Thunder Struck

by MerlosTheMad

Chapter 3 : Sweetie Bot

Stephanie nearly tripped on every other step trying to get back upstairs. Angry words were muttered until she finally crested the obstacle. Once she was out of the basement, however, it just got worse. The lights were all out again. The yowl of a cat screeched through the house after she accidentally tripped over the underfoot animal.

"Sorry! So sorry." Stephanie winced and gave a pained look around the floor, even unable to see as she was. Self-injuring thoughts jabbed at her while she did so. I am so dumb. I am so dumb, why am I so stupid? If anything's happened to Sweetie, I'm going to feel like the jerk of the world for the rest of my life!

Stephanie could see a yellow glow from under the closet door. Is the power on in there? That didn't make any sense to her that it would be. She flung out a hand quickly and opened the door, guided down the last hall by the strange flickering light. "Oh biscuits- Nope!" She slammed the door shut again.

"Glados!?" Stephanie yelled out, already in half a panic about what had stared her in the face.

There was no answer.

"Uggh! Glados, online, now!" Stephanie ripped the door open again, holding a hand up against the quickly spreading flames building in the center of her home. Hot air and smoke rushed out of the door in billows in an instant.

A disinterested modulated voice addressed Stephanie from behind her. "Oh, it's you. What is i-? Well that's new, what did you do now?" The machine's head bobbed and twisted, hurriedly scanning over the sight in the closet.

Stephanie couldn't believe she was staring at what she really hoped wasn't a house fire. It was pretty obvious to her that was exactly what it was, though.

"What I did!? Why you— Never mind! Go get the fire extinguishers from the lab! I've got the storage closet." Steph danced on her legs, unable to decide if she should risk getting her prized Sweetie out, or getting an extinguisher herself. "Sweetie!?" Her voice cracked slightly. "Online! Come on!"

Stephanie watched the blaze begin to climb the walls. In the center of it, the once perfect sheen of her favorite project's cradle stood, now blackened and aflame. In the center of that, sat a motionless Sweetie Belle. "Daaarnit!" She wheeled around on one foot, charging back through the house and cursing all the way.

A few animals turned their heads, watching the frantic human whip past them.

Meanwhile, Glados' orange tinted optic unit surveyed the spread, and volume of flames racing over the carpet from what appeared to be the strange pony machine's power cradle. It determined that it was not dangerous enough to contact the local fire department over this.

Not yet.

It was actually a common occurrence to quell fires in the home, though they usually took place in the basement. The machine designated 'Glados' evaluated that Hal may be trying to relocate itself to the upstairs level out of its own area through such mischief. The logic matrix dictated that may be possible, but was moot for the time being.

"Look on the bright side, Stephanie." Glados wheeled away on her gantry and down into the basement, ignoring the red glow of the other automaton personality. It used the intercom to hound their owner as it continued to get another extinguisher. "It wouldn't be a 'good day' if we didn't have at least one accidental fire, after all..."

Glados didn't insult or terrorize Stephanie because it wanted to. The logic matrix certainly took absolutely no pleasure in doing so, not even a pinch. It was simply programmed to do that.

Stephanie scowled as she skidded to a barefoot halt upstairs. "Glados, shut up! If you— I'm going to program you to sing jingle tunes and feel shame for it, you hear me!?" She whipped open a different nearby closet and flicked the light switch. Darkness stared back at her.

"Augh! No power." Instead of grabbing the extinguisher right away, Stephanie fumbled for a minute, looking for the fire-fighting device she sought after. Her panicked thoughts raced as she knocked over mops, jugs of tile cleaner and more. I should have known something like this would happen. But why did it happen!? It shouldn't be vulnerable to power surges like this. She thumped a hand angrily against her head. At least, it isn't supposed to be!

Stephanie's other hand found the extinguisher, buried under what felt like a couple bags of kibble. "Eureka!" she yelled, then ran, bare foot and in her underwear as she was, back to her prized property's closest.

The fire was beginning to rage and crawl out of the door.

Stephanie raised her extinguisher and—

Glados beat her to it, but engaged hers from a little bit too close.

Stephanie dropped her own fire fighting tool and backpedaled from the door while fiercely coughing and hacking. Bent over and unable to curse out the aperture science inspired fem-bot, she settled for glaring as the fire was taken care of.

The flames were beaten back in seconds by the high powered extinguisher, leaving the hallway dark, except for Glados' orange glow.

Stephanie marched over, and snatched the extinguisher away from Glados. "What was that for? You sprayed me more than the fire!"

Glados swiveled to face her, its eye bobbing up and down from the fire and back. "Well, you see, your proximity to the flames was a greater threat than your proximity to the extinguisher's spread. Simple, really."

Stephanie straightened up, jaw set in a rictous snarl. "So you couldn't have—" She bent over, coughing again, then continued. "Couldn't have warned me!?"

