Chapter 10: The missing file.
"I'll look into it tomorrow."
The sign read "Stairs to level nine. Maneframe." It was no longer illuminated, presumably in an attempt to make it less obvious. Now that we knew it was not the robots we were fighting per se, but the maneframe that was controlling them, we had a clear target. No longer were we defenders. We were the attackers, and the maneframe, or the A.I. residing within it, was scared. It was so terrified it was trying to hide. Now we had gathered around the sealed door, pondering our next step. It had taken a while for the less mobile ponies to clear the heaped garbage the robots had piled here in an attempt to hide the door. The more mobile of us had taken advantage of the time to sweep the remainder of the eighth floor for robots, apart from the section behind the door jammed shut by massive explosion at the end of our last battle, to which we had no access. We had found none. We had also found no other way off the eighth floor, so we were hoping to find a way out via the lower level. The stairs up, and the elevator were apparently behind the jammed door. Failing all else, I would have to cut through that door with my horn so we could get out, but that wasn't something I wanted to do. It was hard work, and I'd been doing too much of that over the last few days! My poor horn could do with a rest.
I poked at the door with my armored hoof, achieving nothing by doing so.
"You do know there are going to be dozens of robots in there, don't you?" Saffron asked me.
I nodded. "Indeed. It is very much the same situation the ponies were in a few days ago. This is their headquarters, their last line of defense."
"So it's going to be one hell of a battle. Do we want the maneframe to survive?" Saffron asked.
"We do. While it may control our enemies, it also controls everything else in the stable. Destroying it would almost be like committing suicide," I explained. "We need to get control of it, and see if we can reprogram it to help us instead, or at the very least, get it to leave us alone."
"It won't be directly on the other side of that door though, will it? I don't want to accidentally shoot it."
"Directly on the other side, no, I doubt it very much. There will probably be a short corridor, then a bend to the right, then there will be stairs leading down," I replied, thinking back to the sort of layout my stable had used. "Helvetica? Do you have any insight into this?"
"Sorry, no. Anything on the terminal that pertains to the layout of the stable is either locked, or corrupted," she answered, "and no living pony has been out of level eight."
"No surprise there," I muttered. "And knowing this prick of a stable, if the info was on your terminal, it would be falsified anyway."
I returned my attention to the lump of metal blocking our progress. I pressed my horn to the door switch and projected my magic into it. Like the previous door, I found this one had been disconnected from the power system. I was unable to locate the wiring, so again it appeared the wiring had been removed. Even after using my magic to bore a hole into the assembly, and mechanically force the mechanism to unlock, we were unable to budge the door. Eventually I concluded it had been welded shut on the other side. Probing around with my magic, I was unable to detect exactly where it had been done. While I could use my magic to cut it open, it would be exhausting, and more than likely, the robots would be on the other side repairing the damage just as quickly.
We would have to find another way in. I turned from the door and walked left along the wall, giving it the occasional kick. Bang. Bang. Bang. Clang. Gocha. Moments later I had removed the service panel, put my head into the opening and was staring down the little tunnel of the sort in which I used to play as foal. They were claustrophobic, designed for access to places that simply could not be accessed any other way. Technicians hated them. Apprentices, being smaller than their mentors, were usually the ponies forced to work in them. As a filly-foal, I had loved playing in them. Hmm. There was no way I was getting through here with my battle saddle on, so I bowed to the inevitable, and removed it. I revoked the binding spell on the gauss rifle, and levitated it into the opening as a few of the other ponies gathered around to stare into the darkened tunnel.
"Is there any other way?" Saffron asked.
"This is the other way!" I stated.
"It looks like it's going to be just you and me," Ruby observed. She was still smaller than a mare, and was also fully mobile, so I could see her reasoning. "I think I can get this through with no problems," she added, then lifted the shotgun. She didn't have the advantage of unicorn magic. My initial thought was to object, then I remembered this was a stable full of fighters, and this was their fight. Had it been Demi, that would have been another matter. I had left her guarding the foals. I'm sure she understood why too. It was a task that should keep her safe, yet if matters were really bad, she could still make a difference. Perhaps.
