• Published 27th Dec 2020
  • 1,304 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...

  • ...

In the Bleak Midwinter

The rock carving went remarkably smoothly by all accounts. Turing Test, with her sense of precision and using her U-mode to grip her pickaxe, was able to carve a highly detailed stone facsimile of herself out of stone, right down to her joints and the individual coils of her mane.

“I told you that she was talented,” Maud said, draping her foreleg over Turing’s shoulders as they admired her carving.

“Tch. Show off,” Limestone grumbled. “Anyway, let’s get set up for the scavenger hunt. Pinkie, it’s your turn to judge this year. You remembered to hide the obsidian, right?”

“Yes indeedy!” Pinkie replied.

The family gathered in front of Holder’s Boulder.

“Now, since this is Rinny’s first time doing this,” Pinkie began, addressing the group, “I’ll explain the rules. First—”

“One moment, Pinkie Pie,” Turing said, holding up a hoof. “Maud Pie already informed me that the rules dictate that teams must search the farm for a drawing of an obsidian stone. The first to find the stone is granted the privilege of placing the Equestrian flag atop Holder’s Boulder on Hearth’s Warming morning. Is that correct?”

“Wow, Rinny! It’s so nice of you to take the time to learn about our family’s traditions!” She then pointedly stared at the rest of her family. “That suuure shows everypony how nice you are and how they should totally accept you as Maud’s girlfriend!”

“Laying it on a little thick, Sis,” Limestone grumbled.

“Thick like cake icing?” Pinkie asked.

“Thick like geologic strata,” Maud replied.

“Look, just tell us who the teams are so we can get this over with!” Limestone snapped.

“You got it, Limestone!” Pinkie said. “And to start, guess who your partner is!”

Limestone’s eyes bulged. “Oh no, don’t tell me—”

“Scanning… obsidian illustration still not located, Limestone Pie.”

Limestone groaned. “You don’t have to say that every few minutes! Just let me know when you see the stupid piece of paper and quit distracting me!”

The two of them were scanning the rocky terrain of the eastern field, overturning rock after rock in an effort to find the hidden obsidian illustration. Despite being partners, Limestone had stayed remarkably silent throughout the hunt so far, the only sound being the clatter of overturning rocks, the frosty wind that blew across the field, the crunch of their hooves through the occasional thin patch of snow, and the whirring of Turing’s leg servos.

“My apologies,” Turing said, bowing your head. “I was simply attempting to be helpful.”

“Look,” Limestone sighed. “I get that you’re trying to win me over, but you can stop.”

Turing Test shook her head. “I am afraid that I cannot,” she said. “Maud Pie is very important to me. I will do everything in my power to remain with her. If there is some way that I may prove my worthiness to be your sister’s partner, then I will do so. Please inform me what I must do to earn your blessing, Limestone Pie.”

“No, look, you don’t have to—”

“Please!” Turing exclaimed, grasping Limestone’s hoof emphatically, catching her off guard.

Limestone took a moment to recover but then groaned.

“Okay, fine, if that’s how you want it,” she said, giving a shrug. “It’s a Pie family tradition that we only accept the best. If we can’t find somepony on our own, we ask the Pairing Stone. Mom and Dad swear by it, but I’m not letting some stupid rock tell me what to do. I’m the boss around here, and I’d probably already have a boyfriend if we didn’t live in the middle of nowhere and all the stallions in the nearest town weren’t a bunch of dumb, sappy yokels! So what if Maud got to follow her passion and found some futuristic robot waifu with multiple speed settings! Who needs all that hassle?!”

Turing’s ears twitched. “Could it be, Limestone Pie, that you are jeal—”

“Finish that sentence and I will tear you apart and sell you as scrap!” Limestone growled, poking her in the chest.

“Understood. Conjecture retracted.”

“My point is, if you’re going to be with Maud, then prove to me that you can take care of her if something goes wrong. It’s not like she needs anypony’s help most of the time, but you better be prepared.

“So, first of all, no lazy layabouts! No Pie family member would ever date somepony who just sits around doing nothing all day. Do you have a job?”

