Lv.7 1482/1540


Chapter 06: Gifts from Earth, part 第六章:来自地球的礼物


~~*Pinkie Pie*~~ ~ ~ *小手指派* ~ ~


“So, I just push on it here?”




Sunflower glanced over to see where Pinkie had her hoof pointed and nodded. “That’s right. Just press gently, and it should power on.”




Pinkie pushed down the teeny-tiny button on the side of her brand new tablet. After a few seconds of nothing happening, she started to get worried. And, maybe, just a little bit worried.




“Nothing is happening! Is mine broken?”






Sunflower looked back over and chuckled. “Take your hoof away, Pinkie,” she said, her muzzle crinkling up into a smile.




“Oh! Okie-dokie!” Pinkie replied, adding, “Oooh!” a moment later when the whole screen started glowing. A picture that looked like two interlocking circles flashed by before it went black for a second or two.Then it turned into a picture of her cutie mark with black all around it and a bunch of tiny pictures with weird, teeny words on them.




It looked a lot different than Erin’s own tablet, which Pinkie had used for a little while in Canterlot. She’d expected to be able to just jump right in and use it, but nothing looked familiar. A kind of mild panic started welling up as she felt torn between her desire to just start poking at random things and her fear of breaking something by accident.




Pinkie glanced up to see Sunflower talking to Twilight. And she tried, she really did try to wait until the two of them had a break in their conversation so that she could ask, politely, what to do next, but she was just so excited and had so many questions that, after a few seconds, her mouth just started moving on its own.




“Erin, this one is different! What do I do now? How do I get an ‘email’? And here’s one that says ‘photos’! I want to see the pictures! How do I see the movies and cartoons you put on here? What kinds of things can I do? Oh! It says ‘phone’! Is this like a telephone? We have one of those at Sugarcube Corner, but it’s a big wooden box on the wall with a crank you have to crank and then an operator says ‘hello, how can I connect your call?’ and I usually hang up then because I always forget what to say, so how does that work and ohmygosh this one picture-thingie says ‘games’! Can this thing play games with me? How does it do that if it’s got no hooves?” Pinkie blinked and looked up to see that both Twilight and Sunflower were staring at her.


“艾琳,这次不一样!”我现在该怎么办?我如何收到“电子邮件”?这里有一个写着' photos ' !我要看照片!我怎么看你放的电影和卡通片?我能做什么?哦!它说“电话”!这像电话吗?我们在方糖角(Sugarcube Corner)就有一个,不过它是一个挂在墙上的大木箱子,带有一个曲柄,你必须用曲柄,然后接线员会说,‘你好,我要怎么接通你的电话?然后我通常会挂断电话,因为我总是忘记该说什么,这是怎么回事呢?这东西能跟我玩游戏吗?如果它没有蹄子,它会怎么做呢?小品眨眨眼,抬头一看,暮光之城和向日葵都在盯着她看。


“You know what?” Sunflower stood up and smiled at her. “I should just help you turn on the personal assistants on these, and it will answer some of your questions for you.”




Now that made Twilight’s ears perk up. “Personal assistant?”




“Like this.” Sunflower turned towards her own tablet, which was propped upright on a box, and said, “Minerva, wake up.”




Pinkie’s jaw nearly unhinged itself when Sunflower’s tablet started glowing all on its own, and then a pleasant-sounding female voice came out of it and said, “Hello, Erin. How can I help you today?”




“Minerva, what are you?” Sunflower asked it.




There was a brief pause before the voice spoke again. “I am the personal assistant that resides on this tablet computer.”




Pinkie frowned. There was something about the voice that was just a little creepy. Like it was trying to sound like a nice person, but not quite managing it. Sunflower wasn’t done talking to it, though.




“And what do you do?”




Again, there was that moment of hesitation, as if Minerva had to think over her answer before she replied in that same pleasant, but utterly bland, tone of voice. “I take voice commands in order to operate the functions on this tablet computer.”




“Thank you, Minerva,” Sunflower said with a smile. “Sleep mode, please.”




The screen stopped glowing. Pinkie stared at it warily for a while, just in case it decided to be spooky again. When she looked away from it, she noticed that Twilight was staring at it like she hadn’t eaten in days and the tablet was the world’s biggest piece of birthday cake.




“Can mine do that, too?”




“Oh, Twilight,” Pinkie said sadly, shaking her head. “Spike just barely got used to you having a second assistant. You might crush his little dragon heart if you get a third one. Especially one that can say more words than just ‘who’!”




Twilight looked startled for a second before she frowned. “I’ll still need him to get books for me and stuff like that. There’s lots of stuff these tablets can’t do.” A doubtful look crossed her face and she turned to Sunflower. “Right?”




“Right,” Sunflower replied with a definitive nod. “I use mine to start playing music or videos, or to put stuff on my calendar. There’s also a voice-to-text feature, but the on-board one is a little sketchy.”




“I have no idea what that last part means,” Pinkie said happily.




