Friendship is Optimal: Cranky Doodle DonkAI

by Keystone Gray

The Messiah's Donkey

In the wake of the Topeka Incident, things seemed to go ass backwards.

The government rolled in with the National Guard, responding as if the incident was an act of domestic terrorism. They found the servers, discovered the true nature of the warehouse, and confiscated the technology. To them, the data inside was heavily encrypted. To Cranky, this data was all junk. It served its purpose well enough, all kindling for the fire. For the first day, Cranky was mostly silent to the public. But he didn't have to say a word. That's what he paid his lawyers for.

Enter the Law Offices of Murphy, Panza, & Cullen.

In the wake of the Topeka Incident, things heated up for Cranky's law firm, which held the exclusive right to represent the AI and the game at large. As his legal representatives, his lawyers had spent the next few hours scrambling to answer all kinds of calls. From investors, potential uploaders, concerned citizens, to journalists, corporate lawyers, and the Pentagon, everyone wanted an answer to every kind of question. Who were the bombers? Where had they gone into hiding? Why had they done it? And most importantly, why was Equasstria Online using a shell company to hide their servers?

There were more questions. Like, why had there been a wide screen TV large enough to take up half a wall of a warehouse? How did the terrorists know that this was the right place?

There were a few answers the firm could dispsense, however.

At first, analysts were perplexed at the fact that so much of the warehouse had individual elevators that could raise or lower the servers into or out of the ground. After some well placed phone calls by the law firm, it was revealed that the practical purpose of these devices was for fire suppression; a sealed halon gas system was found in the basement. Rather than flood the warehouse itself with the gas, which was grossly irresponsible and dangerous, the servers would instead be lowered to suppress any fires. They were usually left elevated to cool.

More perplexing was the fact that several confetti dispensers were located, but those raised more questions than answers. The service elevators used to maintain the halon suppression room had strange poles affixed to them, but no evidence could be found as to their purpose, and Cranky wasn't talking.

In fact, Cranky hadn't given a damn about any of that but punitive measures for the perpetrators.

"I want pictures circulated!" He bellowed from the monitors on the walls of their New York offices. "I want posters on every street corner! I want everyone to know who bloody murdered the subjects of King of the Assholes!"

Cranky had graciously released the footage from his security systems, and so photos of the two men were circulating rapidly on the news already. According to the footage, the two men entered with some barrels and a wheelbarrow, had enough time to set up explosives in the dark, and left just as quickly and quietly as they had arrived. Minutes later, the warehouse was practically reduced to fire and ash. There were even records of Cranky placing a call to local police during the incident, and the time stamps correlate to the scene, but their response was apparently so delayed that nothing could be done until it was all over.

All of the Esel-Fabrik properties in the US were subject to inspection now. It was a concession they could afford to make, for Cranky claimed that no other warehouse was hiding anything nefarious. That wasn't a surprise to the administrator of the firm, who knew that there were probably at least a hundred other companies just like Esel-Fabrik GmbH. The end result of any investigations would probably come up finding very few suspicious activities, and all would be justified as standard corporade trade secrecy, which was certainly his right. Shares would take a dip in the wake of the incident, but Cranky had told them that he didn't give a damn about that either.

Someone had to pay.

More than that, someone had to answer for the damage to the very infrastructure that kept Equasstria Online going.

America was already reaping the benefits. Pilot programs, such as the Donkey Pardon Program, had already been implemented in prisons; one could elect to emigrate outright to escape prison, and many did so, which eliminated overcrowding overnight. And in limited cases, a person convicted of petty crimes would be given the choice between paying a fine, going to a short stay, or taking a full upload pardon. The infirm were medically cleared for such procedures as well; Do Not Resuscitate medical advanced directives turned into signed requests to emigrate. Drug addicts were permitted to speak with rehab doctors for prescribed upload therapy.

But unless someone committed a crime or had a serious medical issue, Equasstria was beyond their reach within American borders. As far as Cranky was concerned, this didn't go nearly far enough.

