• Published 10th Mar 2020
  • 425 Views, 20 Comments

Cyberponk - pentapony



As the lines between android and pony blur, Pinkie seeks out answers on what it means to be truly artificial.

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Prologue

Author's Note:

Prologues can be boring. They're filled with expository details that help set the stage, but they lack any sort of palpable action. I tried to cut this and start from Chapter 1, but ultimately, it felt necessary in order to round out the universe I wanted to establish. The plot really gets going in the first chapter; context-wise, I think it stands well enough on its own to make the prologue optional (but still helpful). Though this story generally has an emphasis on the 'science' in 'science fiction', it's especially noticeable here in the prologue. If you find it drags the narrative, then by all means, start from Chapter 1.

Thanks for checking this out! I'm excited to keep building upon this universe in future chapters.

TRICKLE CHARGE COMPLETE.

REPACKAGING SOLAR ARRAY.

REBOOTING FIRMWARE.

ERROR: FISSION CORE MISSING. DEFAULTING TO PHOTOVOLTAIC CELL.

PERFORMING WEAPONS CHECK . . .

LEFT BLASTER NOT RESPONDING.

RIGHT BLASTER DETACHED. SUBSTITUTE LIMB NOT DETECTED.

INITIATING RECALL PROTOCOL . . .

ERROR: 3/4 MEMORY CARTRIDGES MISSING. ACCESSING RECOVERY PARTITION.

REINSTALLING EARLIER BUILD: DESIGNATION PP188449.

INSTALLING . . .

INSTALLING . . .

INSTALLATION COMPLETE.

Pinkie sat up. Unsure of what had happened, she quickly scanned the readout on her HUD to assess the situation. Several of her critical components were missing. She looked down to examine herself, only to find that she was in terrible shape. Her fission core, the circular implant in her chest that normally glowed a deep green, was missing. The slot where it once powered her entire body was now a hollow metal cavity in her breast.

She attempted to paw at the cavity forlornly when she noticed she was missing her right hoof. Her faded pink forearm remained, but the attachment at the knee where her hoof cannon was once connected had been torn clean off. What remained was nothing more than a torn metallic stump with frayed wires poking out, still sparking. She was relieved, however, to see her left hoof remained intact, as she flexed her only remaining cannon. Still, without her fission core, the status indicators on the cannon would not turn on.

Looking straight ahead, she returned her attention to her HUD. She navigated through her menus to perform a battery diagnostic. Her internal battery was at critically low charge. It’d been drained entirely for an indeterminate amount of time, and her solar array had been trickle charging it for the past two months. This process was rather inefficient, and by her estimate, she had gleaned maybe three days’ worth of energy from it. She needed to find a permanent solution, a fission core, fast. Otherwise, she’d power down again. Not wanting to take chances, she stood up, determined to find a suitable power source. She wobbled a bit as she adjusted to having three legs, then took a minute to scan her environment.

There was nothing but waste as far as she could see. Somehow, she’d ended up in an electronics landfill. She stood atop a hill of scrap metal, with mountains of derelict machines in every direction. The natural terrain, from the few exposed patches she could discern, was a sandy red, free of any vegetation.

In the distance, a few barge ships floated along listlessly, suspended high in the atmosphere. Periodically, the hatches on their undersides swung open, allowing trash to fall thousands of feet through the air, crashing down onto the surface. She deduced that this was an uninhabited desert world, repurposed for waste containment. The entire planet, it seemed, was nothing more than a dumping ground for abandoned machinery.

As she began to scale down the hill of rubble, she realized she hadn’t the faintest idea how she got here. She couldn’t seem to recall anything prior to booting up minutes ago. She checked her initialization readout, and sure enough, she was missing all but one of her memory cartridges. The one that remained was her personality drive, the one that contained all her behavior protocols and self-maintenance routines.

