• Published 26th Dec 2015
  • 2,628 Views, 35 Comments

The Iron Ho-Ho-Horse: Everything's Merrier With Robots! - The Hat Man



"The Iron Horse" gets a one-shot Christmas-- I mean Hearth's Warming special! Robot pony Turing Test needs a gift for Twilight and Spike, but wants to do something special. To do so, she'll go to the ends of Equestria!

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Do Robots Have Visions of Electric Sugar Plums?

Ponyville’s citizens made their way home that day, their bodies and bags loaded up with trinkets and cakes and all manner of presents. They moved through the streets and alleys, anticipating the arrival of Hearth’s Warming Day in just two days. The sun was already beginning to set and the already chilly air grew ever chillier by the minute.

A sound made them all raise their heads from their activities, and many of them paused and raised their ears. The sound of mechanical whirring and the rhythmic crunching of snow underhoof grew in volume as a figure made its way up the street.

Several onlookers relaxed when they saw the now-familiar sight of a mechanical pony as she made her way through the town. Now, however, she was dressed in a red cap with white trim and matching robe, as if she were Santa Hooves himself!

Despite her festive outfit, some still avoided her, others shrugged and ignored her, and a few even smiled and waved to her in greeting, eliciting a wave in response. The robot moved forward with purpose and her occasional greetings were all that interrupted her as she scanned both sides of the road, making her way through the town.

Turing Test at last stopped before a small shop with numerous best-selling books on display in the window. She walked over to the door and walked inside.

“Good afternoon!” called the shopkeeper, an older mare with her mane in a bun as she walked in from the back room. “How may…” She trailed off when she saw the strange sight of a mechanical pony in her store, but after a moment’s pause, resumed her smile.

“Ah. You’re the, um, ro…ro... oh, what was the word?”

“Robot,” Turing replied.

“Yes, yes, that’s right. The robot that is staying with Princess Twilight! How may I help you?”

Turing Test looked around the store. “I am hoping to acquire a book.”

The shopkeeper laughed. “Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place. What kind of book would you like?”

“I do not favor any particular genre over another,” Turing replied. “However, the book is not for me. It is for Twilight Sparkle.” She paused, tapping her chin. “Additionally, I would like a comic book for Spike the Dragon.”

The shopkeeper nodded. “I see. You’re wanting a Hearth’s Warming present for your friends? That’s so sweet of you!”

“I am hopeful that my friends will be appreciative as well.”

“I’m sure they will be, if you can choose the right book, dearie. Now then,” she said, sweeping her foreleg out, gesturing to the numerous bookshelves, “what sort of book would Princess Twilight enjoy? A mystery? An adventure story? Perhaps… even a romance?”

Turing’s ears twitched. “I am not certain. Twilight Sparkle enjoys books of all kinds. Furthermore, Spike the Dragon seems to enjoy numerous kinds of comic books. Perhaps you could make some suggestions?”

“Wellll,” the shopkeeper began, scrunching her face a bit, “I suppose I could suggest some popular titles.”

She led Turing Test over to a rack near the front of the store with a sign over it that read: “Ponyville’s Popular Picks!”

“Let’s see,” she said, picking up one title after another, “there’s Past Sins, which is still pretty popular; and here’s University Days; maybe Asylum, if she’s into sad stories; A Dodgy Business is one of my favorites too; and we have The Reality I Choose, though honestly I think that one’s a bit overrated…”

Turing looked at each of the books and stared at a small sticker on the cover of each of them.

“What is the meaning of these numbers?”

The shopkeeper raised an eyebrow. “Uh, that would be the price tag. This book here costs 10 bits for example.”

Turing Test raised her head. “10 bits is an acceptable price. I will purchase this book and present 10 bits or an item of equal value when I have acquired them.”

The shopkeeper blinked. “Um, you mean you want to pay later?”

“Correct.”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to pay me now,” she said with a frown.

“That will not be possible, as I currently have no bits. Until now, I have had no need of money.”

The shopkeeper sighed. “Well, good for you, Miss Robot, but I can’t take credit.” She softened her look, putting her hoof to her chest. “I’m very sorry, but it’s store policy: we can’t accept credit. Believe me, I’d love to be extra nice and let you leave an IOU, but the store owner is very insistent on cash only.”

Turing Test’s ears drooped. “Understood. Then I will not be able to gain this present for Twilight Sparkle. I had not wished to cause her disappointment.”

The shopkeeper gave another sigh, but smiled as she picked up the book. “Oh what the hay, it’s the season to be more giving. Here, dearie, I’ll pay for the book and you can give it to the Princess.”

Turing’s eyes contracted and she put her hoof over the book, shaking her head. “That is very generous, but I cannot accept.”

“Oh, don’t worry, it’s not such a--”

“Please allow me to explain,” Turing said, cutting her off. “Twilight Sparkle indicated that a gift should be acquired of one’s own efforts. If I accept your offer, it will be as though you purchased the gift, rather than I.”

The shopkeeper tilted her head at that. “Well, yes, that’s the case, but it’s not such a big deal.”

“I wish to follow Hearth’s Warming Protocol.”

“Protocol?”

“Perhaps I could accept your offer if I could then pay you back or perform some task you need assistance for?”

The shopkeeper shook her head. “No, really, there’s no need to complicate things. Besides, I can’t even think what I’d need done!” She let out another sigh and put the book back on the shelf. “Listen, I hate to say this, but I think you’re overcomplicating this. Maybe instead of getting just any old present, you should think about something special that you’re more sure your friends would like. Even if it doesn’t cost any money!”

Turing Test was quiet a moment, but then bowed to the shopkeeper. “That may be prudent advice. I will ask another of my friends for further advice on this matter. Thank you for your assistance.”

The shopkeeper smiled and watched her as she made her way to the door. “Well, good luck and Happy Hearth’s Warming!”

Once outside, Turing began to trek her way toward Sugarcube Corner. If anypony would know how to choose an appropriate gift, she reasoned, then Pinkie Pie was surely that pony.

