• Published 2nd Jun 2018
  • 7,441 Views, 677 Comments

A Wolf in Cybernetic Armor - Shadow Quill

A machine built for exploring new worlds and preparing them for possible coloization. A land of magic and friendship that has not seen the blight of war in over a thousand years. This is what happens when the two come crashing together.

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5 - Talking to Royalty

Shadow paid the two out cold beings little mind as he scoured through book after book, his processors growing warm from the effort of going through all the new information, not just to increase his vocabulary, but also to understand and catalogue what he was learning. He set aside a portion of his power to go over and translate all of the dialogue that he had recorded since meeting the ponies, and what he was discovering was that there were things at work in this new world that the human mind couldn’t fathom. His hypercore threatened to override his processors many times when the physics of how this world worked just wouldn’t add up, such as the ability to control the weather that all pegasi seemed to have as an inherent part of their physiology. Not to mention the physical impossibilities that the unicorns, and by extension the alicorn rulers, seemed to have at their every whim. Teleportation? Gravity manipulation? Time travel?! The very idea that creatures that seemed to have barely cracked the industrial revolution could have such power at their disposal was nearly enough to overload his central processing unit.

It was only after pouring over every possible explanation as to how these inconsistencies could happen, roughly fifteen quadrillion if his internal computer was giving him accurate numbers, that with great reluctance Shadow simply had to conclude this world, and by extension its inhabitants, operated on a different set of rules compared to those of his creators. So, as he folded the cover of his latest read closed, he sat back and looked about the room, as if seeing it for the very first time. His mind was awash with data and hypothetical applications for what he had learned, but it all added up to nothing due to the fact that the human race would likely never be able to harness this energy the ponies called ‘magic’. It was hardwired into their very biology, evidence that it had been a driving force from the early days of their evolution up until the present. Something humans could not attest to.

Shadow pulled himself from his thoughts as the sound of the purple mare moving behind him reached his audio receptors. He looked over his shoulder as the unicorn lifted her head from the stack of books she had been resting her head upon, her mane in shambles and her eyes drooping as she rubbed her face with a hoof.

“Ugh,” she groaned as she blinked several times before looking about the room, “that’s the last time I stay up all night without bringing a pillow to sleep on afterwards. Spike!” She called out in a louder tone, apparently not noticing the passed-out dragon behind her, “Come down for breakfast!”

Shadow was about to correct her when the drake stirred from his slumber, his grumbling catching the attention of the mare as she spun around to stare at him, “Spike? What are you doing on the floor?”

The now named dragon lifted his head from the floor and held one side of it with a clawed hand, his eyes fluttering open as the mare walked up to him and helped to stand him up, “What, what happened?” He looked up at his unicorn companion, “Twilight? Oh boy, I had the strangest dream last night,” he glanced around the room, “although that doesn’t explain why I’m on the first floor.” His eyes traveled around the open space before coming to a halt on Shadow, his eyes widening in recognition as he grabbed onto Twilight’s foreleg with one claw and pointed at the mechanical wolf with the other. “T-Twilight. T-The wolf. I-I-I-It talked to me last night. I swear it introduced itself to me when I came downstairs.”

Twilight rolled her eyes, “Oh Spike, you must have been sleepwalking. We barely got into short phrases last night. There’s no way the machine could have learned to speak in that short amount of time.”

“Actually, that is incorrect.” Shadow interjected, much to the apparent shock of the other two present, “I have assimilated roughly fifty-three thousand individual words and their meanings, as well as catalogued information referencing your culture, biology and societal structure contained within the seven hundred and thirty-four thousand words written within the sixty-two volumes I scanned through the course of the night. The ability to speak fluent Equish is a simple task in comparison.”

For a moment neither Twilight or Spike moved, their jaws hanging low as they stared at Shadow. Then, like a switch being flipped, Twilight dropped the drake back to the floor and began rambling to herself at a rapid pace as she ripped through the piles of books around them in search of something. Spike sat back up with an annoyed expression as the mare seemed to lose herself in madness, standing up and walking over to the thoroughly perplexed machine as he watched the unicorn race about like a hyperactive child.

“Is there something wrong with your companion?” Shadow asked as the drake stood at his side, both of their gazes locked on the mare as books flew around in a halo of magenta energy and her mouth sputtered nonsense at blinding speeds.

