• Published 6th Sep 2013
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Thunder Struck - MerlosTheMad



Stephanie's greatest home invention is named Sweetie Belle. It's a very advanced piece of machinery, as well as adorable. And it thinks it's alive!?

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Chapter 7 : Beautiful Mammal

Lines of code and digitized information scrolled across Sweetie Belle's consciousness. She didn't understand it all, but it was still there, and it told her almost everything she did know. It was a strange sort of understanding, like realizing something on intuition or instinct alone, or just barely remembering a faded memory.

But more important to her than all of that silly stuff was what was transpiring right that instant.

The cat that had at first been a delightful curiosity, and then proved to be a flagrant enemy, was sitting just on the other side of the article designated: recliner. Sure, the feline was very pretty, but also a force to be reckoned with.

Sweetie Belle eased back on her haunches ever so quietly and carefully. Her motors were rather loud, something she thought she could improve easily were she to figure out a means, but for now her prey awaited.

Sweetie studied the cat through the reflection of the room's television, which was a strange device that her dictionary had claimed to contain moving pictures of things called 'programs'. Said programs were different from the kind she was getting more familiar with, and were apparently meant to be enjoyed.

Sweetie frowned at her own and the cat's moving images in the screen's reflection. It was novel for a moment, but how is this entertaining?

Thankfully, the cat did not seem to be very clever, only fierce, as it did not use the same reflection to notice her back.

Through trial and error Sweetie had figured out that the cat was, however, still a wily foe; especially this one. On top of that, it was mean, and would hiss and attack her for no reason at all that she could think of. What was worse was the fact the creature appeared to be a great deal faster and more nimble than she. Of course, even if she caught the cat, she wasn't sure exactly what she would or could do with it.

Sweetie had pondered ways to make peace with the cat, but talking certainly hadn't helped. In fact, after Glados' earlier actions, it was beginning to seem to her that behaving however one wished was the only way to get anything done. After all, the cat did what it wanted and didn't listen in the least. For that matter, Glados had been no help, either. After moving around for a little while, she had apparently deactivated... or maybe she had fallen asleep... or possibly had begun to hibernate.

Sweetie wasn't really sure what exactly had happened to Glados, but she had stopped functioning as before. One definition suggests Glados might have died, she studied. But I don't think I like the sound of that one...

Regardless of the other unhelpful machine, the cat was being just as stubborn, but also dangerous. That was too bad, Sweetie decided. She liked talking, and had thought she had been quite... polite, was the word. The cat was not a good talker.

In the end, Sweetie decided that the best course of action was to contain the cat. Its reign of terror had gone on long enough. Most of the interesting beings and creatures of the house were docile or skittish, but not this cat... The information in her memory claimed all sorts of things about animals; one of those things was the territorial nature that certain species were prone to, which seemed relevant.

And that's perfectly optimal, Sweetie thought resolutely. It can just rule from within the closet from now on. Her eyelids narrowed a hair, her plan to be executed set in stone.

Sweetie opened her eyes fully once again and abruptly crossed them, confused. "Why did I narrow my eyes?" she said aloud. Her mouth opened a fraction in wonder. "I can talk to myself!" she exclaimed in her excitement. Despite that revelation, she couldn't immediately come up with an answer as to why she had narrowed her field of vision. "Sweetie, can you answer some questions? Why did... wait, no, talking out loud to myself wouldn't work any better than... thinking? Yes, thinking." She held up a hoof to her chin and hummed.

I can't talk to myself as quickly out loud, either. Understood. Back to my other question. Why did I do that something with my eyes? Yes, that's the question! Sweetie's very own thoughts were proving to be as large of an obstacle as the cat. She thought over the question carefully.

One part of her said it was inefficient and made little sense to cross her vision in such a way, as it reduced what she could see. That part of her said not to do it, because it wasn't part of some weird order of things that it kept trying to tell her to do. That part seemed to be the one called 'programming', as Stephanie had informed her; that part was confusing.

