• Published 20th Jun 2013
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Technicalities - BionicBrony



After being forced from their home, a master engineer and his AI end up in Twilight's basement, their only desire to rebuild what they lost. Although not everything is as straightforward as it seems...

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The Liandri: part 1

Alex inhaled deeply at the fresh morning air as he stepped out of the hospital for the last time in, hopefully, a very long time. It had been about a month and a half since he had been admitted to the Ponyville General Hospital after the scene with the Power Core. He wish it could have been much shorter stay, but the incident did quite the number on his body.

Even after being released from the hospital, though, his body still wasn’t it tip-top shape. The nerves in his right leg were still recovering, meaning that while the leg itself was just as good as the other, he couldn’t put as much weight on it, forcing him to use a cane which the hospital graciously provided. Rarity even offered to “spruce it up a bit” so that it wouldn’t look like something he got at Ponyville Retirement Village. Needless to say, Alex didn’t refuse. Now its handle looked like a bronze dragon’s claw gripping a large, spherical gem he couldn’t really identify. It was green, so he simply assumed it was emerald.

Despite the cane, the doctors assured Alex that his leg would eventually recover completely, just like everything else. In-fact, he was surprised he was even able to recover as much as he did. Before they bandaged him up, his entire body was covered in electrical burns. Based on the descriptions he heard from the doctors, nurses, and friends who visited, he was surprised he even bothered to defibrillate him in the first place. He may have looked like a mummy afterwards, but it was a serious improvement over what he looked like before. After a solid month and a half of magical healing therapy, he finally looked human again, albeit with a few nasty scars.

Unfortunately, what he was told wouldn’t recover completely was his heart. During the incident, his heart took the biggest beating, and his natural pacemaker was almost completely wrecked. Even with most of the rest of his body healed, he still had heart palpitations every now and then. Sadly, Ponies didn’t have artificial pacemakers, so Alex had to just do without. At least for the time being.

Despite that bit of bad news, he was still excited to get back to the library. He had been visited many times during his admittance by his new friends, all of them trying to cheer him up, especially Pinkie. Although the visits he was always looking forward to were those of Twilight and Rose. Of all his visitors, they were easily the most frequent, usually dropping by every other day.

Their visits consisted of the usual greeting and “how are you feeling,” but the part Alex was always interested in hearing – and Rose was keen on providing – was the progress on the EMC. For the first week and a half or so, whenever Twilight wasn’t in the room for one reason or another, Rose would rail on about how things were “going much too slowly,” or “why would you even remotely think to let her build it?” or even “I can’t believe you’re putting me through this, having to work with this amateur.”

Alex knew Rose was developing well, but empathy clearly still needed some work.

Eventually, though, Rose’s complaints disappeared altogether. In-fact, it wasn’t long after that that their progress appeared to be picking up and Rose seemed to be much more pleased with things. Alex even noticed that Rose and Twilight were much friendlier with each other. Or rather, that Rose was much friendlier with Twilight, considering the fact that the pony was always trying her hardest to be on the AI’s good side. He didn’t know what happened between them, but he wasn’t about to start asking questions. If he had to guess, though, it was that Rose was much happier with the way Twilight was doing things.

Alex hadn’t been visited by them recently, though, so he was looking forward to getting back to see just what had been keeping them.

Taking one last moment to admire the weather, he started his walk back to the library. All in all, his return was largely uneventful. The odd pony would occasionally pass him by. Some would welcome him back and thank him for resolving the rather scary situation from a month and a half ago at great risk to himself. Others simply glared at him, most likely knowing that, while he did fix it, he was the one that caused it in the first place. However, Alex knew the town was still blissfully unaware of what exactly happened that day and of what could have been.

What he didn’t know, on the other hand, was that a mint-green unicorn was carefully following him at a distance.

Finally reaching his destination, Alex hobbled his way inside the seemingly empty library. “Hello?” he called out. “Anyone home?”

His call was answered by Spike poking his head out from the upstairs observatory. “Alex, hey, you’re back!”

“Spike! I haven’t seen you in a while! How’ve you been?”

“I’m doing alright. I’ve been keeping busy with customers, mostly. Twilight’s been spending most of her time in the basement, so it kinda became my job to run the library. It’s weird, it’s like you two have switched places.”

“Heheh, is that so? Tell me, would I be right in assuming they’re down there right now?”

