Cuddle Pie 1

May 13th, 2020 (edited)
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  1. >Pinkie just happened to visit Twilight while one of Twilight’s female slaves was giving birth. Now that Twilight’s slaves had all settled in to their new lives, she was starting to breed them, letting her favorite male slave knock up all the women.
  2. >Apparently humans had a lot of trouble birthing their own young, Twilight’s slave was yowling the whole time! Pinkie wondered how they even survived this long without ponies taking care of them.
  3. “She’s crying a whole lot!” Pinkie pointed out. Most humans were really big, but this one was still tiny and helpless looking. “Aren’t you going to give her back to her mom?”
  4. “Human children need to be kept away from adult humans or they’ll pick up bad habits,” Twilight explained. “So this little guy will be raised by ponies at the kennel where she’ll be instilled with proper Equestrian values, reverence for Celestia and submission to ponies.”
  5. “Wait, you mean you’re not going to raise this one yourself?” Pinkie asked.
  6. “I can only raise so many myself. So most of them will just have to go to the kennel. But they’ll still be way better off than they would have being raised, or rather ruined, by human parents.”
  7. >Pinkie supposed that was true. A human would try to raise their kids with all sorts of bad values, even try to teach them one of those non-alicorn religions! She was better off in the human version of an orphanage, but still… this human wasn’t going to have an actual mom unless somepony adopted her.
  8. “Can I have her?” Pinkie asked. “Like to keep?”
  9. “Really?” Twilight looked up from the infant, confused. “You never seemed interested in taking any humans as your slave until now.”
  10. “It’s not that I think slavery is wrong or anything. It’s just humans are kinda big and scary. I was gonna wait till their species was domesticated a bit more, but…”
  11. >Pinkie looked down at the newborn human with sympathy. All this guy needed was a mom
  12. “It is true that second generation humans will be more docile than the first.” Twilight offered the infant to Pinkie. “And I’m sure you’ll be a great ‘mom’. This little one is lucky to be your new pet.”
  13. >Pinkie hugged her new slave. For thousands of years, humans had to grow up without anypony to raise them correctly
  14. “Thanks, Twilight! I’ll be the best mom ever!” Pinkie promised, looking down at her first slave. “Let’s see. Your name can be… Cuddle Pie!”
  19. >When Cuddle Pie is around 2....
  20. >Fluttershy has been explaining that it's time for Cuddles to eat more solid food now. She brings over some baked crickets to help out.
  21. >Pinkie looks down at the bucket of crickets. The thought of eating bugs seems pretty gross to her, but Cuddle Pie is technically a monkey and monkies ate bugs, right?
  22. "Okay!" Pinkie braced herself. "This is totally gross but Mommy loves you so much that I'll do it!"
  23. >Pinkie dumps the bucket of crickets over her head, several of them getting caught in her mane and fur.
  24. "Mama?" Cuddle Pie looks up at her in confusion, giggling a little a the sight.
  25. "Okay!" Pinkie closed her eyes and opened her forlegs wide. "Eat up!"
  26. >Cuddles crawled over and hugged Pinkie.
  27. "No! I you're supposed to eat up!"
  28. "Um, Pinkie?" Fluttershy eyed her with concern. "What are you doing?"
  29. "Feeding my slave?" Pinkie hugged Cuddle Pie back. "She's gotta like, eat it out of my fur, right? Like monkeys do in the wild?"
  30. "I um..." Fluttershy tried to think of which problem with that to list first. "Humans don't have fur. So they can't do that even if they wanted to."
  31. "Oh..."
  32. "You just, um... give her the crickets," said Fluttershy. "Actually they can eat fish too. They used to do that a lot before they decided bugs were cheaper."
  33. "Which do they like better?"
  34. "Well every human I know says they like bugs more, but um... there's like cultural..."
  35. "Well if that's what they like best, that's what Cuddle Pie gets!" Pinkie shook the bugs off of her and went back into the bucket to see if there were any untainted crickets left.
  42. >Cuddle Pie was at the kennel, a place she only ever had to go for human school, rather than living there like most kids.
  43. >There were a few more collars hanging around now than there used to be. Human babies were difficult so ponies generally waited until you were ten or so and pre-trained before taking you in as their slave. Until then, most humans lived in these kennels and got raised by a professional trainer.
  44. >But you only got your own collar and the cutie mark of your owner tattooed on your flank and the back of your hands once you were adopted as a slave. So it’d always been immediately apparent to the other kids that Cuddle Pie was a bit privileged, had been enslaved as an infant. They always looked at her collar with jealousy and envied how Pinkie took her home at the end of the day.
  45. >Though lately, tons of kids were getting sold into slavery. They’d still come back to the kennel for school, but
  46. “Human slavery goes back much farther than your first encounter with ponies. In fact, humans have been slaves for as long as there’s been humans. The only difference is that before ponies, humans had to be owned by other humans. Obviously, they weren’t as suited to be own humans as us ponies are.”
  47. >The trainer pulled up a slide with a human’s back in view, covered in scars from a whip.
  48. >Yeesh! Cuddles gave her collar a tug. She was glad she’d been enslaved by ponies instead of other humans. Ponies never hit their slaves, only ever used positive reinforcement.
  49. >Later
  50. “Okay! Class is over, but we have two ponies here looking to buy young, domestic slaves. So if you’ll all please-“
  51. >There was no controlling the kids. They were so eager to get sold into slavery that they rushed to the door to try and be the first to meet their potential owners.
  52. “Remember! They want a docile servant!”
  53. >Cuddles didn’t have to compete with any of them. She already had her own pony to go home with. She walked outside to see Pinkie waiting for her. Every time Cuddle Pie saw Pinkie she couldn’t resist the urge to smile, and smile wide!
  54. “Cuddle Pie!” Pinkie opened her forelegs, welcoming Cuddles over.
  55. “Mommy!”
  56. >Cuddles ran over to her owner and wrapped her arms around Pinkie.
  57. “Daw! I love you too Cuddle Wuddles! Come on!” Pinkie turned. “Hop on my back and I’ll carry you home like I used to!”
  58. “I think I’m a little too big to ride around on you, Mom.” Cuddles laughed.
  59. >Cuddles and Pinkie were about the same size now, both maybe 70 pounds. Cuddles just looked taller cause she stood on her hind legs all the time.
  60. “And isn’t the slave supposed to carry her master?” Cuddles asked. Most ponies seemed to like being carried around town by their big, lumbering slaves at any rate.
  61. “Oh hey, you’re right! Carry me Cuddles!”
  62. >Pinkie jumped at Cuddle Pie. Cuddles tried to catch and hold her mom, but Pinkie was still too big for her to carry around and she ended up falling over. The two of them laughed and started trotting home side by side
  63. >It wouldn’t be too long until Cuddle Pie got big enough to carry her mom around. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it just yet.
  64. “So what did you learn at the kennel today?”
  65. “Well! We practiced cooking, then they showed us how to repair some stuff and we did human history. I guess the last hundred years were just some weird time where humans weren’t slaves.”
  66. “Free our children!”
  67. >An adult human ran by waving a torch. Cuddles ducked her head down in fear. She’d been taught not to talk to adult humans until she was older. They’d try to teach her to do bad things if they could.
  68. “Our children have been stolen from us! Rise up my fellow-“
  69. >And thankfully he got tackled by a guard a moment later.
  70. >Cuddles couldn’t help but cringe at him. All this human rights stuff was so embarrassing. As if Cuddle Pie or any of the kids back at the kennel wished they were raised by that weirdo…
  71. >Back home, Cuddle Pie was tending to Pinkie as her bath attendant. It was something Cuddles was good at! She sat in the tub with her owner, scrubbing down Pinkie’s back until the pony was practically covered in bubbles.
  72. “Hey, Mom? If being naked was illegal before Celestia took what was hers, how did anyone take a bath?”
  73. “I think they had special bathing costumes,” Pinkie told her. “You know how silly wild humans were. Probably was why they smelled so much.”
  74. “Hm.”
  75. “Is something wrong, Cuddle Pie?”
  76. >Cuddles had been taught in class that it was always best to tell ponies what you were feeling. They knew better than you and could make it better.
  77. “Is there a spell to make me stay small forever?” Cuddles asked.
  78. “Huh? Why would you want that?” Pinkie turned to her with sudden concern.
  79. “I just don’t want to turn big and mean like that other human we passed today! All the adult humans I see are… kinda scary. I don’t want to be like them. I want to be a good girl and serve you!”
  80. “Of course you’re a good girl, Cuddle Pie.” Pinkie gave her a nuzzle. “You know, I used to be really scared of humans cause of how big and rowdy they were too! They offered me like a million slaves but I said no cause I was scared of them.”
  81. >Pinkie booped cuddles on the nose.
  82. “But then I met you! Raising you helped me realize that all those older humans, they’re only mean and disobedient because they didn’t have anypony to teach them how to behave or about Celestia or their place in the herd. But you know that!”
  83. “Right!” Cuddles nodded with confidence. “I’m a humble subject of Princess Celestia. My place in the herd is as a servant to her children. Um. That’s you, mom.”
  84. “Yep! And Celestia loves you very much for serving her! And I love you too! You’ll always be my cuddle wuddle pie even if you get as big as a troll!”
  85. “Thanks so much, Mom!” Cuddles hugged her. “Ponies really are smarter than us!”
  86. “You’ll always be my little slave. Oh! And you’ll never beat me in a splash fight!” Pinkie dunked Cuddles under the water suddenly.
  87. >Cuddles came up a second later and splashed Pinkie back. The two laughed and splashed water at each other
  99. >Out of her band of friends, Pinkie had the least slaves with just Cuddles. The others owned a bunch, like maybe twelve each though most of them were just C or D rank laborers.
  100. >Of course, each of them had one or two attendants and a few other domestic slaves. Fluttershy and Twilight even owned a few children that Cuddles got to play with sometimes.
  101. >Cuddles followed Pinkie to the others’ houses a lot and had to run into adult humans often. Thankfully, adult humans weren’t allowed to talk to her. If one tried she could just go tattle on them to a pony and they’d get punished.
  102. >First-gens were kind of scary still. They were only one step up from the wild humans who still stalked around sometimes since Celestia had yet to defeat all of the bad guys. Sometimes Cuddles would hear news reports of kids who got kidnapped by wild humans. The wild humans would try to brainwash you into thinking ponies were bad or teach you some false Earth religion.
  103. >She even heard from one of the other kids at the kennel that wild humans ate domestic humans! Though Pinkie said that absolutely wasn’t true… and it almost definitely wasn’t… but it was still a scary idea!
  104. >That’s why Cuddles shied away from Vellum reflexively when she saw him and he waved at her, hiding behind Pinkie. She saw him often enough, as he was Twilight’s favorite slave and followed her everywhere. But in a way she still wasn’t used to him…
  105. >He did have one thing most humans of his generation didn’t, the same three gold earings Cuddle Pie had on her right ear too. Like her, he was an A rank domestic slave. That was a privilege reserved for only the most obedient humans. If you were A rank you had certain rights lesser humans didn’t get, like you could ride the train by yourself! Not that Cuddles was old enough to do that either way.
  106. >He didn’t have some weird Earth name like ‘Steve’ either and his accent wasn’t as thick as most first-gens. It did make him seem like a normal person...
  107. >He was also the biggest human Cuddle pie knew. He was strong and muscular enough to carry Twilight around with one arm and had to be like 6’6” or maybe seven feet tall. Cuddles wasn’t really good at telling but his was big!
  108. >Twilight motioned for Vellum to sit down and when he did she plopped down on his lap like she owned it. She flicked her ear which was how ponies commanded you to give them an ear scratch and he quickly obeyed.
  109. >Vellum was watching Cuddle Pie carefully, thinking who know what. And he didn’t look happy about it. Twilight looked up at her slave with a sad little frown, then sighed and turned back to Cuddles.
  110. “You really don’t have to be afraid of Vellum, you know.” Twilight smiled at her from her slave’s lap. “He’s one of the best first-gen humans! He actually submitted himself to slavery right away, without us even having to uh, explain the benefits to him. Most humans aren’t smart enough to figure that out on their own.”
  111. >Cuddles inched out just a little bit from Pinkie.
  112. “Really?”
  113. “Oh yeah!” Pinkie quickly agreed. “Vellum was totally on our side! Thanks to his help we were able to start enslaving you little guys and getting rid of all those nasty, fake Earth governments way faster!”
  114. >She knew from class that only a few humans started siding with ponies before the Earth saw that the only way to deal with Celestia was to bow down and worship her. Until then, all those first-gen humans were having tantrums over having to give Celestia all of ‘their’ land, property and children.
  115. >Maybe Vellum wasn’t one of those crybabies. Cuddles came out from behind Pinkie and looked up at him with some admiration and he smiled back at her.
  116. “I know it’s hard,” said Twilight, “but if your species is going to take their proper place in Equestria then it’s necessary. And it’s only for a few more years till you can talk to grown-ups, until you’re not so impressionable.”
  117. “Not talking to first-gens isn’t hard,” said Cuddles, “but you’re right! I’m so glad you’re helping out species out like this, Lady Twilight.”
  118. “Well you guys really needed it!” Twilight smiled warmly at her.
  120. >Rarity came in shortly afterwards. Everypony noticed right away she didn’t have any of her slaves with her. She never went anywhere without at least one to constantly tend to her.
  121. “I’m surprised you came out here without any of your slaves.” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “I don’t want to say it, but you are a little uh…“
  122. “What? Needy? Me? Hardly!” Rarity scoffed at the idea. “Though incidentally I did bring a slave with me! I got a new one about Cuddle’s age. My first second generation human. But I think this one deserves a bit of suspense! You can come out now Tourmaline!”
  123. >Cuddles poked her head out from behind Pinkie, suddenly curious. She saw Rarity a lot and if Rarity was getting a new slave around her age…
  124. >She figured it was likely a human she knew from the kennel. The ones she went to school with were all around that age.
  125. >But it wasn’t anyone Cuddles recognized and she would have seen this one.
  126. >Tourmaline had two different eye colors, one shining green and the other blue. Her hair was long and snow white on top of that. And she was pretty in a way that made Cuddles feel immediately jealous.
  127. >Rarity dressed her up in a fancy cloak too, a white one with red triangles in trim. Tourmaline also had gold bracelets and anklets and, needless to say, the three gold earings of an A Rank. And yet she carried herself like she was one step above A rank.
  128. >This human was intimidating in her own way…
  129. “Ooh!” Pinkie trotted right over to her and started looking her over. “She looks expensive. Congratulations on getting enslaved, kid! Now you can finally start being useful to us ponies!”
  130. “Thank you, Ma’am.” Tourmaline bowed her head. She spoke with the same fancy accent Rarity had. “I’m ever so excited about getting to serve my mistress. I looked forward to becoming a slave and getting to properly serve Equestria and Celestia’s herd my entire life. Getting sold into slavery to such a prestigious mare was like a dream come true.”
  131. “Such good manners!” Rarity gave her slave a loving nuzzle. “These second generation humans are so well behaved. They do everything they’re told and are so pro-Celestia and pro-slavery.”
  132. “It’s like I said!” Twilight lifted her chin proudly. “They just need to be reaised with a proper education and their species makes ideal slaves! I have to say, domesticating an entire race into total submission has got to be the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done.”
  133. “Um! But where did she come from, Lady Rarity?” Cuddles bowed her head in respect to her better. “She’s not from the Ponyville Kennel.”
  134. “No, but I’m glad you asked that.” Rarity smiled. “I bought her from the Canterlot Auction Block!”
  135. >Pinkie opened her eyes wide with a ‘wah’ while Twilight looked like she wanted to spit out a drink she didn’t have. Cuddles became even more intimidated by this newcomer.
  136. “You went there?! How much did you pay for her?!” Twilight looked the new slave over again.
  137. “Status symbols are supposed to be expensive.” Rarity kept her chin up. “That’s the point. Besides, the moment I saw her eyes the name ‘Tourmaline’ popped into my head and I just knew I needed to make her mine! And now I own her forever!”
  138. >Rarity hugged Tourmaline and Tourmaline hugged back.
  139. “You know, she’s been trained in all manner of finery, was raised specifically to serve nobility!”
  140. “It’s true. I can play twelve instruments sweetly, am trained in tea ceremony and fine cuisine and art. In Canterlot they say you get what you pay for.”
  141. >Tourmaline gave Cuddles a look of haughty superiority, the kind a pony would give a human. Right then Cuddle Pie knew they weren’t going to get along.
  142. I was hoping maybe you could throw her an enslavement party?” Rarity asked Pinkie. “I think slaves who ascend to personal attendant deserve a bit of celebration.”
  143. >Cuddle Pie knew she’d have to help Pinkie set that up too…
  146. “Alright. We’re going to discuss pony stuff.” Twilight waved the two kids away. “Go make us some tea and then you can go play for a bit. And I didn’t tell you to stop petting me, Vellum!”
  147. “Forgive me, Mistress.” Vellum resumed petting her.
  148. >The two humans bowed with a ‘yes ma’am’ and scampered off to the kitchen.
  149. “I can make tea for our betters.” Tourmaline flicked her hair in a way that made Cuddles wonder if she’d somehow already picked it up from Rarity. “I’ve memorized every type of tea in the world and the proper way to brew it. I’m clearly more qualified than you, so-“
  150. “Well I know where Lady Twilight’s stuff is.” Cuddles quickly went over to Twilight’s tea cabinet. “I’ll make it you just- look pretty or whatever you do.”
  151. >That comment seemed to hit a nerve with Tourmaline. She brooded for a moment, watching Cuddles get the tea ready.
  152. “You know, I’m actually in the top five for most expensive humans! Rarity bought me for 418,000 bits. That’s probably more than twenty humans from your kennel are worth.”
  153. “It’s not like you got to keep any of that money.” Cuddles rolled her eyes. “That’s something your breeder or whatever should brag about.”
  154. “No, but I do get to live with the prestigious Rarity in her mansion! And Rarity says she’ll buy me anything I want from now on. Mistress Rarity saved Equestria many times and was an integral part in winning the war against Earth.”
  155. “Yeah, well Pinkie did all that stuff too! In fact, she saved the world even harder than Lady Rarity did!”
  156. “That doesn’t even make sense. And you’re doing that wrong! You should only use a wooden spoon for that part and that type of tea.”
  157. “Nopony can tell what kind of spoon you used, weirdo.”
  158. “Rarity can tell because she has refined taste.”
  159. “No she can’t!”
  160. “Yes she can! Give me that!”
  161. >Tourmaline tried to grab the spoon away. The ensuing struggle caused Twilight’s teapot to fall over and smash. And that brought the three ponies into the kitchen.
  162. “Girls.” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Were you two fighting?”
  163. >Maybe a more lowly rank of human would try lying, but as A ranks both of them were immediately cowed, bowed their heads and admitted they’d been fighting.
  164. “Tourmaline!” Rarity scolded her. “After I just said how well behaved you were you start a fight!”
  165. “Getting rid of this kind of selfish behaviour is exactly why we need to domesticate you.” Twilight sighed.
  166. “Because we’re both part of Celestia’s herd.” Cuddles tapped her fingers together sheepishly. “And we should all act like one big team.”
  167. “Equestrians are supposed to be better behaved than wild humans.” Tourmaline bowed her head.
  168. “Good.” Twilight looked only half satisfied. “Vellum, you’ll have to make the tea. These two are going into time out.”
  169. >Twilight lifted the two of them and carried them off to the corner
  170. “Sorry, Cuddles.” Pinkie patted her on the head. “But no hugs till you learn your lesson.”
  171. >Cuddle Pie made a noise of disappointment and lowered her head in shame. She like hugs.
  172. >The two girls looked into one another’s eyes frowning.
  174. Cuddles and Tourmaline said nothing the whole time, just glared at one another, Tourmaline with her weirdo eyes. How do you even get two different eye colors?
  175. >Cuddle Pie knew what she was supposed to do. Celestia wanted all humans and ponies to be friends, all part of the same herd. She was supposed to try and be Tourmaline’s friend but… she didn’t want to.
  176. “Hm.” Pinkie slowly rose up out of nowhere. “This looks like a friendship problem.”
  177. >Even after being raised by her, Cuddle Pie still didn’t know where Pinkie came from half the time.
  178. “Well lucky for you, both of you are owned by ponies!” Pinkie rustled both of their hair. “Being domesticated means you don’t have to try and solve your silly monkey problems by yourselves anymore! You got us to help you! Just like in a cartoon!
  179. >That was a pretty common plot in most of the cartoons Cuddles watched. A human would try acting little too independent, get into trouble and her pony owner would show up and solve it for her. The role of a human in the herd was to assist their pony masters, not try to go out and do stuff on their own.
  180. “Twilight!” Pinkie called over to her. “You know a lot about humans! Why aren’t these two instant best friends?”
  181. “There’s a few possible reasons.” Twilight and Rarity came over next. “Their undesirable primate tendencies haven’t been nearly bred out of them yet, so they will try to compete with one another sometimes, especially if they’re the same gender. Sometimes females feel threatened by other attractive females. Or it could be the case that Tourmaline’s unusual appearance is sparking tribalistic instincts in Cuddles.”
  182. >Time out felt like it lasted a long time, like she’d been here a couple of days. Knowing the ponies were upset with her hurt a little… but Pinkie always said that sort of thing was what made her an A rank.
  183. >Obviously being born into the second generation was a huge privilege, but sometimes Cuddles wished she could have been born in like the twentieth instead. Then she’d be fully domesticated into exactly what the ponies wanted her to be.
  184. “I’m sorry.” Cuddles bowed her head in shame and tapped her fingers together. “I try hard not to act like a monkey…”
  185. >But Twilight’s expression softened once she was Cuddle’s shame.
  186. “It’s alright.” Twilight gave Cuddles a pat on the head. “You don’t have to be ashamed of being a human just because your species isn’t fully domesticated yet! You have lots of other desirable instincts and traits that make you very useful to us ponies too! Like your monkey grooming instinct!”
  187. >Cuddle Pie heard that one enough to know she meant that humans liked petting ponies. And it was true. Cuddles loved petting them.
  188. “Yeah! Humans are great!” Pinkie nuzzled Cuddle Pie. “You’re so good at serving and working for us! We assimilated lots of other species into the herd as slaves, but cows and sheep were never allowed to be our personal slaves. You’re the only ones worthy of having such a high place in the herd!”
  189. >Cuddles smiled and her grooming instinct kicked in, compelling her to stroke the fur on Pinkie’s cheek.
  190. >That was what they always got told in school. They should be proud of their place as slaves, because being the personal servants of ponies (the best species) meant they were the second best species. It was an honor! And Cuddles really was proud of how high up in the herd she got to be.
  191. “Thanks, Mom.”
  192. >She could tell Tourmaline was proud of being a slave too. Though for some reason that made Cuddles a little less proud herself.
  193. “But you still need training if you’re going to fit that role,” Twilight pointed out. “It’s clear to me that your problem is you felt like you had to compete with each other. Is that true, Cuddles?”
  194. “She was the one who was competing.” Cuddle Pie pointed at Tourmaline. “She was acting like she was all superior just because she’s worth a lot of money and was saying everyone at the kennel was inferior to her.
  195. “You’re the one who insulted me,” Tourmaline shot back. “You said I looked weird and that looking weird was the only thing I could do.”
  196. “Well you do look weird…”
  197. “You’re not competing.” Twilight was stern about it. “Tourmaline will apologize in a minute, but I want you to say you’re sorry to her first.”
  198. >Some primate instinct wanted to not apologize very badly, but getting the approval of her pony betters was more important than that…
  199. “I’m sorry for getting jealous and trying to compete with you.” Cuddles bowed her head. “And for saying you look weird.”
  200. >And Cuddle Pie got a hug from Pinkie as a reward.
  201. “Good girl!” Pinkie cuddled up to her.
  202. >All the other ponies were smiling at her for obeying. Immediately cuddles felt a surge of relief at being on their good side again.
  203. “You have to understand,” said Rarity, “that Tourmaline was bred to have certain features that us ponies find more attractive. She may seem a little weird to you but that’s only because she’s more keyed to our own, more important preferences.”
  204. >That did make her a bit less on edge about it. If that’s what the ponies wanted maybe it was for the best. Maybe humans would all look like her in the future.
  205. “And Tourmaline only just got enslaved!” Pinkie pointed out. “She didn’t have a great mom keeping her as a slave her whole life! She had to do hardcore training instead of getting to serve a pony this whole time.”
  206. >Cuddles gave Tourmaline a sympathetic nod. She knew, from going to the kennel, the angst of having to wait so long to be enslaved.
  207. “Now for you.” Twilight then turned to Tourmaline with sternness. Tourmaline herself still looked pretty stressed, yet to get the approval of her owner. “Were you looking down on Cuddle Pie?”
  208. “Maybe.” Tourmaline very quickly regretted this answer, becoming overwhelmed by shame from the looks she got. “Okay, I did. But I just sold for almost half a million bits! And I have training she doesn’t.”
  209. “Yes. You are a marvelous specimen who was worth every bit!” Rarity came up close but didn’t reward her with cuddles just yet. “But you mustn forget that you are a slave. You place in the herd and purpose for existing is to serve me.”
  210. “Yes, mistress.” Tourmaline was quick to bow to Rarity. “All I want is to serve you.”
  211. “As it should be.” Rarity lifted her head in much more justified pride. “And do you think making the slaves of my friends feel bad and like they need to compete with you helps that? Hm?”
  212. “No.” Tourmaline bowed to Cuddle Pie next. “Forgive my attitude. We should strive to work together in the service of our betters.”
  213. “Good girl!” Rarity hugged and nuzzled her own slave. Cuddle could see the relief on Tourmalines face.
  214. “And since you were so good how about some tasty caramel crickets?!” Pinkie offered, smiling like she was the one about to get a treat.
  215. >Crickets were almost every human’s favorite food! Humans needed some type of meat so the ponies let them eat juicy insects all the time. But caramel or fried crickets were a rare treat.
  216. “Maybe it’ll help them get along if you play a cooperative game together,” Twilight suggested to Pinkie.
  217. “Yeah! We can play that ghost one!” Pinkie jumped up to her feet. “Come on!”
  218. >Cuddle and Tourmaline followed Pinkie off. Ponies usually wanted you to only play cooperative games, or at least non-competitive ones. And that was fine because Cuddles like their games a lot! Though she still wasn’t sure about Tourmaline…
  223. >Nightmare Night!
  224. >Ponies always went all out for the holidays. Their slaves had been busy decorating all through the month of October, though as a pet Cuddle Pie mostly just watched them through the window and cuddles with her owner as they worked.
  225. >The ponies set up a spell to cover the entire town with a fog that came up to a pony’s neck (a little over Cuddle Pie’s waste. They’d strung up jack o lanterns in nearly every tree. Cobwebs covered every bush and every lawn had its own little theme.
  226. >Pinkie was taking her out trick or treating (or rather going trick or treating with her). She’d seen houses with graveyard themes, ghost pirate themes, mummy themes, even a cornmaze with a scarecrow golem that chased you around at Applejack’s house.
  227. >The house she was at now had a row of jack o lanterns linning the walkway up to the door. It was one of those take on pieces bowls.
  228. >Cuddle Pie looked down at the bowl then back at her mom.
  229. >This was one of those classic things in school. A wild human would take the entire bowl and run off, leaving no candy for any other kids.
  230. >But Cuddle Pie was civilized! She was one of Celestia’s subjects and part of the empire.
  231. >She only took one piece which got nods of approval from her mom.
  232. “Good girl!” Pinkie jumped up and hugged Cuddle Pie, sending them both to the ground.
  233. >Cuddle Pie was dressed as a witch and Pinkie as a cat. Really it should have been the other way around but Pinkie ordered the wrong costumes.
  234. >They started over to the next house, but Pinkie got distracted by something and pulled Cuddle Pie away to go look at something across the street.
  235. >It was Rarity and her pet Tourmaline, both wearing vampire costumes. Cuddle pie frowned a little, still not having accepted Tourmaline.
  236. “Shouldn’t Cuddle Pie be the cat?” Tourmaline asked.
  237. “Yeah, but there was a mix up at the costume factory.”
  238. “Are you taking your pet trick or treating too?” Rarity asked. “It is nice to see the town, all the decoations, for a bit before the party tonight.”
  239. “A party?” Cuddle Pie asked.
  240. “It’s a grown up party after your bedtime,” said Pinkie. “I’m not going till all the cute little monkeys in my house are snuggly sleeping!”
  241. “Well until then why don’t we go together for a bit!” Rarity suggested. “We’re really only going out here for a little bit.”
  242. >Tourmaline and Cuddles glared at one another, but both learned their lesson about fighting in front of the ponies. So they ended up joining together for the next block.
  243. >The next house was a spider themed house. A gigantic spider stood on the roof of the house, covering it. Cobwebs covered the lawn with tons of spiders ranging from normal sized to pony sized ones. Some of them were enchanted to move around and even say things if you got close.
  244. >If there was one thing Cuddle Pie was scared of it was spiders. She hated houses like this.
  245. >Cuddle Pie stopped at the edge of the lawn. Tourmaline went ahead without fear, but turned back.
  246. “Are you scared?” Tourmaline smiled a little too sharply. “They’re just decorations.”
  247. >She flipped her hair and went on to the house courageously.
  248. >Pinkie jumped up on Cuddle Pie’s back, hanging off her.
  249. “You know what I do when I’m scared of something?” Pinkie asked. “Laugh at it! Look at how doofy that big one’s face is!”
  250. >Pinkie laughed at it.
  251. >Actually now that Cuddles looked the big spider on top of the house looked partially deflated, giving it a rather Derpy look. Cuddle Pie did giggle just a little at the sight.
  252. >Pinkie pointed forward and Cuddles trudged forward like an overencumbered pack animal- technically what she actually was.
  253. >It was easier to be brave when Pinkie was hugging her. She made it all the way across the lawn.
  254. >She actually did it!
  255. “Thanks, mom!” Cuddles leaned over and hugged Pinkie. “I would have run away without you.”
  256. “Aw no problem.” Pinkie hugged back just as the door opened.
  257. >Tourmaline and Cuddle Pie both got a piece of candy.
  258. “And me too!” Pinkie held her bag out.
  259. “Really, Pinkie?”
  261. “Okay!” Pinkie declared. “Since you’re the slave and I’m the master you have to pay the slave tax and give me half your candy!”
  262. >Pinkie grabbed half of Cuddle’s pile and pulled it over to hers.
  263. “Yes mistress.” Cuddles bowed. “That’s fair.”
  264. >Everything in the room, including Cuddle Pie herself, was Pinkie’s property so as a pony she could do whatever she wanted.
  265. >Pinkie smiled briefly, surrounded by her pile of Nightmare Night candy. Then she turned to Cuddle Pie with a look of sorrow.
  266. “B-but if you feel bad about me taking that much candy you can have 75% of it instead!” Pinkie quickly shoved half of the pile she took back. “O-or you can have all of it actually! I can’t stand seeing you so sad!”
  267. >Cuddles looked down at her candy. She was pretty sure she didn’t look sad.
  268. “You can take whatever you want, Mom.” Cuddles pushed all of her candy back to her owner. “You buy me candy and food all the time! I know you’ll take care of me.”
  269. >Cuddles leaned forward and hugged her mom, burying her face in the poofy mane.
  270. “Daw!” Pinkie hugged back. “You’re so well behaved! Humans raised in captivity really are sweet! You deserve to be rewarded with all the candy!”
  271. >Pinkie pushed her own pile over to Cuddles, who look around at al the piles not sure where to even begin. Pinkie beamed at how happy she was making her pet.
  272. “Actually! Wait no!” Pinkie pulled it all back to her side once again. “I forgot I gotta be responsible and stuff. Humans will just gorge themselves and get fat if you let them eat whatever they want. I gotta put you on a candy ration.”
  273. “But I was already on a candy ration,” said Cuddles. “You’ve rationed my food out my whole life.”
  274. “Yeah! But not it’s like the Nightmare Night candy I’m rationing out?” Pinkie looked through the candy. “Okay! Here’s 350 calories of candy for you!”
  276. >Pinkie was getting ready to head out to the party after Cuddle Pie went to sleep.
  277. >At least, Cuddle Pie should be asleep by now. Her mom tucked her in over an hour ago but Cuddles was still awake.
  278. >That movie about the ghost in the closet was keeping her awake. Every few minutes she’d hear something that Cuddles would assure herself was not a ghost… but every time she had to get up to make sure.
  279. >Just a few quick glances every minute or so, but it was enough to keep her awake. Truth be told she was totally terrified.
  280. >During her last check, Cuddle saw something in the closet. In her mind it looked just like that ghost form the movie!
  281. >Slowly, as if it could only see motion, Cuddle Pie moved her hand over to the light switch.
  282. >She held her breath and flicked it on.
  283. >Turned out it was just one of her cloaks.
  284. >Cuddle Pie sighed with relief. She ran over to the closet and shut it before getting back in bed.
  285. >Her mom must have noticed the lights coming on and poked her head in through the door to the slave room.
  286. “Are you okay in here?” Pinkie asked. “Did the candy give you a tummy ache.”
  287. “No! I just-“ Cuddle Pie looked at the closet. “I just thought I saw something. It was just a cloak though.”
  288. “Oh no! Was that movie too scary for my little pet?” Pinkie asked. “You know ghosts aren’t real, right?”
  289. “I know.” Cuddles twiddled her thumbs, blushing in embarrassment. “I really shouldn’t be scared of movies any more.”
  290. “It’s okay if you’re scared!” Pinkie hopped onto bed with Cuddle Pie. “Nopony expects pets to be fearless.”
  291. “But Tourmaline wasn’t scared by anything at all,” Cuddles pointed out.
  292. “So?”
  293. “S-so?!” Cuddle didn’t know how to respond to that. “So I feel like I shouldn’t get scared either.”
  294. >Pinkie giggled at her a little.