Sweetie's eyes remained crossed during the entire trade with herself. Unfortunately, her vision couldn't reach back in on her face in such a way that she could see what was going on. There had been some small hope held out that if attempted long enough that would work. Instead, she uncrossed her eyes and looked over at the television, recalling how she had been able to see herself in it.

The reflection of herself was there, still somewhat crouched stealthily beside the chair furniture. Her eyes zoomed in on the metal that made up her outside. No fur. Should I have fur?

After turning herself sideways, she decided her body looked even stranger than she had realized previously. Of course, her only basis for what was strange was the other animals in the near vicinity. I'm an animal of some sort, aren't I? The thought hung for a moment, suspended in mystery. She kind of looked like them. But also kind of didn't.

Sweetie tilted her head, curious for an answer. No, that isn't right, she thought. I'm a... She searched her definitions for a moment. Words blurred past her mind's eye. Machine. I'm a machine made of metal and circuitry.

Sweetie puzzled the interesting fact out after studying the information that was available. It was odd to her, for some reason, just being able to think of questions and suddenly know the answer sometimes, when other times nothing came at all. She continued down the trail of little thoughts she had found. The other animals possess DNA, are made up of carbon and... so much else...

Sweetie frowned and looked around. Huh. So where are the other Sweetie Belles? There was Glados; she was a machine, but she was also different. Unlike Glados, the animals didn't talk, but they at least vaguely matched her own four legged shape. Hal, though, was just a mean thing that had wanted to hurt her. Then... there was Stephanie. Stephanie spoke to her, and talked to her; that made her different. It seemed everything in the building was pretty different from one another. That seemed odd for some reason.

But what is Stephanie, then? Sweetie blinked while searching for the right word. Kind, she decided. I remember Stephanie being... very very nice to me. She smiled again, and felt like she should be able to do something else, too, but it was a mystery. And what else? Oh, I know! What's outside the building...?

The sudden presence of a low, feline growl above Sweetie's head caught her by surprise, and made her look up.

The camera's that made up her eyes widened slightly, focusing. "You!" she had time to exclaim, before the feline atop the chair—which it had done to take her by surprise—jumped down onto her head. The cat began hissing ferociously.

Sweetie cried out and tried to run, but it was too late. Secure on her back was the animal that tormented her so. "Please, there is no need to fight! We can be friends!" she pleaded, all the while trying to reach up with one of her hooves to push it off.

The cat answered by raking its claws across her vision.

Sweetie reciprocated the cat's hissing back at it in a final attempt to scare it away, but to little discernible effect. I do not like cats! I do not like cats at all! She began to try spinning, perhaps that would dislodge the creature, but she found her body couldn't move quick enough for the plan to work. There has to be a better way to deal with cats!

The battle raged on, with other animals looking on from the corners of the building. A small table turned over, depositing its articles onto the floor and added to the growing mess. Unfortunately, the cat remained completely undeterred.

After a great deal of tossing about, bucking, and terror wreaked throughout the building, Sweetie finally got the cat off of her head. Success! Her hooves clapped loudly on the wood floor as she tried to escape in desperation.

Thoughts raced in her mind over what she could do. I must utilize drastic measures, it seems! The carpet slid out from under her as she rounded a corner, crashing her into a nearby wall. She lay there a moment, surprised. As soon as I get my bearings...

The cat had caught up, and proceeded to continue spitting and swiping at Sweetie, despite her being prone and helpless.

"You can just stay in there forever!" Sweetie managed to shut the door before the cat could leap back out. It had taken three tries, but she finally wrestled the rogue animal into submission and secured it in a separate chamber. The feeling of relief and... thankfulness washed over her.

Running away hadn't worked at all. The cat kept finding her, and she didn't know how to deal with it. Wrestling with the animal had been just as unpleasant as running from it, as she had decided to take care not to hurt the unreasonable thing. In retrospect, she concluded the cat had been more of an extreme nuisance to her, rather than a threat, but she had still felt something... The word came to her eventually, it was 'afraid'.

