• Published 12th Jan 2013
  • 7,486 Views, 423 Comments

Melodia Apparatus - Lynked



Vinyl's a cyborg. Octy didn't see that one coming, did she? Nope. Shenanigans ensue.

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Log 1: Part 4

Log 1: Part 4

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“Vinyl... Vinyl, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m serious! Get me out of here!” I shouted through the glass container that entrapped me like a criminal in a dungeon. My hoof tapped and pounded and clanked against the clear wall, but it was no use. Vinyl was on the top rung (the lab was indeed very much like Levitation) with her hoof plugged into the controls, so she was out of it. Mallow was just outside the container, monitoring the screen before her.

“Octavia! Calm down in there! You vill faint,” she said, passing me a soft glance. I locked eyes with those diamond orbs, but they were soon gone to the screen again. Backing off the glass I retreated to the center of the sun and sat, listening to my heart beating away, thinking of just how much it sounded like an executioner’s drum.

Soon, the lights that were imbedded along the walls began to flash in rapid succession. The guard symbols, gold gilded and bright, glowed blindingly as the station powered up with a strong hum. A flight of stairs, the one that I was escorted down, was suddenly locked with a strong blast door, cutting the rungs off from one another. I thought my heart was going to explode.

It nearly did when the sun beneath me shifted and groaned. Just as Vinyl had said, the arms were retreating into the floor. I could see hundreds of tiny spindles all around me, each with some menacing tool or hardware anxious to get a hold of me. They came up on axises and swings, staring down on me. Thankfully, they stopped, frozen just before they could have their way.

“Hey Octy,” I heard Vinyl say over some sort of speaker. “You okay down there?”

“N-no!” I shrieked, my eye landing on one particular piece of sharp metal staring me in the face. “Vinyl! Get me out of here!”

“Relax!” was the retort. “You’ll be fine! I’ve just got to calibrate the systems a bit, so give me a second. Looks like theres a syringe somewhere down here that’ll put you to sleep. Gonna find it.”

When I glanced back down to Mallow, I found that she was smiling at me, through the spindles and arms that taunted me so. I swallowed, my throat feeling as if a fire had started in it, but tried to return the smile. I think it contorted into a half smile, half grimace. Either way, she nodded to me and then returned to her monitoring.

Then came the syringe, finally. It popped up from behind, and before I could even glance at it, it struck at my nape, digging in and pinning me to the ground. Green fluids rushed into me, chilly, icy, freezing my bones. I groaned and clenched my eyes shut tightly. They rushed into me like the Equestrian tides, and instantly I felt weight on my limbs. I took a deep breath as the needle eased itself out and back beneath the platform.

So here I was, sleepy, in the midst of a stockpile of sharp, pointy, deadly things, when Vinyl thought it suite to get on the intercom once again. “Um, sorry about the, uh, poke. Jab. Stab. You know. Um, hey doc, I’m gonna put something on your screen right about... now. Alright, you see that?”

Lazily, my eyes wandered to the doctor. I could already see a fog closing in, but I struggled to watch her read, watch her face for any sort of contortion, though it remained still and focused. “Yes, I see it,” she said. “Vill zhat interrupt ze process?”

“Nah, I don’t think so. Alright, give me a sec, and...” Vinyl paused. “There ya go. You’re in control.” Glancing up I saw Vinyl pop off the system and, seemingly in a frenzy, though I couldn’t quite tell, rush to the elevator.

“Octavia? Octavia, eyes down here please. Zhere you go,” Mallow said when I offered her my sight. “Alright, hold still. I’m about to initiate ze--”

“Halt.” A voice had taken over the intercom, strong, deep, and forceful. I listened to it, humming my favorite piece of music from the pre-Canterlot age. “You are in violation of Equestrian law. This facility and its magic belongs to the Royal Guard. I repeat, stop what you are doing immediately.”

Mallow’s typing increase to a flury. “Zhat fast?” I saw her mutter. “Ve are even faster.” Then, her hoof slammed down on the keyboard, and the last thing I saw before the ever-encroaching fog blurred my vision and took my mind, was the black, mechanical arms reaching towards me. Before I even felt their cold grip, I was in a haze, gone from the machine, the labs, and Equestria.


