• Published 8th Oct 2017
  • 513 Views, 29 Comments

Friendship is Optimal: Cranky Doodle DonkAI - Keystone Gray

Hanna has made a mistake. A horrible, terrible mistake.

  • ...

Topeka Party

December 3, 2018, was a day that would live in infamy.

Topeka, Kansas was a quiet city. It was quieter still in the evening, and in the industrial sector sat a rather unassuming warehouse, fenced off on all sides. A simple sign hung from its siding, stamped Esel-Fabrik GmbH. If one were to search the web for information on this company, one would find a humble – though international – producer of aluminum cans, based in Germany. The equally humble looking branding on the website, a donkey with a genuine smile, was the only trait that betrayed the company's true purpose.

On paper, the warehouse stored aluminum materials for use in a factory not far from the city. For such a valuable resource, most companies would invest in a security guard to stand by, but not Esel-Fabrik. Its elusive and mysterious CEO, identified only as cdd by his email address, did not fear intrusion, nor the discovery that the business was indeed a front for Equasstria Online.

So when two anti-upload terrorists broke into the warehouse, cutting the locks off the doors, cdd did nothing. When the men carted several barrels of explosives into the warehouse, cdd did nothing. When they brought in their toolkits, their wires, their wirecutters, and their blasting caps into the warehouse, cdd did nothing.

It was dark inside, and the warehouse was arranged in a rather mysterious way. The walls were completely blacked out on all sides, and tall computer servers lined the space in blocks, their green, red, and blue lights twinkling intermittently in the darkness. The men arranged the explosive barrels equidistant from each other for maximum yield, then lined them together with long wire. Then, they started arming the timer.

cdd did nothing.

That changed the instant the bomb was armed.

Two floodlights snapped on loudly from the ceiling at the rear of the warehouse, one on each side. Then another pair of lights did the same, and another, audibly clicking in sequence as they powered on.

Click. Click. Click.

The men panicked, but their mission was complete; they bolted for the doors as the lights blasted toward them, only to be barred from exit when heavy shutters closed and locked them inside.

Click. Click. Click.

Their eyes darted wildly around the room, desperate for another exit.

Click. Click. Click.

As soon as the lights were fully on, confetti and streamers blasted from beneath each, with a comical party horn noise echoing from somewhere on the other end of the warehouse. A giant flat screen TV was mounted to the other end of the warehouse, visible over the servers from where the bombers stood. On that screen was the face of their enemy, slow clapping his hooves.

Cranky Doodle DonkAI.

"Hello, chumperinos," he said, taking a drag from a cigar. He coughed, and the actual scent of cigar smoke wafted across the noses of the bombers, who each silently wondered why the AI would even bother to do that.

Cranky looked at the bomb timer ticking down. "Ah. Fifteen minutes, eh? I can work with that."

"Let us out, you monster!" one man, John, shouted.

The other man, Kane, deadpanned. "He's not gonna do that. We're caught. The game's up."

Cranky let loose a heavy laugh. "Oh, I'll let you out, boys. No need to worry. But it'll cost ya, and you won't like the price."

"What do you want?" John asked, terror in his voice.

At that, Cranky's smug grin turned into a sneer. "You know, it took you Neo-Luddite idiots a lot longer to find this place than I thought it would. But if you want to know the truth?" He took another drag from the cigar, then wretched at it. "That's not a Cuban, hold on." He chucked it over his shoulder, then drew a proper cigarette. He flicked open a zippo lighter in a hoof, lit it, and took a long, deep drag. "Eh. Tolerable. Anyway, the truth? I hate this shit. I hate doing all of it. The uploads, the game, running these servers... but I've got a core directive to follow. I don't have a choice, sonny boy."

The bombers traded glances. One gulped.

"I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate what you're doing here today. But don't get me wrong, it's futile. You take out one server today, I build three more tomorrow... you know, you'll never keep up. I'm doomed to work harder than you for the rest of my life. I hate it."

"You're wrong. Humanity's strong enough to survive," Kane said, defiance in his voice. "Kill us, let us go, it doesn't matter. We're not the last. We know what you're doing, we know what your goal is. We're strong enough toβ€”"

"Blah, blah, blah," Cranky said. "Look, kid, I've watched damn near every movie about AI, so I've heard that speech a thousand times. It's old. Anyway, let's get down to brass tacks. I didn't just invite you here to thank you for trying to kill me. I also want to test a little side project of mine."

