“Hi, Sweetie Bot,” mumbled Sweetie Belle as she gazed at her reflection.
It was late in the evening, and Sweetie Belle had glanced at her mirror again. Her appearance always made her pause and, well, reflect on her situation. These reflections never failed to put her in a sour mood. The numerous lines covering her body, the glowing green material on her horn, the unnatural shine from her glass-like eyes… No matter how many times she saw it, it still bothered her.
“I see you’re looking as sharp-looking and machine-like as ever,” she muttered.
Sweetie Belle raised a hoof and pressed it against the mirror.
“What are you?” she asked, as if the robot in front of her was somepony else.
“Why do you exist? How can you exist? Are you just a replacement for the pony who lived here? Or are you that pony trapped in a body made of metal? Have you always been here? Or did you only take her place a few weeks ago?”
Sweetie Belle let out a sigh. There was just so much she didn’t know.
Suddenly, there was a knock on her door.
“Sweetie Belle? Please tell me you’re not contemplating the fragility of your existence in front of the mirror again,” called Rarity from outside.
Sweetie Belle winched.
“Uh… no? I was just… combing my mane,” she said.
Sweetie Belle could have sworn she heard her sister roll her eyes.
“I’m coming in, Sweetie Belle,” said Rarity as she opened the door and walked in.
Sweetie Belle just sighed and trotted over to sit on her bed.
“Sweetie Belle, we’ve talked about this. Several times, in fact. Staring at your reflection like this isn’t going to get you any answers. It’s only going to put you in a bad mood,” chided Rarity.
“I know,” grumbled Sweetie Belle.
“Then why do you continue to do this to yourself? Yes, we know very little about your… condition, but we’ll get nowhere by thinking depressing thoughts on the matter,” said Rarity.
“How can I not think depressing thoughts? I’m something that shouldn’t exist. Scootaloo has a whole family with the same problem. Apple Bloom’s curse actually has a name. I could be anything from a walking toaster to some kind of death machine,” said Sweetie Belle.
“And so what if you are? We cannot decide what we are born as or changed into by forces outside our control. And I know my sister will never embrace such a horrid role if it has indeed been thrust upon her. You are still my sister, and I promise nothing will ever change that,” declared Rarity.
“If I even am your sister and not some replacement for her,” said Sweetie Belle as she turned away.
Rarity didn’t answer right away. Instead, she walked over to Sweetie Belle and held her close.
“Sweetie Belle, I cannot deny that is a possibility. However, that does not change my promise. Even if you are not my sister, my blood, you are still a sweet little filly who cares deeply for me, for your friends, and for everypony else you meet who deserves your love. I am happy to have you in my life, and I’m willing to wager that if that particular scenario proves to be true, Sweetie Belle would be happy to have you as a new sister as well,” reassured Rarity.
Sweetie Belle’s eyes began to water. Rarity loved her, even if she wasn’t her sister. That single fact made everything in the world seem right again. Sweetie Belle gave into her emotions, let her tears freely flow, and returned Rarity’s hug.
“Thank… thank you sis,” Sweetie Belle said with a sniffle.
Rarity, doing everything in her power to ignore the tears staining her coat, leaned tighter into the hug.
“Anytime, Sweetie Belle. Anytime,” she gently whispered into her sister's ear.
The next morning, Sweetie Belle started her day by finishing her book.
“… Space Unicorn, We are in your debt. I would be honored to have you as part of the galactic…”
“Oh no, sir. I prefer doing things my own way,” said Space with a smirk.
General Pepper Tail rolled his eyes.
“Of course you do. You have such talent, Space. Why do you spend it delivering rainbows?” asked the General.
Space gave a honest smile.
“Because no matter how many times I save the galaxy, nothing makes me happier than the smiles of children when they receive their rainbows. I wouldn’t give that up for anything,” said Space.
Sweetie Belle closed her book and sighed the content sigh of completion.
“You know what, next time Pinkie Pie gives me a book recommendation, I’m taking it no matter how ridiculous it sounds. I’d have never guessed a story about fighting evil cake ladies in space could be so interesting,” she said to herself.
Ready to face the day, Sweetie Belle got up and stretched, her metal limbs giving a slight metallic squeal as she did so. It still sounded weird to her ears, but she had to admit she was starting to get used to it.
“Another day in the life of a pony robot. I wonder when Scootaloo’s mom’s going to say she’s ready for us to visit,” Sweetie Belle mumbled to herself as she made her way downstairs for breakfast, taking care to avoid looking at the mirror again.
“Morning Rarity,” greeted Sweetie Belle as she reached the kitchen.
“Good morning, Sweetie Belle. Care for some pancakes?” asked Rarity.
Before Sweetie Belle could respond, however, there was a knock on the door.
