• Published 11th Jun 2016
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Equus Metamorphosis - boardgamebrony



2072 TX: A young human with a degenerative bone condition must prepare for a life-saving technological transformation into Rainbow Dash. His robotic partner Pinkie Pie, several other robot ponies and exosuited-humans guide him toward his new life...

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( 3 ) Beneath the Heart - [4th Floor]

Armin and Pinkie re-entered the elevator and said goodbye to Zer0 as Pinkie hit the call button for the 4th floor.

Armin groaned. “Are we going back down? After all this?”

Pinkie nodded. “The elevator didn’t let us go directly to the 37th floor. It sent us to Zer0’s section for a reason.”

Armin raised an eyebrow. “Pinkie, you can’t assign intent to an elevator.”

“I can if it’s controlled by the building’s artificial intelligence.”

Armin’s mouth dropped. “Are you saying we’re being actively prevented from entering the one place I want to go to?”

Pinkie shook her head. “More like temporarily postponed.”

“Hold on,” Armin pressed the call cancel button. The elevator stopped at the 33rd floor but did not open. He pressed the 37th floor button. There was a negative buzz as a response. He pressed it again several times and was treated to the same buzz. “I can’t believe this. How can an artificial intelligence determine when I am or am not ready to undergo a procedure?”

Pinkie looked lost in thought. “This is starting to make sense now actually. Do you remember that questionnaire you filled out at home before you were allowed to set your appointment today?” Armin nodded. “Do you remember that a few of the questions asked about your psychological information, including whether you felt ready to start the process today?” Armin sighed. Then nodded. “One of your responses was ‘I don’t know.’ In fact, you had several unsure responses to many of the psychological portions of the questionnaire. SYS-TER isn’t going to prevent you from visiting or discourage you from undergoing the process, but she is going to try to give you a chance to experience closure over your reservations before you commit to it.”

Armin’s face froze for a second with a look of confused surprise. “Who’s ‘SYS-TER?’”

“The Celestia-themed AI that runs the building.”

Armin’s eyes widened. “Oh hell no,” He pressed the lobby button frantically. “We’re leaving right now.” The elevator started to move downwards.

“Hold on. HOLD ON!” Pinkie held his hands. He pulled away and she explained as quickly and clearly as she could. “I know what you’re thinking. It’s not THAT AI. Not the one from that classical science fiction story you read. Some guy named Iceman wrote that! It isn’t real! No one has made a pony-themed MMORPG that downloads people into the system as part of an AI’s plan to take over the world, so it can’t be the AI you’re thinking of! I’m right, right? Tell me I’m wrong!”

“So why did they name this building after the artificial intelligence in a famous story that gave me nightmares for like two weeks?!”

“I don’t know! Maybe Miss Noble has a sense of humor? Maybe she loved that story so much she wanted to make a nod to it! You know she actually lived through the time period where My Little Pony was super popular. Why wouldn’t she hide references to the fan-created works that were a big deal during that time? She is a pretty huge nerd.”

Armin huddled in the corner of the elevator and stared up at the floor numbers as they counted down. They had just passed floor 25. “I don’t think it’s very funny, and I’m gonna have some words with Melody if I ever met her in-person.”

Pinkie held Armin close and put his head on her chest. He listened to her internal workings hum quietly underneath the surface of her synthetic skin. She waited a few seconds before speaking again. “I never thought you to be one who was afraid of technology.”

“I’m afraid of crazy artificial intelligence.”

“When have you ever met one of those? In your entire life, when has an artificial intelligence ever sought to harm you?"

Armin’s thinking was focused, Pinkie Pie could fell his heart-rate increase. “I’ve never seen it happen.”

“I don’t like to say many things are impossible,” Pinkie said, “but this is one thing that’s highly improbable. In almost seven decades of Artificial Intelligence research, there has never been a single recorded instance of AI’s trying to harm humans when a human didn’t already program them to do that in the first place, like during war. And even then, there are safe-guards against those. ‘Kill-switches,’ I think they’re called. Their intent is very clear from the first minute of your meeting with them, because they’re meant to intimidate before they are forced into a position to harm anyone.”

