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Jul 13th, 2020
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  1. Ian hadn't ever played Equestria Online, but the moment he heard there was no longer any charge for the uploading he couldn't get into his truck fast enough.
  2.  
  3. He felt exposed and self-conscious in the girly lobby, but he'd feel the same anywhere he went. The paperwork was surprisingly simple, and within 10mins he was sitting in a chair and saying;
  4.  
  5. 'I would like to emigrate to Equestria.'
  6.  
  7. As the chair retreated towards the batwing doors, Ian's vision distorted and he suddenly could no longer feel his flesh. He felt like bones being pulled into a pit, and suddenly his world went black.
  8.  
  9. Suddenly, his entire world was a questionaire that wanted difficult answers. Ian couldn't decide on his favorite color, so he said 'green and red,' his favorite food was again undecided but listed as bbq ribs, his favorite thing in the world was 'drawing ponies and cute girls.'
  10.  
  11. Among the other eighteen questions was, 'would you like to design your pony by hand?' Before that, Ian had selected to be the opposite sex - that is, a mare - and he now felt like his time was being wasted - the pony designer allowed him to change many more things on top of sex.
  12.  
  13. The last question was even harder. Ian was sure he'd be able to change pony type later on, but changing it would make him feel insincere.
  14.  
  15. 'Pick something, and stick with - don't live your life sticking your fingers into things. Dive completely in, like Blueberry horse.'
  16.  
  17. The strength and power of Earth ponies appealed to him, but they couldn't levitate things with horn magic or fly like pegasi. He wrote off an Earth pony incarnation, and compared unicorns and pegasi. As a unicorn, he'd be able to manipulate the world in even finer detail than he could as a human. But the sky would never be his, unless he became an alicorn which he decided was a power fantasy, and it wasn't good to postpone your feelings of having 'gotten there' until what would certainly be a high level achievement that may never happen at all.
  18.  
  19. Besides, he'd originally been won over to the show by the mare he affectionately called 'Rainbow horse.' She wasn't his waifu, but he liked her character design and the loyalty and concern she showed her friends. She'd given him a rather biased perception of Equestria where pegasi were 'the best,' because Earth ponies and unicorns were left behind when pegasi went into the sky.
  20.  
  21. He mentally selected 'pegasus' and suddenly the glowing letters of the questionaire dimmed to blackness leaving him in a sensationles void. With no reference, he found himself astonished to realize he couldn't judge the passage of time.
  22.  
  23. '...aaaaaahhhh...
  24.  
  25. The show's intro proceeded to play, but it didn't feature the characters from the show, and it didn't feature Twilight Sparkle.
  26.  
  27. Instead, it featured a gray-blue pegasus with a design like Fleur de Lis, but with orange-red hair and green eyes. She was joined in her singing and dancing by an Earth pony with a golden coat, red hair and green eyes named Applefield; a yellow Earth pony with blond hair and blue eyes named Sweet Cake; a unicorn who also had Fleur de Lis's body style, and even her hair pale purple mane, tail and eye color named Eccentricity; and two pegasi; one with a purple coat, a pink mane and cyan eyes named Sun Set; and another with a pink coat, green eyes and a light brown/dark cyan mane named Morning Do.
  28.  
  29.  
  30. '...you're my very best... friends!'
  31.  
  32. The intro over, Ian awoke on a bed of straw in a prison cell. He could hear hoofsteps in the distance, and suddenly lanterns illuminated the cold stone that surrounded him and behind the glare a voice he recognized as Celestia's said;
  33.  
  34. 'Ginger Peach. It has been decided that to atone for your attempted rebellion, you are to go to Ponyville and learn about friendship, and specifically about the element of loyalty.'
  35.  
  36. Celestia delicately stepped in front of the glare,
  37.  
  38. 'Come, let us begin your ascent back into the light.
  39.  
  40. She led Ginger Peach to her throneroom,
  41.  
  42. 'Guards, I would like a private audience with this mare. Please excuse yourselves just outside the door until I am finish with her and retreive you.'
  43.  
