• Published 27th Dec 2020
  • 1,302 Views, 61 Comments

The Iron Horse: Robot Rock - The Hat Man

Hearth's Warming with family? Awkward. Introducing your family to your girlfriend? Worse. Not mentioning to your super traditional family that your girlfriend is a ROBOT? Buckle up, Maud Pie...

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The Night Mares Before Hearth's Warming

Author's Note:

While this story references several others I've written in this universe, reading them is not strictly necessary to enjoy this one. :twilightsmile:

Happy reading!

Maud Pie shoved the lid of her suitcase down, finally closing it tightly enough to close the clasps. She then donned a scarf and a pair of earmuffs before pulling her pet rock Boulder from her pocket and placing a tiny hoof-knitted cap on him as well.

“Just in case you get cold in my pocket,” she told him in her usual deadpan tone. “You know how chilly it gets on the farm.”

With that, she hoisted her suitcase onto her back and lugged it to the front door of the house.

For a Canterlot home, it was rather sparsely decorated and had minimal furniture. Most of the accoutrements there were either for Maud’s comfort or, occasionally, for when the home’s sole owner needed to accommodate visiting dignitaries or fellow government officials.

The only identifying personal touches were the pictures, sculptures, or other keepsakes brought from Ponyville. Additionally, there were scattered bits of machinery and gears that were kept separate from the large shack in the backyard or the elaborate lab in the basement.

This was the home of Equestria’s Minister of Technology, after all, though the Minister herself was nowhere to be seen at the moment.

The private library of books or cabinets of files that might ordinarily be present in a government bureaucrat’s home were absent. After all, what need did one have for physical books or papers when one could simply scan and perfectly memorize everything one read in mere seconds?

That would come in handy in my studies, Maud thought to herself. She raised her hoof to the side of her mouth.

“Turing?” she called as loudly as she could muster (which wasn’t very, in truth). “Turing Test, are you ready?”

“Please allow me 24 additional seconds, Maud Pie,” came the distinct synthetic, feminine voice from up the hallway. “I deemed it necessary to complete one more task before our departure.”

Maud went up the hallway and peeked into the room to see Turing Test at her desk levitating several photographs and placing them into a small album.

The pony sitting there was metallic, her outer covering a shiny, high-intensity titanium alloy, her hooves the color of brass, purple jewels embedded in her forelegs, and her mane and tail a set of cylindrical white polymer coils. Black rubber lined each of her joints and her voice came through the vertical slits in her faceplate. She stared at her work with glowing, violet LED eyes the color of amethysts.

Satisfied with her work, Turing put the album into her saddlebags along with a few other materials. The gold-colored horn atop her head retracted neatly into a hidden compartment which sealed shut.

“U-mode disengaged,” she said, getting up to face Maud Pie. “I should still have sufficient power to not require recharging throughout this visit. I have brought a hoof-cranked generator as a precaution, however, so I believe I am adequately prepared.”

“Then let’s go,” Maud said. “The train station will be busy and we don’t want to be late.”

“Affirmative. We do not wish to be late,” Turing repeated.

That said, she did not move.

“Something wrong?” Maud asked.

“Ah. My apologies. I was simply considering if there were other tasks that require my attention that I had not previously considered.”

“You’re starting to sound like Twilight,” Maud remarked. “Wow. You’re only a few years old and you’re already turning into your mother.”

“Twilight Sparkle is not precisely—” she began before stopping herself. “Understood. You are joking with me, Maud Pie.”

“Mmhmm,” Maud replied with a nod. “And I know she’s not. But she did raise you. And that’s almost the same thing.”

“That is true,” Turing said. “I am indecisive at times about how best to classify our relationship, in truth, and frequently consider how she would react to my decisions or what decisions she would make in my place. Parents and parental figures are… difficult for me to comprehend. Their behaviors are often complex and unpredictable.”

Maud blinked slowly.

After a beat, Turing finally asked, “Are you nervous about introducing me to your parents for Hearth’s Warming, Maud Pie?”