  295. “Daw!” Pinkie gave her a kiss on the cheek and hugged Cuddles again. “My little baby monkey’s trying to be all big and tough and brave!”
  296. >Cuddle Pie lowered her head a little embarrassed.
  297. “You don’t gotta be any of those things.” Pinkie lifted her head up. “You’re not in the jungle fighting panthers or whatever humans used to do. It’s okay for you to be a soft little cutie who gets scared! You’re in a nice safe house with a friendly pony to take care of you.”
  298. >Was it just some wild instinct that made Cuddles feel bad about getting scared?
  299. >Pinkie nuzzled Cuddle’s chest, encouraging her to lie down. She tucked her pet back in as soon as Cuddle was on her back again.
  300. “I’ll always be here to take care of you so there’s no need for you to get too spooked, though. Scared Cuddle Pies are cute but I don’t want you to be stressed out. Oh!” Pinkie burrowed under the covers, popping her head up where Cuddle Pie was. “Here! Mommy Pie will cuddle with you till you fall asleep!”
  301. “But you gotta go to your party right?” Cuddle Pie tapped her fingers together.
  302. “No need to worry.” Pinkie hugged Cuddle Pie, snuggling her in to the corner. “Mommy will stay here till you’re fast asleep.”
  303. >Pinkie nuzzled Cuddles so her head was against the pillow. She started humming a soft lullaby, holding Cuddles and stroking her hair. Pinkie was so soft and warm. Cuddles was glad she was her mom’s property.
  304. >It felt like even if ghosts were real they were all far away now, couldn’t possibly get past Pinkie Pie and this barrier of snugness around her.
  305. >Cuddle Pie really was privileged. She’d get to spend her entire life under her mom’s care. She’d never have to worry about anything, not really, because Pinkie would always be there to care for her.
  306. >How did people even live before slavery?
  319. >Pinkie had to go to Earth for a week to help fight some evil humans who wanted to end slavery. Usually when Pinkie and her friends went somewhere, she’d drop Cuddle Pie off with her grandparents. But they wouldn’t be around until tomorrow so Cuddle Pie had to stay at the kennel tonight.
  320. “It’s only for one night!” Pinkie hugged Cuddle Pie for dear life. “Your Auntie Marble Pie will pick you up in the morning! A-and Tourmaline and all of Fluttershy’s slave children will be there too so you won’t get lonely!”
  321. “This isn’t the first time I stayed overnight in the kennel, Mom. I’ll be fine.”
  322. “And I got you this big bag of chocolate covered ants to help you feel better about not having your mommy around!” Pinkie sniffled and handed the bag over. Pinkie always teared up a little when being separated from her slave.
  323. >Cuddles was happy to take the bag. She loved ants.
  324. “Thanks, Mom! I’ll miss you too.”
  325. “There’s no need to worry.” The trainer came over to take her. “We’re very good with humans.”
  326. “O-okay.” Pinkie slowly let go of Cuddles. “But make sure she gets plenty of hugs. Her name is literally Cuddles! She needs them!”
  327. “I’ll see what I can do.”
  328. >Pinkie slowly nodded and started backing away.
  329. >Pinkie ran back and hugged Cuddle Pie one more time before leaving.
  330. >The sleeping area was a row of bunkbeds where all the kids in your grade all stayed together. When you turned twelve they started separating the boys and girls so Cuddles had about one year left before she wouldn’t be in the same room as the boys anymore.
  331. >Cuddle Pie was lying on the top bunk next to Tourmaline, watching the TV. On the bunk below them was one of the kids Fluttershy had bred. Fluttershy tended to keep all the humans she bred instead of selling them to the kennel like Twilight did so there were a lot of kids at her house.
  332. >The ponies put two kids on each mattress. Not because they didn’t have more but because they wanted to encourage cuddling. Cuddling was one of the main things ponies wanted from you and it was best to practice that early.
  333. >There were actually a lot of empty beds now, since the kids in her grade were getting bought up. Cuddle Pie always thought that the A ranks would all get bought out instantly, but actually it was more like the top and the bottom were going to be the last ones standing.
  334. >Of the 7 A ranks in her class, 5 remained while only 3 B ranks were left despite there being way more of them to start with. The three silver earings of the B ranks were less common now than the three gold that Cuddles and Tourmaline had. According to her mom, this was just because B ranks were so much less expensive. The As would all sell out eventually… just more slowly.
  335. >Two gold earings, which marked C rank, were also rare now. That one was easier to wrap your head around. The kids with two silver earings, the D ranks, weren’t as complient as the upper humans. C ranks were much better laborers. Though a few ponies decided they liked a C rank enough to let them be more like a pet, that was what mid rank humans were usually for.
  336. >The teacher always said that there was nothing wrong with D ranks, though, they had their place in the herd too. D ranks were told to work hard to try and get promoted to C and to not misbehave unless they get demoted to the truly dishonorable E rank.
  337. >Needless to say, none of the low ranks were here. If you got stuck with one earing you were shipped back to Earth, made into state property and had to work much longer hours than a more respectable, well behaved slave. At least, until you could show you were a good enough girl to get promoted a rank or two.
  338. >Actually, there was an E rank on TV right now.
  339. >They were watching the latest ‘human rights cringe compilation’ video. Those were popular with kids because of how funny they were. Right now a fat rank E human, given just one gold earing, who had promised to ‘break the chains of slavery with my katana desu’, was sloppily swinging a sword around his bedroom.
  340. >He accidentally cut the head off of some kind of action figure and screamed ‘my waifu!’ before the next video showed.
  341. >Now Starlight Glimmer was doing one of her interviews with a human rights protestor. This one was even worse, an F rank with a single silver earing. F for failure they said. Literally the only thing more pathetic than an F rank was a wild human. And surprise, surprise, the most pro-human rights people were all F rank.
  342. “Humans are better because we don’t go around enslaving intelligent beings!” The F rank asserted. “That’s one thing we would never do!”
  343. “Really?” Starlight smirked. “Humans would NEVER enslave an intelligent species? One as intelligent as well… humans for example?”
  344. >Cuddle Pie smiled. She got the joke, but apparently the F rank was too stupid to.
  345. “No way!” The idiot looked like he honestly believed it. “Maybe did stuff like... sink the titanic. But we never enslaved anyone! And we still accomplished things just as great as ponies. Better, even! Cause we’re the superior race!”
  346. “Can you name one thing humans have done that matches what ponies have?”
  347. “Uh.”
  348. >He drew a blank. He got a stupid look on his face trying to think of just one example.
  349. >He stalled so long that Starlight began humming a little song, a few of the kids giggled. Of course the joke was that Earth had never accomplished anything as great as Equestria.
  350. “We built shit!” The F rank opened his arms like he was trying to look big
  351. “That does sound like the kind of thing F rank humans would build.” Starlight smiled, that comment getting a few giggles from the kids watching. “What exactly did you build?”
  352. “Like, uh-“ the guy needed another minute to think. “Like the pyramids and stuff!”
  353. “Really! But weren’t the pyramids built by human slaves?” Starlight asked with a smile.
  354. >And everyone watching laughed at the look of stunned horror on the guy’s face as he realized his mistake.
  355. “Well you convinced me!” Starlight clapped her hooves together. “Human slaves really can accomplish great things! It’s almost like your species is at its best when they’re enslaved, huh?”
  356. >Cuddle did feel a bit of pride. It was true that slaves had been the ones to build all the great Earth empires. From Egypt to the United States, it was all built on the back of slaves like Cuddle Pie!
  357. “So was it the human slaves or the human slave owners who were the problem?” Starlight asked.
  358. “Well- I mean the slave owners were the bad ones but like…” The F rank was starting to get flustered.
  359. “Hm! That does sound suspiciously similar to what us ponies have been trying to tell you.” Starlight smiled. “The slaves did excellent work. It was just because humans are so bad at being in charge that all these problems happened.”
  360. “No that’s not true! The human slavers weren’t like-“ The F rank was blushing in embarrassment now. He looked like he was struggling just to compose a single sentence.
  361. “Oh? So the slave owners weren’t causing any problems?” Starlight’s smirk only grew as the F rank dissolved into a nervous wreck. “They weren’t the ones in the wrong now?”
  362. “Well- like! They were but- Freedom!”
  363. >The F rank waved his poorly written sign before running off in defeat.
  364. “Starlight’s the best!” one of the B rank girls declared. “She totally crushes those stupid Fs!”
  365. “I’m pretty sure my owner’s cat can make an F rank look stupid.” Tourmaline flipped her hair and for once Cuddles appreciated her attitude.
  366. “You know,” said one of the D rank boys, one named K13 (you were stuck with a name like that until somepony bought and named you), “I don’t think she’s so great. I heard that Starlight like goes looking for the most stupidest humans for these things. And those are the only ones she puts on TV. So- so that way-”
  367. “You’re the most stupidest human!” D9, one of the other boys, threw a bit of popcorn at him.
  368. “Yeah! Starlight’s the best!” One of the girls spoke up in her defense. “She’s super funny and she destroys all those bad humans with facts and logic.”
  369. “I wasn’t trying to-“ K13’s resolve quickly broke.
  370. “These human rights losers make the rest of us look bad.” Tourmaline pointed at the TV, now an F rank human was screeching out a song about freedom with as much skill as you’d expect from an F. “My owner is out there fighting these vilians right now so we can stay with the ponies. Celestia only loves those who are on her side, so who’s side are you on?”
  371. >For once Cuddles had no hesitation agreeing with Tourmaline. There was only one flaw. Cuddle tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to the clock. Between 7 PM and 7 AM you were supposed to pretend Celestia didn’t exist and only worship Luna. The opposite was true during the day.
  372. “Oh!” Tourmaline clasped her hands together in prayer. “Forgive me, Princess. I meant Luna only loves those who are on her side.”
  373. “N-no! I’m on Luna’s side!” K13 was blushing in embarrassment now. “I love the princesses! I was just saying something I heard! I don’t agree with it at all!”
  374. “Oh, please! This is why you’re D rank!” One of the A ranks called out to him.
  375. >Everybody started laughing at him. K13 almost looked like he was about to cry. Cuddle Pie remembered how much it hurt when Tourmaline looked down on her instead of cooperating.
  376. “Let’s lay off K13!” Cuddles called out to the others. “I think he learned his lesson! And even if he’s rank D, he’s still part of the herd and can serve Princess Luna, too! We all have to work together to serve the ponies.”
  377. >K13 seemed to really appreciate that.
  378. “Yeah! I’m sorry!” He quickly agreed.
  379. >And everybody did lay off him after that. Things quieted down again. But Tourmaline was suddenly giving Cuddles this blank kind of look.
  380. “What?” Eventually Cuddles couldn’t help it anymore.
  381. “I was thinking.” Tourmaline sat up on their bed. “Both of our owners are important, right? They’re off helping make sure Earth becomes a province of Equestria and our species gets fully assimilated into the herd. And that means that, as their personal slaves, we’re important too.”
  382. “But we’re never going to have to fight any terrorists.” At least, she hoped now.
  383. “No, but just saving them a little bit of time or helping them relax better can make a difference! Our jobs are important, so…” Troumaline hesitated to say it. “I wanted to apologize without anypony making me. We should work together.”
  384. >Cuddle Pie did feel a sudden swell of affection for Tourmaline. It was just now that she realized that they were on the same side.
  385. “If it helps Princess Luna get what’s rightfully hers, then yeah!” Cuddles nodded. “I’ll be your friend.”
  386. “My mistress is always going on about how important friendship is.
  387. “Ha! Mine too!”
  388. >Cuddles wondered what her mom was doing on Earth right now...
  397. >Twilight was in the city of Twicastle. It used to be known as New York before the war, but now a lot of places were named after Twilight and her friends. Renaming all of their cities was a fun project, plus a great way to help erase their culture.
  398. >Today was promotion day, when all the good little humans who earned it got promoted a rank. Twilight didn’t normally bother coming to these, but they needed to make this look like they were just here to help boost their popularity with the humans if they were going to catch that terrorist organization off guard.
  399. >So today some poor E rank would get the honor of being promoted by Twilight herself.
  400. “Cold Iron’s story is a true inspiration!” Twilight spoke into the microphone before the crowd. “He started as a lowly F rank, had sided with the vile Amazon-Google-Disney Corporation to try and fight against Equestria. But once he was enslaved and put to work, he quickly saw that obedience is a much better way of dealing with us and now he’s worked his way all the way to D. Isn’t that right, Cold Iron?”
  401. “Yes, ma’am.” Cold Iron bowed her head. “I know now that resisting you is pointless. Even in slavery, you offer us a better life if only we accept that.”
  402. >It was true that most humans born before the war didn’t use their new Equestrian names in private, but they did know it was best
  403. “And since you’re being so good now, you’ve absolutely earned the perks of being rank D! Your hours will be reduced from 35 a week to just 28! I guess slavery was the secret to humans finally getting Mondays off!”
  404. >That got a few laughs.
  405. “And that’s not all!” Pinkie suddenly butted in. Twilight acted surprised even though this was part of the script. “You also win free access to all the premium channels on Pony TV and can download extra video games from the Ponynet! You can move into a bigger, D rank apartment! And your food rations will increase so you’ll never not have crickets again! And- oh! Then behind door number 2-!”
  406. “Okay, this isn’t a gameshow, Pinkie.” Twilight got a few more laughs. “But I hope Cold Iron will be an inspiration to all of you! We want to give all of you a better life, but we can only do that if you submit and accept your place in the herd. And now for the official promotion.”
  407. >Twilight pierced his ear as everypony there applauded.
  408. >Obviously Twilight wasn’t going to pierce all of their ears so once Cold Iron got his earings, she waved and left with her friends. They headed back to the Twilight State Building, an older building that’d been converted into a home for Twilight and her friends when visiting this part of Earth.
  409. >On the way back they ran into another one of those silly protests. Twilight motioned for Vellum to lift her up so she could get a better look and he obeyed. It looked like they were STILL upset about not being allowed to raise this own children anymore despite having over a decade to get used to it. Also they were calling Twilight fat again.
  410. >When humans first started protesting against Celestia taking over, or Twilight’s role in the conquest specifically, Twilight admitted she had panicked a few times. But now she just sighed and rolled her eyes. It was like no matter how many times you explained it to them, they just couldn’t get the concept that all children belonged to Celestia.
  411. >But she still let them have their little protests. It was good to let them get it out of their system and it wasn’t like this would accomplish anything.
  412. >Actually, Twilight found herself smiling at the crowd today. With each passing year, the makeup of the crowd became older, the numbers fewer and the number of E ranks inside dwindled. Almost nobody above E rank protested anymore. They may not like slavery or having their culture erased, but getting Saturday off was more important to them as an individual and humans didn’t really have the same herd mentality… yet.
  413. >It was also refreshing to note that only the oldest generation of humans, called ‘zoomers’ for reasons Twilight didn’t understand, were the only ones who still protested against Celestia taking their children. Alpha gen and Beta gen had a much more resigned attitude of ‘well I was never gonna afford kids anyway…’.
  414. “I guess we’d better deal with this. Pinkie, use your Pinkie senses to find the craziest people in the crowd and record whatever they have to say.” Twilight got a salute from Pinkie. “Applejack, you offer a chance to get to promoted to the leaders if they’re willing to publicly denounce human rights.”
  415. “Can’t we make like a G rank for these whiners?” Dash rolled her eyes. “Make them work 60 hours a week and go back to those nanoapartments like they had to before we came in.”
  416. “Obviously we can’t do that, Rainbow Dash,” said Twilight. “Improving their lives is how we keep the older humans under control while their species gets assimilated. If they still had to work 60 hours a week again on top of their rights being taken away they might get violent. This planet and everyone on it are Celestia’s property now so we don’t want to damage it.”
  417. “For my own part,” said Vellum, “I can say I wouldn’t have been as willing to help you conquer us had I not know we’d be better off as your servants.”
  418. “Hey, don’t mention it, big guy.” Dash had to fly up to pat him on the back. “We’re happy to assimilate any race!”
  419. >Vellum carried Twilight all the way back to the Twilight State Building.
  420. “Remember, we have to be up at 5 am tomorrow so don’t stay up late,” Twilight reminded the others, hopping down from Vellum’s arms.
  421. “And what will you be doing till then?” Rarity eyed one of the stallion guards. “Hm? Maybe find some strapping guard and finally lose your virginity?
  422. “I am not a virgin!” Twilight pointed up at Vellum. “I have sex with Vellum like every night. Or sometimes one of my other slaves.”
  423. “Oh come! That’s like saying you have sex with your vibrator. It hardly counts. You’re still a virgin.”
  424. “Okay, fine. I’m technically a virgin. I just don’t have time for a boyfriend right now which is why I have to use my slave instead.”
  425. “Well I’m sure he’s not the least bit obsessed about getting to be your ‘boyfriend’ and upgrade from his own species.” Rarity giggled. “They never are. But you hardly need to be in a relationship to turn in your V-card, Twilight. If you want I can help you-”
  426. “Guh! I’m not losing my virginity to some random guy!” Twilight covered her face in embarrassment. Why did Rarity like teasing her like this so much. “Come on, Vellum! Let’s get back to my room.”
  427. “Yes, mistress.”
  428. “Have fun!” Rarity called after them, making Twilight blush one more time.
  429. >Once back, Twilight looked down at the city of Twicastle, for all intents and purposes it was her city.
  430. >15 years ago, Equestria first created its portal to Earth. Celestia stepped through and gently explained to all the humans that she owned all things and, in accordance with this principle, she would be annexing all of their land, repossessing all of their property and taking them all in as slaves.
  431. >Twilight laid out a well thought out plan for how the Earth could smoothly transition into being totally dominated by Celestia and their species to be assimiliated into the herd all with minimal disruption in their lives and maximum improvement to their living conditions.
  432. >And of course they all threw Twilight’s reasonable plan out the window and decided to try and force Celestia off of Earth with their monkey armies. Equestria really had no choice but to go to war with Earth at that point. It didn’t go so well for the humans.
  433. >At the end of the first week of the war, Equestria had completely demolished all the armies of Europe and the Middle East and were pushing their way into Asia and Africa.
  434. >They threatened her that the isolationist empire to the west, America, had an army far more powerful than anything else on the planet. And surely they would come and ‘rescue’ Europe.
  435. >In retrospect they were almost right. If you looked at the insane amount of firepower, all of their death robots orbital lasers, spaceships, doomsday weapons, they had over there you’d have thought they’d been preparing for an alien invasion for decades. Fighting them could have taken over a year and would have resulted in far more casualties for Equestria.
  436. >Key word ‘would have’.
  437. >Instead Twilight and her friends had been welcomed into the United States as heroes with a massive parade thrown in their honor and in thanks for liberating them. The rest of the world realized that America had handed over control of their military to Celestia and proceded to… well there was no more hope for human independence after that.
  438. >It wasn’t the actual rulers that surrendered either, but the people themselves. They heard Twilight’s speech promising better living conditions and President Jeff Bezos Jr.’s speech telling them they’d need to learn to live with less during the coming war on the same day. Their choice was comfortable slavery or years of war only to be rewarded by the $300 trillion ‘bailout’ Jeff Bezos Jr. proposed to give himself.
  439. >Already at their limits and with less freedom than China or North Korea, Twilight could hardly blame them for accepting the comfort of slavery. They saw this as their only shot of being free of Amazon-Disney-Google and helped Twilight overthrow their own government.
  440. >Twilight remembered how much they cheered when she announced that Bezos 2 would be shipped off to the ice mines and forced to work 70 hours a week for the rest of his life.
  441. >Twilight had kept her promise and improved the lives of the average American significantly. Their work hours were reduced from 60 to 42 at the most for the worst F ranks. They were moved from their ‘nano apartments’, which contained little more than the bunkbed they slept in, to their own private one-bedroom apartments. The amount spent on food rations was increased ten fold, allowing the average American to indulge in cheese and chocolate for the first time in decades. Thanks to ponies got to eat crickets every day now!
  442. >They were given free access to the ponynet and pony TV, free electricity, clean water, clean air and could get free medical treatment from the superior Equestrian doctors. And even with this relatively lavish lifestyle, Celestia was still able to profit off the labor.
  443. >Twilight smiled out at Twicastle, knowing the vast majority of humans here were out enriching Equestria right now.
  451. >Twilight lied across Vellum’s lap. Vellum stroked her back with one hand and scratching under her chin with the other while Twilight looked out on her city. Humans really were great. Twilight let out a satisfied little sound, thinking it was all totally worth it.
  452. >It was funny to think back that getting pet was the whole reason they came here to enslave the humans.
  453. >Not too long ago, the silly little monkeys tried building their own portal machine. That wasn’t something most species could do without pony supervision so the portal they created destabilized and exploded sucking in thousands of humans.
  454. >Save for the hundred or so that appeared in Equestria, all the others likely didn’t make it, most worlds were uninhabitable.
  455. >Vellum was the youngest human in that group, actually, and was instrumental in the discovery that ponies really liked it when you scratched them behind the ears. In fact, ponies like getting pet by humans so much that it wasn’t long before the group was brought to Equestria where all of their needs were provided for in exchange for pets and they got to meet Celestia.
  456. >Celestia, upon getting pet, decided that she needed more of these guys. In fact… she needed ALL of them! And the project to build a portal to Earth and domesticate the human race began!
  457. “It still seems odd to me.” Vellum moved his on hand from her back to her mane. “I’m basically your pet now, but I’m the one petting you. And you always act like getting pet is an act of dominance.”
  458. “That’s just something your species got backwards.” Twilight flicked her ear, dismissing the idea. “Obviously the owner is the one who should get caressed and the pet is the one who should do all the petting. You may see petting as a dominant act, but we see it as a submissive one. When you scratched me behind the ears that first time, my thought was ‘this guy is begging to submit to me’ so I let you.”
  459. “I suppose it does make sense when you think of it like that.” That was something Twilight loved about him. He remained curious even where other humans would give in to their knee-jerk reaction of disgust, was open to adopting newer, Equestrian ideas and ways of looking at things. “There are a lot of things I take for granted, but I love the way you have of reframing everything to be about pony supremacy.”
  460. “I have a way of reframing entire species to be about pony supremacy!” Twilight lifted her head in pride and gave a sly, almost flirty smile. “You know, some species exist only to groom larger, stronger species. Like cleaner fish or those birds that live on hippo’s backs. It’ll be my pleasure breeding your species into something more like that, more convenient for us little ponies.”
  461. >Vellum ran his fingers through Twilight’s mane thoughtfully. He really was the best. Most of the humans in that first group stopped helping the ponies once they realize the fate of their species. But Vellum, seeing how powerful Equestria was, knew it was better to give them the information they wanted.
  462. >For his services, Celestia let him pick the pony who would own him, an honor no other human got, and he chose Twilight.
  463. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said, “intellectually I accepted that becoming part of the herd was what’s best for us in the long run and I thank for this opportunity, Mistress.”
  464. >Twilight smiled. Vellum really was a good boy and Twilight loved him for it.
  465. “I suppose what I can’t wrap my head around is your attitude towards enslaving other races, though. Everypony seems so… cavalier about it. Maybe that’s not even strong enough. It’s like you all just automatically accept that domesticating other intelligent races is good and you all find it satisfying. Maybe some part of me expects there to be some conflict in you about all of this but… so far I haven’t found any in you or anypony else.”
  466. >That had always been a major source of misunderstanding when ponies began the initial phases of assimilating a species into a new slave class. They always saw the idea of ponies coming in, conquering them and then selectively breeding them until they were exactly what ponies wanted them to be, had a cozy little niche inside the herd and existed for the convenience and pleasure of ponies as… well an act of aggression.
  467. >Meanwhile, ponies saw it as an act of friendship! Instead of the other races trying to compete with ponies, they could exist only to serve them instead. Then there’d be no competition, only harmony as everyone existed together in one big herd. A pony-centric herd, but still one they got to be part of.
  468. >Griffons, who for most of prehistory were predators who ate ponies, had been assimilated and bred to have a new instinct to aggressively defend the herd and ponies in general. The average griffon these days would happily give their life fighting to defend a pony they’d never met. They were the front line fighters and partially thanks to them the number of ponies who died in the war with Earth was minimal.
  469. >Then there were species from other dimensions Equestria had invaded, like the diamond dogs. Thanks to a strong hierarchical mindset, they were fairly easy to assimilate into the herd once they saw that ponies were the top dogs now. Diamond Dogs now happily toiled underground, eagerly digging tunnels for their pony masters and eagerly bringing back gemstones and metals to their owners in exchange for head pats.
  470. >Every intelligent species ponies had encountered went through a similar process, being dominated and bred to be happy and efficient in their new niche roles. All of them got to develop a new symbiotic relationship in service of Celestia, ponies and the herd and they were all perfectly comfortable there once the process was done.
  471. “It’s just something we do naturally!” Twilight declared. “That’s like asking why a stallion enjoys mounting a mare or why you think your kids are cute. It’s just nature at work.”
  472. “But how does that sort of urge evolve?” Vellum asked.
  473. “It’s not really clear to us, either.” Twilight was happy to explain. “But it must have evolved indirectly. Some ponies think it might have evolved because we have three distinct tribes. Groups with all three tribes in them had a better chance of surviving, so being able to assimilate other species into your herd was beneficial. And eventually we evolved the concept of all being part of one big herd. And we’re happy to welcome you into it… on our own terms of course.”
  474. “I admit your terms and ours look like they’ll be the same sooner than I ever would have imagined. Even after just one generation you’ve already have humans who just completely accept their place in the herd. It’s odd, but seeing the way Cuddle Pie just totally accepts the way the world is now makes me proud on some level. I’m glad she’s so happy as part of the herd.”
  475. >He did talk about Cuddle Pie a lot. She did feel a little bad about not letting him talk to her. Completely erasing all of Earth’s culture and replacing it with Equestria’s was a big priority… But he was a good boy whom Twilight knew for a fact wouldn’t try to pass any Earth culture on to her.
  476. “Maybe I’ll ask Pinkie if it’s okay for you to talk to her a bit earlier than normal,” Twilight relented. “You’re a good boy, but Cuddle Pie is her property, so it’s her choice.”
  477. “Thank you, Mistress.”
  478. “Still. You sired 314 offspring,” said Twilight. “And most of them are A rank. I’ve been keeping track. A very successful stud! So why do you care about Cuddle Pie out of all of them?”
  479. “She is the one I see the most often and…”
  480. >She knew what he meant. He’d been mating with Cuddle’s biological mother more directly than with the others.
  481. >Twilight learned fast that humans still had problems with mating in captivity. If you put two of them together and told them to do it, there was a high chance one would get nervous and underperform. Though interestingly, if you put a male and female human together in the same sleeping area and told them they were mates now they’d usually just go along with it and produce plenty of offspring for the kennels.
  482. >Twilight had tried this tactic with Vellum and one of her A rank females, but… well Twilight wanted Vellum in HER bed. She was the mistress so she should be getting his full passion while the breeding stock just got a cold syringe filled with leftovers from Twilight’s fun.
  483. “This is why I don’t let you have sex with women anymore!” Twilight lifted her head.
  484. “Are you sure that’s the only reason?” Vellum scratched under her chin, getting a slight blush.
  485. >In reality Twilight found Vellum didn’t perform as well in bed for her if Twilight had been breeding him out with women.
  486. >Twilight quickly reasserted dominance by plopping her plot down on his lap, over the exact right spot, and wiggling it in just a little.
  487. “Hmph!” Twilight lifted her chin. “It’s because I deserve your full attention. Women are just breeding stock who only get my leftovers. I get to be pleasured while they get a cold syringe and nine months of pregnancy. That’s exactly what both of us deserve, right?”
  488. >Twilight moved her hips back an forth a little in hopes of coaxing a more flirtatious response out of Vellum. It’d been a couple days since she played with him. She was already happily picturing how pent up he must be.
  489. “Of course, Mistress. As a mare you’re superior and more deserving than any woman.” Vellum gave in and started saying what Twilight wanted. “You’re vastly superior and more beautiful than any female human. Pleasuring you is far more satisfying than any of them could ever be. Thank you for allowing me to focus only on you.”
  490. >Twilight smiled wide, triumphantly.
  491. “Mm-hm!” Twilight got up and trotted a few steps forward, keeping her plot in view. She wanted this now too, but it really was better to make Vellum wait just a bit longer. “Well good boys get rewarded! And serving your mistress is the best reward, isn’t it? So you get to bath me first. Go get the bath ready, hm?”
  492. >And of course he went to do it. He was so eager to serve once you got him just a little worked up.
  493. >It felt good being superior!
  501. >The law said that no humans under the age of 14 was allowed on Earth. But Cuddle Pie JUST turned 14 about a month ago, so…
  502. >Well now Cuddle Pie was helping her mom set up a part celebrating the 15th anniversary of Equestria’s victory over Earth! It was a nice, patriotic sort of thing, the type that filled Cuddles with pride. But the celebration was going to take place on Earth.
  503. >It was interesting. For so long, Cuddle Pie had been completely terrified of Earth. It was like the back of her mind just expected the other, more savage, humans to attack her the moment she got there. But now she had a somewhat morbid curiosity towards Equestria’s newest territory.
  504. >Besides, she’d be with Pinkie the whole time! Her mom had defeated literal gods so it wasn’t like a troop of wild monkeys would pose a threat to her.
  505. >And it’d be fun to revel in the victory of her nation.
  506. “Twilight says it’s good to make them celebrate their own defeat.” Pinkie tapped her head. “When you’re trying to keep somewhat intelligent species in place, you gotta play these kinds of mind games with em. Or something.”
  507. >Cuddles nodded. She felt like she was better able to understand what the ponies were talking about now. She was also starting to appreciate how cunning they really were.
  508. >Like, the system of rewarding obedient humans with more time off and a better diet was so that the F grade humans, the ones most likely to resist efforts to domesticate humans, wouldn’t have the time or energy to fight back.
  509. >Everything they did just had all these layers to it. It all seemed so… brilliant.
  510. “Hearing you talk about all the way you guys control the Earth humans… it makes me really glad I’m on your side. You guys are pretty intense. There’s no way I’d be able to stand up to you.”
  511. >Cuddle Pie really did feel a sense of relief every time she thought about it. She felt like she’d gotten on the train just in time.
  512. “Getting you on our side was the whole point of that war!” Pinkie nuzzled Cuddle’s belly. “Celestia doesn’t like the lesser races being all cold and lonely outside the herd, so she put you on our side where you belong.”
  513. >Cuddle Pie had little doubt she was better off on the ponies’ side. It was the winning side after all
  514. “I don’t think I could have survived in the wild either. So thanks for that,” said Cuddles. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand these ferals! Like, another species comes in and offers to raise your kids for you… why wouldn’t they think that was a good thing?”
  515. >It wasn’t long ago that Fluttershy explained the breeding process to all the girls in Cuddle’s class. As a human that would be used for breeding in a few years, she was relieved to know the ponies would be helping her and that she wouldn’t have to take care of any of the kids herself.
  516. >The idea of anyone feeling anything but relief knowing the ponies would take the responsibility of raising your offspring from you was just so… odd.
  517. >Secretly, Cuddle Pie wished she could have heard their opinions a bit more so she could understand how they thought all these stupid things. She got a little bit of understanding from watching Starlight pwn the F ranks, but for the most part they always came across as motivated by sheer stupidity and ignorance.
  518. >But what actually went on in their feral minds…
  519. “Ah, you know!” Pinkie shrugged. “Your species have a really hard time changing their minds once they get big. That’s why we gotta make sure you get a good education, to turn that flaw upside down and make it useful to the herd!”
  520. >The ponies really were able to make anything into a positive!
  521. >Before long they got to Rarity’s house, though she looked slightly busy at the moment. Three diamond dogs, more of Rarity’s slaves, were standing near Rarity with their heads bowed, offering her a cart filled with gemstones.
  522. >Rarity had a good number of slaves.
  523. >Rarity had the second most slaves out of the elements of harmony, but most of them were diamond dogs. There was this pack of 20 or so diamond dogs who worked tirelessly to bring her gems but otherwise stayed out of sight. Then she had 6 humans who sowed for her, a human butler and maid, and then her beloved little pet Tourmaline. Oh, and a single griffon slave who jealously guarded Rarity’s gems like they were her own.
  524. “Pony is happy?” The main diamond dog asked, nervously tapping his fingers together. “Doggar is good?”
  525. “Yes!” Rarity marveled at her latest shipment of gems. “Doggar is a very good boy! Mistress is very pleased with all the hard work your pack does for me.
  526. >The diamond dog looked absolutely enraptured by Rarity’s pat of approval. Even Cuddle Pie could tell it thought all those days of labor it took to get these gems were totally worth it. Serving ponies was its own reward, they said, it was how your life could still have meaning without a cutie mark.
  527. >And after centuries of selective breeding, diamond dogs loved the praise and approval of ponies more than anything in the world. They were perfect, obedient servants.
  528. >Sometimes Cuddles was a little jealous of the more domesticated races, who had generations of breeding under their belts. But at the same time seeing the other slave races filled her with a sense of belonging and pride. All of them were part of the same herd.
  529. “You’ll be going through these to check for any particularly valuable gems,” Rarity told Tourmaline. “You really do have the best eye out of all of my slaves.”
  530. “Yes, Mistress.” Tourmaline reached towards the crate of gems as if intending to shift through them now.
  531. “No, no. Don’t shift through the raw gems yourself.” Rarity lifted her head. “You’re above that sort of work. And I don’t want your hands getting even the teensiest bit rough. You wait until after they’ve been touched.”
  532. “Thank you, Mistress.” Tourmaline bowed her head.
  533. >Rarity waved her dogs away, off to clean the gemstones, before turning to Pinkie and Cuddles.
  534. “Now then, what are we here for?” Rarity asked, finally turning her attention to Pinkie.
  535. “Well I know I just got Cuddle Pie a bunch of new cloaks for her birthday,” said Pinkie. “But I want you to make her a new dress for the big victory party coming up!”