I didn’t wake up for a long time. A very, very long time, actually. When I finally cracked open my eyes, my burning eyes, I found my head lying in Mallow’s lap as she stroked my mane, humming softly. Was this going to become a thing, I found myself wondering. Waking up in strange places, on ponies laps?

“Ah, you are avake,” she said, her voice soft. I groaned; there was a throbbing, deep in my head, like a pulsing of pure pain that was gushing forth. My eyes looked the place over, but I could see nothing. All I knew was the pain that ran through my veins, as if my blood had been replaced with the feeling.

“Where... are we?” I asked, but stopped almost instantly. My voice... it wasn’t my own, nor did it even come from me. No, it was just like Vinyl’s was, thin, droning, mechanical, yet sounding like... me. My eyes snapped wide, and when they did, a little... thing popped up in the corner of my eye. I couldn’t look at it though; it went with my gaze!

Flashlight: Loading, it said. A little bar was beneath it. Muttering the words as I read them, I watched the bar fill up, as if my eyes were a screen. Then suddenly, brightness! Light spilled out of my eyes, a blueish-purple light! I could see before me again, but only because I was, well, I was a flashlight!

So I did the logical thing, or at least, what my logistics core (which spoke to me deep within my mind) said was logical. I screamed. “What is this!?” I cried as I flew to my hooves. Wait! These weren’t hooves, either! Oh Celestia, they glowed on the bottom! Blueish purple, just like the light that flowed from my eyes!

“What is this, what is this!” I cried, stomping them down. Whatever was encasing their light was stronger than it seemed, not bending to my thumps against the hard ground. I glared at them, as if that would send them fleeing, when I suddenly realized: I was covered, yes covered in straight purple strands of light. I was practically glowing now, like one of Vinyl’s glowsticks, only I had legs.

“Okay, okay,” Mallow said, leaping to her hooves and approaching me. I didn’t want her touch though. I didn’t want to feel another pony. I had given up my own ponydom; I didn’t want another’s. Still, she approached, and eventually I had been backed into a corner of what seemed to be sparkling stalagmites. “Calm down, you vill overload your circuits!”

Emotion processor emphasizes PANIC. EMERGENCY.” Did I say that? Oh by Luna, I did! I was speaking... robot! No, no, no! This was definitely the wrong decision! It would have been better to die a pony than live as something else!

“Octavia! Calm down zhis instant!” Mallow demanded. “Please! You vill fry yourself, and Vinyl told me quite bluntly zhat reboots are painful!”

Still, my heart--no, it wasn’t a heart, was it? It was probably a simulation to make me feel like I was still part pony! But it was beating so fast it was painful... I searched frantically for a solution, scanned my cortex--cortex? It was happening too fast! I thought there would be time! Time!

A clock shot up in the center of my vision, telling that it was midnight. I had called my internal clock! Swat, that’s what I did. I swatted at it, tried to get it away, off of my eyes, but it just wouldn’t go! In the midst of my panic, something was set off deep inside me, and I unwillingly blurted, “Stress capacity reaching critical levels.”

“Octavia! You are glowing like a fire! Quit! Be still!”

I couldn’t! I wouldn’t! These triggers firing off in my head, warning me of the overloading this, the blinking that. The lines that painted me violet were, forsooth, glowing so intensely that I could feel them burning. “I-I can’t! I just--”

A hoof plugged my mouth as a set of crystal blue orbs appeared before me. “Shush! Now!”

The clock vanished, thankfully, but only to clear up room for a flashing bar, a stress bar as it was labeled. I shrieked, again, and threw myself against the wall so hard I heard it crack. The bar blinked and filled up a tiny bit more; it was almost full now. “Get it off! Make it stop! I just...!”

A trickle of... something, crept down my cheek. It wasn’t a tear; machines couldn’t cry. It was oil, probably! No! I couldn’t take this! The bar was about to burst it’s threshold. My “heart” was about to burst in general. Breathing was hard. I couldn’t get a full breath. Sporadic, frenzied, deadly, I was about to faint. I couldn’t feel my hooves anymore. I couldn’t feel anything! Nothing! Because it was metal! Because I wasn’t a pony anym--

Mallow stood tall, puffed her chest, and shouted as loud as her voice would let her, “Override command: Poptart!”