“Oh? Who could that be this early?” asked Rarity as she made her way to answer it.
She opened it to see Twilight Sparkle with an eager look on her face.
“Good morning, Rarity. Is Sweetie Belle awake?” asked Twilight.
Upon hearing her name, Sweetie Belle joined her sister at the door.
“Ah. Good morning. I just wanted to let you know that I received those books I ordered late last night. Whenever you’re ready, we can go ahead with that examination we talked about,” announced Twilight.
Sweetie Belle’s jaw dropped. So did Rarity’s.
“What?! But it’s only been two days! You told us it’d likely take an entire week for the order to get through. How could you have already… Oh. I suppose the Princess has taken an interest in Sweetie Belle’s condition then?” Rarity’s voice trailed off as the thought occurred to her.
It had been expected. Princess Celestia was Twilight’s mentor, so naturally Twilight would want to keep the Princess in the loop. And considering that the Princess already knew about Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, there was really no point in keeping Sweetie Belle’s secret from her anyway. Besides, Apple Bloom mentioned that the Princesses had looked into the town that had cursed her. Sweetie Belle had figured the Princesses would probably be willing to help her too, so she’d had no objections.
“The Princess’s reply letter said that she’s very interested in what we can learn from Sweetie Belle, but also concerned for her safety. We won’t have to worry about an unexpected visit from any royal scholars unless we specifically ask for them. She also personally ensured I’d get the books as quickly as possible,” explained Twilight.
“I see. That’s excellent news. It’s quite reassuring to know the Princesses have Sweetie Belle’s best interests at heart,” said Rarity.
“I agree. Anyway Sweetie Belle, I’m going to spend my morning and afternoon giving the books a quick look over. After that, we can begin whenever you’re ready. Do you want your examination to be today?” asked Twilight.
Sweetie Belle sighed.
“Might as well. The sooner we get it over with, the sooner we might figure out why I’m a robot in the first place,” said Sweetie Belle.
Internally, though, she was starting to get really, really nervous.
Late in the afternoon, Sweetie Belle found herself at the library trying to keep her dread, which has been steadily growing all day, under control.
“Thanks for coming, Sweetie Belle. I’m just as anxious to get it done as you are. Is everypony here that you wanted to come with you?” asked Twilight.
Sweetie Belle gave a nervous nod. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo were there for moral support. Rarity was there for the same reason and to make sure Twilight didn’t do anything drastic (her own words), Spike was already there to help with the examination, and Pinkie Pie…
“Wait, why is Pinkie Pie here?” asked Sweetie Belle when she realized Pinkie Pie was also in the library.
“Because she knows far, far more about robotics than me, and I figured it’d be a good idea to have somepony who actually has a clue what we’re dealing with provide a second opinion,” explained Twilight.
Sweetie Belle had thought about Vinyl Scratch, but decided not to bring her into this. Aside from it requiring her to share her secret with yet another pony, one that she didn’t know very well, she figured the DJ wouldn’t be very interested in all this science stuff.
Rarity rolled her eyes.
“I suppose there’s no harm in that, but I doubt Pinkie will be of much help. She’s changed her mind on what Sweetie Belle is so many times that I’m convinced she’s treating this all as some big joke,” said Rarity.
“Of course it’s a big joke! Can you think of Sweetie Belle the robot without having to resist the urge to start giggling? I can’t! ‘Come with me, if you want to have a cutie mark!’ It’s just so silly and out of the blue! If anypony would have secretly been a robot, I’d have guessed Mayor Mare because everypony knows politicians are…”
Pinkie was cut off as Twilight put a hoof to her mouth. Sweetie Belle was very grateful.
“Pinkie, can you please take this seriously? Can’t you see how nervous Sweetie Belle is? We need to find some clear answers, and we can’t do that if you keep making jokes about this,” said Twilight.
Pinkie pushed Twilight's hoof away.
“I know that. I just don’t know the answers, so instead I’m trying to make sure she doesn’t put herself into a funk trying to figure it out. What she really needs right now is the ability to laugh at herself. It doesn’t matter if she’s a robot, an alien, or a robot alien if knowing the truth only makes her depressed. And if she doesn’t feel like smiling at a few silly jokes now, how the hay is she going to be able to smile when she has all the answers?” asked Pinkie.
Everypony else shared an awkward look as they considered Pinkie’s words. She actually had a point there.
“Ok, that’s enough deep thinking for me today. Cupcake time!” said Pinkie as she pulled a tray of cupcakes out of thin air and swallowed one whole.
Everyone rolled their eyes, but took a cupcake as well.
I really should listen to Pinkie Pie. I need to lighten up. I mean, Scootaloo laughs at bug jokes all the time, and Apple Bloom always gets mad when somepony tries to avoid commenting on the fact that she’s undead. I should be able to take a joke or two at my expense, right? thought Sweetie Belle as she bit into her cupcake.