Maud shook her head. “No. Are you?”

“Negative.” Then Turing’s ears twitched noisily on their hinges, her eyes flickering. “You are lying, Maud Pie.”

Maud slowly breathed in and let it out. “Yes, I am. And so are you.”

Turing lowered her head. “You are correct, Maud Pie. Forgive me.”

Maud went to her, placing her hoof on Turing’s faceplate, guiding her to meet her eyes. “We really need to talk to them,” she said, her voice completely even. “I put this off too long, and I’m sorry. But it’s been over a year. I know we can get through this together.” She blinked. “Sorry; I didn’t mean to get so worked up.”

“It is all right. And you are correct, Maud Pie. I am certain that we will be able to gain their approval of our relationship. I look forward to meeting your family at last.”

“Then let’s go,” Maud said. She gave a small smile and planted a gentle kiss on Turing’s cheek. “Happy Hearth’s Warming, Turing Test.”

“Happy Hearth’s Warming, Maud Pie.”

And so the two left Turing’s home, making their way through Canterlot to the train station as clouds above gently coated the city in a fresh blanket of crisp winter snow.

A few months earlier...

As spooky techno music thumped from the makeshift stage and reverberated across the woods just outside of town, a very strange pair of humans made their way through the crowd of costumed teenagers and jack-o-lanterns over to a girl whose normally yellow and red-streaked hair was now dyed green and styled at various chaotic angles.

“Hello, Sunset Shimmer,” Turing Test said as she approached. “We have arrived.”

The yellow-skinned pony-turned-girl turned around and greeted her with a smile and a warm hug. “Turing, you came!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe Twilight gave you permission to join us here in the human world for Halloween!”

Turing Test - now in her human form - smiled brightly as she returned the hug. “I am also glad to be joining you, Sunset Shimmer. It has been a significant amount of time since we were together, and I was curious about the difference between this world’s tradition of ‘Halloween’ as compared to Equestria’s holiday ‘Nightmare Night.’ Aside from being bipedal, the two are remarkably similar. I am enjoying the music to a greater degree, however.”

She raised a hand and waved to Vinyl Scratch as she managed the turntable on the stage. Among a throng of human teenagers, she swiftly changed the tune from a modern EDM song to a song where the human male’s vocals slowly came in…

I always feel like
Somebody’s watching meee~
and I have no privacy…

“I was surprised by it too,” Sunset said. “Their version of Hearth’s Warming is pretty fun too.”

“Oh? How is it different?”

“It’s about the same, but instead of being about the founding of the country, it’s about celebrating the birthday of a human who told everyone to be nice and treat everyone like friends. And then he died but… became a zombie? A good zombie. I’m not sure, human traditions still confuse me. But at least we get time off from school, so that’s nice!”

“Then congratulations on the interruption in your educational process, Sunset Shimmer,” Turing said. “On that note, your costume bears a striking resemblance to a character who appears in Spike the Dragon’s comic books.”

“Oh, I’m the Mane-iac!” Sunset said, gesturing to her costume. “Twilight - pony Twilight, I mean - told me that she’s a pony comic character too. But anyway, your costume is great!”

Turing was dressed in an elegant, if somewhat revealing black dress adorned with feathers and white gloves with black accents and long, black boots. A thin blindfold covered her eyes.

“My thanks, Sunset Shimmer. Gadget - this world’s version, I should clarify - suggested that this would be an appropriate costume for a robot to wear. I am apparently a character from a ‘video game’ with the moniker ‘2B.’ I have received a large number of positive comments on my appearance despite a disturbingly large number of humans who have stated that it also ‘gave them depression.’ Should I be concerned?”

“No, no, you’re fine,” Sunset replied. “But I might have to talk to Gadget about what she’s telling you. You can see out of that thing, right?

“Affirmative. It is very thin material.”

“Well, that’s good. Anyway, uh…”

Sunset turned her attention to the girl standing next to Turing. It was her friend Pinkie Pie, dressed completely normally, her usual smile and eager expression frozen in place.

