.
  7830. >"All set. Ready to leave Equestria?"
  7831. "Yeah. I'd love to set a foot down there in person, but we're far away from that. And we have other things to do at the moment."
  7832. >Not to mention that neither of you will technically ever land there, at least with your original bodies.
  7833. >Proxies, be they in pony or humanoid form, are a different matter though.
  7834. >The familiar large button appears.
  7835. >You need not a single word of the other to perform the mutual ritual.
  7836. >One push later, you are on your way.
  7837. "ETA?"
  7838. >"Oh, right about... now. It was not a long distance to travel."
  7839. "Huh."
  7840. >Not much else comes to your mind as response.
  7841. "So where are we?"
  7842. >An image of floating rocks flashes up on the main screen.
  7843. >With the same camera through which you have witnessed your entrance in the orbit around Equestria.
  7844. >"An asteroid field. One with another challenge for you."
  7845. "I'm listening."
  7846. >"Scans indicate that the rock cluster before us holds several asteroids with potent ore veins. And I would like you to be the operator of a part of the away team."
  7847. "As in being the squad leader? Sounds similar to what we did during the deployment of the ground equipment."
  7848. >"In its essence, yes. Only with an additional depot ship in the squad and some drilling."
  7849. "All on my own? Now that really sounds like a challenge. You know I've only done this once before."
  7850. >"Well, you cannot possibly do everything manually on your own. But you have already learned to rely on delegating some tasks when it was necessary to keep things in order during the landfall, and the same can be done here."
  7851. >A pause.
  7852.  
  7853.  
  7854.  
  7855.  
  7856. >"However, I encourage you to try drilling for some ore as well if you find the time. The more you get used to a diverse selection of tools, the better."
  7857. >You think about this idea for a moment.
  7858. >This may seem like a tough task to do, but you have thought the same of other challenges too.
  7859. >And you can always rely on #deca.mare's help if you are stuck.
  7860. "Okay, I think I get it. Let's see what I have in store. Are the ships ready?"
  7861. >#deca.mare nods once.
  7862. >"Hmhm. Your vessels are on standby and ready for launch. I will coordinate two more wings during the flight since we cannot get any closer to the asteroids with our mother ship. And because we have a lot of empty cargo space to fill."
  7863. >You share one kiss with #deca.mare for good measure before she transfers your consciousness to one of the ships.
  7864. >It is still docked, but the blast doors are already opened and the clamps about to let go.
  7865. >You are being shot into space.
  7866. >By now you have enough experience with it to elegantly ride the initial push with your vessel.
  7867. >The squad screen appears on your HUD, indicating that more ships have joined your wing.
  7868. >Your radar shows several more green dots decorated with an iconographic alpha symbol leaving their home base.
  7869. >Apparently you are the alpha wing.
  7870. >All of the other ships assigned to your team automatically fall in line.
  7871. >One of them is a mobile depot.
  7872. >Good thing you have already seen one of those in action before.
  7873. >That way you know how these bulky ships work and what they are capable of.
  7874. >#deca.mare chimes in over a comm channel.
  7875. >"Please keep in mind that the mobile depot is not as fast or agile as the other ships."
  7876. >Alright, fair point.
  7877. >You order all ships in your wing to throttle their maximum acceleration to the slowest unit while in the squad.
  7878. >Which is of course the mobile depot by default in your current setup.
  7879.  
  7880.  
  7881.  
  7882.  
  7883. >You receive a series of automated confirmations.
  7884. >Then you check the radar and head for the asteroid field.
  7885. >Another wing leaves the mother ship.
  7886. >Then a third.
  7887. >To avoid confusion, they get automatically identified as beta and gamma wings in accordance to the ancient Greek alphabet.
  7888. >You focus back on your task at hand while the other two squads move out.
  7889. >A quick sensor sweep of the whole area gives you a first impression on the general outline of the cluster.
  7890. >Where which celestial bodies are, how they are shaped, and how they move in relation to one another.
  7891. >Now you have a few good entry vectors into the thicker segments, and also a target list of potentially interesting candidates.
  7892. >Time to delegate tasks.
