Machine – Darkness Within
The robots took Celestia to Tirek's lab, chaining her to a machine in the upper floor of the lab. She struggled against her bindings, but it was futile. The only way she was getting out of here would be if someone by some chance came to her rescue.
“Oh Discord…” Celestia said through her tears, “Please lead them here…” the door opened up and she saw the silhouette of Luna, wearing a long trench coat, large matching hat, and high heeled boots.
“It's so good to see you, my beloved sister,” Luna said sauntering into the room. In the room, Celestia could fully see her sister's form. Her trench coat and hat were both dark blue, and she wore dark red lipstick.
“Luna…” Celestia said trembling.
“Now that I have you… I plan on making sure we're never apart again…” Luna said, caressing Celestia's cheek. Celestia closed her eyes in fear, trembling from her sister's touch.
Twilight finished the repairs on DASH-379 with Discord's help, and now turned her back on. As usual, her expression was first emotionless, but once her emotion circuit kicked back in she looked around frantically.
“Fluttershy!” DASH cried, sitting up from the table she was lying on, “Where is she?! Is she still-”
“Whoa, calm down!” Twilight urged, “Fluttershy is fine.”
DASH visibly calmed down, “She is?”
“Yes, during the fight against Pinkamena I learned a stronger healing art called Rejuvenate. It was just enough to heal her injuries,” Twilight said. DASH breathed out in relief and surprisingly hugged Twilight.
“Thank you Twilight,” DASH said. Twilight was taken aback, but she returned the hug after a second smiling.
“No problem,” Twilight said softly, “The others are in Celestia's office with Discord, getting the information about Celestia's whereabouts.”
“We should be present for that as well,” DASH said getting up from the table, “Let us go, Twilight.”
Twilight nodded and followed after DASH to Celestia's office. Inside, there were maids cleaning up from the fight already. Discord was by the computer with Applejack and Fluttershy standing over him looking for something.
“Ahh, wonderful,” Discord said not looking up from his computer, “Now everyone is present.”
“Where's Rarity?” Twilight asked. Applejack sighed and pointed to the right side of the window. Rarity was sitting on the edge, one knee close to her chest with a forlorn expression on her face.
“She's been like that since the fight ended,” Applejack said, “She won't even talk to Fluttershy.”
“Scared for Rarity,” Fluttershy said sadly, “Become distant, and quiet. I not like Rarity quiet.”
“Yeah, that is a red flag,” Twilight said, “I'll talk to her.”
Twilight walked over to Rarity and sat down next to her, leaning against her shoulder.
“You know how much I hate this, don't you?” Twilight said softly, “Please talk to me.”
“What should I say…?” Rarity asked, still not using her usual flair, her voice instead sounding dark and somewhat cold.
“Tell me how you feel?” Twilight requested, “Let me know what's going on in your head right now.”
Rarity closed her eyes, “That art I used… Shadow Form… it felt different than my usual moves.”
“I felt like my mind changed…” Rarity stated, “Like I wasn't myself anymore. I think I was going to kill Pinkamena…”
“Sadly, we've killed a few people on this journey of ours,” Twilight said looking down, “It was in self defense, but yeah… I hadn't really thought about it until now.”
“I think it's starting to get to me…” Rarity admitted, “The more I go on, the darker I feel, and I think that form I turned into was a reflection of that,” Rarity leaned into Twilight, clutching her blazer tightly as she cried, “I'm scared, Twilight…!”
“R-Rarity…” Twilight said, taken aback by this sudden outburst.
“I think I'm losing control of my powers…! They keep growing beyond my control, and the longer I fight, the darker my mind feels…! They have to be connected…! If they are… I'll…”
“You'll what?” Twilight asked softly, “What do you think is going to happen?”
“I'll… become something… someone else…” Rarity looked into Twilight's eyes desperately, “Oh Twilight! You have to help me! I don't think I can control this anymore!”
“I'll help you,” Twilight said immediately, holding onto Rarity tightly, “What do you want me to do?”
“Hold me, please!” Rarity sobbed, “Just hold me, and keep being my light!”
“Then that's what I'll do,” Twilight said embracing Rarity tightly, “I'll protect you, even from your own darkness.”
“I love you Twilight,” Rarity said crying into Twilight's chest, “I love you so much!”
“I love you too, Rarity,” Twilight said, trying her hardest not to cry herself. Seeing Rarity like this was too much for her, but she had to keep it together. Rarity needed her to be strong.
“And done,” Discord said, catching everyone's attention, “I've located Miss Celestia's signal.”
Rarity stood up with Twilight and they joined the group. They all saw on the map Celestia's signal was coming from what looked like a warehouse not too far from the mansion.
“I think I remember passing that place,” Twilight said.
“It is a weapon's factory where robot soldiers are created,” DASH said, unaware that Discord looked up at her briefly.