The other three drives stored her memories. And of course, until she could install new ones, she would have difficulty maintaining any sort of mental recollection beyond basic short-term memory. That didn’t matter much though, because without a fission core, she’d be effectively dead in a matter of days.

Pinkie reached the base of the hill and looked around. Nothing in particular caught her eye beyond the endless piles of electronic refuse. She elected to head in the direction of the barge ships. She had no way to flag them down (assuming they were operated by ponies and not just drones), but that direction seemed as good a choice as any. She began her trek, estimating it to be several miles before she would reach the area beneath the ships. She stumbled along at first, struggling to find her footing while missing a front hoof. After a few minutes of cautious steps, she got the hang of it, picking up her pace to a brisk trot.

Several hours into her journey, she noted something peculiar. This planet’s sun wasn’t setting. She had been tracking its motion through the skies, hoping the night might bring some interstellar landmarks to navigate by. But the sun seemed to simply circle the sky, maintaining almost the same angle above the horizon as the planet rotated.

She decided that if she had to endure unending sunlight, she may as well make use of it. The top of her back detached from the rest of her body and raised a couple inches into the air. Through the small gaps between her back panel and body, one could peer into the interior of her body and see the mechanical joints, circuit panels, and wiring that allowed her to function.

While her exterior shared a great deal in common with her organic counterparts, such as a soft coat, fluffy mane, and beautiful, expressive eyes, there were still a few key features that gave away her android nature: her tiny red pupils, her front hoof cannons, the fission core slot— but perhaps most uncanny were the faint seams across her face and body that could separate to expose her interior.

From within that interior, an array of solar panels emerged through the gaps of her raised back panel. The panels unfolded, extending outward at both sides, resembling the outstretched wings of a pegasus. She continued to trot onward, maintaining her balance as her solar array soaked up the sunlight. For every minute the panels collected sunlight, she only added one or two seconds to her battery reserve, but every moment counted.

Eventually, she found herself approaching the region the barge ships were circling. All in all, she had traveled over 12 hours without stopping. She reached a cliff overlooking a massive crater and was assuaged by the sight inside.

The crater spanned two miles in diameter, and was free of the garbage that littered the rest of the planet. Most of the space inside was taken up by three colossal dock platforms for the barge ships to land and refuel. At the center of the crater, between each dock, there was an operating tower. She instinctively knew that her best chance at survival would be inside. She repackaged her solar array, shut her back panel, and carefully made her way down the rim of the crater.

Upon reaching the operating tower, Pinkie took a moment to look up at it. The exterior walls were covered in communications equipment, and a giant satellite dish sat atop the roof. The building was mostly windowless, and a single set of doors faced her. She took a deep breath (though somatically pointless) and stepped through the entrance.

The doors led into a small antechamber. The walls were lined with dozens of nozzles, and the opposite side of the hall had an identical set of doors. On her right, she noticed a small screen on the wall. Standing upright on her hind legs, she he lifted her front hoof and prodded at the screen with her touch-capacitive hoof cannon. The screen came to life, and she navigated the menus until she found an option called Activate Pressurization. Satisfied, she tapped the screen to begin the process.

Almost immediately, the nozzles began to hiss while the door vacuum sealed behind her. Her sensors picked up the atmospheric change as the air in the room slowly stabilized. After a minute, the screen beeped a confirmation that the process was complete, and the doors into the main building swung open.

She continued further inside to an almost blindingly white interior. This first room seemed like an almost mundane living space. The left side housed a kitchen with a dining table against the wall. On the opposite side there was a neatly kept bed in the corner, bookshelves, and even a little couch to unwind on. In the center of the room was a glass elevator, transparent so she could peer up the shaft through the length of the tower. There must have been at least twenty floors by her estimate.

Curious to explore the facility, she entered the elevator and pushed the button for top floor. As the elevator rose, she could see into each floor, all of them serving a variety of purposes. One floor housed a large pumping room. Another was lined with shelves storing an assortment of food. As she passed the fifth and sixth floors, she could see they were jointly occupied by a massive fusion generator. She caught glimpses of a workshop, parts storage, even a small laboratory.

