• Published 6th Apr 2019
  • 1,182 Views, 588 Comments

Distant Reflections - David Silver



Equestria and Everglow have brushed against one another through the course of their histories, each time fleeting, but memorable to those involved. Many many years later, the unaging Twilight captains a space vessel to explore the universe.

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19 - Antiviral Routines

Steel sat up sharply, regarding their new visitor. "You should not--"

"--hold on a moment." No Name twirled left and right as if looking for something. "Somethin' doesn't feel r-r-right." His animated figure suddenly blinked out of existence.

Fast cringed softly. "The main screen is less tolerant of... guests. If you can still hear us, please move to somewhere with less security issues.

"If you have faith in a technomancer..." Under raised an arm where a device not entirely unlike the one Octavia wore rested. "I will allow you here." A chime rang out from it and he leaned in. "Ah." With a touch of his nose to a virtual button, it was done.

No Name appeared, but only Under could see or hear him. "That kinda sucked," he grunted out, his snakes hissing.

Fast waved a hoof at Wandering. "Is he still in there? Can you get him out?"

"He's safe," interjected Under, curling his arm around to display the device towards his captains. "In here."

"Hey."

"They cannot hear you." He reached out his other hoof, gently patting the small illusion of No Name. "You bring to mind many questions for which you likely have no answer. Tell me, did Belle create you with a purpose?"

"Apparently not." No Name sat up tall, which wasn't that tall, just a little mutant pony floating over Under's arm as he currently was. "She just wanted company, so she made me, but didn't bother to give me any of that fancy 'purpose' stuff. What about you? You have a purpose?"

"I do... but I will never know it in totality. My purpose is to be where I am most needed, and not shy away from what must be done. That is the purpose to which my soul is drawn from the ether in perpetuity in an unending cycle of rebirth for." Under glanced towards the captains. "There is a comfort in knowing your purpose, but many do not, so do not feel you are strange in this. Tell me, do you wish for one?"

Steel cocked an ear at Under Score. "Are you chatting with the program?"

Under rolled his eyes softly, his wrinkles undulating in the motion. "We have a sapient and self-determining robot on the crew, and this is her creation. I should addend that she is a robot that has willingly assigned herself a gender while we're in there, despite lacking all primary and most secondary characteristics that would accompany it. She is no... well, she isn't that kind of gynoid." He cleared his throat softly. "And the fact that I speak with this is all that strange?"

Steel nodded gently as he swiveled his seating back to facing forward. "Your point is received. If he has self-realization and is taking independant action, he should be treated as such. Did I hear correctly, that it prefers 'he'?"

Fast snickered softly into a hoof. "He has even less than Belle to claim a gender with, but if he wants to be a he, I fail to see the harm in it. Besides, looks and sounds 'he' enough when we can see him."

"Nice of them to just keep right on talkin' 'bout me like I'm not even here."

"They cannot hear you," softly repeated Under. "This can only project images I can see and sounds I can hear. You did not answer my query, but another, are you missing that, and since you delayed, another, do you prefer being referred to as a 'he'?"

"I am a he," he scoffed.

"Not a he," added a different snake in a sardonic tone.

"Really..." threw in a third.

"I don't have a reason, whatever. She wanted a friend, I can do that. Apparently I have other tricks I can do now? That's pretty nice ah guess." He shrugged softly, eyes wandering. "Somewhere I can jump in here that won't try to delete me?"

"This is the bridge." Under slowly swept his burdened arm across the room. "Everything in here has heightened security, for safety. It is not a personal thing, I assure. Ah, and to answer, he is a he." He tapped his device with his other hoof. "This I allowed you into, or it would also rebuff your advances. Where is Belle?"

"I am here!" She sprang free of the elevator, pronking with the jingle of metal on metal as she approached. "Where is No Name? Did I hear correctly that he is already here? I do not detect him on my sensors."

Steel was tapping at unseen buttons. "He's in Under Score's datapad. Only he can--"

"--Connection established." She looked directly at where No Name floated. "Target identified. Hello! Are you enjoying your visit? Have you opened a new friendship file?"

"Under Score, was it?" No Name looked between Belle and the older pony. "Nice to meetcha."

"Charmed. I would like to examine your code in much greater detail, with your permission, of course." He dipped his head at the mostly-unseen program. "The last few times I've dealt with self-aware programs, they were decidedly hostile. This is a refreshing change of pace."

"And if I say no...?" He rolled a hoof slowly.

"He would accept your decision so as to not lose friendship points," eagerly explained Belle as she sat down next to Under Score. "To harm you, even indirectly through a disregard for autonomy, would cause friendship point loss not only with you but with me as well, for I am your friend and will not tolerate bad behavior between my friends."

Fast leaned over towards Steel. "Hearing two-thirds of the conversation is an... experience."

Steel nodded softly. "Wandering, we're on course, yes?"

