Machine – TERMINATE…! TERMINATE…! TERMINATE…!
“Twilight, wake up!”
Twilight stirred and opened her eyes, seeing that she was in a strange white environment. Sitting over her was Sunset Shimmer, who looked really worried.
“S-Sunset…?” Twilight asked slowly sitting up. Sunset breathed out in relief.
“Good, you're alive. I was really scared for a second there,” Sunset said honestly. On instinct, Twilight pulled Sunset into a hug.
“I'm sorry I scared you,” Twilight said, wondering why she felt so close to this girl. She knew that they never met, but for some reason it just felt like they had known each other for years.
“Twilight, you have to find Rainbow Dash,” Sunset said grabbing Twilight's shoulders, “You can't save Rarity or stop Lavos without her.”
“Rainbow Dash…? You mean DASH-379?” Twilight asked tilting her head. Sunset frowned looking really confused.
“What? Twilight, that's-” she caught herself and sighed, “You still have no idea what's going on, do you?”
“What's going on? Sunset, you're scaring me,” Twilight said, her heart racing, “What's happening?”
“Twilight, that's Rainbow Dash! As in OUR Rainbow Dash!” Sunset urged. Now it was Twilight who was confused.
“Our Rainbow Dash? But I know who the Rainbow Dash of my world is, and it's not DASH-379,” Twilight said. Sunset groaned looking really frustrated.
“No Twilight, that's not your- well okay, she is your Rainbow Dash, but she's not our Rainbow Dash. Twilight, it's the same as how you remembered my name, and why you followed Rarity to begin with. Lavos destroyed everything, but you were all able to survive thanks to the Entity. Twilight, if you're going to save Rarity and stop Lavos, you HAVE to remember who you are!”
“Who… I am…?” Twilight asked. She noticed that everything was getting foggy, and she couldn't feel Sunset's hands on her shoulders as well as before, “Hey, wait!”
“My time's up now. Please remember, Twilight,” Sunset pleaded as she faded away, “You're the only one who can save Rarity, but to do that you'll need Rainbow Dash!”
Before Twilight could say anything else, the environment faded away and she felt herself wake up.
When Twilight opened her eyes, she was back in the old abandoned lab where they found DASH-379, actually lying down on the table where she initially repaired her. That girl in the dream, Sunset Shimmer. She kept talking about “finding Rainbow Dash”, but her Rainbow Dash was back in Standard. Also, why did that girl's name sound familiar?
“Sunset Shimmer…?” Twilight asked, “Why does that name… wait! That's the girl that Rarity was looking for! She's alive! That means… maybe Rarity's world still does exist somewhere!” the door opened and Applejack walked in with a serious expression on her face, “Applejack! You're not going to believe this, but I found one of Rarity's friends!”
“Seriously…?” Applejack asked, shocked but not really focused on it. It seemed like Twilight pulled her out of another moment in her head.
“Yes! Rarity mentioned one of her friends was a girl named Sunset Shimmer, and I think she spoke to me in my dream! I know it sounds insane, but I think Sunset Shimmer was reaching out to me!”
“I… huh…” Applejack looked like she was having a hard time with that, but she shook her head, “Twilight, I'm sorry, but you need to hear this. Something really bad's happened.”
Twilight looked at Applejack worried, and slowly got up from the work bench, “What is it? Is everything okay?”
“No actually. DASH is missing,” Applejack said. Twilight's heart sank as she remembered what Sunset told her. “Find Rainbow Dash.”
Oh my God… was she…?
Was she somehow… talking about DASH?
“Twilight, are you okay?” Applejack asked walking over to her. Twilight shook herself out of her daze.
“Y-yeah… I'm fine but, what do you mean DASH is missing?” Twilight asked.
“When Pinkamena and I came to, we couldn't find her anywhere,” Applejack explained, “Fluttershy is still out cold. We're using the healing stations to heal her now, but-” they heard a loud crash from the room next door. Twilight and Applejack ran to the room and saw a frantic Fluttershy trying to rush out of the room, Pinkamena holding her back for dear life.
“Hey! Wanna give me a hand?!” Pinkamena asked. Twilight and Applejack ran to Fluttershy's side.
“Whoa! Fluttershy, what's wrong?” Twilight asked, a little taken aback. Fluttershy's eyes were slit like, looking like cat eyes she was so angry.