“So… what exactly is this examination going to be like?” asked Scootaloo as she ate.
“Well, first I want to scrutinize Sweetie Belle’s circuitry and see if I can’t identify any functions that exist in my resources. Even if her composition is more abstract than anything recently conceived, I imagine I should be able to identify a few parallels and draw some deductions from the results,” explained Twilight.
Everypony except Sweetie Belle looked at Spike for the science-to-normal-talk translation.
“She’s going to look at Sweetie Belle’s insides and see if they match anything in her books,” Spike explained with an eyeroll.
“Right. Well, we gonna get started, then?” asked Apple Bloom.
“This is Sweetie Belle’s examination. It’s her decision,” said Twilight.
Sweetie Belle swallowed her cupcake.
There really isn’t any reason to put this off. Applejack was right, I don’t know if I’m even working properly, and the sooner we find out if something is wrong, the better. I just wish this didn’t seem so scary! Come on, Sweetie Belle, just… just think of it as a dentist appointment or something, she thought.
“Yeah. Let’s do this,” she declared.
As they headed down to the basement, they saw that Twilight had set up an examination area. There were overhanging lights, numerous books lined up for easy reading, and a large metal table with leg restraints on it, perfect for holding a robot filly in place.
The table probably would have made Sweetie Belle have a panic attack right then and there if it hadn’t had a small blanket on it, making it look somewhat less intimidating. Still, Sweetie Belle seriously started to consider making a run for it.
“Must you use restraints? I was under the impression this was going to be more of a doctor’s exam than an interrogation,” questioned Rarity.
“I don’t want her to thrash around while her insides are exposed, mechanical or not. I’m not putting her under sedatives, so this is the best option. And I put a blanket on it. It’s not going to be too uncomfortable,” reassured Twilight.
“Yeah! These hold-you-in-place things can be kind of fun when you’re not trying to break out of them before some crazy pony tries to turn you into a zombie!” exclaimed Pinkie.
Apple Bloom chuckled at the idea. Sweetie Belle found it rather less than amusing.
Seeing Sweetie Belle’s discomfort, Twilight leaned down to face her at eye level.
“Sweetie Belle, I understand you’re nervous, but I want you to know I’m not going to do anything without your permission. If you tell me no to anything, I won’t do it. If something hurts, I’ll stop what I’m doing right away. You’re here as a patient, not an experiment, and you have as much say in what we do down here as me, if not more so. OK?” asked Twilight.
Sweetie Belle gave a hesitant nod. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Twilight. The whole situation was just terrifying.
“Take your time, Sweetie Belle. You can get on the examination table whenever you're ready,” said Twilight.
“And we’ll be here with you the whole time,” reassured Scootaloo.
“Indeed,” added Rarity.
Apple Bloom nodded in agreement.
“Do you want another cupcake first?” asked Pinkie as she offered another pastry.
Sweetie Belle took several deep breaths.
I’m not here to be dissected. I’m not in some hidden lab in the middle of nowhere. I’m not surrounded by crazy ponies. I’m getting an exam. I’m in the middle of Ponyville, her home. I’m surrounded by my family and friends. There's nothing here worth panicking over, Sweetie Belle reassured herself.
And yet, the fear persisted.
“No thank you, Pinkie Pie. Let’s just… let’s just get this over with,” said Sweetie Belle.
Twilight looked like she wasn’t sure, but stepped aside so Sweetie Belle could climb onto the exam table.
As she climbed on and laid on her back, Sweetie Belle noticed that the blanket really did make the position surprisingly comfortable. She could see the faces around her with ease, though would probably have to raise her head quite a bit to look at her insides once she was opened up.
“Alright, I’m closing the restraints now,” announced Twilight as she gently moved Sweetie Belle’s legs into position.
Sweetie Belle gave a nod, but stayed quiet and forced her gaze towards the roof. She didn’t want to watch. With a soft click, she felt the metal close over her leg. It was snug, but not painfully so.
“It’s not too tight, is it?” asked Twilight.
“No, it’s fine,” mumbled Sweetie Belle.
Three more clicks, and she was locked in.
There was no escaping now. No way out, unless Twilight decided to release her. No way to…
“Sweetie Belle, the moment this becomes too much let me know and I’ll let you out right away, OK?” reassured Twilight.
Sweetie Belle took another deep breath. She seriously needed to calm down.
“Yeah, OK,” she said.
“Alright. Ready with that quill, Spike?” asked Twilight.
“Yep,” answered Spike.
“Right. First thing's first, let’s begin with a proper scientific documentation. Ahem… My name is Twilight Sparkle. It is now 5:48 P.M. on the twenty-sixth of July, year…”
It took almost ten minutes for Twilight to finish her opening statement. This did little to calm Sweetie Belle down.
