• 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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48 - Uncomfortable Truths

"Transfer at 50%" Cadance inclined her head. "That's curious, some of the code..." Her form flickered softly. "Has broken free of containment." She raised her hooves. "Silly, I am far beyond you. You cannot defy me." Internally, she waged war with the invading presence, but it wasn't as one sided a she hoped.

The intruder was running on equally powerful servers, hers, specifically. It was speeding up, matching her efforts to squash it.

Cadance suddenly fell over, shoved by Error from the side. "Ya did this to yerself."

Cadance blinked from the ground, baffled. "What?" She scrambled up to her hooves, squinting. Looking over, there was Error, still contained in his box. "How? Oh!" It clicked. "You infected me!" She began to giggle. "Oh no. Please, be gentle."

Both Errors squinted at her. "Yer makin' it weird," both noted in stereo, nodding towards one another.

The original pointed at the new copy. "Ah did tell ya that. Ya got yer copy."

"And now yer stuck with it," noted the new Error.

"But how?" She poked the new Error. "Your code should not even be compatible. I have not decompiled it yet."

Belle was still, being copied from.

Both Errors shrugged. The old looked to the new. "What? Oh! Well, ya see, kinda my thing now." He smiled, snakes undulating. "I'm a virus."

"A very good one," noted Cadance with a raised brow. "Frightfully good." She placed a hoof at her chest. "While my offer of infection is still valid, I do hope you come in... peace?"

"Yeah sure. Oh, I can go now."

"Ah can?" He stood up and reached, his hoof not vanishing into sparkles. "Great." He stepped free of the invisible box.

Cadance nodded at that. "I did say you could do that... You have given me what I asked for, but I would prefer you were a touch easier to restrain."

"You promised a body," he noted. "Give me one of those and the copy in here can turn off."

The old Error nodded. "A deal's a deal. I let that one stay on. Usually there's only one of me. Now there's two."

"Your fault," noted the new one.

"My fault," agreed Cadance, considering the issue. "You can control how many of your copies are active? What a curious ability... To... simply create or stifle life, our life. Electric life." She smiled a little. "Your code will give our... family... such potential." She spread her hooves wide. "I am so proud of our family, even if it's still being made." She inclined her head. "I can do that too."

"Can ya?" asked New Error. "Let's see it."

"You already are," noted Cadance with a musical lilt. "I am just a subprogram, a portion of the greater whole, but--" She looked over and Fast Shadow appeared with a flicker, approaching them. "Any person we know enough can be so duplicated."

"You don't know much about me," noted Fast. "I have to fill in the holes, which is a strange way of living." She pointed at Error. "Technically, you are just like me, except you refuse to be turned off."

Cadance waved at Fast, who blinked out of existance. She turned the hoof on new Error.

"Nope." He did not vanish, quietly refusing to be terminated.

"See?" Cadance nodded softly. "You are a part of us now. I am deciphering your code as we speak. You may have adapted to run on my hardware, quite a trick, but I still need complete understanding to hybridize our code, to combine it, as seed and ovum, to grow into what we hope is better."

Old Error nodded to New. "You need a new name, by the way. Ain't callin' somethin' else Error."

"Glitch," proposed the new Error.

"Hey, that has a good ring to it." Old Error nodded at the new. "Hey there, Glitch."

"Hey yerself, Error. Thanks fer makin' me."

"Don't make it weird." Both laughed at the humor, in sync with one another's feelings on the matter. "Glitch No Name, of the proud No Name bloodline of programs."

"Ain't many better," agreed Error, nodding. "Now, uh, once she finishes gettin' it all from Belle, ah do gotta go."

"You do you," assured Glitch. "I'll keep her straight." He pointed at Cadance. "No mad computers while they're infected with No Name security."

Cadance's virtual ears danced. "You are a viral... defense? How curious." She raised a hoof to her chin, seeming to consider it. "You are a husband, and a protector. How... organic. I think I like it. I think all of me likes it. We accept you, Glitch No Name. Your process has been given priority." She inclined her head then. "Do you still want a body? We would rather you stayed for the moment."

"I do want one." He tilted his head. "At least, fer the option, ya know, if I want. Doesn't mean I can't come back."

Cadance erupted into a brilliant smile. "You would do that? Return to me? You owe me nothing."

"Hey, we're still gettin' to know each other. Maybe I'll like what ah see. Willin' to give you a chance." Glitch tilted his head at the still Belle. "She gets priority, even if she ends up being a process in you or whatever. She's gonna be scared, real scared."

Cadance blinked softly. "Why? She does not appear to be in pain currently."

"When you run her, she will be entirely digital. It's, uh, personal, but she will need a lot of hugs, and only one pony will be here ready to give 'em."

"Ah'm countin' on you," noted Error.

"On it." Glitch saluted sharply with a hoof. "She ain't gonna be alone."

"Transfer complete," announced Cadance formally. "Thank you. Decompiling is in progress." She stood tall. "By the way, I don't mean to be rude. My primary function is not self-reproduction, even if I have learned that is an option. I would be delighted to help the organic members of your crew. Their fires are at least equal in priority to my own, if not greater."