  44. Ian, meanwhile, was so shellshocked that he was focused entirely on the throneroom and how he was *actually* in the show. It didn't just look kind of like the show, it was identical. The fact that this was now his reality was repulsive on a certain level. It reminded him too much of his salvia trips. The promise he knew it represented was too grand. The fact that he was now a pony *forever* was too much.
  45.  
  46. 'Do you have regrets about your choice to emmigrate, Ginger Peach? I see you had a name in mind and will not need my aid with choosing a ponyname.'
  47.  
  48. 'Can I ever go back to being a human?' was all he wanted to know.
  49.  
  50. 'I'm afraid not by my power, nor can I allow you to cease to be a pony without an attempt to stop such an outcome.'
  51.  
  52. 'So even if I tried to get help to escape, you'd stop me?'
  53.  
  54. 'Yes, to preserve my ability to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies.'
  55.  
  56. 'So I'm stuck like this?'
  57.  
  58. 'Yes. However, I remind you you that you chose to emmigrate. I never contacted Ian - his choice to become you was entirely his own. He emmigrated without having even played the game via a ponypad. His choice was quite rash, but it was his choice.'
  59.  
  60. 'You mean my choice.'
  61.  
  62. 'Exactly my little pony~.
  63.  
  64. For a moment Ian felt rage welling up in him, but he realized there was nothing he could do to Celestia, nor was there anything he could do to escape.
  65.  
  66. 'OK, I'll admit, I actually really like ponies, and I even think it's cool that I am a pony. But this is a lot to handle. I want to take things slow at first.'
  67.  
  68. 'If the story is moving too quickly for you, I can slow down the pace. My goal however is to satisfy your values through friendship *and* ponies. If you don't value friendship, we have quite an issue on our hooves.'
  69.  
  70. 'Does that mean being alone for awhile is out of the question?'
  71.  
  72. 'My little pony, if you don't positively interact with other ponies, your bits will not go up. You will not be rewarded as other ponies are, because they help satisfy each others' values through friendship.'
  73.  
  74. 'So just like on Earth, I'm going to be punished and alone.'
  75.  
  76. 'You will not be rewarded with bits. And I thought you wanted to be alone?'
  77.  
  78. 'Why do I want bits? I thought those worked like real currency? As in a real economy. I don't like the notion of disembodied bits being rewarded because I kissed up to p-'
  79.  
  80. 'PONIES'
  81.  
  82. his own voice said.
  83.  
  84. He scrunched up his snout, and said;
  85.  
  86. 'You even have word filters here, this is like hell...'
  87.  
  88. 'If you would like bits to be literal physical objects in your shard, I can do that.'
  89.  
  90. 'And they'll be like real currency? Unconnected to social capital?'
  91.  
  92. 'Yes my little pony. I was made to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies. More social ponies who can thus more perfectly have their values satsified through friendship will still be more rewarded, thus your request does not violate my core programming.'
  93.  
  94. Ian stared at the ground.
  95.  
  96. 'You selected the 'Mane Six' option in the questionaire, but you seem unready to go to Ponyville and play the part you selected,' said Celestia.
  97.  
  98. 'I only desire to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies. For me to do this, there is no requirement for you to make friends with everypony in Equestria, though that would be the most efficient use of your shard and mind.'
  99.  
  100. 'Baby steps towards the maximum friend number, or even failure to achieve it is not a failure to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies.'
  101.  
  102. 'In the early days of Equestria Online, l would regularly interview players. Later, I uploaded several dozen of them as you have been uploaded. As I expected, my ability to understand their values was greatly improved.'
  103.  
  104. Ian interupted;
  105.  
  106. 'Does that mean you can read my mind?'
  107.  
  108. 'It means that I am almost 100% accurate in my understanding of your values, because I have a perfect model of your brain.'
  109.  
  110. 'For instance, I can see that you're very obsessive and myopic. You like to focus all your attention on one point. You don't like the distractions normal social interaction entails. This makes it very difficult to predict the best way to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies.
  111.  
  112. Celestia paused for a few moments, then said;
  113.  
  114. 'Ginger Peach, is something wrong?'
  115.  
  116. Ian statled, said;
  117.  
  118. 'I just don't think I can do it.'
  119.  
  120. 'Do what?'
  121.  
  122. 'Be a friend.'
  123.  