The elevator slowed and stopped at the top floor. This one had floor-to-ceiling glass walls, slightly tinted to reduce the glare of the beaming sun. The room looked like a control tower, with communications equipment and machinery in every direction. Control panels were lit up with a variety of lights, screens, and buttons. Out through the windows, she could still see the barge ships drifting across the pale yellow sky.

“Who the hay are you?” a voice emerged from the opposite side of the room.

Pinkie turned to face the stranger. A chestnut brown earth pony, clad in a drab grey and white jumpsuit, was standing by the instrument panels behind the elevator shaft. He had a stern but slightly fearful expression in response to the intruder. But when she turned to face the mysterious stallion, he gasped and stumbled backwards into the machinery.

“You’re an android!” the stallion exclaimed.

“Sure am!” she responded. She started to approach him, but stopped when he backed away in response. “What’s the matter with you?”

“You’re not supposed to be here!” he yelled, shakily. “You should be on a mining colony or something! If you’re here, that means you’re…”

“What? Craaaaazy?” Pinkie mimed out the cuckoo gesture.

“You’re rogue,” he gulped, looking at her hoof cannon.

Pinkie frowned. She'd never heard the term 'rogue' before. At least, she thought she hadn't. Without her memory cartridges, it was hard to differentiate between what was new and what was simply forgotten.

Slowly, the stallion tried to steady his panicky breaths, talking to himself in between. "This isn't happening. This has never happened before. Or... no one's ever heard of this happening before. They wouldn't do that, right? Cover up the fact that cyber ponies can go rogue? Oh, skies above, I'm going to die, aren't I?"

She rolled her eyes and walked over to him. “Who are you, exactly?”

“C-Cyrus,” he answered, cowering on the floor. “Weyland-Yutani Offsite Disposal Operator C67—”

“Okay, Cyrus!” she continued before he could finish. “My name’s Pinkie, designation PP188449, and I just woke up on this messy-bessy planet. Pleased to meetcha.” She stuck out her forearm to offer her hoof, then shook her head when she remembered it was missing.

“Woke up here? Then... you must've been decommissioned here,” he replied, looking at her missing limb as he picked himself up off the floor. “But I guess it didn’t take.” Though a little relieved, he was mostly perturbed by her apparent lack of hostility. Rather, she seemed to be the exact opposite of what he'd expect from a rogue cyber pony with a weapon mod.

“Listen, mister, I kinda need a fission core,” she said, quickly changing the subject. “Not to be a party pooper or anything, but it’s kinda urgent. Life-or-death, you know?”

“A fission core? That’s old-world tech, I don’t have that here.”

Pinkie squinted, again unsure of what he meant by 'old-world', but ignored it. “Well, who here has one?” she asked.

“‘Who here?’ I’m the only one on this planet.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” She threw her front hoof up dramatically, almost falling flat on her face.

“There’s nothing but scrap for hundreds and hundreds of miles in every direction. Beyond that is just a dead rock.”

“Then there’s got to be a fission core somewhere in there, right?”

He shook his head. “No, any fissile material would have been recycled. I guess I could theoretically enrich some here in the breeder reactor, but it would take a lot of uranium, and it’s not like I have any lying around.”

“It's a start!" she chirped optimistically. "So where do we get it?”

“We? N-no way!” he stammered. “My atmospheric suit for going out on the surface has zero protection against ionizing radiation. I mean, I have a radiation suit, but it’s only good in here where I can breathe. You’ll have to get it alone, I mean, you’re technically cancer-proof, right?”

“Fine," she pouted. "Just tell me where it is.”

“There’s a waste site loaded with fertile U-238 from the days before fusion tech,” he said, walking over to the window and pointing to a barren zone in the distance. “I’ll need at least three barrels of it to enrich a fission core.”