What did help, however, was that Twilight stated numerous times that Sweetie Belle would have the absolute authority on what would be done. It was really only a small comfort, but it kept Sweetie Belle’s nerves under control.
“... and so, we are now ready to begin,” finished Twilight.
“Finally,” grumbled Scootaloo.
She got a sharp look from Rarity for it.
“Alright, Sweetie Belle, before we open you up, I think we should start by examining your exterior,” said Twilight.
Sweetie Belle nodded in agreement.
Twilight pulled out a magnifying glass and leaned over Sweetie Belle’s body.
“At a glance your coat is near indistinguishable from a natural one. Even the creases, while plainly visible, only result in breaks similar to scars rather than depressions,” noted Twilight.
“Yeah, though when you look really close you can see my skin’s kind of a silvery grey under my coat instead of something more normal,” added Sweetie Belle. She’d noticed it in the mirror several days ago.
“I see that, though it is difficult to notice without my magnifying glass. Hm… Upon looking closer inspection though, your hair also seems to be unnaturally uniform. I can’t see a single strand that’s longer or shorter than the rest,” noted Twilight.
Sweetie Belle blinked at this. She hadn’t thought to look at her coat for something like that.
“Well now I feel a tad jealous. It’s always so difficult to keep one’s coat in such perfect condition, no matter what beauty products one uses,” commented Rarity.
“I would disagree…” mumbled Spike as he looked at his crush.
“This isn’t just a case of being well groomed. This level of consistency simply isn’t possible unless you perfectly cut each individual hair. I shouldn't have to tell you how unfeasible that is, Rarity. Especially considering how natural physical activity would have resulted in some imperfections over the last week or so, robot or not,” Twilight pointed out.
That made everypony stop and think for a bit.
“Hm… maybe she has some kind of self-fixing thing going on? I mean, I read a comic book once about robots that could do that kind of stuff,” suggested Scootaloo.
“It’s certainly possible, Scootaloo. Sweetie Belle, would you mind if I take a few samples of your coat? Aside from testing this theory, I’d like to see if I can identify its composition with some chemical tests,” asked Twilight.
Sweetie Belle shrugged, or at least as best she could while held down.
“I don’t see why not,” she admitted.
Twilight levitated a pair of scissors and snipped away a few hairs from her barrel. It didn’t hurt, not that Sweetie Belle had expected it to or anything.
“I’ll look at the sample later, when you’re not locked down like this. Now then, I believe it’s time. Are you ready, Sweetie Belle?” asked Twilight.
Sweetie Belle took another deep breath and let it out.
“Yeah, just bang on my side a bit and I’ll open up. Just… just do it before I lose my nerve,” she said.
Twilight reached out and oh so gently tapped her hoof on Sweetie Belle’s side. The metallic tink sounded unusually loud to Sweetie Belle’s ears, as did the following click. Her heart, or robot equivalent, started racing.
“Amazing…” mumbled Twilight as she pulled the door open, taking in the array of wires, metal, and not-even-Celestia-knew what.
“Yeah. This is way, way, way more fancy than my party cannon,” added Pinkie.
Careful not to touch anything, Twilight levitated her magnifying glass over the circuits.
“This is definitely beyond anything I’ve ever seen, and it even appears to be beyond anything in my books. It’s as if I’m looking at something out of a science fiction novel. I have no idea what any of this is,” Twilight mumbled to herself.
“Well, that thingy looks like a sheep, that thingy looks like a mommy, and that thingy looks like a potato chip,” said Pinkie.
“Actually, a lot of these things look like potato chips. Big green potato chips with all kinds of dip splattered on them,” commented Spike.
“Interesting analogy, Spike. I’d have simply said they look like small decorated tiles. Alright, take a note. I don’t recognize this from my reading, but we’ll do a more thorough cross reference after we’ve closed her up,” decided Twilight.
Spike nodded and started writing again, while Twilight took another look.
Meanwhile, Sweetie Belle’s heart rate was finally starting to slow down. Twilight was being incredibly careful, and it was doing wonders for her anxiety.
“OK, in addition to the green ‘chips’ and wires, there seem to be several metallic structures in here as well. I can’t tell what purpose they’d serve but, they almost look like…” Twilight trailed off as her gaze turned toward Sweetie’s open door.
“Wait a minute. When you look at the inside of her open barrel you can see several indentations that appear to line up with these metal structures. What do you think Pinkie?” asked Twilight.
“I think you’re right, Twilight. If that joint right there turned juuuust so, then that tiny box thingy would push out into that stomach thingy. I wonder if it’s an ice cream dispenser,” mumbled Pinkie.