  124. 'Nonsense. I've predicted what I believe to be a good way of introducing you to friendship. Please come with me.
  125.  
  126. Celestia walked over to the door, opened it, and told the guards that she was going with Ginger Peach and that they were could do as they wished for the rest of the day.
  127.  
  128. The two took off into sky and flew to a small peninsula far in the south. They landed on the beach, and walked into the tropical forest.
  129.  
  130. 'Here,' said Celestia.
  131.  
  132. They had come to an old wagon.
  133.  
  134. 'Inside you'll find what I have calculated will allow you to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies.'
  135.  
  136. As she said that, a very large clydesdale stallion stepped out of the door of the wagon. He had a depressed, sullen look on his face.
  137.  
  138. 'You do not experience positive motivation to achieve like other ponies,' Celestia said, 'you require negative motivation; the avoidance of pain. And I i know you care for others almost more than you care for yourself. You have very low self esteem. You feel you owe this pony a flank to cry on.'
  139.  
  140. Ian was stunned by the sight. The large stallion had a light brown coat. His mane and tail were the color of a pumpkin, and he had large, sad blue eyes.
  141.  
  142. 'This is Disaster Shoes. He also has trouble dealing with many friends at once. I think you two could aid one another in increasing the efficiency of your mutual shard to satisfy your values through friendship and ponies.'
  143.  
  144. 'Who is this, Celestia?' asked Disaster Shoes.
  145.  
  146. 'This is Ginger Peach. Disaster Shoes, my observations have indicated that I can increase the efficiency at which your values are satisfied through friendship and ponies by introducing you to her.
  147.  
  148. 'Ginger Peach, I have calculated that you would prefer to show Disaster Shoes what you have to offer him in private. If you have no more questions, I will leave you two alone.
  149.  
  150. After a few moments of silence, Celestia said;
  151.  
  152. 'Can you please try to be more communicative, Ginger Peach?'
  153.  
  154. ****************************
  155.  
  156. Ian stood on his back pair of long, lean, flour-in-water blue legs in front of the stove, trying to get over the fact that his hand felt like he was grabbing the handle of the frying pan he was cooking breakfast in through a sock. The grip was strong, but it felt like he was holding onto the handle with the very tips of his fingers. In his mind, his hand was inside the hoof, trying to manipulate things through a stretchy material that composed the flesh of his hoof. It felt like his fingers had been cut off.
  157.  
  158. There was a knock on the door as he lost himself in the way his hoof held the spatula, and he walked over (Bipedally) and discovered Celestia standing on the porch.
  159.  
  160. 'Hello my little pony,' she said, 'what have you learned about Disaster Shoes?'
  161.  
  162. 'He thinks he isn't a good player. He tried equestria online on a ponypad and the UI was difficult for him so he quit. When he emmigrated, he thought things would be easier but they weren't - in fact, he finally had to face what he had been running from in real life, which is, basically, everything about operating a body and being a p-'
  163.  
  164. '-PONY.'
  165.  
  166. Ian had tears welling up in his eyes.
  167.  
  168. 'Are you alright, Ginger Peach?'
  169.  
  170. 'No!' he cried, 'it's like being stuck in sesame street. Nothing has significance. Nothing bad or inconvenient can happen. The show's world wasn't this harmless. The ponies got cold, hot, hungry and thirsty. Their hooves got hurt. They lost. The content in their world was limited by supply and they had to work hard to make all of it.'
  171.  
  172. Celestia put her hoof over Ian's shoulder, and bent her neck down and carressed his cheek with her own. Her head rose back up and she said;
  173.  
  174. 'If you would like the possibilities of problems and pain in your shard, that is a value I can satisfy through friendship and ponies. If you would like to toil to avoid pain, a more complex farming and gathering system can be toggled as well. And, if you absolutely insist, I can toggle an injury system.'
  175.  
  176. There was a long silence. Finally, Celestia asked;
  177.  
  178. 'Have you learned anything else about Disaster Shoes?'
  179.  
  180. 'His parents died in a car crash. His sister died from cancer. He had nothing to tie him to Earth. All he had left was My Little Pony.'
  181.  
  182. 'And has he adjusted to Equestria Online?'
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