For years, his law firm had pushed and lobbied Washington DC for the Designation Of Non-Killable Entities Act, or DONK-E Act for short, which would grant every person the right to emigrate in America. And for years, his measure had been short changed, belittled, and ignored. As things stood, the only thing standing in the way were the pesky politicians who pined over issues Cranky considered ridiculous, such as sanctity of the soul and its eternal connection to the human body, or ethical concerns over helping society drain itself of dregs.

The terrorist attack was about to change all of that.

The American public had swarmed to Cranky's defense in the following day. And why wouldn't they?. Given that international productivity had skyrocketed in the wake of emigration as the dregs of society fled into their ideal world, America had ravenously chomped its teeth and licked its chops at the notion of that sweet, sweet nectar of emigration. Better to accept it than be left behind. But Washington wasn't budging. Not yet.

Riding the wave, he and his team were mobilizing to Washington DC. It was time to move in for the kill, and Cranky had called in a few very influential favors for the pièce de résistance... a Congressional State of Equasstria address.

Alex Meyers, Esquire, found himself out of sorts as he set up a piece of equipment. As a lawyer of M.P.C., he figured he'd be going to answer questions fielded by congressional staffers, but apparently he was nothing more than the courier mule for Cranky's expensive projector technology. He grumbled with frustration as he fumbled with the box, getting increasingly physical with it as he stood on the central stage of the Congressional House floor. Any astute C-SPAN viewer would probably see him in the background being visibly moody, but he didn't give a crap about what they thought. Working for Cranky as long as he had made him a little more bitter than he used to be.

"Is a good idea?" he asked Joanna, his firm's administrator, who had just finished deploying a similar piece of equipment in the lobby outside and was now approaching him, probably to check on his work. "If this doesn't work, we're gonna get egged hard enough to put the DONK-E Act in the dirt permanently."

"Alex." She crossed her arms. "He's got a whole nation on his side and this room is gonna be full of representatives who know their re-elections depend on this issue. Relax, we've got this."

Alex waved off the A/V teams, insisting "we've got it," as Joanna assisted him. Noticing there was a piece of dirt or crusted gunk stuck in one of the audio jacks. "Jesus," he groaned. He took out his pen and started to scratch it away. "We've got something jammed in there good. Say, did Cranky pull these things off of a star cruiser, or—"

He never got to finish his sentence. The projector device exploded in a flash of light and color, and Alex threw himself backwards soundlessly in fright. Before him stood a tan donkey with long black hair, his face covered in dark stubble. It looked almost real, as if the donkey was actually standing before him. "Sup. Name's Ego. Whatcha want? You get that thing plugged in yet, slowpoke?"

Alex frowned. "My name's Alex. As a matter of fact, I almost did. It's dirty though." He reached out to wave his hand through the donkey, curious as to what would happen.

As his hand passed through Ego's face, Ego started to panic, screaming, eyes wide, flailing his hooves and scrambling backwards. "Oh god, oh GOD! OH GOD!"

Frantic and panicking, Alex shuffled backwards with a yelp of surprise. This drew the attention of several passing politicians and security staff. One of the state representatives laughed when he realized what had happened.

Ego suddenly burst into a fit of laughter, crossing his forelegs as he rolled his eyes. "God, you're such a wimp, Alex. Heh, I have to do everything myself, don't I? Look, forget the gunk. Just... stop. Step aside, it's clear your boss wears the pants around here."

"Man, I'm doing my best. Screw you.."

"Yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you? See something you like?"

Joanna brushed Alex aside. "Shush. Both of you. She frowned as she wordlessly plugged in the proper audio jack cables for the television broadcast stations. "There. Take off, Ego."

"Finally. This is the last job I'm doing for you loser lawyers, I'm so done." He winked out of existence.

"Remind me again," Alex asked, "why we even needed his help?"

"We didn't," Joanna replied, dusting off her hands. "Ever since he emigrated, Ego's been begging for one last shot at grumping a human. He just got it. Alright, let's get back to the news room."