As she made her way to the bakery, she accessed her database to review the events that had led to this gift hunt...

***

Earlier that day...

Twilight took another bite of her gingerbread mare before turning to Rarity, who was dunking her own cookie into a mug of hot cocoa, as the two of them sat in the castle dining room.

“Sweetie Belle insists on seeing a film down at the theater, so I suppose I’ll have to take her,” Rarity said, biting into the cookie once it had been properly saturated. “They’re doing holiday films, so I was thinking we could either watch Snowdrop or maybe A Hearth’s Warming Carol.”

“Good choices!” Twilight remarked. “I usually just read an old Hearth’s Warming book with Spike.”

They both turned their heads, however, when they heard the sound of the dining room door opening.

“Turing Test!” Twilight exclaimed, getting up from her seat. “I’m glad you’re back from town!”

“As am I. I have acquired more metal polish and intend to rub myself vigorously once you and Spike the Dragon have gone to bed.”

Twilight and Rarity stared back at her.

“Yes, well,” Rarity said, breaking the silence, “don’t overdo it.” She coughed into her hoof before hurriedly levitating a white box onto the dining room table. “Regardless, Turing, I’ve brought you a little something to wear for the season!”

Turing lifted the box lid as Twilight and Rarity looked on, leaning forward eagerly. Inside was the bright red suit and hat lined with fluffy white wool and a bold, black belt.

“This is very considerate, Rarity,” Turing Test said. “However, I will not require a coat to stay warm, since, as a robot, I am not subject to the dangers of hypothermia or capable of experiencing discomfort in extreme cold.”

Rarity scoffed at that, waving a hoof dismissively. “Oh come now, Turing Test! Must you always be so utilitarian? Just try it on and try to enjoy yourself!”

Turing glanced back down at the coat and hat and then, slowly began to remove the garments from the box and began to put them on. When she was finished, both Rarity and Twilight clapped their hooves loudly.

“Oh, darling, you look adorable! O Tannenbot, o tannenbot!”

Turing tilted her head. “Thank you,” she said simply.

Rarity turned to Twilight. “I apologize, Twilight, but I really must get going. Sweetie Belle insisted we find something for our parents and she’s convinced that it must be a joint gift rather than purchasing two separate ones. I’d better get going.”

“Sure thing, Rarity!” Twilight replied. “Care to try another gingerbread mare before you leave? Spike sure made a tasty batch!” She pushed the tray over to her, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, well, I really shouldn’t… but what the hay, calories consumed on a holiday don’t really count anyway!” She laughed and took a few more cookies, wolfing them down as she walked out.

Turing Test watched as she left before turning back to Twilight. “I have seen others in Ponyville wearing a coat similar to this one.” She glanced down at the sleeve of her red coat, moving it slightly as she examined it. “I am happy that Rarity took further steps to make me look more aesthetically pleasing, but it does not appear to be significantly different from others in town.

“Furthermore, I have noticed that many ponies have taken to strewing large bunches of evergreen branches and other decorations on their houses and places of business. There is apparently a new trend in home decoration.”

Twilight chuckled, covering her mouth demurely with one hoof. “Oh, Turing, it’s not some fad! All this is traditional for Hearth’s Warming!”

Turing tilted her head. “Hearth’s Warming… scanning memory… that term occurs numerous times in the books that I have scanned. No specific description of the ritual was present in any of the passages. However, it seems closely associated with the terms ‘presents’ and ‘flag.’ Is there some correlation?”

Twilight sighed, but smiled as she pulled out a chair at the table. “Come on, Turing, have a seat. I’ll tell you all about Hearth’s Warming…”

And so she explained the traditions and trappings of Hearth’s Warming - the founding of Equestria, the carols, the Equestrian flag, the Hearth’s Warming dolls, the legend of the magical reindeer Santa Hooves, and even the food. But what most caught her attention was her description of the giving of gifts.

“I see,” Turing said when Twilight had finished. She tapped her chin metallically as she thought this over. “Then you and Spike the Dragon will be celebrating this with your friends and family?”

“Well, traditionally you celebrate it with your family or your friends, or sometimes both. This year, my parents are going to visit Shining Armor in the Crystal Empire. I’m a little tired after all the Princess duties I’ve had lately, so I just want to relax here. The rest of our friends have other plans: Rarity and Sweetie Belle will be with their parents, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy have already left for Cloudsdale to see their families, and Pinkie Pie and Applejack’s families will be celebrating together on Pinkie’s family farm!”

Turing nodded. “Understood. I will not intrude upon your celebration. I hope you and Spike the Dragon will enjoy your Hearth’s Warming.”

Twilight blinked. “Um, Turing, I don’t think you understa--”

The door burst open suddenly and Spike ran inside. “Twilight, I’m back!” He was holding a sizable box that he set on the table before hugging himself and shivering. “Brrr! It’s really getting cold out there!”

Twilight used her magic to lift him up and set him next to her, hugging him. “Aw, sorry about that, Spike. But thank you so much for running that errand for me!”

He smiled, returning the hug. “Heh. It’s no big deal. But I bet a cup of hot chocolate and one of those gingerbread mares would make me feel even warmer!”

She chuckled and poured a cup for Spike, levitating a plate full of the cookies over to him.

Turing glanced at the box on the table. “This box is not wrapped. Does that mean it is not a present?”

“Wellll, it sort of is, actually!” She and Spike exchanged a knowing smile. “Turing Test, please open that box. This is for you!”

Turing examined the box more carefully and switched to U-mode, her horn sliding into place. Using her magic, she gently opened the box and levitated out the object inside.

She held it aloft. It was a miniature version of herself, crafted out of metal with cloth coils for the mane and tail instead of polymer, and purple stained glass for eyes. It even had real brass to mimic her hooves.