"Course plotted and we're moving at full cruising speed." He saluted sharply with a cloven hoof. "We should be there in precisely 42 hours, 31 minutes and 10 seconds." His eyes darted to a display only he could see. "That last one has already changed, of course, Captain. I'm monitoring the comms as we approach inhabited regions. It'll be nice to actually get some broadcasts of a more mundane variety for a change."

Belle pivoted in place despite still sitting, rotating smoothly and silently. "Captains, you requested our presence to increase the security level of Error No Name." It was not stated as a question, more of a reminder really.

Fast nodded softly. "That I did. One moment." She tapped at large buttons only she could see. "The computer is ready for him, please step onto the main screen."

"Ain't much of a step, more of a hop. Whateva." He turned, hooves moving with the motion despite none of them actually being in contact with anything. "Better not try to erase me 'gain..." He popped out of view.

A window appeared on the console:

New program detected. Execute/Save/Discard?

Belle's virtual eyes widened as tense music began to play softly in her, though she said nothing, eyes focused on the screen.

Fast glanced aside at Steel. "I presume I have your agreement?"

"We are in consensus." They both reached out as one, giving the double authority required to allow the central computer to execute an entirely new program.

No Name popped into being on the screen. "That was much smoother." He turned left and right, looking at the other windows and bits and bobs. "Feels roomy in here, smooth... hard to describe?"

Under Score smiled faintly at that. "The main screen is a much more powerful computer than my datapad, or the holo emitter in your room, or any other computer come to think of it. Belle may have a greater capacity, but most of it is expended running herself."

"I am not trying to be selfish!" she squeaked in defense. "I gave full allowances."

"That explains why ya warm up when ah'm in there..." He turned to face the captains fully. "Alright, now that everyone can see me an' all, what's up next?"

Steel nodded as he stood up. "You are being offered a full position. We will officially recognize your personhood and, beyond that, staff status. If accepted, this will only be rescindable by an legal act beyond our authority."

"Ya can't fire me without a court?" He hiked a brow at that, looking skeptical.

"Oh, that we could do, but personhood is not so easily taken back." Fast lifted her shoulders before raising up to stand beside Steel. "As explorers, we have the unique ability to declare any given thing as being a person, but once given, it takes quite a bit to undo. For instance, we registered the god we found. It is part of our function."

"There's that word again... So what changes if I'm a person against what ah am now?"

Another snake inclined its head. "Do we get a uniform?"

"Do we get a rank?" asked another.

"Do we get duty shifts?"

Steel chuckled softly at that. "Giving you a uniform would be difficult, as you have no body to hang it from. I'm sure Belle would gladly help program a uniform for you."

"Task accepted!" she rang out without being formally asked, sharply saluting, metal clanging against metal.

Fast pointed at the image on the screen. "The most important thing you get is that deleting or even ceasing your operation temporarily stops being something we can decide to do on our own. As a person, your autonomy must be respected. You decide when you sleep. You decide when you wish to end your life. The only exclusions to this are medical emergencies, which would be less likely with a program I would imagine?"

Belle waved a hoof wildly at Fast. "In the event of an active viral infection, deactivation may be wise to prevent further damage."

Steel nodded softly at Belle. "In that case, we would do what would keep you well. Better a moment of slumber than the end of your life, if that's the option presented to us. Short of that, we ask before we assume. As a member of the crew, you are giving up some of that autonomy. You will follow our orders, for the betterment of the crew and the continuing of the mission. Our objective becomes yours."

Under smirked faintly. "You could find that purpose you were just considering, just like that. Some people don't have to look very far to find it."

"You ain't kiddin'! Still, yeah. I mean, Belle's here. I don't plan to leave her, so joining her crew's the next step, right?"

"Friendship points obtained." Victorious music played from inside Belle. "Is it official?"

Fast tapped at a button only she could see. "I'm doing that... Pity Dawn isn't here, he's faster at this."

"I can return to duty?" Dawn's snout poked out from around the corner.

Steel put a hoof over his face. "How long have you been standing there, waiting?"

"Immaterial, Captain. I am ready to resume my duties." He dipped his head towards his captain. "I can have this done shortly."

"Please," sighed out Fast. "Get him a proper identity, then add that to the ship roster. We're going to have to figure out what he can do... Put his rank at Cadet until we settle that."

No Name raised a hoof to his chin. "Cadet, really? Ah'm startin' from the bottom?"

Steel snorted at that. "Organic crew have to be well trained before they even manage cadet. An exception is being made, seeing as we can't send you to school in any reasonable fashion."

Wandering chuckled as he tapped. "Not to mention, Belle would be beside herself with worry while you were gone. You two are basically an item."

Belle began to blink rapidly. "I am comprised of matter. I am incapable of existing beside myself. No Name can do that! I am mildly jealous."

No Name inclined his head at that. "Ah think one of me is probably enough of me fer one ship."

"But you could." She bounced to her hooves then began pronking towards Dawn's station even as he sat down. "Begin!"

Author's Note:

Dawn returns to active duty. No Name officially gets a duty, and a personhood. A productive day! Or a horrible mistake?

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