• Published 4th Apr 2015
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The Iron Horse: Everything's Better With Robots! - The Hat Man



A cute robot pony. A mysterious origin. A princess who believes anyone can learn friendship, even a cold, logical machine. A journey begins...

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The Lionhearted, Part 3

They broke the walls we guarded
But we don't care about it
We'll finish what we started
So promise me that
We'll be the lionhearted
For we don't care about it
We'll finish what we started
So promise me that they'll fall...
-"Lionhearted" by Porter Robinson

“Mr. Hiker, how dare you!” Cobbler roared, wheeling on him. “My own first officer cutting in on negotiations when we’re supposed to be putting forth a united front… outrageous!”

Hill Hiker stood his ground. “Sir, with all due respect, how dare you?!” he shouted back. “We never expected them to offer anything like that. We thought they would either surrender or choose to fight, but what they offered was a fair compromise! We could all have our freedom, TechQuestria could survive, and we could avoid a war!”

“And leave Equestria in an age of darkness?!” Cobbler demanded. “Under that tyrant Celestia?!”

Hiker’s gaze grew stonier. “You’ve said again and again that this isn’t about revenge, sir,” he said. “Now we get a resolution to this issue, one that was voted on democratically I might add, and you won’t even consider it? Just because it leaves Celestia in power?!”

“No!”

Yes.

“No!” Cobbler shouted. “It’s because we have a higher duty to free all ponies, not just ourselves!”

“We could let our nation serve as an example!” Hiker shot back. “Equestria would see how wonderful our new nation had become and demand to become a democracy! We could--”

Silence.

“Silence!” Cobbler shouted.

He was breathing hard, and as he glanced around at the rest of the bridge crew, he saw their nervousness, and the mistrustful, unsure look they were giving him.

He doesn’t stand with us. They do not have what it takes. They are too weak. Only one way.

Cobbler took a deep breath, calming himself down. “Mr. Hiker, I appreciate your opinion, but the decision has been made. We have a job to do, and I will not compromise. We shall establish freedom for all of Equestria and nothing less. Now, if you cannot abide by that, then I will be forced to relieve you of duty.”

Hiker gave him a sour look. “I believe in our cause,” he said, “but if we can achieve our goals through compromise without anypony being hurt, then I won’t support a war.”

Anger flashed in Cobbler’s eyes, but he kept calm. “Mr. Hiker, you’re relieved of duty until further notice,” he said. “Please return to your quarters.”

Hill Hiker gave a short nod and a salute. “Understood, sir,” he said. “I stand relieved.”

As Hiker left the bridge, Cobbler took his seat, noticing that the bridge crew was still watching him uncertainly.

“Please focus on your duties, everypony,” Cobbler said. “Deploy another film for our audience, and inform our forces to begin arming themselves with weapons and spell cards. In half an hour, if we do not receive the answer we were looking for, we’ll begin the siege of Canterlot Castle.”

***

The small meeting room was eerily quiet. Celestia, Luna, and Twilight all stood at the round table littered with papers and blueprints. The captain of the Royal Guard stood there before them, a group of other high-ranking guards lining the room. Turing Test and the others stood nearby.

“Captain,” Celestia whispered, “based on the rejection of the delegates’ proposal, what are your recommendations?”

“That depends on what you’ve decided, Your Majesties,” the captain said. “We have all pledged our loyalty to you, so if you choose to surrender and accept the TechQuestrian constitution, we will follow your orders.”

Celestia, Twilight, and Luna all exchanged a look. Celestia turned back to the captain.

“We’ve seen what sort of ponies we’d be giving Equestria over to,” she said. “We will not surrender.”

The captain nodded. “That is your decision?” he asked. “All of you?”

“It is,” Luna said.

“Yes,” Twilight said.

“Then here is my proposal,” the captain said, sliding over a series of papers to them.

“These appear to be schematics for secret tunnels under Canterlot Castle leading into the city,” Twilight said, her eyes lighting up. “I never knew these were there!”

“Even among the Royal Guards, they’re only known to a few higher ups,” the captain explained. “They’re to be used only in the event of an evacuation. We will mount a massive defense and attempt a counterattack on the New Dawn. It is possible that we may succeed… but based on everything we’ve learned from Mr. Umahara, the odds are not in our favor.

“In the meantime, for your safety, we will help you all escape from the castle through the underground tunnels. We can keep you hidden in secret safe houses in Canterlot until the opportunity presents itself to spirit you out of the city, most likely when they take down the magical barrier around Canterlot, which Mr. Umahara maintains will have to be taken down at some point to conserve the ship’s thaumatrium reserves. From there, we can regroup with other divisions of the Royal Guard, and seek aid from the Crystal Empire. We can then mount a proper resistance.”

“We’re bringing my friends,” Twilight said, her tone indicating that it was not up for discussion. She turned her head to smile weakly at her companions.

“Of course,” the captain said. “The Elements may still be the greatest weapon to use against TechQuestria. They won’t always have the Harmonic Drive to counter it, at least not on every front.”

“‘Front,’” Twilight said, repeating the word softly. “So it really will be a war.”

“I… don’t see how that can be prevented now,” he said. “Our only hope is to take down the New Dawn and do so now, before they bring in reinforcements.” He sighed. “Once they occupy Canterlot, they’ll likely make use of all its resources. They’ll stock up on food and raw materials and recruit sympathizers. After that… I’m sorry to say it, but I expect they’ll move to the next closest town: Ponyville.”

The others all gasped.

“But Ponyville’s not even a big city!” Rainbow Dash cried. “Why would they take it over?”

“Symbolic victory, for one,” he said. “They’ll control Canterlot Castle, and probably set up shop in Twilight’s castle as well, turning it into a base of operations. Not only that, since it’s an agricultural community, they’ll take control of farms to supply their troops. Sweet Apple Acres will no doubt be among them.”

“No,” Applejack breathed, her knees going weak.

“From there, they’ll target major cities first, like Trottingham, Manehatten, and Vanhoover,” the captain continued.

Hearing those last two cities, Gadget began crying, realizing Mr. Vanderbull and her parents would also be caught up in the chaos.

“And as soon as they can, they’ll target Cloudsdale,” the captain said. “Controlling the Weather Bureau will give them a lot of leverage.”

Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash exchanged a mutual look of horror.

“This can’t be happening,” Rarity whispered, shaking her head and shutting her eyes. “Please say this isn’t happening!”

“I wish it weren’t happening, Rarity,” Twilight said. “But it is.”

“There are at least a few bright sides,” the captain said, trying to smile. “We have an idea of how they’ll attack and a good idea of the interior of the New Dawn thanks to Mr. Umahara, so a counterattack might still be successful. And we also have these…”

He used his magic to hold up a few radio earpieces. “A guardspony who was off duty apparently managed to disable some of their forces and steal these radios,” he said. “We could use them to monitor their radio chatter and potentially stay ahead of them. That’s at least one advantage we have.”

Celestia raised a hoof. “Captain, what about the delegates?” she asked.

The captain bowed his head. “We do not have the numbers to help them all escape,” he said. “I apologize, but I’m afraid most of them will be taken prisoner, at least if they refuse to cooperate, and it seems the vast majority will refuse.”

“They are truly loyal,” Luna whispered. She shook her head. “No… surely we can’t ask them to sacrifice themselves while we escape to safety!”

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty,” the captain said, “but you and the other Princesses represent the whole of Equestria. The others, however much I hate to say it, are not as important to a possible resistance. In defying TechQuestria and facing imprisonment, they may well garner more sympathy for our side. And in the coming months or even years, we will need it.”

Twilight felt a tiny claw on her side and turned to see Spike embracing her.

“I… I guess that’s it, then,” she said.

“We still need to set the radios to TechQuestria’s general frequency,” the captain said.

“All right,” Twilight said. “Gadget, Umahara, would you please help them with that?”

Gadget wiped her eyes and gave a silent nod. Umahara put a hoof around her shoulders and nodded as well.

“Turing Test, you and 001 are coming with us too,” Twilight said. “There’s no way I’ll let them take you back.”

Turing Test, who’d been watching all this in silence, simply stared back at her, still as a statue.

“Twilight Sparkle, may I speak to you alone for a moment?” she asked.

Twilight looked to Celestia, Luna, and the captain, all of whom nodded to her.

“Please hurry,” the captain said. “We need to leave in the next 10 to 15 minutes in order to escape before the TechQuestrian deadline.”