Turing nodded. “Affirmative. I am employed.”

“Oh yeah? What as? A part-time toaster?”

“Negative. Though I did once spend a short time as a toaster, and it is more intense than one might expect.”

“I… what?!” Limestone shouted.

“It is a long story.”

“Well, what’s your job, then?!”

“I am surprised that you were not informed of that information. I am the Royal Equestrian Minister of Technology.”

“Wait, you mean… you work for the government? You work for Princess Celestia?!”

Turing nodded. “I work with Princess Celestia as a member of her advisory council. I guide the Royal Ministry of Technology’s efforts at researching and funding new forms of technology for the benefit of Equestria.”

“Huh,” Limestone said. “Guess that must pay a lot.”

“Correct. My annual salary is…”

Limestone’s brain momentarily disengaged upon hearing the number. Her lip twitched and a small stream of drool seeped from the corner of her mouth as she envisioned a veritable ocean of bits washing over her farm.

“Are you all right, Limestone Pie?” Turing asked.

“Huh? Oh, y-yeah, fine,” Limestone replied. “Well… money’s good - really good, actually - but that’s not all that matters. There’s one more thing you need to do to prove that you’re good enough for Maud…”

She pointed at a large boulder, several meters tall, a short distance away.

“We come from a family of strong, working ponies. Show me how tough you are by breaking up that big rock! If I like what I see, well… then maybe I’ll think about giving Mom and Dad my approval.”

Turing Test observed the rock for a moment, scanning its composition, angles, and so on.

“Understood, Limestone Pie,” she said. “Engaging E-mode.”

There was a mechanical thud as the pistons in Turing’s legs engaged and her thaumatrium reserves kicked into gear, charging her with synthetic earth pony magic. An electronic hum emanated from her and gradually increased in pitch.

“Target locked…”

“What are you waiting for?” Limestone demanded. “Just try to crack the stupid rock alrea—”

Turing sprang forward, her hoof raised before striking the rock with all her might.

There was a thunderous sound as the rock shattered into a towering eruption of rubble. The mighty boulder was obliterated in an instant and a rain of debris and dust pelted the area where it once stood.

Coughing and waving her hoof, Limestone waited for the cloud of dust to dissipate. Then she saw that the boulder was gone and Turing Test stood alone, strong and still as a statue amid the destruction. Limestone could only stare in open-mouthed disbelief at the sheer destruction wrought by the robot who turned to approach her, shaking the dust from her mane.

“E-mode disengaged,” Turing said, turning off the boost to her strength. “Target destroyed, Limestone Pie. Was that adequate, or shall I destroy the remaining pieces further?”

Limestone managed to close her mouth. “No, that’s…”

Then she actually smiled. Not a smirk, but a calm, easygoing smile.

“Look, to tell you the truth, Turing Test, I was going to give you my approval anyway.”

Turing tilted her head to the side. “I do not understand,” she said. “What was the purpose of this test or asking me about my income?”

“Eh, you wouldn't shut the buck up about proving yourself, so I figured I’d just give you what you wanted,” she said with a shrug. “Look… the only thing that really matters to me is that my sister is happy with you. It’s obvious that she is, so I don’t really care about anything else. Honestly, I don’t think it’s anypony’s business who Maud dates, but Mom and Dad want to make a big deal about it, so it’s outta my hooves.”

“Then why have you been so hostile to me thus far?”

“Are you kidding? I’m hostile to everyone! Seriously; most ponies are idiots. But you seem decent enough, even if you’re some kind of weird mechanical pony. But then again, Maud kept you a secret for so long, you can’t blame me for being a little bit skeptical.”

Turing Test bowed. “I see. Thank you for granting me your blessing, Limestone Pie.”

“Yeah yeah, enough of the happy horse sh- wait, what’s that in your mane?”

She reached into the coils of Turing’s mane and retrieved a small piece of paper. A hunk of black obsidian was crudely drawn on it along with a stick figure version of Pinkie Pie saying ‘Yay, you found it!’