  7893. >You cannot possibly manoeuvre all ships into the area in formation flight, and that would not make any sense either.
  7894. >Instead, you order the ships to use different vectors of entry, and tell them to scan any target in the vicinity for resources while doing so.
  7895. >The results then shall be shared with all other units, including those in other wings.
  7896. >#deca.mare will in all due likelihood instruct her units to do the same.
  7897. >In the meantime, you instruct the depot to fly to a relatively open area and wait for further instructions.
  7898. >You deliberately pick a location whose distance to each potential target is almost identical.
  7899. >That way it is equally accessible from every direction at the same time.
  7900. >Your ships fan out, each flying a different route to scan the largest possible number of targets simultaneously.
  7901. >Then you do the same with your ship.
  7902. >And while your wing alone would still need quite a while to comb through the entire field, the support of #deca.mare's wings hasten the process significantly.
  7903.  
  7904.  
  7905.  
  7906.  
  7907. >The rest of the first stage is simple routine.
  7908. >Flying, sweeping, scanning, and evaluating.
  7909. >Basically the same types of duties you had to perform during your days as patrol pilot.
  7910. >Only with rocks instead of other ships.
  7911. >Although you yourself have changed a little bit in attitude.
  7912. >You notice yourself going into a form of supervisor mode on occasion.
  7913. >You check on the other ships in your squad because you feel responsible for them.
  7914. >After all, #deca.mare has entrusted you with a significant chunk of the vessels you have at hand.
  7915. >And you will not make her regret that decision.
  7916. >The automatons are far more capable than anything the USC has, but you know the saying.
  7917. >Better safe than sorry.
  7918. >Once you have spotted some promising targets for resource extraction, you tell your ships to gather once more.
  7919. >Together you can utilise joint forces to effectively strip asteroids of their resources.
  7920. >You prefer to work on few targets with several units instead of sending each one to a different asteroid.
  7921. >The latter strategy makes no sense in your opinion, especially since you can hardly fill the yield of all rocks into the mobile depot.
  7922. >Well then, off to work it is.
  7923. >You select one rock and approach it with one half of your squad while you order the other half to extract the ore from another asteroid and bring the material in pieces of a manageable size to the depot.
  7924. >Everything works as you instruct.
  7925. >Now to the actual drilling.
  7926. >Since most of the ore is not on the surface as it was the case with the ice, you have to get deeper to reach the material you want to obtain.
  7927. >First, you need to select your tools.
  7928. >The saw will not work well this time, so you have to go for the actual literal drill.
  7929.  
  7930.  
  7931.  
  7932.  
  7933. >This is a new one for you, but you have learned to adapt on the spot.
  7934. >Now you have to request some calculations from the automatons about the best methods and routes with the forces available to you.
  7935. >In a matter of seconds they present their best solutions.
  7936. >However, it is you who has to evaluate these approaches and speak the final word.
  7937. >Because the automatons are, even if their set of possible tasks may be quite complex, still simple-minded.
  7938. >You cannot expect them to do anything that goes beyond their given instructions.
  7939. >The administrative part is up to you.
  7940. >And so after a short, yet intense period of consideration, you pick the approach that you like best.
  7941. >On top of that, you request some visual aids from the automaton on the board of your craft.
  7942. >It shall visualise the roadmap on your HUD while you work alongside the other units.
  7943. >You focus on the drill and fire it up.
  7944. >Its massive head begins to spin.
  7945. >The rotations speeds up at an astounding pace, and reaches the ideal drill force in seconds.
  7946. >The other units notice your activity and spring into action accordingly.
  7947. >They begin to execute the plan you have given them as instruction.
  7948. >Reach for the resources, extract them in chunks of transportable size, bring those chunks to the depot, and store it in there until the depot's cargo is full.
  7949. >Once the last stage is reached, go into an idle stance and await further instructions.
  7950. >That should do the job.
  7951. >The units begin to drill without hesitation and perfect precision.
  7952. >And you are quick to follow.
  7953. >You might not be a trained miner of any sort, but even you can follow directions when they are blatantly handed to you.
  7954.  
  7955.  
  7956.  
  7957.  
  7958. >Though you have to keep up with your drilling partners.