“It means that you talk to it, and it types what you say,” Sunflower said, sending another one of those precious smiles her way. “But, without a connection to the internet, it doesn’t always do a very good job.”




“That could be useful,” Twilight said, looking at her purple tablet with new appreciation. “I could keep a journal, or something. Is there any way to get the words off of there and onto paper? Or is that a silly question?”




Sunflower shook her head. “No, it’s not silly. Once I get my printer set up, you can connect to it and print off anything you want.”




Pinkie almost started giggling at the way Twilight’s eyes sparkled.




“Could I print off whole books?” she asked, sounding almost as excited as Pinkie felt. “Like, the books you gave me on the tablet?”




“I… uh, I guess?” Sunflower scuffed a hoof along the living room floor. “You’d use up a lot of toner and paper, though, and I only have so much with me right now.”




Twilight took a deep breath and opened her mouth, probably to ask a bunch of questions about how that worked. Pinkie spoke up quickly so she wouldn’t have to wait for Twilight’s oodles of kaboodles of questions to run their course.




“So, how do we make the personal assistant thingie work? And is the voice always so creepy?”




“Um. Sorry, yeah, kind of,” Sunflower said sheepishly.




A hot flush of guilt ran up Pinkie’s neck and settled into her face. “I didn’t mean to insult anypony! It’s just… Minerva sounded kind of weird!” Pinkie gasped and brought a hoof up to her mouth. “I’m sorry, Minerva!”




The tablet just sat there with its screen all dark. Pinkie was feeling pretty horrible about it until Sunflower laughed and said, “You can’t hurt their feelings, Pinkie. They don’t have any.”




“Oh…” She thought about that for a little while. “That’s kind of sad. Wait! You said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to her earlier! Why would you do that if she didn’t have feelings?”




Sunflower shrugged, which made her wings open and close partially, though she didn’t seem to notice. “It’s just a habit. One that I don’t want to get used to ignoring.”




Pinkie nodded. “That makes sense. It’s still really sad, though.” She tilted her head and frowned, first at the tablet in her hooves and then up at Sunflower. “Are you really, really sure they don’t have feelings?”




Sunflower nodded and shot her a reassuring smile that was halfway between a 19 and a 27. “I’m really, really sure, Pinkie.” Then she put on her serious face and started back up with the instructions. “Okay, each of you should have a stylus. These can be used with your mouths, or they have optional hoof straps, if you’d rather use them that way. Twilight, you can use yours with magic, instead.”




Pinkie Pie glanced over at Twilight, who already had a stylus-thingie floating in the air with her magic, and she couldn’t help but feel just the teensiest bit of jealousy. Though… maybe Ascent could give her a horn of her own, and then she could use magic! Pinkie made a mental note to ask about that later, and then promptly forgot all about it when Sunflower started explaining how to “set up” the personal assistant.


Pinkie Pie瞥了一眼暮光之城,她的魔法已经在空中飘浮着一个触笔一样的东西,她不禁感到一丝嫉妒。也许阿森特可以给她一个自己的角,然后她就可以使用魔法了!Pinkie在心里做了一个记录,稍后询问这个问题,但是当葵花开始解释如何“设置”个人助理时,她就把这事忘得一干二净了。


“First, I’ll get you to the right place, and then we can pick a voice,” Sunflower said.




“So, I don’t have to use the same voice you did?” Twilight asked.




“Nope!” Sunflower grinned while pointing a hoof at Twilight’s tablet. “There’s a whole list of options, male, female and other. Pick the one you like.”




“Show me where!” Pinkie held her tablet in both forehooves and thrust it towards Sunflower, who recoiled a little bit.




“Um… Why don’t you sit next to Twilight, and I’ll show you both at the same time?”




Pinkie was more than happy to scootch over next to her friend, and even gave her a quick hug as she sat down. Twilight blushed and giggled a little, which set Pinkie giggling as well. But soon enough, Sunflower had them back on task, showing them things like “icons” and “menus” and “settings”.




A little box popped up on her screen, and in that box were the words “Welcome to your new personal assistant! Please choose a persona.” Then there was a list that said things like: “Female: classy” or “Male: strong”. Pinkie stared at the list blankly, uncertain of what to do next.




That’s when Sunflower said, quite helpfully, “If you tap on a voice, you get to hear what it sounds like. Then it will ask if you want to keep that one, or go to a different one.”




“Oooh!” Twilight said as her stylus dipped towards the tablet and poked at one of the voice types.




“Hi!” a chipper and high-pitched female voice said from Twilight’s tablet. “I could be your personal assistant! Do you want to choose me?”




“Oh… Ah, no thank you,” Twilight said. Then she glanced over and said, “You might like that one, though, Pinkie. It’s ‘Female: happy’.”




“Hmm, nah. I’m already pretty much happy all the time. If my tablet were just as cheerful as I am, then we would be double-cheerful all the time. Don’t you think it might be a little bit too much?”




Twilight looked like she wanted to say something but, instead, shook her head and poked at another voice. It said roughly the same thing the first voice did, only different.