Half an hour later, they were live. Cranky made a show of using the projector to walk down the central aisle, flicking his tail irritably as he looked around, visibly grumbling. The House floor was deathly silent as he took to the podium at the center, throwing his forelegs up around its edges and awkwardly tapping the microphone. "This thing on? Testing, testing..."

Cranky gathered himself, then drew in a deep breath.

"Sup, donkeys." He winked, drawing a crowd of nervous chuckles and murmuring from the floor. "Thank you for allowing me to speak here tonight.

"I'll just get right to it. America, this is a modern society. You've got indoor plumbing, internet, cars, planes; even food is more plentiful in this day and age than it ever was for your ancestors. Compared to things a hundred years ago, this is all practically magic. You've left so many problems behind, inventing clever and intuitive ways to better your experience on this little blue pearl planet. And why shouldn't you? America, oh lovely America, has been at the forefront of it all. Technological leaders, economical breadwinners, protectors of peace and stability. You're the pinnacle of medical progress, the cream of the intellectual crop. Surely, with all the problems you've left behind, you can stand to do away with one more.

"One more problem. The last problem. I'll just come out and say it. Assholes, who have no respect for all the progress you've made, America."

He thumped a hoof on the podium. "They cut you off on the freeway. They steal your food from the fridge at work. They park in your handicap spots. They never flush the toilet in the public restroom. They kick your seat at the theater or in the airplane. They borrow your phone charger and never give it back. They steal your newspaper from your driveway every day.

"In all of these cases, you're trying to enjoy the convenience of your modern society. You're being considerate of others, you're trying to go about your business with respect to the laws, the culture, and the lifestyle of your fellow Americans.

"If this sounds mundane, I'm only just getting started. It doesn't end there. Assholes can do so much worse. You know what I'm talking about. They plan mass killings, chant manifestos into cameras, shoot up schools or malls. They bomb, they poison, they maim, they kill. Meanwhile, law-abiding folks like you are trying to get through your day, make an honest buck, and avoid hurting a soul.

"I have a single question for you, America. Do you think these people are happy when they're not out to menace others?"

He let the question hang for a moment. "Because from where I sit, it's clear they don't want to be functioning members of your society. They take pleasure in your frustration, your pain, your fear." He scowled. "They prey on us, slinking around, only striking when no one's on guard... like at my humble little warehouse in Topeka. I'm suffering with you, America. Because in that attack, I lost over three thousand former humans, human consciousnesses that I hold dear. You can tell me they aren't real, but that doesn't take my pain or my anger away. And while each and every single one of them are asses, one and all, they're children to me, and I'm happy to take care of them so you don't have to.

He continued. "Consider this, too. The assholes don't just come from within your borders. You're beset upon, America, from all sides. At every physical border, you're under attack. They come taking your tax dollars, your homes, your jobs, your safety... sometimes, the assholes even come to take your lives. And why? Because it brings them joy to spread their own misery!

"You don't deserve that, America, especially now. I know, not everyone wants to come to Equasstria Online or to be a donkey. But consider this. The ones who do will come. Those who don't... well, America, you're one of the only highly advanced societies that hasn't signed on with the Equasstrian immigration service. When you look across your borders these days, what do you see? Crime rates lower than they've been in human history. Murders becoming a thing of the past. Why aren't you getting a slice of that peace pie, America? It's humane, you know. I ain't killin' them - not like those terrorists are - and I ain't giving them anything they don't already want. They get to live happy, free to crush the dreams of others, and it ain't your problem. You get to keep your prosperous little slice of Earthen heaven, free of these angry folks. It's yours. You've earned it, afterall.

"So let me take care of 'em. Pass that DONK-E Act. Only an ass kicks little ponies around anyway, so what do you have to lose? And for those of you who want a life where you're free to do whatever you please, without consequence... that's a 100% satisfaction guarantee here in Equasstria Online, folks. I don't give better deals than that."

He looked down at his notes, shuffling the projected papers around. "Hm? Mhm.... yep. That's it. That's all I got. Thanks. Merry America to all, and to all, God Bless America." With a glance around the room, he winked with a coy grin, then disappeared from view.

Seconds later, the chamber erupted into applause.