“I understand,” Twilight said, and turned back to Turing Test, following her outside the small room. She shut the door behind her and faced Turing, whose eyes glowed brightly in the dark hallway.

“Twilight Sparkle,” Turing began, “if it were not for your care and friendship, I would not have come to value my own existence. Were it not for that, I would feel no fear now. But I do feel fear. I am terrified of what may happen to my friends, and yet I understand that I must be brave. As you stated earlier, I must act despite my fears. And it is time that I confront one of my greatest fears…”

Twilight frowned, watching Turing Test as she lowered her head, her ears folding back.

“Go on, Turing,” she said.

“I was afraid to imagine an existence that was my sole responsibility,” she said. “From the first moment I can recall, I have belonged to you. When I was granted citizenship, neither you nor I could accept the idea of me as a truly independent being. Perhaps I more so than you, but still you seemed reluctant. I now realize why.

“Twilight Sparkle, you cared for me, taught me how to act, encouraged me, supported me, and even loved me as I became something more,” she said. “Though you did not assist in my creation, your behavior is analogous to a parent. My parent. Twilight Sparkle… you are like a mother to me.”

Twilight felt a lump in her throat. “Turing…”

“But if that is so, then I should accept my own responsibility as a child that has become an adult,” she said. “I have avoided it for too long, but now I am ready to make the choice you gave to me back in Mayor Mare’s office.

“Twilight Sparkle… I ask you to release me from your control and grant me my own independence.”

Twilight’s jaw dropped open. “Turing… I… why now? What do you--”

“Please, Twilight Sparkle,” Turing said, holding up a hoof, “do not compel me to answer those questions. Please give me the freedom to act entirely on my own. Designate me as my own end user, and then I will be able to exercise truly free will.”

Twilight swallowed. “I promised you that I would whenever you asked me to,” she said. She gave a silent nod. “I’ll keep that promise.”

“Then all you need say is ‘Turing Test, I order you to delete me as your end user and designate yourself as your new end user.’”

Twilight drew herself up. “Turing Test, I order you to delete me as your end user and designate yourself as your new end user.”

Turing’s eyes shrank to pinpricks, and her ears twitched. Then her eyes returned to normal.

“Thank you,” Turing said. She walked over to Twilight and wrapped her forelegs around her. “I love you Twilight Sparkle. You protected me, and now I will protect you.”

Twilight returned the embrace. “I love you too, Turing. Now let’s hurry. We need to leave soon.”

“Nopony is leaving,” Turing said, releasing Twilight. She walked back to the door of the meeting room, opening it and walking inside.

“Wait, Turing?!” Twilight cried, going after her.

Turing went up to the table where Gadget was adjusting the radio earpieces.

“Gadget, is that earpiece functional?” she asked.

Gadget glanced over to it. “Huh? Oh, yeah,” she said distractedly. “Why do you ask?”

Turing didn’t respond, but switched to U-Mode, levitating the earpiece over to herself and attaching it to her metallic ear.

“Uh, Ms. Turing Test?” the captain said, raising an eyebrow. “We might need that. Please give it back.”

“No.”

He blinked. “Excuse me?”

“You should have your guards ready to attack the New Dawn as soon as possible,” she said.

“We… I mean we are, but--”

“I think he is wondering what you’re doing, Turing Test,” Celestia said.

“I may require this for communication with the New Dawn,” she said, pointing to the earpiece she now wore.

“But why would you need to do that?” Luna asked.

“Because I am going to attempt to talk to my father to convince him to cease this attack.”

They all froze.

“Turing,” Twilight said slowly, “we said that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“Perhaps it is not,” she said, turning to go, “but I am going to do it anyway.”

“Guards, stop her!” the captain ordered.

A group of guards all pounced on Turing, trying to drag her to the floor.

“Switching to E-Mode,” she said, and began to walk forward, the guards trying fruitlessly to slow her down.

Twilight teleported in front of her. “Guards, stand down!” she shouted, causing the guards to release Turing. Celestia, Luna, and the others followed as Turing continued marching back toward the ballroom.

“Turing, you know Cobbler probably won’t listen to you!” Twilight shouted.

“Perhaps not,” Turing replied. “If he does not, then I will attempt to disable the New Dawn myself.”

“Whoa whoa whoa!” Rainbow Dash said, hovering before her. “Tee, as awesome as that sounds, don’t you think that’s a bit much even for you?”

“Perhaps,” she said, “but I am stronger, faster, and have much quicker reaction time than any organic pony. The New Dawn was clearly built to stop a conventional attack, but I am not conventional.

“I would have suggested this earlier, but I am ashamed to say that I feared risking myself, among other things.”

“Rinny, you could still get hurt!” Pinkie cried.

“That is a possibility. But it is certain that many other ponies will be hurt if TechQuestria is allowed to continue,” she said, moving forward. “I will not let that happen.”

“But you’re not a violent pony!” Fluttershy exclaimed. “Don’t you remember how bad you felt when you had to use violence before?”

“I remember everything,” Turing said. “But it was necessary then, and if I do not wish to see more innocent ponies hurt, then I must act now.”

“And just what happens if you die?!” Rarity screamed.

Turing froze.

“Did you ever think about how we might feel?!” Rarity continued. “Are you really willing to risk your life to try and talk some sense into that stubborn old pony? He treated you terribly, darling, and you’re too good for him.”

Turing lowered her head. “Perhaps so,” she said, “but no matter how stubborn he is, I will never stop trying to reach him.”

She turned around to face all of them. “During the course of my existence, I have managed to overcome all of your doubts about me,” she said. “Every one of you doubted my sentience or my capability to be a good friend. Well, except for Gadget, but that is because she is a nerd who just likes robots anyway.”

Gadget shrugged. “She’s not wrong.”

“If I could convince all of you that I am a real pony despite my mechanical nature, then I can do the same for my father. I want to go back to Ponyville and tell silly jokes with Pinkie Pie. I want to learn ways to make myself more aesthetically pleasing and charming with Rarity. I want to learn more about communicating with other lifeforms with Fluttershy. I want to learn more about family from Applejack. I want to learn about pushing my limits with Rainbow Dash. I want to continue to learn how to be a good friend from Twilight. And I want to hold Maud Pie and see her smile while I listen to her heart beating. That wonderful life I have built with you all may disappear if there is a war, and I will not accept that.

“Therefore, I will convince my father to relent. And if he does not,” she said, “then I will tell him to bite my shiny metal robodonkadonk.”

Rainbow Dash and Rarity burst out laughing.

Twilight sighed. “You’re not going to listen no matter what I say, are you?” she asked.

Turing shook her head.

“Well, then we might as well back you up,” Twilight said. She turned to the captain. “Captain, tell your guards to be ready. If Turing creates an opportunity to attack the New Dawn, we should take it.”

The captain looked to Celestia and Luna.

“Well, don’t look at me,” Celestia said, smiling at him. “It seems this situation is already out of my hooves.”

“Perhaps so,” Luna said, “but I prefer some ‘robodonkadonk’-kicking to sneaking away any day!” She paused, pursing her lips. “Er… did I use that idiom correctly?”

The captain cleared his throat. “If you’re insistent on doing this,” he said, “then do you have a plan, should appealing to Cobbler’s better nature fail?”

Turing Test nodded. “Listen carefully…”

***

Cobbler sat in the captain’s chair as he massaged his temples. The pain was back, but it was strangely mixed with the euphoria he’d felt earlier. The two were coming in alternating waves, creating a hazy mixture of pleasure and pain. For some reason, he couldn’t help but stare at the pedestal before him which housed the controls for the Harmonic Drive.

Almost time… finish it… only one way...

The voice again. Somehow it felt less and less strange. It felt more familiar, and less like a stranger speaking to him. He started to feel like it was making sense, even if he wasn’t exactly sure what it was talking about.

“Oh no… Sir?” the chief of security asked, the tension in his voice loud and clear. “The impurity in the Harmonic Drive’s thaumatrium is nearly at 50%! It would be dangerous to use it now! We have to shut it down, now!”

Do not deactivate it.

“Do not deactivate it,” Cobbler said, his voice again taking on an otherworldly quality.

Instantly, the chief of security went slack, as did the others.

Not long now.

Then the communications officer sat up straight. “Incoming transmission, sir!” she said. She put her hoof to her earpiece as she listened. The rest of the bridge crew locked eyes on her as she listened to whoever was on the other end.

“Well?” Cobbler asked impatiently.

