• Published 8th Sep 2012
  • 3,920 Views, 85 Comments

Code Lyocolt - MythrilMoth

The Mane Six discover a supercomputer, a virtual pony, and a deadly enemy...

  • ...

Un monde sans amitié

It had started so innocently...

Twilight Sparkle had taken a day trip to Canterlot to visit with her brother and search for a few new books to take back to Ponyville with her--even though she lived in a library, she was still in a rural village, after all, and Canterlot got all the latest books more quickly.

After doing some book-shopping and spending a pleasant afternoon with Shining Armor and his wife Cadence, Twilight had decided to stop by the palace and pay her respects to her mentor, Princess Celestia. When she'd arrived, however, the princess had seemed unusually agitated about something.

"What's wrong, Princess?" Twilight had asked.

"Oh, Twilight, I'm glad you're here," Celestia had said, tossing her mane and pawing the floor with a hoof. "My sister unearthed something...strange...in the palace cellar. I honestly had no idea it was there, but now..." She had shaken her head. "Well, we're not entirely sure what to make of it. It's some sort of technology..."

The purple unicorn's eyes had lit up at this. "Technology?" she'd asked, tilting her head. While certain things were commonplace in Equestria, technology in general was still a rare enough sight that any new, unusual gizmo or gadget fascinated her.

"Yes, and I'm afraid neither I nor my sister are very good with such things," Celestia had said. "I've heard, however, that you've developed quite an interest in machines..."

"Oh, absolutely!" Twilight had replied, smiling brightly. "What is it? What does it do?"

"That's just it...we have no idea what it does. We can't even figure out how to turn it on."

The purple unicorn had rubbed her chin with her forehoof, humming thoughtfully. "Can it be moved?"

"Possibly," Celestia had hedged, a hoof raised slightly.

"Well...if it can be moved, would you mind if I had it relocated to Ponyville?" Twilight had asked. "It might take a while to study, and I'd really rather study it in my own lab. Besides, if it turns out to be something dangerous, turning it on here in Canterlot could be...well..."

"Disastrous, yes," the princess had agreed. "Very well, we'll go inspect it together, to see if it can be moved. If it can, we'll arrange to transport it to the library in Ponyville."

By nightfall, the strange contraption had been transplanted to Twilight's lab in the basement of the library. It was a curious thing; black and gleaming with a cylindrical tower rising from a broad circular base. Deep grooves and indentations were engraved into the smooth black metal at seemingly random intervals; these indented areas were a dull amber color.

She'd spent all night studying it from every conceivable angle, probing it with her magic, hooking up electrodes to it to try to get a reading on it, even kicking it experimentally a few times. Nothing had seemed to yield any response from the mysterious, recalcitrant object.

An hour before sunrise, the weary, exhausted unicorn had slumped to the floor, hooves splayed around her. "I give up," she'd groaned. "This thing just doesn't want to do anything..."

She'd trotted upstairs and gone into the kitchen for a drink. After enjoying a glass of cold apple juice, she'd suddenly remembered one thing she hadn't tried. She'd smacked herself in the forehead with a hoof, then, and rushed back down the stairs to the basement, where the cold black machine stood silently, as though daring her to make it work.

She had then tilted her horn towards the device and funneled a powerful jolt of magical lightning directly into the cylindrical tower.

Abruptly, the amber sections of the device had begun to glow brightly; the entire tower hummed quietly with power, golden light pulsing upwards through it at clockwork intervals. The unicorn had cheered ecstatically...

However, after an hour, the thing had done nothing more interesting than glow, hum, and pulse.

Twilight had finally gone to bed just after sunrise, leaving instructions for her dragon assistant, Spike, to clean up the library and keep the noise down so she could sleep.

Just past noon, Twilight Sparkle awoke to an insistent knocking on the front door. She trotted downstairs just as Spike answered the door, and saw a massive crate supported by two pegasi. As Derpy Hooves was one of the deliveryponies, the crate was listing alarmingly to one side. Using her magic to help the ponies support the crate, she guided them into the middle of the room, where the three of them gently set down the crate. "What IS it, anyway?" Twilight asked.

"No idea, sorry," Derpy said, looking at her with one eye and a potted plant with the other. "But it came express from Canterlot..."