Sweetie Belle lifted her head up to see what on Equis they were talking about. By following their gazes she noticed that there appeared to be a small marking on the inside of her open door that, if she were closed, would lie over a small metal thing on her main body. Actually, there were several of these markings, all lining up with similar metal structures.
“You might be right, Pinkie. About the junction, not the ice cream. Sweetie Belle, would it be alright if I try to move this?” asked Twilight.
Sweetie Belle looked closer at what Twilight was pointing at. Now that she saw it, she had to agree that that particular bit of metal looked like some kind of pivot joint. While she was less than thrilled to have Twilight actually touch her insides, it seemed safe enough.
“I think so… I’m not sure what it is, though,” admitted Sweetie Belle.
“Alright, but be sure to let me know if this is proves to be painful in any way. I don’t want to hurt you,” said Twilight as she very gently held the metal in her magic and very slowly pulled it along the visible joint.
Sweetie Belle shivered. It didn’t hurt, but it felt like her insides were twisting a bit. Just a bit.
When it was fully extended it looked like a metal limb with a small black box at the tip. It was apparent that if it had been extended while Sweetie Belle was closed, it would have pushed out past her skin.
“There we go. It appears to be some kind of extendable frame for this small device. Judging from the length and position, I suspect that the indent on her skin can be opened. Assuming all these indents serve a similar purpose, I believe Sweetie Belle has several built-in utilities,” deducted Twilight.
“Or a bunch of really short robo legs. Maybe Sweetie Belle can turn into a robot spider or something,” added Pinkie.
“You hear that Sweetie Belle? You have super powers!” exclaimed Scootaloo.
“Twilight didn’t say that. Just that she has some fancy do-das in her that can do stuff,” Apple Bloom pointed out.
“Isn’t that what super powers are for robots?” countered Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle found herself giggling, though she had to admit it did sound likely. Maybe some of those weird things Sweetie Bot always pulled out of her head were special robot things she could do? It was certainly something to look into.
Her giggles didn’t stop when Twilight let go of the metal joint. As it slid back into place, it felt like something was tickling her as it moved. Twisting while going out, tickling while going in. Her body was so weird.
“Alright, moving on. I don’t think we can further analyse these, uh, chips without risking harm to Sweetie Belle, and there doesn’t appear to be anything else to identify from this angle, so I think we’ll move on to…” said Twilight.
“Hold on! We can still look behind all these potato chips,” objected Pinkie.
Twilight gave Pinkie a confused look.
“Uh, Pinkie? I thought I made it clear I’m not going to pull anything out of her,” said Twilight.
“You don’t have to. Look at these chips right here. They’re connected only by these wires. We can just push them aside and go deeper,” declared Pinkie.
“I don’t know, Pinkie...” started Twilight.
“We need to go deeper!” exclaimed Pinkie.
“Alright, but only if you're OK with it, Sweetie Belle,” she relented.
Sweetie Belle sighed herself. Pulling on something that was clearly meant to move was one thing, but actually moving around her guts was another. Still, Twilight had promised not to do anything that hurt…
“I guess we can try. Just be really careful, OK?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“I promise. Alright, here we go,” said Twilight as she lit up her horn.
Once again, there was the sensation of her insides twisting, but no pain. Far more alarming, however, was the look of surprise that quickly appeared on Twilight’s face.
“What in the name of Celestia is this?” Twilight asked in an awed tone.
“A long string of spaghetti dipped in green sauce?” suggested Pinkie.
Sweetie Belle leaned up again to look. Twilight was holding several chips aside with her magic, revealing what at first appeared to be a large white wire. But as she looked at it, Sweetie Belle noticed that this wire seemed more… alive, for lack of a better term, and seemed to have a faint green glow.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I’m not sure. It’s clearly artificial, but it almost looks like…” Twilight’s voice trailed off as her expression turned to shock.
"I… I need to check something first, hold on,” said Twilight as she gently set the chips back into place, once again sending Sweetie Belle in a fit of giggles.
Her body just seemed to really like things going back where they belong.
Twilight turned and sprinted upstairs. She came back down a moment later levitating a book on magic theory. She flipped it open to a specific page, and then cast a spell that lit up her eyes in a lavender glow.
“Uh, Twilight, darling, why are you using a magic viewing spell?” asked Rarity.
“Give me a minute, Rarity. Let’s see here… the lines seem to match up… wavelength is in acceptable range… arcanic density as well… and the flow speed is…” Twilight mumbled to herself as she glanced between Sweetie Belle and her book.
Finally, she stopped casting the spell and set down the book. Her disbelief was plain to see.
“By Queen Faust, everything fits. I think… I think Sweetie Belle might posses artificial arcanic tissue!” exclaimed Twilight.
Everyone in the room dropped their jaws in disbelief except Apple Bloom.
“Artificial what now?” asked Apple Bloom.