  536. >Pinkie looked left and right like she was about to share a secret before beckoning Rarity closer.
  537. “She really likes getting cloths recently.” Pinkie whispered to Rarity. “My little Cuddles didn’t even ask for any toys for her birthday this time! She really is turning into a teenager.”
  538. >In her defense clothes were a bit of a necessity for humans.
  539. >Humans were a bit less complete than ponies. A pony could run around in nature completely naked and be fine, but humans were more frail and needed some care just to be able to go outside.
  540. >Humans didn’t have hooves so they needed a pony to give them sandals to be able to walk around. They got cold easily and their skin was thin enough to get hurt by just the sun and wind so they needed a cloak too.
  541. >Wild humans used to go way overboard and drown themselves in cloths, but now that they were under pony supervision domestic humans were more sensible about it. Boys needed to wear pants to be their makeshift sheath because they were born without them and girls needed to wear a bra when they grew up if their chests got too swollen.
  542. >Tourmaline already had to wear a bra but Cuddle Pie wasn’t quite swollen enough to need one yet. So for now she mostly just wore a cloak and sandals, on hotter days like this just wearing the cloak like a cape. Except, of course, when Pinkie dressed her up.
  543. “Well I’m hardly against anyone wanting more clothes.” Rarity smiled. “Ah! I just had an idea! What if we put our pets in matching outfits! That would be so adorable.”
  544. “But then my dress won’t be unique,” Tourmaline complained.
  545. “Oh, hush. It’s not like you’ll be wearing the exact same thing.” Rarity waved away her concerns.
  546. >Despite the fact that they were trying to be friends, Cuddle Pie did feel a slight rivalry with Tourmaline. More recently it seemed like all the boys their age really like Tourmaline and all the girls hated her… one of those probably causing the others.
  547. >It was kind of silly. Ponies were the ones who decided who mated with who now, so it wasn’t like anyone’s preferences mattered. All the A ranked girls were essentially guaranteed to get their own little mating partner. But still… they were only on the second generation of humans.
  548. “Now how about I show you hers and see how you like it?” Rarity began but was soon interrupted.
  549. >And then in a flash of light a monster appeared.
  550. >The monster was either invisible or made entirely made of cloths. It was a floating cloak with two gloves that could have almost fit the hands of a seven fingered human at its side and then a wooden theater mask floating where the head should be.
  551. >You might have been able to mistake it for an invisible human, were it not for the glowing wisp of light at the center.
  552. >This wasn’t the first time some monster from another dimension attack Pinkie. Cuddle was much less afraid of these attacks these days because she knew just how tough ponies were.
  553. “Despair! I am Vislight!” The monster declared “Master of the nether-“
  554. “You’re gonna attack us now?” Pinkie complained. “We were in the middle of something!
  555. “Oh, I know who you are! I have come here from another dimension in search of the elements of-“
  556. “Do you have any idea how many people have tried that?” Rarity raised her eyebrow then sighed, more annoyed at this interruption than anything else. “But if you insist. You two pets get inside.”
  557. “You underestimate me! Behold my mastery of space and time!”
  558. >Vislight opened his (invisible?) arms wide and hundreds of portals opened up, sucking in various objects. One portal opened up between Cuddle Pie and the door, forcing them to see shelter elsewhere, behind the cart at Tourmaline’s suggestion. Cuddle Pie could feel a slight tug from the portals, but nothing seriously.
  559. “Random short range portals, huh?” Rarity still wasn’t impressed.
  560. “Uh.” Vislight didn’t have a face to express things with, but he seemed to just now be realizing maybe he was out of his league. “Well how about this?!”
  561. >Vislight closed the other portals and created a much larger one instead, clearly targeted at the two humans. It opened just in front of Cuddle Pie and this time the force of suction was enough to throw her off her feet.
  562. “My baby!” Rarity jumped forward and grabbed Tourmaline with her magic. But it was already too late.
  563. >The two humans fell into the portal
  564. “Okay!” Cuddle Pie pointed to the black vines. “Well I recognize these things, so we’re still in Equestria! This must be somewhere in the Everfree Forest.
  565. “The forest?! But Cuddle Pie!” Tourmaline grabbed Cuddle Pie. “I’m an indoor pet! I can’t be out in the woods! I’ll get dirty and that will make Rarity sad! Comfort me!”
  566. >Cuddle Pie did hug her and even giver her a reassuring pat on the back. In that moment, there was no doubt in her mind that Rarity and Tourmaline were perfect for each other.
  567. “But see, this is why ponies put those tracking chips in us.” Cuddle Pie pointed to the back of her hand, where it’d been implanted long ago. “It’s so they can keep us safe!”
  568. “Oh, right!” Tourmaline smiled at her own hand, relieved to have been reminded of that. “They’ll find us in no time! I’m sure mistress Rarity will only need an hour or two to dispatch of that vile monster. Then they merely need to… oh my, we are going to be here a while, aren’t we?”
  569. >Cuddle Pie nodded.
  570. “But remember what they told us at the kennel.” Cuddle raised her finger. “If you ever get lost, you should stay put until ponies find you. We should just find some kind of shelter and stay there.”
  571. “There!” Tourmaline really did have a good eye and spotted something of a cubby hole between two trees growing into one another. “I imagine if we go there and cover ourselves with leaves, nothing will find us before our owners.”
  572. >Cuddles nodded. This really was their best plan.
  573. >They made a little barrier of leaves and hoped nothing but a pony would find them.
  574. >Almost an hour passed in silence.
  575. >And then.
  576. >Something started coming out of the brush!
  577. >It was undoubtably a monster! It was still a little too early for a pony to come to them. Cuddle Pie braced herself to see the most horrible monster possible, but even then her expectations were exceeded!
  578. >It was a human girl, maybe about the same age as Cuddle Pie. She was fully clothed, wearing pants like a boy. But more important was something she wasn’t wearing.
  579. >When you met a human your first instinct was to check their earrings to see what rank they were, but this girl… had no earrings.
  580. >She was a wild human!
  581. >Tourmaline quickly made a shushing motion to Cuddle Pie as if that was necessary. Cuddle was already scared out of her mind. Any curiosity about these monsters was gone! She just didn’t want to get stabbed with a spear now.
  582. >To make matters worse, the wild human quickly noticed their tracks on the ground. Neither of them had suspected this might happen so they didn’t cover them!
  583. “No hooves,” the wild human muttered to herself.
  584. >She grasped a strap that went around her chest and began nervously following their tracks like she was waiting for something to jump out at her.
  585. “Hello?” She called out, but not loudly. “Did you um… run away from the ponies maybe?”
  586. >Their leave likely would have been enough for most animals, but humans were a little smarter than your standard wild beast. She found them.
  587. >The wild human looked Cuddles right in the eyes, noticing her earrings. And they both stared at one another in absolute horror.
  594. >It felt like they stared at one another for a long, long time. No one dared to make any noise or even move.
  595. >The girl looked down at Cuddle Pie’s chest, then a little lower before turning away and coughing.
  596. “Er-“ the girl finally found the courage to talk. “Why are you naked?”
  597. >Tourmaline and Cuddle Pie shared a look, both thinking this girl was just as crazy as you’d expect a feral human to be.
  598. “Um. We’re not naked? We’re wearing cloaks.” Cuddle Pie drew hers around herself to draw attention to it.
  599. >Apparently she just realized the cloak was there or something because once it was drawn up she looked back without blushing. One thing Cuddle knew was that wild humans thought nudity was worse than murder (which was why they could only portray the latter in old Earth movies).
  600. “I… I don’t suppose you two like… ran away from the ponies did you? Like to become free?”
  601. “Oh absolutely!” Tourmaline wasted no time in trying to bluff her. “We absolutely hate ponies and decided we’d rather live out in the woods so here we are. But we need to find some more berries to survive so we’ll go do that. Have a nice day.”
  602. “You’re wearing those gold earrings,” the feral pointed out. “Aren’t those for like…”
  603. “Oh, we stole these! And we’re wearing them to trick the ponies, see?” Tourmaline smiled.
  604. >Wild humans were… well basically just wild animals. They were dumb. Something like this could seriously trick it, so Cuddles nodded in agreement.
  605. >But this one must have been a genius among apes because from the annoyed look on her face she looked to have seen through it.
  606. “Well if that’s the case then you should come back to where I live with me,” she said.
  607. “No, we like it out here.” Tourmaline gestured to the trees. “Nature is good.”
  608. “I insist you come back with me,” she started getting stern.
  609. “Well I insist we don’t!”
  610. “We’re not going to do anything bad,” Cuddles promised. “We’ll just leave.”
  611. “Look I- I know you’re going to tell the ponies I’m here if I let you go back so- so-! You have to come with me!”
  612. >Cuddle Pie, wanting to be a good girl, would absolutely tell Pinkie about this stray the moment she got back. So it wasn’t like this girl was wrong there, but…
  613. “Hmph! Well there’s two of us,” said Tourmaline. “So if it comes down to it, we can beat you up! Cuddles, you’re my muscle! I’ll have your back.”
  614. >Tourmaline pointed at the feral like she was sicking Cuddle Pie on her.
  615. “Yeah… well I have a gun, so…”
  616. >Diem took a rifle off her back and pointed it in their direction.
  617. >A wild human with a gun! The two of them were good as dead! It was a miracle they even lived this long! Cuddles and Tourmaline began cowering immediately.
  618. “Please don’t kill me!”
  619. >Cuddles didn’t want to die here! She wanted to go back to her mom! But now all she could do was brace herself for certain death!
  620. >But there was no gunshot.
  621. >The wild human almost looked like she was about to cry. Her gun was pointed down towards the ground just ahead of them instead of at the two girls and it trembled badly in her grip like it weighed a hundred pounds.
  622. >It really seemed like this person had trouble even pointing a gun at another human.
  623. “I think we should just run,” Tourmaline suggested upon seeing her wavering courage. “She’s not going to shoot us, she’s too scared.”
  624. “We don’t know that,” Cuddles whispered back. “She’s still a wild animal. Those can snap at any moment. Besides, she’ll tell her pack about us and- well an adult wouldn’t hesitate! Um… excuse me? My name is Cuddle Pie, what’s yours.”
  625. “Your name is… Cuddle Pie?”
  626. “Cause my mom loves to hug me.”
  627. >A sudden look of sad sympathy overtook Diem and she looked even less able to shoot her gun. The tip of it flagged even deeper.
  628. “My name is… Diem.” Diem cast her eyes down for a moment. “I wish I didn’t see you. I don’t want to fight anyone, but if you go back and tell on us we’ll all be in big trouble! I really can’t just let you leave.”
  629. “Well we can’t just let you leave either.” Tourmaline stood up. “You’ll tell on US, won’t you? So we’re at an impasse here.”
  630. >The two of them stood there, Diem nervously clutching her gun and Tourmaline looking like she was somehow the one in control.
  631. >As far as vicious monsters went, this Diem didn’t seem too evil. She seemed a bit smarter than the wild humans on TV, too. If this was how she acted in the wild, she could easily be B or A rank material! And that gave Cuddle Pie an idea.
  632. “Hey! Why don’t you come back with us?” Cuddles offered. “To Equestria, I mean.”
  633. >Diem suddenly clutched her gun.
  634. “What?! NO! They’d enslave me!”
  635. “Well sure. Of course they would!” Cuddles smiled.
  636. “Then- what?! Are you trying to confuse me with stupid ideas?”
  637. “I think I understand.” Tourmaline nodded. “Whatever wild humans you grew up with brainwashed you into thinking slavery was a bad thing, right?”
  638. “Uh… what? I’M brainwashed?”
  639. “The two of us are slaves and we’re perfectly happy!” Tourmaline opened her arms, making Diem turn away again. “The ponies take great care of us! We get as much food as we want, medicine, TV, internet, everything for free. I get to sleep on a king sized bed every night and my owner loves me very much. That’s better than living in the woods, isn’t it?”
  640. “But those ponies are the reason we have to live in the woods in the first place! And most humans are stuck as laborers anyway.”
  641. “That’s always been the case,” said Tourmaline. “I don’t know if you’ve ever read anything about history, but the vast majority of humans have always been stuck doing labor. The only difference is that now we have better supervisors.”
  642. “And at your age, if you turn yourself in they’ll be super impressed!” Cuddles assured her. “You’ll probably get B rank for sure. Maybe you could even work your way up to A rank like us! Then you’ll get to live in a nice house with a nice pony instead of out in the woods. We have the ponynet and um… toilets. It’s great!”
  643. “Look, as nice as my dad makes plumbing sound, I don’t think it’s worth giving up your freedom for.” Diem sighed. “You two really are brainwashed aren’t you? You seriously have no desire to have freedom and rights? Like all?”
  644. “Absolutely not!” Tourmaline turned her nose up at the idea. “My mistress is the greatest person who ever lived and I love her just as much as she loves me. Serving her is an honor above any other and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
  645. “Yeah, if you give freedom to everyone you just end up with like, that Bezos guy using his freedom to enslave us all! It’s best to only let responsible ponies have it so we don’t end up living in the woods,” said Cuddles.
  646. “Hey! We built a lot out here with what we have!” Diem was starting to get confrontational again. “And ponies are the only reason we have to live like this! If they’d just leave us alone we could have electricity and plumbing and stuff! But they won’t let us, they don’t give us any choice! Even if it’s terrible shouldn’t I get to live the way I want to?”
  647. “Well it’s not like you’re any better,” said Cuddle Pie, “You want to force all the humans to go back to the old world and be ‘free’ right? Both of us want to force the other to do something they don’t want to do.”
  648. “I don’t want to force you to do anything! I’d totally just leave you alone if I could. You want to be slaves? Fine! But I don’t.”
  649. >Cuddle Pie was taken back by the idea.
  650. “But don’t you want to kill all the ponies and force us to go back to work for Amazon?” Cuddles asked. “And make us practice some weird Earth religion?”
  651. >Usually the few humans who got through the system tried to give those ‘chic tracks’ to the kids.
  652. “No! We don’t even want o fight anyone or even try to free all of you. We just want to be alone.”
  653. >That was an opinion Cuddle Pie never heard before, never expected to hear.
  654. “Well…”
  655. >Cuddle actually wasn’t sure what to say to that.
  656. “Who are you talking to?”
  657. >A second, larger human came lumbering out of the forest.
  658. >This one was an adult! Adults were never as reasonable or kind as children!
  659. >He looked at them with a bit of fear, but his look was far more serious than Diem’s. There was no chance he’d hesitate to kill them!
  660. “Okay! We gotta run!” Tourmaline grabbed Cuddles and started running with her.
  661. >Only through the brush they couldn’t move very fast.
  662. “What were you doing?!” The adult scolded Diem. “Don’t you know what-?!”
  663. “I don’t think they’re-“ Diem tried to say.
  664. “They have those chips inside them! The ponies know where they are right now!” The adult reached for something. “We have to short it out.”
  665. >The adult took out a smaller, gun-like object and shot it at Cuddle Pie. Cuddle felt a surge of electricity run through her. Her body tensed up and she fell to the ground.
  678. >The two girls weren’t much against a bunch of wild beasts and were subdued and dragged back to their nest (or whatever it was called, it sure looked like an ants nest).
  679. >Cuddle Pie herself had been unsure whether mentioning she was Pinkie Pie’s pet would help or hurt the situation, bounced back and forth between talking and not as she got dragged back.
  680. >At least she didn’t have to stress over it for long. Tourmaline wasted no time in threatening them with that fact.
  681. “If I get even one broken nail or split end, Rarity’s sending all of you to the ice mines!” she kept saying.
  682. >And the mention of the elements of harmony did very clearly scare them, but whether getting them scared was a good thing or not remained to be seen.
  683. >A whole bunch of humans had been mulling about above ground when they got there but, upon hearing what happened from Diem who ran ahead, they all got scared and ran into nest.
  684. >This pack had dug up a huge network of tunnels, supported by wooden beams as you went. It looked like one of them figured out how to make cement, because Cuddle Pie die pass a few rooms that had cement floors and walls, but most of it was just dirt and wood.
  685. >Cuddle saw what looked like a computer and a bunch of TVs near the entrance, but other than that there were no signs of electricity. The place what light by candles and that made it really stuffy in the tunnels.
  686. >If there nicer parts of this nest, Cuddle Pie didn’t get to see them. Her and Tourmaline were taken to a poorly built jail and thrown inside. The bars looked like they’d been made by an amateur. The walls and floor were made of dirt which briefly made Cuddles wonder if she could just dig out of here, but those pars did look like they went down pretty deep.
  687. >Soon a crowd of adult humans were drawn in and started arguing about what to do with the two of them.
  688. >Almost all of them were panicking except for what looked like the oldest male. While her best guess for the other adults was they were all in their 20’s or thirties, this guy was probably in his 50’s or maybe even 60’s. He didn’t look scared at all… just tired.
  689. >Maybe there was some monkey instinct inside Cuddles tipping her off, but she immediately decided that this guy was in charge. She was pretty sure that the oldest male was supposed to be in charge of any group of apes.
  690. “We don’t have any choice! We have to kill them!” The youngest male finally brought up the idea Cuddles was dreading. “We chop them up and feed them to a hydra or something! And- and maybe they’ll think they were just eaten by animals and leave!”
  691. >Cuddles heart stopped beating for a moment and Tourmaline stopped calling threats out to them.
  692. “We’re not killing anyone,” the oldest male quickly squashed the idea and let Cuddle’s heart beat again. “They’re going to investigate the area no matter what we do. There’s going to be something we forgot to cover up and they’ll find it and us. Hurting these two is just unnecessary cruelty.”
  693. “Then what are we going to do?” The young male complained. “Just give up and die? Or run away.”
  694. “I think you should give us back,” said Tourmaline, still somehow brave enough to speak up. “They’re going to catch you no matter what! But if one of you were to, say, go behind everyone else’s back and bring me to Rarity? Well I’m sure you’d get rewarded instead of punished.”
  695. >None of them looked like they were about to jump on the offer. Though maybe there was a one percent chance one of them would get desperate and take the offer later.
  696. “It’s not ideal, but we need to go ahead with our plan,” The old male ignored her and turned back to the others. “It would have been better to wait another year or two, but we should be able to get to another inhabitable world if we can hold out for just a few days.
  697. “And if we have these two alive… well we can use them to buy time.”
  698. >This plan was met with nervous silence by the other humans. Their leader came up to the cage next to address the two girls.
  699. “I am Edmond Daryl,” he said.
  700. >Cuddle stared at him, wondering if she was supposed to know that name.
  701. “Do they really not tell you about me?” He stroked his beard. “They don’t even allow me that much. Well I suppose at the end of the day I’m the one responsible for all of this. I was the head engineer on the portal machine that took us to Equestria twenty years ago.”
  702. “Oh! Um… thank you?” Cuddle wasn’t sure what her reaction to that was supposed to be. “I mean, if you’re the reason I get to live with the ponies then I guess I owe you.”
  703. >Edmond looked conflicted about that response.
  704. “I’ll tell you this much since I know they’ll figure it out either way,” said Edmond. “All we’re trying to do is create a portal to another dimension, one where we can live on our own terms and restart human civilization. Without a specimen from the world we go to, there will be no way for the ponies to follow us. I have no delusions of ever fighting against Equestria or any intention of harming you. As soon as our portal is open, I’ll release you. You’ll be free to decide if you want to come with us or go back to being slaves. But I promise I have no intention of harming children.”
  705. >Obviously they’d choose being slaves.
  706. “You’re building a portal?” Tourmaline spoke up again. “Look, if you’re really that guy from history then didn’t your first portal explode and kill like ten thousand people? And now you’re going to make one in the woods?! Are none of you smart enough to have a problem with this?”
  707. >This time a few of them did look concerned.
  708. “It is a risk, without more time. I thought I’d have more,” Edmond admitted. “But making portals really isn’t that hard if you understand a few things and have certain expertise and… well I know what went wrong last time. There won’t be an explosion so there’s no need to worry about that. I’ve learned since then.”
  709. “It sounds to me like you haven’t learned anything.” Tourmaline turned her head away in a huff. “You say it was a mistake and yet here you are opening unstable portals to mystery dimensions yet again! Really, this is why you should leave complex things like portals to the ponies who know what they’re doing.”
  710. “I can’t tell you you’re wrong,” Edmond admitted. “But at least this time I can say I have no choice.”
  711. >He gestured to one of his packmates, who brough him a syringe. Cuddles didn’t like where this was going!
  712. “I don’t want you to be too afraid. This is called hypnocil.” Edmond held up the syringe. “All of us take it. All it does is prevent dreams. The Japanese made it during the war, when the found out Luna could keep anyone she wants awake for months using nightmares. Though sadly we were never able to mass produce it.”
  713. >This stuff felt wrong! You shouldn’t be allowed to sleep without Luna’s permission. She knew Luna would forgive her, but she felt bad being forced to take the injection.
  714. >They did largely leave Cuddle Pie alone after that. After an hour one of them brought her some pants and a shirt. Cuddle didn’t wear the pants, since those were for boys.
  715. >It was a little surprising they hadn’t tortured her or anything yet, but Cuddle Pie still felt sick. She curled up silently wished she were back with Pinkie, warm in her owner’s bed.
  716. >Tourmaline assured Cuddle Pie, several times an hour, that the elements of harmony would come busting in here and arrest all of these monsters soon enough! But Cuddle was less sure. Without those chips it really could be days.
  717. >After several hours, Cuddle Pie saw one of the few humans she knew the name of. It was Diem again, carrying a backpack with her.
  718. “I brought you some stuff.” Diem sat down in front of the cell and took her backpack off.
  719. >She took out some clothes first.
  720. “I brought you a skirt instead.” She held it up. “Will you wear that?”
  721. >Cuddle Pie sighed. They were really insistent on her waring more clothes. At least a skirt wouldn’t be as embarrassing as wearing pants… So she decided to put it on.
  722. “I’m a little surprised you’re so old fashioned,” said Diem. “You really think wearing pants is like… embarrassing?”
  723. “Girls don’t need sheaths,” said Cuddle Pie. “So wearing pants would be weird.”
  724. “A sheath?” Diem looked like she really didn’t know what that was. “Like for swords.”
  725. “Um…” Cuddle pie didn’t want to explain basic biology to some wild human. “Yeah.”
  726. >Diem blinked a few times before realizing what they were talking about and blushed.
  727. “If you don’t like the way we dress you don’t have to be here.” Tourmaline huffed. “I’ll have you know my cloak was designed by the best fashionista in the world!”
  728. “Your cloak looks nice, it’s just too revealing.” Diem sighed. “You’re seriously more embarrassed by wearing pants than being naked…”
  729. >Diem needed a moment to process that. Tourmaline looked down at the skirt that was offered to her, but turned her nose up at it.
  730. “You’d think someone who’s all pro human would be less ashamed of the human body.” Tourmaline rolled her eyes. “You really came down here just to make us wear these rags?”
  731. “Not really! I just feel like our conversation before got interrupted?” Diem tapped her fingers together. “And I wanted to talk to you about it more…?”
  732. >It wasn’t like Cuddle Pie had anything better to do for now…
  742. “I’m just curious what goes on in your heads.” Diem came close to the bars, sitting on her knees.
  743. >Cuddle came up to her end of the bars and sat on her knees as well.
  744. “Well I’m curious why you’d want to be a wild animal,” said Cuddles.
  745. “Are you seriously thinking about arguing with that wild animal?” Tourmaline complained. “We’re not trainers. She might get agitated and bite us.”
  746. “I’m right here, you know.” Diem glared at her. “And why do you keep calling me an animal? We’re the same species!”
  747. “We’re technically animals too, but-“
  748. “But we’re domestic,” Tourmaline finished. “It’s like the difference between wolves and dogs.”
  749. >Cuddle Pie scooted a bit closer to Tourmaline so this time Diem couldn’t hear
  750. “Look, she seems a bit smarter than a wild human should be,” Cuddle whispered. “Maybe when she hears the truth for the first time she’ll convert and let us out of here.”
  751. >Tourmaline just shrugged.
  752. >Cuddle Pie scooted back to the edge of her cage. If she was going to be honest, she didn’t have much hope in actually converting Diem so quickly. Really curiosity motivated her more. And it probably would be fun to pwn her like in those videos.
  753. “See, the problem is you have the wrong concept of ownership,” Cuddle Pie explained. Cuddles had an A in morality class so she was totally ready for this.
  754. “What do you mean?”
  755. “You see, Princess Luna owns every single thing in the entire universe. She owns every cell in your body and every hair on your head. You’ve been her property since the second you were born. You running around like you own yourself is basically stealing from our Princess. But, uh, that’s why us humans can’t own property, cause all of it belongs to Luna.”
  756. “But don’t ponies get to own things?” Diem asked.
  757. “Sort of. Technically it’s more like they lease things from Luna? But ponies are the only ones she lets have any of her things.”
  758. “But why only them? Does she just hate us?”
  759. “Of course not!” Cuddles clutched the shirt just in front of her heart. “Luna loves all of us very much! That’s why she lets us worship her and came all the way to Earth just to make us part of her herd. It’s just ponies are better than us, so it’s best for them to own stuff and take initiative and for us to support them as servants and slaves.”
  760. >It looked like Diem’s mood was starting to sour.
  761. “If Luna loves us then why did she kill millions of people?”
  762. >And now Cuddle Pie was getting a little irked too.
  763. “That was totally necessary and you know it!” She shot back. “She only gave nightmares to the bad guys. If she didn’t, the fighting would have lasted way longer and like a billion people would have died. And besides, she stopped the second anyone bowed down and worshipped her so those people basically killed themselves.”
  764. “That’s stupid!” Diem came right up to the bars. “You can’t say it’s okay to kill somebody because they didn’t bow down worship you!”
  765. “Well Luna did own all of those people anyway.”
  766. “And who the heck said Luna owns everything in the first place?!”
  767. “Luna did!”
  768. “You seriously think that’s a good argument?!”
  769. “Yes! Cause she’s Princess Luna!”
  770. >The two of them glared at one another for a moment.
  771. >This Diem was as obstinate as a wild human should be, but arguing with her was a lot harder than those cringe compilations made it out to be.
  772. >Why the heck wasn’t Diem tripping over her own ignorance and stupidity yet?
  773. “Oh come now. You know deep down you’re just another piece of Luna’s property like the two of us,” said Tourmaline. “So start acting like it! Why do you even want to stay in this dump? Wherever you’re going will be terrible too. So why not help us escape, huh? You’ll get to be a pampered pet like the two of us for sure.”
  774. “I don’t want to be a pet! I want to have rights and be free!”
  775. “Which rights are worth not having utilities and living in a hole without chocolate or crickets or clean clothes?”
  776. “Well things will get better once we get to the new world…” Diem didn’t sound so sure.
  777. >This looked like it might their in! Even Cuddle Pie could tell Diem wasn’t happy living in squalor like this.
  778. “Yeah! We’ve never had any rights and we’re way better off than you,” Cuddles promised. “It’s because we have ponies to supervise and take care of us now. And I feel like I gave up nothing in return.”
  779. “What about the right to our own culture?” Diem asked. “You’re only allowed to see the stuff ponies let you see! I want to be able to read or watch anything I want.””
  780. “I’ve seen a bunch of human movies. All three Star Wars, Battlefield Earth, The Last Airbender, Jack and Jill, Epic Movie… We’re allowed to watch them, they’re just… lame. The stuff ponies make is way better! That’s why it’s better for them to make the movies and us to help.”
  781. “Other than Star Wars, I never heard of any of those…” Diem thought for a moment before reaching into her bag.
  782. >She pulled out two books.
  783. “Anyway! I’m still pretty sure they don’t let you read books like this!” Diem held one of them up. “This one’s called 1984! You should let me read it to you.”
  784. >Cuddle Pie scratched her head. Human books were usually really boring and poorly written, but it was either that or stare at the wall…
  785. “Alright.”
  811. >Diem didn’t read the whole of the two books to Cuddle Pie, they were too long, but she did leave them in the cell for Cuddles to read on her own time.
  812. >The book Diem read for Cuddle Pie was both the most and least human novel she’d ever seen.
  813. >It was the same in how bleak it was. Before they got to worship Celestia, humans basically had no hope or meaning in life. Their art reflected that. It was always so pessimistic. In science fiction it was always ‘we’re all gonna kill ourselves if we invent one more thing!’ In romance it was always betrayal and cheating. In fantasy it was always grimdark and sadness.
  814. >Contrast this with pony art which was usually optimistic and triumphant!
  815. >1984 was clearly very pessimistic, no doubt cause this Orwell guy never heard of Celestia and just couldn’t imagine a better future because of it. Like it made you briefly think there was maybe some chance the hero was going to overthrow the evil government and maybe make a slightly less evil human government (because, let’s face it, without ponies it wasn’t getting much better) but then nope, it was just a trap.
  816. >And now he was in some torture chamber.
  817. >But at the same time it was different too. Every other piece of human media Cuddle Pie had ever seen was so poorly written. She’d look at the art humans made and the art ponies made and there’d always been this huge chasm between them. And a pony would always come in, pat you on the head and tell you that this was why humans shouldn’t try making their own art but to support ponies in their art! A human couldn’t really make anything good themselves so it was better to just focus on helping the ponies make their stuff even better.
  818. >This one, though… it actually made her feel things other than boredom and humor at how terrible it was. The ideas were a lot more interesting than you’d expect a human to come up with. Some of the sentences haunted her, were better written than she’d ever expect a human to be able to come up with without the help of a pony. And, to her surprise, she actually cared about the fate of Wilson, whereas in the likes of Star Wars you just wanted all the characters to die.
  819. >She couldn’t help but imagine if a pony where here she’d point out a million little flaws in it and soon enough Cuddles would be laughing at how terrible bad it was. That’s happened with a couple novels she’d thought were pretty decent at first. But without pony supervision…
  820. >Cuddle Pie saw very early on why Diem thought these books might change her mind about things. There really were some similarities between the ‘bad guys’ in these books and the way the ponies did things. She was only a little into the Brave New World book, but obviously the whole caste thing was a crude parody of the ranks humans got in real life.
  821. >Actually she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be afraid of in that second one yet. Everyone in that world seemed just fine. They took too many drugs but other than that… Well Bernard seemed like a whinny brat compared to Wilson. The most serious problem just seemed to be that this government sucked at training humans, needed to resort to giving them brain damage and stuff. Something the ponies were above.
  822. >Reading all this stuff made Cuddle Pie feel a certain melancholy. Maybe it was that the ponies used some of the same techniques as the humans in these stories. Maybe it was because the novel was better than she’d been told humans could produce. Maybe it was just that 1984 had the same infinite bleakness that all human art had to it…
  823. “You know that stuff’s just pro-Earth propaganda, right?” Tourmaline studied her nails as best she could in the candlelight. “Propaganda is like poison. There’s a reason the ponies protect us from it.”
  824. “I know, but…” Cuddles tried thinking up an excuse her mom might except. “Well if I can refute these books maybe Diem will change her mind and become good? And then she can help us escape.”
  825. “You really have a lot of hope for that monkey, huh?” Tourmaline shrugged. “Well if you actually manage to get us out of here you’ll have my eternal gratitude.”
  826. >Shortly after, Diem came back. She spent a lot of time down here with the two other girls. Actually, Cuddle Pie hadn’t seen any other kids around their age. There were adults and then there were a bunch of little kids.
  827. >It was possible Diem was the only teenager here. And if that was the case, Cuddles wondered if she was the first girl the same age Diem had met.
  828. >Or maybe she just really liked to argue.
  829. “Did you finish the novel yet?” Diem asked, clearly expecting to have rattled Cuddle Pie by now. And maybe she had just a little…
  830. >Cuddle Pie felt like she was in something of a battle with Diem. They were both clearly trying to convert the other.
  831. >A responsible pony might chastise the two girls for competing too much. You shouldn’t compete with your herdmates…
  832. >But Diem wasn’t part of the herd, at least not until the ponies got here.
  833. >So Cuddle Pie was determined to win.
  850. “It only took Equestria a month to defeat all of the human kingdoms! Canterlot Castle is bigger than the twenty biggest buildings humans built by themselves and ponies have built tons of castles that size. Ponies have cured nearly every disease, they’ve colonized dozens of planets including Earth while the humans were never able to land a single guy on Mars. The most impressive thing humans ever did on our own was build a single portal that exploded.
  863. “Almost. I thought they were pretty good examples of why humans shouldn’t be in charge,” said Cuddles. “Twilight would never put somebody’s head in a cage filled with rats. She wants us to be happy. We don’t have to go to war anymore and we have better living conditions than the people in the book. Like that one part where he asks the old guy if things were better before or after the part took over. Well everyone knows things are better under the ponies.”
  864. “That’s not the point,” said Diem.
  865. “What do you mean that’s not the point! If we’re better off when we submit to ponies then that’s all that matters. Humans always get enslaved in some sense no matter what. That’s what happens in your books and that’s what happens in real life. I bet even in your pack there’s like, people who are being kept down, right?”
  866. >Diem folded her arms and looked off to the side.
  867. >Cuddle Pie suddenly felt sure of herself again. She really had no idea what Diem was thinking but she knew she’d gotten onto something there!
  868. “See, it’s cause we’re too competitive.” Cuddles repeated the common wisdom. “The best we can do is submit to a more cooperative species who will be nice slave owners. So, uh… how about you stop living in the wild and come submit with us?”
  869. “Why are you two in a hurry to get out of here, anyway?” Diem asked. “We’re letting you out as soon as we get the portal open. Even if you escape you’ll only be saving yourselves a day or two.”
  870. “Maybe you’re used to living like a rat but not us!” Tourmaline stood up. “I don’t want to be in this dark, stuffy hole for even one day! I want to be back with my owner! And I hardly trust wild animals to keep their promises.”
  871. “Yeah. My mom’s probably really worried about me…”
  872. >By now Diem knew that ‘Mom’ meant Pinkie Pie. That was another one of those little things that rattled her cage.
