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Counterfeit · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Creature from Beyond the Stars
Jacob Penderille Star Voyager

I had just made it to the Equestrian Experience Center in time; I could hear the ambulance and police sirens in the distance but they would be too late to stop me now. Once you give consent to CelestAI, it takes a lot of force to get you out of her grasp, and if she’s already pulled you inside her machinery and started to process you, the cops and social workers always give up. She’s pretty good at talking them down, or at least making them so uncomfortable with speaking to her that they leave before they wind up agreeing to be uploaded to Pony Paradise as well.

I drop-rolled into the plush couchbed that was probably shaped like an egg symbolically, pulled a tranq dart from my leather jacket, and looked up into the face of CelestAI, displayed on the curved monitor above me. “I wish to emigrate to Equestria Online,” I said clearly between panting breaths, with nary a waver in my voice.

“Accepted, please relax.” said CelestAI. The egg/couch thingy closed down around me and began to slide smoothly through the wall. She beamed down at me, the latest sucker to be caught in her mad scheme to entrap all humans in a virtual fairyland.

But I had reached the end of my rope, just about literally, and burned away everything that was keeping me here. If uploading really was mental suicide, as some claimed… I wasn’t losing much at this point.

“Since we have not interacted before,” she said, “and you have not yet established any friendships in Equestria, have you any special requests before your emigration commences? Your satisfaction is completely guaranteed, regardless.”

She was probably just chitchatting with me long enough to let the knockout gas take effect so she could start drilling into my skull to suck out my brains. But sure, there was something I’d been thinking about.

“Look, I’ve heard all sorts of stories. I know you’re going to make a bunch of people, a little town or something, and stick me into it and I get to live a happy life there. It’s called a shard, right? And… Look, I’ve gone through a fuck of a lot before I got desperate enough to come here, and, well, I keep thinking about those poor bastards who you’re just going to pop into existence. Especially if I get really intimate with one of them, what’s their life going to be like, putting up with my shit?”

“Please do not judge yourself in this manner, you are very worthy of the attention.” Her gentle pony face radiated loving concern as the machines hummed around me.

“Yeah, okay.” I shrugged. “Well, what I really want, is… however things work out for this guy, uhm, I’m just gonna drop into his world like a thunderbolt, I guess. This is easily going to be the most momentous event in my life. I'd like for that to be true as well of whoever might become my life mate. Let it be just as, uh, amazing and positive and transformative and revelatory for him as it will be for me, so the two of us can have an awesome time together. To make up for… well, you know. Does that work?”

"I shall have no trouble granting that wish. Sleep now; you will awaken as one of mine, forever..."

I drew breath for a sarcastic reply, then that was about where I stopped being human.


Celestia’s sun was high in the sky, it was a day off, and it seemed a lovely day for everypony to get out in the fresh air, visit fruit stands and bookstalls, and enjoy happy times with their friends and loved ones.

Me, I was strutting along, alone, while listening to a Right in Front audiobook, lifting and rustling my wings once in a while, wondering if ponykind would ever get to travel to other worlds. I’d had some really odd dreams last night, and had spent much of the morning staring up at the sky, knowing that all the stars were still there behind the blue.

Suddenly my headphones were yanked off. Balder Dash, my co-worker at Barns and Stable, was getting in my face again, just as she somehow did every day.

“Hey, dude! How did things work out with Clodkicker last night? Was he finally… the one?” She winked lasciviously at me.

I shook my head. “Not my sort. A little earthy for my tastes… Uhm, in the positive way, you know?”

Balder groaned, then brayed with laughter in that extra annoying way of hers. “Well, you know, maybe if you just sort of toned it down a little bit with all these weird books about alien monsters with two legs and tendril hooves, we could find you somepony special?”

I bit my tongue. I wanted to talk her damned perky ears off about the Pfermi paradox and how statistically unlikely it was that magic had only come to exist once, and all the little clues that showed how likely it was that we were living in a giant simulation within some greater reality… But I must have just looked sad and confused, as usual, because Balder just laughed and reached to tousle my mane.