Pinkie, meanwhile, was looking down at her own tablet, lost in thought. “Hey, what does ‘doleful’ mean?”




It was Twilight who answered. “It means ‘sorrowful’, ‘mournful’ or ‘unhappy’, Pinkie. You probably don’t want that one.”




“Hmm…” Pinkie considered for a moment, then picked up the stylus in her teeth and poked the name on the list.




“Hello,” said Male: doleful in a slow and sad voice. “I suppose I could be your personal assistant, if you wanted me to be.”




“Oh, wow,” Twilight said. “That’s worse than I thought it would be. It’s kinda—”




“It’s perfect!” Pinkie said. “Yes, please! I want you to be my personal assistant!”




Twilight’s face crinkled up in the way that meant she was confused. “Pinkie, are you sure?”








Male: doleful said, “Alright. I’m your personal assistant, I guess. Would you like to give me a name?”




“Ooh, I get to name him?”




Sunflower nodded. “Sure, Pinkie. Pick whatever you like, just make sure you tell it ‘yes’ before you start.”




Pinkie thought and pondered while both Twilight and Sunflower waited patiently. Inspiration struck like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky, except that this time it wasn’t anything Dashie had done.




“Yes, I want to give you a name!” Pinkie cried happily.




There was a pause, and then the tablet said, “Please speak my name after the tone.”




There was a beep. Pinkie drew a deep breath and said, “Mister Hugglebunny!”




Sunflower snerked with laughter and Twilight just looked surprised.




“Please confirm,” Mister Hugglebunny said morosely, “that my name is—” and here, much to Pinkie’s surprise, her own voice said, “—Mister Hugglebunny!”




“Yes! That’s right!” Pinkie couldn’t contain her excitement and started trotting in place with her back hooves while hugging the tablet to her chest. “Eeee! I have a new friend!”


“是啊!这是正确的!小指无法抑制自己的兴奋,开始用后蹄在原地小跑,同时把平板电脑抱在胸前。“Eeee !我有一个新朋友!”


“Would you like me to learn your name?” Mister Hugglebunny asked in tones of infinite sadness.




“Oooh! Yes, please!”




After the now-expected brief delay, Mister Hugglebunny said, “Please state your name, and just your name, after the tone. Be sure to speak clearly.”




There was a tone. “Pinkie Pie!”




The delay was longer this time. Pinkie was considering asking him what was wrong when Mister Hugglebunny finally said, “Please confirm that your name is ‘Pinkie Pie’.”


这次耽搁的时间要长一些。Pinkie正考虑问他怎么了,Hugglebunny先生最后说:“请确认你的名字是‘Pinkie Pie’。”


“Confirmed, you funny bunny!”




Sunflower started laughing at that, and Pinkie shot her a happy grin.




“Please confirm that the spelling of your name is correct,” Mister Hugglebunny said, displaying “Pinky Pie” across his screen.




“Ooh, close but not quite, Mister Hugglebunny,” Pinkie said. “That’s really impressive, though! Don’t feel bad!”




Mister Hugglebunny must not have heard her encouragement, because he still sounded sad when he said, “Please provide the correct spelling.”




Pinkie did so, and then confirmed the spelling when the tablet flashed her name across the screen once again. Once again, Pinkie found herself dancing in place, almost overwhelmed by all of this.




“Would you like to make me voice-exclusive?” Mister Hugglebunny asked her, apparently unmoved by her excitement.




“Yes! That sounds great!” Pinkie stopped, suddenly confused. “What does that mean?”




“That means that your tablet—” Sunflower started saying before Mister Hugglebunny rudely cut her off.




“By making this tablet voice-exclusive, it will only respond to commands given with your own voice.”




“Okay, let’s do it!” Pinkie grinned.




“Confirmed,” Mister Hugglebunny said gloomily. “Please repeat the following phrase: 'Commander Cotton keeps his quills in a quiver'.”




Pinkie tried her best not to giggle when she repeated that odd phrase, and she somehow managed to say the whole thing in one go. It was slightly less amusing when she was asked to repeat another weird phrase, and even less when it asked for another.




After the fifth phrase she was asked to repeat, Pinkie glanced up, wanting to ask Erin if maybe Mister Hugglebunny was confused or just stuck. Unfortunately, Erin was helping Twilight, who was still trying to figure out what voice to use and growing increasingly more frustrated as time went by. Pinkie grinned at the sight of her friend hunched over her tablet with a look of intense concentration on her face. Twilight was many, many things, but spontaneous wasn’t one of them.




“Please repeat the phrase,” Mister Hugglebunny prompted for what Pinkie realized was the third time, sounding just a little impatient to Pinkie’s ears.




“Oh, right!” Pinkie dredged through her memory for what she was supposed to say. “‘Preposterous pickles pluck plums and persimmons'.”




She stopped as she realized what she’d just said and giggle-snorted.




“Voice analysis complete,” Mister Hugglebunny said finally, sounding like he was just short of sighing in exasperation. “Your voice is now locked in as the only voice that can control this tablet’s features, Pinkie Pie.”