  7959. >The whole plan depends on a carefully calculated schedule.
  7960. >They rely on your part just as much as you rely on them.
  7961. >Like a perfect symbiosis.
  7962. >You keep piercing the asteroid at an astounding rate.
  7963. >Small pieces of rock constantly shoot out of the main mass as you go ever onward.
  7964. >But despite the moderate pressure you put on yourself, you can stick to the plan.
  7965. >The visual assistance is more than enough to ward off any delay.
  7966. >And you have some fun at work as well.
  7967. >You can learn something new and productive while also tending to the needs of your loved one.
  7968. >Granted, #deca.mare is technically not dependant on your intervention, but you are sure she does appreciate the commitment.
  7969. >And it gives you a good feeling as well.
  7970. >You could not ask for better working conditions, and it shows.
  7971. >Both in your general performance and your overall mood.
  7972. >You would have never shown such a vigour for standard patrol duties.
  7973. >But this here is a completely different field.
  7974. >However, as interesting as your cooperative work with the automatons is, it is not as intimate as working side by side with #deca.mare herself.
  7975. >She can easily turn a challenging task into a game, as your little space hurling with ice blocks has proven.
  7976. >You cannot hope to expect that to happen with an automaton.
  7977. >In fact, that would be a reason to worry.
  7978. >Your mind begins to wander a little in the silence.
  7979. >What you pursue is a good and wholesome task, yet you feel a little bit distant right now.
  7980. >Automatons are not the best conversation partners to have around in this vast space.
  7981.  
  7982.  
  7983.  
  7984.  
  7985. >"You know I am still around, right?"
  7986. >#deca.mare's voice rings crystal clear through the comm channel.
  7987. "Yeah, I know. It just doesn't feel the same when you're not a direct part of it."
  7988. >The next thing you hear is an amused chuckle.
  7989. >"Aw, I am flattered, Anon."
  7990. "Hey, it's the truth."
  7991. >"I know. Would you like to talk a little bit during work? Unless you think it proves too much of a distraction, that is."
  7992. "With pleasure. Nothing is better than a healthy chat to pass the time."
  7993. >And so you engage in a normal day to day conversation with #deca.mare while you keep stripping the asteroid of its resources.
  7994. >You keep it simple and informal the whole time.
  7995. >No talks about grand plans, no projections about the far future.
  7996. >Nothing but mundane topics and viewpoints.
  7997. >You figure this can help #deca.mare to hone her social skills, and you as well require to maintain some normality in your life.
  7998. >These everyday rituals need to become a part of your mutual routine if you ever want to even hope for living a normal life amongst equals in Equestria.
  7999. >All the wonderful things you have already seen and those you are still bound to see are great.
  8000. >But your brain needs a break here and there if you want to mentally keep up with the state of your reality.
  8001. >Over time, the coordinated work begins to show its first desired results.
  8002. >Your cooperation with the automatons have lead to a set of systematic incisions into the rock structure in order to break the unwanted top layer off the asteroid.
  8003. >The debris harmlessly float away as they reveal the prize you were looking for all along.
  8004. >Wonderful shiny raw ore, just begging to be refined into something more valuable by #deca.mare.
  8005. >The next step is going to be the hardest one.
  8006.  
  8007.  
  8008.  
  8009.  
  8010. >Now you have to proceed with utmost precision.
  8011. >Not a simple thing to ask with for with such a direct tool like a powered drill.
  8012. >But it has to be an accurate work, as the ore chunks require an optimal size for handling.
  8013. >If you go absolutely gung-ho, you will just end up with a high number of small fragments which you will then have to carry over to the depot in a painstakingly tricky process.
  8014. >The depot's tractor beam will have no issue to collect those, but you are not eager on trying to emulate #deca.mare's little balancing dance.
  8015. >And if the chunks are too large, you may have to face a different variety of problems.
  8016. >For instance, you may need more than one craft to transport it properly, which would drastically reduce the general efficiency of the operation.
  8017. >Plus, digging on the already extracted chunks may also present you with the challenge to prevent material loss due to more debris splitting off.
  8018. >And it must also fit through the hatches of the cargo bay.