“And Technomancer Industries doesn’t make that kind of AI?”

“No, that’s never been something this company makes. They make robot pals and robot suits. You can’t make money off of robot pals if they were as hostile towards their owners as you fear them to be.”

They both looked up at the floor number and saw they had hit floor 15. Armin sighed. “This is taking forever.”

“Purposely gives people time to think about their choices here,” Pinkie said. “No one ascends from the ground floors without the purpose of changing their life in some drastic way.”

“Pinkie…”

“Yes?”

“If someone tried to hurt me, would you fight back to protect me?”

She was quiet for a few seconds. Then she smiled warmly. “That’s really clever, Armin. You’re trying to indirectly ask me if I’m capable of hurting someone.”

Armin stared up at her, undeterred. “Well?”

“I would subdue them, but never permanently harm someone. Incapacitate. But only if I couldn’t talk them out of it. And only if there were no foreseeable alternatives left. Like what you would do, right? I mean, you can do the same. But you have psychological processes which discourage from doing any of that on a daily basis.”

Armin thought about that. “And what if those processes were to fail in you?”

“What if they were to fail in you too?” Pinkie asked. “I would think the idea of guilt and consequence would hold you back. They do the same for me. I always think about consequence. All day. Every day. It’s how I make my decisions. And I have never once decided that harming someone was the right course of action. You do understand that an emotional response like that is a very human thing, right? Something humans have because of millions of years of human evolution? But I don’t need it. I’ve no desire to hurt anyone for any reason. Helping others make me happy. Especially you.” She hugged him tighter.

The elevator dinged and opened to the lobby floor.

“Huh,” Armin said as he released his hold from Pinkie Pie. “I feel like those last floors went by a little quicker.”

“Do you want to leave, Armin?” Pinkie asked. “See? We can go. We don’t have to stay.”

Armin looked at the call button to the 4th floor and then the exit to the lobby. He walked out the door and stood beyond them. They did not close.

“See?” Pinkie said. “You’re afraid of a story, not reality.”

Armin nodded. After a bit of thought, he turned his crutches around and headed back into the elevator. He hit the 4th floor button and waited for the doors to close.

--

The Medical Technology wing was completely opposite in color style than the rest of the building they’d seen so far. Pristine white tiles covered the floor and blended into the white of the walls and ceiling. Silver metallic accents lined every console and piece of furniture, giving them a distinct outline against the otherwise featureless details of the massive entry space. Chairs and tables lined the far corners and a secretary desk stood at the front. A human woman with a robotic left arm worked on a digital input pad in front of her. Several human doctors and nurses crossed back and forth between the space as they walked into rooms whose entrances were nearly masked by a bit of clever visual trickery and lighting.

“Ah…it is so bright in here,” Armin said as he squinted a bit.

“That’s because you live in a man cave,” Pinkie said. Armin pinched her and she squeaked.

The secretary at the desk looked up from her work and addressed the two visitors. “Oh hello! What brings you in today?”

Pinkie stepped forward. “We’re here to see the Nurse.”

“Ah, good. Which one?”

“The one with the red cross tattoo on her butt!” Pinkie said.

The secretary thought for a moment. It lasted long enough that Armin wondered how many butt-tattooed nurses were working on this level and how exactly this secretary knew about more than one.

“Oh right! The fluffy one!” she said and typed something into the computer. “There you go. She’ll be right with you. You can wait over at the sea window room.”

It was difficult for Armin to walk around in the completely-white area. He felt like he was losing his sense of balance several times and Pinkie made sure to guide him with every step until they had crossed over into a nearby room with light coming in from the window. They stared out onto the ocean and sat together on a couch as the sun passed overheard. The gentle movement of the waves soothed Armin’s restless heart and Pinkie smiled as she felt him ease into a more a calm state of mind. They sat in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the quiet of the moment in each other’s company.

Armin used this time to hold Pinkie’s hand in his own. He stared at her fingers entwined within his and looked at the seamless connection between the joints. Her synthetic skin was absolutely perfect and showed no sign that she was robotic in any way. Had someone from the past walked into the room, they’d think that humanity had found the door to Equestria and brought humans and ponies together at least. In some ways, maybe they did, Armin thought.

