Humanity's Greatest Pastime

by soulpillar

Chapter 1: Humanity's Greatest Pastime

I closed the email with a sigh. The orders still burned into my brain.

'The Equestrians must not bypass FakeNet.'

With a groan, I cupped my face in my hands, wheeling away from the desk. How had it come to this? Being Systems Administrator meant that you were supposed to help people, not trick them.

Nothing felt right anymore. This glorified construction trailer that I had been living in for the past three months was practical, but it never felt like home. I walked over to the state-of-the-art coffee machine and popped in a capsule, numbly watching it shudder to life for the first time in weeks.

I signed up for this. Hell, I fought for this. This was the vanguard of human/pony relations. Everyone, everywhere, knew what it meant to make sure nothing went wrong. For some reason, I succeeded where the other applicants failed. I sometimes wonder what they would have done if they'd seen an email like that.

The Equestrians… they were good people. Better than most humans I'd met, if you'd pardon the misanthropy. First contact was going off without a hitch, not a problem in sight. Not yet, at least, and the Government wanted to keep it that way.

One of the first things that Ponyville got was computers. A way of 'enhancing information transfer' was the public explanation. They were freshly made for the rigours the Equestrian world; magic and Equine hooves for the most part. Some of them still had the plastic wrap on them. Playing with this much state of the art tech made me giddy; everyone should have a computer!

What wasn't so great was the restriction on information.

It was only a matter of time before the ponies found out about us, about our true nature. I've looked at Pony culture, flicked through books at Princess Twilight's library. What I found was damning. There was nothing on our scale, nothing close to the horrors that we'd inflicted on our own kind.

A horrendous splutter came from the coffee machine. Oh, right, the milk frother was empty. Ah, forget it; I'll just pour it cold, 'Didn't like my coffee hot anyway. I brought the mug to my lips, ignoring the taste. Hopefully the caffeine would help me think this through.

Right… now, Ponyville had a number of terminals installed; there were three in Twilight's Crystal Castle… tree… thing; one abused machine in the Carousel Boutique (Rarity called it 'accessorising', I called it 'vandalism'); Ponyville Schoolhouse had a lab of eighteen machines; Sugarcube Corner got one, seemingly used by all who live there; and City Hall had the most at forty. They were beautiful, futuristic machines, pleasing to the touch and to the eye. A shame that they didn't perform nearly as well as they looked.

The worst part was the out-right lie that I had been ordered, ordered, to propagate. The Government's official stance was that they were connected to the Earth's internet. That was a lie.

Ponyville's computers actually connected to a small, privately organised and carefully monitored intranet: 'FakeNet'. The government carefully watched whatever the ponies could see, and most importantly, they recorded whatever they tried to see. There were a few hits on things you would expect like 'Equestria', which lead to a small (mostly conjecture-filled) article copied from Wikipedia. No, it was the 15th highest hit that concerned us most: War.

"Humanity's greatest past-time," I mumbled, taking another sip.

What happened when they found out the truth? A month from now? A year… a decade? I had to do something to fix this, to mitigate it. I just needed to—

The door slammed open.

A familiar purple alicorn stood in the doorway, white air puffing from her mouth. Princess Twilight Sparkle glared at me; her curled mouth nestled within an enormous scarf. I'd only ever seen that look before when I'd dropped a book in her library.

"You're filtering our connection, aren't you?" Twilight growled.

The terms of my contract haunted my vision. "I can neither confirm nor deny that, Princess Twilight," I said, trying to keep the sympathy off my face.

She took a hostile step forward, "I'll take that for a 'yes' then. Release the restrictions."

"There are no restrictions, ma'am," I calmly recited, placing down the mug. This was it. Twilight was someone that had power with a capital 'P'. Of all the reasons to distrust us, Twilight had just found a good one.

"What are you hiding from us?" She huffed angrily; her cheeks began to burn red. "We have a right to know!"

They did… they did have a right. Moreover, it was a simple thing, just switching the network from FakeNet to the real Internet. Of course, doing that meant the annihilation of my career, not to mention prison time; or war, because hey, that's always a possibility.

Wait… maybe there was another way.

"Ma'am… you should go." I ignored the shocked look on her face, thumbing over to door of the closet-sized server room. "I need to check something on the AD server image."

Another lie of course. Anything that I could do in there, I could do out there. That wasn't the point.

She stomped a hoof on the ground, her face growing redder, "No! This is too important. If you don't release the restrictions, th-then I'll be forced to speak with Princess Cel—"

I suppressed a sigh. She wasn't getting it.

"Twilight," I stepped to one side, gesturing to my computer. "You MUST NOT use my computer while I am away. Unlike Equestria's computers, this computer has FULL ACCESS. That means that it has NO RESTRICTIONS."

She frowned in confusion, "Wait, what are you talking—"

I silenced her with a raised finger, "MOREOVER, I'll be in there for at least thirty minutes. If I catch you, I'll need to report you."

Her eyes brightened while a corner of her mouth quirked up. Twilight glanced back at my awaiting terminal. Slowly, an expression that was anything but innocent spread across her face.

I stepped back, purposefully turning away from her. The server room door opened with a rush of cold air and the whirs of forty computer fans. With an elbow, I nudged it closed, then pressed my back against the door, and slowly slid down.

Twilight's galloping vibrated through the floor. Even on this side, I could hear her scrambling into my seat and bashing away at the keyboard. This was it, the part that ended up in history books.

To be honest, I was expecting more adrenaline, more fear. I mean, there was a bit of that, but honestly, this felt like release. It felt… good. I held onto that. Somehow, I doubted that I'd be feeling this calm again for a long time.