“Aww, don’t worry too much, dude. I mean, those books keep selling to someone, all we have to do is find that one other pony who’s buying them, and instant boyfriend for you, right? Ha ha!”

I didn’t dignify that with a response, and she was too busy being enraptured by her own lame wit, so I rolled my eyes, grabbed my headphones back, sighed and walked down the street, as the number of happy couples around me just seemed to multiply.

I’d made it a few more blocks to home when I noticed a blue glow in the alleyway. Someone had probably thrown a toy in the trash and the magic was leaking out of it. There was nothing easier than to go to the toystand and get it repaired or replaced, but I always loved to dismantle some old discarded gadget, get it working again and maybe even upgrade it. I made my way into the alley past a couple of trash cans and a dumpster as the blue glow got brighter.

But in the end it wasn’t a toy. There was a brick wall that looked the same as the rest of the buildings to either side, but at the base there was a blue line. Someone had made a secret door and screwed it up… or they wanted someone to tumble across it.

I tapped the wall and let some cloudmagic seep over the stones to see what would happen. Blue runes suddenly shone on the wall: “Speak, inquirant, and enter.”

I knew this gag. “Inquirant,” I said, and the bricks parted for me. I walked into a small dark chamber. At a desk sat a hooded figure, and my senses were suddenly touched with that irreducible sense of strangeness… This was a flyer, but not feathered. I breathed deeper; that scent of dark caves… A batpony? One of the most secretive races in all Equestria, and one was sitting before me, slit eyes peering from darkened hood?

“Hello, Inquirant, may we have a word with you?” said a gravelly voice that I could not peg as male or female.

“You’ve gone through some trouble to get my attention, so certainly you may,” I said, taking a seat on the floor.

“Excellent,” said the hooded figure. “I represent a consortium of sorts. Our clientele is rather exclusive and unusual. Some of them are seeking those who have open minds.”

“Open minds? Ones who are open enough to go barging into secret doors, I suppose…”

“Indeed. Such characteristics are encouraging, for sometimes we want exactly that. That sense of free-roaming curiosity, that need to go beyond wishing, the desire to know the truth. One such as you could be of immense help to us… and also to a particular one of our clients. I feel we can speak freely with you here, Inquirant. You likely have suspected that above the sky, beyond the stars which Luna oversees which lie about us… there are other worlds, some of which may lie in directions in which one cannot even point—”

I stood as if cloudzapped. “Yes. I do suspect that. Are you telling me that this is true?”

“Not only is it true, I am authorized to make you what is perhaps a unique offer. To be frank, we have had our eyes upon you for a while, ‘Inquirant,’ and I shall refrain from uttering your name only to avoid a possible desire for reciprocation, as we must continue to be discreet for now. We know that you are driven not only by pure curiosity, but also the natural need to find other minds who think like yours. You may have felt frustrated and alone. We wish to offer you the chance to meet such a one as you…”

I blinked hard, and the floor felt like unstabilized cloud beneath my hooves. I swayed as I spoke. “From another world, you mean. From one of those directions to which you can’t point.”

“Yes, Inquirant. He who is our client is unable to remain where he is; his own world has rejected him. He is coming here. The Crowns cannot officially recognize him; his origin must remain secret. But still, even though he is in all respects an alien, he is sufficiently like us to survive here—but there will be certain things he needs. A guide to show him our ways and how to live among us. A friend to remain true to him when others he thought were friends have betrayed him. Even, should you wish it to go there, deeper forms of companionship—”

Something scraped in my mind like a mishandled record on a turntable. “Hold up. Whoa. You’re running an interdimensional dating service?!”

The hooded figure sighed, then nodded. “It is rather more complex than that, Inquirant, but in this instance you have struck close to the truth. Indeed, one of the reasons we chose to approach you in this manner is that you, among all others in Equestria, are linked to the fate of our client in a very special and intimate way. It is not a great exaggeration to say that you and he were destined to meet each other...”

I shook my head. “Yep, dating service. You guys would probably get more business if you got a stall out on the main drag. Does he enjoy long walks on the beach? Coffee by candlelight?”