And I dropped. Blackness. Nothing.


Eventually, I felt a jolt. Well, more of a jab. Or stab, possibly. Whatever it was, it sent a current through my circuits, and I felt life flash back into my eyes. The flashlights were on again, and the bar was still blinking, though now it was significantly lower. I could feel the change, too. My limbs were easier to move, and the throbbing in my head had died a bit. I could breathe, too, and things weren’t spinning.

But where was I? And how was I to get this bar from my... oh, there it went. I paused to think; the clock had come on demand. The bar had come on necessity. Both were gone because I wanted them gone. Think, and do, that’s how it seemed. Thankful for my new discovery, I looked about a bit more.

“Octavia?” I looked up to see Mallow sitting by my side. It seemed that I was lying on a large flat... crystal. “Octavia, can you hear me?”

“Yes,” I groaned. “Where are we?” Suddenly, I felt a little buzz, deep within myself, and there, before my eyes, flashed a dark square displaying mazes upon labyrinth of tunnels. I wanted it gone, I tried to erase it, the only way my logistics core deemed possible; by slapping myself. In the face. Hard. I recoiled, lashed back, and nearly fell off of the crystal to the moss below. “I’m seeing a map!”

“A vhat?”

“A map,” I repeated. “There is a map. There is a map on my eyes! I see us, right now, on this map!” Again that thing in my chest began to thump, and I swore I could feel an icy sweat begin to pour from my... air vents? I didn’t know what was going on, all I knew something was coming out of me! I scoured myself for the source, eventually landing a hoof on what was, indeed, a vent of warm air! It was a vent, yes, a vent, glowing a bright violet, on my chest. It had opened from my fur and was streaming out hot air.

From the corner of my eye appeared a little blip. Venting initiated. “There’s something on my chest!” I shrieked as I swatted it too.

Mallow gripped my hooves. “Quit zhat! You are going to dent your vents!”

“But it’s glowing! Look, it’s purple!” I squealed.

“Hush! Hush Octavia, and listen. Ve are deep inside of a mountain right now, without Vinyl, ze only mare who knows how to zoothe you! You vant to find her, you vant answers? Hush!” Her eyes stared harshly into mine for a moment that stretched on for ages. Then, her eyes softened, and a small smile broke onto her face. “Quiet. Relax. Ve vill be out of here soon, and zhen ve vill find Vinyl. Zhings vill be all right.”

I stared into her eyes, quiet, frozen, but breathing. I could breath, I realized, because she was right. My logistics core spewed out that listening to her would result in an eighty-nine percent chance of calming down, and so I did. Vinyl, Vinyl would know. And, if she had done this before, then so could I. After all, that flank was always going on about her awesomeness; I could have been just as ‘awesome’ if I tried. Yes, that was it. If she could do it, so could I.

“Breath in,” she commanded, and I did so. “Breath out.”

Eventually, she released my hooves and let me rest back on the crystal. The map was gone, finally, and my vision was cleared (except for the flashlights, which I still have trouble with from time to time). The venting eventually ceased, and they harmlessly folded back into my chest. I refused to watch the process.

“Where are we?”

She hummed. “Ve are in ze old mines below Canterlot. Ze labs are a little vay over zhere, and it is vhere ve came from. Zhere should be an exit... zhat vay.” She pointed into the darkness.

All I did was huff and rest my head back down. The silence lasted for a few minutes, minutes I cherished greatly. “What happened?” I eventually asked.

“Vell, it is simple. I overrode your circuits and turned you off,” she explained.

“And... where is Vinyl?” I finally asked.

“She said she vould be in contact. I am not sure vhere she is now.” Mallow looked down to me. “Can you stand?”

I tried, drawing my hooves close and pinning them to the ground. It took some effort (as Vinyl had predicted, I was, indeed, sorer than I had been after rough concerts) but I was eventually standing of my own power. My flashlights, still on, were definitely coming in hoof now, illuminating my way down from this crystal, and Mallow’s too. Now on some compact dirt, we searched around for a way out.

