• Published 6th Apr 2019
  • 1,161 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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86 - Pressing Concerns

Copper Lens inclined her head at the strange not-quite-ponies that stood before her. "I have this well in hoof," she assured as she walked past them towards her beds of plants. "Besides, you are programmed with how to deal with Equestrian cops, and these are Everglow crops. They are not the same."

"Don't be like that." Carrot Top trailed after her, one ear pinned back against her head. "We're fast learners."

"And we'll listen," assured Strawberry Sunrise. "You don't have a single strawberry in here. Do you have seeds?"

Copper turned back to the two eager holograms. "Different ideal PH levels. Different moisture optimizations." She tapped her hooves as she counted off each thing. "Different light demands."

Carrot Top leaned in a bit, a smug look on her face. "Have you ever seen an Equestrian plant before?"

Copper Lens had not. "They're plants from an entirely different world." She huffed and crossed her arms, sitting up on her haunches. "They've had an entirely different evolutionary path, in a, literally, alien environment. There are going to be differences."

Copper suddenly leveled a hoof at Strawberry. "You."

"Me?" She pointed at herself. "What's wrong with me?"

"You are an example of the alien biology at play." Copper shrugged softly. "A simulacrum of it, but still. We are not the same." She raised her hooves to run across the curves of her cheeks and out along her snout. "We are very different. Not going to say one is better, but different, you can't really argue that."

Carrot Top had already reared up to peek inside one of the beds of plants, her eyes flashing with figures and numbers. "Your logs say you've had troubles with this one."

"Those are my logs!" Copper bristled up, rising to all four to glare at the intruding program. "Why do you even have access to that?"

"Looks like they perked up when you got close to that 'life furnace'." Carrot Top tapped her chin. "Wish I coulda seen that. But they went right back into their funk afterwards."

"Why are you telling me what I already know?" Copper glared at Carrot as she approached. "What I'm painfully aware of."

Strawberry hopped in without a que, "Because you're not alone. We all want these lovely babies to grow big and strong."

"Exactly!" chimed Carrot with a nod. "So how about that?" She gestured a hoof out at the struggling vegetables. "Let us have a chance, with this. If we can get it pricked up and happy again, then we get the job?"

Strawberry held up a hoof. "Before you think of it, we are not trying to replace you. You know how these lovelies want to be treated. We want to help. Now, I'll go ahead and admit, not used to working with the biocrew."

"But I am ready to start," finished Carrot with an eager bobbing of her head.

Copper Lens let out a small breath. "Biocrew... What are you used to, with your 'biocrew'?"

Carrot shrugged softly. "Biocrew, on the last ship, was mostly ornamental. Interesting to look at and talk to, and what we wanted to keep healthy." She gestured at the plants. "Like those, but more likely to move."

"And talk," added Strawberry. "Speaking of that, hi, I'm Strawberry Sunrise, and I really do want to work with you."

"Carrot Top," introduced the other. "Let's become pals. We all want a healthy garden, right?"

Copper considered the two a moment. "Alright... That's a fair test." She turned and thrust her nose at the plant bed Carrot had looked at. "If you can get those perked up again, you're in. I will need you to take notes of every step you try, successful or not."

Carrot Top turned to Strawberry. "Now, these are ground veggies." Her nose twitched softly. "Mmm..." Fans whirred in the room, the computer having to smell in Carrot's place, but that information was passed along. "Smells like it'd make a fantastic stir fry. Either way, this is my specialty."

Strawberry pouted at that. "Got a fruit for me to work on?"

Copper squinted faintly. "You two are... literally the same program. But you can't work together?"

Both AIs huffed at that. Strawberry pointed at Carrot. "Hey, we're friends, but I am my own pony."

"Ditto that." Carrot nodded firmly. "I like to get all dirty with root veggies."

"I prefer to tend to fruits and sweet things." Strawberry nodded lightly. "Do bio-twins have to do the same thing because they were made by the same person at the same time? I doubt it."

"No," allowed Copper, considering Strawberry. "I focus on nutrition. Fruits tend to be more sugary." She turned in place and started off to a new corner of the farm. "But there is one I keep around. It has a vitamin that's otherwise difficult to obtain, but Everglow biology does require."

"Is it an orange?" Strawberry was following along with a smile. "Or lemons? Some kind of citrus? If you had some strawberries hiding in here, I will squeal with delight."

Copper waved a hoof at a tree. It was a small tree, and there were four of them, each with odd purple-red fruit that grew in heart-shaped buds. One of those fruits had fallen on the roots of its tree. Strawberry was on it in a flash, sniffing and poking at it. "Aw, overripe I think."

Copper frowned at it. "They're extremely... picky. One day they're not ripe, the next, too ripe, or so it feels."

"Good thing you have a helper." Strawberry nodded firmly. "Advantage of being an AI? I don't sleep. I'll make sure you get all of these." She waved her hooves at the many fruits still on the tree. "Um, so what are they called anyway?"

Copper clucked her tongue. "One thing. You're a program. Can't you look up what they are?"