“Hey! Calm down!” Applejack shouted reaching for Fluttershy. On instinct Fluttershy lashed out at Applejack with her dagger, forcing her to retract her hand and making Pinkamena release her. Fluttershy immediately rushed out of the room on all fours, but Pinkamena ran after her too quickly and jumped on top of her holding her to the ground.
“What's… wrong… with you…?!” Pinkamena asked, straining to hold the enraged Fluttershy down, “Why are you acting… like this…?!”
“BAD ROBOT TAKE DASH!!!” Fluttershy screamed, “I KILL BAD ROBOT!!! I SAVE DASH!!!”
“Wait… bad robot…?” Twilight asked, gasping in shock, “She means Sombra!”
“That robot that wrecked us in the warehouse?” Applejack asked.
“Fluttershy probably saw him leave with her!” Twilight said running to Fluttershy, kneeling in front of her as Pinkamena held her tightly, “Fluttershy, calm down,” Twilight said softly, as if talking to an animal. Still in that feral mindset, Fluttershy glared at Twilight gritting her sharp teeth.
Holy cow she looks just like an animal right now…!
“You're scared for DASH, I know,” Twilight continued, trying her hardest to stay calm, “I am too. We all are. She's just as much our friend as she is yours. But this isn't going to save her,” Twilight lightly began caressing Fluttershy's face and petting her head like she would an animal, “You have to stay calm, Fluttershy. We'll save her, I promise.”
Fluttershy's eyes slowly returned to normal as she calmed down and relaxed, “Help… save DASH…?”
“Yes Fluttershy, we'll help you save DASH,” Twilight said. As Fluttershy stopped struggling, Pinkamena released Fluttershy and sat up, breathing out in relief.
“God girl! You're too strong!” Pinkamena stated. Applejack shook her head smiling.
“Still, you did good,” Applejack pointed out. Pinkamena turned to Applejack and held her hand up hopefully.
“Does this mean we're friends now?” Pinkamena asked smiling brightly. Applejack immediately let go of her hand giving her a deadpanned glare.
“I still have a few issues to get past before we can say that,” Applejack said.
Pinkamena sighed, “Tough crowd I tell ya…”
Before they could say anything else, they heard commotion outside. They looked out the window and saw robots flying toward the city, which looked like it was under attack almost.
“That's bad…!” Twilight said, “Girls, we have to head out there and help them!”
Everyone nodded and followed Twilight out into the main city. There it was absolute chaos. Everywhere people were running away from what looked to be security robots that were now attacking the civilians. One little girl was running away from a security drone, but tripped and fell to the ground. The robot was about to fire at her, but Pinkamena rushed at the robot, jumped onto her hoop and slid on it toward the drone knocking it away.
“You okay?” Pinkamena asked as she got in her fighting stance. The little girl nodded and stood up.
“Thank you, pretty lady,” the girls said before running off. Twilight, Applejack, and Fluttershy all ran to Pinkamena's side and drew their weapons as more robots approached them.
More security drones rushed over them and fired at them, but the four of them ran out of the way. Twilight turned around and started firing with her arrows, but the drones all moved out of the way of her shots.
“I can't do it!” Twilight cried, “They move too fast!”
“You've fought things like this before right?!” Pinkamena shouted.
“Yeah, but we had DASH with us!” Applejack shouted, “She was the one who fought the drones!”
Pinkamena turned to see a bunch of civilians surrounded by rogue robots, “Twilight, summon Spike! Hurry!”
Twilight turned to the security robots and fired at them with her arrows while their backs were turned. Realizing that she was about to be attacked, she charged up her white element and focused on her familiar.
“Spike! Help us!” Twilight cried out. A second later she heard Spike howl and two Shadow Balls fired at the robots destroying two of them before Spike appeared and ran over to the civilians to protect them.
“Our top priority should be getting the civilians to safety!” Applejack shouted, “Everyone, spread out!”
The group all went in separate directions, Twilight staying close to Spike while everyone else got to work gathering civilians. There were all kinds of robots around attacking: not just security, but even a few utility robots as well were attacking.
As they took out the robots in the city, a video appeared on all the screens, showing an old scientist speaking.
“Hello, citizens of Canterlot City. My name is Dr. Albert Tirek, and this attack is my doing. Thanks to my newest creation, Sombra, I now have control of every robot in the city.”
