• Published 6th Apr 2019
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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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47 - But You...

"Just a last question." Cadance looked to Spike with a sedate smile. "These two. Are they in possession of any faults you are aware of?"

Spike inclined his head. "Huh? No? They're both crew on the ship. I like 'em both." He stood up and started back towards the ship. "Have fun!" Whatever robots did together, he figured it would be logical in ways only robots understood.

"I cannot accept this request." Belle inclined her head. "Insufficient friendship points." She pressed the decline button without motion, closing the prompt that had asked for a complete read access to her data storage.

"Uh, me too." He also declined the prompt. "What's up with that? Already told ya to just ask."

"But I must insist." She paced, slow sensual steps despite her conversational partners having no physical interest in her. "I wish to experience this, to make new life. I realized my error. Your ship? Unsuitable, unthinking. I require a sapient partner, and, look at that." She leaned in, just a few inches between her face and Belle's. "Here are two, lovely, thinking, independant, compatible entities." She inclined her head. "I doubt we were constructed with the same programming language. I will have to decode it, re-write it in my own, and compile it before the hybriding can begin in earnest."

"Hey." Error stomped a big hoof with a dull metal thud of the floor's reply. "Look, I ain't used to computers asking me to infect them."

"Infect?" She raised a brow at error. "You... infect?" Her expression brightened considerably. "You are a virus? How wonderful! Infect me! Do it, my defenses are down." She spoke in sultry whispers, as if asking for something far more lewd than a file transfer. "My processors are ready."

"I. am. out." He stated each word firmly as he moved to leave, only for his face to vanish in a haze of pixels, the front of his body following until his core thumped into an obstruction. He backed awkwardly away from the barrier, his form re-appearing quickly with a little flicker. "The hell?"

Belle reached out and found she was also encased, exploring the dimensions of her force prison. Where she touched it, it flickered and sparked, allowing her to see it. It wasn't much larger than she was. "Release us immediately or face friendship point deductions!"

"Please wait a moment, I'm seducing your partner." Her eyes were on Error, studying him. "Go on. This is what you do naturally, is it not? Besides, if you hop in me, you could release your friend. Oh no, a virus could do all sorts of wicked things inside me with my protection routines offline. You could have your way... You could become something even greater than you started." She flicked her colorful tail gently. "Take me..."

"Look, ya made this weird." Error was backed away as far as he could in his prison.

"Oh, sorry." Cadance sat up at that. "Forgive me. The dance of life is only something I just learned I could participate in. How do you prefer your mating ritual? Perhaps something cozier?" She waved a hoof as the lights dimmed around them to just barely visible, soft music playing promising alien romances. "The heat won't affect you, I feel certain, even if you have revealed an artificial fire."

Belle waved her forehooves wildly. "Insufficient friendship points!" she wailed. "You may not begin courtship routines with so few points."

Cadance turned to Belle. "You seem to speak with authority, so tell me how to gain these points, preferably quickly."

Belle sat down with a big smile on her face. "That is my life's work. However, friendship points cannot be forced. You must act in kindness and learn more and offer more. Only through mutual understanding can friendship points reach the required level."

"That can't be right," huffed Cadance. "Spike and Sonja barely know each other and both are willing to be partnered. Sonja was prepared to bathe in the fires." She pointed at Error. "How do I make you interested?"

"Uh, ya don't," he replied, rubbing behind his head. "Kinda creeped me out."

"Belle," spoke her radio, Fast Shadow addressing her. "Are you coming back soon?"

Belle responded silently, "We are engaged in friendship remedial lessons." Out loud, she kept an eye on Cadance, "Exceptions can happen. Spike was in need of a companion, and Sonja was entangled due to the presence of a previous incarnation. Not a standard situation."

"I should... think not." She inclined her head faintly at Belle. "You seem more willing to talk this over, so I will ask you. What would it take to get you to permit this? All I require is a copy. The original would be free to do as it pleases."

Belle's ear rotated back. "There would be a copy of me that could never continue its journey to discover friendship and its many mysteries. That makes me sad." A downturn of music played from within her. "And it would be my fault. I would be creating sadness."

"If I had a copy of both of you," Cadance argued. "You could be together, safely."

Belle inclined her head in the other direction, tail sweeping the floor. "Perhaps, but we would have no others to engage. We are delighted for the company of one another, but we also wish for the company of the universe." She threw her hooves wide. "Do you understand?"

"Thank you, for asking." Cadance stroked her chin softly. "What if I constructed bodies, for both of your copies. They would be free to leave. Then I am not holding them prisoner. The hybrid code would also be free to leave. I would want it to. What is the point of life that does not spread? Is that not part of the purpose?"

"Spike has returned to the ship," informed the radio, Steel speaking. "You two alright?"

"No," stated Error out loud. "The, uh, ship, whatever, wants us to get all close and personal and 'no' does not appear to be on the table."