“DASH born there?” Fluttershy asked. DASH-379 giggled.
“I am not sure about that, Fluttershy,” DASH said, “Perhaps, but I do not remember where I was created.”
“Is that so…?” Discord said to himself. Twilight raised an eyebrow looking at him.
“Then that's where we're going next,” Rarity said walking to the door, “Let's get going.”
“Hold on,” Applejack called out, stopping Rarity, “You're not ready yet.”
“What do you mean I'm not ready?” Rarity asked turning to Applejack.
“You're head isn't straight,” Applejack stated folding her arms, “I know that look in your eyes. It's the look of someone clouded, unsure of what to do.”
“I know what to do!” Rarity shot completely turning to Applejack.
“Do you?” Applejack challenged, “I don't think you know anything anymore. I think you're confused, and scared, and you're trying to force yourself to keep going.”
“Don't talk to me like you know what's going on in my head!” Rarity shouted, “You don't know anything about me, or what I'm going through right now!”
“Rarity, stop!” Fluttershy urged, “Sound scary. Not like Rarity.”
“No, let her,” Applejack said holding out a hand, “If you think you know better than me, prove it,” Applejack walked past Rarity, stopping next to her, “I'll be waiting for you outside. Make sure your spear is ready.”
Applejack walked out of the mansion. Everyone was silent, looking at Rarity to see what she'd do next. She looked down trembling, but then grabbed her spear and stormed toward the door.
“Rarity!” Twilight called out. Rarity stopped for a split second, but then continued out the door. Twilight looked at DASH and Fluttershy, and the three of them ran to the door.
“DASH, wait,” Discod called out stopping DASH.
“What? My friends need me!”
“They'll be fine. I need to give you something though,” Discord said seriously. DASH frowned at DISCORD, wondering what he needed from her.
When Rarity got outside, she saw Applejack standing far ahead of her. She had her arms folded, and looked at Rarity intently. Rarity knew what Applejack wanted, and although she was a lady, Rarity never backed down from a challenge.
Besides, Applejack doubted her. Rarity didn't like that at all.
Rarity walked over to Applejack and pointed her spear at her, “I don't know what you're hoping to prove, but if it's a fight you want, then let's do this!”
Applejack raised an eyebrow, but then drew her sword and shield, getting in her fighting stance. Twilight and Fluttershy ran out, looking at the display in horror.
“Come on you two! We don't have time for this!” Twilight fussed, “Celestia needs us!”
“Don't fight! Friends not fight!” Fluttershy urged.
“This won't be much of a fight, I assure you,” Applejack stated. Rarity gritted her teeth glaring at Applejack.
“You're going to regret saying that, Applejack!” Rarity shouted, getting her fighting stance. She charged at Applejack, swinging wildly with her spear. Applejack effortlessly blocked her attacks with her shield, and then used the opening she saw to kick Rarity back.
Applejack then charged in, slashing in a more controlled manner. Rarity blocked her attacks, but she was having a bit of trouble. Applejack and Rarity clashed weapons, but Applejack easily knocked Rarity to the ground.
“Rarity!” Twilight cried. Fluttershy covered her face with her hands.
Applejack charged up her red element, and then shot her Fireballs rapidly at Rarity, who rolled to her feet and ran in a circle around Applejack. Rarity then charged back at Applejack, using her spear as a lever to kick Applejack, who once again held up her shield in defense.
Ugh! I hate that shield! Why can't I get past it!
“What's the matter, Rarity?” Applejack asked, “You haven't actually hit me once.”
“Shut up!” Rarity shouted. She charged at Applejack again, slashing even more wildly than before. Applejack used her shield to push most of the slashes back, and then did a spin slash knocking Rarity back.
Rarity flipped to her feet, and then charged up her black element. She was about to fire her Shadow Ball, but then saw a flash of her Shadow Form. On instinct she held some of the energy back, firing a slightly smaller Shadow Ball than normal.
A Shadow Ball that Applejack had no problem knocking away with her sword.
“If that's the best you can do this fight is over,” Applejack said. She charged up her element again, this time casting Vigor on herself. She then charged at Rarity, slashing with her now empowered blade. Rarity did her best to block her attacks, but Applejack managed to once again knock her to the ground.
Applejack raised her blade above her head, and Rarity screamed as the blade came down.
“RARITY!!!” both Twilight and Fluttershy cried at the same time. Applejack slammed the blade onto the ground right next to Rarity, creating a small impact crater in the ground. Rarity slowly looked at the blade next to her, breathing heavily with her eyes wide. She then looked up at Applejack, who looked at her sternly, but with concern as well.
“Had I not had more control, that would have killed you,” Applejack said, “I'm your ally, but your enemy will take that chance if they see it. What would you have done then?”
“I… I don't…” Rarity stammered.
“Exactly,” Applejack said standing up and sheathing her blade, “You don't know. Right now you're mind is clouded by fear. I saw you hesitate to use Shadow Ball just now. You're trying to hold your power back.”