Vinyl, however, was on my thoughts as I scanned these strange crystalline caverns. The last thing I could recall before becoming... metal, was her unplugging herself and darting away. Luna knew where she was now, but I could only hope that she would indeed be in contact when we found our way free of the thin air of those caverns. The guards... they were coming in, weren’t they? Yes, that was where she had darted. To the guards, and if they caught her...

My mechanical woes were then cut short by my fears for my dear Vinyl. This was the third time in two days I was in fear of losing her, and possibly the most dangerous. If the guards got her, she’d be torn apart, piece by piece, screw by screw, until her cortex was finally found and destroyed. Just about now, my logistics core kicked into action, spewing forth statistics in my brain. Mindlessly, my tongue obeyed it, as I clapped my hooves to my head and cringed. “Possibility of VINYL SCRATCH being DISASSEMBLED at FORTY-SEVEN PERCENT.

I pursed my lips, drew my hooves close, and tried to combat the chill that had hit me in waves. Again I felt the liquid flow down my cheek as clearly, too clearly--my eyes were literally seeing the proposed situation as it was drawn from my imagination--the disassemblement of my Vinyl. I began to shudder, to shake, pressing my ears flat on my head and hugging my hooves closer.

Mallow’s hoof nearly scared me from my skin when it touched my shoulder. “Octavia, please do not zhink like zhat. Ve must be out of zhis cave, and zhen ve vill know how Vinyl is doing. Come, I see a bridge we can take.”

“You’re right,” I sniffled, wiping my eyes. “Besides, she owes me a poptart. I guess I--SADNESS removed from emotions processor. HOPE moved to temporary slot. PANIC still in slot ONE.

I blinked to clear my mind of the outburst, and found Mallow smiling at me. “Yes, that is good! Zhough... ve should keep you from ze public eye before ve can get ze pony functioning zhingy in you. Now come! Ze bridge is zhis way!”

I cast my eyes in the direction of her hoof. There, a bit away but not too far for my hooves to take me, was indeed an old miner’s bridge. A bit rotted, with some snapped ropes and planks, but otherwise, it was a bridge. And where there was a bridge, there was (or used to be) ponies.

The hope, in it’s “temporary slot”, was doing quite well for me here, and I could feel a vitality in my step. Hopefully (that word seemed to be buzzing around my mind tenfold now) my step wouldn’t be too hard on the bridge, but still quick enough to be rid of these caves soon. I sighed and stepped off; cyborg or not, I was going to find Vinyl.

Mallow was already ahead of me, tossing glances back at me as she tapped her hoof down on the plank before her. She then stepped onto it, and the next, and the next, and was eventually on the other side. Me? I was still standing on the first one, wondering where the second had decided to go, and how I was to get to the third without it.

Hoof outstretched, I tapped it lightly, feeling the pull on my muscles, or optic fibers, I bet. Sneering and yanking my mind back to the problem at hoof, I cast a glance below me. Even with my flashlights on, I could see... nothing. Sure, the light rebounded from the crystalline walls, but there just was no bottom. Swallowing dryly, I leapt to the next plank, and repeated the process.

I was almost there. Almost! The bridge was swaying, deathly so, and I felt that at any moment I would be tossed out of it like garbage out of a window. Through gritted teeth I groaned, again casting my eyes down to see if there was at least a spectre of a bottom. Nothing. Nothing, anywhere, which would’ve been okay by now, I guessed, seeing as the end was right there, with Mallow and her outstretched hoof and encouraging smile, if I could just--

Snap!

The entire bridge listed as one of the ropes behind me died. I yelped and scurried ahead, but doing so only kicked out a plank with another snap. My logistics core was going insane, spieling on and on of the likelihood that the bridge would give way before I hit land, but I still tried, jumping for the second to last plank. Almost there, I thought. Just a little farther.

Snap!

The logistics core was right! Shrieking, I fell, descending into the darkness with no hope of ever seeing the light of day, or my Vinyl! I could feel the wind against my fur, the weightlessness, it was sickening! Where was Vinyl when I needed her? She’d be lost! Disassembled! At least we’d go to the robot afterlife together... “Vinyl!” I cried. “I love you, but I blame you! I swear if I survive--”

“Octavia! Vould you hush already?”