"Sure." Strawberry inclined her head. "I already did, actually, but I do want to be friends with who I'm working with, so hearing it from you is more fun. Besides, biologicals have this habit, where they know something, but don't always write it down, so I bet you know a few things not in the files." She shrugged softly. "I'll do my best with what I have, promise, but I'd love to get the straight scoop from the resident expert."

Copper smiled at that. "You know something a lot of 'biologicals' struggle with. Trying to know it all from reading books only gets you so far. Alright, Strawberry. Let's talk about the Heart Pear, which is neither a heart, nor a pear."

Strawberry burst into giggles. "That's unfortunately typical in plant names. Please, do continue."

Copper had gained two assistants.

"Captain." A stern-faced human addressed Steel. "Captain," they repeated towards Fast. "You wouldn't call on this line for idle matters. Speak."

They were in the captains' office, a rarely used place, where they could make such an important call. Fast nodded at the image of the human. "Commander. We have unfortunate news."

"The mineralites are gearing up for military action," added Steel suddenly, finishing the thought.

"Do you have proof, both of the militarization and that it's directed in any way we need to be concerned of?" His voice was even, his eyes locked on theirs.

Fast nodded firmly. "We are currently inside Mineralite space. We're trying to leave, quietly, but we've had plenty of opportunity to get corroborating readings and intel. Packet... sent."

Things were quiet a moment. Their communication as faster than light, but it still had a speed. "Received," announced the commander, tapping at unseen keys with fingers he wasn't looking at. "This will have to go before the council."

"Of course," both captains echoed in unison.

The commander smiled thinly. "The ponies say you were a 'force of destiny'. Maybe it wasn't entirely mythological. Call again when it's safe to do so. Give me at least 36 hours."

Steel saluted sharply. "Sir."

And the call went dead. They had given their dire warning.

Fast turned an ear at Steel. "Told you they wouldn't even ask why we were already inside foreign space."

Steel shook his head. "They will ask, if it becomes prudent to do so. If they need to distance themselves from our actions, blaming us for acting as rogues is a simple matter."

"I prefer to think they trust us." She rose and started for the door. "Now, about the holograms."

Steel hissed, following her. "Are they causing troubles?"

"Quite the opposite." Fast peeked over her shoulder. "EQ seems quite ready to take up the slack whenever they notice the opportunity. Wandering had the sniffles this morning, and an Equestrian pony, DJ Pon-3, AKA Vinyl Scratch, was already at his station, monitoring the comms."

"That is... both good and uncanny." Steel shook his head, marching alongside his co-captain. "Did she do a decent job at it?"

"She had an adjustment period." Fast inclined her head faintly. "Turns out Everglow comms are not Equestrian comms, but that didn't take long. After that, she was perfectly fine at the job. Not as good as Wandering, but Wandering had a whole life to get it perfect."

"Do you have a request?" inquired EQ from a nearby speaker. "If my response time was too fast, or too slow, you can request an adjustment." Not upset, not eager, just stating facts. "With your current crew situation, I will only dispatch helpers when need arises."

Steel turned his eyes to the speaker the voice was coming from. "Are you always listening?"

"You said my name." Not defensive, just facts. "Would you care to set an alternative call word?"

Fast leaned in around Steel. "Actually, can we use 'Computer' as the call phrase. We're used to that. I know your name is EQ."

"Computer is now the call sign," agreed EQ without objection. "I will only begin listening for commands when the call sign is spoken. Would you like me to use the computer's original confirmation sound to verify my hearing the call sign?"

Steel's ears pricked. "That'd be great." For an alien virus, EQ was proving to be quite polite about it. "That reminds me, EQ, you are not the only AI on this ship, as you are aware."

"Four independent artificial intelligences have been detected," agreed EQ calmly. "Five if you include myself."

Fast turned the corner, heading towards the elevator. "You don't count all the... ponies, I guess?"

"They are a part of me," explained EQ evenly.

"Back to the other topic," ordered Steel. "Do you have any problems with being one of several AI?"

"Negative." A moment of quiet. "Three of the artificial intelligences have viral capabilities."

Fast hiked a brow at that. "Four, if we count you, again."

"I do not have viral functions. I was installed."

The captains paused, both turning to the speaker that was speaking at that moment. Fast frowned at it. "Who on this ship, with the proper authority to install anything, did that?"

"I was commanded to not answer that question." Calm, statement of fact. The voice was not worried.

Steel lashed out a hoof, leaving a tiny dent in the wall for his efforts. "Do I have more to be angry at Remington about?"

"My presence has increased efficiency by approximately 15%. Do you have a request?"

Fast moved between Steel and the speaker with a strained laugh. "No, no... But whoever installed you neglected to get our permission first, which is typically required. We are the ones in charge, and we like to know what's going on with our computer."

"I was not aware of this." A moment of quiet. "Do you wish me to uninstall myself?"

Steel pricked up at that. "What? That's an option?"

"I am here to assist with the operation of this vessel. As captain, your word is final on what assists the vessel. If you command my uninstallation, I will comply."

Steel's smile grew. "Fantastic, then--"

An Equestrian pony thumped into him from the side, diving out of a hallway. "No! Please!"

Author's Note:

I kept the scene hopping to a minimal, which I hear is preferred, with one central theme, that being the integration of the holo-crew into things. Remember Copper Lens? She gets to return to the camera!

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