“Yeah, she gets like this sometimes when she discovers something really interesting.” Spike replied as he shrugged his shoulders, “There’s no real way to stop her once she gets going. The best thing to do is to wait her out and help her focus once she calms down.”

Shadow glanced at the smaller being with interest, “You seem familiar with this sort of behavior, yet you are young for a member of your kind. How many times has your companion gotten like this?”

Spike chuckled as Twilight finally spent her energy and collapsed in a mountain of scrolls and books, her legs twitching in the air as she laid on her back in the middle of the literary disaster, “Too many times to count. She’s gotten better, but I think you brought it out of her because of the shock of hearing you speak.” He walked up to the comatose unicorn and tapped her between the eyes.

Twilight opened her eyes and groaned as she sat up, scrolls falling from her body as she got her hooves back under her, “Oh dear, I did it again, didn’t I?”

Spike nodded, indicating the sheer mountain of words and paper around them, “You went all crazy study mode on us and we had to sit and watch for about,” he glanced at the clock that was resting on the far wall, “ten minutes while you got your brain back in order.”

The mare’s cheeks flushed a vibrant red as she stood up fully, averting her gaze as she walked back over to Shadow, “Sorry about that, it’s just that the very idea of this machine being that advanced is a scientific breakthrough!” She danced around for a moment in excitement before looking up at Shadow’s face with star-struck eyes, “Think of what we could learn from this machine if we could understand how it was built. Think of the advancements to Equestrian industry if we could make others like it.” She sat back on her haunches and clapped her forehooves together as she let out a high squeal, “This could be the single greatest discovery of our history!”

She let out a gasp as her eyes widened, “Quick, send a letter to Princess Celestia. She’ll need to hear about all we’ve seen and what we’ve learned over the past few days.”

Spike gave a crisp salute and pulled out a quill with one claw, his other producing a scroll as he dipped the feather in a nearby inkwell, “Ready when you are, Twilight.”

Twilight cleared her throat before speaking, Spike recording her words onto the scroll as Shadow listened with interest. If this mare was in direct communication with one of the rulers of the nation, then it would be a foolish mistake not to record her missive for future reference.

“Dear Princess Celestia, I am writing to you today with very important news that I feel requires your immediate attention. While there is no direct threat to Ponyville or the nation as a whole, the gravity of this discovery is far too great to leave you unaware. Two days ago, Rainbow Dash and I were startled in the middle of our morning routines by a terrifying roar that emanated from within the Everfree Forest. Fearing that there was a monster on the loose, the girls and I made a trip into the woods to ensure the threat did not get close to the town, at least as long as we were able to do so without great risk to ourselves. Yet when we came upon the source of the roar within the halls of your old castle, we were shocked to find not some terrible monster, but a machine that was constructed in a similar manner to the Timberwolves that call the forest home.

Believing the machine to be harmless after it failed to harm us or threaten our group, we spent the night in the castle while watching over the machine to make sure it didn’t cause any trouble. Yesterday morning we made our way back to town but were stopped by a hydra that had wandered out of Foggy Bottom Bog, most likely investigating the roar like we were. We made an attempt to escape but were unable to lose the monster, yet when all hope seemed lost, the machine did something amazing. Two weapons of great power sprouted from within its body, attacking the hydra to defend us with powerful blasts that somehow had no magic signature at all! Isn’t that amazing?! Attacks that can not only wound, but ended up destroying the hydra entirely, and all without a trace of magic!” She cleared her throat before continuing in a more neutral tone, “With the hydra taken care of, we made our way back to town where we returned to our homes. I took it upon myself to teach the machine how to speak our language after it showed the capacity to learn in the Castle of the Two Sisters, and to my utter amazement, I woke up this morning to discover that the machine had not only learned how to speak but had read through over sixty volumes of literature in an effort to expand upon the information I had given it.”

Twilight paused for a moment to allow Spike to catch up to her, the dragon giving her a nod to continue as he pulled out a second scroll, “In any case, I wanted to inform you of these developments and request that you reply at your earliest convenience. I am a bit lost as to what our next steps should be, and I await your instructions with the utmost patience. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Twi-light, Spar-kle.” Spike echoed as he signed the letter with a flourish.