I climbed into the service tunnel, and began walking along it, the gauss rifle levitating in front of me. In only a few paces, the tunnel turned hard left, where it intercepted the corridor behind the welded door. The tunnel widened a fraction here, as conduits and wiring passed through a bulkhead. Beyond that bulkhead was the way down to level nine, with various access panels as required. Between them and me was a small, sealed air-lock door. That was to be expected. It would be stupid to have security on the main hallway with such an easy bypass unprotected. The ventilation ducts would be the same, but instead of air-lock doors, they would have locked grills. The difference between this door and the one out in the corridor was that it would not have been welded. The robots simply couldn't fit down the service tunnels. I had never seen a bot that was small enough to fit in them, other than sprite bots, and they would foul their wings. I lowered the rife, and stepped up to the door pressing my horn against it. My reformation magic allowed me to quickly bore a horn sized hole through it, so I could project my magic through. I found the locking bar and pushed it back. Pulling back, I tugged on the lever, and the door opened. The air beyond smelt different, with less of the smell of death and more of the acrid stench of ozone associated with the spark gaps of poorly tuned spark generators.
"Okay Ruby, we are through," I whispered to the young mare following me. "Remember that I am physically a lot tougher than you, so please don't risk yourself without good reason."
"Ofay, I wonf," she replied around a mouth full of muzzle grip.
The service tunnel took the path I had expected, swinging right a few meters ahead. I followed it around, and after a dozen or so meters came up against an interesting problem: the stairwell. There were no stairs in the service tunnel, just ridges, or rungs welded to the floor. Trying to get down them quietly would be near impossible. Fortunately Ruby was not immediately behind me, so I back tracked a few steps, looking closer at the wall to my right. There had to be an access panel around here. Ah, there it was. I quietly placed the gauss rifle on the floor, as I would need my magic to hold the panel. While I was quite capable of juggling several items at once, I wanted to do this carefully and quietly. Gently I pushed at the panel, willing it to open. It resisted. Damn, don't tell me they welded that shut instead. I pushed harder and eyaaaa! What the hell? The panel vanished before me clanging as it fell down the stairs. Half a dozen spidery robotic arms reached in grasping me where ever they could, pulling me from the tunnel. They were holding my muzzle, one of my ears, both of my forelegs, my mane and anything else their manipulators could grasp, and it was painful! I struggled for a few moments then... ZAP! I screamed as they discharged their stun guns into me. All of them. Bastards! THAT. ZAP! ARRRRRGH. HURT. ZAP! A LOT.
Had they found Ruby too? She would never survive this treatment. Get out of here Ruby. Run girl! I dared not voice it, lest I alert the robots to her presence. I screamed harder, to disguise any noise she may make, and prayed that she would have the sense to leave, not to try and rescue me. Thud. Dammit! I felt that! Despite my nerves being saturated with pain from the stun guns, again I could feel the blows as the robots started clubbing me. Not again. Then their blades started sawing through my barding, and biting into my hide. This time they seemed to be intent on actually killing me, and at this rate they were going to succeed, and soon too. I tried to push them away with my magic, blindly kicking at them too. Thud, thump, crack! Shit, I felt that break something inside me. Thump, bang. I pushed harder. No more. NO MORE. NO MORE! Everything around me exploded, and I felt myself being thrown. I hit the floor, but somehow I couldn't stick to it, and was sucked into the air, where I smashed into the ceiling, then bounced, and hit the ceiling again, bounce, hit, bounce, hit. Eventually I realized I was upside down, and I was bouncing down the stairs. It's funny the sort of things you think about in situations like this. Finally, with a brain rattling jar, I ran out of stairs to bounce off, and slid across the floor to the opposite wall. Assorted chunks of metal rained down around me, and on me, as the flames receded. Wow, somehow I was still alive. Demi would be living up to her cutie mark again. Now, I suppose I needed to get my battered ass back up those stairs and open the... oh shit, look at all that blood smeared acrosssss th... the floor. What was I tr... trying to do again? Oh, stuff it, the lights are fading....
Gradually reality penetrated my mind again. By Celestia, I hated this bit. Waking up to find what was smashed or missing from your body was never fun.