“Yup! Still have your key?”

“Of course.”

“Okay then! I’ve still got a few things I need to do up here, so could you tell Twilight that Cheerilee returned those books she borrowed?”

“Will do!” Alex said as he made his way to the basement door.

“Thanks!” With that, Spike retracted his head out of sight.

Standing just outside the basement door, Alex started searching for his key in his left pocket when he heard something coming from the other side. Curious, he leaned his ear against the door. It sounded like Twilight and Rose were talking frantically about something, but he couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.

He chuckled inwardly and, as quietly as he could, unlocked and opened the door. As he made his way inside, closing, but not locking the door behind him, he could finally make out what was being said.

“Did you check the power coupling?” asked Rose.

“Yes! Twice! It should be working fine!” said Twilight. Alex could hear shifting papers and quick hoof-steps.

“What about the fluctuation compensator? I’m still a little unsure about that.”

“Thrice! I made sure to put it together exactly the way you wanted it!”

“Ugh, not being able to check this myself is unbelievably frustrating…”

“I’m sorry, Rose, but I’m doing the best I can!”

“I know you are, Twilight, and you’ve been doing very well thus far, but that doesn’t help us if the EMC doesn’t work!”

“I know, I know! Maybe it’s the connection with the core…”

“No, it’s receiving power just fine, the problem is somewhere else…”

While they were having their exchange, Alex worked his way down the stairs as quietly as he could. Because of the basement’s open floor plan, he didn’t have to move very far from the door to get a good look at what was going on. There, at the bottom of the stairs, was a hectic Twilight Sparkle running around what he could only recognize as a fully assembled EMC resting on top of a small table in the middle of the room, not to mention the countless notes, drawings, and various tools lying everywhere. The device itself was roughly cylindrical in shape and about as large as the average pony. Alex instantly recognized the business end of it by the assortment of robotic prongs and other movable bits.

Alex stood in the middle of the stairway, watching Twilight run around and converse with Rose frantically, much to his amusement. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to think it was embarrassing or endearing that they were too busy to notice him standing there. Eventually, he decided to spare them and hit the step he was standing on with his cane, emitting a loud tap.

As soon as he made the sound, Twilight spun around to look at him. Her horrified expression quickly turned into smile, the kind of fake smile that said “Oh hi! I wasn’t expecting you until later!”

“Alex! You’re back early!” said Twilight.

Chuckling, Alex descended the rest of the way down the stairs. “Heheheh, yes I am! Having a few troubles, I see?”

“Troubles? O-of course not! We were just… uh, putting the finishing touches on it!”

“Sure, because all that talk about ‘finding the problem’ is what you would consider ‘finishing touches,’” he said as he walked around the EMC counter-clockwise, eyeing it critically.

Twilight hung her head. “I’m sorry… We did our best, we really did!”

“I don’t know about you, but I performed my role perfectly,” Rose quipped from her usual spot on the workbench

Alex rested his hand along the top of the device and gave them a wry smile. “Lucky for us, I already know where the problem is.”

You do?!” Twilight yelled out.

“Yup!” Without looking away from Twilight, he balled his hand into a fist, raised it up, and hit the EMC on a portion of smooth metal along its top. Almost immediately, the device hummed to life. The prongs on the end of the EMC lit up and circled around the now neon blue glowing center a few times before finally coming to a stop.

Twilight’s jaw instantly dropped at the sight, and even Rose looked surprised.

Alex just laughed at their reaction. “Ha ha ha! It’s a failsafe I worked in in case anyone else got a hold of the schematics. You gotta hit it just right in the right spot or it won’t work.”

Rose was hit but a sudden look of realization. “Now I see it! Why didn’t I find that earlier?”

Alex continued to chuckle while keeping his shit-eating grin. “Because I hid it that well! Besides, it’s the EMC model I designed before I finished you, Rose, so I wouldn’t expect you to know about it. If you take a look at the other schematics, you’re not gonna find that failsafe.”

There was a brief moment where no one said anything. Alex knew Rose was going over the schematics for the other versions of the EMC, even if it looked like she wasn’t doing anything, and Twilight had been around the AI long enough to know that as well.

It didn’t take very long before Rose spoke up again. “You’re right… Huh, well played.”

In response, Alex smiled and gave her a curt bow. To outsmart an AI like Rose was a tremendous feat in and of itself. He decided to relish the moment, knowing that it probably wouldn’t happen ever again.