“Wow, Pinkie Pie,” Sunset said. “I’m kind of surprised. I figured if anyone would dress up for Halloween, it would be you.”

“I’ll say!” said another familiar voice.

They all turned to see Applejack wearing a long coat and wide-brimmed hat in the style of a southern preacher’s outfit, save for her pale makeup and a noose loosely tied around her neck.

“I coulda sworn that you said you were dressin’ up this year, Pinkie Pie!” Applejack exclaimed. “So where’s the costume?”

Pinkie Pie turned, her vacant expression unchanging as she met Applejack’s eyes. “But Applejack,” she said in a startlingly low, monotone voice, “this is my costume.”

Pinkie reached up to her head and yanked on a hidden zipper. Pinkie’s visage split in two and revealed a familiar gray face beneath.

“What the… Maud?!” Sunset exclaimed.

Maud blinked, her expression unmoving. “Boo,” she said flatly.

Applejack stared back for a moment before erupting into raucous laughter. “Hoowee, Maud! That there is the creepiest dang costume I’ve seen all night! Shoot, how’d ya come up with a costume idea that good?”

“It was all part of my master plan!” a voice cackled.

The speaker burst forth wearing a lab coat, her eyes concealed behind goggles as she raised her hands, now clad in black rubber gloves, in triumph.

“It was once just a pipe dream, but now it’s alive! It’s alive! IT’S ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!”

Sunset sighed, shaking her head. “I guess you really went all out this Halloween, Gadget,” she said with a smirk. “So, what’s the costume? Dr. Frankenstallion? Er, Frankenstein?”

“Actually,” Gadget said, pointing to the thin mustache painted on her upper lip, “I’m Young Frankenstein! Not that anyone has gotten the reference yet…” she added with a grumble.

“Well, at least you did a good job on Turing and Maud’s costumes,” Sunset said.

“Cosplay is always worth taking seriously,” Gadget said, wagging a finger at her. “You have to commit to the character! And on that note, I’ve got an experiment that I’ve just been dying to try…”

“What sort of experime—”

“Ahem!” Gadget said, loudly clearing her throat before taking a breath. Then, with all her might, she shouted a single phrase:


Sunset and Maud Pie both let out a fearful whinny as they flailed their arms about wildly.

“Oh my gosh, it worked!” Gadget cried between howls of laughter.

“What the… why did I just do that?” Sunset asked blushing as others nearby stared at her after her outburst. Maud likewise wore an uncharacteristic blush as she turned away.

“Ohhh,” Applejack said, turning to face Turing Test. “So that there is the pony version of Maud Pie, right?”

“Well, normally,” Maud said flatly. “Turing asked me to come with her. Gadget thought it would be funny to dress like the human version of my sister. I saw her earlier and she said that she would just go home since she was already here. Somepo— someone, should probably tell her what’s going on.”

“Ah, right, I’ll text her,” Sunset said, taking out her phone.

“In the meantime,” Turing said, turning to face Applejack, “there is an activity known as ‘bobbing for apples’ that I am unable to participate in. To clarify, I am not able to participate in Equestria. But in this form, I am equipped with a mouth, and can therefore make an attempt.”

Applejack grinned. “Well, shoot, Turing Test!” she exclaimed, slapping her knee. “I’d be glad to show ya the ropes!”

“I was not informed that there would be ropes.”

“No, I mean that I’ll show ya how to do it right,” Applejack said. “How about you, Pony Maud Pie?”

Maud shook her head. “That’s okay. I don’t want to get this costume wet.”

“Suit yerself!” Applejack said, leading Turing Test away. “Oh, uh, ya ain’t gonna rust or short circuit or nothin’ with all the water, are ya, Turing Test?”

“Gadget provided me with a diagnostic that confirmed a water resistance rating of 300 meters for this form. I will be fine, but I thank you for your concern, Applejack.”

A few hours later, Turing Test and Maud Pie, still in their human forms, sat on a hill overlooking the teenage Halloween party as it continued on into the night in the woods below.

