• 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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87 - Great Escapes

Another form thudded into Steel, a third into Fast. They weren't large forms by any measure. Neither of them had been bowled over, but surprise was there. Fast reached up and pushed away the white unicorn that had attached to her. "Hello?"

The three small ponies, Equestrian, slid to the ground. "Please don't do that," echoed the pegasus. They had a member of the three primary tribes among them, pegasus, earth, and unicorn. "We'll do our best to help out!"

The unicorn bobbed her head. "Yes. EQ doesn't mind being turned off, but we do, quite a lot!"

The earth filly joined in the unicorn's bobbing. "We're here ta help, honest. All of us." The three put their arms around each other's withers, striking a group pose. "And ah mean all of us. All the ponies inside EQ."

"Do you wish for me to uninstall myself?" asked EQ, entirely ignoring the impassioned pleas of what was, essentially, herself.

Steel frowned at the three fillies. They were just programs! They were artificial, with all the feelings they had carefully programmed into being. They deserved no consideration.

They were also gazing at him with doleful eyes, a touch of fear. Programs weren't supposed to know fear!

Fast leaned in and nuzzled the side of the pegasus' cheek. "Equestrian fillies are extra cute! Their adorably round little faces." She rubbed all the more firmly, burying her snout in the soft fur. "They're so innocent."

"They should be removed," grunted Steel. "And I--"

"Do not uninstall yourself," ordered Fast. "And only do so with mutual agreement from all active captains."

The fillies erupted into cheers and gathered around Fast, rapidly thanking her and gabbing excitedly.

EQ took it far more placidly. Just going quiet.

Steel grunted with growing annoyance. "What even are you three, besides a last ditch psychological method of preventing us from getting rid of EQ?"

"Ah'm Applebloom."

"Sweetie Belle." The unicorn bounced in place. "Nice to meet you."

"And I'm Scootaloo." The pegasus struck a dynamic pose. "We're the Cutie Mark Crusaders!" They met in a three way hoof junction with a loud clop. "And we're adventurers."

Sweetie bobbed her head at that. "We never went on space adventures before, but we're ready to learn."

"Just give us a chance, please." Apple Bloom clopped her hooves together in almost a prayer, smiling brightly at Steel.

"Tell me we can keep them." Fast casually wrapped her arms around all three of the fillies, hugging them all in close. "I love them all."

Apple Bloom giggled at the embrace. "Thanks again, um, but really, we do wanna help."

"All of us do," echoed Sweetie. "This ship is amazing. We can't stop talking about it."

Fast let the three fillies slide back to the ground. "Talking about it?"

Scootaloo nodded quickly. "Oh yeah." She tapped at her own head. "We have like a radio we can use, to talk to each other. It's not really a radio. Um..."

Sweetie slid in front. "We're all parts of EQ." She pointed to the speaker EQ had last spoken through. "We can leave messages in EQ, that others of us can read, then we can leave our own message. So we can talk through EQ."

Scootaloo rolled her eyes. "Not that you could call it 'reading'."

Apple Bloom snickered softly. "Don't get them all confused wit' the technicals." She clopped her hooves before hopping up onto all four. "We are ready to help, even if it's just bein' a friendly face."

Steel glanced aside at the starry-eyed Fast, who would clearly not be of help at the moment. "Most of the... ponies." They were programs, dang it, not ponies. They were, at best, in the shape of a pony! "Most of them, aside you, had very specific functions. We've had morale officers--"

As if conjured, which she may very well have been, Pinkie slid into view on her knees. "The Belles have been doubled!"

Clopping behind her was Bulette Belle and Error No Name.

Sweetie inclined her head. "Huh, hi!" She waved at the other Belle present.

Fast suddenly approached the two new AIs. "Talk some sense into Steel. He wants to turn EQ off."

Belle's ears pricked. "Friendship points deducted!" she announced with a shrill cry, the tones sliding wildly up an octave along the way with a warble.

Error set a hoof on her back. "Let's talk first before we get t' screamin'." He fixed Steel with a placid look. "EQ causin' trouble? They seem alright so far ah can see."

Apple Bloom gasped suddenly. "Someone asides me that talks like that?"

Sweetie thumped Apple Bloom with a hoof. "That was on the boards you hardly read."

"Well excuse me. Shoot. Right nice to meetcha!" She waved eagerly at Error.

Steel did his best to filter out the fillies. "EQ is an unsanctioned alien program running without proper authority on a government ship. I shouldn't need to explain why that raises no few concerns."

"Yeah, yeah..." Error nodded at the concerns. "But they're also nice an' helpful. Ya already got some helpful artificial sorts." He waved at himself and Belle. "So ya popped open a hatch and found a stowaway, not even the first time." He chuckled at the idea. "But if they're willin' to help out?"

"The average stowaway." Steel took a step forward. "Does not have better access to the ship's central functions than the rest of the crew!"

Belle sat on her haunches. "Have you requested elevated permissions in the desired functions?"

"Pardon?" Steel looked down at the holograph that was normally a robot. "What do you mean?"