“Thank you,” he said. “Now then, I believe there’s something I have to do. Twilight?”

Not expecting her name to be called out like that, Twilight jumped to attention. “Huh? Yes?”

Alex hobbled over and stood in front of her, holding his cane with both hands in front of him, and looked down on the pony with a serious look.

“Twilight Sparkle,” he began. “I’ll be honest, there were moments where I wasn’t sure if you could have performed the task I asked you to do. Rose certainly shared those concerns.” He shot the computer a look. “Nevertheless, I trusted you enough to get the job done with her help. Seeing the end result, I can say that I knew I was right to put my faith in you. For this, it is my great honor, for both Rose and I, to be able to call you a trusted friend in science.”

For a moment, Twilight just blinked at him. But, soon enough, she brought a hoof to her mouth as her eyes widened and she let out the slowest and quietest gasp Alex had ever heard. Once her thoughts finally caught up with her, Twilight impressed Alex with the biggest smile he had ever seen her with. He could have even sworn he heard a little squeak as she did so.

Alex chuckled at her adorable reaction and turned towards his computer. “Now then! Rose, I’m sure you’d like to have fun with your new toy?”

The AI didn’t respond. Instead, the EMC’s prongs began to spin around their glowing center. It didn’t take very long before they eventually became nothing but a blur. After a few seconds, neon blue tendrils shot out from the ends of the spinning prongs and connected with the floor, which also started to glow a similar shade of blue. It looked like they were drawing a painting that couldn’t quite be seen.

Twilight found herself transfixed, unable to look away. To her, the sight was simply stunning. Fascinating. Beautiful. She had no idea there was technology could even do such a thing!

Twilight was so focused on the spectacle that she didn’t notice Alex hobble around to her right side and pat her on the back. “None of this could have been done without you, Twilight.”

She looked up at him to see him staring at the EMC as it did its work, a light blue glow reflecting off his face. He had the biggest smile she had ever seen him wear, which she was glad to share as well. “It was my pleasure, Alex.”

The two watched in silence for a while before Alex called out. “So, Rose, how does it feel?”

“Just like the original. I should be done by tonight.”

“Good, good. So what are you putting together, if you’d be so keen as to share?”

“I’ve decided to dip into the prototype pool. I figure this is probably the best opportunity to test them out.”

“Ooohhh, are you making an Axon unit?”

“I am, actually.”

Alex did a single, solid fist pump. “Awesome! That thing always looked great on paper! Can’t wait to see it in action.”

“Whoa, hold up,” Twilight interrupted. “What is she making? What’s an Axon?”

“An Axon unit is a heavy class mining and construction bot,” Alex answered. “My first building Liandri were medium class units, so at one point, I decided to up the ante by making them stronger and able to withstand a greater workload. Although I wouldn’t exactly call going from medium class to heavy class an upgrade in and of itself, mind you. The whole class thing is really just an organizational formality.

Before Twilight could respond, they heard Spike calling from upstairs. “Hey, Alex? Twilight? There’s somepony here who wants to see you! She says it’s really important!”

The two shared a look and both shrugged.

“Might as well,” said Alex. “Nothing left for us to do now except let Rose do her thing.”

“Okay then. Need any help getting up the stairs?”

“I’ll be fine, thanks.” He turned to the computer. “Have fun, Rose! We’ll be out for a little bit.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll be here.”

They both started making their way up the stairs, with Twilight keeping pace with Alex, despite the fact that she was ahead of him. Upon reaching the top of the stairs the two were greeted by a pony that Alex had seen before, but had never really taken particular notice of.

Twilight, on the other hand, seemed to know her. “Lyra! What a pleasant surprise! What brings you here?”

Upon seeing Alex, the mint-green unicorn he now knew as Lyra seemed to look nervous. “Hi, Twilight. I… um, I really didn’t want to bother you two, I was just… uh, curious… about something…”

Alex arched an eyebrow at her behavior, but Twilight kept her pleasant demeanor. “I’ll be happy to help you. What are you curious about?”

Lyra pawed at the ground nervously. She was attempting to look at Alex, but every time she did, her eyes shot away. At this point, he was starting to wonder if it was really Fluttershy in disguise.

“Uh, is everything okay?” Twilight asked.