“Ah. It seems that you have located our objective, Limestone Pie,” Turing Test said. “It seems that you will be the one to place the flag upon Holder’s Boulder tomorrow.”

Limestone smirked. “Hey, yeah! It’s about time that I…” Her smile faded. Then she sighed and gave it back to Turing. “Nah… you’re the one who busted up that rock. You should do it.”

“But Limestone Pie, it was you who noticed that it was in my mane. Therefore, it is you who should—”

“Just take the stupid drawing! I don’t let just anypony near Holder’s Boulder, so if you refuse, I’ll take it as an insult and take my blessing right back!”

Turing took a step backward. “Ah. Very well, Limestone Pie. I will do as you say. Let us return to the farmhouse to inform the others of our success.”

“Yeah, and then get inside; I’m freezing my flank off here!” she declared as she turned to go.

“That would require a lot of freezing, Limestone Pie.”

Limestone whirled around.

Turing winked, her left LED eye flattening to a line.

“Heh. Smartass,” Limestone said. “Maybe you are funny, Turing Test. But don’t push your luck.”

After a few moments of making their way back to the house, Limestone cleared her throat.

“So, uh… I have no idea how you’re going to win over Dad, but if you want to win over Marble Pie, then I might have an idea.”

Turing Test’s ears twitched. “That information would be most helpful.”

“It’s a long shot, but… see, a while back, she got this idea in her head to go traveling around Equestria. She’d never really left home until then, but then she goes off on some crazy journey for a few months. When she comes back, she’s got all these souvenirs and books and pictures, and at first she’s talking up a storm… but then she just goes right back to normal; like she never even left.

“Mom and Dad were happy to have her back, sure, but… something’s up with her. She won’t say what it is, though. For Celestia’s sake, you saw her; she hardly talks at all! And most of the time Pinkie just talks for her, but I don’t think even she can figure this one out.”

“If she will not confide in her family, then why do you believe she might confide in me?”

“I think she’s got something that she doesn’t want to say because we’re family. Well, I’m not going to bother finding out what’s crawling under that rock, but if you want to try and turn it over, then be my guest.”

“Metaphor understood. I am so grateful for your help, Limestone Pie.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Limestone sniffed. “Just don’t blame me if she freaks out and everypony blames you for scaring her, all right?”

After a few more moments, Limestone cleared her throat.

“Also, uh… you know that trick you do? The one that shook the whole house? You, uh… wouldn’t happen to have a brother, would you?”

Turing nodded. “I do have a younger brother, Limestone Pie,” she replied. “However… I do not think he is your type.”

Limestone sighed. “Yeah,” she said ruefully. “I should’ve figured.”

As the Pie family sat around the fire in the living room listening as Igneous Rock Pie read the tale of the first Hearth’s Warming, Marble Pie excused herself and went upstairs toward her room. Just as she reached her door, she heard a strange pop behind her and turned to see that Turing Test had teleported just behind her.

“Hello, Marble Pie,” Turing said. “I—”

Marble squealed in surprise and ran into her room, shutting the door behind her and locking it before diving under her bed.

A moment later, there was a bright flash and Turing Test appeared under the bed as well, her muzzle almost touching Marble’s.

“I was actually hoping that we could speak privately, so if you are comfortable under your bed, then I—”

Marble scrambled out from the bed, her hooves skidding on the wooden floor as she dashed for the door.

A second later, Turing teleported directly in front of her, blocking her exit.

Marble flinched, raising her forelegs and covering her face defensively.

“Marble Pie, please allow me to speak to you,” Turing implored. “I wish to get to know you as the sister of my romantic partner. Will you please hear me out?”

Marble peered out from behind her forelegs. “Mmm… mmhmm,” she muttered quietly.

“Perhaps it would be best if we got to know each other. I realize that you this is our first encounter and—”

“I saw you before.”

Turing paused. “I was not aware of that. When did we meet?”

“W-we… never met,” Marble said. “But I… I was there. In Canterlot.” She swallowed. “When the airships attacked.”