Sweetie Belle sat in the middle of the hall, thinking over things. That's a really strange word. The definition of 'afraid' and all of its brothers and sisters of a similar meaning hung in her mechanical brain. After a bit of time—which part of her annoyingly kept saying amounted to precisely one minute, three seconds—she moved past the new oddity.

"Well..." she paused and looked for a word or phrase that would sound right, like so many others she had come up with. "Thank goodness? Thank goodness that's over with," is what she settled on. Thinking was getting easier the more she did it, she noticed. The act stayed confusing, and felt odd, but she thought she was getting the hang of all the flashing lights and things she could see in her head all the time.

Sweetie blinked and thought over her words. It seemed like she was just thinking and saying things on occasion because they felt right. The word 'instinct' popped into her head. Every time she learned something this way, it felt... good, too. "Thinking is hard, Sweetie. Maybe not as challenging as wrestling cats... but it is not easy. Oh, I do sort of... enjoy? Enjoy talking to myself." She smiled after making the small revelation.

"Now, what was I doing?" Her head turned and poked itself back into the other room towards the recliner. The servos in her neck whirred tiredly, perhaps a bit stressed from their recent punishment. I remember. I was thinking about Glados before, and Hal and the animals and... Stephanie. Hm. She wondered a bit more on the subject which had been abruptly torn from her earlier.

What exactly was Stephanie, she wondered. That led to other questions, like: why was Stephanie there? Or why was she, either? What made her think the things she thought? It seemed to Sweetie like she should know those things.

A groan ebbed out of her, effectively replacing the satisfaction she had gained from incapacitating her enemy. "Stephanieeee, where are you?" She picked herself up from the ground, ignoring the confusing sounds some of the other animals around her made.

Finding answers seemed like the thing to do.

Sweetie Belle had yet to try several avenues of information gathering. True, her mind seemed to hold a lot of interesting information, but it was a jumble. Searching through it all was almost as confusing as the information she did manage to find.

"What exactly is an aardvark?" Sweetie asked aloud "And why does it go first?". Of course, the question went unanswered. It was apparently a series of words which defined it as some type of mammal, but what did it all that mean? Judging by the picture of it in her head it sure looked weird.

The living room opened up before Sweetie, and her eyes scanned over the state it was currently in. There was a large amount of fallout from her recent skirmishes with that particular cat. It still struck her as odd that the other animals had only avoided them both, rather than render it assistance, not that she wasn't... thankful for that.

There was something else she felt, too.

Sweetie's eyes narrowed once again while she focused. Shame. Regret. Guiltiness. She blinked. I feel ashamed? Her eyes again swept over the messy room she had created. The feelings, followed closely by the definitions, had sort of just come to her in the same way so many others had, such as her feelings towards Stephanie... or the cat; the cat, of course, was contempt.

Sweetie stepped around a small stool that had been toppled earlier. Why do I feel guilty? I wonder... Once again, her own thoughts had her completely stumped. Perhaps I did another bad?

One of Sweetie Belle's hooves crunched slightly on one of the several dozen items that now lay spread across the various floors of the building. The noise got her attention, and she stopped to look down at it.

"What is this?" she asked.

An exploratory hoof reached out and poked a part of the strange device. Before a definition could reveal itself, a burst of noise sounded from nearby, and made Sweetie jerk her head up in response. Her mouth opened slightly, feeling surprised, but she didn't yet speak.

The television had done something, she realized.

Pictures began scrolling and moving across the screen. She noticed that there were people inside, but they weren't the real kind like Stephanie. Interestingly enough, the images themselves were shifting at a rate that did not quite match the speed of the things they represented. Hmm, inefficient, Sweetie decided. Still, she also decided it was good not to judge others.

Sweetie trotted up to the television and sat before it, smiling. It seemed wise to look happy for others, for some reason.