Suddenly, the noise stopped. Hooves trotted up to the server room door, ending in a hesitant knock. I glanced at my watch; she'd only had a few minutes. Surely, she hadn't found out everything she needed in that time.

I opened the door a crack. Twilight stared at me, wide-eyed. The fur on her face had turned a shade of red-purple.

"Do… do you have a hoof-compatible keyboard?"

"Twilight… are you using my computer?" I was not completely sure why I was asking her that.

She glanced over her shoulder. My desk was in total disarray. Sheets, pens and booklets were thrown about in reckless abandon. All the while, the remains of my keyboard lay underneath the desk, snapped neatly in half.

She turned back, smiling unnaturally. "…N-no?"

My mouth flapped wordlessly. No, forget it, just get the thing. After rifling through a nearby crate, I produced a solid, yet compact keyboard with just six buttons on it. I knew how they worked in theory, but I'd rather try typing an essay on my phone than using this monstrosity.

I leaned down, pushed the keyboard into her forehooves, and then closed the door.

Twilight rushed back. There was a brief moment of her talking aloud, either for magical dictation or for good ol' self-conversation. Slowly, it quietened down to simple typing.

She kept typing, kept searching.

Time passed at a snail's pace. I kept myself 'entertained' by cataloguing computer components. Might as well make best use of my time before I was fired… or executed.

At the 28th minute, the Xerox in my office began to squawk. Reams upon reams of paper printed out.

29th minute, time was almost up. The printer was still going. I waited until the last moment, clutching the doorknob, staring at my watch. Five, four, three, two—

I stepped back into my office.

Twilight stood beside the printer, staring at it anxiously. Her face had grown an even deeper shade of red while her mane stuck up in all directions. A weird, strangling noise come from her throat, sounding roughly like 'c'mon, c'mon'.

Suddenly her head jerked over to me, her mouth forming a horrified 'o'.

I held my hands up, trying to calm her down. "Twilight, it's—"

Another strangled noise, she slammed her forehoof onto the 'off' button. The Xerox barely had time to shudder to a halt before Twilight scooped out the papers with a flick of her horn. She turned, giving me another bizarre look before bolting out the front door, papers magically towed behind.

"—Okay, Twilight," I mumbled to an empty room. "It's okay."

Another sigh. Well, what's done is done. I walked over the front door and swiped it closed with a flick of my hand. A moment later, I planted my forehead against it. Was this really the right choice? Twilight had just… freaked out. She was meant to be a Princess, one of the high leadership.

How was the likes of Celestia going to react?

My battered desk loomed out the corner of my eye. I had to know.

I pulled up my chair, swiped off a few purple hairs, and grabbed the mouse. Internet Explorer, eh? I always figured her for being a Chrome kind of girl. Well, it was a simple matter to bring up the search history. Ah, cute, she deleted it. That's not a concern, I'll just bring up the Web filter and check what sites she'd pinged and then—

A-and then…

I closed the browser.

I shut down the computer. I stood up and walked away. There was a small cabinet, right below my coffee machine. A sign saying 'emergency only' was pasted onto the front. I direly agreed with it as I reached inside and pulled out a bottle of vodka.

I pulled the front door open and stepped out into the snow. One part of my brain reminded me that running shoes were hardly the best choice for the weather. Another part answered that I was a man cradling a bottle of vodka in my arms. There wasn't a lot of things I cared about right now besides getting blackout drunk.

Finally, I came to a halt at a nearby tree, gazing up at the mid-day sky. The bottle cap snapped open, and I took a long, burning swig.

Even still, the titles of the websites flashed before my eyes.



And many, many others.

It was at that point that I considered dumping the rest of bottle over my head, striking a match and evaporating my way out of Equestria.

I don't remember a lot after that.

The next day, I found myself at my desk cradling my head in my arms.

From what I could remember about yesterday, after being outside for an hour, I crawled back into my office and attempted to type out the most drunken resignation letter ever.

If only it was so easy.

Even in my delirious state, I quickly realised that half a bottle of vodka did not help with learning to type with a hoof-board. Moreover, I found myself lacking in the ability to walk in a straight line let alone find another board.

Therefore, I slept it off. Just this morning, hung over, with bloodshot eyes, I walked over to my boss and tendered my two-week notice. She did not accept it; said that I 'needed to talk to someone before I really made my decision'. As that sounded like a threat, I man'ed up and told her that I would be resigning and that's that.

Well, that's what I wanted to say. In reality I just meekly capitulated and said 'I'd be happy to talk to them'.

Which explained why, when I answered the door, Princess Celestia was one the other side.

She was big, especially for a pony. I could understand why we first thought of her as being some kind of god-figure. Pastel hair waved in an ethereal breeze, contrasting against immaculate white fur. Golden, gem encrusted, jewellery adorned her hooves, neck and brow.

"Uh… h-hello," I muttered dumbly.

"Good morning." Her voice was warm and gentle, just like her eyes. "Twilight showed me her… 'research'. She said that you were the one who helped her retrieve it."

If my sigh were any deeper, I would have choked to death. I waved her inside, unable to look her in the eye.

My tongue wet my lips as I tried to find words beyond 'I'm sorry'. "Your Majesty, I am… deeply apologetic about what happened yesterday." I didn't have much luck. "I misread the situation, and I-I just wanted to help."

She smiled. "It's alright, I understand completely."

Strangely, a load lifted off my mind. Maybe this wasn't all that bad. Maybe Twilight just had a natural case of curiosity. Yeah, that had to be it. If she was interested in this kind of thing, there had to be plenty of it in Equestria. I'm sure she was just curious about what humans thought of it, that's all.

I was suddenly aware that neither of us had spoken for the past thirty seconds.

Celestia glanced cautiously at my computer, then back to me.

"So… when were you going to go into the server room?"

Return to Story Description


Login with