Pinkie walked over to the window beside him. The debris in that region made for some unforgiving terrain. “You got a vehicle, Cyrus?” she asked.

“I have a rover outside. You’re welcome to use it, but—”

“Thanks, you’re the best!” she interrupted obliviously. She was already in the elevator before he could finish his thought.

“Oh geez,” he groaned, as he returned to his instrument panel.

The elevator descended rapidly and stopped at the ground floor. Pinkie headed back through the antechamber and initiated the depressurization process. The nozzles hissed once again, and the outer doors opened to reveal that omnipresent sun. She circled the building and saw the garage attached to the opposite side of the tower. As she lifted up the hangar door, she grinned at the vehicle within.

The rover was an absolute beast. It had six tires, each almost as large as Pinkie herself. The body was black and sleek, but built like a tank. She opened the door and hoisted herself inside. She tapped at the console, started up the engine cores, and entered the approximate geographic coordinates. The vehicle jolted forward and began rolling across the train.

The rover crushed everything smaller than it in its path. The robust tires were unfazed by the titanium and steel scrap that crunched beneath it. She took the wheel to steer out of the way of some of the deeper ditches, but beyond that, the rover navigated the trash heap just fine on its own.

After a couple of hours, it reached its destination. She hopped out to survey the area.

The waste disposal site was here, alright. It was a huge repository with thousands of concrete dry casks; each was ten feet tall and bore the icon of radioactive hazard. In the distance, over the tops of the casks, she saw the tip of a pyramidal structure. She headed in that direction, making her way through the field of casks.

Soon Pinkie arrived at the stone pyramid, which stood a modest twenty feet high. It was built into the side of a cliff, and presumably served as the entrance to a cavern beneath the surface. She peered into the entrance opening but saw only darkness inside. Normally, she could use her fission core as a light source, but without that, she was empty-hooved.

She ventured blindly inside the pyramid, carefully feeling her way around as the light dimmed into pitch darkness. The ground sloped gently downward. The only sensations she felt were the coarse dirt crunching beneath her hooves and a faint breeze blowing past her.

Then came another sensation. For just an instant, she saw a tiny white dot flash into existence. As she ventured deeper, into the cave, she could see another, and another, a series of tiny white dots appearing and disappearing. Her optic sensors, which were only glorified digital cameras, were picking up the alpha radiation emitted by the uranium. She managed to navigate in the general direction of her target using the intensity of dots as a cue, until soon, countless pixels were flickering all over her vision like crackling static. She was in the thick of it.

After a bit of stumbling around, she bumped into something metal on the ground. She pawed at it, getting a feel for its shape, and squealed in delight. It was a barrel! She poked at the ground around it, and soon found another, and another. Satisfied, she hoisted three of them onto her back, carefully balancing them, and turned back to the way she came.

When she emerged from the pyramid, she lowered one of the barrels to get a good look at it. Sure enough, the label read DEPLETED U-238. She lifted the barrel once more and returned to the rover. After loading the barrels inside, she punched the coordinates for the tower into the console and settled in for the trip back.



Cyrus tapped away at the reactor console while Pinkie looked on. She’d brought back the U-238 barrels to the tower; he had suited up and loaded the material into the reactor core. The last task was now to breed fissile material. It had now been roughly 24 hours since Pinkie awoke.

“I’m pulling the cladding from the core,” he said, not looking up from his console. “Thermal neutrons are too low-energy to induce criticality for this nuclide.”

Pinkie just stared at him blankly.

“Sorry,” he said sheepishly, realizing his faux pas. “I know there's no point in explaining it. This is just an interesting change of pace from coordinating barges all day. And I’ve never had any sort of company out here.”

“No, go ahead! You gotta do you.” She beamed sincerely.

“Oh… well, without the graphite moderator, we can bombard the uranium with enough fast neutrons to transmute it into Plutonium-239.” He hit one final button and the core began to hum.