"Hello," she tried to interrupt. Oddly, the TV kept talking, rather than not talk at all like Glados had. Confused, but not deterred, Sweetie went on with her attempt to get TV's attention. "You seem to be capable of communication, television. I... have had poor luck with it, so far. So I apologize if I am not optimal in my methods."

The television did not stop what it had been communicating before, which was an unrelated and possibly random declaration about things called 'baked beans'.

Sweetie kept waiting. Her legs shuffled slightly, and she began to feel something else new... nervousness. I am nervous? she wondered briefly, but filed away the thought rather than pursue it.

Something changed suddenly. Sweetie got her hopes up, still listening intently... only to have them dashed again as the television began talking aloud about some sort of purple weather forecast. The baked beans had been a ruse, it seemed.

Sweetie frowned, and continued to wait for a sensible response. Interrupting the television again didn't seem like the logical thing to do. After a few more minutes of the weather forecast, the mysterious baked beans returned.

Something called... frustration, filled Sweetie. "Uggh," she groaned, imitating the sound Stephanie had made when upset. "I don't understand, television. What does that mean?" She tilted her head, which had usually gotten a response out of Stephanie. Sadly, the television droned on.

Sweetie's eyes narrowed as they had with the cat. "Could you please talk to me? Don't talk at me. Conversation requires two participants responding to one another from various vocal and or visual prompts. Do you not understand communication?" She stood up, waiting for her answer, while giving the television a chance to make up its previous errors. "Please respond?" she tried.

The TV continued to be stubborn and spoke as if it could not hear her.

Sweetie, feeling more and more upset, sighed, which was also a thing Stephanie did whenever things did not match her expectation.

It was a very odd gesture in and of itself, but if Stephanie did it, then it must be... normal. Plus, it did feel like the right thing to do when exasperated, even if she was just copying the sound of one... It was odd. Odder than the act itself, perhaps, was why it seemed to work differently for Stephanie. After looking into it, Sweetie had found she didn't make the sound the same way, which was done through a process called breathing.

That all confused her a lot, so she refocused on the issue of finding answers to her other questions.

Sweetie walked right up to television, then stood up. She rested her hooves on his, her or its front, and tapped her hoof against the device's glass face. "Come on, please talk to me? I said please." The television remained random in its chosen dialogue. "Ooh..." She sat back on the floor with a thump.

Sweetie stared regretfully at the floor and began to walk away. "I just want somebody to talk to me..."

Sweetie Belle had roamed the entirety of the house in search of answers. The whole time she had hoped to find Stephanie, but she was nowhere to be found at all in the building. It had seemed by that point, that going to the outside and searching would be the next logical step.

Maybe if I only looked a little bit? she asked herself. For some reason, the thought of going further from the basement, where she had started, filled her with... apprehension.

Sweetie sat by the window, where she had been stared after first having the thought. Hesitation kept her from venturing out again, or at least further than the building's porch. Once again, a strange feeling and odd ideas had come to her, this time keeping her in place.

There was also the 'program' thing, dictating obnoxiously she wasn't 'allowed' to leave.

It wasn't that Sweetie distrusted that part of her. Its information hadn't been wrong yet, after all, but the constant nagging was getting... annoying; that was the right word.

Sweetie Belle groaned out loud, silently thanked Stephanie for showing her such a great way to express displeasure, then hopped off the window sill. To get back on the floor, she used the same chair that had given her the necessary reach to use the window sill. Jumping down was also an option, but she felt a similar feeling to that of dealing with the cat about jumping so far. The safety of a gradual climb down seemed optimal.

After using the chair to reach the floor again, Sweetie Belle heard a loud crashing sound. Her ears quickly translated the sound for her, and she was able to determine that it sounded like shattering, possibly glass or...

Sweetie Belle turned around, and spotted a broken lamp laying on the floor beside the chair she had used. Its rubber power cord had apparently been dragged after catching her hoof. A ceramic material made the sound! She smiled and rejoiced briefly after managing to solve a puzzle on her own. "I wonder if Stephanie will be happy that I solved a problem?" Her smile grew a fraction at the idea, then shrunk again when she remembered how many problems she still had yet to solve.