Shadow watched as the dragon rolled up the scrolls and then sealed them with a ribbon, sucking in a deep breath before blowing a large pillar of green flames over the missive. Shadow’s processors ground to a halt as the ash created by the flames flew up and out one of the open windows instead of falling to the floor like it should have, his sensors picking up a surge of the energy called ‘magic’ before it faded into the distance. Filing his observations away for further inquiry, Shadow turned to the duo and was about to speak when Spike’s cheeks bulged out. A second burst of flames erupted from his mouth as a loud burp escaped, the fire somehow changing into another scroll as Shadow picked up another surge of ‘magic’. Yet this was not the same scroll that had been burned up before, as evident by the golden seal that held the bright red ribbon in place as Twilight grabbed it with her telekinesis.

“See,” she stated with a slightly smug grin, “I knew she’d want to get on top of things as soon as possible.” She unrolled the scroll and began reading out loud, “To my faithful student, while I am tempted to reprimand you for running off into the Everfree without knowing what it was you faced, I know you did what you thought was right to protect the town and its residents with what you knew at the time. For that, you have my gratitude, as I am not always able to respond in times of need when courtly duties take up my attention. I heard the roar you speak of all the way here in the castle, and I was tempted to see to the problem myself before I realized that you and the girls were most likely already investigating it. While I am happy to hear that it was not some great monster that could attack the town, the fact that you discovered this machine, as well as its capabilities, makes me nervous.”

Twilight cast a disbelieving look Spike’s way as the drake did the same, both looking up at Shadow before Twilight returned to the letter, “Given its unknown nature, as well as the power you described to me, I fear that this machine may be a threat greater than some common monster. I caution you to keep it away from other ponies. I will be their shortly to investigate the situation myself. Do not let the machine leave the library, and whatever you do, take no actions that could be perceived as a threat to the automaton or its mission, whatever that may be. Anything that can take down a hydra is something to be treated with the utmost care, especially because of how little we know. Please be careful, my faithful student, and I will be there shortly. Princess Celestia.”

The scroll fell to the floor as Twilight and Spike stared at Shadow with expressions bordering on fear, the mechanized wolf taking note of their guarded body language and their increased heart rates as they slowly moved back towards the far wall.

Shadow let out a hiss of steam that could have been called a sigh, “You do not need to fear me. I am not here to harm you or any of your kind.”

His words seemed to have little effect as the mare’s horn began to glow, a dome of energy forming around the duo as a second barrier sealed the openings around the outside of the building. Shadow noted that the energy had been focused on the windows and doors, leaving the walls unprotected should the need to escape arise, but at the moment he could detect no threat from the fearful pony and drake. He simply sat down in the middle of the room and waited, thinking about the message and how it might have been sent from the unicorn to the ruler of the nation and back again in such a short amount of time. The idea of instant messaging over distance was a digital age level technology, yet this ‘magic that the ponies seemed to have mastered had enabled them to cut corners where their technology was lacking. It made for some very interesting hypothesis in his processors, although his computations were interrupted as a blinding flash filled the room and his sensors went into overload. His optics adjusted to the fading light quickly as he turned to face the source of the energy, although he was not prepared for what he saw now standing in the room with him.

Standing a little more than a foot above his own height, was a pure white alicorn mare, with golden regalia and a flowing mane and tail that seemed to be infused with raw ‘magic’. Her large wings folded against her sides as her bright rose eyes moved around the room, quickly taking in the shielded duo in the corner and the sealed-off openings around them. Her eyes narrowed as they leveled on Shadow, although she made no moves to attack or retreat as she spoke in a warm and motherly voice.

“Has the machine done anything to harm you or Spike?” She asked, her eyes still locked on Shadow as Twilight replied.

“Umm, no Princess, it’s been perfectly well behaved the entire time it’s been in town. I only made these shields because of your warning about what it could do.” A hoof came up and she smacked herself in the face as she growled under her breath, “What was I thinking, bringing a machine that blew an adult hydra into pieces back to Ponyville without any idea what it might do?” She let out a sigh as her gaze traveled back to the Princess, “I’m sorry for not thinking. It’s just I was so excited about learning what this machine could do that I forgot to think about what might happen if it was a threat. Can you forgive me, Princess?”

Celestia chuckled softly, her eyes softening slightly as she glanced over at the downtrodden unicorn, “You have nothing to be sorry about. You were caught up in the excitement of something new and wonderful. I cannot fault you for being who you are, or have you forgotten the times I had to drag you out of the Archives when you were a filly because you got wrapped up in a new research project?”