Turing’s eyes flickered for a moment. “You are referring to the occasion that TechQuestria attacked Canterlot.”

Marble nodded. “Mmhmm,” she murmured.

“Then you would have seen how I opposed them. How I stood in opposition to my father and his plans. You must understand, I took no part in the invasion, Marble Pie.”

“I know,” Marble whispered, still not meeting her eyes. “I saw you in the sky, fighting that giant airship. It was huge and… and it seemed like nothing could stop it. But y-you… you were so s-strong. And now you’re here… and dating my eldest sister. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to feel.”

Though Marble Pie was finally talking, Turing couldn’t help but notice the way she quaked and her voice was so soft that an organic pony would have strained to hear her.

“I assure you that I am simply an ordinary pony like any other,” Turing said.

“N-not quite like any other,” Marble said.

Turing was quiet for a moment. “I suppose that I am different in many ways. But still, I am a pony capable of mistakes and embarrassment, and I endure the same struggles that other ponies do. There is no need to view me as any different.

“But I did not come here to speak about myself. I wish instead to ask about your experiences. You claim that you were in Canterlot at the time of the invasion. I have learned that you went on an extended journey across Equestria some time ago. Was this during that time?”

Marble nodded. “I wanted to see the world,” she said, her voice slightly clearer. “I didn’t want to die on this farm without knowing anything else. S-so I…”

She gestured to the pictures lining her wall, the overstuffed photo albums lining her bookshelves, and the shelves on her wall that proudly displayed souvenirs and objects of all sizes.

“These are your keepsakes from your journey,” Turing observed. “It seems that you are well traveled, Marble Pie.”

Marble blushed. “Mmhmm,” she hummed, giving a small smile.

When she said nothing else, Turing asked, “May I look at these objects and inspect them further?”

“J-just be careful,” Marble said. “Don’t touch them, please.”


Turing looked at the various objects. There were rock samples from various areas, a hunk of petrified wood, a statuette of Starswirl the Bearded, a porcelain figurine of a ballet dancer, a wooden doll depicting an eastern unicorn with a curved horn, and numerous other objects that Turing did not recognize.

The pictures likewise were extremely varied: there were pictures of deep woods, steamy jungles, icy tundras, ancient ruins, and cities all across Equestria, from Canterlot to the Crystal Empire to Manehattan.

And then Turing noticed the small picture on the nightstand next to Marble’s bed. She held it aloft in her magic.

Marble stiffened, breathing in sharply. “P-please don’t touch that.”

Turing gently put it back down, observing that it depicted Marble and an extremely tall, muscular mare wearing a wrestler’s singlet.

Then she caught sight of an open letter on her desk with a picture showing the same mare wearing a heavy winter coat.

“You mainly have pictures of places,” Turing remarked before turning back to Marble. “Very few show pictures of other ponies. But the photograph on the nightstand seems rather important to you. Was she a friend that you made on your journey?”

Marble smiled, but looked away. Turing detected a slight increase in her body temperature and heart rate.

“What was her name, Marble Pie?”

“...Oh. Um… B-Brick House,” Marble replied. “Sh-she was a train porter. But she… she worked a few nights a week as a wrestler. She brought me to a match. I… um, I never met a mare like her before.”

Turing noted that ‘Brick House’ was also the name of the letter’s sender.

“Forgive me for my observation, Marble Pie,” Turing said. “But a biometric scan of your reaction to my questions indicates that perhaps your feelings about her were not merely those of a platonic friendship.”

Marble blushed deeply. “N-no! I…” She broke into a nervous sweat and quickly swept the open letter and picture into a drawer in her desk. “P-p-please leave!” she cried, pointing to the door. “Just… just go away!”

Turing Test bowed. “Forgive me for intruding, Marble Pie,” she said. “But if you wish to keep such feelings secret, I assure you that I will not betray your confidence. You may speak to me about her without fear of disclosure to your family.”

Marble swallowed. She scrunched into herself as she bit her lip.

“Ah,” Turing said. “My apologies. Perhaps I was too forceful with my questions. I will not bother you any further.”