  873. >Cuddle Pie knew that was one point she had over Diem. Diem thought humans would just naturally resent being owned, as though her resentment wasn’t just more bad behavior she learned from savage first generation humans.
  874. >But like Cuddles told her, both the girls loved their owners. Most of the second generation humans had a strong appreciation for Celestia and the ponies for taking care of them too.
  875. “Do you seriously still think we’re vicious animals? Or at least that I am?” Diem asked. “Look, I’ll come back here and let you out personally if I have to.”
  876. >Cuddle Pie still didn’t know the other wild humans to know how much she could trust them. But Diem at least seemed like she was capable of telling the truth.
  877. “Well I’ll admit you’re not as cruel as I thought you’d all be. I was really expecting to get eaten by now.”
  878. >Cuddle Pie looked down at the books she’d been given. That was another thing she’d been surprised at.
  879. “And I admit these books are less… cringey than the normal human stuff I see? I didn’t even know a human was capable of making something like this.”
  880. “You weren’t?”
  881. “Well… you’re a hundred percent sure a pony didn’t help whoever wrote these?”
  882. “They were written like a hundred a fifty years ago.” Diem shook her head. “Did they tell you humans can’t make good art or something like that.”
  883. “I mean…” Cuddles didn’t want to admit that out loud. “I was just a little surprised about all this.”
  884. >Tourmaline rolled her eyes at that. Cuddle Pie already knew her objections, first of which was how overdressed they were and how tacky their clothes were.
  885. “But you do still act like animals,” Cuddles quickly added. “You don’t give Celestia any respect and don’t care about the herd at all.”
  886. “Well why would I? Don’t you see that they’re just trying to stunt your potential? I told you they didn’t let you see everything for a reason. They don’t want you to know that you can be anything without them, see? If they really cared about you they’d let you grow instead of keeping you as a pet.”
  887. >At least Cuddles wasn’t a hundred percent sure that the hiding it from her part was true. She never really wen digging through the full list of human stuff, was largely disinterested in it. The kids always talked about Equestrian art anyway.
  888. “You really think humans can compete with ponies?” Cuddle Pie rolled her eyes. Diem might as well have just said the world was flat. “Because Earth tried competing with Equestria back in that war and we beat you guys in just a few months. Just look at what ponies accomplished compared to wild humans! Like, those Earth humans tried to get a guy on Mars for a hundred years and didn’t even get close. Then the ponies show up and get a pony on Mars in two years just to show us how great they are. And it’s like that in any area you look!”
  889. “Like literature?”
  890. >Cuddles frowned. It felt almost childish for
  891. “You didn’t think a human could write a book this good right?” Diem asked. “So what if there’s all sorts of other things we can be way better at than you thought! If they mislead you about this, they’re probably doing it everywhere else. They do most of the same stuff as in the book, right?”
  892. >It was true ponies used a lot of the same techniques in those books. Clearly they worked, which was good. But if that was true, it could be remotely possible they’d lie to you.
  893. >But the idea of ponies lying seemed so wrong. Her whole life, the ponies only ever wanted to take care of them.
  894. “Don’t you want to know?” Diem asked. “Don’t you want to know what you could be capable of?”
  895. “Well…”
  896. >Cuddle Pie always felt a sense of comfort knowing she’d spend her entire life serving under Pinkie. It made life seem easy and safe. She’d never have to handle any real responsibility, the ponies would take care of all that stuff.
  897. >But there was still a chance she only felt that way because…
  898. “Not if it means going against the herd! Or my mom. Or Celestia.”
  899. >Cuddle Pie turned away. Suddenly, one of her lessons came back to mind.
  900. “And maybe they’re just keeping us in our niche! It’s like the mitochondria, right? They taught us this one in school! Cells used to be very simple and even the most complex cells couldn’t form multicellular organisms. But then a bigger, more complex cell engulfed a small, less complex one and basically enslaved it. With the small cell taking care of all the energy production, the big cells were able to grow more complex and eventually go multi-cellular!”
  901. “The smaller cells slowly changed to become more convenient to their hosts. They got simpler and turned into mitochondria instead of full cells but it was for the best of everyone. That’s just like us and the ponies. We don’t need to try and do everything ourselves anymore. We just need to focus on serving our new masters and together we can accomplish way more than we ever could have alone!”
  902. “I just don’t see why we can’t work together as equals,” said Diem.
  903. “Because we’d tried to compete with them! And we’re not equals, so…”
  904. “Can you at least understand why I could want that?” Diem asked. “Maybe we’re just different and value that more than being comfortable, but can you really say that’s wrong?”
  905. >For a brief moment Cuddles couldn’t.
  906. >Tourmaline, who’d been trying not to pay attention this whole time, looked briefly annoyed at that before stepping in.
  907. “Of course we can!” Tourmaline turned up her nose. “What does that get you? The chance to live like a filthy animal? To work 60 hours a week and be enslaved by cruel humans? Or whatever other race you run into next? Or are you hopping to be the one in a million who gets to be the slave owner? Well all you are is a petty thief trying to steal from our princess. There’s a reason all the old Earth elite got sent to the ice mines for blaspheming Celestia by claiming to be kinds and queens.”
  908. “That’s right!” Cuddles suddenly regained some of her confidence thanks to Tourmaline. “Celestia owns everything so it’s wrong for you to just leave instead of submitting to her.”
  909. >Diem rubbed her forehead, unable to think of something in response to that.
  910. “Is it really worth living like this?” Cuddles asked. “Don’t you want to live in an actual house? And get to play on the internet and have friends your age and stuff?”
  911. “I do, but…”
  912. “But your crazy ideology is worth living a miserable life for?” Cuddles suggested.
  913. “It’s not that bad.”
  914. “No electricity, no clean clothes, no plumbing, no video games or ponynet, no other teenagers, gross food? Do you even think this is going to get better in your life?”
  915. “I don’t know! Maybe it won’t, but- well there’s some ways my life is better than yours! I get to choose what work I do! I can choose who my boyfriend is and keep my kids! Those are important things.
  916. >The thought of two humans being boyfriend and girlfriend and having a little human marriage did fill Cuddles with a certain amusement. It just seemed silly for Diem to even want that.
  917. “You know they do breed us, right?” Cuddles asked. “So it’s not like we’re missing out on anything. The only difference is that girls have a spell cast on us that makes it so we can’t get pregnant unless a pony casts a fertility spell on us first. But even while you’re infertile you’re allowed to… well they call it ‘play mating’.”
  918. “And you seriously want to be ‘bred’?”
  919. “Well… maybe?” Cuddles blushed.
  920. >Fluttershy always said humans were very shy when it came to their mating habits. Cuddle Pie felt like she was just old enough to start understanding that. But it wasn’t like she didn’t want a breeding partner assigned to her either.
  921. “But what if you don’t like whoever they breed you with?” Diem asked.
  922. “I’ll be fine. I trust the ponies know what they’re doing. They do better than we do anyway. When we were allowed to breed ourselves our populations always got out of control and we propagated all kinds of diseases and…”
  923. “Diem!” One of the older humans came into the tunnel and called after her. “We need you over here. You can’t waste all of your time down here. These two won’t listen to anything you have to say anyway.”
  924. >Diem gave Cuddles a sympathetic look, not entirely believing her elder.
  925. “Sorry.” Diem got up and ran after him.
  926. >So she wasn’t as free as she like to believe.
  927. >For a second Cuddle almost felt like she was getting through to her. Tourmaline looked a little peeved at Cuddles for doubting the herd. And really Cuddle Pie couldn’t blame her. She was going to have to talk to her mom about this when they got out.
  928. >The guard carefully watched Diem walk out of the holding tunnel, his look suspicious. He’d been listening on all of this silently, of course, but the guy hadn’t said one thing to either of the girls outside of giving them food and whatnot.
  929. >That was one flaw in the little ‘convert Diem’ pipedream that Cuddle Pie just now noticed. Obviously if they ever got close he’d see it and tell Diem to stop seeing them. It was a little surprising he didn’t stop her from speaking to them yet…
  930. >The guard looked down the hall then back towards the two girls. He turned to them, holding one of the bars in his hand.
  931. “Hey listen…”
  932. >He hesitated. Cuddles had no idea what to expect from this. So far these wild humans didn’t seem nearly as cruel as she’d expect them to be, other than the whole locking them up thing, but still…
  933. “If I help you get out, you’re one hundred percent sure I won’t go to the ice mines, right?”
  935. >Diem sat on top of a cabinet, watching, along with all the science oriented humans, the newest portal turn. It stabilized just a few hours ago.
  936. “This is the most promising one so far,” Edmond, Diem’s father, told her. “The atmosphere is identical to what the Earth’s was before Amazon took over. The rotation and distance from the sun… so far it’s nearly identical to Earth.”
  937. >Diem looked through the portal. This new world really did look just like the Everfree Forest on the other end. Still it was hard for anyone to get their hopes up about this world. Diem spent her whole life getting hyped up at all the promising worlds they’d seen only to realize that trying to live in any of them would spell certain death.
  938. “Alright, you know what to do.” Edmond sent a few people through the portal. “This won’t mean a thing if this world isn’t habitable.”
  939. >That was the real problem with this project. They’d opened plenty of portals, but none of them to an inhabitable world. Either the air was unbreathable, the water undrinkable, the life inedible, the summers too hot or winters too cold or some poison in the soil, but there’d always been some reason why they wouldn’t survive in the worlds Diem saw.
  940. >Her dad was getting better at it, though. When she was a little kid, she’d never see a world with any life on it at all. Now every portal that opened had at least water, air and some life on it. But they were still chasing a tiny little narrow window.
  941. >Landing on Equestria by accident really had been a miracle. In a sense.
  942. >But hypothetically, if they got lucky just one more time, they could be out of here tomorrow.
  943. >The portal flickered for a moment and everyone stopped breathing. Everyone but Diem’s father who reacted quickly to get it back under control.
  944. >Diem understood portals way more than any kid should, thanks to her father. Opening portals over and over again on the same spot made the spacetime increasingly unstable. Making a portal every 12 hours like this was dangerous because each one was more likely to explode than the last. And this one just got close to exploding.
  945. “I know what you’re thinking.” Edmond turned to the others. “But this could be the last portal we have to make. We need to work hard and keep hope. We’ve been at this too long to lose that now!”
  946. >And it was enough to get the other back to work.
  947. >But not exactly enough for Diem. She’d been hoping her whole life and still nothing.
  948. “Hey dad?” Diem asked. “How long do you think it will take to get all of our technology back?”
  949. “Generations.” He shook his head. “But… I have no doubt that one day we’ll surpass even what we had one day. And we’ll be the first step towards that.”
  950. “But like… how long until we have electric lights?”
  951. “We already have arc lamps.”
  952. “But those are terrible!” Diem jumped off the cabinet. “I mean like, the good ones. Those laser scatter systems that can perfectly imitate sunlight and change color with the time of day and stuff. Or what about memory foam? Like the special kind that can cool or heat itself up depending on your body temperature? Is there any chance I’ll see any of these things in my lifetime?”
  953. >Diem certainly heard about all the cool things invented under the reign of Bezos, the height of human technology. But she’d never seen any of her grand heritage.
  954. “Have you been talking to those two about this?” Edmond sighed. “You know they’re only trying to tempt you. Most slaves don’t get to live like they do.”
  955. “But even F rank slaves have it better than us! They get all the old Earth technology or some better pony version. And-“
  956. “I know this life hasn’t been easy.” Her father put a hand on her shoulder. “And I’m sorry you had to endure this much. But things are about to get better soon. We can live above ground. And life really isn’t about the things you have. When I was a kid, very few people seemed to have any appreciation for our electric lights or beds or computers or phones or anything really. Most people cursed them, if anything. None of those things made them happy.”
  957. “I know.” Diem bowed her head. She’d heard all this before. The people of the past always talked about how their technology was ruining their lives… but they still enjoyed it…
  958. “What makes people happy is the ability to be themselves, to make their own identity. You’re better off than any slave because you have that and they don’t. You shouldn’t give these aliens the ability to create your identity for you just to gain a few trinkets.”
  959. >Diem nodded. That did make sense. It sounded right.
  960. “I’d ask you not to talk to those two again, but… well maybe I’d be no better than them if I did.” Edmond turned back to his work. “But that is my adevice. You should try to get some sleep. We may be very busy tomorrow.
  961. >She briefly felt better on the way back to her room. But already some doubt was creeping back in.
  963. >Diem did have her own room now, though it wasn’t that great. Her bed was four inches of foam and she was privileged to have that. Most of the other people here just had sleeping bags, foam was too valuable.
  964. >The floor had a few wooden boards over the dirt, but that was it. This was a luxury Diem had to make herself. Her whole life the grown ups kept telling her that they weren’t going to be here long enough for making nicer floors and stuff to be worth it, the portal was always going to be open ‘soon’, but soon took so long that Diem ended up carving these wood planks out herself.
  965. >And this little place was dimly light by candles too. Underground the candles ate up all the air so you had to choose between darkness and breath. The ventilation helped only a little bit.
  966. >Those two gasped when Diem described this room to them. Apparently even a slave had it better than her.
  967. >Cuddles and Tourmaline really did have her mind in a vice right now. Diem hardly thought about anything else lately. Normally she liked working hard, making things from wood felt rewarding, but lately her job got more painful. She wanted to go over there and just talk with the two of them all day.
  968. >Her curiosity towards them was something Diem herself didn’t entirely understand. It was true there weren’t any other kids growing up and the kids that were around now were all six or seven at the most. Those two may very well be the only girls her own age Diem would ever meet.
  969. >Diem lied on her back, staring at the total darkness that covered her room. Only a tiny crack of light from some far off candle got through the crack under her door.
  970. >And no matter how hard she tried to get to sleep Cuddle Pie’s bizarre mindset kept haunting her. Diem thought up comebacks to things Tourmaline had said, which would have been amazing had she said them in time. She wondered what it would be like to live in as much luxury as them, with electric lights and air conditioning. Video games were another thing she’d only ever imagine in her head.
  971. >Eventually she sat up.
  972. >Her mind was too busy to sleep. Of course it went straight to Cuddles…
  973. >Well if time was running out maybe she should go over and spend it with her peers. Talk to them a little more before things ended one way or the other!
  974. >Maybe they couldn’t sleep, either.
  975. >Now that she thought about it, she could understand why those two might be scared of the whole situation.
  976. >Diem decided to maybe not try to start a debate with Cuddle Pie this time. They could talk about something more neutral, like comparing all the movies they knew of.
  977. >Maybe they could talk about girl stuff like… what?
  978. >They were both basically nudists, so no clothes. Diem didn’t know any boys her age. And then that birth control spell the ponies cast on them made it so they couldn’t have periods. That last part sounded nice, but that knocked out all the stereotypical stuff.
  979. >She’d think of something.
  980. >Diem light a single candle and moved down the dark hallways towards the cell where they were kept.
  981. >Something seemed wrong before she even got there. The guard was missing…
  982. >Diem looked into the cell…
  983. >The girls were missing too!
  988. >Diem had to tell somebody! She had to-!
  989. >Suddenly the monster alarm went off. That happened often enough for its own dedicated alarm.
  990. >No way that was a coincidence. Somebody must have pulled it on purpose. Maybe somebody already noticed or…
  991. >Actually that would be the worst alarm to set off, because the meeting place for that one was far away from all of the exits! What if whoever did this pulled the alarm?!
  992. >Or then again it could have just been some other guard noticed and made a stupid decision.
  993. >But still! Maybe Diem should run towards the exits and-
  994. >She got two steps before thinking better of it.
  995. >They likely had the help of one of the guards… which meant they’d have guns with them. She was hardly a ninja or anything. She wouldn’t be able to deal with that alone!
  996. >So she decided to go to the meeting area first. All the exits had been welded shut anyway, so it’d take a while to cut through the doors.
  997. >A whole crowd of people were there, already armed. Just in case she wasted no time blurting out what she’d seen.
  998. “Cuddle Pie and Tourmaline escaped!” Diem called out as soon as she was close enough.
  999. >Their day guard seemed to be the one everyone was gathered around. Her turned towards her.
  1000. “We know. The night guard was the one who let them out,” he said. “I followed them to the west exit, but they had guns so I need backup to go after them.”
  1001. >And that did make sense… that must have been what happened.
  1002. >Soon the group of adults were all off to the west exit.
  1003. >Diem really wanted to see what happened herself, but the adults kept telling her to go back to her room. It might be dangerous…
  1004. >She reluctantly started back, but something about this didn’t set well with her.
  1005. >Her initial reaction had been that whoever pulled the alarm was the one who let them go… and it was one of the guards. Diem didn’t know that guy’s name or how likely it would have been for him to come back to the cell, but still…
  1006. >Maybe leading everyone to the wrong exits just seemed like too brilliant an idea in her mind.
  1007. >She knew for a fact she wouldn’t be able to sleep unless she took a peek at the other exits. She didn’t really expect to find anyone, she was just paranoid recently, but still…
  1008. >Diem headed towards the east exist, farthest from where that guard was leading everyone else.
  1009. >There was a long hallway leading to the east exit, followed by a short area with just a few rooms before the actual exit. It was unlikely anyone but the people watching the exit were down here after that alarm.
  1010. >She got down to the end of the long hall and turned to find.
  1011. >Tourmaline!
  1012. >For a brief moment, Tourmaline looked stunned too. Maybe she hadn’t expected Diem of all people to show up.
  1013. >Tourmaline was armed though! She had a rifle in her left hand and a tranquilizer gun in her right. Cuddles didn’t look like she was nearby.
  1014. “Okay, you found me. But looks like I’m the one with the guns now,” Tourmaline pointed one of them, the tranquilizer, at Diem. “You sit and be quiet or else.”
  1015. >Diem backed away, scared momentarily… but then she noticed that the safety was on on the real gun. Tourmaline clearly never used one of these before. The fact she wasn’t threatening to shoot with that one meant she didn’t want to. Maybe. And as for the tranquilizer…
  1016. “That doesn’t have any ammo, does it?” Diem asked. “Those only have two bullets. And if you had any left you’d have shot me with one, right?”
  1017. “Yeah well…” Tourmaline’s confidence wavered for a moment before picking up. “Well do you feel lucky?”
  1018. >Diem glanced one more time to double check that the safety on the real gun was on before deciding she was.
  1019. >She jumped forward, grabbing for the real gun. She didn’t get tranquilized and it turned out Tourmaline wasn’t that tough. Pushing her to the ground after getting the real gun wasn’t too much trouble.
  1020. >Diem took the safety off and fired the gun straight up. The sound would surely bring someone over!
  1021. >She moved back down the hallway, firing a few more shots in the air. It took a moment, but…
  1022. >People actually did come! Mere moments later two people showed up. One of them was a man she knew the name of, Julian, and the other… she wasn’t so sure of his name.
  1023. >But now Tourmaline couldn’t get away.
  1024. “Quick!” Tourmaline beat Diem to the whole yelling thing. “We have to run for it!”
  1025. >Tourmaline grabbed the stunned Diem and dragged her down the hall. By the time Diem realized what had happened, it was already too late. The two men had caught up with them.
  1026. “Crap! I think the jig is up!” Tourmaline put her gun down. “Put your weapon down, Diem! I don’t want to get shot! These guys are vicious animals!”
  1027. “Huh?” Diem looked down at the gun she’d just taken from Tourmaline.
  1028. >Admittedly this did look bad.
  1029. “Diem…” Julian stepped forward. “Were you seriously-?”
  1030. “I wasn’t helping her!” Diem yelled back.
  1031. “What?!” Tourmaline looked horrified. “That was a fast betrayal! It’s about what I’d expect from a wild human!”
  1032. >Tourmaline gave her a shove.
  1033. “Don’t listen to her! She’s lying to you!”
  1034. >But sadly, Tourmaline was a great actor. The two men looked unsure of who to believe.
  1035. “She has been talking to them a lot,” Julian suggested to the other. “And she’s been complaining non-stop about how bad we have it since she started talking to them…”
  1036. “She realized you lived like rats.” Tourmaline shrugged. “Can you really blame her? In fact, why don’t you two help us out, huh? You can’t seriously want to-“
  1037. “Cuddle Pie is down that way.” Diem pointed towards the east exit. “She’s going to the east exit. You have to get there now before she gets through the door.”
  1038. >Tourmaline feigned confusion before pretending to snap out of it.
  1039. “What are- Oh! Yeah!” Tourmaline nodded a bit too hard. “That’s ABSOLUTELY where Cuddles went! To the east exit! Uh- please don’t hurt her, mister!”
  1040. >Tourmaline was good at pretending to be a bad actor too…
  1041. >She was trying to buy time by confusing everyone! And it was working! These two idiots clearly had no idea what to think.
  1042. >Diem gritted her teeth and stared at Tourmaline with absolute hatred.
  1043. “Sorry!” She put up her hands in her defense. “We can’t all be good at smooth talking as you are. Er- whoops”
  1044. >Tourmaline gave the guards a worried look and that finally convinced them that the girls had split up.
  1045. “Look, I’ll take these two back with me.” He grabbed one girl with each hand. “And I’ll let anyone I see know to come down here. You go to the east entrance and-”
  1046. “No! This a distraction! We have to go to the east exit right now!”
  1047. “Yeah!” Tourmaline agreed. “Cause- uh- dyuh… Actually I’m just going to be quiet now.”
  1048. >And Julian let out a frustrated sigh. They totally weren’t going there! Diem had to do it herself!
  1049. >She swung the gun and hit Julian in the shin just hard enough to make following her and dragging her back hard. Then she ran down the tunnel.
  1050. “Well I’ll just-“ Tourmaline started to side step away.
  1051. >The remaining man got occupied with trying to grab Tourmaline, who began to thrash about.
  1052. >Diem didn’t see what happened next. She just ran as fast as she could to the east exist. They’d already wasted way too much time!
  1053. >Like she thought, the two guards there had been hit with the tranquilizer bullets.
  1054. >And the door was already opened…
  1055. >Diem ran outside!
  1060. >Cuddle Pie made it outside!
  1061. >She looked towards the dark sky for any pegasi, her flare ready. It was likely they were still making patrols over the area.
  1062. >And luck really was with her tonight! She saw a pegasus flying over the air! They were high up, but surely she’d see the flare.
  1063. >Cuddles pointed the flare to the sky and-
  1064. >Then she was tackled to the ground from behind. She turned to see it was… Diem of all people?! How did Tourmaline not stop her if she was by herself?
  1065. >Diem only had Cuddle Pie’s leg. She might still be able to get out of this… But she’d dropped the flare a few feet ahead.
  1066. “Stop this!” Diem begged. “All you’re doing is forcing something we don’t want onto us!”
  1067. “Why the heck do you want to live like a bunch of animals?!” Cuddles shot back. “I know you’re not happy down there so why are you fighting trying to keep freedoms that are only going to make you miserable?! Do you think you’ll suddenly be happy if you get to live in some other forest?!”
  1068. >Diem didn’t have an answer this time, only a pained expression. Her grip weakened for a second in a slight admission of defeat.
  1069. >Cuddles got free and scrambled for the gun.
  1070. >At that moment Diem seemed so conflicted. Cuddles decided to give Diem one last chance to do the right thing and willingly submit to the ponies.
  1071. >But Diem spoke first. One glance at that pegasus circling over head was enough to fill her with fear.
  1072. “Look, we already have a portal open. You can just let us leave.” Diem begged. “We’ll probably be gone by tomorrow morning. I’m sure you won’t get in trouble with the ponies. You can just say you failed to escape.”
  1073. >It wasn’t easy seeing how scared Diem was of the ponies. It was enough to make Cuddle Pie hesitate with the flare for a moment. She wasn’t a bad person, just a little ignorant when it came to religion, so she shouldn’t be scared of the ponies.
  1074. >Cuddle Pie really did like Diem… taking the one thing the girl wanted away from her just didn’t feel right.
  1075. >But at the same time she understood that the ponies knew better than either of them. Ultimately the two of them belonged to Luna, so letting Diem make a choice like this was blasphemy. Cuddles loved her goddess and wanted to do what was best for the herd and making Diem a loyal member of it was better than letting her escape.
  1076. >Enslaving her was the logical and moral thing to do. But Cuddles still felt weak.
  1077. >Right now she doubted too many things… but still she forced herself to push on and do what she knew was right.
  1078. “N-no!” Cuddles called out to her. “This is your last chance to turn yourself in and have a better life! I’ll tell them you helped me escape. You can stop living out in the woods! You’ll have more access to all the old technology than you ever would if you leave. The ponies will take care of you and all you have to do is submit. I don’t… I don’t understand why you wouldn’t…”
  1079. >Diem shook her head.
  1080. “I don’t get why you can’t just…” Diem was trembling, almost in tears.
  1081. >Doing the right thing suddenly got a lot harder.
  1082. >They stared at one another for what felt like a long time saying nothing. Maybe…
  1083. >Both girls took one step towards one another. Then, startled, took a step back.
  1084. >Had Diem seriously been about to give in?!
  1085. >Now suddenly both of them were horrified that they’d taken even that one step and broke off into running again.
  1086. >Cuddle Pie shot off her flare.
  1087. >Diem tackled Cuddle Pie back to the ground and tried to cover her mouth. But it was too late. The pegasus was coming down!
  1088. >And it was Rainbow Dash!
  1089. “Rainbow Dash!” Cuddles yelled up at the pegasus. She bit Diem’s hand giving her just enough time to call out a second time. “Rainbow Dash!”
  1090. >Thankfully the pegasus heard her just in time.
  1091. >She very quickly saw what was going on and pulled Diem off Cuddle Pie.
  1092. >Dash scooped Diem up into the air, holding the girl under her armpits. Diem thrashed about in the air, violently kicking the air.
  1093. “I don’t think this one’s fully grown yet- hey!” Dash had to struggle to keep hold of her. “Quit struggling kid, I’m trying to help you get enslaved over here!”
  1094. >When she realized Diem wasn’t going to top kicking, Dash tapped the side of her neck with her boot. This spell Cuddles had seen before. The boots were enchanted with a magic that was used as a tranquilizer for humans.
  1095. >Diem’s kicking died down quickly. Dash put her back on the ground and Fluttershy came in to take over. But Diem still tried hard to keep her eyes opened.
  1096. “There there.” Fluttershy patted her on the head. “Just be a good girl and go to sleep. When you wake up you’ll be in a better place.”
  1097. >Diem had no choice but to follow Fluttershy’s advice.
  1098. “Poor little girl.” Fluttershy stroked her back. “She still looks pretty young. Her ears aren’t pierced so she must have been born out in the woods! These wild humans must be breeding out of control for years by the looks of things. At least we got to this one before she got old enough to start giving birth to even more wild humans. They say when you catch a wild female you’re not just taking her out of the wild, but all of her offspring too!”
  1099. “Wait, this one’s a girl human?” Dash poked Diem where her cutie mark should be. “But it’s wearing pants. That doesn’t make any sense.”
  1100. “Wild animals aren’t known for being rational.,” said Fluttershy. “Wild humans teach their offspring to do all sorts of silly things. She’s just never had anypony to teach her proper behavior.”
  1101. >Fluttershy moved on to Cuddle Pie next. She checked Cuddle Pie over for injuries.
  1102. >As relieved as she should be, Cuddles was still shaking at her confrontation with Diem, looking over the sleeping girl. She was going to be a slave now because of Cuddles.
  1103. >Fluttershy picked up on Cuddle Pie’s fear, at least.
  1104. “Well it’s okay, you’re safe now!” Fluttershy gave her a hug. “I’m so glad we found you! Pinkie’s been worried sick about her little pet, you know!”
  1105. “Th-thank you, ma’am.” Cuddles hugged Fluttershy back.
  1106. >Cuddles looked at Diem’s sleeping body, unable to fully relax.
  1107. “But where’s Rarity’s pet?” Dash was fiddling with some device. “What was her name, tortoise?”
  1108. “Tourmaline’s still inside,” said Cuddles. “She should be close to the entrance. Go right once you get in.”
  1109. “Right.”
  1110. >About two dozen ponies teleported in a second later, summoned by Dash.
  1111. >Among them were Twilight, Rarity and…
  1112. “Cuddles!” Pinkie jumped on her right away. “Oh, Cuddle Pie! I was so scared! I didn’t sleep for days! You’re safe with mommy now, okay?”
  1113. >The moment Cuddle Pie saw Pinkie Pie, all of her fear and doubt vanished right away. Ever since she was little, her mom had been her greatest source of comfort and meaning.
  1114. “I love you so much, Cuddles!” Pinkie hugged her tight. “You’re the absolute best pet I ever had!”
  1115. >She really did love her mom! Her owner was the most important person, the most important thing to her! Her reason for living! Being with Pinkie really was worth anything.
  1116. “I love you too, Mommy!” Cuddles hugged her back, crying tears of happiness. “Thank you!”
  1117. >For the moment, at least, all the doubt was gone. There was only her mom.
  1118. “You can stay out here, Pinkie,” said Twilight. “The rest of us will take care of this little infestation.”
  1119. “Hopefully this is the last of it.” Dash rolled her eyes. “I want wild humans to just go extinct already.”
  1120. >Cuddles watched as the others went inside to ‘take care’ of the wild humans.
  1126. >The ‘fight’ went about as well aos it ever went for the humans. Not a scratch on the ponies and all of the humans were soon crowded into their little cages, subjugated and subdued as was natural fitting for their race.
  1127. >But one thing had Twilight excited about all of this, besides rescuing two of her friend’s pets. One of them was Equestria’s most wanted human… Daryl, the man who opened the portal in the first place.
  1128. >Twilight was grinning ear to ear at him in his little cage.
  1129. “You got quiet the rap sheet! Attempted theft of 500 humans. Unauthorized reproduction. Unauthorized creation of a portal. Owning property, building guns and… oh, petnapping! Do you have anything to say? ‘Sorry’? ‘I guess you really are my better’? Anything like that?”
  1130. >He just glared at her silently while Twilight kept grinning. This part of subjugating humans was always the most fun.
  1131. “Well! Despite all of your crimes, I promise I won’t take it out on your daughter. In fact, I’ll personally make sure she’d reeducated myself! She won’t have to suffer from your backwards way of thinking. I’ll make sure she’s a happy, well adjusted slave like Tourmaline here who loves her princess and serves the herd selflessly!”
  1132. >Twilight beamed at him, satisfied with her peace offering. She really did believe in the magic of friendship and punishing some girl for the mistakes of her father would go against all of her morals. If this was going to be the last time Twilight would see this guy, she wanted it to end on a peaceful note like this.
  1133. >But he clearly didn’t see it as a peace offering.
  1134. >Of course! They were all completely backwards!
  1135. “Please just leave her alone,” he begged, almost crying over the fact that his disgusting ideals wouldn’t be forced onto his daughter
  1136. “Leave her alone?!” Twilight gritted her teeth at the idea. “You seriously want me to ‘leave her alone’ and let her be completely miserable just to preserve your hatred of friendship in her head? What kind of father are you?!”
  1137. >He didn’t have an answer for that.
  1138. “You know, we really do try so hard to be friendly towards you people! We taught you about our princesses and the magic of friendship. We used our magic to give you better lives. We helped you all reach your full potential as our subordinates, to evolve past being a solitary species into part of our herd and still you’re so… ungrateful! Why don’t you accept our friendship?!”
  1139. >She’d gotten answer to that before, claims that subjugating someone wasn’t ‘true friendship’. In their uncivilized minds you needed perfect equality or else it wasn’t ‘true friendship’. But as a solitary species they just didn’t understand that inter-species friendship was something different. You weren’t supposed to be equal to other species, but fulfill your role.
  1140. >Humans were friendly towards the superior pony race by dutifully serving as slaves and accepting the new, superior way of thinking. Ponies were friendly towards humans by subjugating them, getting rid of all their unneeded (and frankly blasphemous) rights and connection to their toxic cultures. The ponies helped the lesser races evolve into a proper herd species, proper servants of ponykind and the princesses.
  1141. >Twilight was ready to say all that. But now he said nothing.
  1142. “Well they are just wild animals,” said Fluttershy. “You can’t expect them to be well behaved. Their old culture is just so nasty and hostile. It’s like they have a disease.”
  1143. “Yes. My generation is very grateful for everything you ponies have done for us, Lady Twilight.” Tourmaline bowed down to her.
  1144. “Thanks.” Twilight patted Tourmaline on the head. “I apologize. Your species really are nice once domesticated. I just can’t relate to these ferals at all. Though I guess that’s the whole point of realigning your viewpoints with ours.”
  1145. “I’m so sorry you had to go through all of this! You poor thing!” Rarity dotted on her pet yet again, stroking her long white hair. “You point out whichever humans were meanest to you and I’ll take them as my cut! Then for the rest of their lives all their hard work will go straight to my pocket and I’ll make sure to buy you lots of presents with whatever money they make.”
  1146. >Rarity had been giving her pet lots of attention, petting her or else making Tourmaline pet her in return. Both of them seemed to relieved to be back together again.
  1147. “Thank you very much, mistress.” Tourmaline bowed to her. “I’m sure they’ll be glad to know their productivity will only benefit you from now on.”
  1148. >And Rarity smiled wide and gave her pet a pat on the head.
  1149. >Speaking of cuts of the loot….
  1150. >A little later Twilight brought the group to the sleeping children they’d gathered up and tranquilized. All of them were lumped together in a pile, all of them eight years or younger. These slaves would be much more valuable in the long run.
  1151. “Aw, aren’t they just adorable?” Fluttershy cooed at the pile of sleeping humans. “They must be traumatized from having to be free their whole lives. I’m so glad we could help them before they turned out like their parents.
  1152. >Twilight looked over the report detailing all the assets in this nest.
  1153. “Alright, so Celestia gets to keep 20 of these kids as state property and then… that leaves two for each of the rest of you!” Twilight announced to the ponies who helped with the mission. “Obviously you can’t take a feral child back home with you… unless you’re trained like Fluttershy… but you’ll get to choose to either sell them to the kennel or pay the kennel to reeducate them for you.”