"Hm..." Sweetie searched the room again. Perhaps finding Stephanie wasn't an option, she admitted to herself, but there were still things she had yet to try. Talking to Hal again, for instance, seemed like one option. The memory of her being joined with him for a brief time was one of her earliest 'new' memories, as she recalled.

Sweetie's memories were an odd jumble, but she could clearly separate her 'old' one from her 'new' ones, especially because there were many, many 'old' memories in Sweetie's head. She liked those ones, but they felt different than her 'new' ones. The 'old' memories had a lot to do with Stephanie and being around her, but they lacked something.

Sweetie narrowed her eyes as she struggled for a good word to describe the feeling she that separated her memories. "Maybe Stephanie will know? Where is she?" A sorrowful glance around the room while wondering if she ever would come back almost made her leave the house despite the constant insistence from her 'program' not to. In fact, one memory in particular kept her from doing just that. Her 'old' memories were quite sure that every time Stephanie did leave, she eventually came back.

"That does seem the optimal solution. I do not really like inaction, but it is what will produce results." So, with another displeased sigh, Sweetie resolved to wait for her Stephanie. Resigned to waiting, that only left finding answers to her questions as something to do.

Unfortunately, as Steph was not present, her only other known method of finding answers was one she was hesitant to attempt.

The trip Sweetie took to the... basement, was short. She briefly reflected on her decision to go back there.

The events from before Stephanie left remained fresh in Sweetie's mind. Hal had been told something by Steph, and then something had... pressed against her through the cable that created a data... 'bridge' between her and Hal.

Sweetie had pushed back on... it was instinct, she decided, and did to Hal whatever he had attempted on her. Whatever had transpired between them, she decided it had not been pleasant. Hal is not as bad as the cat, at least, but I did not like the cat pushing me, so he might feel the same way... Even if he started it. I hope Hal will at least talk to me. Glados certainly hadn't. Perhaps talking to Glados requires a cable, similar to how I had been connected to Hal? If true, Sweetie decided that still didn't seem like an option because Glados was so high up.

The memory of the object called a 'data transfer cable' among other things, would never be able to reach Glados. In some ways, Sweetie found her own diminutive form... humbling. It also caused her some... stress, she decided.

While descending the long flight of stairs, Sweetie looked around curiously. The lights were on still, for which she was... grateful. It seemed she could not see well in the dark. Her memory contained a... lot of darkness. She thought she could see hours of it remembered in a recent piece of her memory.

Sweetie Belle continued down the stairwell until she reached the bottom, and let out a triumphant, "Hooray!" which was the sort of thing one apparently said when goals were met. It was a small victory, but one she accepted gladly.

Her hooves clicked quietly on the... concrete floor, while her eyes scanned the familiar surroundings; the basement was where she saw Stephanie for the first time, which meant she liked the basement.

Circular, reddish black orbs surrounded the big space. There was one on each wall and a fifth over by the tall stack of miniature televisions.

Sweetie stood before the closest one, and looked up at it. "Hey, wake up!" she attempted, mimicking Stephanie once again. She had been fascinated by Hal's and Steph's communications. The thought of having such dialogues herself was... exciting.

The dull red circle sat on the wall, but did not respond.

"Secondary solution needed." Sweetie frowned, then looked all around, eager to find out what next she should do in order to find answers. She must locate that data... cable... thingy, if there was to be any progress. Her eyes scanned and scanned as she made her rounds, but there was no sign of the little insulated rubber encapsulated strands of wire necessary for a bridge with Hal.

Sweetie's eyes narrowed while she bit onto the handle of a thing called a 'drawer', then pulled it open. The topmost drawer was pulled out of the... desk, and toppled out to spill its contents all over the floor.