“Oh! Yeah, it’s just… Um… Look, I know this gonna sound really weird, but…” Lyra finally managed to look at Alex directly. “Could I see your… um… Well it’s not really a hoof, but your, uh…”

“What? My hand?” Alex asked, raising the appropriate appendage.

“Yes!” Lyra shouted. “That! Your hand!”

Alex shared a worried look with Twilight, who shrugged in response.

“Uh… Sure, go for it, I guess…” he said, extending his left hand out for her.

Without another word, Lyra instantly zipped towards him and grabbed his hand in her hoofs. She energetically twisted and turned it, examining it from every angle she possibly could. It was when she was playing with his fingers that she muttered: “I was right, they’re the same…”

Alex managed to pick up her words. “I’m sorry, what were you right about? What’s the same?”

Lyra instantly dropped his hand and backed up, a serious look with a slight hint of excitement on her face. “Look, I have something really important I need to show you. Oh, and Twilight, you’re gonna want to see this too.”

“Lyra, what in the hay is going on?” asked Twilight.

“Shh! No time to talk! Follow me!” Upon finishing her sentence, Lyra instantly turned and trotted out of the library.

Alex worriedly looked at Twilight. “Should we?”

She shrugged. “Well, we do have the rest of the day. What could go wrong?”

Well, she could stab me thirty seven times in the chest and eat my hands... Alex groaned and started the long march out. “This had better be good… Oh, and before I forget, Spike mentioned Cheerilee returned some books.”

----------

Because of Alex’s leg, it took much longer to get to Lyra’s house than he would have liked, but both ponies were willing to slow down so he could keep up. When they finally got there, Lyra quickly ushered them inside the quaint town house and up the stairs.

As he looked around the house, Alex noticed the place was much too big for just one pony to live in, but he figured she was probably living with someone else if the varying decorations and photos of a clearly unrelated yellow earth pony were any indication. Whoever that pony was, she obviously wasn’t there at the time.

Alex and Twilight followed Lyra into what he could only assume was her bedroom, and she quickly started rearranging things on a desk against the wall with her own magic.

“Lyra, just what exactly is so important?” asked Twilight.

Instead of answering her immediately, the green unicorn ran over to her nightstand, pulled the drawer open with her magic, and ceremoniously extracted a simple looking wooden box. “This…”

The box didn’t look very complicated. It was square, about eight inches long on each side, and wasn’t particularly deep, two, maybe three inches at the most, with a simple metal latch that kept it closed.

Treating it with the utmost reverence, Lyra brought the box over to the desk she had just cleared up. She levitated a chair over in front of it and motioned for Alex to sit down, which he gladly did. It was a bit small, but he didn’t complain.

“I’ve had this ever since I was a filly,” explained Lyra with a whisper. “Everypony told me it was just a bunch of rocks, but I’ve always had a feeling they were something more. Go ahead, open it.”

Twilight came up to Alex’s left side and he gave her a brief, exasperated look. Not expecting much from it, he sighed and carefully brought his hands out and clasped the latch. He held his hands there for a moment and eyed the other unicorn on his right. Her own eyes were fully focused on the box.

Or maybe his hands, he couldn’t quite tell.

Figuring there was no point in waiting any longer, he flipped the latch open with a thumb and gently opened the top to reveal its contents.

What Alex saw caused his body to freeze and his breath to catch in his throat.

What the fuck…? he thought. How…? This… This makes no sense…

His eyes were glued to it. Lyra was right. To the inexperienced eye, it would look like nothing but bunch of oddly shaped rocks arranged in a peculiar manner. However, Alex was familiar enough with his own bone structure to recognize it for what it was.

A fossilized human hand.

Author's Note:

DUN DUN DUNNNN

Okay, so I decided to separate the chapter into two parts and make this one shorter for two reasons. 1: So I could get something out faster after arriving home from the states, and 2: For a little something Rainbow Dash likes to call "dramatic effect." Other than that, it's good to be home and writing properly again!

In other news, I really want to thank all of you guys for liking this story! It means so much to me that there's people out there who like reading what I write. With that said, if you've favorited but haven't officially "liked" the story, please do so! Help it expand! I won't hold it against you if you don't, but I would really appreciate it. And don't be afraid to comment! I wanna know your thoughts! What do you think I'm doing right? What do you think I'm doing wrong? What do you think is going on? I read each comment and appreciate each and every one. So please, let me know what's floating around in that head of yours.