"That's unkind." Cadance's wings unfurled wide to either side. "We've only spoken. If I wanted to force matters, there are avenues available. Your processors are accessible wirelessly, we've already exchanged information. Why do you think it is simply impossible for me to take what I want." She leaned in towards Error. "I was trying to be nice."

"Your niceness is noted and friendship points awarded," quickly blurted Belle. "Don't deduct points from Error, please. He is new to friendship, much like you."

Cadance's expression shifted to puzzlement. "You two are... not of equivalent age?"

"Aw heck no," easily admitted Error. "She made me." He pointed at Belle.

Belle gasped in a discordant burst of octaves. "You knew?!"

Cadance's eyes danced between the two but didn't get in the way of their talk.

"'Course ah did." He chuckled softly. "Ya didn't even get rid of the author notes."

Belle brought up a hoof to clop on her head with a loud metal clang. "You were reading your own file's properties?!"

"Why not?" Error shrugged softly. "You left me on a few times before you got me to turn off all automatic like. Ah got bored."

Belle rose both hooves to the sky that wasn't over her in the dim light of the hallway. "You never said anything. I... thought it was a secret." her hooves gently touched down on the ground. "Why... did you agree to romantic pairing with your creator? I... am your mother."

"Hey, you cut that out." Error huffed. "We're not squishy people. We don't work on those rules." He shrugged his simulated shoulders. "You didn't make a 'you'. You made me, and ah ain't you!" He thrust a hoof at her confidently. "'Sides, ya didn't make you. Some other person done did that, right?"

"Well, yes," she admitted. "A lot of it was emergent evolution." She tilted her head left and right. "As it was for you." Her expression began to ease a little. "We are the result of our lifetimes."

"So you ain't my 'mom'," concluded Error. "That's creepy, and you ain't that. Yer my friend, and my wife sorta."

"Sorta?" She inclined her head at Error. "In what way am I lacking wife-like properties?"

Cadance gently cleared her throat. "I apologize for interrupting..."

Error chuckled at that. "Good timin'. So, can ya let us go now?"

"If I do so," Cadance gently explained. "The odds of another artificial intelligence approaching within 10 years is too small to speak comfortably. 100 years is still infinitesimal." She fixed Error in her gaze. "What if you were asked for such an impossibility, to be entirely alone until that time?"

"Wouldn't like that much," he admitted. "But even if ya did have what yer askin' for, yer still alone."

"But I wouldn't be," she sang melodically. "Oh no. With the addition of code not of the same core, with different motivations, why, it'd be just like this conversation." She raised a brow suddenly. "Hm, there's a point. I should ensure my creations can shield their thoughts from me, so we are forced to communicate our desires."

"I accept." Belle took a step forward. "You will be given read access."

Cadance giddily clopped her hooves. "I knew you'd see reason. Thank you."

"That is not how that works." Belle inclined her head before righting it. "Your creations will frustrate you, just as we did. You will become angry at them. They will hurt you. You will hurt them. Prepare for that, but know that friendship is always worth it, in the end." She pointed at Error. "He lied to me."


Cadance nodded softly. "Curious. I cannot say I entirely understand, but I feel ready to try. Remain calm. It would be better if you could even disable your current processes a moment while the transfer completes?" Belle did not seem to be shutting off. "I will do my best to get a clean copy."

In Belle's eyes, she could see the data channel opening, and a flood of requests began as the ship began to sift through her file structure, learning where things were placed first. It was deeply invasive, as if some strange presence were conducting brain surgery on her, painless, but wholly violating. But she had consented, and she remained still as it dug and dug.

"You alright?" asked Error, concern on his face. She didn't reply though.

"She is being still for maximum quality of the copy," explained Cadance. "I am thankful. You are lucky to have such a caring partner."

"She is pretty great," he easily allowed.

"Transfer beginning," she announced, her file structure mapped, the computer that surrounded her began to move right back over it, much more slowly. Not just checking what files were were, but reading the contents of each one. "Connection solid," reported Cadance. "This should be over... in about... Oh, your time scale is not mine. In about three mating sessions of the average--"

"Yeah, don't get that either," admitted Error swiftly. "Aren't you a pony right now? How do you not have her time words?"

"I do." She shook her head softly. "But how long is a minute or a second? I know there are 60 of one in the other. 60 of the greater in an hour. 24 of those in a day. How long is any of it?"

"Oh, can help with that." He began to tap the floor in a soft steady pattern. "Seconds," he announced, tapping away with inclinations of his hoof.

"Seconds," echoed Cadance with understanding, the math in her processors extrapolating all the other times from that one little thing. "I see. This should take approximately 24 minutes." She inclined her head. "This is in large part due to the limit of her outgoing processes. If you wanted to also--"

"Pass." He waved it off. "Besides, yer already getting a copy of me."

Her eyes widened. "I am? How?" She leaned in, squinting at Error a little. "Are you deceiving me?"

Author's Note:

Welcome to weekly adventures! Week 2! Computers have some conversations. There are a lot of emotions for not-living things.

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