Rarity averted her eyes away from Applejack. She hated how insightful Applejack always was.
“If you're not sure of yourself, then find something you are sure of, and cling your hope to that,” Applejack said kneeling down in front of Rarity, “We don't have the luxury of you sitting this out, and we don't have time to let you recover. You need to figure out what's going on with this,” she pointed to Rarity's forehead, “before you even think about trying to use this,” she held Rarity's spear up, “Otherwise, you're going to die.”
“But… what if I lose control…?” Rarity asked trembling, “What if my power… hurts someone I care about…?”
“As long as your heart has something pure to hold onto, you don't have to worry about that,” Applejack said, “The power is yours, Rarity. At all points, you're the one who decides what to do with it.”
“Something… pure?” Rarity looked back at Twilight, who looked so worried for her. It tore Rarity's heart into pieces seeing her and Fluttershy so upset.
DASH-379 stepped out at that moment, looking around confused, “Did I miss something?”
“Applejack was… just knocking some sense into me,” Rarity said as Applejack helped her up. She looked at Applejack with a soft smile, and Applejack returned the gesture with a nod.
“Ooookay then, well I am ready to go,” DASH said with a shrug.
“What were you doing all this time anyway?” Twilight asked as they all gathered together.
“Discord transferred a few special files to me,” DASH stated, “These will allow me to track down the Celestia of this world via her electronic implants.”
“Can we use these to find her in my world too?” Applejack asked.
“That should be possible,” DASH said, “But I will need a fragment of DNA from the Celestia of this world first.”
“Um… not completely understand,” Fluttershy said turning her head in confusion, “But we find Celestia here first, then find Applejack's Celestia?”
“That seems to be the basic gist of it, yeah,” Twilight said.
“Then let's head out,” Rarity said, “I think we've wasted enough time as is.”
As the group started to head off, Twilight grabbed Rarity's hand.
“Are you going to be okay?” Twilight asked Rarity.
“Remember what I asked you to do for me earlier?” Rarity asked Twilight, not turning to her, “I'm truly going to need that.”
Twilight squeezed Rarity's hand as a response. Rarity returned the gesture and ran after the group. She put on her best confident face, but she wasn't sure if she'd be able to control herself. Her fear was probably apparent, as everyone kept turning to her silently asking if she was okay.
Honestly, I'm not okay.
I just want to find Sunset Shimmer and put an end to all of this before I lose my mind…
With DASH-379 guiding them, it didn't take them long to reach the large metallic building, which was definitely a factory of some sort. Rarity found herself wondering what the heck a factory of this size could be manufacturing, or who could have owned it.
Surrounding the building was a metal fence, preventing anyone from entering without authorization.
“So Twilight,” Rarity asked with a cheeky smile, “Any idea how to get inside of here?”
“Why would I know?” Twilight asked. Rarity shrugged her shoulders.
“Well, I figured something like this happened in one of those RPG games you play, so that's the best place to start.”
“Okay, first of all, RPG stands for role playing game, so you just said game twice technically,” Rarity rolled her eyes, “Second of all, just because this situation is like an RPG doesn't mean-” she cut herself off and looked ahead, “Got it.”
As she ran off, Rarity, DASH, Fluttershy, and Applejack all shrugged and followed after her. She stopped behind a large carrier truck which was stopped at the front gate.
“DASH, can you get us inside the back of this?” Twilight asked. DASH-379 looked at the truck, and nodded.
“Affirmative Twilight,” DASH said, “You wish to use this to sneak inside?”
“Yep yep. If you can't find a secret passage inside, just hide in the trunk of the enemy's truck,” Twilight said, quite proud of herself actually.
“Was this a trick you learned from the “role playing game” Rarity mentioned?” Applejack asked. Twilight wanted to deny it, but after a while just sighed sadly looking down.
“Twilight smart,” Fluttershy said, “Twilight use “role playing game” to guide us.”
“I think making her our consultant in these situations would be best,” DASH-379 said. Twilight looked at all of them painfully, and then turned to Rarity, who could barely hold in her laughter.
“Look what you did,” Twilight said glaring at Rarity.
“I'm not apologizing, either,” Rarity said playfully, “So come along, team. Let's get inside before they leave us here.”
DASH-379 carefully opened the trunk of the carrier, and the five of them went inside. A second later, the carrier moved into the factory. Inside of the carrier, the group looked around to see metallic crates labeled “weapons” and “legs”, stuff like that.
“Are these… robot parts?” Twilight asked.
“Remember, this place is a weapon's development factory,” DASH-379 said, “These must be the parts used to develop the weapons.”
“They got arms, legs,” Applejack shuddered, “Okay, this is getting morbid. How are you all not freaking out right now?”
“Well… it's not like they're real body parts,” Rarity said, “They're robot parts, like DASH. Um, not to say you aren't real DASH.”