She turned to go.

“N-no, wait!” Marble cried suddenly.

Turing paused and looked back at her.

“She was… she is my friend,” she said. “We met in Manehattan. She was so different from anypony else. She was like… like a knight in shining armor. She saved me from a mugger who tried to take my money. And then she showed me the city. And when I saw her wrestle… she was so strong… so confident… so bold. I wanted to be like her more than anything else in the world.”

Turing listened carefully. She said nothing but instead let Marble Pie continue to tell her story.

“When I went all over Equestria, I felt like I was finally starting to find out who I was,” she said. “Talking with ponies… meeting other ponies… experiencing different ways of life… it was amazing!”

She heaved a sigh.

“B-but, when the invasion of Canterlot happened, I got scared. I came back home. And then everypony in my family was exactly the same. They treated me just like they always had. And I started to wonder if… if m-maybe I’m not really that different after all.”

She heaved a sigh. “Brick sent me a letter for Hearth’s Warming,” she continued. “I was going to write back to her when you showed up… but I don’t know what to say.”

“Does she know of your feelings?” Turing asked.

“I… I don’t know for sure,” Marble replied, shutting her eyes. “Maybe I should just forget about it all. Maybe I should just learn to be happy here. Everypony in my family sees me as the delicate, innocent baby of the family. My travels don’t seem to matter to them… so maybe I should just do what they want me to do and… and be the pony they want me to. Then I won’t have to worry about invasions or… or how I feel about Brick or… or anything else. I could just stay here and let the Pairing Stone find me a husband. It would make everypony else happy.”

Turing watched as she took a long breath and let it out unevenly, her eyes momentarily growing damp as tears spilled over onto her cheeks.

“It would be best for everypony if I just accept things as they are.”

“Perhaps it is not for me to advise you, Marble Pie,” Turing said gently. “But please consider this: my father and TechQuestria designed me to engage in espionage and combat. If their intentions were the determining factor in my destiny, I never would have learned to embrace friendship thanks to Twilight Sparkle’s teachings, nor would I have made friends with other ponies or met Maud Pie. Being my own pony and making my own decisions have led to a great amount of uncertainty and fear.

“Once, I was offered the chance to live in a simulated paradise where I could experience life as an ordinary pony and not as a robot. My every dream would have come true and each day would have been easy-going and uncomplicated. I could have lived out my days in simplistic bliss… but instead, I left it so I could experience reality instead.

“If you live your life solely to make others happy or to avoid complication, you may find that your life is far more empty and unsatisfying than you think.

“At first, I was not certain that I wished to accept my role as the Minister of Technology. I was afraid of making a mistake. But I now take great pride in my work, and I am glad to be making a significant difference in Equestria. Had I not taken those chances, my life would have been very different.”

Marble swallowed. “W-what if my family is upset because I want to leave the rock farm again?”

“I cannot say what you should do, Marble Pie,” Turing replied. “However, based on my interactions with them, I believe that they would predominantly put your happiness above their own comfort. Just as you should. And just as you and your family should for Maud Pie’s happiness.”

Marble chuckled, letting out a long sigh.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “I… I think I’ll write that letter later. And I’ll talk to my family. Not today, but… but soon. So, um... do you want to go back downstairs to listen to Father read?”

Turing nodded. “Mmhmm.”

Marble laughed, and the two of them returned to the living room.

When Pinkie Pie saw Marble’s calm smile as she strolled alongside Turing, she broke into a beaming smile. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! Marble Pie, does that smile mean what I think it does for Maud and Turing?”

Marble blushed, turning away from everypony’s scrutinizing gaze. “Mmhmm,” she replied.

The others laughed… save for Igneous Rock Pie.

“Forgive me, everypony,” he said, closing his book as he got to his hooves. “I… I need to step outside for a moment.”

“But Dad,” Pinkie Pie protested, “it’s freezing outside!”

“The cold doth not bother me,” he said hastily, stepping outside into the dark as he left the others behind.

Author's Note:

The journey Marble makes reference to is first referenced in my story Marble's Horizon.