“What the hell...?” Applejack asked looking up at the screen on a building.
“You are probably wondering why this is happening. This world has become one poisoned by the notion of robots as citizens, and I plan on fixing this in one way or another.”
“Hmph, this guys a real comedian,” Pinkamena said, folding her arms as she looked through a holographic screen showing Tirek's message.
“Through an odd phenomenon called the Pinocchio Effect, robots everywhere have begun to lose control of themselves. They no longer listen to their human masters, and begin to see themselves as 'people'.”
“DASH is person…!” Fluttershy seethed, gripping her daggers as she looked at the TV screen in a shop.
“With me as your new ruler though, I will control ALL the machines, and ensure that none of them end up like my first creation, DASH-000 Celestia,” he said moving to the side revealing the still unconscious body of Machine's Celestia.
“Oh no…! Celestia!” Twilight cried, standing in the town square with Spike and a number of civilians watching from the biggest screen there.
“Now that I have retrieved my strongest robot, DASH-379 Athena, it is time for me to take what is rightfully mine. Now Athena, do as your creator commands! Destroy them, and get the Gate Key to the Land of the Gods!” as soon as he gave that command, the screen exploded causing everyone to scream. Twilight and Spike covered their faces in defense, but then looked up to see the last person they expected to see hovering over them.
“Understood, Master Tirek,” DASH-379 said, her voice softer and devoid of it's usual intensity despite her expression being colder and more terrifying than ever.
“D-DASH…?” Twilight asked in shock, surprised to hear a woman scream.
“It's her! That's the robot who destroyed the Ponyville District three years ago!” the woman screamed.
“Athena is still functioning?! We're doomed!” a man on another side of the Town Square cried. Twilight looked around at the panicking people and then back up at DASH-379, who slowly lowered onto the ground and elegantly landed before sauntering over to Twilight.
“DASH…? Is it really you…?” Twilight asked, trembling for some reason.
“Affirmative. My designation is DASH unit number 379, codenamed Athena,” DASH-379 said, her voice even and mechanical.
Mistress, something is wrong with her. I sense that something within her has changed.
“No…” Twilight said, shaking her head in denial as tears streamed from her eyes, “DASH… you can't be gone…”
Through DASH-379's eyes, she scanned Twilight before speaking again.
SUBJECT IS REGISTERED UNDER FILE: ENEMY
ALLY: TWILIGHT IDENTIFIED
SHUTTING DOWN WEAPON SYS95069467187457
DISREGARDING FOREIGN DATA UNDER COMMAND OF MASTER REGISTRY FILE: TIREK
ACTIVATING WEAPON SYSTEMS
PREPARING FOR TERMINATION SEQUENCE
DASH-379 activated her arm cannon and pointed it right at Twilight charging it, “Relinquish the Gate Key in your possession to me or face termination.”
“Termination?!” Twilight cried, “DASH, I'm your friend!”
“Negative, you are registered under file “enemy”. If you will not give the Gate Key to me, I will have no choice but to terminate you,” DASH-379 fired at Twilight, but Spike pushed her out of the way just in time. The two of them both got ready to fight, Twilight trembling the entire time looking at what her friend had become.
“No…! I can't lose you too!” Twilight cried.
DASH-379 wasted no time firing at Twilight with her arm cannon. Twilight jumped to the side out of the way and fired with her arrows as Spike charged toward DASH and thrashed about fighting her close quarter. DASH punched Spike back, but he caught himself and charged up his black element, shooting Shadow Balls at DASH.
The attacks hit her and knocked her back, and Twilight wasted no time charging her white element, shooting an arrow into the air, which came down onto DASH as her Holy Lance move.
DASH-379 flipped out of the way, and charged up her yellow element. She then rushed at Twilight activating her Elec Sword and slashed wildly at her. Twilight screamed as she barely dodged all of the attacks, falling to the ground.
DASH raised her leg straight into the air, but Twilight rolled out of the way just as DASH-379 ax kicked. Twilight fired frantically at DASH-379 with her arrows, but she was able to punch and kick each one away with ease. DASH then charged up her yellow element, flew into the air, and shot a bolt of lightning into the sky. Seconds later, large lightning bolts rained down onto the ground, hitting everything around DASH-379 and knocking Twilight and Spike back. (Thunder Storm)
As Twilight slowly rose to her feet, she saw Spike struggling to stand before he just fell to the ground.