“I understand the meaning,” DASH said with a shrug, “And you are not incorrect. These are not parts from living people. They are machine parts, meant to make something akin to me.”
“Honestly, knowing that is even more frightening,” Applejack said, “They just make people like Facet makes our weapons.”
Facet? Was that Applejack's blacksmith?
“Not people, weapons,” DASH said, “Remember, I am not alive in the sense as all of you. I am created more or less to be a humanoid version of that sword you wield on your side. The same goes for all of the robots being made here.”
“DASH…” Fluttershy said looking down somberly. DASH-379 looked at Fluttershy, closed her eyes, and walked to the back of the trunk.
“Once they stop, we need to leave immediately to avoid being spotted,” DASH said, “I will keep watch, and alert you all when it is time.”
Everyone was silent for a good few seconds after that. It was Fluttershy who broke the silence.
“DASH still thinks she's just weapon…” she pouted.
“We don't know all the details of this world,” Twilight said, “As far as we know, she might be just that.”
“DASH is friend though,” Fluttershy fussed, “DASH not weapon. DASH think. DASH feel. DASH alive like me.”
Fluttershy ran to another section of the trunk to be alone. Twilight sighed shaking her head.
“It's so hard explaining these things to her,” Twilight said.
“She sees things in a more simple way than we do,” Rarity reasoned, “That's probably why the two of them are so close. She doesn't see a difference.”
“I don't know much about robots, but from what I'm getting at, DASH is created to be a walking and talking weapon, right?” Applejack asked.
“That's the gist of it,” Twilight said, “She was created for a particular reason, but we don't know what that reason was for. She's malfunctioning, so she doesn't follow her programming.”
“So she's just walking around doing whatever she pleases, completely unguided?” Applejack asked. When both Rarity and Twilight nodded, Applejack gave her trademark shudder, “Not sure how I feel about that.”
“Trust us, neither does she,” Rarity said looking at DASH-379, “I think she's scared of herself. That's why she sort of distances herself from the rest of us.”
“But she's a robot,” Twilight said, “I can understand programming her a personality, but why would anyone give her the ability to feel fear?”
Rarity didn't know how to answer that question. To be honest, she didn't know what to make of DASH-379 period. Yes, she was very much like her own Rainbow Dash, but she was still a robot created with a purpose. From her understanding of that purpose, there was no reason for DASH-379 to be like this at all.
In fact, it would have made more sense for her to be like Spitfire and Fleetfoot.
The carrier stopped after a bit, and the five of them gathered by the back of the trunk. DASH-379 opened the door, and lead them through a hallway before any of the guard robots could spot them. The group stopped in a computer room with two doors. One in the far end of the room, but the other one off to the side.
DASH-379 walked over to the door at the back of the room and tried to open it.
“This door leads to where Celestia is being held,” DASH said.
“I'm guessing you can't get it open though?” Applejack asked walking over to DASH.
“Negative. The controls for this door are probably in another part of the factory.”
“So what do we do?” Rarity asked, “Do we all go search for the controls?”
“That's not a good idea,” Twilight said, “If we all go, we'll attract too much attention. Also, if we leave a few people here, they can go through and retrieve Celestia once the door opens.”
“Thus less backtracking,” Rarity said, “Good. I think three searching would be enough.”
“Then two stay here,” Fluttershy said, “Who go, and who stay?”
“I'm definitely going to search for the controls,” Rarity said, “If I stand still for too long, I'll start thinking about things…”
Applejack looked at Rarity intently, and then turned to Twilight, “Go with her.”
“M-me?” Twilight asked, “Not that mind going with Rarity. I really don't mind that at all, but why me?”
“For one thing, you're the healer, so if Rarity and whoever else she takes gets hurt, you can heal them. Also, she seems to be calmer with you close to her. Essentially, I feel safer knowing the two of you are together.”
Twilight looked at Rarity, who briefly looked at her before averting her eyes somberly. She knew exactly what she was worried about. Just in case she turned into that thing again…
“If that is the case, Rarity should take one more person with her,” DASH stated, “You will need a strong fighter to travel with you to protect Twilight.”
“Geez, I'm not used to being this protected,” Twilight said.
“You're the most important one here, after all,” Rarity said.
“While I do not agree with that in the slightest, I'll accept it since you said it,” Twilight said, “Now, who else are we taking with us?”
Rarity turned to the group and looked around. It was ironic, as all three of her alternate choices were all from different worlds than herself and Twilight. She weighed her options carefully, thinking about each one of them.
Fluttershy was a very skilled fighter, and chances were they'd run into a lot of enemies with Yellow elements, meaning her Green element would be effective. Sadly, that also meant she'd be hurt more, and Rarity wasn't about to put her best friend in danger like that.