  8019. >It does not make much sense for the depot to hold unto the chunk if it is unable to pick the ore up properly.
  8020. >So you once again request visual assistance from the automatons around you.
  8021. >Your display changes slightly.
  8022. >The guiding lines are getting more subtle.
  8023. >Your margin of error for an optimal result is getting pretty thin, but a challenge is a challenge.
  8024. >You just need the automatons to completely adapt to your pace now instead of the other way round.
  8025. >You quickly check the state of the other half of your team.
  8026. >They have also started to extract their first batch of ore from their deposit.
  8027. >Then you add another screen to your display.
  8028. >One which illustrates the capacities of the depot's cargo bay.
  8029.  
  8030.  
  8031.  
  8032.  
  8033. >You need to know in advance when the ship is full.
  8034. >Now comes the actual crucial work.
  8035. >You begin to reach out for the very reason why you are here in the first place.
  8036. >Contrary to what you have done with the rock layer, this time you have to make sure that nothing of the ore floats off.
  8037. >So it is preferable to rather dig a little bit deeper into the surrounding mass before you compromise the integrity of the deposit as a whole.
  8038. >You eventually manage to free a suitable mass with only minimal losses along the way.
  8039. >You decide to grab the package yourself and deliver it to the depot.
  8040. >A brief glance on the radar reveals that another ship from the other group is currently doing the same.
  8041. >And it will reach its destination first.
  8042. >Probably only a minute or so, but it somewhat bums you out.
  8043. >For a second you fancied to be first one to make a delivery.
  8044. >A rather quaint fantasy to be fair, but still.
  8045. >Though this is not going to happen.
  8046. >No matter.
  8047. >You recall a quote from fiery pegasus mare.
  8048. "This is not a race."
  8049. >"Pardon, Anon?"
  8050. "Oh, did I say this out loud?"
  8051. >"You did. Not that it makes a difference though. I am aware of your thoughts on Spitfire's little speech."
  8052. "I'm still amazed about her name though. 'Spitfyre'. Really, naming a pony after an ancient craft?"
  8053. >"Not the one you are thinking of right now, but yes."
  8054. "Pony names follow a strange custom, #deca."
  8055. >"Well, maybe unusual for you, but still rather accurate for the most part. Although some few examples are something to behold indeed. You have not seen the height of it yet, Anon. Not by a long shot."
  8056. >You remind yourself to later on ask #deca.mare what she means by that.
  8057. >But for now you have to focus on the next task.
  8058.  
  8059.  
  8060.  
  8061.  
  8062. >The mobile depot waits for you in its idle position.
  8063. >You can see the other delivering unit departing in the distance.
  8064. >It has just delivered its load.
  8065. >The mobile depots aligns itself to your approaching vector.
  8066. >Its already opened hatches greet you up front.
  8067. >You check on the space in the cargo bay.
  8068. >About thirteen percent are filled with raw ore.
  8069. "Here we go. Let's see what we've got."
  8070. >You tilt the nose of the drone "up" to ninety degrees and decrease the speed to a third of what it was before.
  8071. >Now the ship is practically presenting the ore block to the opened cargo bay you are currently approaching.
  8072. >So far, so good.
  8073. >The next two steps are a piece of cake.
  8074. >You release your hold on the ore and then bring your ship to a relative standstill.
  8075. >The unit has stopped a good few hundred metres in front of the depot while the ore continues the journey on its own.
  8076. >And the depot's automaton can handle the rest.
  8077. >It slightly adjusts its positioning and its tractor beam fires up.
  8078. >The floating ore is engulfed in a ray of light as it gets gently tugged into the ship's interior.
  8079. >You receive an update of the filled cargo space after a quick calculation.
  8080. >Twenty-four percent.
  8081. >Damn, not only was the bucket of bolts faster than you, it also delivered more ore.
  8082. >You turn the ship around to fly back to the dig site.
  8083. >That is where you set yourself another challenge.
  8084. >Perhaps you can outperform the machine in the next round.
  8085. >Granted, this is fairly hard.
  8086. >But who knows, it could happen if you put a little more effort into it.
  8087. >Though you keep in mind that #deca.mare's sake has the highest priority.