I apologize… Mistress… but I cannot stay manifested… I must… disperse to heal…
With that, Spike vanished, turning into black mist. Realizing she was now alone, Twilight looked up in horror to see DASH-379 standing over her charging up her arm cannon still with the same cold expression.
“I don't… believe it…!” Twilight cried, “I refuse to believe that you're gone DASH! That you're a slave to your programming! It's just like Fluttershy says, you're more than this!”
“Flutter…shy…?” DASH-379 asked, her eyes showing the briefest emotion before it was gone, “Disregarding foreign data. Proceeding with my mission.”
“DASH, NO!!!!” Twilight screamed as DASH-379 prepared to fire. Thankfully though, a bladed hoop tackled DASH-379 back before she could fire. As the hoop flew back to it's owner, a red laser hit DASH and instantly Applejack appeared in between DASH and Twilight using Sword Dance.
“Applejack! Pinkamena!” Twilight cried rising to her feet as Pinkamena ran to her side, “I'm so happy to see you two!”
“Are you okay, bestie?” Pinkamena asked getting in her fighting stance.
“I'm fine, but I think DASH was reprogrammed by Dr. Tirek!” Twilight said, “I don't know what to do!”
Applejack looked at DASH-379 as she slowly rose to her feet. The two of them glared at each other for the longest of seconds, and then charged at each other fighting close quarter, almost looking like they were using Beat Rush on each other. After clashing for a few seconds, Applejack's blade and DASH-379's arm met in a weapon clash pushing against each other.
“So in the end, you really were just a machine, huh DASH?!” Applejack challenged, “Is that what this means?! Everything we went through together was just some stupid error in your programming?!”
“You are not making any sense,” DASH-379 stated, “You are my enemy, under registry-”
“I don't care about some stupid master registry or whatever!” Applejack shouted, “I care about what you think! What do you want to do?!”
“What… do… I… want… to…” DASH-379 looked to the side confused before shaking her head and gritting her teeth, “You are just attempting to confuse me! My master warned me not to listen to anything except what he tells me! Anyone else is merely an enemy!”
DASH-379 pushed Applejack back, and Pinkamena rushed in slashing with her bladed hoop. DASH met each slash with her own attacks to block, but then the two of them jumped away from each other charging up their elements at the same time. Pinkamena engulfed DASH with her Ice Wall technique, but at the same time, DASH-379 hit her with her Elec Tower, both of them falling to the ground.
As this went on, Fluttershy ran to the scene after taking down one of the last drones attacking and the looked in shock at confusion at the fight.
“DASH…?” Fluttershy asked, “Why you… fight friends…?”
“It's because she was reprogrammed,” a familiar voice said behind her. Fluttershy turned in shock to see Nightmare Moon standing behind her.
“Nightmare Moon!” Fluttershy shouted getting in her fighting stance, “You do bad thing to DASH!”
“Nay child, it was not I who did this,” Nightmare Moon said raising her hand, “The one you seek is my creator in this world, Dr. Tirek. He has simply returned your friend Athena to what she was meant to be.”
Fluttershy looked at the fight, trying to take in what Nightmare Moon was saying. She watched in terror as DASH-379 charged up her yellow element and used her Thunder Storm on Twilight, Pinkamena, and Applejack, blowing all three of them to the ground.
“What she… meant to be…?” Fluttershy said slowly.
“He doesn't believe that robots are people,” Nightmare Moon said, taking Fluttershy's hand elegantly to call attention to her dagger, “This right here is what Tirek believes your friend is. She was created after all. She wasn't born like you were. She was put together artificially like this dagger here.”
“But… DASH is… friend…” Fluttershy said pained.
“If that's the case, prove it,” Nightmare Moon said releasing Fluttershy, “Show Athena who she really is.”
Nightmare Moon vanished, leaving Fluttershy a little confused. Her attention was caught though by the sound of Pinkamena screaming in pain. She looked back to see all three of them lying on the ground hurt, and DASH-379 standing over them and prepared to attack. She raised her arm cannon and prepared to attack Pinkamena, but before she could attack…
Fluttershy ran in her way holding her arms out, glaring at DASH-379.