“This appears to be a small facsimile of myself. I estimate it to be approximately one-eighth my size and is composed of several metals which mimic my appearance.” She set it on the table. “What is the purpose of this object?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Oh, Turing, can’t you tell? It’s your Hearth’s Warming doll!”

“Yeah, that’s right!” Spike exclaimed, grinning broadly. “We talked to that Doctor guy and he made it for you!”

Turing Test stared back at her. She glanced at the doll and then back to Twilight. “I do not understand.”

Twilight came over and put her hoof on Turing’s shoulder. “Turing, we know you aren’t sure where you came from or who built you, but we do know that while you’re our friend and a member of this household, you should celebrate Hearth’s Warming with us.”

Spike likewise went over and wrapped his arms around Turing’s foreleg. “Yeah! It wouldn’t be the same without you!”

Turing’s eyes contracted. “Then I am a participant in this holiday and you intend for me to take part in the traditions?”

They both nodded, warm smiles on their faces.

Turing was quiet for a moment. “Then you have acquired gifts for me as well?”

They nodded again.

“Understood,” she said with a decisive nod. “I will attempt to perform optimally as your guest. Thank you for my inclusion.”

They both laughed at her overly formal response and went back to enjoying their snacks. When they looked up, however, Turing Test had already left.

***

In Sugarcube Corner, which was adorned with wreaths and candy canes, and stocked with tall cakes covered in glistening frosting to resemble snow-covered mountains, Pinkie Pie listened to Turing’s story, stroking her chin thoughtfully as she wore a serious look. This look was largely ruined by the fact that she was continually munching on red velvet cupcakes with gobs of vanilla frosting that smeared all over her face.

“Twilight Sparkle and Spike the Dragon have invited me to participate in their festivities,” Turing said. “If they are giving me presents, then I must also acquire gifts for them. However, my lack of bits and my lack of insight into what gifts they would appreciate have made this task more challenging than anticipated. As an expert on matters of gifts, I would like your advice. What sort of gift should I acquire for my friends and how can I acquire them?”

Pinkie finished her cupcake and licked the frosting off her face. She giggled. “Oh Rinny,” she said, shaking her head, “you silly robot! I’m sure Twilight and Spike aren’t expecting you to get anything! After all, you just found out about Hearth’s Warming Day this morning and it’s only two days away! Just show up and be good company and I’m sure they’ll be happy anyway.”

The mechanical mare was quiet for a moment as she considered that. “You may be correct, Pinkie Pie. However, even if no gift is required, I would still like to give one to each of them.”

“Oh really?” Pinkie asked, leaning forward. “Why’s that?”

“Twilight Sparkle took me into her home and has devoted significant time and energy toward my growth. Likewise, Spike the Dragon was one of the first to accept me and treat me as a companion, and that was within a single day after my activation. Both of them have provided me with a home, company, education, and a higher quality to my existence. If this is an opportunity to show my gratitude and appreciation, then I would like to do so.”

With a warm smile on her face, Pinkie sighed happily. “Awww!” she cooed. “That’s so sweet, I think I could just burst!”

And then Pinkie exploded, sending confetti and streamers and paper snowflakes everywhere.

...Or so it seemed. When it cleared, Turing saw that Pinkie was still sitting there, coughing and waving away the confetti. “Oops. I hate it when I forget where I put my holiday party cannons.” She regained her composure and sat up straight. “Anyway, that’s really sweet, Rinny. If it means that much to you, of course I’ll try to help!” She took up another cupcake, taking a bite and chewing it thoughtfully. “Hmmm… hmmm… hm-mm? Mmm!” She then shoved the entire cupcake in her mouth, looking much less thoughtful as she did.

“Pinkie Pie?”

“Huh? Oh, right!” She shook her head. “Well, you don’t have any bits and it sounds like you really don’t want to borrow from anypony either.”

“Correct. I do not wish to impose on another. I wish to do this myself.”

“I guess I can understand that. But without a little money, it might be pretty tough to get a present.” She shrugged. “I guess you could make one, though.”

Turing’s ears lifted. “Is such a present acceptable?”

“Sure it is!” she exclaimed. “In my family, we almost always make each other presents! My sister Maud usually makes something really nice out of some interesting rocks she finds, for example. You could make Twilight and Spike some Hearth’s Warming cards.”

The robot before her made no response to the suggestion. At first, Pinkie wondered if she was listening, but at last she turned toward her.

“Pinkie Pie, what qualities are necessary for a gift to be considered acceptable?”

Pinkie waved a hoof. “Rinny, Rinny, Rinny… the only thing that really matters is that it’s a gift from the heart,” she said. “And I mean your feelings, not the thumpy, beating thingy in your chest,” she added, anticipating Turing’s next question.

“Then my presents should reflect my own feelings of gratitude and appreciation for Twilight Sparkle and Spike the Dragon?”

“Exactly!” Pinkie exclaimed. “And why not? They’re two of the nicest ponies -- well, one pony and one dragon -- in all of Equestria! You can bet that a lot of other ponies owe them their thanks too!”

Turing leaned closer. “For instance?”

“Well, I guess there’s Moondancer and Minuette and Twilight’s other old friends in Canterlot, Starlight Glimmer’s old village, those two families in the Smokey Mountains…”

Turing listened attentively as Pinkie continued her list. And as she did, an idea began to form.

***

The next morning, the morning of Hearth’s Warming Eve, Spike was napping in his room, snuggled up tight in bed before he felt a cold, metallic tap on his shoulder. He awoke and sat up to see Turing Test standing at his bedside.

“Wha… Turing Test? What’s…” he yawned and looked through the window. It was dark outside and he saw the sun wasn’t even beginning to peek over the hills yet. “The heck? Turing, what time is it?”

“It is 5 o’clock.”

“What?! Why did you wake me up this early?!” he exclaimed angrily, sitting up in bed.

“It was the earliest I could awaken you while still allowing you sufficient rest and also giving me enough time to complete my task for today.”

“Sufficient rest my scaly tail!” he growled. “And what task?”

“That is classified.”