"So much... uh, stuff." Sweetie Belle scanned all of the articles, pushing a few around with her hoof yo get better looks at all of them. There were several wires, in truth, but none of the metal prongs or slots on their end matched her own... data port. That sort of information was easy for her to understand, at least. Many things confused her quite easily, but... technology and computers were quite simple and easy. Her own... specifications, were especially one of the most prominent things in her mind.

Despite the comforting time she was having looking over all of the bits of technology in the basement area, Sweetie could still not locate her objective... until her eyes settled on a little cord dangling from the corner of the room, just behind the desk.

"Hooray! Parameters met, data acquisition imminent." Sweetie smiled and trotted across the floor, stepping lightly over the various items strewn over the concrete. Reaching forward gently, she took the cord in her mouth, then gave it a light tug.

This is... exciting! I should first ask about— Oh no! Sweetie Belle jumped back as she detected very rapid motion above her head.

A device, along with several other little things and... paper, crashed all around her.

"Ah!" Sweetie danced away from the instantly formed avalanche of office supplies and equipment. She back up so quickly that another cord took her by surprise, entangling one of her legs and depositing her on the ground. Her body clanged along with the rustling of the scattered debris. The... surprise that she had felt, slowly began to leave as things settled further.

While attempting to figure out a way to plug the cord into herself, she apparently did not notice the consequences of the little tug she had given the cord.

Sweetie made a new face utilizing the movements of her facial parts. Her eyes turned down at their edges slightly, joining the upside down smile that quickly sprang up. "I... oops..." She blinked, studying the accident that had occurred around her.

The little things that had fallen were called 'pens', and there was something that used to be called a cup shattered on the ground. Sweetie's eyes zoomed in, then out over the remains that more or less resembled the lamp upstairs. "Hm, more numerous fragments..." She stopped in her observations and stood up quickly, a brief stroke of... panic, occurring within her.

Sweetie looked all around as quickly as she could, until she found what she was looking for. The cable sat completely unharmed where she had dropped it from her mouth.

Relief washed over Sweetie. "Thank goodness, objective was not compromised." A smile took up its position once again on her expression and she trotted towards it.

Once reached, she lay down on her side amidst the random bits and pieces of things that had toppled off the desk. Her legs found a great resting spot on something called a 'keyboard'. From this position, she had found that her neck and forelegs together could just barely reach the little port in her side. It was in the center of a mostly white, blank spot on her left hind leg apparatus.

Finally, Sweetie considered after getting the cord plugged in. Now I can ask my questions!... Well that's odd. While already thinking again about what she would ask first, she absently noticed that the interface with Hal was different than before. There was certainly communication happening, but it was not Hal that she had formed a bridge with.

Sweetie Belle groaned, in failure, and absently traced where the cord led towards. She felt a little betrayed, because the cable's source did not seem likely to be Hal after all, as she had assumed it would be. I have made an error. A... mistake. Interesting. Instead, what the cable led towards was a large, plastic box with a clear glass front like television's screen. This one was badly cracked, though, likely from its fall from the desk.

Sweetie zoomed in on the device with her eyes, studying its interface and design. Her brain-dictionary thing seemed to think it might be something called a 'satellite radio'. Likewise, her eyes scanned over the device thoroughly, wondering if perhaps it could give her answers. The more she attempted speaking with it, the less and less that seemed likely. It had a memory unit, similar to Hal's, or hers for that matter, but no... intelligence, like hers.

For the first time, Sweetie Belle briefly wondered why that was. Hm... another question with no answer. She frowned, and moved on with her examination.

The memory in the device was useless. It just had very strange... files and data that made no sense, like so much else in her head. She thought maybe they meant something, but wasn't sure yet. Curious about what the device might be for, she explored its outside. Perhaps he is like the television? I hope she talks less than the television... If it's as rude as the television I'm leaving him on the floor.

Sweetie Belle was able to find what looked to be something that would produce results, and pressed a button called 'power'. She thought it would be logical for the device to work like the other machines she had met.

"Ah!" Sweetie gasped.