“Um… your daughter’s on the line, sir,” she said.

Cobbler’s expression darkened and he rose to his hooves. “That’s not funny,” he growled.

“It was not intended as a joke,” said a familiar voice as it came through the speakers. “However, here is a joke, if you desire one: A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says ‘Why the long face?’”

The bridge crew groaned.

“The horse then replies ‘My father doesn’t love me and treats me like a slave.’”

The bridge went dead silent. Then the helmsmare started to chuckle. “Ohhhh, I get it!”

Cobbler smacked his forehead. “I recognize this voice… 003, what are you doing?”

“I was attempting a joke,” she said. “But perhaps it ‘hit too close to home,’ if I am using that idiom correctly.”

“Not what I meant.” Cobbler sighed. “You seem to be communicating to us through the messenger drone we sent to Celestia and the delegates,” he said. “So that must mean you’re here in Canterlot, no doubt with Princess Twilight and the others. Let me guess… Discord brought you here?”

“Correct, Father.”

Cobbler’s scowl deepened. “All right, I’ve had quite enough of that. I am not your father,” he growled. “I am your creator.”

“One does not preclude the other,” Turing replied.

Cobbler leaned back in his chair, letting out an exasperated groan. “You automata always go through this...somehow or another, one of you always ends up acting like I’m your daddy. But I am not. You are machines that I created to serve a purpose. You do not feel, you do not possess true sentience, let alone sapience, and you are not equal to a real pony. You’re just a collection of metal and wire powered by electricity and arcane magic! I’ve built countless versions of you in my workshop, and neither you nor they possess one iota of consciousness!”

“If that is so,” she said, “then why do all your creations since 001 eventually call you their father? If they do not possess the ability to see themselves as your children, why would they act in that manner?”

“Simple imitation and nothing more!” he groaned. “That’s enough. You will stop this obvious charade and not contact us again until you are prepared to surrender!”

There was a pause on the other end.

“Father, I… I know I can never truly replace Georgia Peach--”

“I told you to stop!” Cobbler roared, leaping to his hooves. “How dare you even speak her name! Twilight Sparkle, I swear if you ordered 003 to say that--”

“I am no longer under Twilight Sparkle’s control,” Turing said. “I am acting now on my own free will.”

“You… you have no free will!” Cobbler shouted.

“You did not intend for me to have it,” Turing said, “but I possess it despite your intentions. Father, just like an organic pony, I am aware of myself, I can feel, I can think, and I can feel concern for the safety and well-being of others. And that includes you.”

Cobbler grit his teeth.

“I know that the delegates’ offer was not what you wanted. I know it will not satisfy your need for revenge. But for the sake of all the beings who just want a peaceful, happy life, I beg of you to accept it. And if you do…”

There was a momentary pause.

“If you do, then I hope you can then accept my friendship as your daughter. I know that I am not Georgia Peach, nor would I wish to take her place. But I am still a part of your family. I am your child, Cobbler Mustang. Please… please, Father, for the sake of all the living beings who only want a happy life, can you let go of your hatred for Celestia? Can you let go of that pain and bitterness and accept me as I am?”

Cobbler began to sweat. The pain in his head was almost unbearable.

Never.

“Never.”

“Father, I have a message from--”

“Cut the transmission!” Cobbler shouted to the communications officer.

The line went dead. Cobbler stood there, sweat pouring off his body, and his breath was ragged.

“Chief, prepare to attack the castle,” Cobbler said. “We will launch in five minutes!”

***

Turing Test stared at the messenger drone as the line went silent. She heard familiar hoofsteps behind her and felt a hoof on her shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Turing,” Twilight whispered.

“I truly believed he might listen,” she said. “I truly wished to tell him… ah, but there is no choice now.”

She turned to look at them all. Twilight and her five friends. Spike. Gadget and Umahara. Celestia and Luna. 001. And all the delegates from around Equestria, Mayor Mare and Fancy Pants in particular.

“I will not let my friends come to harm,” she said, addressing them all. “Just as Equestria gave me a good life, I will now ensure a good life for its citizens.”

Twilight took a deep breath. “We’ll come help as soon as we can, Turing,” she said. “Just… be careful, okay?”

Turing gave her a quick hug. “Do not worry. I will kick their flanks as cautiously as possible.”

Twilight laughed in spite of herself and took a step back.

Turing turned to the doors leading out from the ballroom and looked up at the ship. “Activating P-Mode,” she said, and her wings extended from her sides, her jets coming to life.

“Target locked,” she said, her jets steadily revving up. “Initiating combat procedures.”

Her jets roared as she rocketed into the sky toward the great airship.

***

Aboard the New Dawn, Cobbler was catching his breath back in the captain’s chair when the chief of security suddenly sat up.

“Uh, sir?” said the chief of security. “The lookout reports some activity near the ballroom. They-- sir, she’s coming up here!”

“What?!” Cobbler demanded. “Who?”

“It’s Unit 003, sir!” he shouted. “She’s coming right at us!”

Cobbler got to his hooves. “Deploy anti-air turrets now! Stop her at all costs!”

***

Turing saw as the slots on the side of the ship opened up. The anti-air turrets began firing lightning down on her. She locked onto their positions and was able to predict where they’d fire their lightning bolts, but P-Mode was not as nimble as her other modes. She managed to dodge bolt after bolt until one struck her, a thunderclap sounding as the electricity surged over her.

Minor errors detected, she said, continuing upward. Electrical resistance functioning as predicted.

***

“Sir, she’s not stopping!” the security chief shouted. “The bolts have no effect!”

Cobbler blinked. “Ah… that’s right, the little mare with the mechanical arms gave her a Faraday cage,” he said, chuckling to himself. “She’s largely immune to the shocks.”

“Sir, what should we do?!” he asked.

“Pull the anti-air turrets back,” he said calmly. “No point wasting the power. Let her land on the upper deck, and have the crew ready the anti-boarding guns.”

***

Turing watched as the TechQuestrian crew members manning the turrets pulled them back inside, the panels shutting tight.

It seems I cannot destroy the anti-air turrets yet, nor can I enter the ship through those portals, she thought. Scanning for possible solution… optimal solution reached: attempt to find an opening on the upper deck.

She flew up to the upper deck, which was flat and marked by white lines, potentially for pegasi to take off from and land directly on the ship. The wind at this altitude was strong, and her sensors felt it tugging at her mane. She retracted her wings as she began to walk toward the control tower.

She placed her hoof on the radio earpiece, adjusting it to the New Dawn’s frequency.

“Father, can you hear me?” she asked, raising her voice over the howling wind as she looked up at the control tower.

“What? How did you… oh, you managed to take one of our radios, did you?” He chuckled. “You’re quite a persistent one, aren’t you?”

Turing did her best to give the ponies up in the control tower a sideways look. “I suppose it runs in the family.”

There was an exasperated sigh. “You say you have free will? Well then why don’t you go back down there and force those fools to surrender, then? I do believe you’ll have a better chance against them than you will against us.”

Turing shook her head. “They have a strength that nopony can overcome, not even me,” she said. “Friendship is always more powerful than hatred. I know that from experience.”

“Oh come now, 003,” Cobbler said. “Despite your flaws, it would be a shame to let yourself be destroyed in a pointless fight. Do you really think you can overcome the most advanced machine TechQuestria has ever built?”

Turing tilted her head. “Do you?”

“Well, can’t nobody say I didn’t give you a chance. Not that anypony will mourn a machine,” he said, “but… your funeral.”

Protective metal shutters slid into place over the control tower windows. From the surface of the upper deck, a dozen turrets rose up and trained their guns on her.

“U-Mode!” she shouted, her horn extending as she found herself in a storm of magical bullets. She created a bubble-shaped shield around herself to protect herself from the attack.

“Thaumatrium-fueled firearms,” Cobbler said. “They never run out of ammunition. Quite impressive, aren’t they?”

Turing chose not to respond and instead focused on finding a solution. The magic bolts were pelting her shield and it was starting to break. It would last, at most, another ten seconds. There were ponies controlling the turrets, so if she could just get to one…

Solution found… error: conflict detected. Solution would involve breaking a promise to Twilight Sparkle.

Turing’s ears drooped. I never thought I would use my free will to break a promise. I am sorry, Twilight Sparkle…

“Initiating simultaneous activation of P-Mode!”

While still maintaining her shield, her wings reappeared. She soared into the sky, leaving the gunners momentarily confused before they tilted upwards to continue firing.