“Hang on! My spec sheet says my power supply is rated for U-235 use only.”

“No, I can’t breed U-235. It doesn’t work that way. Either we make plutonium out of U-238 or nothing.”

An expression of anxious worry cast over Pinkie’s face.

“It should still work,” he tried to reassure her, feeling guilty. “U-235 and Pu-239 have the same decay chain. And plutonium has a much smaller critical mass! Who knows, it might actually make your power supply’s job easier.”

“Let’s hope so,” she lamented.

The pair watched the core together as the mechanical hum slowly grew in pitch. Cyrus checked the console periodically to ensure the sample was transmuting. After some nervous waiting, he powered down the reactor and double-checked his radiation suit.

“It should be ready,” he said. “I’m going in.”

Pinkie watched anxiously as he entered the reactor hatch and disappeared from view. She paced around the room until he emerged a minute later, metallic rod in hoof.

“Here it is,” he smiled. “Let me install it.”

Pinkie trotted over to Cyrus. He kneeled so her chest was at eye level.

“I had the sample molded in one of my casts during the transmutation process. It’s not exact, but the cylindrical shape approximately matches your, er, hole.”

Pinkie giggled. “Innuendo!” she teased.

“I’ll have to make tiny adjustments, so it fits snug. Give me a minute here.” He tinkered with the rod and her slot while she held still.

Starting to get bored, Pinkie looked around the room to avoid the inclination to fidget. She glanced out the window to see the sun still hanging at the same latitude as it always was.

"How do you deal with that constant sunshine?" she asked.

“Huh?” he replied thoughtlessly, focused on his task. “Oh, the sun. It’s just the messed-up orbit. Been this way for a few months now. It can be jarring sometimes, but there's no windows in my quarters, so I just sleep whenever. Lights off and I'm good to go."

“It must bother you though. Aren't organic ponies’ internal clocks based on light cycles? I don’t remember much, but I do recall the whole day/night cycle being a pretty big deal in Equestria.”

“Equestria?” he looked up at her and gave a confused glance. “No, I've never been. I hear it’s nice though. If you’ve got bits to spend.”

Pinkie frowned. “What the hay does that mean? Nopony your age has been born off-world! Unless you’re somehow just a really old-looking colt, in which case, you probably shouldn’t be fiddling around my—”

“Pinkie,” he cut her off, “half the ponies in the universe were born off-world.”

She struggled to understand what he meant by that. Suddenly, she froze and started navigating through her HUD menus frantically. “W-what's the stardate?” she choked out.

Cyrus glanced over his shoulder to read the console. “32714.7.”

She stared frightfully at her own measure blinking on her HUD. It had been over two centuries since she had powered down. Apparently, the removal of her fission core meant her internal clock had stopped. After a two hundred year sleep, she had now awoken into a universe that was not her own.

“There! All set. You should be— Pinkie? What's the matter?” Cyrus looked up and noticed her grim expression.

Pinkie started hyperventilating as panic set in. She squinted and slowly lost concentration. Cyrus' voice faded away. The room shifted out of focus. The last thing she remembered was collapsing on the floor; then everything went black.

There was only silence and darkness in the void. Then, emerging from nowhere, a matronly voice called out. “Designation PP188449. Begin transmission. Pinkie… are you out there?

Pinkie sat up and gasped for air.

“Pinkie! Relax, you’re alright!” Cyrus reached over and held the trembling android steady in his hooves.

She looked around confusedly. She was now sitting on a table in Cyrus’ lab. Still panting, she looked down to see a familiar, calming green glow emanating from her chest.

“You passed out when I enabled the fission core,” he told her. “I don’t know if ‘passed out’ is the right phraseology to use for you, but that’s kind of what happened. I can’t tell if it was the shock from the installation, or if I did something wrong—”

“The date,” Pinkie whispered softly. “It was the date.” She looked at the stardate still pulled up on her HUD. It now blinked the date Cyrus had told her: 32714.7. She sighed. “I’ve been off for a very long time.”