"It's a good thing we had a super restoration potion for you," I heard Demi say. Hang on, what was she doing down here? I didn't want her anywhere near the fighting. Was she talking to me? "Welcome back to reality, Anne." Yup, she was.
This girl was getting good. She could tell I had woken and yet I hadn't spoken, or even opened my eyes. I tried that now, and waited for a few moments while the cybernetics rebooted them. "Whoa. Crashed eyeballs. That doesn't happen often," I mused. "Ah, that's better. I can see again." I was lying on one of those mattresses that had been used to hide the doorway down to the lower level. It was old, but at least it was relatively clean. I looked up at my caregiver, and she was clearly in perfect health. No need to panic yet. I glanced around me: a corridor one way, stairs leading up another, assorted bits of robot littered about, charred walls, splashes and smears of blood; that would be mine... and Ruby's?
"Ruby? What happened to Ruby?" I enquired. "Is she okay?"
"She's taking a nap upstairs, She was a bit sore, and a little deaf," another pony answered. Oh, Rosemary. "From what I can gather, she remained well inside the service tunnel, taking potshots at any robot that moved into her line of fire. That didn't do her ears any good. The explosion didn't help either. The force of the blast spat her out into the room up stairs.”
"And that was quite some explosion too," Saffron added. "It blew the door at the top of the stairway out of its mountings and into the maintenance room!"
"Hang on, wasn't it welded shut?" I asked.
"It was, but only for a few inches. Just enough to keep us from opening it," he replied.
"Did it hurt anyone?" I wondered.
"Nothing serious. Just knocked a few of us out of the way," he responded.
"How long have I been out this time, and have you discovered anything else down here? What about the robots?" That was something I needed to know.
Three ponies tried to answer at once, then aborted, each gesturing for the others to say their piece. After a few giggles and some more hoof pointing, Demi spoke. "You've been unconscious for about an hour and a half. We managed to wake you a little, so we could get you to drink the super restoration potion, then you passed out again. We gave a healing potion to Ruby, to help heal her ears." Demi pointed her hoof at the next pony, Saffron, who continued.
"There was another closed door at the other end of this corridor. It was also blown out of its mountings. We explored the area beyond it for a while, and we could not find a single robot. You got them all." Hang on? I got them? What did he mean? Saffron pointed to Helvetica, and she picked up the thread.
"Most of this floor is for storage. We found some ammunition for the old stable issued guns, not that we have anything left to fire it with. More importantly, there was a decent cache of old medical supplies, which is how we had something to treat you. You were a real mess when we found you. There were also a few tools, unused stable barding and general odds and ends, but that's not what is important. We have found the maneframe, and we have also found an elevator, though at the moment that doesn't work."
"Oh, of course," I muttered. "Okay, time to see this maneframe."
I tried to stand, and like last time, was greeted with a chorus of objections, apparently with good reason this time, because as soon as I put weight on my rear right leg, I found it to no longer to be where I wanted it, accompanied by some degree of pain. "OUCH!" I exclaimed, toppling back onto the mattress. "What the hell?" I looked back at my leg, to find it sticking out at an odd angle.
"We think your hip is broken," Demi explained, "so please don't try to stand. We are going to have to make an exoskeleton for you."
"I don't think so," I muttered.
"Would some Med-x help?" Rosemary offered.
"More than you realize!" I responded. Now that was a plan.
After Rosemary injected me, I rolled onto my side and used my magic to pull my leg back into the correct position. "Get ready with some bandages, or a healing potion if you have any to spare," I requested.
"We have more than enough healing potion at the moment. The robots were hoarding it," Helvetica spat, clearly furious about it. How many ponies had suffered and died because of these bloody robots? I had to get into that maneframe and work out what the fucking program for this stable was. I so ached to be able to travel back in time and kill a few select bastards. I wondered if the little dear at the top of Stable-Tec was in on this crap, or if it was being carried out without her knowledge.
"Why do you want more healing potion?" Demi asked. "It can't heal your broken cyber frame."
"But it can heal my flesh," I answered, as I twisted myself around to I could get my horn near my rump. "Now don't panic!" I warned, and promptly gored myself, thankful that the Med-x had numbed me.