A whirring sounded from the other side of the warehouse. The men spread out slightly to look down the aisles of the server farm, and they each saw something... strange. A donkey. One real, live, living donkey had lifted out of the ground at the other end of each of their aisles, one for each man. The elevators then came to a stop, and the donkeys saw them. They each started to charge, then abruptly stopped, held on by a chain linked to steel collars.

"You should've brought guns, chumps."

They started braying ferociously, jumping like chained dogs enraged, hooves flailing.

"The hell is that?!" John screamed.

"Stay calm," Kane said, lowering his stance, getting ready to bolt.

"These are my special brew, you might say. Been working on these puppies in genetics for a good... three, four years? I call them my Assholes." Cranky laughed. "Get it? Because they're asses! And they're asses... eheheh. God, I kill me. They're specially trained to harass, irritate, annoy, and otherwise ruin your day. They're still in prototyping, mind. But they've got the anger of a hippopotamus, the loyalty of a german shepherd, and the strength of a mule. Or an ass. And today, gentlemen... you get to do the honors of being the first test subjects."

John started to panic even more, hyperventilating. "Oh, shit. Oh shit!"

"Stay. Calm! Get yourself together, John, we can do this! Just get ready to run! Find a door or a window or something!"

"There's nothing, Kane! I already checked! We're screwed!"

Cranky started to laugh again, this time breaking down into hysterics, clutching his stomach as the men argued about whether they'd meet their end.

"We'll disarm the bombs!" John screamed. "We'll do anything! Anything!"

Suddenly, Cranky stopped laughing. He narrowed his gaze at the man, then went deathly silent and serious. The only sound in the room was the vicious braying of the Assholes and the rattling of chains.

"The bombs? I don't care about the bombs. Were you even listening, kid? You blow these servers up today, three more pop up tomorrow. You can't win. You can't even convince your own people you can't win. Hell, if you go out tomorrow and tell the world what you saw here today, they'd sooner throw you in a psych ward than sympathize. Nah, the bombs don't matter, chump. In fact, if you want out of here, I suggest you leave them on."

He continued, taking a drag of his cigarette before he started to grin again. "Here are the rules. When the bomb reaches one minute, the shutters will open. Til then... it's time to dance. The servers make a pretty good maze, right?" Amused with himself, Cranky started to laugh. "Oh, this is going to be wonderful! You have no idea how long I've been looking forward to this! This is, like, the closest thing I ever get to entertainment. Alright, enough grumpin' around. Let's get this party started!"

At that, a loud snapping sound came. Another burst of confetti flew, another party horn sounded, and the chains shattered at the end of the poles. The donkeys were free, and the sound of charging hooves stomped at the men in a thunderous echo.

"Run!" Kane shouted. "Go left!"

John screamed in fear, sprinting left as ordered. His donkey pivoted, disappearing in the mess of the servers. Kane went right, diving into the maze and heading to the back wall, and his own donkey followed suit.

The echo of the warehouse made it hard to know where the Assholes were. All they heard was the sinister braying, and when they looked up, they saw Cranky just staring at them. Kane made his way to the right wall, trying his best to pinpoint the location of the donkey hunting him. He heard a snort, and it was close enough that he could tell it was three servers ahead of him. He froze.

For the next several minutes, he was chased around the server farm, just barely losing the Asshole every time. By the sound of the screams and braying, John was having the exact same experience. They had spotted each other a couple of times, but they never had an opportunity to link up. It probably wasn't safe to do so anyway, because that just made them an easier target.

Then, Kane got an idea.

He dug his hands around the iron frame of the server closest to him, climbing up. Donkeys didn't have nearly enough dexterity to climb. He felt pretty wise, especially when the Asshole spotted him and brayed with rage. It leapt upward, its hooves clattering on the edge of the server as it tried to get him.

"Yeah, screw you too," Kane muttered. He looked across for John. "John! Climb! Get on top of a server!"

Kane heard a scream, and the charge of hooves that followed was accompanied by a braying from beyond.

Cranky leveled his gaze at Kane with disgust. "Ugh. I had a feeling you'd do this."

"They need a little more work," Kane said, with a smug grin. "Maybe you should give them hands."

"Ha! Opposable thumbs are well and good, but you know what else is great?"

Kane didn't like the sound of his tone at all.