Applejack had a lot of offensive abilities and the best defense, but her element probably wouldn't do much against what was ahead. Besides, she clearly didn't like this world too much. They'd need someone who could adjust to her surroundings the best.
DASH-379 had the advantage of being from this world. Also, she could scan the robots to see what elements they used, giving them an edge in battle. Finally, with her being a Yellow adept herself, she'd have the best defense against whatever came their way. It seemed like she was the smartest choice.
As such, Rarity walked over to DASH.
“You are taking me with you?” DASH-379 asked.
“I think it's the best choice for what's ahead,” Rarity said. DASH smirked rubbing her nose.
“Damn right it was the best choice,” she bragged, “I will look out for you no problem.”
“DASH, be careful,” Fluttershy said hugging DASH.
“Aw, I will be fine, Fluttershy,” DASH said returning the hug, “You stay close to Applejack alright?”
Fluttershy nodded and ran back to Applejack's side.
“When you open the door, try to find your way to where we are,” Applejack said, “We'll manage, but we're definitely going to require help in rescuing the Celestia of this world.”
“We'll hurry to your side,” Twilight said, “I'll make sure everyone gets there safely.”
Rarity nodded to Applejack, “Let's go team.”
Rarity, Twilight, and DASH-379 ran through the second door, which led to a staircase going to the higher floors.
Rarity's group carefully made their way down the hall, trying their best to avoid combat as much as possible. According to DASH, all the robots here ran on a single network, so if one saw them, they'd all know where they were.
It was tense, but it definitely confirmed that Twilight's decision to go in a smaller team was spot on. Rarity was definitely going to check out some of these games whenever she got the chance.
The group stopped in a large room, which all had the same variety of android scattered around. These androids looked very similar to DASH-379, but their shoulder pads weren't as sharp as hers, their boots not as fancy, and their bodies nowhere near as full figured as DASH. Their hair was dark blue with purple and magenta streaks lining it, but not as long as DASH-379's hair, which even tied in a ponytail still went down to her waist. Beyond that though, they all looked exactly the same as her in the face.
“What sort of robots are these?” Rarity asked looking around.
“They're so many of them,” Twilight said, “They all look the same too.”
“That is not uncommon,” DASH said catching the two girls' attention, “In fact, most robots are mass produced. Why do you think my serial number is DASH-379?”
“That's… the amount of robots… in your line?” Rarity asked, suddenly trying to imagine hundreds of robots just like DASH-379, which just didn't make sense to her.
Yet still, DASH shrugged her shoulders, “Basically. There were approximately 379 robots before me, all of them looking just like me. I am the best in my line, yes, but I am not one of a kind.”
“Um… you might want to rethink that statement,” Twilight said, “Take a look at this.”
DASH and Rarity walked over to Twilight, who was looking at one of the robots standing. Rarity and DASH looked closely at the robot's shoulder, and were shocked by what they saw etched there.
Rarity looked back at DASH-379, who looked really confused and afraid almost. Rarity looked at her shoulder closely, and saw her serial number etched in the same spot.
DASH-379 ran around the room, checking all of them.
“DASH-225,” DASH said before running to another robot, “DASH-346, DASH-193, DASH-025?!” DASH stepped back looking in shock, “They have been using this build for this long?!”
“DASH, what's the matter, darling?” Rarity asked, she and Twilight walking over to her, “You look so pale.”
“These robots… they are my line…” DASH-379 said trembling, “These are the… other 379 robots… in my series…”
“So this means they probably decided to chance the appearance with you,” Rarity reasoned, “It would be too boring to have robots that all look the same, right?”
“Rarity, robotics don't work like that,” Twilight said, catching Rarity's attention.
“What do you mean?” Rarity asked.
“When you create a machine of any sort that you plan on making more of, you generally don't alter the build. That's so you can easily assemble them. The fact that there are so many robots that use this build would mean… this is technically what our DASH is supposed to look like.”
“It is more than just appearance,” DASH-379 said distantly, “Build, weapons, statistics, all of them would be completely altered. I knew I was the best in my line, but…”
Twilight looked ahead and saw a terminal. She ran to it and checked it, smiling almost immediately.
“Okay, I have real good news,” Twilight said, “This controls the doors on the ground floor. Using this, Fluttershy and Applejack will be able to take the elevator.”
“Wonderful,” Rarity said walking over to Twilight and hugging her from behind, “Let's get that door open then.”
“Not yet,” DASH said stopping them, “I need to check something first.”
“DASH?” Rarity asked as DASH-379 stormed over to them, shoved Twilight away from the controls, and started typing furiously.
“Hey! What happened to “my needs come second”?” Twilight asked.
“The second you open that door, the security is going to close the system, locking us out,” DASH-379 said, “This is my one chance to learn something about why I was created, and I am not passing this up.”
DASH pulled up a screen showing the number of DASH units accounted for in the room. Twilight shrugged her shoulders and looked it over with DASH-379, while Rarity looked over their shoulders, trying to understand what they were seeing.