"Holy Celestia!" "Oh now, how could she?" "Quick hold her down, stop her!" several ponies screamed together.
"DON'T TOUCH HER!" Demi bellowed, moving between the concerned ponies and myself, not that I was paying any of them much attention. "I understand what she is doing. Just pass me some of that sterile gauze."
Ignoring the blood oozing past my horn, I pressed it against my metal cyber frame and concentrated my magic on my damaged internal structure, projecting my consciousness inside. I felt around, moving the parts of the broken structure back together, fusing breaks together, twisting distorted metal so the parts fit properly, smoothing over the welds so as not to snag any other components, or my living flesh against them while moving. That done, I allowed my magic to follow the contours and shapes of the rest of my cyber frame, correcting any problems I detected while I was doing so. Goring myself was not something I fancied doing again, so I thought I may as well make the most of it while I had. After a few tiring minutes, I withdrew my bloody horn, the cybernetics having automatically rerouted my blood flow from the damaged area. Thank goodness only the structural part of the cyberframe had been damaged. If it had been any of the actuators, I really would have been hobbling around in an exoskeleton.
"Fixed?" Demi asked.
I nodded. She offered me a container of healing potion, then picked up a wad of medical gauze with her teeth, and pressed it hard against my wound. I quickly drank the potion, and waited for it to work its magic. I suspected I was getting low on blood again. My cybernetics didn't need it, but my brain sure did! After a couple of minutes, Demi pulled the gauze away, and I noticed where I had gored myself - right through the cutie mark. That was kind of amusing actually. I had just used the skills it represented through it.
"Thank you for your concern," I said, "but I should be able to walk around now, thanks to the unique combination of metal working magic and a metal skeleton."
"You stabbing yourself like that scared us bad!" Rosemary gasped, still somewhat unsettled. "We thought you were trying to harm yourself, that you'd snapped! It is so hard for our minds to accept you are a cyborg, even though we know it at the conscious level."
"You just look so... normal," another pony added.
"Yes, completely normal for a thirty four year old mare," I added, a little sarcastically... okay, very sarcastically.
"Well, yes, there is that," Rosemary agreed, then under her breath she added, "You're even older than me."
Ha! That was amusing. I guess that made me the elder, considering that the only mare actually older than me thought she was eighteen or something. Besides, Lee was nuts, so who was going to follow her? It wasn't really an issue anyway. I'd never met a more cooperative collection of ponies in my life.
"Um... what exploded?" I suddenly asked, thinking back to the massive blast.
"We think you did," Helvetica answered.
"Ruby said the blast first came from you, not the robots. All the robots were thrown away from you as you went flying. She didn't see anything after that of course, because by then, the blast was throwing her too. There was obviously a lot fire, but you only had a few minor singe marks, so it could not have been a blast from a robot that threw you." Rosemary explained.
"How... would that be possible?" I pondered.
"Your magic, silly!" Demi stated, giving me a gently cuff with her wing. "It must be some sort of last-hope survival reaction."
"That... would make a lot of sense," I agreed. "The robots very nearly killed me."
Demi snuggled in again. "I can believe that, and I am so glad they didn't. They certainly killed your barding though. It did its job, but there isn't enough of it left to repair."
I shuddered. "Why can't we be left to live in peace? When will the wasteland decided it's finally beaten enough shit out of us?"
"That sums up the story of this stable," Helvetica voiced. "You are very much one of us now."
"Speaking of this stable, let's have a look at that bloody maneframe before it comes up with some other strategy with which to whack us," I suggested.
I tried to stand again, and while this time my body was working, I found my head spinning somewhat. Blood loss? Concussion? Who knows. I staggered a few steps before I was caught by someone's levitation field and lifted up onto Saffron's back, between his weapons.
"Take it easy, girl," Saffron instructed. "I'll carry you there.
The group set off towards the depths of level nine. As we passed the second blown out door, I marvelled at how bowed it was. Ruby was lucky the doors gave, or she would have left the service tunnel like a bullet, if she wasn't mashed to paste before she got to the opening. She'd somehow managed two ninety degree turns before being ejected. That must have been an exciting ride, not unlike my trip down the stairs. She wasn't with us now, of course, nor was Lana. I guess wheels and stairs did not mix, and thinking of stairs and service tunnels, I wondered if any pony had salvaged my gauss rifle. It had probably been knocked down that ramp.