“I am aware that such social engagements are not normally your preference, Maud Pie,” Turing said, draping her arm over Maud’s shoulder. “But I was glad to share this unique experience with you.”

“Parties are fine,” Maud said. “I’ve gone to a lot of them for my sister’s sake. It makes her happy. But this was fun in a different way. While everyone was dancing, I took some samples of geographic strata I found on a nearby cliff face. I’ll compare it to Equestrian strata when we get home.”

“I am glad that you had fun, then, Maud Pie.”

Maud leaned her head against Turing. “I also really like this form of you. It was a little different at first, but now I think it is cute.”

“I see. Do you… prefer it to my pony form?”

Maud thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No,” she replied. “I like being a pony better, and I like that version of you too. But there’s one advantage of this version of you over the regular version.”

“What advantage do you mean, Maud P—”

Maud seized Turing’s chin, turning her towards her. A moment later, her lips were on hers.

Turing’s eyes widened momentarily, but then she returned the kiss.

As they broke apart a few moments later, Turing Test smiled. “I had previously considered the greatest advantage of this form to be having eyelids. But with my recent LED eyes as an upgrade, I now believe that lips may be the greatest feature of this form.”

“I agree,” Maud said, holding her close.

“It was a pleasure to enjoy these moments with you for this holiday, Maud Pie,” Turing said. “I will miss you greatly when you return to your studies. I look forward to your next visit during the next holiday season after Hearth’s Warming.”

Maud was quiet for a moment.

“Well… why not do Hearth’s Warming?”

Turing blinked. “Please clarify, Maud Pie,” she said. “Previously, you have enjoyed Hearth’s Warming with your family, and I have established a new tradition of joining mine in Mustangia. Are you now suggesting that we should spend Hearth’s Warming together?”

Maud nodded. “I think it’s time,” she said. “We’ve been together a while. I really should introduce you to my family.”

Turing Test smiled. “I would be honored, Maud Pie. I greatly look forward to meeting your parents and sisters. Both you and Pinkie Pie have informed me about them a great deal.”

Maud’s smile gradually faded. “Um… I think I need to tell you something, Turing Test,” she said slowly. “My family knows that I’m seeing someone. But they don’t know very much about you.”

“What knowledge do they lack, Maud Pie? I will be happy to provide them with any information they require.”

Maud sighed. “I never told them that you’re a robot.”

Turing blinked. “Ah,” she said. “Understood.” She withdrew her arm.

“Turing,” Maud began.

“It is all right, Maud Pie,” Turing said. “Many ponies still find difficulty interacting with me due to my status as a mechanical being. I am sorry that this is a source of consternation to you.”

“You’re upset,” Maud observed.

“Affirmative,” Turing said. “Initiating sulking sequence.” She made a show of crossing her arms and turning away as she had observed humans doing. “Sulking commenced. I am upset that you did not inform your family members of who I am, or even what I am.”

“It wasn’t because I’m embarrassed,” Maud said, putting her hand on Turing’s shoulder. “It’s because of a promise.”

Turing slowly turned to face her. “What promise do you mean, Maud Pie?” she asked.

“I made a promise when I left the farm to take up my Rocktoral studies,” Maud said, “that if I wasn’t married by the end of it that I’d Iet my parents take me to the Pairing Stone to find a husband. The only way out of it is if I was at least dating somepony that they approved of.

“The problem is that they’re really traditional. And you aren’t a very traditional girlfriend. I didn’t want to hide you from them. I was just afraid that they wouldn't understand. Sorry.”

The flat tone she had when she said that would have been a sign of insincerity for most creatures, but Turing interpreted every biometric cue, every subtle movement, variation in her voice, and every beat of her heart to interpret the distress she was feeling.

Turing turned back and embraced her. “Understood, Maud Pie,” she said. “Very well. I will accompany you to your family home this Hearth’s Warming. And I will make the maximum effort to make your parents accept me as your significant other. I calculate an extremely high chance of success, equivalent to that of finding banded rhyolite samples from a continental eruption event as opposed to an oceanic eruption.”