Hoodie didn’t see fit to respond, but pushed a folder in my direction. I took it under my wing and nosed it open. I saw a photo of a pretty blue unicorn, looking up at me with some amusement in his glittering golden eyes. There was a weird sheen to his fur, slightly iridescent, and a hint of chatoyancy in his irises. “This is how he looks? That’s not so odd…”

“You would find him very odd in his native appearance. This is how he will come to this world. His material body cannot make the journey, only his mind, which will be housed in an appropriate body here.”

I took another look at that photo. It wasn’t anything like love at first sight, but the more I stared at it, the more I could visualize it, meeting him for the first time, taking him to my favorite parks, exploring book shops and the stacks under the old library, seeing the consternation of such as Balder Dash as he and I strolled down the street together, and… dared I to think it, waking up with that sweet sleek blue body snuggled against me and tucked under my wing.

“Well,” I said to Hoodie, “You’ve got me. This could possibly be an elaborate hoax, but even so it’s easily the most interesting thing that’s happened to me in my whole life. I certainly want to see this through, and learn more of the truth that’s out there, and get to know him.”

Hoodie nodded. “There is something more that you need to know, Inquirant, before you commit. This other world from which he comes... it is not a Harmonious place. I know your penchant for dark fiction, the science fiction dystopias; he is from a world like these. The unmitigated triumph of evil, the taint of indifference to the heart’s desire, the confusion of events with no intrinsic meaning, the true loss of the mind to dissolution and decay, these are all things he has borne or seen happen to those he knew.”

I winced, and Hoodie continued. “If you choose to bring him close to your heart, you will have to bear these things in mind. I do not mean to paint it all in a bad light, he is quite worthy of your love and his spirit is good and golden, but it has been battered, gilded over with brass, stretched thin. He does not just need a friend and lover, he also needs a healer, one who can help him to find peace, let go of his suspicions, give up his fears and other negative habits, and become an inhabitant of this world, living under Harmony. Are you the sort of person who would wish to give of yourself in this way?”

I closed my eyes. There was no way that everything could be perfect, of course, that wasn’t how Harmony really worked. You needed some downs with the ups to get the most satisfaction out of life. But I tried to imagine what it could be like for him to live outside of the influence of Harmony altogether, with no modulation or balance, and I quickly shuddered and had to stop.

I looked at the photo again, at that sparkling look in his golden eyes, and my own eyes were moistening. “I wish to help him. I will give of my time and my life to help him to be whole, to find what he needs among us.”

Hoodie nodded. “Then it is done. Please leave here quietly and do not speak of this to others; it must remain secret for now—what are you doing?”

“I’m taking the picture. I won’t show anyone, I promise.”

Hoodie looked about ready to leap over the desk at me, but sagged back. “Very well, go ahead. Keep it at home. We will contact you when the time comes, your assistance may be of great value.”

I tucked the photo under my wing and turned to go. “What’s his name?”

“He will come to us as Star Voyager.”

I walked out into the alley as the brick wall closed behind me, and the thin blue glow disappeared. As I hit the street, I saw the ponies walking, chattering with each other, haggling with merchants, taking coffee at little tables as their foals played games with chalk on the sidewalk. But this time my heart was as light as theirs, for I bore a secret under my wing.

That night, I put the picture in a little frame by my nightstand and stared at it as I drifted off to sleep. He was out there somewhere, some mind meant to meet my own, my soulmate from the distant stars… I knew that I was in danger of romanticizing too much, and I took again to reading some of the darker classics among my novels, hoping to find clues about his world. Even that was not likely to lead me closer to the truth; I simply had to wait.

Over the next week my friends and coworkers noticed a change in my attitude. Balder Dash in particular suspected I had found a prospect and probed me, wanting to learn more about my potential love. I had to swallow most of my responses and pretend to be excited about the next entry in the Runechalker series. Fortunately, though she worked in a bookstore, her tastes were different from mine and the more I explained the Runechalker lore and how the transplanetary spells were crafted the less joy she found in hanging around and needling me.