"My gauss rifle?" I voiced.
"Helvetica levitated it out. It's back with Lee for repairs. It got a little bent when you exploded," Saffron answered. I briefly imagined the jury rigged contraption being propelled down the service tunnel. Yes, that would be bad for it.
Once we were past the damaged area, the condition of the stable improved markedly. The paint wasn't fresh, but it wasn't scorched or peeling either. I could have done without the stench of ozone though. After a few minutes of walking, shuffling, or in my case, being carried, we arrived at a significantly wide door, above which was a sign that displayed "Maneframe". The door itself had "No admittance" painted on it, and of course it was shut. So hopefully this was it, the final obstacle between it and us.
"Anne, if you can, will you please open this door," Rosemary asked.
Helvetica levitated me off Saffron's back, gently placing me near the door switch. Demi moved up next to me, providing me with support. I touched my horn to switch. No power. Not unexpected. I projected myself into the wiring, following the them back to a place with which I was becoming increasingly familiar, the computer controlled breakers on the main switch board. I reached across the breaker, finding live wires, cutting them, and drawing them to the other side of the breaker, welding them there. If something went wrong with the electrical system, with all these breakers shorted out, there would be some serious damage, and probably fire. It would need to be rectified if anyone planned to stay down here. Now that electricity was flowing again, I withdrew my magic, and physically pushed the switch with my horn. The locking mechanism responded and the door withdrew into the ceiling. I was about to step through as others began to move forward, thought better of it, and pushed my horn back against the switch, reaching in with my magic and severing all of the wires. I didn't trust this maneframe not to try to crush us with the door, or lock us in or something.
Demi still beside me, I followed the others in, and there it was, directly across from the doors, a standard Stable-Tec maneframe, running a crude artificial intelligence tasked with both maintaining the stable, and assisting with any Stable-Tec experiment. These things were far from clever, and were quite literal in their understanding and carrying out of any assigned tasks, but they were not meant to operate unsupervised. They barely deserved the term "intelligence".
I walked over to the main console, and hit a key. The monitor lit up, asking for a password. Of course. I supposed I could give hacking it a go, but would try the other option first. "Helvetica? The password?"
"Um..." she said. That was not promising. She moved up and stood beside me, on the opposite side to Demi, and stared at the screen. After a few moments she spoke again. "Try 'unification'."
I typed it in and was delighted when the monitor displayed its acceptance, and brought up a menu. "Thank you," I said.
"It was a password that was listed among others on a scrap of paper retrieved from maintenance in the early days," Helvetica explained. "It is one of the tasks of the Recorder to remember those passwords, in case we ever found the terminals to which they belonged. So far no one had ever found the terminal that corresponded to that one. In my lifetime we have only ever needed the passwords on the food processing system and the terminal I use, and that is only when there is a power glitch, or when someone accidentally logs off."
I returned my attention to the maneframe screen, and scanned through the menu entries. The last item on the menu, SYSTEMS, looked like it might be what I ultimately needed, so I opened it first. Of immediate interest were submenus marked ROBOTS and VENTILATION. I opened ROBOTS. The first option was Celestia sent. Emergency overide. Suspend all robot acitivity. I hit it, praying that it would not come back with some stupid error, as was usually the case when you desperately needed a break. The machine beeped.
All robot activity suspended. appeared on the screen, with the menu option changing to Cancel Emergency overide. Restart all robot acitivity.
Thank Celestia. For that matter, thank Luna too. Finally we could breathe. "Some good news girls. The robots have been shut down for the moment. Feel free to disable any on sight though!"
A cheer resounded through the room, and out into the corridor. I heard rapidly retreating light steps as one of the more mobile ponies, a filly I presumed, ran off to share the news with those still up on level eight.
Backing out of that menu, I went into VENTILATION and read what that had to offer. After wading through all sorts of warnings about exposing the stable to the dangers of radiaton, I finally found the option to open the vents to the outside world. I selected it, confirmed it, then smiled as I heard a series of thuds and clangs reverberate through the structure of the stable itself. I could even feel a shift in the air flow down here. It would take a while for the air to improve, but it would.