The eye Glados sported changed focus for the closeness its owner had taken to its optic lens. "It may have put your property in jeopardy. You clearly placed more importance on Sweetie over yourself." There was a pause in its speech, the only sound being that of the crackling closet and Stephanie's panting. "Should I apologize?"

Stephanie's shoulders slumped, and she fell to her side against the wall. "No, It's alright."

The machine studied her, waiting for a question or something it was programmed to respond to. Stephanie had just proclaimed she did not wish for an apology, after all.

Stephanie groaned and shuffled towards Sweetie Belle's closest. It was a mess; cracked wall paper, burnt carpet, and a ruined power center and several old My Little Pony plushies littered the small room.

"Great. Just great." Stephanie was a thousand times more upset that her favorite creation was ruined, rather than the amount of money and time that had been used and might have just been destroyed. I'll get dressed, then take care of this, I guess. The first thing on her mind was to make everything safe again.

"Glados," Stephanie called back to her still mostly silent antagonist.

The machine whirled to life and and followed Stephanie on its gantry track. "Yes, Stephanie?" Its voice had livened up some, a sharp contrast to the mood purveying the atmosphere.

"Start cleaning up, would you? Make a list of everything that got damaged in this storm. Let me know when it's moved on. I need the lights on if I'm going to do anything." Stephanie pushed open the door to her room a bit harder than was necessary. "Oh, and make sure all of my animals are alright? I didn't see any near the fire but check anyway."

"Acknowledged." Glados responded to the human in a far more disinterested tone than it had used a moment ago. Entirely random, of course. "And would you like toast with that?"

Stephanie found a flashlight and an electric lamp, then clicked them on to glare after Glados as she wheeled away across the ceiling. The glare exchanged for a somber look before she made it out the door of her bedroom. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they get weirder every day.

Hurriedly, Steph pulled on some junk clothes—a hoody and sweatpants—that she would be fine with getting dirty. They were baggy, and not the sort of thing you would ever wear while working with machinery, but she was only aiming to clean a mess. She slid on some socks and work boots after that.

The closet was hard to miss, even in the dark. Scorch marks ringed the doorway nearly up to the ceiling.

Stephanie was almost afraid to look inside.

"Oh no... Geez, Sweetie." Steph's voice was filled with regret and sadness over the sight sitting in the closet.

The little pony robot was a scarred shadow of its former adorableness. The head even lilted to one side slightly, adding to its pitiful state.

Stephanie stepped into the closest, now devoid of the fire and heat that had ravaged it just moments ago. "Sweetie. Online?" The order was posed by her as a question, because she knew it wasn't likely her old robot friend would respond. Given the amount of electricity that had been surging through the home, and which blew the breaker, it was all but ensured that Sweetie was destroyed.

The little robot didn't move or react to the order it was given.

Stephanie crouched down beside her, one finger reaching out to tentatively touch her friend's head. A dim flicker of light shown from under her palm, and she withdrew her hand. Static? she thought, though she hadn't felt anything.

Steph tilted the flashlight toward the ruined carpet, only to shrug in the darkness. She reached out again, this time to pat Sweetie's charred sides. The plating was cool, surprisingly, only a little warm, allowing her light touch to cup the machine's muzzle sadly.

"Well, I can fix you, eventually." Stephanie sighed out the words meant to comfort herself, and in a way, her friend. They didn't quite do the job. "This was my fault, Sweetie. I'm really sorry."

The machine sat still in the power cradle.

Stephanie stroked a hand back over the ruined and now partially bare head of her little pony. The mane had been burned away, as had much of the adorable multicolored tail that had so dutifully wagged for her over the years.

"Hal, is the power still off!?" Stephanie leaned back and shouted the words over her shoulder.

A loud, but still monotone and slightly disinterested sounding voice responded to her in the hall via intercom. "Yes, Stephanie. But I have repaired the breakers successfully with approved parts from storage. Would you like me to restore the home's power?"

Stephanie turned around again and grabbed a hold of Sweetie, lifting her up and disconnecting her from the power cradle. "Yeah, go ahead," she responded tiredly.

The lights clicked back on. Some of them did not, though, probably burned out.

Stephanie looked up disinterestedly at the white light streaming into the charred closet room and stowed her flashlight. Oh well, I have back ups, it should be easy to install them. She began the slow journey downstairs after lifting up the broken machine in her arms, glancing down at its singed form along the way. I doubt there's anything left of her though. Poor Sweetie. I bet I'm going to have to replace everything... Hm, maybe I should just start over. Sweetie 2.0?

Steph entertained the thought. She had been planning to try building a Twilight Sparkle or Rarity to interact with Sweetie. As silly as using that much free time sounded, she didn't mind the thought of spending time that would otherwise be spent with friends on building little anima-tronic ponies. "I guess I could always just make an R2 unit, instead." She chuckled as she walked down the stairs into her basement, hopefully to salvage some of her friend.