The two pegasi flew away, leaving Twilight to puzzle over the crate. A moment later, Spike belched out a smoking scroll with the royal crest on it. Unrolling it, Twilight read the letter from her mentor:

Dear Twilight Sparkle,

You should shortly be receiving a crate of equipment we discovered in a sealed antechamber near where the device was found. It seems to be part of, or at least related to, the device. Hopefully, you can divine some meaning or purpose to all this.

Princess Celestia

Twilight wasted no time opening the crate; inside was some sort of control panel, to which an array of flat screens had been mounted, and four broad golden cylinders, each twice as tall as the average pony.

"Great, just what we need...more weird crap," Spike muttered.

Twilight bopped him on the head with a hoof. "Just for that, you can help me get this stuff downstairs," she said.

It took just over half an hour to move the new equipment array to the basement, where the black tower was still glowing and humming and pulsing. As soon as the new devices were ten feet from the glowing tower, the screens lit up, assorted text and graphics flashing across them. Spike jumped away from the thing, alarmed. Twilight merely examined them curiously.

"Th-this stuff just came to life all by itself!" Spike exclaimed.

"I suspect...these screens draw power from the original device, and they have to be close to it when it's activated," Twilight said, stroking her chin with a hoof. "These other things are probably drawing power too, though I can't see what their purpose is at the moment..." Her eyes lit up with excitement and delight. "Isn't this amazing? I can't wait to find out what it is and what it does!"

"I can," Spike muttered. "I'll be upstairs having a snack."

Ignoring the dragon, Twilight settled down behind the control panel, examining it carefully. She spotted what appeared to be a headset, and levitated it onto her head, adjusting the earpiece and carefully positioning the microphone. "Hello?" she tried. "Testing..."

//Who's there?// a voice replied. Twilight jumped.

"Who--who is this?" she asked.

//...I don't know,// the feminine voice replied. //I just woke up...it's cold and dark here...I'm alone...//

A window popped open on the center screen of the control array, and a mare appeared. There was something very odd about her. She seemed artificial...not quite real. She was dusky pink in color, with a neon blue-green mane and sharp gray eyes. She smiled and tilted her head curiously. //I can see you now...I think,// she said, her voice now coming out of speakers attached to the control screens. //Who are you?//

"My name is Twilight Sparkle," the unicorn replied. "I'm in Ponyville...where are you?"

//I...I don't know,// the strange mare replied. //I've never heard of Ponyville...sorry...// She paused. //Come to think of it, I've never heard of anyplace.//

Twilight frowned. "Can you describe the place you're in?"

//Yes...// The mare on the screen replied, looking around. //I'm in some kind of...tower, I think. The walls are dark, but there's...hold on. I can show you.//

A new window popped open on a screen to the unicorn's left. The interior of the tower was dark and silent, with with lighted squares full of numbers and letters in seemingly random patterns moving serenely up and across the otherwise blue-black walls. The floor was light blue, with a series of glowing concentric circles leading to a point in the center.

//Hang on...I think there's something else...// The mare trotted over to the wall of the tower and pressed a hoof against it. A concentric ripple of light expanded from her hoof; she gasped as her hoof passed through the wall. //Oh my!//

"Careful..." Twilight cautioned.

//Alright.// Taking a deep breath, the pink mare stepped through the wall of the tower. The screen on Twilight's left abruptly flickered and changed to show a rocky desert plain, littered with scrubby plants, brown stone outcroppings, and thick bundles of cable which snaked in and out of the ground seemingly at random, pulsing with energy. //Wow...there's...a whole world here...//

"That's the strangest-looking desert I've ever seen," Twilight said.

//It's a virtual environment,// the mare replied. //Don't ask me how I know that. I just do.// She paused. //I think...I think I might be virtual too.//

"Virtual?" Twilight echoed, head tilted.

//I...and this world, I suppose...reside in the memory of some sort of computer,// the virtual mare replied.

"Computer...you mean this big black thing we moved here from Canterlot Palace?" She turned the screens around on their base to face the glowing black tower.

//Yes! That's it!// the virtual mare exclaimed. //That's the supercomputer. I know, somehow, that this world...and me...are connected to that machine.//

"Hmm..." Twilight frowned thoughtfully, then turned the screens back around to face her. "So...you're not real then?"

//I suppose not...from your point of view, anyway,// the mare said, a note of sadness in her voice.

"Still, this is pretty amazing...a pony who exists inside a machine...a whole WORLD that exists inside the machine...! I've never heard of anything like this! I'm glad I figured out how to turn it on..."