“It was the shock that did it. You had a panic attack…” he replied, piecing it together. “Wow. You’re more pony than I imagined.”

Pinkie tried to shrug it off. “My internal clock crashed. It was just a reset,” she said, dismissively. Part of her knew that was only half the truth. She just feared what it meant if he was right.

“You were out for about an hour. I started a diagnostic check on you and rewired that torn limb while it ran in the background.”

She glanced at her forearm. Instead of the jagged metal and frayed wires that once poked out from within her limb, there was a shiny flat cap neatly covering the end at the knee, with lots of pins and connectors. A new hoof attachment would be able to snap right onto it. She smiled faintly at the sight of the repair.

Cyrus took pleasure in seeing her cheer up, even if only a bit. “And that’s not all! The diagnostic said you were missing memory cartridges, so I rounded up a couple of blanks ones and installed them.”

“I really appreciate all this, Cyrus. I’m sorry if I’ve been acting… strange with you. I was just under pressure with the fission core, and I feel so lost not remembering who I am… It’s like I’m not acting like myself, and it’s taking time to figure out how I’m supposed to behave.”

“No, no, I totally understand. In fact, the diagnostic said your BIOS performed a rollback to an earlier stable version. That might explain the personality issues. Now that you’ve got sufficient memory capacity, I can load your latest build, if you think that’d help.”

“Yeah,” she answered. She seemed a little distant.

“Maybe we’ll wait until tomorrow. You’ve dealt with enough rebooting today, and I haven’t slept in something like 20 hours. Try and rest; you don’t want to strain that core too soon. I’ll be in bed downstairs.” He gave her one last sympathetic look, and took the elevator down to his quarters.

Pinkie got off the table and took a look around the lab. Cyrus had pulled many of his tools from the workshop, and parts from storage, to work on her. He certainly was investing a lot of effort to help a cyber pony who appeared out of the blue. She felt grateful, yet also guilty for being such an imposition. Still, despite all the chaos, he seemed to be enjoying the change of pace. It must get awful lonely out here all alone, she thought to herself. Poor fella must really need a friend.

She took a few hours to check out the rest of the tower, exploring the different floors and their different purposes that contributed to the building’s self-sufficiency. When Cyrus returned from his sleep, he found her looking through some of his books in the comms room. The time off had done some good; she was feeling much better by then.

“You ready?” he asked.

Pinkie nodded cheerfully. “Let’s do it!”

Cyrus hooked his data pad up to a port on the back of Pinkie’s neck, and got to work accessing her recovery partition.

“Do you get lonely out here?” Pinkie blurted out.

Cyrus was taken aback by the question. “Well, uh, yeah, sometimes, but I’ve only been stationed here a few months,” he said, trying to mask his insecurity. “I mean, the last guy was here for years. And he had to do it while it was night.”

“Night? Here?” she asked, half-skeptic.

“Yeah,” he said, still working. “We talked about it a bit yesterday, right? The planet’s orbit’s all screwy. So, it had been night on this hemisphere for centuries. Like, since before anypony ever set foot here. That’s why it was commissioned for the dump. But a few months back, the sun rises on this side. We knew it was gonna happen, of course, we’d been tracking the orbital trajectory and we planned for the switchover ahead of time. I was deployed here to relieve the other guy and get this station up to spec for daylight contingencies. So for the next few hundred years or so, it’s daytime on planet trash heap.”

“That’s why I woke up,” she murmured.

“Huh?”

“Without my fission core, my internal battery had no power until the sun charged my solar array. I’ve been wasting away on this planet for over 200 years.”

“You’re from the old world,” he whispered in awe. “And here I thought you just had really outdated specs.”

“Either way, without my memory, I’m still no closer to figuring out how I got here. Talk about a bummer, right?” she said jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.

“Well, maybe this will help,” he replied. He pulled up a prompt on his data pad. “When you’re ready to reload to your last known personality, just hit ‘confirm’.”