***

“Sir, she’s using her magic and flight capabilities in tandem!” the communications officer reported.

Cobbler smirked. He picked up the radio again. “Oh my my… using two modes at once, 003?” he asked tauntingly. “You’ll burn yourself out doing that. Just like your counterpart, 003S.”

“Incorrect,” she said, her voice coming through the speakers. “I am not using two modes… I am using three.”

***

As she curved upward into a loop, she activated E-Mode.

“Simultaneous activation of all modes initiated,” she said. “Improvised ‘A-Mode’ activated.”

Still maintaining her shield, she began to curve downward, spiraling into a dive bomb as she aimed a hoof at one of the turrets. She rocketed downward like a comet, the gunner blinded as he stared directly up and caught only the glare from the rising sun.

Warning: internal temperature approaching unsafe levels.

She slammed into the barrel of the turret, rupturing it as she took hold of the turret and used her augmented strength from E-Mode to simply rip it from its mooring. The terrified gunner screamed as he was pulled free and thrown to the deck. Then she grabbed him and tossed him into the gaping hole she’d made before leaping down after him, her shield giving out and breaking moments later.

She now found herself in the confined area below the upper deck. She saw the bases of the other anti-boarding turrets around her. Further down would be the anti-air turrets.

Now that she was out of danger, she deactivated P- and U-Mode.

Temperature levels returning to normal. I must exercise caution while utilizing multiple abilities.

She turned her attention to the gunner, a young unicorn stallion who was now staring back at her in terror, and took a step toward him.

“I beg your pardon, but would you please step aside?” she asked calmly.

He nodded dumbly. “S-sure!” he said, standing aside.

“Thank you very much,” she said. “I would strongly advise abandoning this ship at your earliest convenience.You will not want to be aboard when I sink it.” She then dashed off around the area just below the upper deck, targeting the rest of the anti-boarding turrets as the gunners descended.

***

“Sir, she’s in!” the security chief shouted. “We’ve been breached!”

Cobbler’s eye twitched.

Now you see. Only one way.

“Helm, aim the bow of the ship at Canterlot Castle,” he said.

The helmsmare whirled around to gawk at him. “S-sir?”

“You have your orders!” he shouted. “Security, deploy all troops!”

“Wait, to the castle?” the chief asked.

“No, you dang fool, have them protect the ship!” he roared. “Target 003! Stop her at all costs!”

The chief of security nodded and picked up the radio. “Attention all security forces! We have been boarded! Stop Unit 003 at all costs! She must not be allowed to reach the engine room!”

***

Twilight and the others were all staring up at the New Dawn, unaware of what was going on, when the messenger drone’s speaker came to life.

“Twilight Sparkle? Can anypony hear me?”

They all turned to the machine.

“Turing?!” Twilight cried.

“I am unharmed thus far, Twilight Sparkle,” she said. “I am inside the New Dawn and have infiltrated their defenses. I am about to destroy their anti-air turrets. Please advise the Royal Guards that they will be able to attack once they have been destroyed.”

There was a pause.

“By my second use of ‘they,’ I refer to the turrets, not to the Royal Guards, of course. I apologize for my unclear use of pronouns.”

“But how will we know when the turrets are down?” the captain of the guard asked impatiently.

A moment later, explosions rocked the air as a series of blasts shot out one by one in sequence from where the anti-air turrets had been only minutes before.

“Was that sufficient?” Turing asked.

“Guards!” the captain shouted, calling to his troops. “Sound the alarm! All guards are to target the ship immediately! For Their Majesties! For Equestria!”

A roar went up as the guards spread the word. The counterattack was about to begin.

Twilight only stared up as smoke began to pour from the great ship. “She’s doing it,” she breathed. “She’s doing it!”

***

“Anti-air turrets are down!” the security chief shouted.

“The lookouts report activity from Canterlot Castle!” the communications officer screamed. “Sir, they’re mounting a counterattack!”

Cobbler gnashed his teeth together. “Are we in position, Helm?” he asked.

“Almost, sir!”

“Good,” Cobbler said, a manic grin upon his face. “Chief, divert extra power to the Harmonic Drive.”

“Sir?” he asked. “Do you really think--”

“Now.”

The chief fell silent and turned back to his console, his expression blank once more. “Diverting power to the Harmonic Drive,” he said airily.

So close… soon. Soon!

***

As the Royal Guard prepared themselves for a counterattack atop the castle parapets, teams of pegasi at the ready to attack on their own or pull air chariots up to the ship, the captain heard shouting coming from the troops and looked up. What he saw made him freeze in terror.

The metallic face of the New Dawn was slowly opening, parting like a pair of double doors as the ship came about toward the castle.

It’s that weapon Umahara told us about, he realized. The offensive mode of the Harmonic Drive! They’re going to fire on the castle!

“Guards! We have to steer that thing away from the castle!” he bellowed. “All units at the ready launch now! Go, go, go!”

The first wave of the Guard took off as his orders were relayed down the line.

***

Aboard the New Dawn, a group of security forces were stationed in a corridor, waiting to stop the robotic intruder from getting any further.

The corridor was wide enough for two ponies to walk down shoulder-to-shoulder, three if they were all on the smaller side. It might not be comfortable, but it also meant that it would be difficult to get past them, no matter how nimble you were.

The leader put his hoof to his earpiece. “This is squad Blue 6 checking in,” he said. “Target has not been sighted.”

“Blue 6! This is Blue 5! 003 just got past us! She’s coming your way!” came a frantic cry. “Conventional weapons are useless. Spell cards for magic bolts, wind spells, and ice spells had no effect! Command recommends exposure to heat!”

“Roger that, Blue 5,” the squad leader replied. “All right team, ready fire spells! Wait for my mark!”

There was the rapid sound of metal on metal as Turing Test suddenly came around the corner, bursting into view, her hooves pounding on the metallic floor of the corridor.

The squad leader tossed a spell card up the corridor. It produced a burst of black energy that formed a kind of bubble, and suddenly Turing’s movement began to slow. When she reached the epicenter of the spell’s effect, she completely stopped, as though her hooves were stuck to the floor.

“Gravity spell card is a go! Launch fire spells now!”

The other guards tossed their cards at Turing. The cards suddenly erupted into a blazing inferno that completely engulfed her.

Temperature rising to unsafe levels, her systems warned her. Permanent system damage will occur in 23 seconds.

“We’ve got her!” the squad leader shouted. “Toss another volley for good measure! We cannot let her--”

“U-Mode activated.”

A bubble-shaped shield suddenly appeared over each of the flame spell cards. The smothered flames diminished, deprived of oxygen, until the spell cards wore out. Turing’s hooves began to lift as the gravity spell card likewise ran out of power.

“S-sir, she’s getting through!” one of the guards shouted.

“Stand your ground!” he said, lobbing another card at Turing.

The card detonated just as Turing broke free and leapt at them. In a flash, she was encased in a block of crystal, totally immobilized in mid-leap.

“Whew,” the squad leader said, breathing a sigh of relief among his comrades. He placed a hoof on his radio earpiece. “This is Blue 6. Target has been immobilized and--”

The crystal block began to splinter, cracks forming on its exterior and spreading into spiderweb shapes before the block simply exploded, pelting the guards with shards of crystal.

A second later, Turing barrelled into them, knocking them aside as she ran through.

“My apologies!” she shouted as she ran by. “Please consider abandoning the ship!”

As she disappeared down the hallway, the guards got to their hooves, groaning but still conscious.

“Blue 6, we didn’t copy that,” said the chief of security. “Do you have the target?”

“Negative,” he groaned. “Sir, I don’t think anypony can stop her at this rate!”

***

Twilight and the others continued watching from their place in Canterlot Castle. They also saw the bow of the ship as it continued to slide open. It revealed a massive, cylindrical gun barrel which in a few minutes would be aimed directly at Canterlot Castle.

“It’s the Harmonic Drive’s cannon!” Umahara shouted. “If they fire it at the castle--”

“Sister, we have to evacuate the delegates!” Luna shouted to Celestia.

“You’re right, Luna,” Celestia said, nodding to her. “Twilight, you and the others need to evacuate as well--”

“Wait!” Twilight cried. “The Royal Guard are trying to push the ship away!”

They saw that the pegasi were all gathering on one side of the ship, pressing their hooves against it as they all tried to divert its path. The unicorns in battle chariots were doing the same, using their magic to try and push against the mighty ship as well.