Stephanie sighed, looking up at the numerous lights which still hung, burst and darkened. Good thing it's the week... end? She slowed her descent down the stairs, forehead and expression wrinkling in instant confusion. There was the very undeniable sensation of movement in her arms. The stairwell was a little darker than usual, but she could make out Sweetie in the gray light, as well as hear a motor or two.

"Sweetie?" Stephanie asked in disbelief. She nearly dropped the little pony in shock; the two eyes on the machine's head were blinking slowly, though the lights that normally illuminated the lenses were out. "Sweetie, status," she commanded.

Creepily enough, the head swiveled to face the dead lenses towards her, but didn't respond. The burn marks and ruined mane added to the creepiness.

"Yeee..." Stephanie frowned, and stopped her descent altogether to watch the machine back. The staring contest continued for nearly a minute. It was clear that some of her property had somehow survived.

"Oh, is it still alive?" Glados interrupted without warning and wheeled down beside Steph's head, inching nearly face to face with the machine cradled in the human's arms. "Figuratively, I mean, of course." The bobbing orange eye slid up on the bot's face to look at Stephanie. "Obviously we aren't really alive. Still, that is surprising—"

"Glados, mute. Go take care of the animals, I'm busy." Stephanie grunted and moved on past the irritating contraption. "Not really in the mood," she added in a mutter.

Stephanie frowned again at the damage and scarring on Sweetie, but felt some undeniable relief she could move. "I guess I'm not getting any sleep tonight..." She stepped down into her lab and looked over at the wall to address one of Hal's camera's. "My computers are still okay, right?" They should be, she knew that, but then so should have Sweetie Belle's charging station. It was clear how that had turned out.

The dull voice of her lab assistant answered her. "Affirmative, Stephanie."

Steph set Sweetie Belle down on a work bench, waiting for more, then turned to face the red eye staring at her from the wall. "Well?"

"Oh, you would like me to activate them. Of course." Hal responded, dullness still in his tone as always.

The computer screens lining the wall lit up and began displaying different loading images of various description.

Stephanie stared down at the machine laying on its side. Occasionally, the head swiveled on its neck to look around the room. She presumed it probably couldn't see anything, and that was assuming that anything but a randomly firing motor was working.

"Sweetie, respond." Stephanie waited.

The head turned towards her again, but didn't do as it was asked.

I guess that's it, then... Stephanie groaned and pressed her hands to her head in frustration. "Great, well, looks like I won't be bored for a while. Sweetie, offline."


Stephanie waited, while the head on her favorite bot continued to turn back and forth slowly, panning to look around the room. "Sweetie... offline," she tried again.

When Sweetie again disobeyed, Steph muttered a curse and stomped off to fetch her tools. "I guess it makes sense the microphone is destroyed... Unless it's the tertiary computer... Ah geez, that's going to be a fortune to replace." After roughly grabbing the tools she needed to open her machine, she turned around.

Sweetie Belle was standing up on the bench now.

Stephanie stared at her. "Sweetie?" she asked the damaged robot, confused.

Sweetie Belle's head turned to face her again. In addition, the face was smiling.

"Huh." Stephanie scrunched her face a little in thought.

Hal's voice spoke up. "Might I suggest hooking up Sweetie Belle to the computers in order to—"

Steph interrupted the voice. "Hal, shush up." Shush up worked just as well as 'mute'. For the time being she wasn't in the mood for her funny creation's personalities. There was something a great deal more fascinating before her right then. The fact she was more than a little livid deep down about everything, and the coming several grand that would be detracted from her payroll to fix said everything, played a part, too.

"Sweetie?" she asked again.

The smile on the machine's face got a little bigger.

"Respond?" Stephanie tried, then frowned when the smile on her machine disappeared, leaving a blank face to stare back at her. "Bizarre," she whispered.

Stephanie paced around beside her malfunctioning robot, studying the damage carefully. It didn't escape her that it could do anything right then. Nothing dangerous, but she wanted to see what it would do.

It didn't seem to want to do anything else but stare, though.

Stephanie reached out to run a hand over the chassis absently.

The machine looked down to follow the movement.

Steph then stood back and stared back at Sweetie, waiting for it to do something.

It didn't; rather, it merely watched her in return, its eyes moving side to side as if studying her.

"Well, this is good! Sorta." When nothing else happened, Stephanie slowly began opening all of Sweetie Belle's back compartments, watching her old creation from the corner of her eye. "Your motors work, you're responding, too, I think..." It didn't make sense to her that some of the machine survived, but perhaps the safeties and surge protectors had only allowed minor damage to take place. I'm upgrading her insulation though, that's for sure.

"Are you Steph-anie?" Sweetie's child-like voice spoke her name in a strange tone, as if it was unsure of what it was saying.

Steph smirked and replied sweetly. "That's right, I'm— What?" She fumbled her screw driver from the loss of focus, taken by surprise.

Sweetie Belle watched her, then the screw driver as it hit the table and rolled away.

Meanwhile, Stephanie froze, eyes wide. Sweetie had just asked her a question.