//So am I...// The virtual mare paused. //I really wish I could remember anything useful, though. Like who I am, for starters.//

"Well, since you're virtual...how about I call you Virtua? At least for now."

//Alright,// Virtua replied, smiling. She frowned suddenly. //Something doesn't feel right...I'd better get back inside that tower. I get the feeling...I'm not entirely safe here.//

Twilight frowned. "What do you mean?"

Just then, something that looked like a hermit crab scuttled into view. A blast of energy shot from aglowing eye located just beneath a strange-looking symbol on its shell, narrowly missing Virtua. The virtual pony shrieked in alarm and galloped back toward the tower, phasing through the wall. She collapsed to the floor, panting heavily. //That was scary!//

"And strange," Twilight said. "I think you'd better sit tight where you are, Virtua." She brightened. "Hey! I should go get my friends and bring them down here to meet you!"

//I'd like that,// Virtua said with a smile.

An hour later, Twilight led Spike, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Applejack into the basement. The mares looked around wonderingly at the strange equipment. "What--what IS all this?" Dash asked.

"I...I'm a little scared..." Fluttershy said, shivering as she eyed the black tower nervously.

"It's something called a 'supercomputer'," Twilight said. "But this isn't half of what I wanted to show you. I want you to meet somepony..." She trotted back over to the control panel and tapped a few keys. The center screen woke up, and the window showing the inside of the tower popped open. Virtua's face appeared in the window, and she smiled.

//Welcome back, Twilight,// she said.

"Whoa, who's THAT?" Applejack asked. "An' why's she look so...weird?"

"Applejack!" Twilight scolded. "Sorry about that, Virtua."

//It's alright,// the virtual mare replied.

Introductions were made, and Twilight explained--with difficulty, as she didn't fully understand it herself--that Virtua was an artificial pony who existed in an artificial world that existed inside the supercomputer. "And there's this big desert-looking world outside the tower Virtua's in right now, but it isn't safe for her to go outside because some kind of weird crab monster started shooting at her," she finished.

Her friends stared at her as though she'd grown a second head AND a horn out of her butt.

"Uh, sugarcube?" Applejack said, taking a step back and raising a forehoof. "That's uh...nice an' all, but...it all sounds jes' a mite far-fetched, is all Ah'm sayin'..."

"Yes, I know it sounds crazy," Twilight said patiently, "but it has to be true, because here she is, and even Princess Celestia had no idea what this supercomputer thing does, so--"

"Wow, one of these big tube thingies just opened up when I touched it!" Pinkie exclaimed, standing inside the hollow cavity of one of the cylinders which had arrived with the control array. She started bouncing up and down. "It's so roomy in here! I wonder what it does?"

"Pinkie, don't play around in there," Twilight cautioned. As she turned to admonish her friend, her tail brushed against one of the controls on the main board...

The tube Pinkie had opened closed with her inside it, and a series of new windows popped open on the screens.

"Uh, Twi?" Rainbow Dash said, eyes wide in panic. "Somethin's happenin'..."

Twilight spun around, eyes wide as she saw a three-dimensional image of Pinkie Pie appear on one of the screens, along with a series of graphs and other displays that were changing too rapidly for her to follow. With growing horror, she watched as the image of Pinkie dissolved into a wireframe, before disappearing entirely. "Pinkie Pie?! Pinkie?!"

//Whoa, there really IS a big weird desert here!// Pinkie's voice came from the speakers attached to the control array.

"Pinkie? Where are you?" Twilight asked.

//Duh! I just told you, silly! I'm in that big weird desert you were talking about! And I see that tower thingie...is Virtua inside there?//

"Virtua? Could you step outside the tower for a minute please?" Twilight asked.

//A-alright...// The virtual mare left the tower again, and the view on the left screen changed from the dark tower to the brown desert. The group in the basement gave a collective gasp at what they saw.

Pinkie had somehow become virtual like Virtua. She was wearing a spysuit in the colors of the balloons that comprised her cutie mark, and two miniature versions of her Party Cannon were mounted on her sides.

"Whoa," Dash breathed.

"Well, that was certainly unexpected," Rarity said.

//This is so cool!// Pinkie exclaimed. //How did I get here, though?//

Twilight's brow furrowed. "I think..." she said slowly, "these cylinder things send ponies into that virtual world...into the supercomputer."

"But...you CAN bring her back out of there, right?" Fluttershy asked nervously.