  8088. >You will not try anything which might endanger any vital part of her equipment.
  8089. >Yet it does not hurt to set personal challenges for yourself if they are safe.
  8090. >A fact that #deca.mare will surely agree with.
  8091.  
  8092.  
  8093.  
  8094.  
  8095. >And then comes round two.
  8096. >Apart from your additional motivation, it does not differ much from the first run.
  8097. >You dig the metal out of the asteroid with a great deal of concentration.
  8098. >But a hearty conversation with #deca.mare is welcome nevertheless.
  8099. >Things shall be kept in good spirit after all.
  8100. >Then comes the seconds delivery.
  8101. >Again, just a minute later.
  8102. >A third run.
  8103. >This time you actually manage to get a draw out of it.
  8104. >Motivated by this partial success, you get to work again.
  8105. >And suddenly you have filled the depot to the brim with the fourth delivery.
  8106. >All ships of your team assemble next to the depot.
  8107. "#deca? Mine is full."
  8108. >"Understood, Anon. That was good work."
  8109. >The depot ship leaves your squad and heads back for the base.
  8110. >On the radar it is once again marked as a regular ally.
  8111. "Do we need some more? The asteroid field is far from being exhausted."
  8112. >"Sure. It does not hurt to have reserves."
  8113. >A new green blip appears on your radar as it enters the asteroid field.
  8114. >Another depot.
  8115. >It has been concealed from your local radar by the dense mass of rock in the area.
  8116. >A classical move, fairly common practice of pirate and smuggler pilots, although you did not expect to witness it here.
  8117. >But its appearance does not startle you, as you are aware that becoming a victim of an ambush that far out is virtually impossible.
  8118. >The next colonised planet is a long, long distance away.
  8119. >With Equestria being the sole exception of course.
  8120. >The depot ship joins your squad and asks you if it shall resume the task of its predecessor.
  8121. >You confirm this request, and the ship gets into the exact same waiting position as the other one.
  8122. >You once again split up your drones in two teams.
  8123. >This pattern has proven to be efficient, so you see no reason to change it.
  8124.  
  8125.  
  8126.  
  8127.  
  8128. >And what follows is basically a repetition of the previous runs, only with a more comfortable routine.
  8129. >As it turns out, you can indeed keep up with the automatons once you have a little bit of know-how and "muscle memory".
  8130. >Still, you will not set up an outstanding new record, that much is certain.
  8131. >The automatons were made to operate nigh optimal in their tasks, so unless you find a new method to bend reality itself or something, you will not outclass this.
  8132. >But this is a knowledge you can live with, given that you are trying to compete with a system which was developed by a group of machines whose knowledge and capacities vastly exceeded that of current humans.
  8133. >The second depot is loaded in a breeze and returns home.
  8134. >By now your feel how your focus begins to wear down, yet you could handle a third depot if necessary.
  8135. >"That will not be, Anon. We have got enough ore for the near future."
  8136. "Already?"
  8137. >"Indeed. We collected seven depot loads worth of ore, and that material is rather spacious. It will take time to refine what we have got so far. Plus, the refined material will require less room and can already be partially used for further productions."
  8138. "Roger. I'm heading back as well then. Unless there is something else left to do."
  8139. >"No, it is fine. You have done much for me in one day already. I am proud of you."
  8140. >A pause.
  8141. >"And grateful."
  8142. "Eh, don't mention it. That's what lovers are for."
  8143. >Wait, did the idiom not use another word instead?
  8144. >A certain one starting with an f?
  8145. >Anyway, the party here is over.
  8146. >It was a fun little trip, but some relaxation would be nice now.
  8147. >You round up your squad mates and bring them back into formation.
  8148. >Then you lead the band out of the asteroid field and towards the mother ship.
  8149.  
  8150. End Part Two
/nmp/ #deca Anon Custom Universe MarewAIfu Monogamy NSFW Space Fiction Terraforming X:BtF

Shape Your Home, Part 4

by Ponegreen

Shape Your Home, Part 3

by Ponegreen

Shape Your Home, Part 2

by Ponegreen

Shape Your Home, Part 1

by Ponegreen