"What did you just do?" Rosemary asked, concerned by the unfamiliar noises.
"I just initiated the first step to leaving this hell hole," I responded. "I am cycling in air from outside. Some of you might catch a case of the sniffles or something, so don't be worried if you do. It's just part of life on the surface."
That left the next problem - getting out of the stable itself. I had not seen any mention of a way to open the stable door in the SYSTEMS menu, so I figured it would be something controlled by the program controlling the stable experiment. To overcome that, I would have to work out why the stable experiment had never reached a successful conclusion.
I backed out to the main menu and selected the first option MESSAGES AND PRIVATE LOGS. It seemed like the most logical place to start reading about this stable. I scrolled through the accounts listed. Overmare. Bingo. I opened her mailbox and started to read.
A Letter to the Overmare from Stable-Tec:
If you are reading this, emergency Stable internment procedures have been initiated and you and the herd under your guidance have been sealed into your Stable. Congratulations! You are now a vital part of the most ambitious program ever undertaken by Stable-Tec.
If you have not yet read your encrypted orders, please do so nova4 agng w ffs. <data corrupted>
Enough of this message had survived to make it perfectly understandable. It was essentially the Overmare's bootstrap message. Welcome, now read on to find out why you really are in this stable. The second entry was the encrypted orders referred to in the previous message. Fortunately it had been saved in its decrypted form.
Stable Four administrator eyes only.
Goal: Endurance and teamwork through adversity.
The purpose of this Stable is to create a team of ponies of who can, through cooperation, survive through great physical and psychological adversity.
To this end we have provided the stable with a large contingent of military grade Sergeant Buck robots disguised as the Helping Hoof model, the domestic equivalent. They are equipped with non-lethal weapons such as a club and an ionizing stun gun, so may be used against members of the stable as deemed necessary to create the perception of threat. They are also equipped with standard Helping Hoof tools such as manipulators and a rotary cutting blade, so can be used for more mundane tasks around the Stable as needed. They will continue to do essential maintenance throughout the experiment.
Also provided are a small contingent of Sentinel model sentry robots. These are equipped with ionizing stun guns, as well as the standard missiles and energy beam gatlings, should lethal force ever be required. The lethal force option can only be enabled by removal of the restrictions coded into the configuration file. Some accidental deaths are to be expected, and are acceptable casualties.
A fully equipped automatic maintenance and repair bay for the robots has been included on the eighth floor. The stable maneframe is running a basic artificial intelligence that will allow you to easily program and schedule the robot attacks on the subjects. For your convenience access is available from the master terminal in the Overmare's office.
The configuration file also contains the names of ponies that are not to be harmed by the robots. The key staff of the stable, yourself, those who work in the clinic and maintenance, for example, are on this list.
While the experiment itself is hard coded into the system, the conditions required for the experiment to be declared a success can be modified in the configuration file to allow for minor tweaking should there be any oversights in the configuration as initially programmed. In the unlikely event it becomes necessary, it is recommended that the configuration file only be modified by ponies with appropriate training.
At such a time as the experiment is declared successful, the stable will automatically open, allowing the resultant team of hardy ponies to return to the surface to establish a new settlement or help in post war efforts as required.
....okay.... The hidden purpose of this stable was to make a tough team of ponies by beating the shit out of them. If it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger. Together we stand, divided we fall. They were fairly standard concepts that had been around for as long as ponies had been. But what had gone wrong? Correction: this whole fucking setup was wrong. What unexpected occurrence had caused the program to take the action it had? What had caused it to use the robots to kill off the leaders? Why were the ponies still trapped down here? What was meant to trigger the conclusion of the experiment, and why had it been missed? If this computer was trying to achieve its goal over generations, it had reached a dead end. With the last stallion dead, and only a handful of survivors, the experiment was clearly over. It couldn't be waiting for a single survivor, because that would go against the requirement for a team.
I backed out of that menu. The next menu entry was for the Overmare's personal logs. Maybe they would enlighten me.
I opened the first entry.