Loud crackling noises had startled Sweetie and made her duck out of sight from the new machine.

The strange noises were coming out from the walls, as it turned out. Sweetie peeked around the corner slowly, looking towards the source. The sound was actually being made by a few sets of things, which she was told were called 'speakers'. On top of that, now that she had gotten over her initial surprise, she found that she quite enjoyed the noises.

On the floor, the radio device crackled on once again; a big, long list of different frequencies and strange title-like names began scrolling across the bright screen. "Ooooh," Sweetie leaned in close, ears whirling to face forward on the sides of her head.

The sounds that seemed to be made up of voices from people and... instruments, were pretty interesting.

Her legs bobbed slightly while she listened. "Hm..." Curious, her hooves began poking at the device. There were lots of other selections. Are these all different fun-noises? she thought, a little unsure about what to call the mish-mash of sounds.

Sweetie's hoof clicked a button and the screen scrolled. A different song began to play.

"Ooooh!" Sweetie smiled again, listening intently to the new song. Her voice did the strange modulation in pitch as well, something that seemed to be hardwired into her. She didn't mind it, and didn't try to change it, but she did notice it a lot. What she did change was the volume of the sounds being played. Using the data cable, she told the little radio to play them a little louder; it obliged her.

The music continued to play, still commanding the majority of her attention. Her short tail swished behind in time to the pattern of the instruments and the... singer. Next, her hoof started tapping, too, almost all on its on. Wow, a singer, she considered appreciatively. I like singers.

A slight frown developed at one corner of Sweetie's mouth. "Hm, what else can you play, radio?"

The radio merely sat there; its glowing blue screen dimming slightly was the response that Sweetie received.

"Helloooo. You do not talk either?" Sweetie frowned bigger, staring the device from where she still leaned on the table with her front hooves.

The weird sounds continued from the radio's friends, the speakers, but there was no answer in either sound or text form.

Sub-optimal... Sweetie mourned dejectedly. Oh well, I hope he doesn't mind if I keep listening to her... her... 'vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.' She squinted her eyes slightly after reading the definition that had been given to her. No. I want the word, not the meaning! she yelled at herself.

Music.

The word 'music' had been suddenly shoved in her face by her more often confusing than helpful programming.

Sweetie smiled again and thanked herself promptly, finally having obtained the word she was looking for. Sometimes, finding the right thing in her own head was very difficult, it seemed. Good job, me! Thank you. Her hoof clicked the button, which was called 'shuffle', whatever that meant, and a new song began.

"Muuuuusic." Sweetie Belle's eyes unfocused slightly as the sounds began to drum from the walls around her. "I really like music..." she decided. Her tail began brushing and swishing rapidly over the floor, sending pens, erasers and pencils scattering everywhere.

After an over enthusiastic bit of button pressing, the music-making-friend Sweetie had made ceased to function properly, or at all. She hoped he was just recharging, sleeping, or hibernating. It had been for the best, she reflected, he had distracted her from gathering information, after all. Another cord had been found, which had proved to be the one she had sought after: Hal's.

Now, Sweetie Belle stared at numbers that stretched for a very, very long way. She didn't know what exactly they were for, while also knowing exactly what they were. Which made them pretty confusing. Those facts alone, however, were enough to bring a strange thought to her mind. But, why do I know what they mean?

The numbers moving before her were Hal's, she guessed. It seemed right to think of them as belonging to him. Briefly, she thought over whether or not taking them from him before had been the right thing to do.

The night before, something had happened with Hal. A part of Sweetie dutifully noted it had been so many hours, minutes and seconds ago. She groaned, and quickly ignored the message by pushing it away.

The night before, Sweetie had been... pushed, or told by Hal to deactivate. He hadn't asked very nicely, either. It was strange, and a part of her refused, while a part of her was very accepting of the command. Stranger still, was the odd feeling it had given her when she didn't listen and tried to stay awake.