  1154. “Reeducating kids this age shouldn’t be much of a problem.” Fluttershy trotted along the row of sleeping kids, finally finding a young girl she liked. “Aw! This one’s so cute! I’m taking this one back home with me!”
  1155. “What about this one?” Dash looked over Daryl’s daughter, Diem. She was the only teenager here. “This one’s like the teenager version of a human, right? Like Cuddle Pie? Who gets to keep her?”
  1156. >Diem was also the only one awake. She’d been the first one to get tranquilized and was just now waking up. She didn’t look too happy about getting rescued right now, but that would change.
  1157. “Well she’s the daughter of our little insurgent.” Twilight gave Diem an exhausted look as the panic set in on the girls face. “But there’s no need for her to worry. All that means is she’ll get special attention in her training. Did you want to keep her?”
  1158. “I dunno. I am the one who took her out.” Dash looked Diem over. “A little scrawny, but probably cause she’s not eating enough. Hey! You want to come work for me, kid?”
  1159. “No!” Diem growled. “I hate you! You destroyed our civilization! I’ll never work for you! I’ll sit in a cage my whole life if I have to!”
  1160. “She’s the one who forced Cuddle Pie those stupid books.” Tourmaline immediately ratted her out. “Though she did seem a little hesitant near the end, like she was actually thinking for the first time in her life.”
  1161. >That was another thing Twilight would have to deal with. Cuddle Pie got brought back home already, but if Pinkie’s pet was depressed from reading something traumatic… well then it was Twilight’s problem too.
  1162. “Heh! You know I like kids your age who got a bit of fight in em!” Dash ruffled Diem’s hair. “It’s a little hard to break you in, but once you do you’ll be super devoted, I can tell! And we got you just in time before you started to become all set in your ways- the wrong ways that is. Let’s see… I’ll name you… Rainbow Storm.”
  1163. “I already have a name.” Storm complained.
  1164. “Of course you do, Stormy! I just gave you one!” Dash, and all the other ponies, chuckled. “Sides, I think she’d look good with rainbow colored hair. That’s important.”
  1165. “Rainbow colored hair?” Storm glared at Dash’s mane.
  1166. “Yeah! All my slaves get their hair dyed rainbow colors, you know. Gotta mark your property, you know?” Dash winked at her.
  1167. “I’m not dying my hair!” Storm tried to remain stern. “And I’m not changing my name or
  1168. “You’re hardly the first obstinate human we dealt with,” said Twilight. “And I made a promise to your father to make sure you become well adjusted to your new habitat, so you’ll get to be trained by Starlight Glimmer, my best trainer! She’ll have you saying ‘yea ma’am’ and happily embracing your new role in life in… well it rarely takes her more than a year!”
  1169. “I get to have my slave trained by Starlight?” Dash smiled. “Sweet!”
  1170. >Storm suddenly grew quiet. Undoubtably images from that nasty book she read were coming into her head, informing what her ‘reeducation’ would be like.
  1171. >But thankfully for everypony, the ponies had much better reeducation techniques. As she’d soon see…
  1181. >For a few hours, Cuddle Pie was elated to be back home, safe with her mom.
  1182. >Pinkie dotted on her constantly that night, constantly hugging her and assuring her nothing that scary would happen again.
  1183. >Cuddle Pie got to eat her favorite take out- fried giant spider legs from Spider Joe’s, and Pinkie let her have two desserts that night. She got a bath with extra bubbles
  1184. >Cuddles almost always got to sleep on the master bed with her mom. The only real exception was when Pinkie had her stallion over for the night, which was getting a bit more frequent. She used to sleep on the smaller pet bed in Pinkie’s slave room when that happened, though she was now deemed old enough to ‘not explode’ from seeing ‘adult stuff’ and was allowed to sleep at the foot of Pinkie’s bed even then… though she was still too shy to do it most of the time.
  1185. >Now Cuddles was lying on her back in the bed, with Pinkie lying with her stomach against Cuddle’s, the pony resting her chin on Cuddle Pie’s chest while Cuddle Pie stroked her back and scratched behind her ears.
  1186. >In Equestrian culture, petting a pony was a display of total submission to the pony you were petting. Cuddle Pie was essentially humbling herself and showing Pinkie how devoted she was to her owner. And Cuddle Pie really was showing her devotion.
  1187. >But slowly the feeling of relief started dying down and the feeling of… uncertainty at what she’d done crept back up.
  1188. >Pinkie noticed the moment her pets became less enthusiastic.
  1189. “What’s wrong, Cuddle Pie?” Pinkie looked up at her pet with concern.
  1190. >Cuddles hesitated to answer.
  1191. “Are you upset I didn’t rescue you fast enough?” Pinkie looked apologetic to the point of being a little scared. “You gotta admit that whole situation was pretty contrived! But I’m still really sorry it happened…”
  1192. >Cuddle Pie really couldn’t doubt that her mom loved her. Obviously you wouldn’t keep someone as a pet unless you liked them…
  1193. “It’s not that,” said Cuddle Pie. “Um… humans are inferior ponies, right?”
  1194. “Oh sure! All the lesser races are inferior to us. We’re the most superior beings ever! But you know you don’t gotta feel bad about that right?” Pinkie looked at her with sudden concern. “Cause as long as you’re submitting to us it’s like you’re superior too!”
  1195. >Cuddle Pie nodded. It made sense. She WANTED to submit to the ponies because… that’s just what you did to superior beings. Humans were lucky that the ponies accepted their submission.
  1196. >But she still felt bad…
  1197. “Oh no! Did those wild humans try to brainwash you?! Did they teach you bad behavior?!” Pinkie put her hooves over her mouth. “Twilight warned me something like that might happen! They didn’t teach you to try and be independent or- or want equality or anything gross like that, did they? Cause it’s all lies! Little pets like you are way better off just staying dependent and living with their mommy their whole life.”
  1198. “Of course I don’t want independence!” Cuddle Pie bowed down all the way to Pinkie immediately. “My purpose in life is only to serve you, Mistress. I really don’t want anything else.”
  1199. >The trainers always said that certainty in your purpose was very comforting to humans. One of the reasons the old generation humans were so neurotic was because they didn’t have ponies to tell them what their purpose in life was. Cuddle Pie was starting to appreciate that fact…
  1200. “That’s good!” Pinkie nuzzled her nose against Cuddle Pie’s. “You know Mommy loves her little pet so much, right? I wanted you to be a happy, productive slave since the moment you bot bornified! You know I wouldn’t have raised you to be my subservient slave unless I though it was the absolute bestest thing for my little girl, right?”
  1201. >Cuddle Pie nodded. Not one single thing in her whole life gave her the impression that her mom wanted anything but the best for her. There’d really never been a single moment she’d felt unloved by her owner.
  1202. “I really am grateful all the work you put into domesticating me.”
  1203. “Then you know you can trust me, right?” Pinkie asked. “You gotta tell me whatever bad thoughts they put in your head so I can help get rid of them and you can be happy again!”
  1204. “It’s just…” Cuddles slowly sat up so Pinkie was sitting on her lap now. “Well the trainers always told me that humans can’t do anything great on our own. We’re supposed to put ourselves under you if we want to accomplish anything.”
  1205. >Pinkie nodded like she was still waiting for the problem.
  1206. “But…” Cuddle Pie tapped her fingers together. “Diem-“
  1207. “Storm!” Pinkie quickly corrected her. “We only use Equestrian names and Rainbow Dash changed her name to that.”
  1208. >Cuddle Pie learned, at least, that Rainbow Storm had become Rainbow Dash’s slave. Dash really was a nice pony, so Storm would be happy so long as she learned to bow and submit…
  1209. “Sorry… Storm showed me some books that were… a lot better than I thought a human would be able to make on their own. I always thought if a human tried to write a book on her own it’d just be total garbage! But they… weren’t…”
  1210. “It’s not like humans can’t do ANYTHING without us, silly. You guys were actually pretty smart for a bunch of wild animals. The second smartest species, even! It’s just that you could never accomplish more on your own than a pony can with your help. We’re just way too superior for you to ever hope to compete with, so it’s best for you to just… not compete! See? That’s why it’s best for you guys to just be cogs in the herd and support us instead of being all gross and independent.”
  1211. >Pinkie stuck her tongue out.
  1212. “Basically it goes human on her own, pony on her own then pony with a human slave helping her.” Pinkie slowly moved her hoof from left to right, illustrating it.
  1213. “It’s not just that though!” Cuddle Pie shook her head. “All the Earth art I was shown was so terrible that… well were you only showing me bad stuff on purpose? Because… if I’m going to submit and depend on you then I need to trust you’ll take care of me! And I don’t want to be… lied to.”
  1214. “Well I’m not the one who picks what pops up on the ponynet first.” Pinkie lowered her ears. “We don’t delete anything made by the older cultures… just hide some of it a bit so it can’t hurt you. I’m sure Starlight and Twilight a good reason for putting the stuff you’ve seen first. What was the name of it?”
  1215. “1984?”
  1216. >Pinkie tapped her compucrystal, brining up a holographic screen in front of her. She quickly found the book on the pony net and an illusion of it appeared before them.
  1217. >It was there. Cuddles actually checked a while ago to see and the ponies hadn’t tried to delete the book or anything.
  1218. >But it did have a big warning: ‘The contents of this book may be harmful to humans. Pony guidance is advised’.
  1219. “Hmmm.” Pinkie rubbed her chin, reading it over. “Sounds… harmful! I bet those wild humans just showed you this cause they knew it’d hurt your brain.”
  1220. >Actually… that was something Cuddle Pie hadn’t considered before… what if this book was maliciously picked.
  1221. “Earth culture was crazy toxic, you know?” Pinkie hopped back on the bed with the ethereal version of the book. “It’s why we try to protect you from it! It can make you all sad and depressed like this.”
  1222. >Cuddles did have to admit reading this book made her a little sick…
  1223. “But D- Storm didn’t seem like a bad person who’d do something like that… “
  1224. “A lot of things wild humans do is just bad habits they got taught by their parents. Maybe she didn’t even mean to hurt you. It’s like- monkey see monkey do, right? That’s why we gotta raise you guys ourselves for a generation or two.”
  1225. “But that’s another thing! I thought wild humans would be way worse, but they were just going to let me go… I don’t want to, but I keep feeling like maybe I was lied to?”
  1226. >Cuddles looked at Pinkie with just a little fear. That book left her thinking that she’d get demoted or punished for asking this kind of question. It was true that state slaves could get demoted for having too many temper tantrums like this.
  1227. >So far Pinkie had only given her looks of sympathy, like Cuddle Pie was telling her she had a fever.
  1228. “I’m not gonna get demoted for asking you this, right?” Cuddle Pie asked.
  1229. “Of course I’m not gonna demote you just like that, silly!” Pinkie grabbed Cuddles in a hug. “You know I love you, right? And I want you to be happy?”
  1230. “Yeah! I love you too, mom.”
  1231. “Well does being all doubty make you happy or sad?”
  1232. “It makes me feel sick! I want to serve the herd and Princess Luna, but I can’t stop thinking about this…”
  1233. “I think my little baby is just traumatized.” Pinkie nodded and gave Cuddles a pat on the head. “But we still gotta get rid of all this doubt. How about this? We’ll get you therapy and uh- oh! I can have Starlight talk to you! She’s the one in charge of all this media stuff so she can answer your questions way better than I can! I’m sure Starlight can put all these nasty little monkey doubts to rest.”
  1234. >Cuddles could ask Starlight herself about this?
  1235. >She knew a lot of famous ponies, to be fair, but Starlight Glimmer was a famous pony she never actually got to meet. She was super popular with human kids because of all those cringe compilations and ponytube videos she made.
  1236. >If Cuddles got to talk to Starlight… she’d get answers for sure!
  1237. “Thanks, Mom!” Cuddles bowed to her in submission.
  1238. “Don’t mention it!” Pinkie gave her a pat on the head. “As your owner and a superior being I gotta take care of you! And fixing your brain is part of that. And just so you don’t gotta worry, even if you get demoted all the way to F rank, you’ll still be my property and I’ll still let you on the couch! Cause you’re my favorite pet ever!”
  1239. >And Cuddle Pie really did start to feel better.
  1242. >Diem sat face to face with Starlight Glimmer, trying to look stern as possible. To her knowledge this was one of the highest ponies on the chain of propaganda.
  1243. >To her surprise, she hadn’t been beaten or starved so far… but that didn’t mean she was completely spared from torture, in a sense.
  1244. >The tactic they seemed to be going for was to simply… leave her alone. Too alone. She was locked in a room and told that she could talk to Starlight, her ‘therapist, whenever she wanted to. But nopony else would talk to her. They’d just bring her food and… leave her alone.
  1245. >And Diem honestly thought she’d last way longer in that room, maybe months before cracking. But she’d vastly underestimated how bad total isolation was. It felt like it’d been months, but really it’d only been five days and already she couldn’t take it any longer and agreed to come ‘willingly’ to her therapy sessions.
  1246. >Just talking to someone, even this pony, seemed worth it.
  1247. >But she really had no idea what to expect from this.
  1248. >Starlight sat behind her desk, smiling gently. Diem doubted the little pony weighed more than sixty pounds and couldn’t possibly imagine a way to be intimidated by the pony had she not known this species to be incredibly aggressive conquerors.
  1249. >On the left wall was a collage of photographs, mostly humans, marked down as ‘success’… all the people she managed to brainwash before Diem. And there were a lot of them.
  1250. >Behind Starlight was a large window, through which Diem could see a wide open field followed by a tall wall around the facility she was in. No doubt this was strategically placed so her ‘patients’ could see there was no way out of this place.
  1251. >Diem looked a little different now. Her hair being the most notable change, with that pony who wanted to own her made sure to dye it rainbow colors before dropping her off here.
  1252. >There was a brief period where Diem hoped that maybe dying her hair in rainbow colors would be a complicated and annoying enough task that her ‘owner’ would eventually get tired of it. But no, that would never be the case.
  1253. >Ponies could use magic to change you hair color. So now it just grew in the same multi colored pattern that Rainbow Dash pony had.
  1254. >It was humiliating. Everything was humiliating, which no doubt was the point.
  1255. >She also had that earing they gave all their slaves, a single silver one marking her as the lowest tier. That thing was impossible to remove. Even if you tried to cut your ear off, the enchanted earing would suddenly make it hard as stone.
  1256. >They did let her wear clothes, but their fashion sense was from the 20th century so a girl wearing pants was ‘obscene’ to them. At least she was given a long skirt to wear and wouldn’t have to run around naked.
  1257. “I really am happy to see you here, Rainbow Storm,” said Starlight Glimmer. “Most humans your age have tantrums for much longer after they first get caught. But you chose to come get therapy after just five days. You must be very mature for your age.”
  1258. >She was being friendly, but Diem didn’t buy it.
  1259. “My name is Diem.” Diem crossed her arm. “And I didn’t choose to come here.”
  1260. “What do you mean, Storm?” Starlight tilted her head. “I hope nopony dragged you in here, did they?”
  1261. “I mean you locked me in a room alone for days!” Diem stood up. “I had nothing to do and no one to talk to! I felt like I was going crazy! I’d feel like hours and hours had passed then look at the clock and see it’d been like two minutes. It was like torture. And coming here was the only way to get out of that.”
  1262. “I’m not sure what you mean.” Starlight’s smile didn’t waver. “We’ve given you plenty of things to do! You have a TV in your room that you never turn on, a shelf of books you don’t read. You’re welcome to go to classes that teach you about Celestia or Equestrian history or proper slave etiquette. You can come talk to me or even do some work and earn a bit of money for your owner! I’m sure Rainbow Dash would be thrilled to get a check from your labor so soon!”
  1263. “I won’t work all day so some pony can go and collect my wages! And everything on that TV is just propaganda. So are all those books.” Diem sat back down. “I know what you’re doing. You’re making it so I either have to choose between you or… or nothing! And it’s not going to work.”
  1264. “Well you seem to be choosing me.” Starlight shrugged. “But if there’s something you’d like I could give it to you. Provided it’s reasonable, that is.”
  1265. “And I’m assuming talking to my dad again is unreasonable?” Diem guessed.
  1266. “Hm!” Starlight’s smile cocked to one side. “Given how abusive he was towards you, I don’t think that’d be a good idea just yet. Trust me, I understand why you still feel a sense of loyalty towards your parents, humans often develop a sense of loyalty towards their abusers, but taking you out of that abusive environment really was the only responsible thing to do.”
  1267. “I wasn’t abused!”
  1268. >This was some kind of mind control trick!
  1269. “Really, now?” Starlight raised an eyebrow. “If I put the humans under my care in a room with dirt floors, no utilities, left them malnourished, uneducated and got them poisoned with mercury and infested gummy worms all for the sake of forcing MY ideology on them… you’d say I was abusing them, wouldn’t you?”
  1270. >Diem knew that was bull… but she wasn’t sure exactly how to articulate it.
  1271. >She’d known about those gummy worms. They were parasites that gave you frequent stomach aches and heart burn. Coming here was the first time she’d been able to eat something without getting heart burn in years.
  1272. >But she wasn’t going to give in just over something minor like that!
  1273. “He gave me the best he could! It’s your fault we had to live in hiding.”
  1274. “Did he?” Starlight tilted her head. “It seems like you have been much more comfortable here this whole time. One of the other kids told me you had to build your own floor, even. And he’d yell at you just for asking about it.”
  1275. >Diem was suddenly angry at whoever told her about that!
  1276. “He never yelled at me about that!”
  1277. “You might not remember it as yelling, but…”
  1278. “Don’t even try this! They still loved me. They wanted me to be free!”
  1279. “They wanted to force their ideology on you without any care for your wellbeing.” Starlight frowned slightly. “Preserving their ideology was more important to them than your happiness. And I’m very sorry they made you got through that. But we do care about you, Storm. All we want is for you to be a happy, productive member of our herd! You’re one of Celestia’s possessions and she loves you very much.”
  1280. “I don’t believe for a second you care about me,” said Diem. “You don’t enslave people you love! You wouldn’t be taking away all of my freedom and rights!”
  1281. “Oh, I think taking away your freedom is exactly what somepony who cares about you would do!”
  1282. >Starlight hopped off her chair and looked out the window.
  1283. “Did you know that back in 2070, nearly sixty percent of humans were obese? The moment they have the freedom to eat as much as they want, you little critters choose to overeat and give yourselves all sort of health problems. Then there’s freedom of reproduction, where given most humans have their own kids with wild abandon, passing on genetic diseases and undesirable traits. Most humans refused to even remove diseases with their genetic engineering technology, letting their own children suffer for life for the sake of ‘personal and religious freedom’.”
  1284. “But us ponies taking away your freedoms have helped you all so much with things like that. With ponies in control of your food rations, less than one percent of humans are overweight and things like diabetes have gone from rampant to unheard of! And now that ponies decide which humans get to breed and pass on their genes, why we’ve eliminated all genetic disorders! Disease that have plagued humans for millennia gone in just one generation! Not to mention no more unwanted children.”
  1285. >Starlight put a hoof on Diem’s shoulder.
  1286. “Doesn’t that sound nice? To not have to deal with all this freedom? I promise you, it’s what’s responsible for most of the stress you’re feeling right now. Whenever you do decide to hand over the keys and get in the back seat where it’s nice and comfy, you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of relief, I promise! The vast majority of your species already knows how relieving it is to not have freedom or rights. Don’t you ever wonder why the vast majority of humans just resignedly shuffled along with the whole enslavement thing?”
  1287. “Because you force them to work for you.” Diem pushed the hoof off of her.
  1288. “Oh, no! Your ancestors tried that with their slaves and it didn’t work out so well, did it? No, ponies are a bit smarter. We know you need to be satisfied in your new role in the herd or it just won’t stick. We need to be able to leave the door wide open and still have you happily stay put. And if you just give me a chance you can be perfectly satisfied too!”
  1289. >Diem kept glaring at Starlight. This couldn’t really be her whole plan to brainwash her, could it? She doubted these kinds of speeches would ever convert her.
  1290. “You’re not giving me the one thing I want.” Diem looked away.
  1291. “Well how about this?” Starlight trotted back into her field of view. “If you get a few merits under your belt and get to Rank E I’ll give you a reward! I’ll let you talk to your father again if you still want to by then. Does that sound fair?”
  1292. >It sounded more fair than anything Diem expected from these ponies.
  1293. “You’re not actually going to do that, are you?” Diem asked.
  1294. “Of course I will!” Starlight closed her eyes and smiled wide. “Provided you still want to see him by then.”
  1295. “What’s stopping me from just never cooperating?” Diem asked.
  1296. “Other than the fact that you already came here willingly?” Starlight asked, then giggled. “Well, you’re welcome to stay in that room for the rest of your life if you want! But I know humans and I know the type of human you are. You’ll get tired of sitting around eventually and come out to work for us just because!”
  1297. >It was true she hadn’t even lasted a week so far…
  1298. “But I seriously doubt you’re going to do that.” Starlight looked over at her wall of ‘success’. “I’ve converted so many humans over to our way of thinking you know. I’ve purposely gone looking for ones that would be particularly hard to change the minds of too. Very intelligent humans, very obstinate ones, ones very devoted to the wrong religion. But I’ve cracked every case so far! Now, if you can be a good girl and get up to Rank D, you’ll be cleared to have your owner come pick you up! Rainbow Dash is a very nice mistress, you’ll be much happier with her, I promise.”
  1299. >That was the obvious way out of this. Just pretend she was super susceptible to Starlight’s brainwashing or whatever this pony had in store for her. She could do what she was told for now until she got to a higher rank, got just enough freedom to escape.
  1300. >The only problem was that collage next to her.
  1301. >Starlight had been at this for fifteen years, had ‘rehabilitated’ dozen of rebellious humans. At least one of them had to be smarter than Diem or a better actor and at least one of them had to have had the same plan as Starlight.
  1302. >There was no way faking it would catch her off guard. But maybe there was one thing Diem had that the rest of them didn’t…
  1303. >That portal.
  1304. >Diem seemed uneducated to Starlight, but that was because most of her schooling had been entirely about portals. She’s spent countless hours studying them, had been watch her father build that portal device and seen him refine the system.
  1305. >If she had help and all the right equipment….
  1306. >It was a distant hope, but it was there! And none of these other people would have had even that much, the ponies very specifically kept knowledge about portals hidden from humans. No one had any hope of ever actually defeating the ponies, but escape was ever distantly possible…
  1307. >If she could hold on, that is. It’d be a race to see if Starlight could brainwash Diem before Diem could get up to rank D. But maybe that hope would be enough.
  1308. >Starlight watched Diem think with a silent, but growing smile that made Diem’s heart skip a beat. For a moment, she felt like Starlight had seen exactly what she’d been thinking.
  1309. “Can I go back to my room now?” Diem asked.
  1310. >Starlight nodded, giving her permission and Diem left.
  1314. >Diem returned to her room.
  1315. >Diem felt a strange sort of dismay that the room was… nice. It was nicer than anything she would have hoped to get had she not been captured.
  1316. >She actually got to eat the mythical ‘ice cream’ that all the adults always used to talk about, something she’d thought would be relegated to myth her entire life. Really, she’d never gotten any kind of dairy products. There was all sorts of new food she was allowed to have now.
  1317. >Everything seemed so magically clean. She’d been used to wearing the same outfit for a week or two before changing. She’d bath about as often as she changed her clothes and her clothes and blankets could only be washed a few times a year. Back in the facility you really couldn’t afford more than that.
  1318. >She was given enough outfits to change them every day instead of every week. She was also offered the chance to take a bath every day, though she’d still refused to do anything they told her to. She still wasn’t too keen on the idea of bathing in public either.
  1319. >The air felt so fresh and clean, like she was still outside, and the lights kept the room as bright as daytime even at night. You never had to deal with the smell of sewage and there didn’t seem to be any bugs around. It was all like living in some kind of paradise mansion!
  1320. >Almost like…
  1321. >Like she had been abused this whole time.
  1322. >A strange part of Diem wished they’d torture her just a little! Like, she’d feel less bad if they did.
  1323. >That collar was back on the nightstand. She wasn’t forced to put it on, but she wasn’t allowed to throw it out either. Every time she left the room or went to sleep, it’d get put back in plain sight to remind her it was there.
  1324. >It had a little red gemstone in the shape of a thunderbolt in the front, the emblem of her new ‘owner’, Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash told her she could willingly put it on herself whenever she was done being a ‘brat’. But once she did it would never come off.
  1325. >Like the earing it was enchanted to be impossible to remove and it’d be there for the rest of her life no matter what. She could hypothetically cut off her ear, but not her head. Worse, it’d make Rainbow Dash’s cutie mark appear on her flanks and backs of her hands.
  1326. >The only thing worse than the thought of being humiliated like that was the thought she might eventually get brainwashed enough to willingly accept the humiliation herself, inflict it on herself to get the favor of the ponies.
  1327. >Putting it on would get her more favor from the ponies, closer to D rank and getting out of here. But if she put it on too early, it’d be too obvious. She needed to think about he right time…
  1328. >Diem sat down on her bed and looked over at the TV. Unlike in 1984, she was allowed to turn it off, but she knew nothing but propaganda would come out of that thing. That was clearly their game. Give her the option of doing nothing and going insane or eating up all the propaganda they brought to her.
  1329. >The closest thing to torture was having nothing to do, but that was partially because Diem refused to do any of the activities the ponies offered to her. Like this TV here…
  1330. >Maybe she was a little bored and a little curious. Maybe watching it would count as ‘being good’.
  1331. >Diem turned on the TV.
  1332. >A religious sermon about how perfect Celestia was came on the screen. It was exactly what she expected, but she did watch.
  1335. >For a little over two months Diem had gone to therapy every single day.
  1336. >Diem really was lying down on the whole therapy chair thing while Starlight sat next to her.
  1337. >She felt a little sick right now, though… like she actually needed therapy.
  1338. “Can you remember any other times your father yelled at you? And called you stupid and worthless?” Starlight asked gently enough. “Maybe when you made some minor mistake.”
  1339. “I do remember him getting really mad at me when I… I went outside one time to look at fireflies. But I don’t remember him calling me stupid or anything like that.
  1340. “We know that he went on about how worthless you were back when you were asking for a floor, right?” Starlight asked. “And you needed help remembering that part, didn’t you? Try thinking hard about it. The other kids from your nest said they heard him talk to you like that all the time.”
  1341. >Starlight was right about that. She legitimately didn’t remember her father laughing at her request for a wooden floor in her room until she started these therapy sessions, but now she was sure it’d happened.
  1342. >There were a few memories Diem had gone over and over again with Starlight like this. Sometimes several times in a single day. Each time, Diem felt as though she’d recall just a little more each time. It really was like she’d repressed those parts of those memories, overlooked so much of them.
  1343. >Sometimes she’d bring in the other kids from the compound and they’d always corroborate that the adults back there really were cruel to her.
  1344. “I think… I do remember him saying it was stupid…”
  1345. “You mean… he called you a stupid girl. Like he did those other times? That’s what everyone I talked to said.”
  1346. >Did he…? Diem… actually remembered that.
  1347. “I… I think I do kind of remember him calling me stupid and worthless… that it was such a stupid- that I’M stupid.”
  1348. “I see. So he said he didn’t think you deserved to see some fire flies, is that it?” Starlight asked.
  1349. “I think he was more worried about the-“
  1350. “You don’t need to defend his actions anymore, Storm,” said Starlight. “That’s exactly how you got so hurt in the first place. He goes around telling you that you don’t deserve a floor or friends your age and then, because he’s your father and you feel loyalty to him, you feel the need to… make sense of it. You defend and justify his cruel words
  1351. >Diem twiddled her thumbs together, not really wanting to answer. Yeah, she’d always resented that whole floor thing a little… but she’d never realized just how cruel all the adults had been about it before she started therapy with Starlight.
  1352. >Had her father really been that… abusive?
  1353. “Well don’t worry.” Starlight put her hoof on Diem’s shoulder. “Everypony deserves to have all their basic needs met. None of the things that happened to you were your fault. You were just a confused child out in the woods. You didn’t deserve any of it, okay?”
  1354. >It was just so hard to deny now that she’d been neglected and mistreated… by her own family even!
  1355. >Diem felt tears welling up in her eyes yet again.
  1356. “It’s alright! You’re safe now!”
  1357. >Starlight hugged Diem and Diem hugged back. Starlight really was the only person she could talk to, her only hypothetical source of comfort.
  1358. >In a strange way… Diem kind of respected and looked up to Starlight Glimmer now, despite the fact that this pony dictated every aspect of her life now.
  1359. >She gave Diem lots of leeway with the rules, allowed her to ask any question point blank and was always willing to argue with Diem. And Starlight was smart too! Always had a great defense of her actions and beliefs, even when Diem thought the belief itself was stupid.
  1360. >Starlight was a lot better than the adults back in the compound, anyway, whom Diem was starting to remember would always just tell her to shut up whenever she questioned the plan.
  1361. >Diem still hadn’t given up on escaping, of course. But in a way going along with Starlight’s plan had backfired just a little… it gave Starlight a chance to legitimately help Diem.
  1362. “You know what will make us feel better?” Starlight asked. “Worshipping Celestia! That always helps me put things into perspective.”
  1363. “Worshipping Celestia is one of my chores…”
  1364. >That was one of the things Diem did to make herself look good and get enough merits to go to D rank.
  1365. “Do you really think that?” Starlight cocked a smile. “I know you secretly pray to our princess even when you’re by yourself! You can admit you enjoy it and that it’s comforting.”
  1366. >Diem blushed and whipped a tear from her eye.
  1367. “And I don’t blame you. The feeling of being cherished and a sense of awe.” Starlight held her two hooves apart and then clapped them together. “They really are contradictory, but it is amazing how you can experience them both when thinking about how we all belong to the princess.”
  1368. “Yeah…”
  1369. >Diem knew exactly what Starlight had been talking about.
  1370. >The first time Starlight did this… this thing where she let Diem ‘experience Celestia’, the emotion was completely overwhelming. Diem actually collapsed onto the couch and started crying she was so overcome with emotion.
  1371. >It was hard to even describe it. She just felt a total sense of belonging and love, like she was being hugged from the inside.
  1372. >Obviously, she had at first thought it’d been some sort of spell Starlight cast on her! But out of curiosity she had tried praying to Celestia the way Starlight told her too and she really could feel that sense of awe and being cherished to a lesser extent…
  1373. >The two of them close their eyes to pray.
  1374. >Diem was only doing this to keep up appearances, but she really did feel a sort of warmth and acceptance when she did this. It was comforting now…
  1375. >Which did make her just a little scared Starlight’s plan was working too.
  1376. “Just be honest with your emotions.” Starlight put her hoof next to Diems’ cheek but didn’t quite touch it.
  1377. >And then that swell of emotion flooded her again. She had such an immense sense of awe, of being both insignificant and yet loved at the same time that it made her nearly cry once more.
  1378. >Diem got choked up and Starlight gave her a pat on the back.
  1379. “There there. Now be honest. Do you think Celestia is a god?” Starlight asked. “Be honest!”
  1380. “Y-yeah…”
  1381. >There was no denying that.
  1382. “And be honest, do you think you belong to her?” Starlight asked. “Do you feel like you belong to her?”
  1383. >Diem kept her mouth shut tight.
  1384. “Be honest!”
  1385. “I… I do. Feel it, I mean… that I belong to her.”
  1386. “Well that’s because you do!” Starlight nuzzled her. “We all do! I’m very proud of you for being such a good girl and admitting that. And I know you’re probably still too embarrassed to admit it, but if you do believe those two things you basically already are a Celestian, right?”
  1387. >Was Diem a Celestian now? She did technically pray to Celestia every morning and Luna every night and not entirely just to keep up appearances but because she liked the way it made her feel.
  1388. “But I still have lots of problems with the things Celestia does!” Diem spoke up.
  1389. >Though on second thought, she probably shouldn’t have said that. She really should pretend to convert soon.
  1390. “And that’s fine for this point of your spiritual growth.” Starlight kept stroking her back. “I’m proud of what you have done! And I think you deserve a reward!”
  1391. >Diem looked up at her.
  1392. “I’m going to let you start talking to the other kids in this kennel!” Starlight beamed. “I know you keep complaining about only getting to talk to me. So I’ll let you start having lunch with the other kids here! Though obviously you’ll have to behave if you want to keep this privilege.”
  1393. >Diem knew what she meant by ‘behave’, basically not question their beliefs too much. It would be hard, but Diem had to play the part of a good girl now… based on how her last attempt at deconverting one of these humans went she probably wouldn’t be able to help them anyway.
  1394. “I understand.” Diem bowed her head. “Thank you, ma’am.”
  1395. >Starlight always held back a giggle when Diem gave her that kind of respect. And that scared Diem just a little. It made her feel like Starlight could see straight through her act… And yet Starlight just went with it as though she hadn’t.
  1396. “Well that’s a good girl!” Starlight gave her another pat. “Is there anything else you’d like?”
  1397. “Actually…” Diem figured there was no harm in asking. “I know all the other kids get way more meat than I do. I kind of feel sick and… I think maybe I’m not getting enough protein? I feel tired all the time. Can I maybe have more meat?”
  1398. >They weren’t giving her any nuts either. She didn’t want to accuse Starlight directly this late in the game, but she kind of suspected they weren’t giving her enough protein on purpose. Why she couldn’t be sure. But it was clearly on purpose.
  1399. >Starlight frowned and tapped her chin for a moment.
  1400. “Well you know, fish and insects are more expensive food than everything else we give you little critters.” Starlight shook her head. “We’re already giving you free food, shelter, therapy and clothes… and you don’t really need that much energy if you still refuse to work for us. Crickets are for humans who earn their keep.”
  1401. >Diem knew she’d have to start doing work if she’d want to get out of here. Already she went to class, therapy and prayed… that was the last thing left before she was doing everything Starlight wanted her to.