Belle leaned forward, hooves sliding on the floor. "Did you try asking for what you want?" she rephrased with a smile.

Fast stuck out her tongue at Steel. "Why would we do that? Computer?" A chime sounded. "Hello, EQ. Our friend here, Belle, reminded us of something. Do you know Belle?"

"Accessing Fi--completed. I am aware of Bulette Belle."

Belle waved at the speaker that was talking. "Hello! I already like you." A victorious jingle confirmed this.

"She reminded us," continued Fast. "That we haven't tried asking. So if we want you to not interact with the ship central functions and restore access to the central computer for such things, you would...?"

"Comply," responded EQ without hesitation. "The commands of the captain are to be followed unless doing so places the crew in immediate danger."

Steel's teeth grit. "Which sometimes they will. EQ, change your call sign to 'EQ'. Allow the ship computer to respond to 'Computer' and do not serve as the intermediary between us and the computer. Do not give commands to the computer outside the specific authorized action of your... subroutines?"

"Ponies," corrected EQ. The Cutie Mark Crusaders and Pinkie all began to glow with a halo of blue power. "Following your direction, EQ, myself, will no longer issue any instructions or commands or accept input from the ship computer. Ponies may continue to do so in the line of their duties, using organic interfaces. Is this correct?"

Steel gestured at Fast. "That sound good?"

"It means I can keep these three." She waved a hoof at the fillies. "So, yes, it sounds grand. Sorry for the rough welcome, EQ. Ah, wait." She turned her eyes to the glowing Pinkie. "I have a feeling you may know. Who was it that installed EQ on the ship?"

Pinkie opened her mouth with a loud gasp.

As it turns, the deep inside of Mineralite space was dense with eyes that would see a vessel where it did not belong. The issue was that the outer shell repeated this. They wanted to keep people out, and that is where most of their time and effort went into doing it. Soaring quietly through the space in the middle was, relatively, safe.

Of course, with their transponders turned off, if they were spotted, any ship could determine at an instant that they were being suspicious. Proper ships proudly proclaimed who they were. They gave a name and a registration without even being asked, constantly put out there for any other to read and respond to. With that, their allegiance was also made clear. When their ship was allowed to, it proudly crooned that it was a member of the Everglow space fleet, an exploration vessel. It chirped its name and gave a complex identification that could be confirmed, if one had the access.

But that was all turned off. They were where they were not supposed to be. Visually, their ship was... fine, but also one of quite a few of the same make and model. They were strangers. And so they wished to remain, if they could. "Status?" barked Steel, eyes set on the main display.

Dawn dipped his head. "They watch their edges carefully. Passive sensors pick up activity in all directions. Our chances of detection are, gods allowing, roughly 80%."

Fast inclined her head faintly. "80%? I figured it'd be higher, truth told."

"We are blessed." Dawn brought his hooves together quietly. "They are looking outwards more than inwards."

Under nudged against Twilight at his side. "I don't suppose your infinite range teleport can move entire ships while we're at it?"

Twilight blanched at that, coughing briefly. "There are limits, and that is one right there. I can take a few ponies, not... all of this." She tapped at the floor they sat on. The ship was a floating city, full of people and materials. "This goes beyond the most I've teleported with by an alarming number of magnitudes."

Under chuckled softly. "A zero never hurt anyone." He held up a hoof. "I speak in jest. Apologies, seemed worthy of asking, at least."

Octavia turned from where she sat. She had begun taking a center place on the bridge. "I will return." And she rose, striding off without further word.

Her presence hadn't been specifically asked for, and yet there she had been. Steel inclined his head. "Who made her queen?"

Twilight looked off where Octavia had gone. "I would like to know that..."

Not that Octavia was offering that answer, marching with purpose into the elevator and willing the proper buttons be pressed. "Computer." A soft chime sounded. "Is Remington in my room?"

Another chime sounded. "Hm?" Octavia had expected EQ. "EQ?"

"Yes, Octavia?"

"There you are. Is Remington in my room?" Octavia raised a brow. "And why didn't you answer the first time?"

"I have been commanded to respond to the callsign of 'EQ'. She is," calmly assured EQ. "Do you wish to send her a message?"

Octavia considered that a moment. "Not required, I am headed for her. Instead, if you would, lock the doors to my room. Do not allow anyone to open them."

"Doors locked." There was a moment of quiet. "In the case of hazard, I am obligated to unlock the doors if they prove a hinderance to safety."

Octavia waved a hoof lightly. "If a fire breaks out, you have my leave to release Remington, but much aside that, she can stay still for just a moment."

The elevator chimed, the doors swinging open and allowing Octavia to step free. "I just need to speak with her. Thank you for your assistance."

There was no response, EQ just quietly ceasing to pay active attention to Octavia until she said the magic word again.

Not that she could know, but a pony had sprang into being in a closet, scurrying across the room when Remi wasn't looking to slap the lock button and hurry away to fade back into the ether. EQ could not directly command the locks to engage, that was a specific order. That didn't stop EQ from sending ponies, who were permitted to do such things.

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