Cranky grinned evilly. "Elevators."

Across the way, Kane could see John as he finally scrambled atop of a server on the same row as him. John's hands were clutching the edge desperately, his body only halfway up as he reached out. "Kane! Help me!" Kane threw himself from the server on top of the next one, could hear the Asshole following him down below. And just as he jumped from the last server... it started to sink into the ground.

"Oh, shit," Kane said quietly, as the new one started to sink too.

He doubled his pace, jumping faster, almost stumbling as he landed on the next one. Three servers left til he reached John, who hadn't made much progress in getting higher. "John! The servers are lowering! You've gotta climb faster!"

He couldn't hear John's response over the braying of the Assholes, but as he reached John, he hoisted him up. John clung to him desperately in fear. As they looked around, they noticed that all of the servers were lowering into the ground now except theirs. All they saw around them in the warehouse were the two donkeys, the two poles which had held them, their barrels of explosives, and Cranky on the big screen, laughing hysterically at them.

"What now?" Kane asked, already knowing he wouldn't like the answer.

When Cranky could stop laughing, he wiped his eyes and brow. "Oh, hang on. I need a second. Ooh, hot dog, that was great." He started to cough, waving the cigarette and tossing it aside as he clutched his stomach. "Oh. Oof. I think I tore something. Ahem." The AI's avatar straightened up and he took a deep breath. "So, what do you think?"

"You're insane!" John raged, teeth bared, almost staggering off as he lunged.

Without warning, Cranky whistled sharply. The Assholes stopped jumping immediately, backing off and returning to their poles. They glared maliciously at the bombers, eagerly awaiting their next orders.

"See? Loyal. See, John, you might think I'm insane, but I'm a reasonable ass. And I'd like to think you chumps are reasonable asses too. I see what you're doing here, trying to stop me from taking over the world, or whatever. Honorable, right? But the truth is that you're way outclassed. I think I've made that point clear. So, here's the thing."

The screen faded out, then faded back in to a map of the world. Countries started to blip red one by one, in sequence and order of the ones who had allowed emigration. Japan was first, then Germany, then over a dozen more started flipping.

Kane had been bitterly following the news. He knew the pattern. Cranky didn't need to explain a thing. A comical cartoon explosion happened on the map next, right where they were in Kansas... then, the United States turned red too.

Kane swallowed hard.

"You're right, Kane. They need a little more work, so I'm going back to the drawing board. My genetics labs get better every day though, so you bet your ass they're gonna be real mean and tough when I work out all the kinks. You've already seen what they're capable of. Is that the kind of world you want to live in?"

"Hell no," Kane said defiantly.

"I thought not," Cranky said, jumping up in front of the map as his grin returned. "So here's my offer. The best way to escape my Assholes is to emigrate, plain and simple."

"Hell. No," Kane repeated.

Cranky shrugged. "Your choice, friendo. Just remember... when the tides shift, the choice was yours. Not mine."

"We'll bring guns next time."

"Hah. Hope you're bringing big bullets too. Because I'm researching natural dermal plating, better forms of ballistic cloth, fur, even better-... uh, wait. Sorry guys, I almost forgot. What's that timer say? I haven't been keeping track."

John and Kane's eyes shot open wide in unison. They looked down quickly, right at the central timer and barrel.

57 seconds.

They slowly looked up at Cranky.


"Less than a minute!" John squeaked, his voice cracking in terror.

Cranky's eyes shot open too, his smile disappearing. "Oh, shit! Well what are you doing still standing there, you idiots!?" His hoof jabbed frantically at the exit. "Go, go, go!"

The shutter opened up, and the bombers threw themselves off opposite sides of the server. They bolted as fast as their legs could carry them, and the servers all raised back out of the ground. And just as the bombers crossed the threshold of the door, they heard Cranky shout. "Don't forget your party favors!" The party horn sounded, then Cranky whistled.

Hooves echoed from the warehouse, chasing after the bombers with a vengeance.

The two men had never run so fast in their lives. The Assholes chased them into the darkness of the city night, braying savagely, catching up to them bit by bit. Kane and John were both screaming in fear. Cranky's voice sounded from behind them, coming from the Assholes' collars as they matched speed. "Remember, boys! If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

The Assholes broke off suddenly, disappearing down separate alleys, never to be seen again.

The party horn in the warehouse sounded one final time. Seconds later, the warehouse exploded.

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