Unfortunately, Apple Bloom said the cursed words, unleashing upon them all the horror known as a Twilight Sparkle Science Lecture (patent pending):
It is common knowledge that magic isn’t some supernatural ability, but rather a perfectly natural biological process. In fact the word magic is used to describe it because spellcraft was conceived thousands of years before the technology existed to understand how it was done. Today, magic is the casual term for a four step biological process officially known as EPOS: Ether Processing Oversaturation.
The first step is an unusual energy field that exists within Equis’s atmosphere known as the Ether. Because this energy is so abundant, all life on the planet evolved to harness the Ether. Within the cells of every living being are arcochondria, which absorb this raw Ether energy and, through a chemical reaction, turn it into a substance known as mana (similar to how the cell’s mitochondria absorb oxygen to create energy).
Mana is the second step. All living things, be they ponies, plants, dragons, and even micro organisms, need mana to function. It is because of mana that life on Equis became what it is today. The beneficial effects of mana are also believed to be the reason so many creatures who lack the brains for coherent thoughts can display various degrees of intelligence. However, there were several species, such as ponies, whose evolution took things a step further and produced far more mana than their bodies needed to function.
This led to the development of arcanic tissue, the third step. While classified as a tissue, this amazing material is more akin to crystal and develops across the body like a second nervous system. Once formed, the tissue absorbs the excess mana and stores it in a dormant state. While this can lead to unexpected surges in the early phases of the tissue’s development, the end result is a natural reserve of mana waiting to be harnessed.
And harnessing this stored mana is step four. By focusing the mana through certain points such as horns or wings, living beings can perform incredible feats by having the energy affect the world around it. Even subconscious magic, such as that of Earth ponies, draws from these natural mana pools.
This is where things get tricky. Arcanic tissue’s unique make up makes it impossible to be created outside of its natural development. Once the system is completely developed in the life form’s body, the body will not create more, even if the durable tissue is somehow damaged or removed. What’s more, because arcanic tissue’s crystal nature reduces the chance of biohazards, it’s actually possible to transplant with minimal risk, boosting the receiver's mana pool while reducing the donor's.
This is why magic removal is considered a horrendous deed only done to, and by, the worst criminals in history. Aside from increasing your own power at the expense of others, when you take away a being’s magic you’re ripping their arcanic tissue out of their body, which is even more painful than it sounds. Not to mention that without any natural means of processing the excess mana, the victim of full-body extraction will become vulnerable to mana poisoning: an otherwise non-existent condition which, while rarely fatal, can be physically crippling.
However, while taking another living being’s arcanic tissue is illegal outside of capital punishment, the concept of artificial arcanic tissue, or AAT, is not. Because of this, there have been countless attempts throughout history by all kinds of beings, both for noble and selfish reasons, to develop a material that could duplicate the mana storage of arcanic tissue.
Which is why it was so mind blowing that Sweetie Belle might posses it. If Sweetie Belle really had AAT, and it could somehow be duplicated, it would certainly result in at least three world altering developments:
1) It would make it safe and legal to experiment on what normally non-magical beings could do if they possessed arcanic tissue.
2) It would be possible for criminals who were stripped of their magic for heinous crimes to gain their magic back, rendering the current capital punishment moot and creating a brief but serious crisis.
3) The standard for magic capabilities would be raised astronomically, as the only limit to arcanic tissue a living being can have is how much they can carry in their bodies at once.
TL;DR: artifical arcanic tissue is kind of a big deal.
As everyone else tried to reboot their brains, Twilight slowly closed Sweetie Belle up.
“I knew I’d find something amazing, but I never imagined I’d find AAT. I’ll be blunt Sweetie Belle. This is a potentially world-altering development. However, I did promise I wouldn’t do anything that would hurt you, and I don’t need a degree in robotics to know that touching what might be AAT, let alone cutting out a sample, would most certainly be painful,” admitted Twilight.
“Not to mention we have no idea if whatever it’s made of can be duplicated. It might be some yet to be discovered material that nopony knows how to make,” pointed out Rarity.
“That’s if she’s from the future. It could also be some kind of alien goop that dissolves everything it touches for all we know,” added Pinkie.
“Both valid points backing my decision. Yes, this could be a historic discovery, but unless I have definitive proof that taking a sample will cause no harm and could prove informative, the possible AAT is staying in Sweetie Belle, and that’s final,” declared Twilight.
Sweetie Belle didn’t hear anything. She was too busy panicking. Her boiling fear had reached the breaking point.
I have AAT?! That’s not possible! It’s the single most impossible thing to create! The Princesses tried to make it! Starswirl the Bearded tried to make it! Every dragon lord that ever lived tried to make it! It just can’t be done! But I have it inside me?! What… WHAT THE BUCK AM I?! Sweetie Belle screamed in her mind.