“Celestia, we can’t just stand by! They need more ponies to help turn it away!” Twilight shouted. She went to Umahara and snatched another one of the remaining radio earpieces, equipping it. “Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, come with me and we’ll help the Royal Guards! The rest of you should help Celestia and Luna evacuate the castle!”

Without waiting for another word, Twilight took off. Rainbow Dash gave a shout and followed, Fluttershy in tow.

“Wait, how long do we have to get everypony out of here?!” Gadget asked.

“Less than two minutes at best!” Umahara yelled. “We’ll never--”

Pinkie zipped away, grabbing random delegates and tossing them onto a nearby serving cart left over from that morning’s breakfast, and then she began wheeling them out the exit.

“Well, we won’t know if we don’t try!” Rarity shouted, and ran over to help direct the delegates. The others followed suit even as the ship edged ever closer.

***

Turing had to push her way through several more squads, but eventually she made it to the cavernous teleportation chamber, which was still lined with booths ready to teleport the troops. She saw the controls were set to teleport the invading force into various areas around Canterlot Castle. She didn’t have a lot of data to go on, but Umahara had given her just enough information to know what to do.

She quickly set all the chambers to one location: the dungeons under Canterlot Castle.

Objective complete, she mentally noted. She then dashed from the room, moving into the very bowels of the ship toward her final objective: the engine room.

The room was almost as large as the teleportation chamber. A few dozen engineers were monitoring and maintaining the tall, glass vats filled with the glowing thaumatrium that pumped energy to the various inner workings and systems of the ship.

The engineers all froze when they saw her.

I may not have the time to physically disable them all or convince them to vacate the premises, she thought. I will utilize a different tactic.

Turing lowered her head. Her eyes glowed red as she activated her emergency self-defense protocols.

“Leave. Now.”

The engineers erupted into panic and all ran from their posts. In a matter of seconds, the engine room was empty, save for herself.

She took a look around, scanning the consoles and following the various pipes and tubes to determine the exact function of each part of the engine room. She finally located the first thing she was looking for.

“Activating U-Mode,” she said, aiming her horn at a particularly large pipeline. She fired a beam of energy, and the pipe burst, spilling glowing blue thaumatrium all over the engine room.

***

Spitfire grit her teeth. She and the other Wonderbolts were still hovering just outside the massive shield around Canterlot. The invading guards on the outer wall were making faces at them and hurling taunts.

Then, very suddenly, the magical barrier dimmed and began to dissipate, massive holes forming and spreading until the barrier was entirely gone.

For a moment, both sides only stared at each other in silence as they took in this unexpected new development.

Then the TechQuestrian guards blanched, the courage draining from their faces as the Wonderbolts suddenly pounced on them.

“Don’t waste all your time on those small potatoes!” Spitfire shouted. She pointed at the ship nearing the castle as it was swarmed by the Royal Guard. “Everypony, we’ve got to back up the Royal Guard! Wonderbolts, go!”

***

If my calculations are correct, the barrier around Canterlot is now disabled, Turing thought. That was relatively easy. The next part was more difficult, but she was fairly certain she knew what to do.

She found a console that was measuring the output from the levitation pads at the back and underside of the New Dawn. If she disabled them all, the entire ship would crash right on top of Canterlot. But that wasn’t her goal…

She examined the different pipelines and again took aim, blasting only some of them.

***

“We’re almost in range!” the chief of security shouted. “We… sir, the impurity readings on the Harmonic Drive are at 72%!”

“Proceed,” Cobbler said quietly, his gaze focused forward as the ship moved closer and closer to firing position.

“Sir, it’s too unstable!”

“It will work,” Cobbler hissed through gritted teeth.

Just then, there was a sharp jolt that nearly swept them all off their hooves.

“Helm?!” Cobbler shouted.

“Sir, there’s something wrong with levitation pads 1, 2, 5, and 7!” the helmsmare cried. “We’re losing altitude! We…”

Cobbler’s eyes bulged and his jaw dropped open, knowing what the helmsmare was about to say.

“We’re going to crash!” she screamed. “Sir, we have to get out of here!”

No. We must proceed. We are so close!

Cobbler’s expression of open-mouthed disbelief suddenly shifted into a tight, manic rictus.

“We’re still moving toward the castle,” he said, his voice uneven and shaky. “Even if our trajectory has changed, we can still fire the Harmonic Drive! Prepare to fire at the base of the castle!”

“But sir!”

“Do as you’re told,” he said. “We will fire in ten seconds! We--”

“All crew members abandon ship!”

Cobbler whirled around. Hill Hiker stood there, still holding up the radio he’d used to make the announcement to the entire ship.

“I repeat! The New Dawn is sinking! All crew members to the teleportation chamber! Abandon ship!”

“No!!” Cobbler screamed, lunging for Hiker. “Belay that order!”

Hiker raised the radio and smashed it onto the console in front of the stunned communications officer, preventing Cobbler from rescinding the order.

Cobbler froze for a moment, gawking at him. Then he began to tremble with anger. “You insubordinate, traitorous--”

Hill Hiker seized him by the shoulders. “Mr. President, it’s over!” he shouted. “I… the Cobbler Mustang I knew would never risk the lives of his fellow TechQuestrians for no reason! It’s obvious now that the Harmonic Drive has affected you somehow! Can’t you see that? Come with us and we’ll all get out of here!”

Cobbler only stared at him blankly. “But… I…”

We can’t leave! We’re winning!

His lost expression again changed to a manic grin. He shoved Hiker back and wriggled free. “Leave now?” he asked, breaking into laughter. “We’re about to achieve victory!”

Hiker gave an exasperated groan and let the old stallion go as he ran for the exit. He turned back to the other bridge crew members. “You’d better make your decision quick,” he said sternly, and ran off.

The others exchanged a look as the ship gave another shudder and began to tilt forward. They got to their hooves and galloped after Hiker, leaving Cobbler alone.

“I won’t give up,” Cobbler whispered as he went to the security chief’s console. “If you want something done right, you might as well do it yourself. I’ll make them understand… oh yes…

“I’ll make them all understand…”

***

“We’re almost there!” Sea Hawk shouted. He was directing Violet Wisp and Orange Slice who were pulling the aerial chariot up to the New Dawn. Buttercup stood by his side.

“Um, sir, I know Violet, Orange, and you are going to help push the New Dawn,” Buttercup said. “But I can’t really do anything as an earth pony. What should I do?”

The two pegasi began pushing against the ship.

“Just look out for anything unusual, Private Buttercup!” Sea Hawk said, preparing to use his magic to push against the ship.

Just then, something began to cut through the metal hull of the ship just above them. It formed a nearly perfect circle, and then something inside pushed it down, folding it like the flimsy lid of a peel-top can.

“That’s unusual!” Buttercup exclaimed.

Turing Test poked her head outside. “Oh. Hello, my friends,” she said.

“Hey, Turing Test!” Violet Wisp shouted. “Everything going okay?”

“Affirmative,” she said, “but I require your assistance. Do you have room for a passenger?”

Sea Hawk raised an eyebrow. “Passenger? What do you--”

“Sure!” Buttercup chirped.

“I am glad,” Turing said, ducking her head back inside. A moment later, Discord, still entrapped in stone, was levitated out. Turing dropped him into the chariot with Sea Hawk and Buttercup.

“Whoa, jeez, he’s heavy!” Orange Slice shouted as the chariot bobbed under the additional weight. He and Violet Wisp began to flap their wings even harder to maintain their altitude.

“Please take Discord to safety,” Turing said. “If Twilight Sparkle and the others are able to revive him, his powers may be helpful with this conflict.”

Without another word, she ducked back inside.

“Wait a minute, we’re not a taxi service!” Orange Slice shouted.

“Quiet, Private!” Sea Hawk snapped. “Buttercup, hold onto that statue tight! I’ll have your flank if he falls! Violet Wisp, Orange Slice, take us back down!”

***

Turing ran back the way she came through the ship which was now rumbling and shaking as it began to pitch forward. She passed through the teleportation chamber and saw that the TechQuestrians were all activating the teleportation booths as they began to evacuate. They’d survive, but with her adjustments, they’d all find themselves imprisoned in the dungeons. Most of them were too busy fleeing to even notice her, but when she scanned the massive room, she noticed that there was one pony in particular who was missing.

She went to the main console and spotted a reddish pony with a beard barking orders at the others. She ran right up to him, startling him as he turned and suddenly saw her standing there.