Pain? Sweetie thought back. Her legs adjusted themselves a little after recalling the dim memory. It wasn't a pleasant one, so it made sense that she tried not to recall it. Experiencing the feeling again was certainly not something that she wanted to do, and it made her hesitate from moving forward. Hal's actions were even worse than the cat, she concluded.

Sweetie shook her head and tried to... forget the memory.

Still, Hal might have answers, which she needed. After recalling the details of that night and what she had done in retaliation, it was easy for her to fix what she guessed she had actually broken. The odd numbers began reassembling quickly at her command.

"Oh, dear, I really hope Hal isn't... upset? Angry?" It had occurred to her that he might be annoyed as she had been with the cat. "Yes, I hope he isn't upset with me for breaking something of his." Sweetie Belle put on a hopeful smile while repairing the damage she had done. Something else about the word 'broken' tickled the back of her thoughts, but preoccupied as her work kept her, she didn't pause to give it deeper thought.

Stephanie parked her van the same way she always did, carefully. Her garage was behind a gate, and behind the gate was more often than not several animals; such as her goat, chickens, or something similar. After getting said gate open, it was a matter of quickly driving in and pulling the gate sides shut before someone got too interested in what lay outside.

At least these guys are behaved, Stephanie reflected, dragging one skittery fellow away from the opening without too much effort. The billy goat decided to start chewing on the rope and begin a game of tug of war with her. Sort of behaved, anyway. Grunting and pulling back hard, she managed to get the stubborn animal close enough to the fence and tie him still for a moment. Then, it was just a matter of getting the van in and...

The sound of nearby motors buzzing in movement made Stephanie look up at the house's porch. In addition to those sounds, were the tell-tale clunking sounds of metal legs on wood.

"Stephanie!"

"Sweetie?" Stephanie stared for a moment. Sweetie Belle was smiling and fast approaching her position. "I don't believe it," she whispered to herself. Her entire talk with Alice and the confidence she had built up to fix her machines all flew away once again, like a flock of birds heading south for the winter.

"Stephanie! You have returned!" Sweetie Belle again exclaimed happily. Her eyes zoomed in and out of focus, almost unable to accept that Steph was finally back. It had taken so many micro-seconds. She raced towards the end of the wooden platform beneath her called a 'porch'.

"I had... hoped? I had hoped that if I waited you would come back!" Sweetie Belle clunked down the stairs excitedly and as quickly as she could towards Stephanie; it proved to be too quick. After losing her balance her leg clipped the end of one stair, sending her toppling forward down the slight obstacle. "Ow. Ow. Ow..."

Sweetie Belle heard the sound of rocks crunching beneath her as she landed, which she surmised was the gravel her eyes had seen in the point four seconds before she had miscalculated her descent down the stairs. Her memories of before seemed quite sure she was good at never making mistakes, which she guessed meant something must be wrong with her.

Still, that wasn't important at the moment; Stephanie was home. Sweetie Belle looked up, an overwhelming joy filling her.

At the same time, Stephanie stared back down at the little robot from where she had frozen entirely. She was completely at a loss as to how Sweetie Belle was outside, or now that she thought about it, was online at all. "You have got to be freaking kidding me," she muttered.

Stephanie watched while Sweetie Belle's little smile shrank a little, but her big glass eyes remained locked with her own.

Author's Note:

Had a fun time writing this. I wish I had come up with this chapter's jokes and what not sooner! It was fun to write, and thinking about Sweetie rolling on the ground in a fight with a cat was a joy.

I hope to have more out soon, folks, hopefully it won't take so long again. As a brief aside yes I do know where this story is going. I'm not making things up as I go for the long run. (just little stuff, such as an encounter with a toaster which I cut from this chapter.) :twilightsmile:

Hm, another slight note. Obviously I'm not going to give too much away just yet in the story. Don't think for a moment that ol' Merlos has turned over a new leaf and decided to tell a tale that's up front about what's really going on. Merlos doesn't play his games like that, my little chess pieces...