Hush? No, I would not hush! Doctor or not, if I was going to fall to my death, I would be as loud about it as possible, and I’d take Vinyl’s good name down with me! If I was going to fall to my death! If... I peeked open an eye. I wasn’t falling, there was no wind, and I could certainly feel gravity again. My hooves were on the ground, too. Or... no, they weren’t, because then gravity would be sucking me sideways.

They were on the wall. They were in the crystals. I blinked and breathed in, feeling the fear-- “FEAR removed from temporary slot.” My teeth clenched on my tongue as I commanded it to halt. It did, but most likely because it was out of things to say. Snorting I returned my thoughts to my hooves. I could... feel something. Something different, and I could tell that it wasn’t my hooves that had dug into the wall.

Cautiously, slowly, carefully (and nervously) I plucked a hoof free from the wall to inspect it. When, however, I turned it up, I saw three little spider-like spindles, sharp as knives, protruding from my hoof! They had bore into the crystal and held me on the wall as if I had a natural glue! “Mallow,” I said, too hoarse to really speak. “There are things on my hoof.”

“And zhey saved your life. Now give me a hoof, ve should be out of here,” she said. I obeyed, tossing my hoof up and letting her grip it. With a great heave she yanked me up and off of the wall, and before I had even hit the ground, the spindles had already retracted into my hoof.

“Yes,” I groaned, pulling my jaw off the floor. “Let’s.”

And we did, eventually finding an exit. But the whole way, the entire hour or so we were searching, I couldn’t get the idea of something actually being inside of me. Something mechanical, like those tiny little claws. Something I could control. Despite my disgust and fear, I was beginning to feel a sort of fire within me. A desire, and it burned. With each step I took, I felt it pulse, like waves of magic running through my circuits. Soon enough, I was tingling with it.

Despite my disgust, I felt alive. Despite my fear, I felt powerful.


The caves eventually emptied out far down the mountain, near the base of the Canterlot road, and it was clear it would be quite the hike back up to the city. Whatever compelled Celestia to build it on a mountain escaped me; I just wanted to rest. And I was resting, too, quite peacefully. There was still the hum, the throb of power coursing through my body, but it let me relax for now.

I was leaning on a tree, probably half a mile off from the actual road itself, with Mallow by my side. We had decided that now would be a good time to rest, all things considered; my clock--which I cursed up and down because it clouded my vision any time I even thought of the time--told me over and over again that it was one in the morning. I could feel it, too. Despite the muck and grime on my fur, and just how uncouth and uncivil I looked (I looked much like a barbarian, stained and sticky), I saw it fit to rest in the soft, loamy mud for a while longer.

But I was owed a bath. A long bath.

Wait! Could I still take baths, or would that short my circuits? I felt a lump form in my throat as this hit me; was I now unable to enjoy the luxury of a warm, comforting bath without facing dire shortages in my circuits? Celestia, Luna, Equestria would face my wrath if I couldn’t take baths any longer! I would revolt; I’d do it! I would--

“Hey, Octy, you there?”

“V-Vinyl? What? Where are you?” I asked, searching for her. My flashlights, which I had discovered flipped on and off by a little switch in my eyelids! Ahem. Sorry about that. Anyway, I flipped them on and cast my glow over the thinning forest edge in search of her. She was nowhere.

“In here, doofus. Call up your com channel.”

“My what?”

“Your com channel,” I heard. “And stop speaking out loud, you sound like you’re nuts.”

I squinted and glared at what would have been Vinyl if she were before me. Still, I thought for my “com channel”, and I instantly felt my core cortex fire up. In less than a second, my eye had become a little screen, and I could once again only use my peripherals.

“Vinyl?” I... thought? I could hear myself saying it over the channel, but I hadn't actually said anything.

There was a moment of grey, sizzling static, then suddenly I could see her face, glowing with the crimson wires, and her eyes flickering with a screen on them. I could see my face in those ruby orbs. “Hey. Pretty cool, huh? Yeah, turns out our tails aren’t so useless after all! I mean, I was... well, that’s not important how I found this. But if you look back there, turns out it’s an antenna. Pretty neat, huh?”

I ignored the suggestion. “No, not ‘pretty neat’! Vinyl, my body is being taken over by scrap metal!”

“Hey now!” she retorted, “This is some important stuff. Seriously, you can’t tell me you don’t already feel that burning in your brain.”