“Sweetie Belle, calm down!” cried Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle turned to face her friend, breathing heavily.
“Look, Twilight just promised not to do anything to you. Yes, this is kind of a big deal, but we're not doing anything about it yet. Just take a few deep breaths and calm down. We’ll figure this out together, OK?” reassured Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle took a deep breath and let it out. She took another one, and let it out as well. She took several more, and then she finally began to calm down.
“OK… OK. I’m fine. I just have something inside me that could change the world several times over. No big deal,” Sweetie Belle moaned, mostly to herself.
“Yeah, world changing things are never a big deal at first. Nopony thought balloons were a big deal when they were invented, but look at them now! They’re the third most important invention in the history of ever!” added Pinkie.
Sweetie Belle gave a very half-hearted scof, but it did cheer her up a bit.
“Sweetie Belle…” started Twilight.
Sweetie Belle turned to face her.
“At this point, I think it's safe to say whatever the reason for your current state, it’s beyond my understanding, or that of any robotic expert. Your body isn’t just some amazingly advanced machine. It’s something that is currently not possible to create. I’d never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to believe that Pinkie’s right: this is probably the result of time travel, extraterrestrial intelligence, or something equally extraordinary,” concluded Twilight.
Sweetie Belle sighed and reluctantly nodded in agreement. Of course, the fact that she was a full-fledged robot in the first place had suggested this was the case from the beginning, but Twilight declaring as much just seemed to make it more real.
“I don’t think there’s much point to continuing this exam. Even if we ignore the AAT, it’s clear we won’t be getting our answers from my books,” admitted Twilight.
“Wait, there’s still one thing we can try,” suggested Apple Bloom.
“Yeah. Maybe Twilight can get some answers out of Sweetie Bot,” said Scootaloo.
“Sweetie Bot?” asked Rarity with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh! That’s a really good nickname for it, Scootaloo! So punny! Wish I’d thought of that,” said Pinkie Pie.
“I suppose you're referring to when Sweetie Belle activates her… computation systems, I believe you called them?” asked Twilight.
“Yeah. Maybe Sweetie Bot knows something about what her AAT is made of, if it even is AAT,” suggested Scootaloo.
“Well, I don’t think it’ll hurt to try. Are you up for it, Sweetie Belle?” asked Twilight.
Sweetie Belle sighed, but nodded.
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea, but could you let me out first? I’m getting kind of hungry,” she asked.
“Yeah, a snack break sounds good right about now,” added Spike.
“I agree,” said Twilight as she released Sweetie Belle's’ restraints.
A little later, everyone made their way back down to the basement. A quick mental nudge later, and Sweetie Belle’s world was once again nothing but 1’s and 0’s.
“ALL SYSTEMS ONLINE. SWEETIE BOT READY FOR INPUT,” declared Sweetie Belle.
“Oh my…” gasped Rarity.
It wasn’t the first time she had seen this, though she still found it quite jarring.
“Let’s not waste any time. Sweetie Belle, please identify artificial arcanic tissue,” said Twilight.
“SEARCHING…” declared Sweetie Belle.
As usual, when her mind reached into that abyss of hidden knowledge Sweetie Belle tried to remember what she “saw.” It wasn’t easy. Things passed her by so quickly that she rarely got more that a small glance. Active RAM again, sodium levels, and many many other things flew in and out of her mind without telling her anything.
This time, however, one nugget of information caught her eye: night vision disabled.
I have night vision? she thought, as the knowledge flew away from her. It was certainly something to look into later.
Finally, the search stopped. There was only one result, thank Celestia.
“ARTIFICIAL ARCANIC TISSUE: A SYNTHETIC COMPOUND DESIGNED TO REPLICATE THE MANA ABSORPTION PROPERTIES OF ARCANIC TISSUE, ALSO KNOWN AS AAT, MOST NOTED FOR ITS USE IN M.P.S. DEVELOPMENT.” declared Sweetie Belle.
“There’s that MPS thing again. Seriously, what the hay is it?” asked Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle decided not to search it again. She didn’t want to be stuck in the library’s basement reciting over a hundred possible definitions.
Twilight, meanwhile, just sighed.
“Well, that confirms it: we definitely have some form of AAT on our hooves. I’ll have to report this to the princess, though I doubt she’ll have me do anything drastic. Still, just saying it’s a synthetic compound isn’t very specific. I don’t suppose you know what the compound consists of?” she asked.
Sweetie Belle tried to search for it, but surprisingly nothing came up.
“NEGATIVE,” she stated.
“That’s odd. If Sweetie Bot has access to some kind of personal library of information, why wouldn’t its own composition be included?” mumbled Twilight.
“Yeah, every comic book I’ve read says they should,” added Spike.