“声音分析完成了,”哈格尔邦尼先生最后说,听起来他几乎要气得叹气了。“你的声音现在被锁定为唯一可以控制这款平板电脑功能的声音,小指派(Pinkie Pie)。”


This called for an appropriate response. The absolutely best one that Pinkie could think of was to dance in place and squeal at the top of her voice. So, that’s what she did.




When she finally stopped, Sunflower picked up where she left off with her instructions, since Twilight was still having a hard time picking a voice for her own tablet.




“Here is the power converter,” Sunflower said. “Ponyville’s power grid is all wrong for human electronics, so you’ll want to make sure you plug this into the outlet, and then plug the power supply for the tablet into this, okay?”




“Gotcha!” Pinkie picked up the bulky box in her teeth and jammed it into her saddlebag, where it squooshed some balloons, crinkled some streamers, and crumbled a cookie or two.




“And the battery indicator is here. If this goes to zero, it will stop working,” Sunflower added.




“Soo…. Mister Hugglebunny eats electricity?” Pinkie asked, tilting her head to the side.




“Uh… Yeah, I guess that’s close enough,” Sunflower said with a smile.




“I, uh… I don’t have to clean up after him, do I?”




Sunflower gaped at her for a few seconds before bursting out into laughter. “No! No, no. Nothing like that.”




“Oh, that’s good,” Pinkie replied, feeling relieved. She had no idea what kind of messes an electricity-eater would leave, but if Gummy was anything to judge by, it wouldn’t be pleasant.




Sunflower started giving her more and more advice, which Pinkie only listened to with half an ear. She was too busy smiling down at Mister Hugglebunny, cradled like a foal in her forelegs. Something about a tutorial, something else about being careful not to crack or scratch the screen and something else about avoiding water.




“Uh-huh,” Pinkie said every time Sunflower paused in her lecture.




An idea was forming in her head. It was one that demanded immediate exploration. But then Sunflower said something that caught Pinkie’s full attention.




“What was that last part, again?”




“I said that, lots of times, people will get custom case covers for their tablets. Both to protect it and to make it more personal. I could make you guys one, once I get my 3D printer set up.”




“Three dee?” Pinkie repeated, confused.




“I can make stuff with it. I should have one somewhere in all this mess,” Sunflower said, waving a hoof at the boxes still stacked in her living room.




“What kind of things can you make with that?” Twilight asked, momentarily looking up from her tablet.




“Pretty much any small and simple object,” Sunflower said with a shrug. “I haven’t used them much, outside of school. I made a pencil case, a vase and a picture frame with one when I took a class in Fabrication in eighth grade.”




“Oooh, that sounds really cool!” Pinkie’s mind whirled. “I have an idea for a case!”




“Oh, I’d be happy to help,” Sunflower started, but Pinkie shook her head.




“Thanks, but I kind of want to do this myself.”




“Okay,” Sunflower said with a smile. “Just make sure the vents on the top are clear, or Mister Hugglebunny might overheat.”




“Ooh, good to know.” Pinkie nodded seriously as she looked at the little grills on the top of Mister H’s case. “Okay, see you later!”




Sunflower blinked in surprise. “You’re leaving?”




“Yup!” Pinkie grinned. “I have a research project in mind, and Mister Hugglebunny is going to help me!”




“A research project?” Twilight asked, her ears perking up. “Can I help?”




“Nah, I got this, Twilight. Anyway, I should go. Enjoy the presents and the muffins, Sunflower!”




“I will,” Sunflower said, giving her a big hug around her neck. “You enjoy Mister Hugglebunny, and let me know if you have any questions, okay?”




“You got it!”




Pinkie waved and left. She started walking back to Sugarcube corner, Mister Hugglebunny resting safely back in his box and the box safely in her saddlebags. With all of the excitement in her, it was really hard for her not to run. Then she realized that she didn’t have any reason not to run, so she broke into a galloping giggle-fit that had her back at Sugarcube Corner less than a minute later.




“Mrs. Cake!” Pinkie said as she flung open the door, startling the mare behind the counter. “I need a few days off of work!”




Pinkie started marching for the stairs, setting her features into an expression of determination.




“Um. Okay, dear,” Mrs. Cake replied, blinking rapidly. “You weren’t scheduled until next week, anyway.”




“Oh. Right, thanks!”




Pinkie bolted up the stairs, flung open the door of her bedroom, and then spent a few minutes securing the premises. She shuttered the windows and drew the blinds, locked the door, set a chair in front of the door, and set Gummy on top of the chair.




“I’m not to be disturbed,” she told her toothless alligator pet. “If anypony knocks, ask them to come back later.”




Gummy blinked slowly at her and then licked his left eyeball, which Pinkie knew meant “message received” in Alligator.




Then she turned off all of the lights except for the one on the small table next to her bed. Next, she plugged in the power converter, then plugged the power charger thingie into that, just like Sunflower had said to do. The battery display on Mister Hugglebunny turned from light to dark green, which Pinkie decided was probably a good thing.