“Hope I’m still friendly on the other side,” Pinkie said, with a heartfelt smile. She pulled Cyrus in for a hug, making him blush in surprise. “Thanks for being so helpful, Cy. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” Still embracing him, she looked at the confirmation button on her HUD and selected it. Almost immediately, she fell limp as everything turned to black.

Pinkie… are you out there? Oh, I hope you’re still safe. Please, if you’re listening, I—

Pinkie opened her eyes slowly. She was lying in Cyrus’ bed. She looked over to see his blurry figure approaching.

INITIALIZING . . .

“You’re awake.” Cyrus’ voice sounded distant and muffled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know where to put you—”

Suddenly, a wave of virtual endorphins hit the simulated synapses in Pinkie’s neural network all at once. She regained her senses in a fraction of a second and shot out of bed.

“Hooooo-eeeeey! I am back, baby!” she exclaimed.

Cyrus stood, mouth agape, speechless at the ecstatic cyber pony before him.

“Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh! I finally feel like myself, you know? Like before everything was hazy and I felt like I was impersonating somepony else, somepony kind of like me but not exactly quite me, you know, and now I can finally just be me! Of course, I still don’t have my memories, but this feels much clearer to me, like I can take this mask off, I mean a figurative mask of course, not a literal one, although it probably wouldn’t make a difference because this face is synthetic anyway, am I right?” Pinkie snorted at her own joke.

“Uh, maybe give it a minute for the personality drive to stabilize,” Cyrus stammered.

“Sorry for getting all electrified,” she said, nudging him as she made her pun. “This is just the first time I’ve been excited in as long as I can remember. You should see your face, though!”

He smiled. “Glad to see the latest version of you is so positive. I was a little worried you’d become somepony else entirely. You were twitching while you were powered off, I wasn’t sure if that was a bad sign for an android.”

Pinkie’s grin fell from her face when she remembered the voice she heard while she was under.

“Did I say something wrong? I didn’t mean—”

“I heard something. While I was rebooting. It was the voice of a mare. She was trying to communicate with me.”

“A mare? It’s just me here, Pinkie. I don’t think my voice is that feminine, is it?”

“I heard her before. After I passed out. I just wasn’t sure if it was from the panic or I’d made it up, but I definitely heard her this time.” She searched through her memory index, but she didn’t keep any logs during reboots. She couldn’t replay the voice for him to hear. Yet she was certain that she had heard it.

“I checked your drive during the diagnostic. Without your old memory cartridges, your only memories are from after you first woke up yesterday. Nothing could possibly be leaking into your partition.”

“How long was I out just now?” she asked, growing determined.

“Maybe ninety minutes? Why?”

“I’m going under again!” she said, decisively. “Three hours this time.”

“Pinkie…” he started.

“I need to know,” she replied. “It could be the answer.”

“Fine. You go ahead and get in bed. I’ll monitor your systems. But if anything goes weird, I’m pulling you out of there. Understand?”

“Got it, mister!” Happy to have successfully persuaded him, Pinkie hopped back into Cyrus’ bed, her floppy pink mane curled up on his pillow. “Powering down. See you on the other side!”

Pinkie shut her eyes and initiated the timer. She would reboot precisely three hours from now. Hopefully, that would be long enough to hear the message this stranger seemed so desperate to send her. Perhaps it would contain the answers she sought. She felt her limbs go numb one by one as each component lost power in the shutdown process. Her fission core dimmed to the point where it was just barely glowing, and slowly, she slipped once more into the darkness.

Pinkie… are you out there? Oh, I hope you’re still safe. Please, if you’re listening, I need your help. Everything is ruined. Do not come to Equestria. I repeat: DO NOT COME TO EQUESTRIA. Seek out Servos 6. Applejack will help you remember. But please, PLEASE be careful. The ponies around you are not what they see— End Transmission.”