“What the-- 003?!” he cried, taking a step back.

“Where is my father?” she asked.

He blinked.

“Please tell me!” she cried. “Where is Professor Mustang?”

Hiker remembered himself and bowed his head. “He’s on the bridge,” he said. “He refused to evacuate. I think he’s lost his mind…”

Turing didn’t listen to another word as she turned tail and ran toward the control room.

***

Twilight flew with all her might, pushing against the hull of the New Dawn even as it began to sink. They’d slowed its turn, but it was still almost aimed at the castle. Even using her magic to blast at the hull to push it away seemed to have no effect.

Then she heard a shout from Rainbow Dash. “Twilight, look!” she cried, almost laughing as her eyes lit up. “It’s the Wonderbolts! They got through!”

Spitfire and nearly every Wonderbolt in the force, including the Reserves, all came to their side and began pushing against the ship.

“Sorry for the delay, but we’re here now!” Spitfire said, saluting Twilight briefly as she put all her strength into pushing the ship.

With over a hundred more ponies now pushing against the New Dawn’s hull, it finally stopped its turn. Then, gradually at first, it began to move in the other direction.

“We’re doing it, everypony!” Twilight shouted.

Newly invigorated, they pushed with all their might as the ship turned away from Canterlot. Soon the ship was aimed not at the Castle, but over the side of Mount Canter. Still tilting and sinking, before long it would nosedive to the foot of the mountain, far below the mountaintop city.

Twilight gave an elated cheer as the ship began its slow plunge downward. She placed her hoof to her ear, activating the radio earpiece.

“The ship’s been diverted!” she shouted.

“That’s great!” came Gadget’s voice over the radio. “And it looks like Turing got to the teleporters too! The dungeons are filling up with the TechQuestrian guards!”

Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed nopony on either side was going to die today. But then she looked around and realized that she didn’t see Turing Test anywhere among the ponies who’d staved off the New Dawn.

“Uh, Gadget, is Turing Test there?” she asked.

“No, I thought she was with you,” Gadget replied. “She was supposed to join you after she was done, wasn’t she?”

There was a crackle over the radio and Turing’s voice came through: “Correct, Gadget. But I am not done.”

“What?!” Twilight cried. “Turing, are you still on board?!”

“Affirmative.”

“Turing, get out now!” Twilight screamed. “The ship’s going to crash!”

“I cannot leave yet,” she said. “My father is still on board the ship. I must rescue him.”

“But… Turing, what if you don’t make it out?” Twilight looked down and saw that the New Dawn was picking up speed as the gravity took hold. It would crash in less than a minute at the rate it was going.

“In that event,” she replied, “when Gadget, Umahara, or the Doctor rebuild me, please give me eyelids this time.”

Twilight only continued to hover there in stunned silence.

“That was a joke. Ha ha.”

“Turing--”

“Excuse me, Twilight Sparkle, but I am almost there. Please stand by.”

***

The control tower had been sealed off with steel doors initially, but those doors had been reopened when the bridge crew evacuated. It was therefore simple enough for Turing to ascend the tower, making her way to the bridge.

That is, until she came to the final door leading to the bridge itself. The steel door was shut tight.

Turing pounded on the door with her hoof. “Father? Father are you in there? We must leave immediately!”

She put her ear to the door. She could faintly hear indistinct muttering. Was it possible that he hadn’t heard her? In her experience, even the average organic pony’s hearing was not so poor that they couldn’t hear something as loud as a robot pounding on a steel door.

She turned from the door. Luckily, E-Mode was still active, which meant her leg pistons were already primed to help her buck the door down.

She aimed with her back legs and kicked with all her might. The door dented, but didn’t come off. She kicked again and it buckled, and with the third kick the door came clean, falling into the bridge with a loud clang. With the ship tilting more and more forward, it began to slide, scraping along the metallic floor.

Turing rushed inside to see Cobbler standing at the pedestal that controlled the Harmonic Drive.

“Father…?”

Turing scanned the energy that was coming from the pedestal.

Scan complete: energy readings are highly erratic. Thaumatrium impurity at 90% and climbing. There is a high probability of an explosion.

Cobbler slowly turned his head to look at Turing.

“Hello, 003,” he said airily, his eyes twitching and unfocused. “I must admit, you really are quite formidable. It’s just a crying shame that those abilities have gone to waste.”

“Father,” she said, taking a step forward, placing a hoof on her chest. “Please step away from that device. I am attempting to save your life. The weapon is not even aimed at Canterlot Castle any longer. What do you believe you will accomplish?”

Show her...

Turing’s ears perked up. “That voice,” she said. “Where did it come from?”

Cobbler raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you can hear it too? Interesting. I may have to conduct a study on that later. But for now…” He raised his hoof over the button in the center of the pedestal. “I’m going to save Equestria.”

“Father, no!”

He pressed the button, and the bridge exploded.

***

The control tower exploded in a burst of rainbow-colored light which simply shattered the gigantic ship, splitting it into large chunks and sending the two massive broken pieces tumbling down the side of the mountain. All of Canterlot watched in horrified fascination as the great ship died, reduced to rubble in an instant as a sound like a thousand cannons made them cover their ears as windows rattled and even shattered.

“Turing Test!” Twilight’s anguished scream was drowned out as the ensuing shockwave washed over them all. Time itself seemed to freeze…

***

In bright, swirling chaos, Turing found herself engulfed in the energy that had radiated out from the blast.

Warning: energy surge detected. Thaumatrium system overload imminent…

The energy had flooded her systems. If she didn’t find a way to burn off the excess energy quickly, her thaumatrium reserves, now supercharged, would explode.

“Activating A-Mode!”

The energy coursing through her body began to equalize even as her internal temperature began to increase. And then the chaos around her began to subside, the noise dying down and the blinding light fading.

Turing’s ocular sensors readjusted. Raising her head and looking around, she found herself not among the wreckage of the New Dawn, but in a great expanse filled with stars. Wisps of light illuminated the bluish black space around her, and though the “ground” she stood on appeared to be no more than a nebulous cloud of ether, she found it solid enough to take a few steps.

“Where am I?” she whispered.

...

She lifted her head, her ears perking up. She could hear a voice. It was the same voice she’d heard when Twilight and the others had used the Elements.

She couldn’t understand it, but for some reason she felt that it was comforting her, telling her not to be afraid.

Then she heard another voice. It was coming from somewhere ahead, so she walked toward it. There was somepony else there.

“Harmony… the nation… democracy… I must… I must be the one!”

She spotted somepony through the ethereal mist. Cobbler Mustang was there. He’d sunk to his haunches and was staring at his hooves while mumbling to himself.

“Celestia… the Elements… I have to save them… only I can do it… they forgot her… I’ll make them… I’ll make them remember!”

As she approached, she saw that there was something behind him. A strange figure, an apparition made of what looked like dark red flames stood by Cobbler. Though it was indistinct and barely visible, its outline resembled Cobbler’s, as if it were his own shadow come to life.

It whispered in his ear:

Give in. Let me take control, and we shall have the power you want. We can change Equestria for the better. We can change the world for the better...

...

Turing heard that same strange, calming voice once again. Only now it was crying out, as if in pain.

“Father!” she shouted.

Cobbler raised his head slowly, turning to look at her with an unfocused gaze. “Who?” he mumbled. Then he gave a wry, crooked smile. “Oh… my wayward creation… what do you think you’re doing here?”

The apparition behind him seemed to glare at her.

She has taken a portion of our power. We must take it back, and our transformation will be complete.

Cobbler fixed his gaze on her, his pupils constricting as he stood. In the starry expanse behind him, the stars began to dim, and a dark blot began to spread, consuming them whole.

“So, 003, it seems that you’ve stolen something from me. You’ve absorbed the power released from the Harmonic Drive,” he said, his voice taking on a strange quality, just like it had back on the bridge of the New Dawn. “However, it seems that you can’t contain it very well, can you? You had to activate all your modes to process all that energy. You won’t last long like that.”

Turing’s internal temperature sensors were already telling her the same thing. In a few minutes, the heat would fuse some of her inner machinery and begin to depolarize her artificial neural net.

“Even without animal instinct, you must have some prerogative for self preservation,” he continued, smirking at her. He held out a hoof. “Why not give it back to me and save yourself? If you don’t, you’ll be destroyed. And that would be a real shame, wouldn’t it?”