What bedlam. I thought these ponies would have been more organized after so many drills.
It looks like this is the real thing this time though. Stable-Tec has sent me a message saying the stable has been sealed. It won't be as crowded as initially thought because it looks like over three hundred ponies did not respond to the emergency warning or were simply too slow. The cry-wolf effect of so many drills made many ponies complacent. I had noticed the number participating in drills fluctuating somewhat depending on what major events occurring at the time.
Initial counts have the total number of ponies in the stable at 1059, which is a long way short of the proposed 2000 pony capacity. It does mean there will be less need to control pony breeding. It also means that at the moment, most ponies will have exclusive use of a bed instead of having to sleep shifts, as would be required if there were 2000 ponies here.
Wow. This really had been a big stable. Imagine what a thousand to two thousand healthy ponies could have done on the surface. Instead, they were still locked down here, and their numbers had fallen from one thousand and fifty nine ponies to a mere fifty four.
The second entry was from the following day.
I had a little fun today, watching the robots scaring a few ponies. They weren't doing anything serious yet, just "malfunctioning" in numerous ways. One overly vain fellow went into the beauty salon demanding a trim. That trim will last him all season! The medical staff refused to use their magic to regrow his mane.
The third entry was dated two days later.
The robots pulled a major stunt today. They all abandoned their tasks and migrated down to the lowest levels of the vault. Any pony that tried to interfere was given a good beating or fired upon. It took a good few hours to settle the ponies after that. The clinic is so full of bruised and stunned ponies that a few had to be sent to their quarters to recover. The ponies in maintenance are trying to correct the robot problems through their terminals. I wonder how long it will take them before they realize there is nothing they can do.
The fourth entry was dated a week after the stable had been sealed.
Damn this clunky interface. I've only been here for a week and I've accidentally erased a file called definitions_and_exclusions.cfg. I don't know what it was for, but I'll look into it tomorrow. I am just. so. tired. This Overmare business is a lot harder than I expected. I have over a thousand ponies that seem to think that I am the only one who can solve their problems. I'm going to bed.
The fifth and final entry was dated the following day.
The robots emerged from the lower levels in force during the night. The head of maintenance was killed trying to stop them, as were several of his staff. I thought he was meant to be a protected pony. A couple of the sentry bots have appeared in the hallways too. They aren't meant to come out without someone editing the configuration file... oh. oh shit. oh shit. oh shit. Maybe I can recover it or something.
"Oh," said Helvetica. "According to the records, that was the day the Overmare was killed in a robot raid targeted specifically at her. She was the second leader to die, the head of maintenance being the first. All the rest of the department heads were killed over the following couple of days. The replacement overmare lasted a day, and any time someone else was promoted, they quickly died too."
I pressed the key combination required to switch the terminal into maintenance mode, and activated the debug function, bringing up the list of primary definitions.
Comment: The goal of this experiment is to encourage endurance and teamwork through adversity.
Comment: For precise details of this hard coded goal, please contact Stable-Tec.
Comment: Exclusions. The following key members of the stable population are to be excluded from the experiment, as defined by their role:
(error: definitions_and_exclusions.cfg not found).
Warning: No exclusions have been defined.
Comment: The experiment is to be concluded when the following conditions have been met:
(error: definitions_and_exclusions.cfg not found).
Warning: No conditions have been defined.
Comment: Maximum force allowed by robots:
(error: definitions_and_exclusions.cfg not found).
Warning: No limits have been defined.
Define: Minimum term of Stable closure in years:
(error: definitions_and_exclusions.cfg not found).
Warning: No minimum term has been defined.
I nearly exploded again. Glancing left, I saw Helvetica's wide eyed look. She understood exactly what had happened too.
"Fool of an Overmare," I muttered. "Her carelessness caused her own death, and that of hundreds of others since then."
"This is just so... wrong," Helvetica commented.
"Very," I agreed. "And not just her, I mean Stable-Tec, everything," I stressed. "War, greed, selfishness, yup, everything."
Footnote: Maximum Level. Perk: Explosive Anomaly: When your health drops below 20% you release a massive magical explosion, affecting friends and foes alike. It will also drop your health by a further 10%, so pray that help is close at hoof.