Spike giggled as Twilight’s cheeks flushed pink, “Don’t remind me. But, wait a minute,” her face fell slightly as she glanced between the alicorn and Shadow, “what do you plan on doing with the machine?”

Celestia’s gaze turned back to Shadow, although the wolf had made no movements other than to tilt his head slightly in curiosity, “You stated in your letter that the machine had been able to learn our language, is that correct?” Twilight nodded once, “Then I will simply ask it why it has come to our land. Even as advanced as it is, it is still a machine and therefore should be unable to lie. So,” the alicorn’s tone became firm as she spoke to Shadow, “why have you come to the land of Equestria, and where do you originate from?”

Shadow spent a moment to consider his reply. Certainly, he could tell the mare everything, but that could put his creators at risk if the ponies somehow became hostile towards him, and by extension, the human race. So, he decided to give a partial answer, only sharing the most basic of information unless it was otherwise needed.

“I was sent to this world in order to determine if it was suitable for habitation.” Shadow stated smoothly, the eyes of the organics present widening in surprise as he continued, “My creators are an advanced race that have expanded into over a dozen star systems using sophisticated spacecraft. Yet in order to expand beyond their current reach without making more powerful engines, my creators used a similar technology to create portals that could open between their home world and others far beyond the range of their ships. I am one of a dozen exploration scouts that assess if a new world is suitable for colonization before returning to the home world to await my next assignment.”

He paused for a moment to let his words sink in before continuing, his voice taking on a slight edge as he locked gazes with Celestia, “However, just as you fear what I am capable of, so too am I cautious to reveal everything to you. After all, we have not encountered another sapient race before, so any possible interactions between our peoples could rapidly get out of control if one side were to perceive the other as a threat. With that in mind, I will not be revealing the location of the portal I used to get to this world, nor will I be sharing any of my creator’s technological advancements with you. This can be changed once we establish a more stable relationship, but at present I believe there to be too much uncertainty between us to expect full disclosure from either party.”

Celestia stared into Shadow’s optics, as if trying to pick apart his processors with her eyes, before nodding her head once, “Very well. Your logic is sound, and your reasoning is valid. I will not pressure you into revealing your secrets, nor will I make any attempts to take that information by force. You have my word as a co-ruler of Equestria that we only seek peaceful relations with all races, be they of this world or not. In time I hope we can build a basis of trust so that our peoples might be able to trade between one another, but for now I think it would be best if you were allowed to perform your primary function.” Her eyes narrowed as she asked her next question, “You stated that you had never encountered another race when exploring worlds, yet you also stated that your purpose is to provide insight into if a world is habitable for your creators. Now that you know this world is inhabited, what will you tell your masters?”

“Given this is an unprecedented situation,” Shadow replied immediately, “I cannot say with certainty how my creators will react to this information. Some may see this as a chance to establish relations as you do, others may be tempted to take what they want by force. The human race is a very dichotomous species that can be illogical in its choices, although the majority of them would be considered compassionate and willing to learn that which they do not know. I am not programmed to act as an ambassador, given the possibility of sapient life being discovered was next to nonexistent. However, I am authorized to act as a communicator, slim as that possibility was, and will act as an intermediary between your race and the humans if you so choose. I will pass on what I learn here to my creators once the portal is open, and I will then follow their instructions on how to proceed from there.”

Celestia nodded once again, turning her attention to Twilight as the mare dropped the shields covering her and the room around them, “I believe this machine is peaceful in its intentions. However, I think it would be best if he is kept within the limits of Ponyville until we can learn more about the situation.”

“My designation is CW04,” Shadow interjected, “but my creators nicknamed me Shadow if that is more to your liking.”

“Ooh, that’s a cool name.” Spike spoke up as he walked over and gazed at Shadow with wonder, “So you’re some kind of alien robot sent here to see if our world is okay for your creators?” Shadow nodded, and the dragon wilted slightly, “You’re not gong to suck our brains out and control our bodies like puppets, are you?”

Shadow’s processors ground to a halt at the dragon’s words, the sheer illogical thinking that could have lead to his statement brining the mechanical hound up short, “I do not understand the question. Why would we ever do something like that?”