It didn't work.
“Looking at this, five robots are missing from this line,” Twilight said.
“The first one would be the prototype,” DASH-379 said, “She would not be here. She would also have a different build, but she would be kept someplace else. Her information is not stored here anyway, nor is the one right after her.”
“What about the other three?” Rarity asked.
“Their information is right here,” DASH-379 said, “I am pulling up information on units 377 and 378.”
When the images came up, all three of them were shocked. The robots on display were two they knew very well.
“DASH-377, codenamed FLEETFOOT… and DASH-378, codenamed SPITFIRE…?” Twilight asked, “Aren't these the robots that took Celestia?”
“They are,” Rarity said, “Check the final one.”
DASH nodded, and slowly pulled up the information on the last one. It was in a special file, showing that this robot was clearly different than the others. Said file was named “ATHENA”.
DASH opened the file, and her eyes went wide. The image was of herself.
“DASH-379… codenamed ATHENA?” Rarity said, “DASH darling, is that your name?”
“I… I do not…” DASH started typing furiously on the keyboard, scaring both Twilight and Rarity. After a second, they saw a video come up. This video showed DASH-379 going through training drills fighting other robots. While she was naturally ruthless in combat, the way she fought in the video was just… off. The DASH-379 there didn't care about her opponent at all, actually ripping the arm off before blowing its head off.
What Rarity was struck by though was her expression. It wasn't emotionless, but it was definitely more of a blank look.
“Oh my God…” Rarity said covering her mouth in horror.
Twilight pulled up more information on DASH-379, and was honestly surprised by what she saw.
“Looking at this, Athena has more destructive power than all the DASH-units in her series combined,” Twilight said.
“Really?” Rarity asked.
“Not only does she have a fully developed mana-drive, which allows her to channel elements, but she also has the ability to learn… and grow stronger. Each battle she fights increases her power. Looking at these weapons… it looks like these robots are all soldier class.”
“I thought DASH was a security robot though,” Rarity said.
“That's what I was thinking, but then again we've seen security robots, and they don't look human. These robots… oh dear…”
“What?” DASH-379 asked, “What did you see?”
“DASH… I don't…” Twilight looked away, but DASH grabbed her by the arms earnestly.
“Tell me, please!” DASH begged, “Why are these robots here?! What was I made for?!”
Rarity was wide eyed looking at DASH-379. She didn't know what was more terrifying; seeing DASH so afraid, or whatever it was Twilight saw.
Twilight swallowed nervously, “According to these files… these robots are made… to kill humans.”
DASH-379 stepped away from Twilight, looking back at the screen showing Athena.
“If the other robots in DASH's line are killing machines… does that make our DASH…?” Rarity asked slowly.
“Looking at her capabilities compared to the others in her line, I'd say this “Athena” was probably akin to a doomsday machine.”
“No…” DASH said shaking her head, “No…! NO!!! THAT IS NOT ME!!! I AM NOT A KILLING MACHINE!!!”
“D-DASH…?” Rarity asked, holding Twilight in fear. She had never seen DASH get this upset.
“I… I cannot be…! It is… impossible…! I am… I am… AHHH!!!!” DASH screamed, falling to her knees and holding her head in pain.
“DASH!” Twilight cried, she and Rarity running to her side, “Are you okay? What's wro-”
“DON'T TOUCH ME!!!” DASH screamed. Both Rarity and Twilight stepped away a bit, but Rarity was shocked by something.
Did she just… use a contraction…?
“Stop it! STOP IT!!! IT'S NOT TRUE!!! IT'S NOT TRUE!!! I'M NOT A KILLING MACHINE!!! I'M NOT!!!!”
She was using contractions. Rarity was sure of it now. She was also sure that something happened to DASH-379. She was definitely this “Athena” robot, but between that video and now, something happened to change her.
Rarity walked over to the crying robot and knelt down in front of her.
“DASH honey, look at me,” Rarity said. DASH-379 shook her head, but Rarity placed a hand on her shoulder, “Please look at me. We're your friends, DASH.”
“Y-you saw… right…?” DASH sobbed, “That robot was me! The memories are still blocked… but I feel them! I feel them trying to come out! Trying to make me… remember…!”
“Okay, so that robot was you,” Rarity said, “That's not who you are now. You're with us of your own free will, and you're fighting alongside us.”
“But… I am malfunctioning… r-remember…?” DASH asked, slowly looking up at Rarity, “I do not know what I am doing… nor do I trust my programming. My programming is everything, Rarity. It is what makes me me. To know that my base programming is…”
“Maybe… you malfunctioning is a good thing then.”
They both turned to Twilight, who was standing back at the computer looking at the screen.
“What…?” DASH-379 asked.