He blinked. “It’s… what?”

“I apologize, but I would prefer not to say further. I will only say that it is a surprise.”

Spike raised an eyebrow. “All right, all right,” he said, holding up a claw in mock surrender. He slid out of bed. “What do you need?”

“I require you to charge my battery to 100% and then to securely fasten the crank-operated generator to my hull. I will need to take it with me on a journey.”

“What kind of journey?”

“That is classified.”

He rolled his eyes. “When I do this, can I please go back to bed?”

“Yes. I will handle all further operations on my own.”

He stretched his back. “Fine, let’s do this,” he grumbled.

A minute later, he was in Turing’s room, turning the crank of the generator, charging Turing Test until she finally declared “Power is now at 100%. Charging is complete.”

He then took some ropes and the charging wires and helped Turing to tie them around her torso. Turing was very insistent that it be tied so tightly that it wouldn’t move around. Once she was satisfied, she put on a pair of saddlebags and bowed to Spike.

“Thank you, Spike the Dragon. You may now return to bed.”

“Great,” he said, letting out a long yawn. “Whatever you’re up to, I’ll see you later.”

“That is correct. I should return by nightfall.”

He paused, turning around. “Wait, nightfall? You mean you’ll be gone all day?!”

“No. Only for the next 12 to 14 hours.”

“That’s what I-- gah, never mind!” He trudged back towards his own room. “I’ll let Twilight know you’re gone.”

“Thank you.” She turned and made her way to the Castle’s front doors. “I hope we will have a pleasant Hearth’s Warming Eve together at that time.”

Spike was barely listening and rubbing his eyes as he made his way back to his room. He hopped back in bed, snuggled under the covers, and closed his eyes, ready to drift back to sleep.

It was then that he heard the sudden, deafening roar of jets as Turing Test went into P-mode and soared right past his window. He bolted out of bed and looked out the window. He saw as the robot rapidly ascended into the dark, early morning sky, piercing the low, gray clouds and vanishing from sight.

Spike gawked at the sight. “What the… where in the world is she going?” That left another question on his mind, however, and he knew he’d soon have to answer it when he heard hooves clattering on the castle floor approaching his room: How would he explain all this to Twilight?

***

Turing Test burst through the low-lying gray clouds. Clumps of snow from the heavy clouds stuck to her hull, but quickly blew off as she boosted her jets and reached her top speed. She lowered her ears and straightened her body out as she shot forward.

Adjustments made for additional weight. Estimating power expenditure and time required for itinerary… all variables are within acceptable limits.

She sped toward her first destination: Canterlot.

As the distance from Ponyville wasn’t great, at her speed she arrived in minutes, slowing down and gently alighting on a small, snow covered street that ran along Canterlot Stadium. She came to a modest house with a slightly crumbling wall and a door that had recently been patched over.

She raised a heavy, metal hoof and pounded on the door… which promptly fell off its hinges and landed loudly on the floor inside the house.

“What the hay?! Who’s there? Do you know what time it is?!” The voice inside suddenly grew more fearful. “Wait, are you a burglar? B-because if you are, th-then… take this!”

Turing Test was hit over the head with a pushbroom. It promptly snapped in two when it struck her titanium exterior.

“Hello,” she said nonchalantly calmly to the trembling, bespectacled mare in front of her. “I am not a burglar.”

“M-monster!” she screeched.

“I am also not a monster. I am a robot and a friend of Twilight Sparkle’s.”

The pony in question froze, but seemed to calm down. “Wait, you know Twilight?”

“Correct. Please tell me, are you known as Moondancer?”

Moondancer lifted her glasses, raising one oversized eyebrow. “Yes… can I help you with something?”

“I believe so. I apologize for breaking your door. After repairing it, perhaps we could discuss this matter further?”

Moondancer tightened her lips, considering this strange visitor, but at last shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sure. Come on in.”

“Thank you. Tell me, do you know where we could locate Minuette, Lemon Hearts, and Twinkleshine? I would like their help as well…”

***

Twilight was busy pacing back and forth as Spike looked on. The two of them were in the throne/map room and, periodically, Twilight would raise a hoof and open her mouth about to suggest something, before immediately reconsidering and going back to her pacing.

“Of all the irresponsible, crazy ideas…” she muttered.

“Sorry, Twilight,” Spike said, looking down.

“No, Spike, not you!” she cried, going over to him, lifting his chin. “I meant Turing Test! I can’t believe she would go off flying on her own!”

Spike shrugged. “She must have her reasons. She even said she’d be back tonight.”

“But she’s… she doesn’t even know what to…” Twilight took a deep breath and stared at the map. “I’m sure she had an idea of what she wanted to do, but the weather tonight all over Equestria is brutal and it’s dangerous to go flying even for an experienced flier like Rainbow Dash! What is Turing Test going to do if she hits a snowstorm? Or an ice storm? Or worse?!”

She hung her head, sitting down on the cold, hard floor before the map. “I messed up, Spike. I never should have let her go out like that.”

Spike ran to her side. “No, Twilight! You never had a chance to do anything; you were still asleep when she left!” He bit his lip, hesitating for a moment. “I mean, I’m the one who should have said something. She woke me up.”

“But I’m her… I mean, I guess I’m not her boss, or her master, or anything like that, but just the same, she would have obeyed me if I’d told her to stay!”

Spike put his clawed hand on her shoulder, causing her to look him in the eye. “Twilight, relax. Let’s just read A Visit From St. Nickerlas and wait for her to get back. I mean, Turing Test did just fine when she had that race with Rainbow Dash. And she even got stuck in an avalanche that one time and managed to get out of it! What else could possibly happen?”

***

The snow was blinding. Even with her sensors, Turing Test found it increasingly hard to navigate her way through the intense snowstorm that continuously pelted her with fat drops of snow. Now that the sun had gone down, she was blinded by the swirling chaos of the snowstorm and the ever-increasing darkness. She was cruising back toward Ponyville at significantly slower speed than she’d anticipated, as the additional weight of the generator and the new acquisitions in her saddlebags were making it difficult to maintain suitable flight.