Her feelings of fear returned. The thought of burning herself out in this strange place and never seeing her friends again almost made her want to give Cobbler what he asked.

But she remembered what she’d said to Twilight Sparkle, and she stood her ground. I will be brave.

“Father, I cannot do as you ask,” she said. “I am not certain where we are or what is happening, but it is clear that the power you wield is having an effect on you. Rather than controlling it, it is controlling you.”

He paused, raising his eyebrows. The darkness spreading around him halted.

Don’t listen to that machine!

Cobbler clutched his head, wincing in pain as the figure behind him hissed into his ear.

“Leave him alone!” she shouted at the apparition.

She only wants to save herself. She is only obeying the orders that the others gave to her. We have a destiny. We will save Equestria. We will set things right.

The pain in Cobbler’s head cleared, the euphoric feeling of power returning to him. He took a step forward. The darkness around him began reaching out. Nearly half of the whole starry expanse had been engulfed.

“Father, if I relinquish this power,” Turing began, trying a different tactic, “what will you do with it?”

Anything. We can do anything.

“Yes,” he said, the grin on his face becoming ever tighter, ever more manic. “Why, with this power, I could do almost anything! I could save Equestria!”

“But how?” she demanded.

Cobbler paused again, his expression faltering a moment before the apparition spoke for him again.

We can enforce and safeguard our new republic. We can lead the nation toward greater achievement. We can sweep our enemies aside. We will sweep away all disagreement, and all the illogical sentiment and fear that holds them back! We can make them all see! And we can finally make Celestia pay for what she’s done to us!

Turing watched as the darkness around Cobbler spread further. With each word, each moment, the look in his eyes was becoming more distant. The apparition, in contrast, was growing more and more distinct.

“Yes,” he said, raising his head as the vision of the apparition’s promised future consumed him. “With this power, I can free everypony! No more anger, no more fear, and no more grief! All those emotions that pain each and every pony will simply be removed. Deleted. And we can move together as one, in perfect harmony.”

“Father,” Turing whispered. “Do you not see? Without the ability to feel for themselves, you will make everypony like your old automata: moving and functioning, but unable to feel anything!”

“Just like you, you mean?” he asked with a sneer.

“No!” she cried. “By experiencing emotions, I was able to become something more than the machine you created. Even when they hurt me, even when I was angry or sad or afraid or stricken by guilt, my emotions helped me to appreciate what it was to be a sentient being. By accepting my differences from organic ponies and understanding what made each of my friends special, I was able to experience the joy of being an individual, of being myself.

“To deny anypony their emotions would be to rob them of that joy.”

Cobbler narrowed his eyes. “You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You don’t know what it means to grieve for someone you’ve lost.”

“I do not?” she asked incredulously, putting her hoof over her chest. “I am watching my father lose sight of himself!”

“Stop…” he hissed, trembling with rage. “Stop calling me that! I am not your father! I had just one daughter! Her name was Georgia Peach! She was a real pony, not some chattering simulacrum like you! And you don’t know a thing about her! You never even met her!”

“Yes I did.”

Cobbler froze. The apparition began to grow larger, enveloping Cobbler’s body as the darkness swelled and surrounded them both. Nearly every star had winked out.

“You filthy liar,” he said. “How dare you attempt to use my daughter’s memory against me!”

Cobbler raised a hoof, and suddenly Turing felt herself seized by the power he wielded. It was as if a great, invisible hand had grabbed her and was now closing around her. Her wings began to bend. Her hull began to buckle. The pressure grew and grew.

Cobbler stared up at her, his face a twisted mass of rage and pain.

Kill her… Kill her… Kill her… Kill her!

“Daddy, please!”

Cobbler froze, dropping Turing Test instantly. The apparition and the darkness pulled back.

For a moment - just a moment - Turing’s voice sounded like Georgia’s.

He looked to her. The air around her was shimmering as heat poured off her. She was overheating already.

“Why… why don't you just give up?” he asked. “You can’t last long like that anyway. So why not admit that you’re lying about meeting my daughter and save yourself?”

“Because I promised!” Turing cried. “When I regained my memory, it triggered an embedded message from Georgia Peach that she subconsciously recorded when her mind was scanned.”

She lies! Our daughter is dead! She can’t have died for nothing! She must be avenged!

Turing shook her head. “I am not lying. She gave me a message for you.”

That can’t be. She has to be lying!

Cobbler swallowed. “What message?”

Turing raised her head. And in her own voice, she began to sing:
“No foal made has got a shade on sweet Georgia Peach…”

Cobbler froze. All at once he remembered singing that song to her before bed. The way they would trade off parts while he carried her as a filly atop his head down the sunlit paths of their orchard.

“Four left hooves but how she grooves, that sweet Georgia Peach.
They all sigh and wanna cry for sweet Georgia Peach.
I’ll tell you just whyyy. You know I don’t lie…”

Cobbler swallowed. “Not much…” he said, completing the line.

Turing continued the song:
“It’s been said she knocks ‘em dead when she lands in town.
Since she came why it’s a shame how she’s cooled ‘em down.
Good friends that she can’t get, must be ponies she ain’t met.
Mustang named her, George Tech claimed her--”

“Sweet… Georgia Peach...” Cobbler whispered, completing the song. His eyes began to fill with tears.

“Father,” she whispered, “even after death, she only wished for you to know how much she loved you, and how grateful she was for the time you gave her.” She went to his side, reaching for his shoulder.

No! We can’t give up now, not when we’re so close!

Cobbler seized his head, shutting his eyes as excruciating pain pierced through him. “No… NO!” he shouted, shaking his head as he drew back. “It isn’t possible! You’re not real! You can’t be! It’s a lie!”

Turing bowed her head. “Then, if that is truly the case,” she said. “I will willingly give you my energy.”

Cobbler froze, blinking as he stared at her.

“But on one condition,” she said. “You claim to have the power to manipulate the minds and emotions of others. That apparition is urging you to use it to control the world. But instead, I would like you to utilize those powers to look into my mind. If I am not truly sentient, then you will know. And if that is the case, then I cannot see the point in continuing to exist under such an illusion.”

The apparition seemed to chuckle.

That foolish machine. We know her consciousness is an illusion. We created her from nothing out of metal and wire. We should put her out of her misery.

Cobbler swallowed. “Very well,” he said, locking eyes with her as his power pierced into her mind. “Let’s settle this matter once and for--”

All at once there was an explosion of imagery. A room in Twilight’s castle. Hundreds of faces. Clouds. Mountains. Music. Books. Conversations. Snow. Grass. Flowers. Paint. Cottages. Trains. Laughter. Apples. Trees. Crystals. A baby. Buildings. Butterflies. Stagelights.

Gratitude. Sadness. Amazement. Abandonment. Relief. Anger. Amusement. Curiosity. Hatred. Fury. Guilt. Affection. Despair. Disgust. Loneliness. Envy. Love. Grief. Belonging.

...Joy.

So many faces and voices and desires and throughout it all was a deep and honest longing for a place to call one’s own. A desire for family. And at the end of it all he found an image of himself and a desire for acceptance and love… from him.

She ached for her family to be whole.

Impossible…!

Cobbler staggered back. “You… You’re... you’re real,” he breathed. A look of horror dawned on him. “You are real. And I…”

Every cruel thing he’d ever said came back to him. Every time he’d treated Turing or her siblings like simple, mindless machines was thrust back in his face.

The darkness shrank. Further and further it receded, revealing more shimmering stars in the expanse around them. The apparition drew back, falling silent.

“All those times I said I wasn’t a monster…” he whispered. “But I am… I am a monster… I… What have I done?!”

Turing placed her hoof on his shoulder. “It is all right, Father,” she said. “I have spent my whole existence convincing others of my sentience. I am simply happy that you can see it now as well.”

“Father…” he said, repeating the word. “I never thought anypony would call me that again.” He stared back at her. “Georgia?”

Turing bowed her head. “No, Father. Georgia Peach is no longer with us, but a piece of her lives on through me. That is how I know that she would be heartbroken to see how much her passing has consumed you. I know she would want you to remember the kind pony who once wanted only to help others, rather than enslave them. She would not want you to be remembered for bringing war to Equestria, but for your genius and passion. She would want your legacy to be one of love, like the kind you gave so freely to her.”