“You're a Maverick basically, a robot that's rebelling against it's original programming. If that's the case, then technically you're supposed to be our enemy,” Twilight turned to DASH and smiled, “But you're not. You're one of us.”
“Remember the first thing you did when you met us,” Rarity said taking DASH's hands, “You protected us. Also, when we were captured by Applejack's men, you fought to save us even though you were close to being destroyed. Maybe you are malfunctioning. I don't claim to know much of anything about machines,” she moved a strand of DASH's hair behind her ear, “But if you're going against your programming, then that means Athena was, is a truly good person. Without your programming, you have free will. Tell me, what do you want to do now? What's the first thing that comes to mind?”
“I… I want to continue… helping you…” DASH-379 said immediately. Rarity smiled.
“Very good, and why is that?” Rarity asked.
“You are… my… friend…” DASH said before hugging Rarity tightly, “Yes…! You… Twilight… Applejack… and… Fluttershy… All of you are… my friends!”
“That's right, and you're our friend too,” Rarity said closing her eyes and returning the embrace, “I personally don't care what sort of robot you are, DASH.”
“Neither do I,” Twilight said, “You more than proved you're on our side. Even if the robot you were made to be was some sort of killing machine, that doesn't mean you're one now.”
“What happens… if my memories return though?” DASH-379 asked letting Rarity go, “I am still a machine. I do not know what would happen once my programming corrects itself.”
“Well, I don't see that happening on it's own,” Twilight stated, “If it does though, we'll deal with it then.”
DASH turned to Rarity, who nodded in agreement. DASH stood up, wiped her eyes, and then perked up.
“Thanks you two,” DASH-379 said, “Can we maybe… keep this between the three of us for now though?”
“Sure,” Rarity said, “I doubt Fluttershy would understand anyway. Applejack might, but let's not test it.”
“With that done,” Twilight said, “We still have a mission here. I think it's time we took care of that.”
“Yes, I believe so,” Rarity said.
Twilight went over to the control panel and pushed a few buttons. Once that was done, the alarm went off immediately, and the system locked itself down.
“Just like you said, the system locked us out,” Twilight said, “I can definitely confirm though that the door opened. Applejack and Fluttershy are probably making their way to the room Celestia is trapped in.”
“What about us?” Rarity asked, “How do we get there?”
“There should be another elevator somewhere in this facility,” DASH-379 stated, “If we can hack our way inside the system, it should open for us.”
“Then take us there,” Rarity said, “Twilight, once we reach the elevator, hack into the system while DASH and I protect you.”
Twilight nodded. As soon as they reached the door, security robots burst through. These were of the same variety as the kind they were used to, two of them floating in mid air with gun arms and one being larger with treadmills for feet, but they had heavier armor it seemed.
The larger robot, clearly the leader of this squad, began charging up a yellow element. It then held its arm out and shot lightning bolts at all three girls.
After they recovered, Rarity and DASH both charged in. Rarity focused on the two smaller ones while DASH fought the larger one. Twilight ran away a bit and focused on supporting both of them with her arrows, mainly trying to build up energy to heal.
DASH was the first one to jump back, charging up her element. Instead of attacking, she cast Speed Boost on Rarity, who was now able to dodge their attacks easier.
“Thank you,” Rarity said to DASH, gasping in shock when she saw the large robot prepared to attack, “DASH, watch out!”
DASH-379 looked up a little too late, and was knocked back by the robots large arm. Seeing that did something odd to Rarity. She felt darkness rising within her.
Oh no! It's that… power again!
I can't let it consume me!
Sensing Rarity's struggle, Twilight immediately charged up her element, casting a stronger Cure spell on DASH (Rejuvenate). DASH-379 kicked to her feet and resumed her fight against the leading robot.
“Rarity, DASH is fine!” Twilight called out, “I used a new spell to- AHH!!!” she was cut off by a blaster shot aimed for her. The other smaller drone targeted Twilight and was firing at her, forcing her to run deeper into the room.
“Twilight!” Rarity cried. She charged up her element and used her Grim Slash on the drone she was fighting to quickly finish it, and then rushed after Twilight.
“Shoot! I have to end this fast!” DASH exclaimed. She jumped into the security robot and did a drill kick into it's stomach, and then charged up her element. This time though, she noticed a new function activated within her. Should she trust it?
No choice really.
“Releasing all limiters! Activating ATHENA mode!” DASH-379 shouted. This time, energy burst out of her body, which now had golden electricity coming off of it. Out of her head piece came a dark red visor that completely covered her eyes, giving her a colder and more dangerous look. The security robot fired at DASH with its machine gun, but she quickly flipped to the side out of the way and pointed both of her arms. She then fired two piercing beams at the robot, going through it and instantly destroying it.
She stood up and turned to where Rarity and Twilight were. Instead of calling out to them, walked over to their fight and activated her arm cannon.