Warning: ice detected on wings and hooves. Additional ice detected on visor. Vision impaired. Recommended action: land immediately and seek assistance.

Despite the warnings from her systems, she knew such an action would strand her in the middle of nowhere, possibly without anypony to recharge her. She could end up stranded and without power for days, weeks, or even years! And, she realized, she would not make her intended deadline.

She had to continue.

Just then, she hit a cloud and an extra chunk of snow and ice encased her left wing. She faltered, sputtered, and began to drift off course. She was on the verge of spinning out, which would inevitably lead to her plummeting to the ground and crashing. At her velocity, and from her current altitude, even her titanium armor would not protect her.

She was going to smash into a thousand pieces.

And yet, despite the roaring wind and the constant swirling mass of snow and thick gray clouds rushing by her, she heard a strange sound. Something light, tinkling, and even rhythmic.

Jingle bells. Something red. A towering pair of antlers. And then, a deep, rich baritone voice right next to her said, “Well, Miss… you look like you need a lift.”

***

It was well after nightfall, Hearth’s Warming Eve. The sun had set and the stores had all closed in Ponyville. Twilight had managed to avoid panicking as she set up the tree and hung the stockings and even set the Hearth’s Warming dolls on the mantle.

But as she set the last doll, the miniature metal one for Turing Test, she felt a lump in her throat.

“Oh Spike, the sun went down almost an hour ago! Where could she be?!”

Spike swallowed. “Maybe… maybe we should call for help after all.”

She nodded. “Right. We should have done that earlier. Let’s send a message to Princess Celestia. I’m sure she’d know what to--”

There was a loud, rhythmic banging at the front door. Twilight immediately raised her head, her horn glowing, as she teleported herself and Spike to the castle’s entrance. She threw open the door and stared at what stood before her.

“Hello Twilight Sparkle and Spike the Dragon.” Turing Test was caked with snow and ice, and the generator was still tied to her. The saddlebags on her back were bulging and she looked like a weary traveller that had journeyed through the Crystal Mountains on hoof and somehow lived to tell the tale.

“Turing!” Twilight cried, leaping forward and throwing her forelegs around her robot friend. “You’re--gah! You’re freezing!”

“My hull temperature is actually at approximately 2 degrees Centigrade on average, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Never mind that! Come in here right now before you catch-- oh. Well, come on inside anyway!”

She ushered Turing Test inside, leading her up the stairs and into the den, where the fire in the hearth was already burning and sending its heat throughout the room.

“Glad you’re back, Turing!” Spike said, helping Twilight take the generator and saddlebags off her.

“I am also glad to be here,” Turing said. “I apologize for my tardiness. I was caught in a severe snowstorm and required assistance to return. Fortunately, I was rescued by Santa Hooves.”

Spike and Twilight exchanged stunned glances a moment, but then burst out laughing.

“He said he saw the violet glow from my eyes in the snowstorm.”

“Oh Turing, you’re so funny!” Twilight managed to say between laughs.

“...Apparently so,” she remarked, and shook off the last of the snow, letting the remaining drops of it melt away.

Twilight’s expression turned hard and she narrowed her eyes at Turing. “Listen, Turing, I don’t mind if you want to go out on your own, but flying around all day in this kind of weather could have been dangerous. What in Equestria were you doing?! You really had both of us worried!”

Turing bowed her head. “I am sorry to have worried you. I was attempting to acquire a suitable present for both you and Spike the Dragon. I was successful in that endeavor and will give you your present tomorrow.”

“Well, actually,” Spike said - his eyes having lit up ever since Turing had said the word “present” - “Twilight and me usually open our Hearth’s Warming presents on Hearth’s Warming Eve instead of tomorrow morning.”

Twilight sighed. “Spike, I’m not sure it’s really the time…”

Then she caught sight of Spike’s “puppy-dog eyes.”

“...but a tradition is a tradition.” She sighed, shaking her head, but she was smiling as she did so. “Okay then. Presents tonight, lecture later.”

“All right!” Spike hollered, leaping into the air with a fist raised in victory.

Twilight and Spike opened their gifts to each other first. Spike received a book from Twilight, while Twilight received a Daring Do-themed coffee mug. There were numerous other presents from friends and family under the tree, but they decided to see what Turing Test had spent the whole day on.

“Okay, Turing Test,” Twilight said, standing before her expectantly, “what’s your gift?”

“Allow me to show you.” She lifted her saddlebags and turned them over, dumping their contents out all over the floor.

“What the…?” Spike began.

Before them was a pile of Hearth’s Warming cards and letters and what appeared to be numerous drawings in pencil and crayon.

“Uh, Turing Test, what exactly are these?” Twilight asked.

“Examine them and you will see,” Turing replied.

Twilight picked up a card and opened it. She gasped. “This is from Lemon Hearts! She’s got a picture of her setting up the feast for the Royal Theater Troupe’s banquet after the annual Hearth’s Warming Pageant!” She examined the scribbles on it. “Let’s see…"

Dear Twilight:

Thank you for stopping by a little while ago. We hope your Hearth’s Warming dinner is as wonderful as this one! Just remember, you can’t eat books! Ha ha ha!

Your friend,
-Lemon Hearts.

Twilight smiled. “You went to Canterlot, Turing?”

“Whoa, Twilight, look!” Spike exclaimed. He held up a drawing in crayon that showed him leaping out over an angry looking shadow monster while holding a blue heart. “It’s a picture a little filly drew for me in the Crystal Empire of me holding the Crystal Heart and keeping it away from Sombra! It just says ‘Hapy Harths Warming Grate and Onerabul Spike the Brave and Gloreeus. -Rainbow Flourite, Age 4.’”

Twilight’s jaw dropped open. “You… Turing, you flew to the Crystal Empire too?!”