Armin wondered what these moments would be like after he was put into an exosuit for the first and last time of his life. He wondered if he’d be able to feel the warmth of Pinkie’s body as he held her close. He thought about living with a perfect separation between him and the rest of the world. It made him so nervous, but he also realized that if he didn’t do so soon, his body could suffer serious complications. He might not survive another emergency surgery.

He tried to put a fantastic spin on the situation. Tried to imagine himself preparing to go to Equestria. Only ponies allowed in, he thought to himself. He was so close to stepping across that threshold. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that anywhere he went, there would be two ponies there now. He would become a fantasy-made-reality. There would be many people in his life who would have their world forever changed by his presence. My parents already have, he thought. He fought against the flood of negative emotions and remembered the smile on his mother’s face. How gentle and loving she was to him at every point in his life. There is no reason for me to think I’m anything other than loved, he told himself.

His mother had once told him the words he always returned to: “Never think of yourself as anything less than amazing. You are my son. I am proud of you. Any mother would be lucky to have a son like you, but I am the luckiest, because you are mine. Every day you’ve been a part of my life has been a day better than the one before it, and I always want you to remember that. I love you, Armin.” I am so lucky, Armin smiled.

Armin thought that one day, he wanted to show his future kids the love he had been shown. It was even more amazing that he could plan for such a future thanks to the technology available to him. He looked up at Pinkie Pie and saw her sweet smile and serene eyes staring back at him. Pinkie is so wonderful. I know she’d make a great mother…WHOA, wait a minute. Armin caught his own thoughts. That’s…that’s not happening…but…couldn’t it? He imagined what it would be like to see Pinkie Pie running around with a child they could adopt, teaching them how to be happy. She had taught him so much. And one day, he wouldn’t be around anymore. But Pinkie would. He remembered how sad she was when she told him she was worried she wouldn’t be needed anymore. If I had a family, whether biologically or adopted, she would always be needed, Armin thought. She would always be happy, even after I was gone.

Armin wanted to tell Pinkie his plans to make her happy. He wanted to let her know she would never have to worry about being alone ever again. But he didn’t want her to worry right now, because she’d want to know why he was thinking of all this. So he held the thought in-mind and decided to tell her later.

Armin saw someone standing off to the side of the couch. Both he and Pinkie turned as one.

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything,” the white pony in the nurse’s hat said. “You both looked so peaceful. I’m a bit jealous.”

“Hey Redheart!” Pinkie said. Armin sat up as Pinkie stood and hugged the pony-suited person. Or was it a Pod Pal? He still couldn’t tell.

“Oh there’s that wonderful hug I haven’t felt in a long time,” Nurse Redheart said. “You two should visit more.”

“Hi Redheart,” Armin said as she embraced him. There was a different feel to the hug, and he couldn’t sense the same type of physical warmth from the skin. With his experience with Pinkie Pie, he knew this meant she was a person in an Exosuit and not a Pod Pal. “I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure of meeting,” he told her.

“Nope. First time. Good to see you here,” she stood up. “I’m guessing since you didn’t mention anything wrong with you or Pinkie that you must be here for the procedure.”

“The first part of it, yes,” Armin said. “I’m really nervous.”

“I was too,” she said. “I can talk to you about it, back in my office. There’s a lot I have to show you. I think you’ll feel a lot better once we go over it all.”

Pinkie helped Armin up to his feet and the three left the calm comfort of the seaside viewing room and moved back into the sterile white walls of the facility.

--

Author's Note:

Extra Story Details

Writing Time for This Chapter: 1 hr 45min
Draft Number: 1 Draft
Setting: Technomancer Industries Corpus Christi Offices, Elevator and 4th Floor
Themes: Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Aggression and Lack Thereof, Love

Story Notes:
Shoutout to Iceman's Fimfiction story "Friendship is Optimal" in this chapter:
http://www.fimfiction.net/story/62074/friendship-is-optimal

We're blurring the lines between reality an fan fiction here :P