Rarity wasn't able to focus on attacking, as she was too busy trying to keep Twilight safe. She knew that if anything happened to Twilight, that form was going to take hold, and she couldn't let that happen no matter what.
“Rarity! You have to fight back!” Twilight urged, “If you don't this robot will-”
“If I fight back, it'll attack you!” Rarity cried, “I have to protect you! I can't let that thing…!”
“Oh Rarity…” Twilight said, looking at Rarity sadly. The drone managed to break through Rarity's defense and knocked her to the side, “Rarity!”
Rarity forced herself to her feet, and looked in horror as the drone loomed over Twilight.
“No…! No!” Rarity screamed, that darkness building up again within her, “I can't… let her… get… hurt…!”
Right before the aura could completely engulf her, an electric shot hit the drone, paralyzing it. Rarity and Twilight looked and saw DASH-379 walking up to it, her arm cannon pointed forward still in that alternate form.
“D-DASH…?” Rarity asked, slowly coming back to reality.
“I think… that's Athena…” Twilight said.
Once she reached the drone, DASH-379 grabbed it with one hand, and threw it off behind her. She slowly turned to it and charged up her element without any effort. She then charged up her cannon, firing her Charged Shot at it. When that didn't destroy it, she fired another Charged Shot at the drone, this time blowing it to pieces.
The fight over, whatever possessed DASH left, as the electricity stopped going through her body and the visor retracted.
“Are you all alrigh-” she cut herself off by falling to her knees, seemingly exhausted.
“DASH!!!” Twilight and Rarity cried at the same time. Twilight put her hand on DASH's shoulder, but then recoiled shaking her hand in pain.
“My God! DASH, are you overheating?!” Twilight asked.
“Looks like… a side effect of that… other mode…” DASH-379 explained, “I felt… a familiar power… but my systems can't handle it… quite yet…”
“That was your past self wasn't it?” Rarity asked, “Athena?”
“I believe so,” DASH-379 said, looking up at Rarity with a familiar smile, “You have to admit, scary as that was, I looked pretty damn cool, right?”
Rarity was wide eyed. DASH just embraced her past self, becoming that killing machine again, and she was still herself afterward? Her thoughts went back to the past, when her Rainbow Dash had done something similar.
“You really shouldn't push yourself so hard, Dash,” Rarity fussed, carrying Rainbow Dash over her shoulder back to the gym in Canterlot High, Fluttershy walking with them. Poor Rainbow Dash was exhausted after fighting some bully harassing both Rarity and Fluttershy.
“I couldn't just let that asshole get away with that,” Rainbow Dash said as they set her down on a bleacher, “You know I don't like doing that sort of stuff, but he was asking for it.”
“You looked so terrifying,” Fluttershy said sitting down next to Rainbow Dash, “It was like you were a completely different person.”
“Yeah, I guess I did,” Rainbow Dash looked at both Rarity and Fluttershy with a huge grin though, “But you gotta admit, I looked pretty awesome, right?”
Rarity was so taken aback by that. Dash hated fighting, as it reminded her of a time when she almost became a bully herself. Even still, she fought to protect her friends, to the point where she couldn't even stand anymore.
Rarity tightened her fist, vowing on that day to be stronger. She wasn't going to let Rainbow Dash have to put herself through that again.
Back then, Rarity had started falling behind on her training, which forced Rainbow Dash to have to bring out a side of herself she didn't really like. She had promised herself that she'd always be strong, so she could bear those sins for her friends.
Yet here she was now, falling behind again. Once again, Rainbow Dash had to unleash a side of herself that she hated, and yet still smiled. Rarity tightened her fist just like she did back then.
“I'm sorry,” Rarity said turning away from everyone, “This is what Applejack was trying to show me earlier. The truth is… I'm scared of my power now. I turned into something while you were fighting Spitfire, and completely lost control of myself. I'm worried that… I'll become that thing again…” she started crying, “But this time… I won't be able to pull myself back!”
DASH-379 looked up at her intently, forced herself to her feet, and took Rarity's hand. Thankfully she had started cooling down.
“That monster was you,” DASH said, “But it is not who you are now. Is that not what you told me earlier?”
Rarity looked at DASH, who was giving her a reassuring smile, a lot like what her Rainbow Dash did when comforting a friend by throwing something they said to her right back at them.
“Don't worry if you lose control,” Twilight said, “Just focus on me when that form comes out, and you should be fine. If not, I'll bring you back.”
Rarity nodded to her friends and picked up her spear, “Come along then, darlings. We can't leave our friends waiting.”
“That sounds like the Rarity we know,” DASH said, “I am cooled down now, so we should depart before more drones show up.”
As the three of them ran out of the room, Rarity thought about that form, Shadow Form as Pinkamena called it. She didn't want to have to use it, but it was going to eventually take hold of her.
I… can't escape it, or run away.
If that's the case, I'll just have to control myself when it happens.
No matter what, I won't hurt my friends.