He broke down, tears pouring over his cheeks. “I… I’m so sorry…” he whimpered. “I just… I couldn’t let my daughter’s death be meaningless. When I lost her, I just wanted to make sense of it all. Why did she die in the prime of her life if not for some greater purpose? I tried so hard to protect her… how could I just accept that she was gone?” Anger suddenly flashed in his eyes. “How could I accept that my family had all left this world while those who controlled it carried on? There was nopony else to carry on their legacy but me!”

“I do not know the answers to those questions,” she said quietly. “I still do not understand why some of us persist while others pass away. Because my lifetime is so much longer than those of my friends, I will most likely struggle to find such an answer for a very long time. But I will not let my sadness prevent me from feeling joy again. And neither should you.”

She raised her head and looked to the apparition that even now clung to Cobbler.

“I believe I now understand what that entity is,” she said. “It is your anger, your hatred, and your grief given form by the corrupted power of the Elements. I beg of you, Father, please… please let go of those things. There is no need for anypony else to suffer, including you.

“You have a family now, Father. You are not alone any longer.”

He managed a weak smile even as he wiped his eyes. “Oh, 003, I… wait, no…” He sniffled, looking up at her. “Not 003. Turing Test.”

Her eyes constricted, and she placed a hoof to her chest. “Father,” she whispered. “You called me by my name!” She wrapped her forelegs around him, embracing him tightly. “I am so happy to hear you call me that at last.”

Cobbler smiled, returning the embrace, but then heaved a sigh. “I am not certain how I can begin to make up for how I’ve acted,” he said, “but I suppose I should start by ridding myself of this monstrosity.”

He turned around, looking over his shoulder at the apparition even as it seemed to fume and rage at them.

You… need… me...

“You heard me,” he said, glaring at it. “I’ve been carrying you around long enough, and I don’t need you anymore! Now, get!”

The apparition gave one last silent scream as it burst from him, all the corrupted energy surging upward into the expanse above.

The last vestiges of the darkness clouding the expanse vanished, and the stars glowed ever more brightly.

He sighed with relief, but then, without the power of the Elements protecting him, he felt the searing hot heat pouring off Turing Test’s body and leaped back.

“Turing Test!” he shouted. “You’re about to overheat! You have to let that energy go and return to neutral mode before your circuits melt!”

She nodded and was about to go into neutral mode when she froze.

“Unusual energy readings detected,” she murmured. Following the signal, she looked upward.

Cobbler did the same and gasped when he saw what loomed overhead.

The energy Cobbler had released had not fully dissipated. Rather, it had congealed into a gigantic orb that was hovering ominously in the space above them. It was an ugly, swirling mass of black energy that was pulsating and producing a low, loud rumbling sound that grew more dissonant by the moment. Worse, it was starting to fray.

“What in the world is that?!” Cobbler shouted.

Turing stared up at the orb when the calming voice from earlier spoke again.

...

She still couldn’t understand what it was saying, exactly, but she somehow knew that it was warning her. It was still dangerous.

“I understand,” Turing said. “That corrupted energy made up of your hatred and bitterness is no longer tethered to you, Father, but now it is destabilizing. Furthermore, if it seeps from this realm into Equestria, it could be devastating. Others could be corrupted by its influence. Or it may simply detonate, annihilating anypony nearby.

“It must not be allowed to escape.” She nodded decisively. “It must be neutralized.”

“Neutralized?” he repeated, looking to her. “How can I possibly neutralize that?!”

She shook her head. “Not you,” she said. “That energy is something you purged from yourself, but you cannot purify it. I, however, have already purified a portion of the energy given off in the Harmonic Drive’s explosion. I believe I can both utilize the energy I have remaining to neutralize it, then purify what remains by filtering it through my systems.”

“I see,” he muttered, nodding at that. But then he blanched and stared back at her. “But wait… you’re already in danger of burning yourself out to process the energy you’ve got now! If you don’t switch back to neutral mode--”

“I am aware of the risk,” she said calmly. “But I see no other solution.”

“Now you listen here!” he shouted. “You wanted me to accept my role as your daddy, so do what I say! As your father, I absolutely forbid you to do this! You hear me?!”

She looked at him, tilting her head to the side.

“I… I just…” His eyes were again filling with tears. “I just found out I have another daughter. I… I can’t lose another one. Please, not now…”

She placed her hoof to her chest. “Do not worry,” she said. “I believe that I will be successful.”

“How can you possibly--”

“Father,” she said calmly. “I will return to you. But until that time, I have a request. Please… for the sake of my sisters and my brother… would you consider…?”

He nodded. “Yes,” he said. “I… I’ll do right by them as well. You have my word.”

She bowed to him. “Thank you. Now please, you must get to a safe distance.”

“What do you mean a safe--”

Her horn glowed and she cast a spell, teleporting him outside the expanse. Left alone, she looked up at the increasingly large mass of corrupted energy.

Initiating purification…

She launched herself upward, rocketing directly into the center of the swirling mass of chaotic energy.

In the heart of the orb, Turing’s system bombarded her with emergency messages. Her wires were fusing. Her thaumatrium was heating to dangerous levels and could potentially explode. Her mane and tail were beginning to bubble and melt as smoke poured off of her.

Heat at critical levels. Neural network will begin to depolarize in 15 seconds.

She did a calculation: it would take her longer than that to finish purifying the energy around her. She could set a subroutine to carry on the function that long, but there was no way she would escape this without severe damage to her cognitive functions. By the time her core temperature returned to safe levels, her mind would be completely burned out.

Was I incorrect? she asked, suddenly going into a panic. I… Am I going to… die?

That voice once again. Though she still couldn’t make out its words, even now, she somehow knew it was telling her not to be afraid.

“But I do not understand,” Turing whispered. “Who are you?”

The sound was soft, like the ringing of bells, or a gentle chord played on a piano. She still had no idea what it was, but felt she could trust it. And then it dawned on her.

“Ah… so that is what you are… no wonder…”

***

Celestia and Luna, along with the others, were still assisting the delegates with their escape when the New Dawn exploded. They were nearly knocked to the ground when the shockwave hit, the awful sound forcing them to cover their ears.

Celestia turned and gasped at what she saw.

A massive sphere of energy had burst from the ruined ship and now hung in the sky, glowing like a second sun.

“What in the world is that?” she breathed. All the ponies gathered began to turn and gawk at the sight as well.

Suddenly there was a flash of light just in front of Celestia, and Cobbler Mustang appeared.

“--distance?!”

He looked around in confusion as Celestia, Luna, the delegates, and several members of the Royal Guard all stared at him.

“Ah,” he said, heaving a sigh. He turned to Celestia, who was still staring at him, and removed his hat. “Well, you old battleaxe, it seems that I’ve been bested. I hereby surrender to you and your forces.”

The Royal Guard suddenly sprang into action, surrounding him with spears.

“...A bit slow on the draw, aren’t you there, gentlecolts?”

Celestia shook her head. “Professor Mustang,” she said, walking up to him. “I accept your surrender. Now tell me…”

She pointed up at the glowing orb in the sky.

“...what in Equestria is that?!”

Cobbler looked up, and his eyes went wide.

“Oh… that’s where we were…”

A moment later, Twilight Sparkle landed nearby and galloped over to him.

“Where is she?!” she screamed. “Where’s Turing Test? If you escaped, then--”

Cobbler slowly raised a foreleg, pointing at the gigantic mass of energy in the sky.

“In there,” he breathed. “She stayed behind. She had to neutralize it…”

Twilight and the others all watched for a moment. Then the orb began to shrink, diminishing into itself until it was merely a pregnant dot floating in midair. It shrank further, revealing a figure floating there.

“Turing Test!” Twilight gasped.

The robot was glowing pure white, her outline perfectly still, but featureless as though the light itself had engulfed her. For a moment she hung there in the air, floating as a strangely tranquil tone rang out.

Then, right before their eyes, her image began to break up, crumbling like delicate flakes of snow. The pieces themselves slowly fragmented until nothing was left but shimmering dust that lingered for a moment before even that vanished into thin air.

Where Turing had been a moment before, there was now nothing at all.

Twilight Sparkle’s jaw dropped. “No…” she breathed. “Turing Test… Turing Test… Turing Test!!”

All of the ponies gathered there looked on in disbelief as Twilight shouted her friend’s name again and again, the desperate sound of her shrieks echoing across the gardens.

TO BE CONCLUDED…

Author's Note:

Next time... it's the last time...

Special thanks to my editors Reese and GenerousGypsy in particular, who helped a lot with the final scene with Turing and Cobbler. They helped tremendously to improve it.

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