“F-Fluttershy…?” Pinkamena asked, all three of them looking up in surprise.
“What's… she doing…?” Applejack asked.
“You are registered under file: enemy,” DASH-379 stated, “Step aside or I will be forced to terminate you.”
“I not move!” Fluttershy said adamantly, “I not let you hurt our friends!”
Through DASH-379's eyes, she was for some reason having a hard time scanning Fluttershy. Her view kept switching from red to green, and she was getting more foreign data.
SUBJECT IS REGISTERED UNDER FILE6351646
ALLY: FLUTTERSHY IDENTI164668746
DISREGARDING FOREIGN DATA
PROCEEDING WITH TERMINATION6846546486564
INITIATING SPECIAL PRIORITY ZERO: PROTECT FLUTT464867646484
DISREGARDING FOREIGN DATA
ONLY DATA ASSOCIATED WITH MASTER REGISTR64686896578484
From the outside, it looked like DASH-379 was fighting with herself. She looked strained, and was backing away a bit.
“M-Must… protect…” she gripped her forehead, “Negative! Continuing mission! Remove yourself or face termination!”
“DASH not termin… ter...min…at…” Fluttershy shook her head, “Not do what big word mean! This not real you! Bad man do something to you, but we friends! You and I best friends!”
“Negative! You are the enemy! I must-” she stopped herself, looking like a sharp pain was in her head, “Terminate… Fluttershy…? But… I…”
Twilight was wide eyed. She couldn't believe it, but something within DASH-379 was fighting. Somewhere deep inside, she did remember them.
“Guys… look!” Twilight urged, “She's reacting to Fluttershy!”
“I don't freaking believe it…!” Pinkamena said in shock. No one noticed, but Applejack smiled softly to herself.
“DASH not just machine,” Fluttershy said walking toward DASH-379, “DASH is alive like me, and DASH is friend. I believe in DASH.”
“I… am… your friend…?” DASH asked before thrusting her arm cannon forward, “Stay away! Stay back, or face termination!” they heard Applejack chuckle.
“You can't do it, DASH,” Applejack said, “You can delude yourself into thinking that I'm your enemy, Twilight is your enemy, definitely have grounds for Pinkamena being an enemy.”
“I deny nothing,” Pinkamena shot in.
“But Fluttershy is the one person you can't see as your enemy,” Applejack said, “It's actually kind of interesting. Right now, you look more human than you've ever looked.”
DASH-379 looked at Applejack enraged, and was about to fire at her, but Fluttershy placed her hand gently on DASH's cannon pushing it down, and then put a hand on her chest where her heart was, taking DASH's free hand and putting it over her own heart.
“Remember?” Fluttershy said, “You say that you and I not too different. I born from mother's womb, and you made in lab, but both still alive. Both laugh when happy,” she wiped an unnoticed tear from DASH's cheek, “Both cry when sad.”
DASH-379 looked at Fluttershy intensely, trembling the entire time. Fluttershy then pulled DASH-379 into a tight and loving embrace. DASH-379's eyes were wide, but Fluttershy's eyes were closed gently.
“DASH not bad robot,” Fluttershy said softly, “DASH good robot, and good friend.”
“F-F-Fluttershy…” DASH-379 said, slowly raising her arms to embrace Fluttershy back. Before she could though, something within her snapped and she pushed Fluttershy off her and backed away holding her head, “Master…! Master told me to… disregard foreign… No! Special priority zero! Must… protect…! But… I…!”
“DASH…?” Fluttershy asked slowly reaching for DASH-379, stopping when DASH screamed at the top of her lungs. It was a shocking show of emotions from her, and everyone was terrified of what they were seeing.
Before anyone could do anything, DASH-379 activated the jets on her feet and flew off as fast as she could, screaming the entire time.
“DASH, wait!” Twilight cried, all of them running to Fluttershy's side and looking up in shock and sadness at the outburst, “What happened to her?”
“She's fighting with herself,” Applejack said, “The most we can do is give her some time. Till then, we have to find Sombra and Tirek.”
“Exactly, they're the source of all of this,” Pinkamena said, “When DASH is ready, she'll find us. Let's go.”
As everyone left, Fluttershy took one last look at where DASH flew off before running after her friends. She had faith in DASH, and would always have faith in her.
Now if only DASH could have faith in herself.