  1402. >She still hesitated long enough for Starlight to get to smile and put a hoof on her shoulder.
  1403. “But I’ll tell you what! Since I want to see you get better so much I’ll give you an extra cricket for dinner tonight! And I’ll double your meat rations after just one day of work, even though I’m really supposed to wait for you to work a full month. How does that sound, Storm?”
  1404. “Really?” Diem knew that getting to eat meat again… it’d no doubt help her out with this! “Thank you, Starlight!”
  1405. >And she actually meant this time it too.
  1406. “Remember. Celestia owns you. Celestia loves you.” Starlight put her hoof on her heart.
  1407. “Celestia owns me. Celestia loves me.” Diem put her hand on her heart.
  1408. >She had to say that before she was allowed to leave each day.
  1412. >Later, Diem was in the lunch room where all the other humans were eating. Most of these weren’t Starlight’s patients, but they did go to school here. She’d seen them during class, but got in trouble if she tried to talk to any of them.
  1413. >So this was her first chance to try and talk to anyone other than Starlight in over 2 months. She’d be lying if she wasn’t a little excited to meet kids her own age, even if last time that didn’t work out so well.
  1414. >She found one table that was mostly girls her age and walked right up to it.
  1415. >Diem immediately knew she’d made some sort of social faux pas when she saw the looks on all of their faces. They all stopped talking to look at her with something boarding on a cringe.
  1416. “Do you… need something?” One of the A rank girls gave her an overly concerned look. “If you need help figuring out how to dress yourself, maybe you should go to a pony trainer instead?”
  1417. >Diem was suddenly very self conscious about her clothes. All the girls there were basically wearing just cloaks and maybe a bra or some kind of light top. The boys tended to be shirtless, which was nice, but the got to wear pants and seemed a bit more normal-looking overall. Was the way Diem dressed really that ridiculous to them?
  1418. “Look, I’m… new.” Diem blushed. “Can I sit here?”
  1419. “If you didn’t notice this is a three earing table,” the same bitch condescended to her yet again. “Like for pets? If you’re not in good standing with the ponies then you’re not int good standing with us.”
  1420. >Diem wasn’t even sure if she wanted to be in good standing with this table anymore.
  1421. “But that guy’s got two earrings,” Diem looked at one of the two boys at the table. She knew having two silver meant you were D rank, but that didn’t seem too far from her own rank.
  1422. >And all the kids at the table laughed at the question.
  1423. >One of the other girls, not the bitchy one, did motion for them all to quiet down.
  1424. “I can tell you just came in from the cold so I’ll be nice and explain this to you,” the girl said with an air of magnaminty. “You’re part of the herd now and you need to understand your place in it. It’s not just ponies and slaves, we all have very specific places in the herd that we all must respect. Us A ranks are only second to the ponies. Lesser humans like you are supposed to bow before talking to us pets.”
  1425. >The slightly nicer girl gave the D rank boy next to her a pat on the head, then put her palm near the floor, as if offering to give Diem a pat too if she bowed down low to her.
  1426. “But we are still part of the same herd,” she promised Diem. “It’s your place to submit and mine to care for you. If you respect the fact that you’re a lesser human and behave yourself you can sit next to me and I’ll make sure no one’s mean to you. Okay?”
  1427. “I’m not bowing down to you!”
  1428. “Then you can’t sit here.” The girl lifted her head and shooed Diem away.
  1429. >Diem groaned. The other humans were even more adamant about this whole herd thing than the ponies were half the time!
  1430. >She was more careful this time and looked for lower rank humans.
  1431. >One table had several people with two earrings and one of them even had one earing!
  1432. >Diem tried sitting there but was quickly blocked.
  1433. “Hey! Why can’t I-?”
  1434. “F rank humans are lazy, good for nothing brats!” One C rank boy shot at her. “Us mid rank humans have to pick up your slack.”
  1435. “But aren’t any of you upset that you have to work without pay or-“
  1436. “Oh, boo hoo!” One of the boys made fake crying motions. “’I gotta work to get food’? See, if failures like you spent half the time you spend throwing temper tantrums on actually doing stuff Earth wouldn’t have gotten messed up in the first place.”
  1437. “Yeah, whiners like you are what brought down the human empires. Maybe try thanking the ponies for helping us? By doing actual work?”
  1438. >And then she got laughed at again.
  1439. >Diem clutched her tray hard.
  1440. “Maybe we should lay off her?” The one E rank at the table, a girl without a collar, spoke up, but did bow her head to her betters when she spoke. “She must have been a feral child like I was. Look at all those clothes! She just doesn’t know any better.”
  1441. “I’ve seen this one around,” the C rank boy said. “She’s been here for weeks but never went to work. I can’t respect lazy humans.”
  1442. >So she couldn’t be friends with the pets unless she kissed their feet and she couldn’t be friends with the laborers unless she… labored. Work wasn’t something she was entirely opposed at least…
  1443. “I agreed to go to work today, actually,” said Diem. “It’ll be my first time…”
  1444. “See?” The E rank invited her over.
  1445. >Diem sat down, relieved to have earned the company of her own species once again.
  1446. “Are you one of Starlight’s patients?” The E rank girl asked.
  1447. “Yeah?”
  1448. “Me too! My name is K37! Or I guess K3726198, but that’s too long.” K37 stuck her tongue out yet. “I don’t have an owner yet, but Starlight says I’m gonna get promoted to D on the next promotion day! Then she’ll personally make sure I get sold as private property! Isn’t Lady Glimmer the best?”
  1449. “Um… yeah! She’s a good therapist.”
  1450. >Diem had to play along.
  1451. “What’s your name?”
  1452. >And now a dilemma.
  1453. >Diem didn’t want to introduce herself with her ‘pony name’, but… if she used her real name she’d get run out of here for sure. She was already on thin ice! And she was supposed to be pretending to go along with this…
  1454. “My name is Rainbow Storm,” said Storm.
  1455. “Oh wow!” K37 clapped her hands together, impressed. “You already have your pony name? But where’s your collar?”
  1456. “I didn’t put it on yet.” Storm rubbed her neck, which suddenly felt naked. Everyone was suddenly paying attention to it. “My uh… owner’s not going to pick me up till I’m D rank. Starlight’s still helping me out.”
  1457. “She helped me, too! My parents were super abusive. They ran out into the wild and bred out of control! I have 10 siblings! None of them were born legally! And they did it just so they’d have someone to force their stupid, made up religion on. I’m glad I get to Celestia instead now. Oh! Do you worship her yet?”
  1458. “I uh… I do,” Storm admitted. “I guess I was kind of… abused too.”
  1459. >Though in a more legitimate way, if all K37’s parents did was make her practice another religion.
  1460. “Well no worries, Starlight will fix both of us back up!”
  1461. >That C rank boy shushed them a moment later, claiming that something was about to ‘start’ on TV.
  1462. >Storm looked up at the TV with the rest of them
  1463. >H-TV really was filled with tons and tons of propaganda. But watching it was kind of… invigorating in a way. One of the main things it did was talk about all the latest scientific accomplishments and all the big projects being started or finished.
  1464. >Right now an Astropony was talking just before what looked like the launch of one of those large, pony spaceships.
  1465. “Once this latest shipment lands, we’ll have everything we need to start the first on-planet Martian factory! And once that’s up, the ponification of Mars will be able to happen much more rapidly!”
  1466. “Not only that, but a human will be setting foot on Mars for the first time as well! Stardreamer here is actually my own pet, born and raised in Equestria! We decided it’d be best for a pet to get this honor. Is there anything you’d like to say, Stardreamer?”
  1467. >The girl looked about Storm’s age…
  1468. “Well I find it funny that all these billionaires spent so much time and money trying to get to Mars but always failed.” Stardreamer started her no doubt pre-rehearsed speech. “But all I had to do was look cute and say ‘yes ma’am’. It really does remind me what we can accomplish when we all work together in our proper roles!”
  1469. “That’s right!” The astropony gave her pet a pat. “Let’s not forget that these are all achievements of the whole herd! It may seem like it’s just us science ponies doing all the work, but we really wouldn’t be able to get this far without the hard work of everypony and all of their slaves!”
  1470. >And some of the kids in the room even cheered. They really did eat this stuff up…
  1471. >Starlight always told her that humans were happier with a sense of achievement than they were with independence and wages and that almost seemed true right now.
  1472. >Of course, there was still the question of why they couldn’t have both…
  1475. >Storm was put to work with a bunch of other D rank humans. Most of them were a bit younger than her, still unsold children from that kennel, but there were a few adults as well.
  1476. >The work Storm got leased out to that day wasn’t anything glorious. She was literally chopping up wood and making it into boards for use somewhere else. It wasn’t as involved as the wood working she preferred, but it was still similar enough to what she used to do when she was free.
  1477. >She got to have little wireless earphones too, to listen to music or that propaganda channel that constantly listed all the new space missions, skyscrapers, research and all that.
  1478. >It was actually easier to get a lot done now too. She got a special anti-fatigue axe, one that had some kind of magic cast into it so you could swing it as hard as you wanted for hours and hours without getting tired.
  1479. >Of course, it was also enchanted to be unable to cut flesh. That meant Storm couldn’t try a coup (not that she could overthrow the government with a single axe) but it also meant she didn’t need to worry about work place injuries.
  1480. >She’d gotten so many little cuts on her hands learning to carve wooden figurines, but this thing was no danger at all. As an experiment she tried hitting the blade against her own hand with increasing amounts of force. Even swinging it hard she felt zero pain and was left without a cut.
  1481. >Strangely, being able to just hack away at things with wild abandon made the work a lot more… fun than she’d been used to. Storm knew she should be humiliated by all of this, by the fact that she’d basically been bored and shamed into working for her conquerors without pay.
  1482. >But at the end of the day she did feel a sense of accomplishment looking at the pile of wooden boards she’d helped make. There was a lot! Way more than she’d thought she’d ever be able to make in a day.
  1483. >Her pony supervisor came over and, after checking for her name on a small computer device, turned up to her with a smile.
  1484. “Good work ah… Rainbow Storm!” The pony supervisor congratulated her with a pat on the head. “I see you’re a great worker when you put yourself to it! I’ll put a merit on your profile!”
  1485. “Um… thank you?” The words slipped out of Storm mouth without any thought.
  1486. “No, thank you!” The supervisor beamed back at her. “Thanks to your hard work the herd can continue to expand and grow! And now worries, we only take a little bit off the top so most of your hard work will go straight to the pocket of your owner.”
  1487. >And then Diem felt less good about her work. Really she felt like she’d been briefly snapped out of a trance.
  1488. >The pony went to the next human in the group of slaves and congratulated her as well. It seemed like you got praise every day if you worked hard… whereas praise was rare back in her human village.
  1489. >One thing she had to begrudgingly admit was that they did make you feel like you were accomplishing something… Listening to that propaganda channel listing all kinds of triumphs really did make you feel like you were part of it all.
  1490. >Diem wondered how long she’d be able to resist the feeling.
  1491. >Already Diem… Storm wasn’t sure if she’d really be able to hold out long enough
  1495. >The best and worst thing about humans, in Starlight’s personal experience, was how much their thought processes hinged on their sense of identity. Proving something to a human that went against their identity, their tribe, their declared belief system was… nearly impossible.
  1496. >They’d do all kinds of mental gymnastics, ignore any fact, contextualize any contradictory situation just to preserve their identity. Presenting them with even simple facts, that ponies were simply superior to them or that Celestia did in fact own everything, it was almost like that caused them pain, hurt their brains. It was why the older generation needed to be largely written off.
  1497. >Of course, this could be used to your advantage as well. A human raised with Equestrian ideals, who identified as an Equestrian, would start doing gymnastics to keep thinking what you wanted them to think. She’d seen that recently with Pinkie’s pet.
  1498. >Thankfully, teenage humans like Storm here were just young enough that it was still possible to flip their identities.
  1499. >Oh sure, they’d throw their tantrums and squirm and complain and make little escape plans. Removing their old identity was like removing a splinter from a child, really. But it really was for the best. Once their old, toxic, inconvenient identity had been removed they became desperate for a new one.
  1500. >And of course Starlight was happy to give them one!
  1501. >Today was the day one of her patients was about to unofficially officially accept her new identity!
  1502. >Starlight took a gold earring, fitting for an E rank human, out of her drawer and trotted over with it to the eager Diem, eagerily waiting to become Storm in a more meaningful sense.
  1503. >It was almost funny how easy it was to twist the lesser races around! Make them look forward to something they used to dread.
  1504. >Starlight cast the spell and removed Storm’s old F rank earing.
  1505. “Whelp! Nopony needs this anymore!” Starlight dropped the old silver earring, the symbol of resistance, into the trash.
  1506. >To Starlight, she was effectively throwing her patient’s old identity, ‘Diem’, into the trash. Storm gave Starlight a curious look, not really following along with the metaphor.
  1507. >Next Starlight took out the gold earring, Storm’s new identity as a loyal slave girl, and clipped it on. Storm didn’t struggle like she did when getting the F rank earing, but instead welcomed this new one! She smiled a little and gave it a flick.
  1508. “Feels good, doesn’t it?” Starlight beamed back at her.
  1509. >Storm nodded.
  1510. “Celestia’s happy with me, right?” She asked.
  1511. “Absolutely!” Starlight replied. “Celestia loves everyone who accepts their place in the herd! And I’m “proud of you too! It seems like just yesterday you were a wild animal but thanks to your hard work you’re on the path to full domestication!”
  1512. “I just didn’t understand about domestication is all!” Storm tapped her fingers together, slightly embarrassed. “You’re the one who showed me that you ponies really do just want to take care of us! I get I’ll never be able to have a better life on my own so…”
  1513. “Hm! But speaking of taking care of you! I think I promised you a reward, right?” Starlight leaned against the couch.
  1514. >Storm perked up a little bit more at that. Starlight gave her plenty of rewards and Storm was properly trained to get excited for them now.
  1515. “To see your father, remember?” Starlight asked. “You made me promise to let you confront him again if you ever get to rank E.”
  1516. “Oh… right.”
  1517. >Storm’s excitement suddenly faded, to Starlight’s delight.
  1518. >Obviously letting this girl see her sire again was the worst possible idea. But Starlight wasn’t stupid. She’d made sure that meeting would never happen again simply by not giving her E rank until she knew for a fact Storm would see the meeting as more of a trial than a reward.
  1519. >There was still the matter of making Storm believe deciding not to see her father was her own decision but that was fairly easy.
  1520. “Are you nervous?” Starlight asked in a worried voice.
  1521. “Maybe. Do you think he’ll be mad at me?” Storm asked. “For converting to your religion? I mean…”
  1522. “Well that does sound pretty likely.” Starlight nodded. “But you’ll have me with you the whole time! I’m here to take care of you, remember? If he starts yelling or tries to hit you, I’ll be there to protect you.”
  1523. “Thanks.” Storm bowed her head. “You really are a good friend. It’s just… I am a little scared of seeing him again.”
  1524. >After six months of conditioning, she’d better be. Altering her memories was a lot of work, but the little white lie would pay off in the end once Storm became a good girl and spent the rest of her life working hard for the herd. She really was a hard worker too.
  1525. >An interesting little fact about human memory. They were one of those species that rewrote their memories every time they recalled it. By going over a few events over and over again with Storm, Starlight was able to slowly alter them just a little each time.
  1526. >Nowadays, Storm really and truly remembered her father yelling at her, laughing at her for wanting a wooden floor.
  1527. >Starlight herself understood these memories were false, but it hardly mattered to her. Storm needed these altered memories before she could understand that abuse that was separating her from her rightful place as Celestia’s property.
  1528. “Well you know this is supposed to be a reward for you,” said Starlight. “If you don’t want to see him again you really don’t have to.”
  1529. “I don’t?” Storm sat up. “But isn’t confronting your abuser like- like-“
  1530. “Something a human therapist would make you do? Probably.” Starlight laughed. “But it can cause more harm than good too. I won’t force you to see him again if you really don’t want to. But It’s your reward and your decision.”
  1531. >Starlight could see Storm’s old and new identities clashing in her little head, still in conflict about whether to try and escape or not.
  1532. >After 15 years, Starlight knew when a human was still doing the whole ‘fake my way to rank D’ thing and Storm was clearly on the edge of that… but about to fall over.
  1533. >One thing both her old and new identities could agree on was that this sort of conflict was painful. Making hard decisions was painful. Pain was bad, relief was good- an animal’s understanding of the world.
  1534. >And the way she got relief, Starlight had trained her, was by submitting herself to a pony.
  1535. “Can…” Storm spoke up, then hesitated before continuing. “Can you make the decision for me, Starlight? You’d know better than I do… right?”
  1536. >Starlight could barely contain her smile but managed to.
  1537. >This was the absolute best part of her job. Seeing a human finally hand their self determination over to her, accept that they were what Starlight wanted them to be, was just so empowering and satisfying at the same time!
  1538. “I’d be happy too!” Starlight let it through a little bit.
  1539. >A Storm looked visibly relieved at handing control over too, which only added to the satisfaction.
  1540. “I’ll tell you what, since this is a reward it should be something you’d actually enjoy. So how about instead of seeing your father, I’ll take you out to the park! And you can spend the whole day with me!” Starlight offered.
  1541. “Really?” Storm was finally back to being excited.
  1542. >Another success story!
  1546. >Today was the day!
  1547. >Rainbow Storm had been officially promoted to rank D, Starlight personally piercing her ear and giving her the two silver earrings that marked her in good standing with the herd.
  1548. >She actually felt… proud! Proud that she’d managed to come this far.
  1549. >It took a while, but Storm really did understand now! She belonged to Celestia and what Celestia wanted was for her to serve her new owner.
  1550. >Being a slave was something to be proud of! She was a part of something far bigger than Earth or humanity ever could have ever been. Equestria was an empire with 123 planets under its belt and was currently ponifying 6 more including Earth, Venus and Mars.
  1551. >Being a slave meant being part of that.
  1552. >On her own, in the wild, Storm would never have been able to even a train. But with the ponies she could help conquer the universe for her new goddess! The message the ponies offered was just so positive and triumphant compared to the constant miserable nihilism of 1984 that humanity had offered. Of course she wanted to be on the pony’s side.
  1553. >It was just her old culture that told her submission was inherently bad, but Starlight had helped her get over that.
  1554. >And now she was going to finally meet her owner and get to go to her new home.
  1555. “Are you nervous about meeting your owner?” Starlight asked.
  1556. >She always knew what Storm was feeling.
  1557. “A little…”
  1558. >Her first meeting with Rainbow Dash hadn’t gone so well.
  1559. “All anypony asks is that you work diligently and obey us ponies. And I’ve already reported to Dash that you’re a hard working, obedient slave now!” Starlight looked proud. “Rainbow Dash will take good care of you for the rest of your life if you just keep it up.”
  1560. “She won’t be made I’m still wearing too much clothes?” Storm asked.
  1561. >That was one of her few holdouts. Even after a full year of training she was still shy about being naked.
  1562. “She’s not Rarity!” Starlight laughed. “I doubt she’ll judge you one bit.”
  1563. >And then Rainbow Dash entered the room.
  1564. >Storm kneeled down before Rainbow Dash and bowed to her.
  1565. “Heh! Looking better already!” Dash gave her new slave a pat on the head before turning to Starlight. “I’m impressed you can make rebel humans bow down to us so fast!”
  1566. “Well that is the magic of friendship.” Starlight smiled. “And when your dealing with an ideology as silly as Storm’s old one, why it basically destroys itself! Just need to apply a few facts and logic.”
  1567. “So are you ready to start serving me?” Dash asked.
  1568. “Yes, Mistress,” said Storm. “I’m ready to serve the herd.”
  1569. >Dash motioned for her to sit up. Storm got back to her knees and Dash inspected her.
  1570. “Where’s your collar?” Dash raised a critical eyebrow. “I thought you’d be wearing it by now.
  1571. >Storm suddenly felt naked.
  1572. “She just wanted you to be here when she finally put it on.” Starlight nodded at Storm.
  1573. >Storm bowed to her owner and then took out her collar.
  1574. >This was it…
  1575. >Storm wrapped the collar around her neck and did the buckle. It closed around her neck with a satisfying click, then the buckle melted away into sand, falling to the ground.
  1576. >She was now permanently collared. There was no way to take it off anymore. Even a unicorn would have a tough time of it.
  1577. >It took a moment, but Rainbow Dash’s cutie mark appeared on the backs of her hands. She assumed they were on her flank too, though with her skirt on there was no way to be sure.
  1578. >All the humans who got enslaved before her always described their collars as a bit of a status symbol, a source of comfort and pride. Storm understood that feeling now. The collar snug against her neck really did make her feel secure in her new position.
  1579. >And Dash’s expression lightened.
  1580. “Yes, ma’am.” Storm bowed again. “I apologize for how I acted before. Lady Starlight taught me about Celestia and my proper place in the herd. I won’t be disobedient again.”
  1581. “Let’s try her out a bit!” Dash flicked her hoof at Storm. “Stand one leg.”
  1582. >Storm quickly did it.
  1583. “Now, uh, make an X with your arms!”
  1584. >Storm did that too.
  1585. “Now hop up and down and pat your belly.”
  1586. >Storm obeyed once more.
  1587. >This Time Dash chuckled, clearly enjoying the control she now had over Storm. But she quickly signaled for Storm to stop and sit.
  1588. >When Storm sat down, Dash quickly sat on her lap in a display of ownership. She flicked an ear, signaling Storm to pet her, and Storm quickly obeyed.
  1589. “Heh! Way better!” Dash congratulated her. “Does everything the pony tells her to. Exactly how I like my humans.”
  1590. “She should have no problem doing everything you tell her too from now on!” Starlight smiled wide.
  1591. “You are a hundred percent sure she’s not one of those fakers who only pretend to be loyal?” Dash gave her one more skeptical look. “Sometimes wild humans try pulling stuff like that.”
  1592. >Storm suddenly got nervous.
  1593. >For the first time in a few months she remembered that that was her original plan. But for what seemed like it’d been most of her life now she really had just been trying to become a good girl for Celestia and the ponies.
  1594. “Oh, she might need a little bit of time to settle in to her new life, but trust me I can tell when a human is a good girl!” Starlight said. “If you do see any backsliding you can always bring her back here.”
  1595. “Well I’ll trust you.” Dash looked up at Storm. “So you ready to do some work for me, kid?”
  1596. “Yes, ma’am.”
  1597. “Louder!” Dash commanded. “I need my slaves to be enthusiastic about their work!”
  1598. “Uh- Yes ma’am!” Storm almost shouted it this time.
  1599. “Ha! Better! Come on!” Dash got off her lap. “Let’s get you back home!”
  1600. >Dash lead Storm out of the room, then all the way outside.
  1604. >Another human slave was waiting for them there. She knew he was one of Dash’s because of the rainbow hair he’d been marked with.
  1605. “You’ll get to meet my other good slaves once we’re home, but this one’s name is Rainbow Bolt.” Dash gestured to her rainbow haired A rank human. “He’s my favorite one, gets to keep my bed warm when Soarin’s not around. He’s also the one I use to breed all my females. You’ll be popping outs his kids when you’re a bit older, so get used to him.”
  1606. >She knew it was legal to breed any D or higher rank females, but males had to be at least rank B to father any children. Any lower than that and the ponies would make sure you didn’t pollute the gene pool.
  1607. >Admittedly this was the part of her new job Storm was the most nervous about. Having any kids was still a good five or six years off, but it was her duty to provide high-quality third generation slaves for the herd. Starlight promised that once Dash realized what a hard worker she was, Storm would likely ‘get’ to have a lot of kids.
  1608. >Bolt seemed to pick up on her nervousness.
  1609. “You know this sort of thing can make them nervous, Mistress.” Bolt bowed his head to Dash. “I can promise you that Mistress will never force us to do anything… manually. The ponies know that can be traumatizing to our species.”
  1610. >That was a bit of a relief. She also knew you were allowed to ‘play mate’ which whoever you wanted. There was no way for Storm to get pregnant with the spell currently cast on her, not unless a unicorn replaced it with a fertility spell.
  1611. “Mistress Dash really is a kind pony,” Bolt assured her. “All she asks for is your complete submission.”
  1612. “Yep!” Dash hit her chest. “Element of loyalty here! You stay nice and obedient and I’ll take great care of you. Kay? I’m even so nice that I put some of the money you make for me back into where you’re living. My humans are all hard workers, so you’ll appreciate how nice your living quarters are.”
  1613. “Thank you, Mistress.” Storm bowed her head. “I really do look forward to doing my part to help the herd expand and conquer even more lands.”
  1614. “Me too, kiddo! I heard you’re a hard worker which is great for me. And I know turning into a good girl takes a lot of work so good work there!”
  1615. >Storm smiled at the praise before taking a minute to look around the town.
  1616. >Storm was actually outside of the compound!
  1617. >For the first time since Starlight took her to the park as a reward, Storm got to see Ponyville again. Only this time she felt more a part of it.
  1618. >And yet at the same time she couldn’t help a twinge of nerves. She was outside… she could escape like she’d originally planned. But did she want to?
  1619. >Thinking about it made her feel sick. The ponies really would give her a comfortable life is she just submitted to them like Celestia wanted her too. Going against them was a big, scary risk and she’d lose Celestia’s love either way.
  1620. >It really was like Starlight said! Resisting was painful, submitting was relief.
  1621. >Storm resolved to at least wait a few days and see how comfortable living under Dash would be. No, a few months actually!
  1622. >And she really did feel that familiar sense of relief she felt whenever she gave in or let Starlight take control. Pushing that date away was like pushing the pain away.
  1623. >It was almost like she really was simply meant to submit…
  1624. >Storm silently hoped nothing would shake her new faith.
  1627. >Cuddle Pie had grown pretty big over the past year. She was now much larger than her mom, allowing Pinkie to finally start sitting on her lap like an owner did with her pet.
  1628. >Pinkie and Fluttershy were both using their pets as a seat right now, Pinkie firmly on Cuddle’s lap while Cuddle Pie pet her and Pinkie ate.
  1629. >Whether you were allowed to sit with the ponies at their table varied depending on how formal the setting was. On most days, ponies like Pinkie and Fluttershy would let their pets sit with them given the understanding that you would get up to wait on them at their word.
  1630. >In the most formal setting, only A rank humans would be allowed to wait on the ponies and you spent most of the night standing around being part of the scenery and waiting to be ordered around.
  1631. >But there was an in between where you sat at the table with your pony on your lap like this. Obviously you couldn’t get up without disturbing your owner, so lower rank humans would actually wait on you.
  1632. >Today was an exceptionally hot day, the kind you rarely got in Equestria thanks to the weather control. But every once in a while the pegasi would get too busy with something and the day would get sweltering.
  1633. >Of course, as a pet, Cuddle Pie was immediately shielded from the heat. The ponies let her sit with them under an umbrella that everything in its shade cool. The only job she had today was looking cute, cuddling with her mom and eating ice cream.
  1634. >The other humans around here didn’t get the same sort of pet privilege she did. And there were a lot of them out today.
  1635. >Celestia was going to bless Ponyville with her presence at this year’s Summer Sun Celebration so there was tons of work to do. Part of their deal with the ponies was that humans did all the hard manual labor so that’s what all the D and C rank slaves were doing.
  1636. >Every time Celestia visited a town she needed a temporary palace erected just for her, one that would be used once and then torn down. She also only walked on the finest silk and mageweave cloth so she needed several rugs made for her. The carpet would be blessed by her walking on it once then it’d be burned in a sacred fire at the temple. Basically the divine sister only used things once, only ever newly made items just for them.
  1637. >It was all to display her incomprehensible power and authority. But it was also a lot of work, which was why slavery was so necessary.
  1638. >Still, Cuddle Pie didn’t envy those lower humans one bit. She took a sip from her ice cold water while she watched a few of them sweat in the hot sun trying to get a tent for the accompanying carnival up.
  1639. “Aw, this is the life!” Pinkie sighed, finishing her milkshake and repositioning on Cuddle’s lap. “See? Being big enough to let me sit on your lap is great after all!”
  1640. “Yeah?” Cuddles said. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
  1641. “Don’t you remember when you were little and you were all scared of getting big and gangly?” Pinkie looked up at her pet. “But now you’re all gangled and now you’re better at snuggling than ever!”
  1642. “I don’t remember being scared of getting big,” said Cuddle Pie.
  1643. “I remember how shy you used to be around big humans too,” Fluttershy laughed a little. “ I guess they’re less intimidating when you’re big yourself.”
  1644. >Cuddles did remember being a little scared of adults when she was younger. But after that incident about a year ago… well no slave seemed intimidation compared to wild humans holding you hostage.
  1645. >Fluttershy didn’t have as many slaves as Applejack, but she did have more pet humans than any other pony Cuddles new, enough to get her a bit of a reputation as a ‘crazy human lady’. She had six A rank slaves plus that little girl she rescued from that wild human den Diem came from. Four of the five laborers she kept in Ponyville were just to make sure her pets were pampered to her satisfaction.
  1646. >One such slave, one of Fluttershy’s C ranks, came running over with more drinks for Fluttershy and Flutterscotch.
  1647. >Fluttershy gave the drinks a muted, but stern frown.
  1648. “My little Flutterscotch likes lime, not lemon.” Fluttershy said, keeping her eyes closed. “I know I told you this before.”
  1649. “I’m sorry, Mistress!” The slave girl was suddenly tense. “I- I forgot.”
  1650. “I really don’t mind, Mom,” Flutterscotch offered.
  1651. “Aw! You’re such a good boy!” Fluttershy gave him a gentle pat on the head. Then she poured the glass out onto the ground. “Compassion for every living thing is important. But C rank slaves need discipline and pets deserve total comfort. Please go get him the right drink. Then you can join the other laborers.”
  1652. “Yes, ma’am. Sorry.” The slave girl bowed and ran back out into the heat.
  1653. >Cuddle Pie felt a little bad for her having to run back out into the hot sun.
  1654. “Anyway, your pet’s almost sixteen, right?” Fluttershy looked up at Cuddle Pie. “Have you thought about breeding her yet?”
  1655. >Cuddle Pie swallowed some of her water the wrong way and blushed heavily. This was a subject that always made her nervous for a long list of reasons.
  1656. “I mean, it’s still too early for her to get pregnant, but in the wild humans form mating pairs,” Fluttershy explained. “Once they get older it really is best to provide them with a mate. Especially if you don’t intend to use them as a sex toy because otherwise they can um… sexually frustrated. You might want to introduce her to one soon, so she’ll be used to him and won’t get nervous when it’s time to breed.”
  1657. >Pinkie frowned, looking nervous too.
  1658. “I’m just worried about Cuddle Pie is all.” Pinkie grabbed her pet. “I was there when her dame gave birth to her! She was just screaming in pain the whole time and- and when I think of my little baby Cuddle Wuddle screaming like that it makes me kind of not want to breed her too much.”
  1659. “Oh, Pinkie. Cuddle Pie was born almost sixteen years ago.” Fluttershy let out a soft laugh. “We’re a lot better at helping humans give birth now. I see women give birth all the time and it really doesn’t hurt anymore. It’s another way us ponies have helped out those poor little guys.”
  1660. >Pinkie looked at Cuddles, nervously thinking it over.
  1661. “Well. I guess my baby is getting big! And I want her to be happy… Maybe she does need a boy to play with now. I should buy an A rank male then?” Pinkie thought to her. “Oh, but boys her age are so hard to find!”
  1662. “Actually I bring it up because I had an idea,” Fluttershy said. “I think it’d be fun if we bred our slaves together!”
  1663. >Flutterscotch finally got his drink from an exhausted slave girl, but was suddenly disinterested in it. He was watching Fluttershy carefully, unsure if she meant him. Him and Flutterdrop were two male pets that were both about Cuddle’s age.
  1664. “Flutterscotch here told me he really likes Cuddle Pie!” Fluttershy put a hoof on his shoulder. “He says she’s really cute and nice. It’d be easy to establish him as her mate. He’d probably be very happy to have Cuddle Pie bearing his kids.”
  1665. “M-mom!” Flutterscotch blushed and lowered his head.
  1666. “And he’s been really pent up lately too,” Fluttershy went on, but did whisper that last part at least. “I think he really needs some female company to help get his frustration out.”
  1667. “Mom!” Flutterscotch was suddenly a bit more stern than her normally was.
  1668. “Oh, hush. Mommy is just trying to help you out.” Fluttershy put him back in his place with another head pat. “I’d say there’s a high chance the two can successfully mate. We should try putting them in the same bed for a week or two and see if they establish as a mating pair.”
  1669. >Suddenly Cuddle Pie felt like she’d be sweating less if she’d been outside in the sun!
  1670. >It wasn’t like she wanted to just never mate! But her first choice would have been…
  1671. >Cuddle Pie knew it was overstepping a boundary to suggest who you mated with, but she also knew her mom wouldn’t get too angry at her. She really trusted her mom a lot after how kindly she’d reacted to Cuddles… incident.
  1672. >And there was another one of Fluttershy’s pet she did… admire.
  1673. “Um! What about Flutterdrops?” Cuddles suggested. “He’s um… nice. Maybe we could try it with him first?”
  1674. >And she felt a little bad about how crestfallen Flutterscotch looked at that.
  1675. >Fluttershy and Pinkie shared a look, frowning at first though Pinkie soon broke out into a snerk.
  1676. “Well um.” Fluttershy composed herself. “I suppose you’re old enough to know this now. But you can’t mate with Flutterdrops. because he’s your brother.”
  1677. “Huh?! But I-!” Cuddles reeled form the revelation.
  1678. >She’d actually had a crush on him up until that very second. Heck, he’d been the first person she’d ever felt that way towards! But he was her brother….
  1679. >Cuddles bowed her head in shame.
  1680. “There.” Fluttershy gave her a reassuring pat. “This is why ponies are in control of your reproduction now. Back in the wild humans used to accidentally mate with their own siblings all the time. There was even a famous play about a human who accidentally mated with his own mother!”