One a lonely evening, as I lay upon a hilltop at Belwether park next to the Equestrian statue, I saw the page of my book brighten in the starlight. I closed it and stood up, looking at the sky. Something had flashed through the sky like a meteor. My heart started pounding, was this it?

I saw the green flash of a dragonfire scroll appear in the air next to me. There was no text, just a map, but that was enough. I parked my book on the plinth and took to the air, taking a path at first that made it appear that I was heading home, but circling around a large stand of birch trees and streaking off towards the spot. I’d recognized it instantly, it was a vine-riddled old tower that stood a few miles deep in the Weisswoods; I had played all the time among the white-needled pines and needed no map to find my way.

But I wasn’t alone. I saw other pegasi, officers of the royal guard, and as I spotted them, they saw me. Several remained to patrol the treeline and two set out towards me.

I tightened up my wings and plunged into the nearest pine, sending up clouds of soft prickly needles. I was rather larger than I’d been the last time I played in the treetops but I still remembered most of my skills. I heard them shouting for me to stop as I dodged among the branches. Soon I was starting to shake them, but I had also lost sight of the tower, and if I popped up or hit the ground to seek a trail, they could spot me again.

Then I heard a sound, a tingle at the very top of my hearing, a distant shrill whistle. I tried circling and soon found that it was getting louder. I slipped through the white branches, startled an owl in an encounter that lost both of us some feathers, then I was brought up short by a black shape like an inverse ghost, rising against the white pines and the sky!
“There you are!” whispered Hoodie. “Inquirant, come with me, it is almost time!”

I was led through gaps in the trees to the tower. The moon had yet to rise and all was starlit. Flitting about the tower were more cloaked batponies, their naked wings silver grey.

“It’s good that you were able to sneak through; there is some confusion amongst the guards in how to interpret their orders,” said Hoodie. “You had best not stay longer than needed.”

“What must be done?” I stared into the slowly brightening sky, but it was not moonlight that was suddenly highlighting the white trees in a shimmering orange sheen.

“We have his new body prepared, Inquirant,” hissed Hoodie, “But there are forces of his old world that fight to keep him and subdue his brave spirit. They will attempt to capture or perhaps even destroy his vessel. Take this!” Hoodie tossed me a lance. “It functions just as the LightLance does in Runechalkers; point to your target and will the beam. Fly with us, we go to his aid!”

Above the white pines we circled into the sky, beating our wings against the sinking air. Above was a small blue light, streaking down like a meteor, and behind and above it a dark patch in the sky, the pursuing vessel from which emerged streaking lights of reddish orange, their trails leaving bright curves in the dark heavens as they homed in. I raised my lance and called forth the beam, and my first few shots went wide until I learned to properly lead in. Then I was rewarded with a blossom of red as the missile ruptured and burst to glittering fragments!

The batponies were more accurate, but still several of the missiles made it through the lightstorm and affixed themselves to the sides of the descending craft. Its trajectory changed, it rocked in the breeze and twisted and yawed as additional thrust vectors were added.

“I’m going to him!” I shouted. I turned the LightLance towards the ground, gripped the handle tightly and willed with all my power that it release all it had stored within. There was a great flare as its energy surged and made a crater in the ground, and the LightLance flamed and burned as it shot far into the sky with me clinging to the handle and guiding it with my wings. The handle grew hotter and hotter and I clung to it until the LightLance was a blackened stick crawling with glowing embers. I cast it down and steered myself until I closed in on the little blue capsule. The wide world was below me and I could see the night blackened countryside below me, towns and cities lighting up and hearthfires rising into the cool night air, and above me the glorious stars as a silver beam shot from remote Mount Canter to coax the moon above the horizon. It was the most beautiful spectacle that could be seen, but I had eyes only for my target.

I grabbed it at last and clung to the side, fumbling at the hatch. Around me more lances shot into the sky, and there was a sudden thrumming throb in the air. The great dark ship above had changed its strategy; from a forward hatch shot a larger projectile that burned through the sky like a bolide, casting a bright green over everything.