Before she clambered up onto her bed to make herself comfortable, her eyes lingered on a large, plush doll sitting in the corner of her bedroom. She’d bought it at a used toy store a few days ago, thinking it would make a great present for the Cake twins. Pumpkin had taken one look at it and started screaming, so it ended up in Pinkie’s bedroom for now. She grinned, remembering her idea from earlier.




Pinkie lay down on her belly on her bed, the tablet propped up against her pillow and the charger plugged into the side of it.




“Mister Hugglebunny?”




“Yes, Pinkie Pie?” he responded bleakly.




“Do you have any comedies you can show me?”




Mister Hugglebunny considered for a moment. “Yes, Pinkie Pie.”




“I want to watch comedies,” Pinkie said.




“Which comedies would you like to see, Pinkie Pie?”




She considered for a moment before breaking into a wide grin. “All of them.”




~~*Lyra*~~ ~ ~ *莱拉* ~ ~


It wasn’t often that the Magical Research Department at Project Harmonics received visitors. Especially not ones who weren’t even part of Harmonics itself. So, when Maggie Henson had walked straight into their offices with a shorter female human in tow, Lyra had magically yanked her headphones off and almost fell out of her chair in her eagerness to introduce herself to the visiting scientist.


“和声计划”魔法研究部接待访客的情况并不常见。尤其是那些不属于和声的人。所以,当玛吉·亨森(Maggie Henson)和一个身材较矮的女性一起走进他们的办公室时,莱拉神奇地扯下了耳机,几乎从椅子上摔了下来,迫不及待地向来访的科学家介绍自己。


Lyra had been happy to meet Doctor Nayar. The slender, thin-boned woman with the big smile and wickedly mischievous eyes had come into the Magical Research Department’s office with so much energy and cheer that she had charmed the figurative pants off of her.




Not that Lyra was wearing pants, of course. It was much too hard for a pony to get the proper fit on Earth. Instead, she was wearing a light gold skirt and a white shirt. Her badge was clipped to the neckline of the shirt, featuring a wide-eyed Lyra grinning hugely at the camera.




After talking to Doctor Nayar for a few minutes, she also seemed to be the type of person who didn’t put up with much in the way of attitude. So, when Raka had asked to meet her co-worker Spectral Charm, Lyra couldn’t help but grin in anticipation of what it would be like when the fierce scientist met the fussy, stuffy unicorn.




She hadn’t expected that they’d actually get along, though. That was... oddly annoying, actually.




“Intriguing!” Spectral Charm was saying, his amber eyes wide behind his wire-rimmed glasses as he stared up at Raka. He shook his head. “I’ve heard of Ascent. The fact that you assisted with the design of the original pony body that visited my world… that’s an amazing feat!”




“Thank you, Spectral.” Raka smiled at him. “Oh, is it okay if I just call you ‘Spectral’?”




Lyra’s ears perked up. Spectral Charm was insistent on having his full name used, unless he knew the other person pretty well. In fact, it had taken a week or two before he allowed Lyra herself to—




“Of course you may!” he said.




“What?!” Lyra yelped. Then she blushed as Maggie, Raka and Spectral all looked over at her. “...was that noise?” she continued lamely. “Did anypony else hear that?”


“什么? !”莱拉叫喊起来。然后她脸红了,因为玛吉、雷卡和鬼怪都看着她。“…是声音?她结结巴巴地说。“还有别的小马听到了吗?”


“No,” Spectral Charm said, raising an eyebrow.




“Oh, well. It, um… It’s stopped now, actually,” Lyra managed.




Spectral rolled his eyes at her and swished his jet-black tail before turning back to Doctor Nayar. “Would you like a tour of the facility? I’d be glad to introduce you to the rest of the team, as well as bringing you up to speed on what we’ve already discussed.”




“Oh, that would be lovely!” Raka said. She reached out and scratched the stallion’s short black mane affectionately, right between the ears. Spectral stiffened in shock at the same time that the woman realized what she’d done and jerked her hand away. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry! That was highly inappropriate of me.”




Lyra was certain that now the stallion was going to blow his top. Spectral Charm’s idea of “personal space” started about three body-lengths away from him, especially when it came to females. Not to mention his fragile ego, which would cause him to explode at the slightest—




“Apology accepted,” Spectral Charm said, waving a hoof dismissively. Lyra gaped in disbelief as he continued. “Please, think nothing more of it, although I’d appreciate if it didn’t happen again.”




“Of course, of course,” Raka replied, blushing.




“What the heck,” Lyra muttered, earning a knowing grin from Maggie.




“Why don’t the two of you take off?” Maggie suggested. “I need to talk to Lyra for a minute.”




Raka and Spectral exchanged a glance, shrugged simultaneously, and started walking out of the Magical Research Department’s office.




“Let me tell you a little about my time at the Royal Canterlot University,” Spectral was saying as they walked away.