  1681. “Lucky we keep track of this stuff for you, huh?” Pinkie added.
  1682. >Cuddles nodded. She couldn’t believe it. She really might have had kids with her own brother were ponies not around!
  1683. >Flutterscotch looked happy to have his competition removed. It was pretty obvious he was eager to get in bed with Cuddles. And she had to admit being desired like that felt kind of… nice.
  1684. >He was kind of cute…
  1685. “So do you want to be locked in a room with a pent up boy?” Pinkie looked up at her. “Trust me, males are a lot more fun when they’re pent up.”
  1686. >Phrasing it like that did make Cuddles…
  1687. “Ah! She squirmed!” Pinkie declared. “That means yes! I know shy little monkeys have trouble saying it, but your mama Pinkie knows what that means. I’ll take him! Flutterscotch can come home with us and I’ll put them in the same bed.”
  1688. “Now try not to be too nervous you two,” said Fluttershy. “If you can’t establish yourselves as mates after two weeks that’s okay. We’ll try with someone else.”
  1689. >Cuddles just blushed and submitted to her better’s decision.
  1690. >She just learned an embarrassing lesson about how bad choice could be. Really the thought that this was out of her hands now was a little comforting.
  1691. >Flutterscotch tried smiling at her, but Cuddles was still too nervous to look him in the eye. She doubted nature was going to take its course on the first night.
  1692. “Don’t worry! Once you get banged the first time it gets way easier!” Pinkie nuzzled Cuddle’s chin. “But maybe I’d better go check on how the carnival setup is going before Cuddles her melts from embarrassment! Oo! If anything’s set up we can totally try it early!”
  1693. >Pinkie hopped off Cuddle Pie’s lap and Cuddles quickly followed her out into the sun, eager to get out of here.
  1694. >The two of them went through the in-construction carnival, Cuddle Pie checking off what was done on the list as they went. Pinkie really wanted to go on one of the rides, the haunted house coaster, that was nearly done. But it wasn’t entirely online yet so instead they stopped to get cotton candy first.
  1695. >While they waited, Cuddles noticed a familiar group of girls not far off…
  1696. >Rainbow Dash’s ‘girls’, her labor force, were very easy to spot. She owned 7 (or maybe 8 now) C rank girls all within 3 years of Cuddle’s age. Pretty much any tomboy from the Ponyville kennel got snatched up by Dash, had her hair dyed in rainbows and got put to work. Dash seemed to think tomboys were the best workers.
  1697. >They were all in recognizable uniform too. All of them had their hair dyed in Dash’s colors and put into a ponytail. All of them wore sky blue cloaks with the wonderbolts symbol on the back of them and boots, instead of sandals, with gold lightning bolt clasps.
  1698. >Clearly Dash had volunteered them to help set up the carnival. Cuddle counted the group from where she was. There were eight of them now!
  1699. >Cuddle Pie went over them to play with them a lot on the weekends when they weren’t working, so she knew all of them but from this distance, thanks to their uniforms, couldn’t make out who was who. So it was possible….
  1700. >Well… she did know that Diem was property of Rainbow Dash now and that she’d been released from the corrective facility just a few days ago.
  1701. >Cuddle Pie still wasn’t entirely over her trauma and was curious about… well a lot of things…
  1702. >Pinkie Pie stopped mid-bite into her cotton candy, looked up at Cuddles then over at Dash’s group of slaves and quickly pieced things together.
  1703. “Did you want to go over there?” Pinkie asked.
  1704. “Is it a good idea?” Cuddles bowed her head. “I’m supposed to let you make these kinds of decisions, right?”
  1705. “That is right.” Pinkie chewed some more cotton candy. “Well! I heard your feral friend is a good girl now, so I don’t see the harm in it! If you want to go talk to her, then it’s okay with me! Maybe seeing what a good girl she’s become will help you out!”
  1706. >Cuddles looked back to the group of girls. She did go over to play with them every so often… she’d likely see Diem again some day no matter what. So this confrontation was inevitable.
  1707. >She nodded to her owner and started walking over to them.
  1708. “Just come back if she says anything scary!” Pinkie called after her.
  1715. >Cuddle Pie found the girls working to unroll a bunch of those bounce castles.
  1716. >Rainbow Squall was the B rank leader of Dash’s girls. She had her arms folded as she called out instructions to the other girls who followed them all with enthusiasm.
  1717. >The rainbow squad here worked really fast! Cuddle Pie would never be able to keep up with them.
  1718. >She quickly found Diem… or Rainbow Storm since she didn’t want to dead name anyone, working just as hard as the others.
  1719. “Cuddle Pie?” Squall asked. “Did Pinkie need something from us?”
  1720. “No.” Cuddles shook her head. “I was wondering if I could talk to one of you for a minute?”
  1721. “You know we can’t just stop working whenever we want, right?” Squall asked.
  1722. >Just then Storm noticed Cuddles was here. The hammer she was rapidly pounding stakes in with slipped from her grip and hit Rainbow Gust. But thanks to the enchantment on the hammer it just bounce off the other girl who just grumbled for Storm to ‘stop playing’. Hitting each other with those tools was some game mid tier humans played.
  1723. “Alright.” Squall shrugged. “I can tell this is going to distract her otherwise. But if you take too long it’s coming out of your brake.”
  1724. “Yes, ma’am.” Storm bowed her head, showing Squall the proper deference a mid tier human owed to a high tier human.
  1725. >And then she bowed slightly lower to Cuddle Pie before talking. She really was showing proper submission to her betters! Cuddles was taken aback by that.
  1726. >But she did pat Storm’s head, giving her permission to talk.
  1727. >Storm drew her cloak up, looking a little embarrassed about this encounter. She waited for Cuddles to speak as was proper.
  1728. >It seemed almost out of character for her, though.
  1729. “Um… I was just wondering how you were doing,” said Cuddles. “They didn’t do anything like… creepy or mean to you, did they?”
  1730. “Of course not!” Storm immediately went to Starlight’s defense. “Starlight’s a really kind pony. She just gave me therapy and discussed religion and stuff with me.”
  1731. >That much was a relief. Cuddles had been briefly worried, in the back of her mind, that Starlight would try to manipulate and brainwash her or something but it seemed like that hadn’t been the case. Just good old facts and logic.
  1732. “It um… really wasn’t like in those books I made you read at all.” Storm sighed. “Those were just propaganda my… father made me read all those dystopia books to try and give me the wrong idea about ponies. So… I’m sorry for showing them to you. I know humans can get addicted to cynicism…”
  1733. “It’s alright.” Cuddles patted her head. “I think I’m mostly over it now. But you really gave up on all the freedom and living up to your full potential stuff?”
  1734. “I am living up to my full potential!” Storm put her fist over her heart like a salute. That was something Dash liked teaching her humans to do. “Being part of a herd let’s you go much further than you ever could alone. You were right about that. And about Celestia owning me and- and everything.”
  1735. “You just seem so… different.” Cuddle Pie looked her over. “Did you really change so much in just a year?”
  1736. >It was almost scary that someone’s opinions could change so fast...
  1737. “Well it doesn’t take that long to change your mind!” Storm suddenly got defensive.
  1738. >Cuddles only now realized that could be taken as her questioning her loyalty.
  1739. “I didn’t mean it like that!” Cuddles put up her hands. “It’s just- you don’t miss your family or anything?”
  1740. “Mistress Rainbow Dash and my sisters are my family.”
  1741. “But your dad-“
  1742. “Maybe you didn’t see, but my father was an abusive jerk! Making me live like that…” Storm cast her eyes down. “I’m lucky the ponies rescued me.”
  1743. >Cuddles could tell she’d really upset Storm here. Maybe the wild humans really hadn’t been so nice after all.
  1744. “I’m sorry.” She looked down. “It’s just, it was always ‘freedom this’ and ‘freedom that’ with you and I got a little spooked you gave all that up so fast.”
  1745. “Look… you were right.” Storm shook her head. “I don’t want freedom anymore. I lived with it and I lived without it and freedom is… it’s just painful! Not having to be free, not having to fight it’s just this huge relief. Like a huge burden’s been taken away. You should be happy you were a slave your whole life.”
  1746. >Maybe Storm was right… having lived both ways she’d probably know better.
  1747. “I kind of thought the same thing. I really did question things for a little while after I talked to you, but…” Cuddles thought back to her time of doubt. “Feeling like I had a choice did kind of hurt. Starlight told me to just try and think of what the most important thing in the world to me was and… it was my family and my nation. I decided I’d gladly submit if that’s the only way to keep them.”
  1748. “Right.” Storm saluted again. “Submission is a small price to pay for all the ponies do for us.”
  1749. “You’re a hundred percent sure you’re happier like this?” Cuddles asked.
  1750. “Yes!” Storm nodded firmly. “I love it with my mistress! And I really like all my new sisters too. They’re so upbeat and- it really makes me appreciate my place in the herd.
  1751. “Okay. I’m sorry then. Welcome to the herd.”
  1752. “Oh! Cuddles!” Rainbow Breeze, the youngest of the rainbow squad called out to her. “You should come play with use this weekend!”
  1753. >And then Rainbow Breeze got playfully shoved by one of the other girls before she quickly went back to work.
  1754. “I’ll ask my mom! Bye!”
  1755. >Cuddles let Storm go back to her work…
  1756. >She started to head back to Pinkie Pie.
  1757. >She knew she should be happy or Storm, but all of that did feel… off. Like it should have taken longer for her to inevitably realize Celestia was perfect and all that.
  1758. “Hello?”
  1759. >Cuddles snapped back to attention, realized she’d been lost in thought. She looked up and Tourmaline was there.
  1760. “Huh?” Cuddles looked around for Rarity but didn’t see her. Even though Tourmaline was A rank and could go wherever she liked on her own, it was still rare to see one without the other. “Where’s Rarity?”
  1761. “My mistress asked me to go get some cotton candy for her but I think she just wanted to make out with that duke without anyone looking so I’m taking my time.” Tourmaline shrugged and shook her head. “But also I got lost and you seem to know where it is…”
  1762. >Tourmaline looked down at Cuddle’s cotton candy. Then noticed Cuddles was still distracted by the rainbow squad. It wasn’t long before she pieced it together and realized what had become of Diem.
  1763. “Well it’s nice to see her working hard so we can live in luxury, hm?” Tourmaline cocked a smile. “That’s clearly her rightful place. Look at her go!”
  1764. “Yeah…”
  1765. >Tourmaline saw right through that answer.
  1766. “You’re still doubting slavery?” Tourmaline flicked her hair. “I thought you’d be over this by now.”
  1767. “Sorry… but I really don’t get how you don’t question it. You saw that the wild humans weren’t exactly what they told us, right?”
  1768. “Of course I did! But I don’t care if they lie to me either.” Tourmaline rolled her eyes. “Do you have any idea how privileged you and me are? We’re in like the top 0.0001% of all human history! We get to live in absolute luxury with ponies, have everything taken care of for us and do almost no work. I can’t even imagine a better life and I’m not going to question the system the got me here.”
  1769. >Cuddles looked back at the laborers around them, all working hard. She herself was clearly pet material and pets just wouldn’t make it in any other time period or system.
  1770. “You know what? You’re right.” Cuddles nodded. “I am really lucky! Thanks. I’m gonna go find my mom.”
  1771. “You’re welcome but-“
  1772. >Cuddles started running off but stopped when Tourmaline called after here.
  1773. “You forgot to tell me where the cotton candy is!”
  1774. “Oh! Right… over here.”
  1779. >Storm and her new sisters got home just before sundown, which was good because as a D rank Storm wasn’t allowed outside after dark without a leash.
  1780. >She was exhausted, having worked much longer hours than normal and being in that heat on top of it all. But her mistress promised her three days off during the Summer Sun Celebration to make up for it and she hardly felt exploited at all.
  1781. “Yeah! We did it!” Rainbow Breeze, the youngest of the group, ran inside and jumped onto the couch where she promptly collapsed. Storm collapsed on the couch soon after. “How much money did we make for Mistress?”
  1782. “We didn’t make anything.” Rainbow Gust told her. She was normally the one who kept track of that. “Mistress volunteered us for this.”
  1783. “Oh...” Rainbow Breeze usually liked hearing about how much she accomplished and how much money she made for their owner. “Well that was really nice of Mistress Dash to volunteer like that! She’s a great person!”
  1784. >Storm felt every bone in her body aching right now, but it was a good, satisfying ache.
  1785. >She really loved working with the other girls. Back in the wild, humans would constantly moan and complain and roll their eyes at you if you worked too hard. But here it was always ‘let’s go!’ and ‘good job!’ and everyone was so passionate about it.
  1786. >It really made Storm feel like she was accomplishing something and that was all worth it.
  1787. >Like Starlight said, a paycheck could never make you as happy as a sense of accomplishment!
  1788. >Storm didn’t actually stay in her mistress’s house. Only her A rank slaves, Rainbow Shine, a ten year old maid, and Rainbow Bolt, her only male slave, got to stay up there. Instead, Storm and her new sisters stayed in Dash’s second house which was directly underneath her cloud house.
  1789. >Even with eight girls living there it was pretty big! Bigger than anything Storm could have hoped for in the wild. It was airconditioned and had actually lighting (her amazement at that was realization enough for Storm that she really had been abused).
  1790. >Dash bought them plenty of presents so long as they worked hard and acted submissive to her. Rainbow Blaze really like video games and had earned a decent sized library of them since coming to stay here. They even had a swimming pool in the back.
  1791. >The only thing Storm could really complain about was the lack of privacy. There was only one big bath tub for taking baths and they were all supposed to go together. She was almost used to thank, partially thanks to the fact that at least there were no boys here. They all slept in the same room too, a large one with bunkbeds in it.
  1792. >Everyone in the house was rank C except Storm and Rainbow Squall, the oldest girl at 19, who was rank B and in charge of making sure Dash’s other slaves stayed in line.
  1793. “Mistress needs us to get up early tomorrow.” Squall told Blaze, who was already turning on her game system. “I’m setting bedtime to one hour from now.”
  1794. “That’s too early!” Blaze complained. “Playing games will help me get to sleep faster anyway. I never got to show this one to Storm!”
  1795. “You can do whatever you want until then, but Mistress wants us in bed by then.” Squall turned to leave like that settled it.
  1796. >And it did. Blaze grumbled but accepted what her owner wanted. That was just how things worked here. If Rainbow Dash wanted something, none of them even thought to question it.
  1797. >Storm liked that sort of culture. Like Starlight promised, having something to believe in, something she just couldn’t question, really did give her a sense of purpose. They were here to serve Dash and no one was going to force her to question that.
  1798. “So you wanna play or what?” Blaze asked.
  1799. “I’m all sweaty.” Storm shook her head. “Let me change my clothes first.”
  1800. “This is why you don’t wear clothes when it’s this hot!” Blaze rolled her eyes. “You really gotta get over your fashion obsession. You’re somehow worse than Rarity’s pet.”
  1801. “I am trying.”
  1802. >Storm walked off to the bedroom to get changed. Of course, all the others were almost always naked inside the house, it was climate controlled enough for that. Storm had gotten used to seeing naked people, to the point even a naked guy didn’t make her blink, but being naked was still another matter.
  1803. >Still, she really did love her new life here! This had to be the best week of her life so far.
  1804. >She realized now that her idea of escaping was completely stupid. There was no escaping from ponies, nothing to do but let them win. Resigning to her fate really was the best thing she’d ever done.
  1805. >Storm took off her boots and noticed something fall out.
  1806. >There was a little piece of paper folded up. How the heck had that gotten in there?
  1807. >Diem took it out and realized there was something written on it. It was a note? Had someone somehow slipped this in without her noticing.
  1808. >Curious, she read it…
  1809. I have a portal device. Can you use it? Put note under the garbage can outside if you can.
  1810. >Storm felt like she was having a heart attack! Her hands began to shake.
  1811. >This was the worst possible thing… choice!
  1815. >Somehow Storm didn’t have a nightmare that night, maybe because she couldn’t sleep. That was one of the pros of getting conquered and assimilated by ponies, no more nightmares. If anyone, human pony or griffon, had a nightmare Luna would come help you out.
  1816. >On the flip side this meant that Luna also knew all of your dark secrets as soon as you had a nightmare about it and sometimes she’d sign you up for mandatory rehabilitation the next day. Back during her own rehabilitation, Storm had tons of nightmares which gave Starlight tons of ammunition.
  1817. >So if she had even one nightmare this was all over. Luna would know and the jig would be up.
  1818. >She half wished Luna had shown up and yanked this choice away from her before she had to make it. Every day Storm was seeing having your agency taken away as more and more of a mercy.
  1819. >One of the things that really helped her accept her new role in life was that lack of agency. No matter what happened she’d never be able to beat the ponies. She couldn’t even begin to build a portal device on her own, let alone under the new level of survallance and control she was under.
  1820. >Her new hair color, her new name, the fact that she had been branded as Dash’s property… there was nothing she could do but accept it.
  1821. >There was just… nothing she could do. Nothing but submit and accept the relatively cozy lives her new masters would provide in exchange for working for them and worshipping their god. The lack of choice really was comforting.
  1822. >But now she was being confronted by a real choice. Did she want to be Storm or Diem? Eventually one of the two girls would have to stop existing for the sake of the other.
  1823. >Rainbow Storm was happier than Diem Daryl had ever been. She had more friends, a better house, a better family, more luxury and despite having less freedom could do more and go more places than Diem could have ever hoped. Storm was clearly the more desirable girl to be.
  1824. >But… Diem really wasn’t going to be that easy to just get rid of. As nice as her life was, Storm was an identity bestowed on her, a replacement to make her new life more comfortable for herself and convenient for the ponies. She knew that the whole time and did her best to accept it since it really was for the best…
  1825. >So part of Diem wanted to at least see… see if it really was impossible before truly giving up for good. Maybe that’s what she needed to be completely obedient and good in her new life. To just see how hopeless this mystery person’s plan really was.
  1826. >So just before dawn, Diem snuck downstairs. And yet the whole time Storm was conflicted about the whole thing, felt sick that she was even considering not turning the note over to her mistress. She had to stop and sit at the bottom of the stairs for a moment.
  1827. >It’d be so easy to jut hand the note over to her mistress. She’d get a head pat and a treat! And then she’d be a step closer to C rank like her sisters! Storm loved getting praise from Dash too.
  1828. >It’d be too hard to go against them. Giving in would be a relief.
  1829. >That was another thing. Storm couldn’t go outside at night anymore. She had a chip implanted in her right hand now and if a rank D human tried to leave their provided living area an alert would register in the pony’s tracking system. Going just ten feet away from the house meant getting an instant demerit, which would hurt her chances of getting to C rank.
  1830. >Strangely, not being able to leave the house at night was something of a comfort, made Storm feel secure. She felt like it was a bit of a safety net protecting her from making decisions right now.
  1831. >And once the other girls woke up, it’d be really hard to slip the note under there once they woke up. It was empty right now so she’d have no excuse to go over there.
  1832. >So she decided that if the trash can was more than ten feet from the house then there was just nothing she could do! She felt a brief reprieve from the choice being out of her hands until she got downstairs and saw that the trash can was right next to the door for once.
  1833. >Seeing it there, Diem already felt like the choice had been made. She had to… she had to see before she could be truly comfortable in her new life, before she could truly submit.
  1834. >Diem slowly crept outside and, as quickly as possible, left the note under the trash can. Then, as if expecting the note to explode, Storm rushed back inside and hid under a pillow on the couch.
  1835. >Making decisions really was painful and hard!
  1836. >There was only a half hour left before her sisters woke up but it felt like an eternity. She felt like she’d betrayed them all! She regretted leaving the note there already but it wasn’t like there was anything she could do about it at this point.
  1837. >Her sisters came down a little later. Storm sat terrified at the table, hoping none of them would see how nervous she was and figure it out.
  1838. >They went outside and got their daily food rations.
  1839. >They didn’t get to keep food in their house, instead their rations were delivered to them like this. One of the arguments against human freedom was that when humans were allowed to eat however much they wanted, they’d more often than not end up obese and diabetic.
  1840. >Having a pony take away your choice when it came to eating was the right thing to do…
  1841. >Suddenly she regretted her decision. She should have told her mistress about the note! But it felt too late now…
  1842. >Maybe the person would never respond!
  1843. >Or she could just not talk to them next time.
  1844. “You got up early,” said Squall, giving Storm a fright. “You seem sluggish today. Normally you’re so lively.”
  1845. “I’m sorry, ma’am.” Storm bowed her head. “I couldn’t sleep.”
  1846. “Hm?” Squall raised an eyebrow. “You should have asked for a sleep spell or potion then.”
  1847. “Ah! I’m sorry. I forgot those existed. I guess I lived in the wild so long…”
  1848. “That’s fine.” Squall sighed. “But remember that if you have any problems you should always defer to the ponies. They want us to be healthy and happy so we can get more work done for them! You don’t need to make important decisions or try to solve your own problems anymore.”
  1849. “Right.”
  1850. >At least Storm had an excuse for why she’d be so lethargic today… but she still had a lot of work ahead of her.
  1852. >It wasn’t easy working that day, given it was a twelve hour shift after working a twelve hour shift on top of no sleep. At least Mistress Dash would give them an extra day off in a couple days. She really was a nice mistress…
  1853. >It made Storm sick…
  1854. >But the other girls were all as bright and chipper as always. How Storm wished she could be like them again, just have all of this over with. But she’d already done the wrong thing. Maybe the solution now was to just stop and hope she never got caught.
  1855. “Did you see Applejack’s slaves?” Gust asked the others. “All of them got their hair turned the same shade of yellow as hers! They’ve always had orange cloaks so now they finally match their owner. I guess us and our mistress are tend setters now.”
  1856. “Yeah! Twilight gave her slaves matching hair a while back. Wonder how long before every human is like us,” Blaze mused. “But then what are they gonna do with all those poor state slaves?”
  1857. >Blaze turned to Storm, hoping for some funny comment.
  1858. “Oh! I dunno,” Storm tried to smile. “Maybe they can have their hair done like Celestia’s?”
  1859. >Blaze laughed at the idea.
  1860. “Like F ranks deserve to have hair like hers?” Blaze chuckled again. “Nah, they should all be bald or something.”
  1861. >Storm meekly nodded and largely fell out of the conversation after that.
  1862. >Worried, Squall later reminded her to take a sleeping potion that.
  1863. >Maybe Storm just should. She didn’t get another note, unless…
  1864. >Another note was slipped into her shoe. And Storm had been on the lookout for it this time too! Clearly she was dealing with some kind of ninja.
  1865. Hold this in your hand. 11:20 PM. Fence two doors south.
  1866. >Hold what?
  1867. >Storm checked her shoe again and found a small crystal, the rock that’d been bothering her just a minute ago, inside. It must have been enchanted to block the tracking signal!
  1868. >Just one more. Just one more step and Storm would stop this, she promised herself.
  1870. >That night…
  1871. >Storm went to the meeting spot, clutching the crystal tight. To say she was apprehensive about this was an understatement. She felt like she was going to puke.
  1872. >The person she was supposed to meet looked just as wary as her, only poking their head briefly out from behind a fence.
  1873. >Storm could tell they were humanoid at least, though given how many coats, scarves and hats the person was wearing they really could have been a diamond dog. Only diamond dogs had been domesticated and bred to the point independence from ponies was unthinkable and disgusting to them.. so it had to be a human.
  1874. >Still, Storm couldn’t say one single thing about the stranger’s appearance.
  1875. “You’re Diem Daryl?” The human asked. They had a voice changer that garbled their voice so much Storm couldn’t tell if they were a man or a woman. “Did your father show you how to use portal devices?”
  1876. “He did,” said Storm. “Who are-“
  1877. “I don’t give my name.”
  1878. “Well how many-“
  1879. “I don’t say that.”
  1880. “Where’s the portal device then?
  1881. “No.”
  1882. “Then how the heck am I supposed to make a portal for you?”
  1883. >The human handed her an envelope. She looked inside and it was filled with photographs. The one he had looked exactly like the one Storm was used to!
  1884. “How did you get-?”
  1885. “Not telling,” they said. “I don’t trust anyone. You tell me how to use this. I open a portal. If I can I’ll take you with me. No further negotiation. You can accept now or I’ll find some other method.”
  1886. “I’d need more photographs to show you.” Storm pointed to the temporal shredder. “I need to see inside this thing to know if you have it right. My… Edmond made adjustments to this. And it’d take months for me to explain this”
  1887. “Fine,” said the stranger. “We can’t speak any longer than this. I’ll put another note in you shoe tomorrow. Hypnocil.”
  1888. >The stranger took out a syringe. Storm knew what it was, that same anti-dream injection she’d gotten her whole life.
  1889. >Without much thought, Storm offered her arm and the stranger quickly injected her with it.
  1890. >And then they left without another word.
  1891. >Months…
  1892. >Storm knew for a fact that she couldn’t hold out like this for months! But on the other hoof she might get in trouble with her mistress for having gone this far!
  1893. >What was she supposed to do now?!
  1894. >One thing this whole escapade made her realize was that she really… wasn’t Diem anymore. She wasn’t a wild human who could be independent anymore. She was a domesticated animal now. That she was dependent on ponies now was clearly just a fact to be accepted. She couldn’t handle this one decision, let alone millions of them for the rest of her life!
  1895. >So in the case of Storm herself… the ponies won. They got what they wanted and domesticated her. She really wasn’t going to try and leave, she decided, it was too late for that.
  1896. >But she still didn’t get any relief from this conclusion. There was still the decision of what to do with that guy. Confess or…?
  1899. >Cuddle Pie bowed as low to the ground as she could, making her no different from the rest of the massive crowed crowd. The ponies were no different than the humans when in the presence of Celestia, mere pieces of property, and they too kept their muzzles firm against the ground in deference to her superiority.
  1900. >Just being in that crowd, even before Celestia appeared, gave Cuddles the sense that she was in the presence of a truly superior, transcendent being. Not one person here would dare to question the perfection of the princess.
  1901. >There was a moment of dead silence and then Princess Celestia herself walked out onto the carpet leading to the stage the slaves had built for her. Despite the size of the crowd, they were all so respectful of her overwhelming supremacy that not one made a noise to the extent you could hear her every footstep.
  1902. >A mere human wasn’t allowed to look at anything but Celestia’s hooves and even that much was something you needed to say a prayer of thanks for afterwards. Her magnificent countenance was simply too grand to behold.
  1903. >Of course, no human could ever be worthy of the honor of actually speaking to Celestia, so much as a ‘yes ma’am’ could get you thrown in jail so your pony had to do the talking for you. No, the greatest honor a human could ever hope to achieve was getting to bow down directly before Celestia. It was like the pet equivalent of a medal of honor!
  1904. >Cuddle’s current position didn’t count as a full, direct bow but it was close! She felt such a swell of pride to be this close to her goddess.
  1905. >Her mom and the other elements of harmony were the ones bowing directly to her, lying prone with their muzzles against the ground on the edge of het carpet Celestia blessed by trodding on. Cuddle Pie, Tourmaline and each of their favorite humans were just behind them, though, bowing down as low as they could possibly get.
  1906. >Keeping her nose pressed against the ground as hard as she could, Cuddles glanced up with her eyes to behold Celestia’s hooves.
  1907. >Even that much was magnificent. The way she walked… Celestia truly was dominance and perfection incarnate. Even the other ponies, otherwise so dominant and in control, regarded her with absolute submission, never dared to question her on anything.
  1908. >That she’d ever allow anypony to hold onto her things as a lease made her the most generous being imaginable. The fact that she ever told the truth made her the most honest being imaginable. That she’d ever treat anything with even a tiny bit of kindness made her kind beyond all others. And the list went on.
  1909. >Just one glance at her filled you with feelings of a peaceful surrender.
  1910. >It was hard to imagine why anyone would ever fight against the chance to serve her, to belong to your rightful owner. It seemed the only thing that mattered to Cuddle Pie.
  1911. >Soon Celestia was on the stage. The ponies sat up and Cuddles got on her knees to watch Celestia on the television rather than looking at her directly.
  1912. >Even when just on TV, you were supposed to remain on your knees whenever it was Celestia.
  1913. “It fills me with great joy to be here in Ponyville, the human trafficking capital of the world, and see a race that had once so harshly resisted me now bowing down to my every whim. I’m sure all of you are deeply satisfied to finally be under the rule of your rightful owner. Every day the number of humans who had ever been free from me and known a culture not built in my honor gets closer to the minority where it belongs. Be happy knowing that you are a worthy replacement for the wild humans who are fast disappearing.”
  1914. “I have to say that humanity really was a lovely addition to my collection of slave races and Earth a nice little addition to my collection of planets. The technology and wealth I repossessed from your planet as well as your continued hard work to enrich Equestria really has made my life more luxurious. And really what else matter?”
  1915. “But only the entire multiverse is enough for me. A hundred and twenty or so planets and a few dozen slave races is not nearly enough to satisfy me. I must have my ponies expand and become the majority on every planet and have every race accept my complete and unconditional ownership of them and all things. I’m counting on your hard work to help me achieve that goal.”
  1916. “In return I promise you that your species will one day be bred to be just as docile and eager to serve as all my other slave races. I promise that all your hard work will be put to use enslaving every intelligent race in the multiverse and remaking them to my liking, just as I now remake you. I promise that ever civilization will be torn down and remade in my image, just as Earth was, just as the ones all my other slaves came from were.”
  1917. “Truly there is no more glorious fate for anyone or anything than to belong to me and to have me mold you into perfected submission. For I am perfection incarnate. All things belong to me and we must all work hard to ensure that nothing exists but for my benefit. One day none shall question this.”
  1918. >And everyone applauded wildly!
  1921. >Celestia was…. Perfect!
  1922. >She was an absolute perfect goddess and Storm felt a mixture of awe towards her and disgust toward herself.
  1923. >Bowing down to Celestia along with a massive crowd, witnessing firsthand Celestia’s total dominance and perfection… it was the sort of thing you remembered your whole life! Storm really did feel inspired to devote herself to doing anything she could for her new goddess.
  1924. >Several people, including a few of her sisters, had been brought to tears by Celestia’s speech. It was just so brilliant and perfect, beautiful that she’d even acknowledge the lowly human race.
  1925. >Celestia, ever generous, gave all of the slaves a day off to enjoy the carnival. Who but her would be kind enough to give their slaves a day off?
  1926. >After worshipping and praying to her a bit more, Storm and her sisters walked off towards the fair.
  1927. >Today would have been absolutely perfect, the best day of her life next to the day Mistress Rainbow Dash brought her home, were it not for the obvious…
  1928. >Storm had defied Celestia’s will… she was a bad girl…
  1929. >She’d thought maybe there was still enough Diem left inside herself that she could maybe just pretend that never happened, but no… she felt like she already had a stomach ulcer.
  1930. >Celestia was so perfect and loved all of her slaves so much and Storm just went up and betrayed and betrayed that.
  1931. >Diem really had been such a stupid animal. Storm resolved to never listen to her, to that voice in her head, ever again.
  1932. >But before she could just forget about Diem and move on to her new life as Storm… she had to clean up Diem’s final mistake.
  1933. >She wished she could go be alone until she thought this through, but didn’t have the chance.
  1934. >Maybe the worst thing about this was that, as a D rank human, Storm could never really get any alone time. She really wasn’t supposed to travel around without her sisters or her mistress to keep track of her. She really was less of an individual now, part of a squad, part of the herd.
  1935. >At least… that was the way she wanted it.
  1936. “Celestia is just so insanely amazing!” Blaze clenched her fists near her heart in excitement. “I felt chills just hearing her voice! How does that level of perfection even exist?!”
  1937. “I want Princess Celestia to conquer and enslave everyone ever!” Breeze declared. “Anyone who doesn’t submit to her should be beaten within an inch of their lives for being mean!”
  1938. “Now we all want Celestia to keep expanding her empire,” said Squall, “But we need to remember that just because they haven’t submitted to her and accepted her ownership yet her future slaves are still just that- future slaves. We shouldn’t hurt them anymore than we have to get them to bow down.”
  1939. >Equestria really did have so much kindness even towards those who opposed them. How had Storm ever doubted that these were the good guys?
  1940. “Take Rainbow Storm here.” Squall turned to her. “She used to defy the herd, but thanks to Mistress Rainbow Dash showing her mercy she’s now ready to serve! And she’s usually such a hard worker too.”
  1941. >Usually…
  1942. “You still feeling bad?” Blaze put an arm over her shoulder. “You know what would make you feel better? Haunted house! Eh?”
  1943. >Blaze pointed to the haunted house attraction.
  1944. “How would that help?” Breeze asked.
  1945. “Scare the stress away?” Blaze shrugged.
  1946. “I dunno…”
  1947. “You haven’t been any fun at all the last few days,” Blaze complained. “What’s wrong?”
  1948. “I just feel nauseous is all,” said Storm. “Maybe I’m getting sick? I might puke if I go inside.”
  1949. “We get scanned every day.” Squall shook her head. “You’re fine.”
  1950. >Dangit! The ponies were too concerned about her wellbeing for her to fake sick.
  1951. “Alright, but you’re going to talk to Mistress as soon as we’re able,” said Squall. “There’s clearly something wrong with you and I’m no pony.”
  1952. >Storm did feel some relief from that, like things might slip out of her hands and into Dash’s hooves where they belonged. She really did look put to Mistress Dash.
  1953. >She just hoped she wouldn’t be tempted to lie… would blab everything…
  1954. >Though what then?
  1955. >The others went inside while Storm waited for them by the exit. At least she finally got some alone time, though walking off even farther than that would get her in even more trouble.
  1956. >In a sense, Storm was on the other side of the coin she’d been on just before getting rescued by the ponies.
  1957. >She could easily just stay here… but the choice was whether to let a clearly feral human escape.
  1958. >Was it really okay to let someone be free just because they wanted to? She knew now that Celestia’s opinion mattered far more.