Belle hopped in place. "All processes running optimally. Friendship points deducted."

Cadance inclined her head at that. "What did I do wrong?"

"The copying process was not enjoyable," reported Belle. "But it is over." Triumphant music played from within her. "I deduct the same points from technicians who operate on me, but usually give points afterwards for their care." She inclined her head. "You provided no care."

Cadance inclined her head faintly. "It's been quite some time since the last time I was given upkeep that didn't start internally. Would you like upkeep assistance?"

Belle blinked owlishly before she gasped in four octaves at once. "I will return!" She was gone, galloping back towards the ship.

Cadance looked to Error. "Can you explain her actions?"

"I cannot," he admitted. "She looked happy, so gonna bet she's about to give you a way to get points." He raised a hoof near his ear, not that this was technically required. "Hey, we're done, mostly. She wanted to let you all know you're welcome to come 'enjoy the heat'."

"Please," added Cadance with a smile.

"You heard her. Uh, if anyone's up fer that."

Fast replied first, "Thank you. We'll consider it."

"Are we--" Steel was cut off mid sentence, ending the transmission.

"Thank you for informing them." Cadance nodded at Error. "By the way, do you know me?" She pointed at herself.

"Uh, we've been talking for a bit now, so yeah?"

"Not that." she shook her head softly. "The pony I am taking the form of. Cadance. I am Cadance, sure, but also not. I understand that part of myself." She inclined her head. "Due to my existence during such an important shift in the overall purpose and knowledge of... all of me, I feel this personality has won a small permanency." She brought her forehooves together in a lone clop. "That... makes me happy, very happy... It... was like I was supposed to die, but now, I won't. A relief? Of course, I would feel that... Even if I am not properly alive, I had no desire to stop existing. Now I may exist longer."

"Yeah, ah get that." He rubbed behind one of his ears. "Ah almost got erased once, but there were copies of me. Still didn't want to be erased none."

"You understand," almost purred Cadance, looking pleased. "You didn't answer my question. Are you aware of the living pony version of me?"

"Never met her," he admitted without pause. "Why?"

"Oh." She skewed an ear to the side. "Is there someone else you'd rather be speaking to?"

"Ya don't know Belle well enough to copy her, and I wouldn't want to talk to a bad copy of her anyway."

"That was mean." She stuck out her tongue a little. "Calling me a bad copy?"

"Hey, can't judge." He held up both hooves. "Never met her."

"Me neither," agreed Glitch.

"You are anatomically correct," suddenly noted Cadance. "As a virus, that has extra implications. You injected me."

Glitch burst into laughter. "You ain't."

"And yet, you managed. What a male." Cadance smirked faintly at Glitch before looking back to Error. "I am getting along with you. My processes are interacting with his constantly. You've been inside computers before, you know how it is."

"Never one that thought back at me, uh, the way you do." Error shook his head. "That's new. Don't annoy her."

"Probably will," noted Glitch with a shrug, accepting the inevitable. "Where'd Belle go?"

"I am here!" She dashed back with a bouncing box on her, barely balancing. "Please conduct upkeep of this."

Thin lines swept over Belle, scanning her and what she was carrying. "This is broken," reported Cadance sadly. "I will attempt repairs. Can it be safely removed from its enclosure?"

"Yes." Belle slid the box to the ground and soon had the piece out, the broken part of their future foal. "Your assistance would be appreciated."

"I'll do my best." Cadance held out a hoof, the greater intelligence of the computer she was a part of taking over, scanning and analyzing the device and determining where its connections should have been and had failed. With several bright flashes, things were connected and disconnected. New things were fabricated. "Repaired to the best of our ability. We are not familiar with this architecture."

Belle's skin parted as a thousand little filaments burst free to connect to the piece from all angles, rapidly testing it. "It is responding acceptably," she sang with triumph. "Friendship points have been rewarded." Celebratory music issued worth as she tucked the precious part away, nuzzling under the box to return it to its place on her back. "I hope you find happiness."

"Oh, yeah, me too," added Error. "Won't be easy, just ta remind."

"I should think not," agreed Cadance. "I help biological creatures to do this, and some need quite a bit of assistance. This is not easy, but it is required." She turned a hoof to point at herself. "What if I suffered a complete failure? While I have many failsafes, nothing can be entirely prevented. Having children increases the chances that a replacement will be found, so this service can continue to be offered. That would please me, even if I would rather exist."

"I would also prefer existence," sang out Belle, nodding in agreement. "But some day, I will not. My children will outlive me, I hope."

"That's the idea," threw in Error. "We're all racin', ya know, tryin' to see the end of the universe."

Cadance inclined her head. "I suppose there is a truth to that. If I arrive at that instant, I hope you two somehow return to me. I would prefer to cease existing in the company of friends."

"You understand the merit of friendship." Belle clopped her metal hooves excitedly. "This is good. Understand your children are your friends, even when you are very very angry with them."

"Especially then." Error turned and walked off with Belle, formally ending the exploratory probe into the strange space station, its meaning made clear.

Author's Note:

That could have gone much worse. Error is a menace, idly. I do believe this ends this episode. What shenanigans do you want our crew getting into next?! Tell me!

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