“Correct,” she replied. “I brought my generator with me because I was unable to fly to such disparate locations without recharging my battery. I flew to locations where you both had made significant impressions on other ponies’ lives and informed them that I wished to collect tokens of their affection.

“Additionally, I asked them to give oral messages of thanks and recorded them. Allow me to play them back for you now.”

Twilight and Spike came close as a new voice came from Turing’s speaker:

“Uh, this is a little weird, but, hi, Twilight!”

Twilight gasped. “Moondancer?”

“Your friend Turing Test tells me you’re taking care of her and teaching her how to make friends. Well, if you’re helping her like you helped me, then I’m sure she’s going to do great. My sister and I are going to have Hearth’s Warming Dinner together here in Canterlot. Minuette and Twinkleshine are coming too! Unfortunately, Lemon Hearts is doing that thing with the Royal Canterlot Theater Troupe, but it’s no biggie - she promised to save us some cake! Anyway, thank you so much for helping me to have a wonderful Hearth’s Warming with my friends, Twilight. And don’t think I forgot about how you helped too, Spike! You keep Twilight’s hooves on the ground; she needed that even before she had wings! Happy Hearth’s Warming!”

Twilight was speechless. She sat down before the fire and covered her mouth. “Oh,” was all she managed to say before a new voice was heard, this time from Big Daddy McColt.

“This thing workin’? It is? Alright then… ahem… uh, this here’s Big Daddy McColt an’ I just wanted to tell ya that us McColts are havin’ Hearth’s Warmin’ dinner with the Hooffields for the first time in three generations. I don’t mind sayin’ I’m actually lookin’ forward to Ma Hooffield’s punkin pie. Sure it’ll taste better when it ain’t made from a punkin’ whut was smashed upside uncle Charlie’s head. I’m glad ya sent yer talkin’ contraption to talk to us so’s we can thank ya fer givin’ us the opportunity. Hope you like them cards we drew up too! Happy Hearth’s Warmin’, Princess!”

And still another came, this time from Sugar Belle: “Hi, Princess Twilight! Um, we were a little surprised when Turing Test showed up at our little village, but she told us she was a friend of yours and we knew everything would be all right. Things are going great in our village and even though it’s true we have our disagreements, getting to have our cutie marks back and being our true selves every day has been wonderful. We wouldn’t have had that if you and your friends hadn’t come to help! So on behalf of our little village, Happy Hearth’s Warming! Also, Double Diamond suggested we put in some cards, so there are plenty from me, Party Favor, Night Glider, and all the rest of us!”

And finally, there was a message from Shining Armor: “Twily! Spike! I sure wish you two were here, but we’re glad your friend Turing came to visit. Twily, I know I’ve said it before, but if you hadn’t saved Cadance and if you two hadn’t saved me from Chrysalis, well, I sure don’t even want to think about it. Now I’m here and I’m going to be a dad and I just… I love you, Twily. And Spike, don’t think I forgot about you too, little guy! Even though it’s getting late, Cadance sent word that the Empire would send a Hearth’s Warming card to you and almost everypony came out to sign it!”

Spike found a large, thick scroll and unfurled it, gawking as it kept unrolling for meter upon meter with names and short messages of well-wishing for the two-time hero of the Crystal Empire.

“Bottom line is, we really are lucky to have you both in the family and we want to wish you a Happy Hearth’s Warming. Talk to you again soon!”

Turing Test spoke again in her normal voice: “Those are the messages I recorded for you, Twilight Sparkle and Spike the Dragon. I wanted to present a gift that would show my gratitude for accepting me into your lives and treating me as more than a simple machine. I did not know the proper way to express that in my own voice, but I concluded that I might be able to show the greatness of my appreciation by delivering these messages of gratitude to you from all the ponies you have helped in the past. Is my present acceptable?”

Twilight and Spike were both looking at her in stunned silence. Twilight had happy tears streaming down her face, and even Spike was getting misty-eyed.

“Oh… oh, Turing Test!” Twilight managed to say, her voice breaking. She ran over to her and held her in a tight embrace, Spike immediately following her. “It’s a wonderful gift. Thank you so much!”

“Yeah,” Spike added. “This is one of the best Hearth’s Warming gifts I’ve ever had!”

Turing returned the hug. “You are welcome, Twilight Sparkle and Spike the Dragon. I will endeavor to not worry you when I acquire your gift for next Hearth’s Warming Eve.”

Twilight chuckled and stepped back from Turing, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Well then,” she managed to say, “I guess we should give you your presents from us.”

Spike handed Turing a flat, square-shaped object. Turing gently unwrapped it and held up the object. “This is a record for a group named Trots Siberian Orchestra.”

“Yeah, Vinyl Scratch plays this music to sync up with the lightshow she does on her house! Well, her half of the house.”

“I have not had the chance to listen to much music. This will be an interesting experience. Thank you, Spike the Dragon.”

Twilight levitated her gift to Turing next. She unwrapped it to find a snow globe of Ponyville’s City Hall.

“I know it isn’t much, but I thought it might be something else you could display in your room,” Twilight said as she blushed, rubbing the back of her neck. “Sorry, I guess after your present, it’s a little underwhelming.”

“Not at all, Twilight Sparkle,” Turing replied, shaking it and causing the “snow” to whirl around inside. “This will be an important keepsake as a reminder of Ponyville. Furthermore, predicting the pattern of the falling snow inside this object is engaging and will allow me to further improve my analysis subroutines.”

“Well… good!” She smiled. “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Turing Test.”

“And Happy Hearth’s Warming to you as well.”

Spike was already digging under the tree and brought out several more presents. “Hey, don’t forget about the gifts from your parents, Twilight! And Turing, I think you got something from Gadget, and a card from Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis, and… what’s this?”

Turing levitated the object and held it closer. It was a small box that had been crudely wrapped in brown paper and tied with a piece of string. She untied it and pulled back the paper to find the box and a small card. She first opened the box, momentarily setting the card aside.