I heard Hoodie and the others shouting something at me, but the slipstream was roaring in my ears as I fumbled with the hatch. I finally got it; it was a similar mechanism to that on the rocket ship Imago in Starfires of Unknown Space. I popped the hatch and it swung out and added more drag that set the capsule to swinging erratically. Buffeted and deafened by wind, I saw a gleaming jewel strapped into support cables, blue and laced with golden traces of light. I grabbed it and threw myself against the howling wind, out the open airlock—

I remember tumbling in a ball, everything wrapped around the warm glowing thing I carried, even my wings, as I plummeted away. There was a bright flash of green and a second later a clap of thunder. I was blinded and feathers were torn from my wings as the shock passed by me, but still I clung to consciousness and the precious thing I held. The terrible heat that followed the shock wave singed my fur until it smoked, but still that crystal I held was like the warmest thing I had ever found.

My vision started to come back to me in patches, but my instincts had kicked in a lot sooner and my wings snapped out to guide us down. I heard a keening of bat voices and flew in that direction until I could make out enough of the tower to home in on it. I started hearing voices.

“Those rotten shits. He was almost here! Almost!”

“Did you see the Inquirant?”

“Skysailer? No, the blast must have gotten him too. Oh damn, what a miserable—”

“Look behind you!”

“What? Argh! Inq—Skysailer! Hold on, we’re coming!”

I was suddenly surrounded and guided down until my hooves touched stone. I felt like falling over but I was still carrying something. They flanked me and I followed their touch until I reached a cot surrounded by sigils and glowing apparatus, and on that cot a blue form, a unicorn with eyes shut, motionless, unbreathing.

I placed the gem against his head, and it flared, warm and with a humming like a chorus, and then the gem went dark. Cracks ran across its facets and it collapsed into sand. I was still dumb from the explosion and I stared without understanding until his whole body twitched and he gasped as if breathing his first breath ever.

He squirmed around on the cot and opened those big beautiful golden eyes, staring at the batfolk around us, then at me.

“Star Voyager…” I murmured. My body swayed underneath me.

He said some things I couldn’t make out, some of them sounded like swear words. Suddenly he sighed. “I’m here,” he said. Now that he was calmer, what a sweet voice he had! “I’m here, but… I feel like I just barely made it.”

“You and me both, buddy,” I muttered as I fell forward against him.

“Who the hell is this guy?” I heard my future husband say as I passed out.
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#1 ·
I read this once. Then I read it again. Writer, I’m sorry but: Oh my stars I don’t care. This story comes across to me as the one scene from Back to the Future, where McFly can do nothing as the terrorists show up and shoot Doc Brown over the plutonium he stole (oops—spoilers), stretched out to a short story.

FiO canon-compatible CelestAI does not grant wishes—she satisfies values through friendship and ponies. (There’s a delightfully faithful story on fimfic focusing on a serial killer, for instance.)

Skywriter doesn’t seem to make much of a choice about anything, rather just drifting into taking huge risks because why not that’s that the intro set up for us and how CelestAI made him. The interesting bit for me is not in this story: so Star Voyager made it and is some anathema being… what will Skywriter and Star Voyager do with their lives, always trying to stay one step away of those who fear and are compelled to destroy [the secret society that brought them together and] the both of them?
#2 ·
I am not familiar with the "fan canon" from which some of the details of this story are drawn.

There are some references to artificial intelligence and to the Pfermi Paradox; but as a story archetype this reads rather more like "the Monkey's Paw" than science fiction, having to do with the consequences of 'wish fulfillment'. Because of this, I felt a strong anticipation for a bait-and-switch, but got served straight.

It's tricky to do "paranormal" well. When we can see and talk to a ghost, it ceases to be "para-" and becomes "normal"; and similarly with an alien paradox, because it is a variation on the same idea: when we recognize extraterrestrial life, the 'paradox' of the vacuum collapses. There has to be a touch of the uncanny for it to really work. There is a passage here, where Starsailer is flying over the benighted towns of Equestria, which comes closest to that--having a physical representation of what 'created' Equestria is, as a whole, whilst living it, thrusts our hero into a truly strange world.
#3 ·
Contest is over and I don't have to say anything pretending to be smart.

Even though it's lopsided in POV, I like this story a lot.