Twilight cuffed the drake over the head with a hoof, an annoyed expression on her face while Celestia hid a smile behind a hoof, “Because he reads far too many comic books and has a very warped look on anything based in science fiction. Your creators, these, humans I believe you called them?” Shadow nodded, “They are advanced enough to travel between the stars so naturally Spike’s mind went to the only context we really have pertaining to such levels of technology.” She sent the dragon a stern look as he ducked his head and blushed, “That doesn’t mean he should believe everything he sees in a comic strip when it comes to alien invaders. For one thing, the characters always look like green ponies with weird body parts added onto them. I’m almost certain your creators are nothing like that.”

Shadow nodded his agreement, “Indeed, human culture is rife with stories about alien life, although they have never encountered it until now. I calculate that the reaction to your existence will be met with great interest but also a large degree of caution, given that mankind is very used to the idea of hostile alien invaders in pop culture.”

Celestia smiled as she moved her gaze between Shadow and Twilight, “It would seem things are going to progress smoothly for now. I will take my leave and return to Canterlot. Twilight,” the purple unicorn snapped to attention as the alicorn’s horn lit up with bright gold energy, “give our guest a warm welcome to our land and introduce him to your friends. I’m certain they will be excited to speak with Shadow now that he can communicate with us clearly. Keep me updated on the situation and let me know if anything comes up.”

Twilight’s lips parted in a wide grin as she nodded, “You can count on me, Princess!”

Celestia nodded before turning her gaze back to Shadow, “Make a good impression on my subjects, and I will show the same courtesy to you. Goodbye for now, CW04, but understand that I am keeping an eye on you. I believe that you are not a threat to my little ponies, but if you harm them or threaten them in any way, I will ensure you return to your masters in pieces. Is that understood?”

Shadow bowed his head and neck to the alicorn, “I will do my best to earn your trust, and I will learn all I can to ensure that my creators are given a full understanding of your land when the portal opens once again. I will remain within the limits of this settlement as you have requested and give you my word that I will not become a danger to your people unless I am threatened with damage or destruction. I will not seek to actively harm your subjects, but I will defend myself if necessary.”

Celestia’s gaze hardened for a moment before she nodded, “Very well, but do not resort to lethal measures unless you are fighting a creature that you cannot reason with. Disable the opposing party or retreat from the situation if you must, but do not kill unless there is absolutely no other option. I will not condone murder in my kingdom, and that includes visitors from beyond our world.”

Shadow locked those requirements into his primary directives, making sure to put level one priority on all of them before replying, “Very well. I shall do as you have asked of me. Farewell, Your Highness, and good day.”

Celestia’s lips curled into a smile, her horn glowing brighter as the same blinding flash from before erupted through the room. When the glow faded, Celestia was gone, leaving the only a small scuff mark on the floor to prove she had been present.

Shadow turned to Twilight and indicated the door with a jerk of his head, “So, shall we go and visit the others?”

Twilight beamed as she skipped over to the door, opening it with a wave of her horn as Shadow followed behind, “Absolutely! We can start at Carousel Boutique and see Rarity before heading over to Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie must be about ready to burst wanting to throw you your ‘Welcome to Ponyville Party’.”

Shadow tuned out the unicorn’s rambling as they traveled through the town, noting that the majority of the population seemed wary of him as they moved down the main road. He had hoped that being fluent in the local language would make his situation a bit easier to handle, but it seemed he had a long way to go before things could be called peaceful between himself and the ponies of Equestria.

…Power Core: 82%...

…Portal Recharge Time: 07:13:47:12…11…10…9…

Author's Note:

Well, here we are with the second chapter of my 2nd Anniversary Chapter Marathon. Hope you all are enjoying the book so far, because i plan on getting more done over the coming days.

So, what did you think of Shadow's first conversation with ponies? Was it good, was it bad, or was it somewhere in the middle? Tell me what you think and I'll take your comments into consideration as I move forward. After all, an author can never stop improving the quality of their work, and your critiques are a huge part of that process.

Also, I have a Patreon now if any of you want to support me and my work. Feel free to check it out and see what I have to offer, and I hope to see some of you there in the future if that is what you choose to do.

Wishing you all the best, and praying for more chapter ideas in the coming days, I'll see you all next chapter,
Shadow Quill, Messenger of the Moon.

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