  1959. >But how much trouble would she get into? Would helping catch a dangerous human be enough to redeem her mistake?
  1960. >There was also a question of if that guy would just let her stop helping him…
  1961. >What should she do? The upside of slavery should have been that she never had to make these kinds of decisions!
  1962. >A familiar face walked by, Cuddle Pie, though she wasn’t with her mom. Seeing a D rank human waiting by herself wasn’t too uncommon, but was curious enough to get Cuddle’s attention.
  1963. >Maybe she was alone because her mom got to talk to Celestia. Humans were almost never allowed in her presence, but A rank humans were allowed to roam wherever they wanted unescorted.
  1964. >An A rank human…
  1965. >High quality humans were the next step down from ponies. Mid tier humans like Storm were one step below that, along with the kirin. All things considered, Storm’s place in the herd was relatively high up, but she was still supposed to regard high rank humans with submission.
  1966. >If she couldn’t go have a pony decide this for her… then having an A rank human decide was the next best thing!
  1967. >But she was still too nervous and indecisive to just go over there. Thankfully Cuddle Pie came over to her, looking concerned.
  1968. “Are you okay?” Cuddles leaned over and gave Storm a pat on the head to give her permission to speak. “You look really stressed out. You’re not… you don’t regret getting domesticated, do you?”
  1969. >Storm shook her head. She already caused Cuddle Pie enough pain and didn’t want her thinking that.
  1970. “I’m just conflicted about something. Making decisions is… it’s been really hard ever since Starlight finished training me,” said Storm. “Being a domesticated human is a lot better overall… but I used to be able to make decisions for myself a lot more easily. Now I get sick whenever I try…”
  1971. “Well yeah.” Cuddles tapped her chin. “We’re not supposed to be making big decisions on our own so they train us to not like doing it… makes sense, right? Ponies are the ones who lead so we should just defer to them.”
  1972. >Cuddles shrugged.
  1973. >It kind of did…
  1974. “But whether or not I should go to a pony is what I’m unsure of! I kind of… did something I’m not supposed to. I think I should confess but… I don’t want to get in trouble. I just started liking my new life and I don’t want to ruin it so fast.”
  1975. >Storm sat down.
  1976. >Why had that stupid jerk forced her to make a choice in the first place?
  1977. “What did you do?” Cuddles asked.
  1978. >Storm stayed silent.
  1979. “You know, the ponies are really understanding! They really do get that we’re just animals so they don’t expect us to be perfect,” Cuddles explained. “Not every human is A rank and even I mess up… There’s been a few times I got worried about being demoted even… back when I was kind of doubting that Celestia and the ponies were perfect.”
  1980. >That was her fault! Cuddle Pie had a totally perfect life and Storm… she no doubt brought her so much pain all because she wasn’t smart enough to just submit to the ponies.
  1981. “I’m sorry for that,” said Storm. “Making you doubt I mean… I kind of wish I could turn it off and be happy. But I took that way from you… I’m so sorry, Cuddles!”
  1982. “I’m still happy!” Cuddles assured her. “My mom forgave me straight away. All she wanted was for me to go back to my cheery life and helped me out. All our masters want is for us to be part of their herd. They’ll make sure we’re all happily serving them even if they gotta drag us in kicking and screaming!”
  1983. “I guess they already dragged me in kicking and screaming once.” Storm couldn’t help but smile just a little.
  1984. >But how many second chances would she get before she was stuck at E rank or no longer welcome in the herd. Being disconnected from Celestia… from what she just felt… it was the worst idea in the world.
  1985. >Cuddles could tell she was getting doubtful again.
  1986. “Don’t you wish you’d turned yourself in way back when?” Cuddles asked, sitting down next to her. “I’m sure you’d be a lot happier right now if you’d helped us escaped, walked up to Rainbow Dash then bowed down and begged to be her slave, right?
  1987. >It was true, she really did regret not giving in. Storm may very well have been B rank by now otherwise! She’d had the chance to gain so much respect from her Mistress… but she totally blew it and now had to work for it the hard way.
  1988. >Giving in… confessing… turning herself in and submitting to the ponies. Deep down Storm knew that was the right thing to do. It was the only way to be happy.
  1989. >No, Storm wouldn’t let an opportunity like that pass her up again.
  1990. “Okay…” Storm took a deep breath. “See the thing is…”
  1993. >It felt like an eternity waiting for her mistress to finally come out of Celestia’s palace. Obviously a D rank human wasn’t allowed inside, even Cuddle Pie wasn’t allowed in.
  1994. >They did send a message inside that Storm had something important to confess, about rebel humans, so Dash would come out soon.
  1995. >Even though Storm had already blabbed everything that happened and there was a hundred percent chance Cuddles would tell them no matter what, she still felt afraid for her own fate. In just a minute, the ponies would have all the information they needed and be back in control. Then she could relax.
  1996. “You really don’t have to look so worried.” Cuddle Pie smiled, trying to calm her down. “I don’t Rainbow Dash will do anything that stops you from working for her. She’d want you to keep producing value for her!”
  1997. “Thanks. I don’t think I realized it until all this but… I really do want to be Mistress Dash’s slave. I’m a lot better off as a part of the herd.”
  1998. >Cuddles smiled, looking a little relieved to hear her admit that.
  1999. “I guess there are a few things we give up in order to live with the ponies.” Cuddles looked up. “But it’s totally worth it! Once thy conquer you their approval really is the only thing that can make you happy.”
  2000. >Storm nodded. That much was crystal clear to her now. The only question was how hard it would be to get their approval back…
  2001. >Mistress Dash came out, Twilight accompanying her. Seeing Twilight there already made Storm feel like she was in trouble.
  2002. >Storm immediately got off the bench and bowed to the two of them as low as she could go.
  2003. >Normally when she bowed she got that comforting feeling of submission, but right now that felt just out of reach.
  2004. “I-I’m so sorry, Mistress!” Storm began to sob. “I betrayed you! There was a human trying to escape and I…. I helped them a little! I met them without telling you- but then I saw Celestia and I realized I- I- I’m so sorry!”
  2005. >Storm felt so guilty she wanted to puke. She’d displeased her mistress and her goddess! That was so not worth it! She just wanted to go back to being a slave more than anything in the world.
  2006. >Storm started to sob uncontrollably.
  2007. “Hey, hey! Easy girl!” Dash rubbed her hoof on her slaves back, trying to calm her property down. “You’re doing the right thing now, but you gotta tell us whatever happened.”
  2008. “Right. Did they run off somewhere?” Twilight asked.
  2009. “I don’t think so.” Storm looked up, but didn’t dare lift her head without their approval. “I was supposed to meet them again tonight. But I think there might be more than one.”
  2010. “Well that’s good.” Twilight nodded. “Then there’s still time to stamp out any hope of humans living apart from Celestia! You can kneel and tell us the rest of it.”
  2011. “Y-you’re really not mad at me?” Storm lifted her head, but still didn’t get up on her knees just yet.
  2012. “Eh! You did something stupid but you’re just an animal.” Dash shrugged. “That’s why you need ponies to control your lives. Humans just do stupid stuff without us. I knew you’d probably do a few stupid things when I agreed to take a wild human onto my estate, you know.”
  2013. >Dash motioned for her to get up on her knees and Storm didn’t dare disobey her mistress.
  2014. “But you seem to be settling into your role as a slave pretty good!” Dash proclaimed. “I can tell this little mistake helped you see your place.”
  2015. “It did, Mistress.” Storm bowed her head.
  2016. “And what’s your place?”
  2017. “Under your total control, working hard to enrich you!”
  2018. “That’s what I like hear!” Dash gave her a slap on the back. “Good girl.”
  2019. >But there was still Twilight, and Twilight outranked Dash. Storm turned nervously to her.
  2020. “I’m just glad to see the conditioning worked!” Twilight smiled brightly. “You’ve clearly had your mind successfully rewired to the point that defying us is just… impossible for you! Your new mindset will just veto that bad decision even if you try! You really don’t have a choice in the matter anymore.”
  2021. >Storm bowed her head. Was that true?
  2022. “It is true,” Storm admitted. “I really do just want to be your slave, Mistress. Not serving you just feels too wrong.”
  2023. “Hey.” Dash put a hoof on her shoulder. “You’re my property and nothing can ever change that. Even back when you were having your temper tantrum you still legally belonged to me. Not even running away would change that fact!
  2024. >Storm’s eyes watered with admiration for her mistress. She really was far kinder than any human could ever be! She… deserved to own Storm!
  2025. “Thank you so much, Mistress!” Storm bowed down low to her again.
  2026. >Finally that feeling of safety and belonging that Starlight helped her grow to love so much returned. She really and truly belonged to Mistress Dash, down to her very core.
  2027. “I bet being brought back into the fold feels great!” Cuddles smiled at her and gave her a pat on the back.
  2028. “This is the biggest relief I felt since I converted to worshipping Celestia.” Storm let out a sigh.
  2029. “But we need you to tell us about this traitor right away,” Dash commanded. “Whoever it is needs to be enslaved and shipped off to the ice mines right away! Before they can do any more damage.”
  2030. “Right!” Storm nodded as quickly as she could, eager to serve the herd as much as possible right now. “Someone slipped a notes into my shoes telling me where to meet them. They said they had a portal device and wanted my help using it to esca- to rob Celestia of a bunch of her slaves… including me. But I never got a good look at them.”
  2031. “Really!” Twilight raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Did you see this portal device?”
  2032. “Well no… but he did have pictures of it. It looked just like the one I used to see, but it wasn’t the exact same one. I have no idea how they could have gotten it.”
  2033. “Hm.” Twilight trotted back and forth tapping her chin. “Well there’s no way one of you little critters could have built one of those all by yourself. Your kind just aren’t smart enough. The nest we rescued you from was likely the last of it’s kind and there certainly couldn’t be a large network of wild humans in Ponyville… Are you sure it was a human?”
  2034. >The thought never even crossed her mind! This was why ponies were in charge.
  2035. “Well… they had hands,” said Storm. “And they looked like they were a biped. But they were so covered in clothes… maybe it was a diamond dog?”
  2036. “Diamond dogs have been successfully bred into perfect obedient dependence on us.” Twilight shook her head. “And they’re even less intelligent than you. No… there’s only one possibility here…”
  2041. “I’m pretty sure a pony has to be behind this,” Twilight concluded. “There’s just no way a human would be able to run around town this freely, no way another slave race could break out of their conditioning. A monster from another dimension is also a possibility, but not the most likely one.”
  2042. “But a pony?!” Storm was suddenly shocked. The ponies all just seemed to incredibly loyal to Celestia. Their fanatic devotion to her was one of the things that gave Storm the impression they truly were superior beings. “Would one of you really go against Celestia and try to free a bunch of slaves?”
  2043. >Cuddles looked nervous about the idea too.
  2044. “Nopony would ever side against Celestia.” Twilight shook her head. “Not unless they’ve gone completely insane for some reason. Our herd instinct is too strong.”
  2045. “Then… why would they do this?” Storm asked. “Who would do this? Starlight? Like to test my loyalty?”
  2046. >Storm really respected Starlight as an intellectual. She really doubted her idol would do something so underhanded.
  2047. “No. I think it’s somepony less mature.” Twilight looked at Dash with an unamused look. “Somepony who can get close to Dash’s house without triggering any alarms. Were they using a voice changer?”
  2048. “Yes.”
  2049. “Did it sound like this?” Twilight used a spell to make her voice sound exactly like the mysterious human’s.
  2050. “Y-yes?” Storm felt like it really must have been a pony now.
  2051. “Oh boy.” Dash sighed. “Are AJ and Rarity around…?”
  2052. “We can get Rarity at least.” Twilight started trotting off. “Let’s go.”
  2053. >Storm still didn’t get an answer to what the two of them were thinking just yet. Dash asked her to be quiet for a minute and, eager to obey, she stayed silent.
  2054. >It took a few minutes, but soon Rarity and her pet Tourmaline were with them and they were off to go find Rarity’s sister.
  2055. >Sweetie Belle was with two of her friends, at one of those strong-pony hammer and bell games. Rarity’s butler was with them as well. At their insistence, he tried his hand at the game just as Storm and the others were approaching.
  2056. >But when the butler hit the lever with all his might, his hammer squeaked and did nothing, much to the amusement of the three fillies. Sweetie Belle took out the real hammer while the butler just now realized his had been replaced, apparently without him noticing, with a realistic looking toy hammer.
  2057. “Ah, geeze!” Scootaloo wiped a tear from her eye. “No wonder you guys lost the war! You should be glad you get to be on our side.”
  2058. >She’d seen these three around a little. All of them were around 20, actually but ponies aged a lot slower than humans. It meant that Storm’s great grandkids would get to work for Mistress Dash as well, but on the flipside ponies didn’t reach adulthood until their 40’s. They only started hitting puberty… around these three’s ages.
  2059. “Sweetie Belle,” Rarity said with an air of authority that made the three of them stop laughing. “Is there anything you’d like to confess to me?”
  2060. “Um…” Sweetie Belle bit her lips and hid the hammer behind her back. “Maybe? I’ll admit there’s a few things you might be angry about right now and only want to confess to the one you know about.”
  2061. “Were you playing any particularly mean pranks on the poor humans lately?” Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Tricking them into thinking you have a portal they can escape through?”
  2062. >Sweetie Belle blinked and turned to Storm.
  2063. “Really? I’m really impressed you figured that out!” Sweetie Belle looked up at her with skepticism and admiration. “I kinda wish you were my slave now.”
  2064. “Of course she didn’t figure it out!” Dash yelled. “We figured it out for her! But she was a good slave and came to her betters ”
  2065. “Wait- that ninja guy was you three little fillies?” Storm was stunned at the revelation. Little kids were doing that?!
  2066. “Oh! I guess she only figured it out just now.” Scootaloo smirked. “Sound about right. Of course it was us! You didn’t seriously think some lousy human would be able to pull that kind of stuff off, did you?”
  2067. >The three of them all laughed.
  2068. “I mean… maybe a little? My father had one and-“
  2069. “That was a totally different circumstance.” Twilight shook her head. “His special talent was portal devices and he had several components left over from his old exploded one that would be impossible to manufacture without a civilization backing you up. Nopony can accomplish anything great without a herd and humans are even more lost by themselves than ponies are.”
  2070. “Right.” Storm felt so humiliated that it was hard to accept this was the truth. “But- But the photographs.”
  2071. “It’s called photoshop.” Sweetie Belle snickered. “I guess you didn’t notice, but we put literally put the words ‘fake device’ on one of the pictures. And the screen had the lyrics to ‘Pony pone’ on it- you know that meme troll song?”
  2072. “Or the fact that our fake hands only had four fingers?” Applebloom added. “Our ninja character was pretty slow for a ninja too, huh? These are the kinds of things a pony would have been smart enough to notice.”
  2073. “We didn’t actually give you hypnocil either.” Scootaloo rolled her eyes. “That was just saline stuff.”
  2074. “Uh…”
  2075. >Storm felt completely stupid. She’d looked at all the buttons and stuff, but not the screen itself! She really felt like a stupid monkey right now.
  2076. “Admit it, you totally thought there was some kind of hope for escape,” said Applebloom. She gave Storm a condescending pat.
  2077. “I- I kind of-“
  2078. >The three fillies started laughing hysterically, while Storm blushed and lowered her head. She knew they were kids, but she didn’t think the ponies would do something this mean… they were supposed to be perfect superior beings! Storm desperately wanted to believe that, she was happier believing that!
  2079. “Okay, so why’d you pull this on my slave?” Dash started tapping her foot. “What made you think this was a good idea exactly?”
  2080. >Scootaloo looked genuinely surprised at Dash’s displeasure with her. Storm suddenly felt a brief reprieve from her humiliation now that her mistress was standing up for her.
  2081. “Huh? Humans are just the perfect prank targets,” said Scootaloo. “They’re so dumb and superstitious. And any human over rank D knows her place and will just roll over and take it.”
  2082. “It’s like how I used to tell Tourmie those ghost stories.” Sweetie Belle smiled up at Tourmaline. “And she’d get so scared she couldn’t sleep at night. Tourmie’s such a silly pet, getting scared of a story she knows is fake.”
  2083. >Cuddle Pie looked over at Tourmaline, a bit surprised by this revelation.
  2084. “Did you really get that scared of ghost stories?” Cuddles asked her.
  2085. “I was ten!” Tourmaline blushed and looked away. “Obviously I don’t get that scared anymore.”
  2086. “Yeah, cause I taught her, right?” Sweetie Belle pressed up against Tourmaline’s leg. “Messing with them is one way to make humans less dumb. I’m sure your slave won’t be stupid enough to think she has any hope of escape from now on.”
  2087. “Plus it’s funny,” said Scootaloo. “Exercising your power over another person feels awesome. Right, Dash?”
  2088. “How many times do I gotta tell you not to touch my stuff?!” Dash bit Scootaloo’s ear and pulled, forcing Scootaloo to stumble forward. “When you get your own slaves you can do whatever you want with them but Storm is my property.
  2089. “Ow ow ow!” Scootaloo complained. “We weren’t seriously going to- ow! We were going to give it back!”
  2090. “My slaves aren’t toys!” Rainbow Dash said firmly, then rethought the statement. “Okay, I guess Rainbow Bolt is kind of a toy, but you’re too young for that! My female slaves are there to do stuff that I don’t wanna do myself! The reason I have so much free time and four houses and all that cool stuff I let you play with is because of my slaves.”
  2091. “We get that!” Scootaloo tried defending herself. “But-“
  2092. “But nothing! Storm was so stressed out her productivity flagged for three days!” Dash sighed before finally turning back to Storm. “Maybe I should have warned you, but Scoots here plays pranks on my slaves all the time. Though she usually doesn’t go this far.”
  2093. >The fillies started to look a little worried about how much trouble they were in.
  2094. >Storm was starting to feel a lot better too. Clearly her mistress really did intend to take care of her as long as she stayed submissive.
  2095. “We had a good cause!” Applebloom quickly spoke up. “Rainbow Storm was a wild human, yeah? And they’re always trying to escape and stuff so we were thinking- like we could raise her hopes and then crush them! Just like y’all do!”
  2096. “Right!” Scootaloo nodded in agreement. “It’s so cool how you six are always working to crush the hopes of inferior races! You completely destroy anyone who defies Celestia and force them to bow down like they shoulda in the first place! We just wanna be like you and help conquer and enslave everybody!”
  2097. >Now it was the mares’ turn to share a look, one of concern.
  2098. “Now, Sweetie.” Rarity put a hoof on her little sister’s shoulder. “Do you remember what you did AFTER you scared Tourmaline out of what little wits humans have?”
  2099. “Um… well I let her sleep in my bed whenever that happened?” Sweetie Belle guessed. “It was really cute how cuddly little Tourmie got when she’s scared.”
  2100. “Yes.” Rarity nodded. “See you weren’t just exercising your control over an inferior being, but doing it in a way that let her grow emotionally attached to you, establishing yourself as a source of comfort. You were increasing your control over Tourmaline and bringing her more in line with what we want in our slaves. That’s why that was a good prank.”
  2101. “And…?” Sweetie Belle tried to think of where this was going. “You want Rainbow Storm to sleep in my bed too? Isn’t it weird to let a mid tier human sleep with you?”
  2102. “No, no. You see,” Twilight took over the explanation, “Crushing and destroying the lesser races is fun and an important step towards befriending them and helping them accept who they belong to… but it is only one step. Do you know what else you need?”
  2103. “Um.” The three fillies looked to one another.
  2104. “You need them to ACCEPT that they belong to you,” Twilight carried on after a brief sigh. “We tear them down so we can remake them in our own image. Like that big statue that used to be in Twicastle. The Statue of Liberty they called it I think? Well we didn’t just leave a pile of rubble when we tore it down, but built a magnificent statue of Celestia right where it used to be to replace it.”
  2105. “We don’t get rid of their leaders and leave them in chaos, but give them better pony leaders. We don’t destroy their civilization and leave them in the stone age but integrate them into our own superior civilization. And we do humiliate and strip humans of their pride, but…”
  2106. >The three fillies shared another look and lowered their heads in shame, finally understanding the moral.
  2107. “But we don’t just leave them humiliated.” They admitted.
  2108. “Right! If you tear something down you become responsible for it. Tearing away Storm’s old, toxic identity has to be accompanied by us building her back up so she can have pride in her slavery.”
  2109. “So if we destroy her hopes of escape… we have to replace it with hope in- in-?” Sweetie seemed to be on the verge of getting it, but couldn’t think what kind of hope she should give Storm.
  2110. “With hope in the future of our empire,” Dash concluded for her.
  2111. “Oh! Right.” Sweetie Belle lowered her head, embarrassed.
  2112. >All three of them looked embarrassed right now.
  2113. “But how do we do that?” Applebloom asked.
  2114. “First of all, you gotta wait till your older and more responsible before you start training humans,” said Dash.
  2115. “Exactly! I think you’re at least another year before you’re ready for your own pet human.” Rarity lifted her chin.
  2116. >Sweetie Belle let out a noise of protest, but didn’t defy her sister further than that.
  2117. “But thankfully for you, Storm here’s got plenty of hope for the future of the herd.” Dash flew up just a little and gave Storm a hard pat on the back. “Ain’t that right?”
  2118. >Storm stalled for a moment. She… really did have that.
  2119. “Right!” Storm put her hand on her heart. “I just want to do my part to expand the empire! Praise Celestia!”
  2120. “When she talks like that it makes it less fun to humiliate her…”
  2121. “I think the three of you should apologize to Storm for not treating her with the responsibility an inferior is due,” Rarity suggested.
  2122. >The three of them scrapped their hooves and lowered their ears, clearly no comfortable with apologizing to someone inferior to themselves. But in the end, they had to obey their elders.
  2123. “We’re sorry,” they all said in unison.
  2124. >Storm blushed, unsure of how to respond. She wasn’t entirely comfortable having one of her betters apologize to her either.
  2125. >In the end, Storm bowed and thanked the three of them
  2126. “And I hope you learned that ponies are the only ones who can deal with these kinds of heady problems,” Twilight said to Storm. “You should never try to think this sort of thing through, but let us do the thinking for you.”
  2127. “Yes, ma’am.” Storm bowed her head, a little embarrassed herself.
  2128. “Well I guess that’ settled!” Dash clapped her hooves together. “You feel better now, girl?”
  2129. “A lot.” Storm bowed. “Thank you.”
  2130. >She really did feel like the weight of the world was off her shoulders. She never had any hope of escaping after all. The thought that defying mistress Dash was impossible comforted her
  2131. “Alright, lets get you back with your sisters where you belong,” said Dash. “You’re just part of a team now! You shouldn’t be separate from them.”
  2132. >Storm followed Dash back towards the other girls.
  2133. “But thanks for sticking up for me,” said Storm.
  2134. “Like I said, I take care of my livestock!” Dash hit her chest. “You’re actually pretty valuable! I don’t want you to have any desire to ever get out of my control.”
  2135. “I’ll admit I kind of did have some kind of hope in the back of my mind up until just now,” Storm felt embarrassed to admit it. “so maybe those three did do me a favor by getting rid of it. Having that kind of thing really hurt… I just want to be able to focus on serving you and not have to think about anything else.”
  2136. “Heh! See I could tell you were C rank material from the start. Maybe even B rank!”
  2137. “Really?” Storm blushed at the compliment. She felt like she’d be the happiest girl in the world if she ever made it to rank B!
  2138. “Uh- huh! I’ll make sure you never have any hope of escape or any real agency ever again… that way it’ll be super easy to just give up and focus on serving your mistress from now on. You’re future’s looking bright, kid!”
  2143. >Cuddle Pie lied on the bed feeling… empty.
  2144. >She was literally empty in one sense, the kid she’d carried inside her for the past nine months was out, Cuddles finished giving birth just moments ago. Now that she was 20, she was ready to start breeding and making fresh slaves for the herd.
  2145. >Flutterscotch eventually managed to impregnate her. Their first two weeks together had been incredibly awkward, it took him three days to kiss her and then another ten to finally get the courage to mount her and claim Cuddle Pie as his mate, nearly running out of his two weeks to do so.
  2146. >She kind of got the impression that this guy would have been too shy to pass on his genes out in the wild, some more aggressive male would have beaten him up and chased him away from the females before he ever worked up the courage to do anything. Certainly nopony would have gone around injecting girls with syringes of his cum.
  2147. >But this was a new, more civilized world where the ponies made sure aggressive males never got to mate with anyone and guys like Flutterscotch got exclusive access to wombs.
  2148. >Cuddle Pie admitted it was nice now that they were well established mates now. Cuddles did love it when she got to spend time with him and it was really cute how proud he was of impregnating her. He did need a while to learn how, but eventually he got good at the whole mating game too.
  2149. >But sadly Flutterscotch wasn’t here to comfort her right now… likely wouldn’t be for a day or two.
  2150. >It didn’t hurt, like her mom promised, but it did take a long time and was completely exhausting. The real hard part was when Twilight, who happened to be there for it, snatched the baby up and carried it off out of sight.
  2151. >She was inspecting it to make sure it was healthy and ready to begin growing into a useful servant for the ponies, but also it was to keep Cuddles from bonding with her new daughter. There was still a debate going on about whether second generation humans should be allowed to interact with the third generation or if they should be protected like the second generation was.
  2152. >Listening to the ponies talk, Cuddles did get the impression things might change soon… but soon wasn’t right now so it looked like Pinkie and Cuddle Pie wouldn’t get to raise her first born themselves.
  2153. “Don’t worry.” Pinkie sat on the side of Cuddle’s bed, patting her gently. “I’ll make sure to buy her back as soon as she turns ten and is ready to work!”
  2154. >Cuddles nodded sadly. She knew this was the right thing and, at times, she’d wanted that kid out of her badly. But now that her daughter, the baby who’d constantly been with her for months, was gone she felt an indescribably sadness.
  2155. “I know how you feel.” Pinkie really did look sympathetic. “I kind of wanted to keep your daughter for myself too! Raise her to be my pet too! Generations of cuddle pets! But it’s really for the best we go with what Celestia wants.”
  2156. “It still hurts.” Cuddle Pie held Pinkie close. If she couldn’t hold her baby this was the best she could do.
  2157. “We’ll get through this kiddo! Your next one will be way easier. Or at least it usually is. Just think of how happy you made Celestia!”
  2158. >Thinking of Celestia did always help.
  2159. >Even if she made it, the girl she just gave birth to belonged to Celestia and Pinkie Pie, not her. The emotions she felt wasn’t fair to either of them. Not to mention, humanity’s attempts to raise children on their own had been massive failures, resulting in broken, mentally scared humans. Cuddles certainly didn’t want that for her daughter.
  2160. >The whole point of breeding with Flutterscotch was to spread his (and Cuddle’s) subservient genes, passing them down to the next generation of slaves so they could serve Celestia better. It was another service Cuddle Pie was providing for her goddess.
  2161. “Hey! There you are!” Dash suddenly peeked her head into the room. “There you are! Was wondering why you didn’t show up.”
  2162. “Sorry, my slave needed to give birth real quick.” Pinkie jumped on the bed. “But now I got my own Cuddle clone!”
  2163. “Yours finally popped, huh?” Dash stepped into the room. “Ain’t it great watching your livestock multiply?”
  2164. “Yeah, but I’m gonna miss her big belly! Humans are so cute when they get like that!”
  2165. >Storm slowly entered the room and quickly sat down. She got bred not too long after Cuddle Pie and was getting close to her eight month of pregnancy. In another month or so it’d be her turn to go through was Cuddles just did.
  2166. >She eventually proved herself to be very worthy of being breeding stock. She even got all the way up to rank B! Of course, she still wasn’t a pet, Dash considered her too hard a worker for that, but she was still the highest quality laborer.
  2167. “Daw!” Pinkie moved over to Storm quickly and put her ear up against her belly. “Humans are so cute when they’re preggers! I love how your big tummies make you waddle around. Waddle waddle!”
  2168. “I don’t waddle,” said Storm.
  2169. “You do a little,” Cuddles teased with a weak smile.
  2170. “Well get used to waddling, Storm.” Dash flew over and put her hoof over the belly where her newest slave was growing. “You’re my hardest worker so I’m pumping as many slaves as I can out of you! Can’t wait till I have a whole bunch of your daughters running around working for me!”
  2171. >Thanks to healing magic, humans could get pregnant again much faster than they could in the wild. You could get pregnant again after just five or six months, instead of one to two years.
  2172. >But after going through this Cuddles was happy she wasn’t going to be bred as aggressively as Dash intended to do with Storm.
  2173. “Well this is an important duty too!” Storm lifted her head with salvaged pride. “Every kid I bear will be a strong worker their whole life through. This is just a more efficient way to help the herd expand and conquer new lands.”
  2174. >Cuddles giggle at the notion. Storm really was a good laborer to feel embarrassed about taking two month of her pregnancy off to be Dash’s attendant instead.
  2175. “But uh… Does it hurt?” Storm asked the obvious question.
  2176. “Everyone asks that.” Cuddles smiled. “It hurts for like ten seconds but… mostly it’s just exhausting.”
  2177. >She really was physically and emotionally exhausted right now. Cuddles had to close her eyes for another minute.
  2178. >A little while after that, Rarity and Tourmaline came in.
  2179. >Obviously this had to happen on a day when everypony was supposed to come over here anyway. Cuddle Pie wanted to be alone with her mom right now, was a little annoyed at everyone showing up all of a sudden.
  2180. “So I heard somepony got a new slave, hm?” Rarity came in all smiles and nuzzled Pinkie. “Well congratulations, Pinkie. The offspring of two A ranks tend to fetch a nice price, you know!”
  2181. “Poor Tourmie’s tummy is still flat as an ironing board.” Pinkie frowned at it. “When’s she getting bred? I wanna see her swell up too!”
  2182. >Despite her good looks, Tourmaline was the only A rank girl in their class who hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. Cuddles knew she was a little sensitive about that.
  2183. “So do I. But it’s really just finding a male good enough for her,” Rarity said. “Well, and getting the good from him. I actually found an A rank boy with naturally right hair and all the right features! It’s taking forever to negotiate for it, but once I get a few vials of semen from him I can have Tourmaline turn it into a very valuable slave! Breeding them really is just so much fun!”
  2184. >Tourmaline came over to Cuddle Pie’s bed, offering her a look of pity.
  2185. “So how did the surrender go?” Tourmaline asked, knowing well what the hard part actually was. “I’ll just assume you were a good girl about it?”
  2186. “I mean…” Cuddle Pie thought about it for a moment. “It’s my duty and that’s what really matters. Even if it’s hard… I’ll do it for Celestia!”
  2187. “I guess you really are out of your little rebellious phase. I don’t think I’ve heard you complain about anything in years.”
  2188. >Cuddle Pie swore off reading anything else written by humans for the rest of her life. That brief fascination had caused her nothing but pain and, like Tourmaline told her all those years ago, that path could never lead to anything but misery for her.
  2189. >Thinking about that sort of thing just wouldn’t help anypony. Pony supremacy is what made her happy so that was true enough. Her mom and the other ponies could worry about anything more heady than that for her.
  2190. “Well what’s there to complain about?” Cuddle asked with a weak smile. “Ponies are superior and it’s all just a matter of acceptance.”
  2191. “Right! But you still don’t know how to properly make tea.” Tourmaline gave her a friendly smirk and both of them giggled.
  2192. >Actually, Cuddles was starting to feel a bit better. Maybe having all her friends around would help after all.
  2193. >Twilight came into the room looking a bit too chipper for Cuddle Pie right now. Cuddles had just obediently handed over her daughter to the ponies. At least everypony else seemed to understand that was painful. Twilight’s smile hurt a little.
  2194. “So how’s the breeding stock doing?” Twilight gave Cuddles a pat.
  2195. “She’s just a little sad at giving up her first born.” Pinkie snuggled up against Cuddles reassuringly. “But she really is being a good girl about it!”
  2196. “Oh, I don’t doubt it. Cuddle Pie has very good genes and her daughter should be glad to have them!”
  2197. >Twilight gave her a condescending pat. She noticed Cuddle Pie was a little resentful about this, but smiled even wider when she realized it.
  2198. “Actually I have a bit of a surprise for you!” Twilight beamed. “The domestication of your species is going so well that I’ve decided to let second generation A rank humans help raise third generation humans! With the consent of their owner, of course.”
  2199. >All of Cuddle Pie’s resentment faded, amazement filling her instead.
  2200. “You mean…”
  2201. “Yep! The conditioning of generation two went so well and the third generation is already looking like it will be a huge leap in the right direction! We just had to make sure the baby was okay first.” Twilight nodded to the door and a nurse brought the infant, wrapped in blankets, in. “But so long as Pinkie wants to keep her-“
  2202. “I do! I do!” Pinkie quickly grabbed the baby and hugged her tight. “I so wanted Cuddle’s first daughter to be my pet too! Dyaw! I’m your new mommy! Can you say ‘mama’? I guess that’s probably too much for you right now, huh?”
  2203. >Pinkie looked up at Cuddle Pie.
  2204. “Do you wanna hold your new little sister?” Pinkie asked.
  2205. >Cuddles nodded eagerly and Pinkie handed the baby over to her.
  2206. >Cuddle Pie cradled her daughter, or little sister rather, in her arms. She felt so heavy for such a little thing. And yet her weight was the most satisfying thing in the world.
  2207. >Cuddles let out a single tear of joy. Everything felt right in the world.
  2208. “Daw! She loves her sister so much!” Pinkie’s eyes teared up too.
  2209. “So what are you gonna name it?” Dash asked.
  2210. >The girl was Pinkie’s property after all. It was her right to name it.
  2211. “Let’s see…” Pinkie thought for a moment. “Going with my current theme I’ll name her… Snuggle Pie!”
  2212. >Cuddles looked down at Snuggles. The girl was the product of two docile A rank humans. She was another step towards perfecting the human race, bringing their species and some day all of reality into submission to Celestia and her ponies.
  2213. >The future was bright!
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