Lyra sighed as his voice dwindled. That encounter hadn’t given her nearly the drama that she was mildly ashamed to realize that she’d been hoping for. Maggie, in the meanwhile, had nabbed one of her coworker’s chairs from their office, dragged it over to Lyra’s desk, and sat down.




“Not what you expected, huh?” Maggie asked.




Lyra grimaced. It figured Maggie had seen right through her. “I was expecting a freakout,” she admitted.




Maggie smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Expecting, or hoping?”




Lyra shrunk back in her own seat. “Uh. Maybe a little of both?”




“I know what you mean. I was getting ready to dive for cover when she scratched him between the ears.” Maggie shook her head and chuckled. “I suppose it’s too soon to expect smooth sailing between the pair of you,” she said wryly. “Just remember, he’s your teammate, and it’s your job to look after him.”




If there was one thing Lyra knew about Maggie, it was her ability to say exactly what she needed to in order to make guilt well up.




“You’re right. I’ll do better.”




Maggie nodded, and the two of them sat there with the silence dragging out between them. After a half a minute, Lyra shifted her weight from one hoof to another, which seemed to snap Maggie out of whatever introspection she’d lost herself in.




“Lyra, I have to ask you a serious question.” Maggie folded her arms under her bosom, her face serious. “I know you aren’t interested in going through Ascent, but there’s a lot of pressure for us to figure out a way to get humans able to use magic.”




Lyra scowled at her friend and boss. “Maggie, you know my feelings on this. I don’t want to—”




Maggie held up a hand. “I know, and I’m not asking you to. There’s something else we have in mind. We found another volunteer to go through the process. The plan is to take her and change her into a pony. Then, after we confirm that she can sense magic, we’re going to see about changing her slowly back to human in stages. This is so we can see where, exactly, she loses the ability to sense magic.”




Lyra sat back in her own, specially-designed chair, blinking in surprise. “Oh. Well, I’m amazed you found anyone who would put up with that kind of thing. What does it have to do with me, though?”




Maggie grimaced. “Well, see, that’s the problem. We only have Malachite’s design to work on. We wanted something more natural, I guess you could say. We wanted to base the new pony body that we change our volunteer into on a living, breathing pony.” Maggie waited for a few seconds, staring at her intently. “Specifically, a unicorn.”




Lyra gaped at her. “Me?! You can’t be serious!”


莱拉目瞪口呆地看着她。“我? !你不是认真的吧!”


“Look, we’re not going to do this without your permission—”




“I would think not!”




“So, is the answer a definite ‘no’?” Maggie asked with a wry smile. “You have my word that there won’t be any repercussions, if that’s the case. This project is strictly voluntary.”




Lyra was about to answer, but something made her hesitate. The thought of the humans making one of themselves look like her was more than a little weird. But, at the same time, it was intriguing.




“Okay, let’s say I go along with this. What would be my part, exactly?”




“Well, we’d have to do some scans on you, of course. We’d sequence your DNA while we were at it. Lucy would end up being pretty much a clone of you by the time we’re done.”








“Identical copy.”




Lyra shuddered. “That’s creepy.”




“She wouldn’t stay that way, though.” Maggie leaned forward and placed a hand on Lyra’s shoulder. “Only for a few weeks, and then we’d change her a little way back to human and do some testing.”




“Okay, that’s nice and all. But what if you end up killing… Lucy, was it?”




“Lucy, yes. And that’s definitely a remote possibility.” Maggie looked as somber as she sounded, her ordinarily kind and smiling mouth tugging down at the corners. “We’ve learned a lot with Erin and her changes, but we’re breaking new ground, here. She knows the risk, as do we. She chose to go ahead regardless.”




Curiosity and unease mixed in Lyra’s stomach, making her feel more than a little nauseous. “I don’t know about this, Maggie.”




Maggie stood up, a ghost of her former smile returning. “You could meet her and ask her for herself, if you want. She’s here in the medical wing.”




“She’s sick?”




“Not sick. Injured, and pretty badly. Ascent is pretty much her only chance to live a normal life again.”




Lyra’s eyes narrowed as she hopped out of her chair. “Maggie. Please, please tell me that you’re not holding this experiment over this poor woman’s head as the only way she’ll ever get to be healthy again. Because, if that’s the case, you can count me out right now!”




She finished that off with a hoof-stomp to show that she was serious. Maggie’s eyes widened and she held up her hands defensively.




“Lyra, no! Of course not!” Maggie shook her head. “She’s on the list to go through it anyway. She would have been back on her feet in a year, tops, without any of the risk. She is the one who wrote to us. She said that if we ever needed another person to be turned into a pony and back, she was more than happy to volunteer.”




“Really?” Lyra asked doubtfully. “It’s hard to imagine more than one person being crazy enough to go through that voluntarily.”




“There are actually tons of volunteers, these days. I get about sixty emails a day about that. The other Ascent facilities around the world get similar requests all the time, as well.”




“There are humans who want to be turned into ponies,” Lyra said flatly.




“Sure. Ponies, gryphons, dragons, and so on. But, since we’re the only ones with any actual physical pony data right now, everyone else is out of luck.”