Maud smiled. “You always know just what to say,” she said. “Okay. When we get back to Equestria, let’s start planning this visit. For now, though…”

Maud leaned against Turing and closed her eyes. Turing considered Maud’s meaning for a moment and then leaned against her as well, feeling the beating of her heart as they sat silently under the night sky.

A few weeks ago…

Back in Equestria, in a cell atop a tall tower on the castle grounds, Turing Test explained her plan to the infamous pony behind the invasion of Canterlot: her father, Professor Cobbler Mustang.

“I see,” Cobbler said, downing the last of his coffee before adjusting his hat. “My my my… it seems my little girl is growing up.”

Turing Test bowed. “I realize that it is an imposition of your time, Father,” she said. “However—”

“Oh, never you mind, Turing Test,” he said in his usual twang before going to his workbench at the far end of his cell. “Ever since my arrest, I’ve had nothing but time on my hooves. Time is the least of my worries, my dear. Still…”

Turing Test waited for him to finish. “Still…?”

“For all your consternation with Maud Pie,” he continued, looking over his shoulder, “you have yet to introduce me to this mare that has taken your fancy. To think that my own daughter would ignore her father so… my my, whatever am I to do with her?”

“Ah,” Turing said. “Forgive me, Father,” she said with a bow of her head. “I did not wish to exclude you. I simply believed that my frequent descriptions of her—”

Then she noticed that Cobbler was chuckling quietly to himself.

“Ah. You are joking with me.”

“In part, my dear,” he said. “If you have found happiness, then that is all that matters to me now. After all, like any good father, I only want what is best for my little girl, and you have proven yourself quite capable of making the right decision. Though I really must insist that you introduce me at some point. That said…”

He grew serious, turning to face her with a hard look.

“...speaking as a pony who grew up on a farm, let me assure you that tradition and family values are not to be taken lightly. For all my innovations and technological advancements, I am at heart an old farmer myself, Turing Test. And if my first daughter, Georgia, had brought home a stallion who’d captured her heart, I would most certainly have put him through the wringer before giving him my seal of approval. Now that you are courting their eldest, I would expect no less from the Pies, my dear.

“So, that said, are you truly, absolutely certain that this is the course you wish to take?”

Turing nodded. “I am certain, Father.”

Cobbler smirked. “Then I shall get started on that modification this very instant, Turing Test,” he said, turning back to his work. “That new hoof will be ready in a few weeks, just in time for Hearth’s Warming. Do be sure that it won’t go to waste.”

Maud and Turing Test made their way across the platform at the station and boarded the train, making their way to their seats.

Despite the stares from ponies who either didn’t recognize her or who did and were momentarily struck by the appearance of the Equestrian Minister of Technology on their train, the pair found their private compartment and placed their luggage in the overhead bin without any further complications.

“So,” Maud began, taking a seat across from Turing, “when are you going to tell me about your hoof?”

Turing Test stared back at her. “What are you referring to, Maud Pie?”

Maud narrowed her eyes. “One of your hooves sounds different. I’ve noticed it for a while, and I can tell that it isn’t as solid as the others. Something’s different. I was just waiting for you to tell me.”

Turing Test’s ears twitched on their hinges. “You are correct, Maud Pie. I had planned to tell you that it was a temporary replacement due to damage my original hoof incurred through an elaborate set of circumstances.

“But as I dislike being untruthful with you, I will simply state that there is a reason for the change that I will explain to you at the appropriate time.”

Maud nodded. “Thanks for being honest. Okay, you can tell me later.” She looked out the window as the train began to move. “So… now that we’re alone…”

Turing leaned forward. “Yes, Maud Pie?”

“...Do you want to hear about the quartz veining I found in basalt samples on my last dig?”

“Buck yes, I do.”

“Mmm, you smooth-talker,” Maud said with a smirk. “Let’s hope this train ride doesn’t end too soon…”