Inside was a small, shiny pink stone in the shape of a heart. There was no golden chain or pin or anything else to identify it as jewelry. It was simply a heart-shaped stone.

Turing then opened the card that came with it and read the message inside:

Turing Test,

I found this rock. It’s made of rose quartz. It made me think of you. I hope you like it.

Happy Hearth’s Warming,
-Maud Pie

Turing examined the stone again, nodding at it before placing it back in the box. She would remember to thank Maud the next time she saw her.

For the rest of the night, the three friends opened their presents, taught each other carols, and warmed themselves by the fire. When Twilight and Spike finally tired out and fell asleep, Turing Test gently used her magic to carry them to bed and tucked them in.

While they slept, she put on her Santa Hooves hat and walked outside. The snow was still falling, but she didn’t mind the cold. Rather than retire to her room, she stood there, watching Ponyville as it slept, letting the snow accumulate, until at last the sky began to brighten and she detected the sounds of little colts and fillies in their houses racing to see what Santa Hooves had left them under the Hearth’s Warming tree.

“Happy Hearth’s Warming, Ponyville,” she whispered.

Happy Hearth’s Warming to All, and to All a Good Beep!

Author's Note:

Hope you enjoyed this semi-sorta-maybe canonical side story to "The Iron Horse!" It was something I whipped up after completing the next chapter of the story and managed to get done just in time for Xmas!

I'm very grateful to all my readers and followers and to my editors GenerousGypsy, E3gner, and Knight Templar, and my original editor GaPJaxie. All of you have made this first year on FiM Fiction a happy and successful one. :heart:

Art as always is by my good friend and illustrator Colby Green.

Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas to you all!

(Edit: And if you stumbled across this story not knowing the story it's spun off from and enjoyed it anyway? Then thanks for reading and here's the original tale - The Iron Horse: Everything's Better With Robots!)

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Comments ( 35 )

Very nice. :)

This is great, if it wasn't for how the last chapter ended you might have been able to put this in the main story instead of a one shot.

“Let’s see,” she said, picking up one title after another, “there’s Past Sins, which is still pretty popular; and here’s University Days; maybe Asylum, if she’s into sad stories; A Dodgy Business is one of my favorites too; and we have The Reality I Choose, though honestly I think that one’s a bit overrated…”

Really Hatsie? Really?

“They’re doing holiday films, so I was thinking we could either watch Snowdrop or maybe A Hearth’s Warming Carol.”

:facehoof:

“As am I. I have acquired more metal polish and intend to rub myself vigorously once you and Spike the Dragon have gone to bed.”

Okay, that was actually pretty damn funny.

calories consumed on a holiday don’t really count anyway

That's some sound advice, there.. It's been scientifically proven, too. It does, however, have odd effect of causing your clothes to shrink and your scale to lie.

“This is a record for a group named Trots Siberian Orchestra.”

Good taste.

Turing Test,
I found this rock. It’s made of rose quartz. It made me think of you. I hope you like it.
Happy Hearth’s Warming,
-Maud Pie

Fuckin aaaaawwwweee...Personally, I kinda wanna see Turing and Maud shipped...

I loved this lil one shot. Very sweet and cute!!!

Very nice and heartwarming. Turing Test's gift was really thoughtful. :twilightsmile:

And TuringxMaud is always nice!

And depending of how the main story develops, you can include this story on it without any trouble (still hope for a bonus chapter with Detective Rarity and CSI Turing! :yay:).

beautifully done and heart warming! this truly showed the spirit of the holiday! thank you!

My gosh this was sooooo sweet. Cute story.

I was hoping Turing had recorded a conversation with Santa Hooves, just because Twilight hasn't had her entire world :twilightoops: <Wha-?) turned sideways often enough lately.

Trans Siberian Orchestra?

Santa Hooves is Best Reindeer :pinkiehappy:
Turing Test is best robot.

6772261 Coming from a talented author such as yourself, I will certainly take the compliment. Thanks, Georg! :twilightsmile:

And, in fact, I was inspired to have Santa Hooves be a reindeer after reading your story, which was very sweet and perfect for the season!

6770555 Yes, that exactly.

Also, whoever made that? BRILLIANT.

Robot do not have visions of sugar plums. What robot do have is LASER VISION.

Really nice add to the main fic. Definitely favourited.

Very good. Very, very good.:twilightsmile:

6777582 Perhaps Turing Test could ask for lasers for her next Hearth's Warming. Then again, the track record for robot ponies with lasers isn't very good...

6768254 6769124 6769246 6769958 6781613 6781902
Thank you all for the nice comments. I'm glad you all enjoyed my little gift for the holidays. :twilightsmile:

6768269

This is great, if it wasn't for how the last chapter ended you might have been able to put this in the main story instead of a one shot.

6768908

And depending of how the main story develops, you can include this story on it without any trouble

Yeah, it's soft canon. There's no particular time that it necessarily has to take place in the story as it stands, but I might make minor reference to it in the main story. It's just something I wanted to write for all the readers without really caring about how it fits in the main narrative, thus its status as a stand-alone one-shot.

6769590

I was hoping Turing had recorded a conversation with Santa Hooves, just because Twilight hasn't had her entire world :twilightoops: <Wha-?) turned sideways often enough lately.

Turing later tried to play a recording of her conversation with Santa Hooves for Twilight, but for some reason it was nothing but 30 minutes of static. Hmm...

6768908

And TuringxMaud is always nice!

6768287

Turing Test,
I found this rock. It’s made of rose quartz. It made me think of you. I hope you like it.
Happy Hearth’s Warming,
-Maud Pie

Fuckin aaaaawwwweee...Personally, I kinda wanna see Turing and Maud shipped...

Well, just wait a bit and we'll see. :ajsmug:

By the way, GG, sorry you and the other editors didn't get a crack at this one, but I wanted it to be a surprise for everyone, including the editing team. :twilightsmile:

And since you had several other good comments...