“Okay.” Lyra shook her head. Humans were crazy! “And Lucy?”




Maggie spread her hands and shrugged. “We explained what we wanted to do. We also told her that, if she refused, we’d fix her up anyway. I didn’t want her to feel pressured. She decided that it sounded, and I’m quoting, ‘pretty cool’.”




Lyra looked away, deep in thought. After a minute or two, with Maggie waiting patiently the whole time, she finally sighed and nodded. “Okay. I’m not agreeing to it right now, but I’ll at least meet Lucy.”






The trip to the medical wing was a short one. Maggie remained silent the whole way, either lost in her own thoughts or respecting that Lyra was lost in hers. When they arrived in front of a closed door, Maggie reached out and knocked before opening it.




“I’ll wait here,” she said to Lyra. “You can go in alone. I don’t want to influence your decision.”




Lyra, suddenly nervous, frowned up at Maggie before stepping past the threshold. She’d only made it a few steps in before she saw Lucy, and it was a sight that stopped her in her tracks.




The human woman looked small and shockingly fragile in the large hospital bed, which was raised on one end so that Lucy was in a half-sitting-up position. She had dark skin and short-cropped black hair. Wrapped around her throat was some sort of plastic device, which was connected to a tube, which in turn was connected to a machine that made rhythmic whirring and clicking noises.




Lucy was awake, and her eyes widened as Lyra walked in. A ghost of a smile crossed her features.




“Hey. You’re the unicorn.”




Lucy’s voice was weak and hoarse. Lyra quickly stepped closer in order to hear her better.




“Yes, I am. I’m Lyra. It’s nice to meet you, Lucy.”




“Likewise. Forgive me for—” the machine whirred again and Lucy cut off suddenly. “—not getting up. Can’t move much.”




A dry chuckle followed that statement. Lyra shuddered, not seeing the humor in it.




“You can’t move?”




“Not below the neck,” Lucy confirmed in her rattly voice.




“What happened?” Lyra flinched at the question. She hadn’t meant to ask it, it had just slipped out.




“I’d like to say…” Lucy cut off again as the machine whirred again. “...that it was in the line of duty. But that would… be a lie.”




The frequent pauses as the machine forced her to breathe were causing Lyra’s guilt to swell, but curiosity still got the better of her. “Duty?”




“Army,” Lucy said. “Lieutenant. Got the promotion last year.”




“Oh,” Lyra said, desperately hoping that Lucy would stop talking.




“Was on leave last winter. Lost control of my truck. Hit a wall, woke up like this.”




Lyra bit her lip, her mind whirling. “Lucy, you know what it is they want to do to you?”








“You know that it could go badly?” Lyra asked, stepping closer. “That you could die? Or worse?”




Lucy blinked and offered her a twisted smile. “Worse than this?”




Lyra shook her head. “This can be fixed with Ascent, without risk!”




“Always a risk, little unicorn.” Click-whirr went the machine. “Always.” Lucy chuckled before turning serious. “Risks are my job.”




Lyra’s mouth opened, then closed again. She studied the woman in the bed, who looked back at her calmly, levelly. There was no desperation there, no fear. Just determination.




“Okay,” Lyra said finally. “I guess we’ll go ahead and do it.”




“Sweetness.” Lucy sighed and closed her eyes for a few seconds before opening them again. “Just one thing?”








“If I’m going to look like you…. then I need to know… on a scale of one to ten…” Lucy grinned at her. “How sexy are you?”




Lyra gaped at the chuckling woman on the bed before she burst out into hysterical giggles.




~~*Erin*~~ ~ ~ *艾琳* ~ ~


Erin was certain that Twilight didn’t mean to be in the way. After all, it was obvious that her unicorn friend was so engrossed in her new tablet that she was probably not even aware that Erin was trying to continue unpacking around her. Twilight probably didn’t even notice as she kept crossing back and forth in front of her, bringing boxes into other rooms, and her ears barely even flickered when Erin dropped one of her boxes onto her hoof and cursed for a few seconds.




Still, after half an hour or so, Erin decided that some sort of intervention was in order.




“Say, Twilight,” she ventured cautiously, “how’s everything going over there?”




Twilight Sparkle looked up with a shocking suddenness that startled Erin into stepping quickly back. Her face contorted as she wailed, “I can’t decide on a voice!”




Erin blinked at the desperate frustration in her friend’s voice and offered up what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “Just pick the one you like best.”




“I like these two! I’ve made a list of pros and cons, but they balance out too evenly!” Twilight’s horn glowed and a sheet of raggedly-torn cardboard floated up with two lists on it. “The top points for ‘Male: confident’ is that it’s strong and soothing and reminds me of my brother. The top points for ‘Female: educated’ is that she sounds… well, educated, and I might be more comfortable working with a female voice, and… well, she reminds me a little bit of Princess Celestia.” Twilight blushed, following it up with a scowl. “I can’t decide!”