"I...think so," Twilight hedged.

//You should be able to,// Virtua said suddenly. //I believe what happened to your friend is called 'virtualization', and there is a reverse process called 'devirtualization', or 'rematerialization'.//

"For a pony with amnesia, you seem to know a lot," Rainbow Dash said suspiciously.

//I just wish I knew anything useful, or could understand why I know what I do know,// Virtua replied.

Suddenly, the crab-like creature that had shot at Virtua earlier reappeared...and it had brought along two friends. One of them shot at Pinkie, whose flank flashed blue. //Hey! Ow! That wasn't very nice!// Pinkie shouted.

Twilight noticed that an image of Pinkie had appeared on one of the screens, and her lower legs were disappearing from the graphic. "Pinkie? Are you okay?!"

//Yeah, I'm okay,// Pinkie replied. //That really smarted though.//

"Uh...I don't think you want to get hit again," Twilight said, studying the graphics on the screen with growing alarm. "There's something on this screen that says you just lost twenty life points. I don't know what that means, but it can't be good..."

The crab-things started shooting at Pinkie again. She dodged, bouncing left and right. //Okay, I'm getting tired of these mean mean meanies,// she said.

Without warning, two big pink balls of lightning blasted out of her side-cannons. Two of the crab-things were hit dead-center and exploded into blue pixels.

"Nice shootin'!" Applejack cried.

"Yeah, you totally nailed 'em!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed.

The third crab, however, fired at Virtua, whose body flashed blue as she was knocked off her hooves.

"Virtua? You alright?" Twilight asked, as a new graphic appeared, showing that the virtual mare had also lost a number of life points.

//I...think so...// Virtua stood up, wavering slightly, as Pinkie dispatched the third crab.

Five more crabs scuttled into view.

"Hurry up and get back in the tower!" Twilight exclaimed.

//Right,// Virtua said. She turned and galloped for the tall white tower, Pinkie right behind her. However, while Virtua easily phased through the tower wall, Pinkie simply bounced off.

//Ow! I can't get in and my nose hurts,// Pinkie complained.

Five bolts of crab-fire struck her dead in the rump, and she exploded into a cloud of glowing blue polygons.

"PINKIE PIE!" the group in the basement shouted, eyes wide in horror.

"No...she can't be...gone..." Twilight moaned in despair.

There was a loud hiss, and the group turned towards the cylinder into which Pinkie had climbed earlier. It slid open, disgorging a cloud of steam...and Pinkie Pie, who looked like she had a terrible hangover, but was otherwise unharmed.

"Wow, getting shot at that much definitely wasn't fun," she said. She looked around at everypony, blinking. "Um...why does everypony look like somepony just died?"

"Because we thought you DID die, you ditz!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed, flying at Pinkie and tackling her with a fierce hug. "Don't scare us like that ever again!"

//I'm relieved your friend is alright,// Virtua said from the screen. //I'm sorry about...what just happened.//

"Well, it doesn't look like there's anything to worry about," Twilight said, examining the screen on the left. The graphic of Pinkie had turned red and winked out of existence; the graphic of Virtua was slowly regenerating life points. "It looks like when you go into a tower, your life points recover...I wouldn't go out again unless you absolutely have to, and I wouldn't get far from that tower."

//Yes, I figured that part out myself,// Virtua said. //But it looks as though if one of you gets virtualized, losing all your life points just means you go back to your own world.//

"That means we can totally explore that crazy virtual place!" Rainbow Dash said, suddenly excited. "Doesn't it?"

"It certainly seems that way," Twilight replied, frowning. "I'm not sure how much we should really mess around with this, though."

The mares and Spike unanimously agreed that it was time for dinner, and left the basement. Twilight apologized to Virtua and promised to come back and talk to her before she went to bed.

As they trotted up the stairs into the main floor of the library, nopony noticed the black shadowy vapor emerging from the supercomputer.

And as they left to go to dinner at their favorite outdoor cafe, nopony noticed that vapor slip silently through the shadows, to the outskirts of Ponyville.

And nopony noticed as the shadow flitted through the open window of a bedroom of the Apple house, surrounding a poorly-made rag doll which had been placed lovingly upon a red pillow on a large bed.

Nor did anypony notice the ominous symbol which suddenly flashed in the button eyes of the old doll...the same symbol that had been on the shells of the crab monsters in the virtual desert...