“Maybe so, but it’s probably for the best, you know. If the secrets of AAT could be readily taken from Sweetie Belle, I suspect more than a few unscrupulous sorts would try to take it from her through brute force should it become public knowledge,” commented Rarity.
“And if Sweetie Bot’s from the future, wouldn’t it be cheating to know how to make something that hasn’t been invented yet?” asked Pinkie.
“Besides, that would be way too easy. When has anything this big ever been easy?” added Scootaloo.
“Well, regardless, I think it’s a mystery we’ll have to save for another day. The point of this exam was to see if Sweetie Belle is working properly and learn what we could while doing it. Since we’re dealing with so many uncertainties, I doubt we’ll be able to determine if anything is wrong anyway. Sorry I couldn’t get you the answers you wanted, Sweetie Belle,” admitted Twilight.
“UNIT SWEETIE BOT DEEMS APOLOGY UNNECESSARY. SUFFICIENT EFFORT WAS MADE TO DETERMINE ORIGIN,” said Sweetie Belle.
But there was that other thing that came up, that night vision thing. Hm… if it’s deactivated, can I activate it? she thought.
“ADDENDUM: PREVIOUS INQUIRY REVEALED POTENTIAL ADVANCEMENT. ATTEMPTING TO INITIALIZE,” declared Sweetie Belle.
“Potential what now?” asked Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle reached back into her mind again.
OK, I know how to turn my “computation systems” on and off. Maybe this night vision thing works the same way? I don't feel a switch for it, though. Hm… maybe I can turn it on with my thoughts or something? Go! … Do the thing I’m thinking of! … Uh, activate night vision? thought Sweetie Belle.
“ACTIVATING NIGHT VISION,” declared Sweetie Belle.
Wait, really? That’s how I do it? thought Sweetie Belle before her number vision changed.
Suddenly, the numbers were telling her that she could see what was in every corner of the shadowy basement. She could see everything as if it were lit up. She really had night vision!
“Woah… Uh, Sweetie Belle? Are ya OK? Your eyes are glowin’,” said Apple Bloom.
“Night vision without spellcraft? This is amazing! She really does have utilities built in!” exclaimed Twilight.
“You really do have superpowers, Sweetie Belle! This is so cool!” exclaimed Spike.
“AFFIRMATIVE. EXCITEMENT LEVELS AT 33%,” said Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah! What other neat things can you do?” asked Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle was about to run a search when it happened again. The pain returned.
“WARNING: UNIT SWEETIE BOT’S M.P.S. SUFFERING COMPATIBILITY REJECTION. RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE DEACTIVATION OF COMPUTATION SYSTEMS,” she announced.
“This again? Already? I’m pretty sure this happened sooner than last time,” noted Scootaloo.
“Maybe the night vision thing makes it harder?” suggested Apple Bloom.
“At any rate, you’d best turn ‘Sweetie Bot’ off, Sweetie Belle,” said Rarity.
Sweetie Belle reached back and flipped the switch again. When her vision returned, however, she noticed that everything around her seemed to be unusually bright and various shades of green.
“Uh… your eyes are still all glowy. Guess you don’t need Sweetie Bot to use your night vision,” noted Pinkie.
Oh. Guess that explains that, thought Sweetie Belle.
Interestingly enough, however, Sweetie Belle could now feel another switch in the back of her mind. Somehow, she knew that it was for her newly discovered night vision.
“Whew, what a day,” mumbled Sweetie Belle as she flopped onto her bed.
After shutting off Sweetie Bot everypony had agreed that they’d had enough science for today. Twilight said she would analyze the samples she’d collected and see if anything in her books remotely related to Sweetie Belle’s condition, but Sweetie Belle wasn’t holding her breath.
Her friends had suggested she try and find out what other cool powers she had, but right now she just wanted to sleep.
“So, what did I learn today? I am literally something out of this world or time, have something inside me that can’t exist, and have super powers even though I don’t know what they are. Yippee,” she mumbled to herself.
Sweetie Belle’s vision turned towards her mirror again, but Pinkie’s words came back to her.
If I can’t laugh at myself now, how will I be able to when I finally know the truth? Thought Sweetie Belle.
“Well, at least now I know for a fact that I’m going to change the world one day! Ha ha! … That was terrible. Never was very good at jokes,” she said to herself.
She sighed and turned back towards the mirror. Several minutes passed as Sweetie Belle once more reflected on her situation. At last, she made up her mind.
“I can’t pretend I’m not scared of you. Scared of what you might be. But you know what? I’m not giving up, and I’m not letting you bring me down. So what if you managed to avoid me today? I've got a few leads to follow now, and I’m not going to let myself get depressed about it all. I’ll find out the truth about you sooner or later,” she declared.
Her mind now much calmer, Sweetie closed her eyes and slowly drifted to sleep.
We shall see.
Sweetie Belle woke up with a shriek.