“我喜欢这两个!”我列了一个利弊清单,但是它们平衡得太平均了!《暮光之城》的号角发出了亮光,一张破烂不堪的硬纸板浮了上来,上面写着两张名单。“‘男性:自信’的最重要的一点是,它强壮、抚慰人心,让我想起了我的哥哥。“女性:受过教育”的最重要的一点是,她听起来……嗯,受过教育,我可能更愿意用女性的声音工作,而且……嗯,她让我想起了一点塞莱斯蒂公主(Princess Celestia)。暮光之城涨红了脸,皱着眉头跟了上去。“我不能决定!”


“Then don’t. Flip a coin or something.” Erin shrugged and then jumped a little when her wings unfolded slightly on their own.




Twilight giggled at the display. “Still not used to them, huh?”




“No,” Erin sighed, her head drooping. “I can feel them, but I can’t control them.”




Twilight tilted her head and studied Erin’s wings. “What’s it like? Suddenly having wings, I mean.”




“It’s like…” Erin considered. It was something she really didn’t have words for. She took a stab at it, anyway. “It’s like having two alien creatures attached to your body, and you can feel everything they do, but you can’t make them do anything, and sometimes they decide to do idiotic or embarrassing stuff all on their own.”




“Ugh,” Twilight said with a shudder. “That doesn’t sound fun.”




Erin grunted in agreement and went back to her unpacking. After a couple of minutes, a thought occurred to her.




“Say, Twilight?”




Twilight answered, without looking up from her list of pros and cons, “Yes?”




“You know, you can always change the voice later, if you want to.”




Twilight’s head slowly came up and cranked around until she was looking at Erin with a look of utter relief. “I can?”




Erin nodded. “Oh, sure. Why not just start with one, use it for a few days, and then try out the other for a few more days, and then decide?”




“Hmm.” Twilight tapped her chin with a hoof as she considered. “I like that idea. Only one problem, though.”




“What’s that?” Erin asked absently, distracted by the ornamental pillow that she’d just pulled out of a box. It was something her grandmother had made for her and painstakingly hand-embroidered as a graduation present.




“How do I pick which one to use first?”




Twilight’s impish grin received a facefull of ornamental pillow. As nostalgic and precious as it was to her, Erin had known her grandmother well enough to know that the old lady would have approved.




“Oh, sorry,” Erin said as Twilight giggled, “I was trying to toss that onto the couch.”




“It’s too bad you don’t have enough pillows for a proper pillow fight,” Twilight observed.




Erin snorted. “Maybe after I get everything unpacked I can go buy some. There’s just too much stuff in the way!”




“Does all this need to be in here?” Twilight asked as she levitated the ornamental pillow over to Erin’s couch. “Can’t we move some to other rooms, or something?”




“Well, the solar tiles don’t need to be in here,” Erin said, indicating several large boxes that dominated the space. Then she yelped in surprise as they levitated up in the air, surrounded by a lavender aura.




“Where do you want them?” Twilight asked, grinning as she stood up. A separate glow surrounded her tablet, placing it delicately back in its box, and then levitating the box on top of the mantel over Erin’s fireplace.




“You don’t have to do that!” Erin protested.




“I know. But since I already am..?”




“Oh, uh… I was going to move them all to the back yard and then cover them with a tarp,” Erin said.




“Through the kitchen, right?” Twilight asked, already heading in that direction.




“Yeah…” Erin trailed behind Twilight, feeling more than a little useless as her friend effortlessly carried the heavy boxes out of her house and into the backyard.




“Where would you like them?”




“Right up against the wall is good,” Erin said, pointing a hoof.




After the boxes settled into place, Twilight turned to her with a chipper grin on her face. “That takes care of that! Anything else you want moved?”




“Oh, I couldn’t ask you to—”




Twilight smiled cheerfully. “Don’t worry about it. You know me! I love organizing things!”




Erin chuckled over her discomfort. “Yeah, I suppose. Still, if you’re helping me unpack, I’m going to owe you a big favor later on.”




Twilight tilted her head. “What, like buying me an expensive tablet?” She rolled her eyes and smirked. “How expensive are those, anyway?”




  • “Oh, it’s not too bad, really.” Erin waved a hoof dismissively. “Besides, I got a lot of money for the interviews I did back on Earth. Not to mention the hazard pay that accumulated when I was exploring Equestria.” She shrugged. “I’m not exactly hurting for money, Twilight.”




Besides, it wasn’t the tablets that were expensive, it was all the media she’d purchased to place on them. But there was no way that Erin was going to tell her friend that.




“That’s good to hear. Still, I think we’re more than even.” Twilight’s face became playfully stern as she added, “So, no more of this ‘I’ll owe you’ nonsense. Friendship doesn’t work that way.”




Erin shook her head, defeated. “Fine, fine. I suppose having you move stuff around will make things go faster. If you don’t mind, I mean.”




“I don’t mind.”




“But I’m still going to buy you lunch later on as a ‘thank you’.”




Twilight chuckled. “Fine. Let’s get going, then, hmm?”










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