“Let’s see,” she said, picking up one title after another, “there’s Past Sins, which is still pretty popular; and here’s University Days; maybe Asylum, if she’s into sad stories; A Dodgy Business is one of my favorites too; and we have The Reality I Choose, though honestly I think that one’s a bit overrated…”

Really Hatsie? Really?

Who doesn't like a little self-deprecation humor in their holiday specials? :rainbowwild:

“As am I. I have acquired more metal polish and intend to rub myself vigorously once you and Spike the Dragon have gone to bed.”

Okay, that was actually pretty damn funny.

I considered having Rarity say something like "Yes, well... I certainly hope robots don't go blind," or something like that, but sometimes it pays to be subtle. Or at least as subtle as you can get with a masturbation joke in a holiday special.

Anyway, thank you once again everyone for commenting. As we head into the New Year, I'm glad to know I have such good readers who enjoy my work. Until next time!

6785556 Its cool Hatsie :twilightsmile: It was a nice surprise! And I like nice surprises! Much like a gift of a fine century vintage, it was pleasant and fully in good taste.

Huh, I was just thinking about the Trot/Trans Siberian Orchestra.

I enjoyed this very much, and am grateful that you're not one of those authors who forgets Spike exists every one outta ten times something significant happens regarding Twilight.

6785556

Turing later tried to play a recording of her conversation with Santa Hooves for Twilight, but for some reason it was nothing but 30 minutes of static. Hmm...

Somewhat obscure Sci-Fi references in your comments to comments. Good show.

6834316 What can I say? I always appreciate it when my readers make... Contact. :moustache:

*Gaaaaasp* Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh! :pinkiegasp:
The new author I enjoy reading has read and referenced A Dodgy Business (probably the first story I ever read on this site and waaaaay not famous enough for how good it is)!?! The embarrassing fanboy behavior has been squared! :rainbowkiss::raritystarry:

Haha, the fic and vid shout-outs were amusing.
All the d'aww has been received.
Keep going! ;)

...Have you considered to set up a "non-canon" side-story / story-collection for all the little pieces that don't fit into the main story?

I recall you mentioning intentions for a (real) Equestria Girls chapter, but couldn't figure out how to place it into the story. This would be the place for it. (And yeah, "April Fools" chapters would definitely fit in there, too).

An Equestria Girls chapter would definitely be interesting -----
I could easily see Sunset as well-versed in human sci-fi, and having read up on the current state-of-the art in "AI", "the singularity", AI-self-improvement, and the likes.

It also could directly contrast the effect of technological progress for better or for worse, versus how Equestria handled it so far.

Turing Test likes to read ---- wait until she sees the internet. :pinkiegasp:
And subsequently requests Sunset to assist in building an adapter to directly interface with it. :rainbowdetermined2:

"I HAVE ANALYZED OVER 9000 TERABYTES OF DATA. 73.6% OF WHICH CONTAINED EITHER CAT-PICTURES, SHORT-FORM SEQUENTIALLY ANIMATED IMAGES OF CATS, AND RECORDINGS OF CAT-VIDEOS. NYAN NYAN NYAN NYAN. LEROY JENKINS."

As for other uses for a non-canon side-story collection...... I would love to see Turing Test foal-sit Sweetie Bot. :trollestia:

7224026 I haven't really thought about collecting them all in one place like that, no. I may publish more side stories in the Iron Horse universe, though. I've got one that's been in the works for a while, in fact! :raritywink:

I can see an advantage in having them all in one place, but I'd almost rather let each one stand on its own as something fans can either read or take a pass on at their leisure.

I feel very foolish, because I nonstop read through "The Iron Horse" and caught up to the latest chapter, but during that time I noticed that I had somehow missed something. Turing referenced Hearth's Warming, but I didn't remember reading a Hearth's Warming chapter. It took till now for me to actually check your user page then look at all your stories and realize you had a christmas short, the facepalm effect was strong, as a result.

7525267 Not to worry. I intended the story to be in the category of "canon, but skip-able." It was just a cute little side-story I did for my readers, but not something I expected too many to pay attention to. Of course, those who did got the extra bonus during the "Romance" arc.

Anyway, I'm always grateful and amazed to hear a reader say they marathoned The Iron Horse, since it has become such a long story. So thanks for commenting, and I hope you enjoyed this little holiday special. :twilightsmile:

This was incredibly sweet. Turing is such an adorable robot.

You know, I really do love this little one shot! I'm rather surprised you didn't include it in the Main Canon!

Although hopefully this means more readers and support for your main storyline! <3

By the way, I read this a while ago and really enjoyed it. Just thought I ought to say so officially, rather than just thumb it up. That is all. :heart:

Turing Test,

I found this rock. It’s made of rose quartz. It made me think of you. I hope you like it.

Happy Hearth’s Warming,
-Maud Pie

I still ship it!

“Let’s see,” she said, picking up one title after another, “there’s Past Sins, which is still pretty popular; and here’s University Days; maybe Asylum, if she’s into sad stories; A Dodgy Business is one of my favorites too; and we have The Reality I Choose, though honestly I think that one’s a bit overrated…”

“Sweetie Belle insists on seeing a film down at the theater, so I suppose I’ll have to take her,” Rarity said, biting into the cookie once it had been properly saturated. “They’re doing holiday films, so I was thinking we could either watch Snowdrop or maybe A Hearth’s Warming Carol.”

*narrows eyes*

I see what you did and I'm not impressed.

“As am I. I have acquired more metal polish and intend to rub myself vigorously once you and Spike the Dragon have gone to bed.”

SNERK

Jingle bells. Something red. A towering pair of antlers. And then, a deep, rich baritone voice right next to her said, “Well, Miss… you look like you need a lift.”

Wait what

“Oh… oh, Turing Test!” Twilight managed to say, her voice breaking. She ran over to her and held her in a tight embrace, Spike immediately following her. “It’s a wonderful gift. Thank you so much!”

Turing is pure and wonderful and I love her.

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