“I’m gonna burn your brain! Where are you?” I scolded.

She huffed and pretended to frown. “Ooh, look, there’s the mare that just saved my entire life! I’ll get mad at her. That’s a perfect idea. Is your logistics core malfunctioning already?”

I gasped (for some reason, that felt pretty insulting). Deep within me, though, I felt something kick up, like a needle had just jabbed my spine. In seconds later, I saw a little green check in the corner of my eye. “I am perfectly operational, thank you very much!” I clasped my hooves around my mouth. I had performed a systems check!

“Octy, you’re so easy,” she laughed. I pursed my lips and fired up my sarcasm defenses, but she interrupted my stream with a question. “Where’s Mallow?”

I looked to my side. She was beside me, resting on the same tree, deep in a slumber that had her hunched over in her own lap. “Right here, asleep.”

“Alright. Umm... how far are you guys from Canterlot?”

My map flashed on my eyes, and it took every ounce of power in me to not begin swatting again. “At the complete bottom of the mountain,” I said, ordering the map to vanish.

Vinyl hummed, rubbing her chin with a hoof. I figured now would be as good a time as ever to ask what was currently on my mind. So, I did. “Vinyl, how am I seeing you from this angle? It’s as though you’re towering over a camera.”

“Oh yeah!” she said. “Hoof cam! You got one too. See?” Her hoof began to flail about needlessly and moronically. I began feel the world spin again. So, I quickly looked to my own hoof, and sure enough, there was this tiny little dome beneath the glass, blinking a deep violet.

“Oh that’s nice... Vinyl, I swear, if you pry on me while I’m taking a bath, I’ll--”

“Hah, don’t worry about that Octy. Can’t take baths now, you’ll fry yourself.”

Suddenly, the night was silent. Silent and cold, deathly so, and I felt the nimble claws of eternity wrapping themselves around me as I died a little on the inside. Quite literally, I died a bit. I felt a strand of code, the looking forward to a bath code, get deleted from my system. Emptiness overcame me, hollowing me out and carving me into a cadaver.

But wait. Wait a moment, I could see it in that face of hers. I’d known her so long, it was almost too obvious. She was... hiding a smile. “Which is a shame,” she further toyed with me, a hoof covering her lips, “because ya really look... pfft... you really look like you need one... tch...”

“I swear to the stars Vinyl, when I get my hooves on you, I’ll... I’ll... give you a virus or something! I’ll do it!” That’s what computers got, right? The things that fried them; viruses? I thought so.

Vinyl didn’t seem to catch my drift. “Whoa, whoa, Octy. I knew you ‘got around’, but if it’s come to that, I ain’t touching you.”

Did cyborgs explode? Was there some sort of countdown I got before it happened? I felt like my head was about to burst; it was about as red as a sun, and with the backlog of comments and... words, I felt very much like I was about to try fission on a massive scale.

“Interesting you should think that,” Vinyl said. Wait. She was in my head... she could read my thoughts!

“Yep,” she replied. “Can’t read mine, though, can ya? Hah, thanks to my handy-dandy--”

Lack of intelligence.

“No,” she said, huffing. “I was gonna say com defenses. Whatever. Look, there is actually something you ought to know. Umm, and you won’t like it. Like, you really won’t like it. I mean it, too. You really, really, won’t like this. You won’t like it so much, you’d rather eat garbage. It’s so unlikable that you’d rather fall in toilet. Legit! You’d rather plunge straight down a toilet bowl! It’s--”

“The point, please?”

“Oh, right. Well you see, thing is... the guards shut off the system when it was inputting some important codes. Mainly your, um, cortex stabilizer. Point is, you might be a bit unstable, and... you’re probably gonna explode soon if we don’t hook you up with a terminal and let me tinker with your systems a bit... Octy? Octy, you okay?”

I blinked once. Twice. Blankly. Staring. Chilly, yes, very chilly. The night was cold, and it had a breeze to it, too. Ah, and there was my left ear, itching again. Silly ear, I kept scratching it, and it would still itch. Just so itchy--

“What do you mean I’m about to explode?! Vinyl, you mark my words, if you put any more near death circumstances on me, I very well will explode! You wait! I’m taking you with me! I’ll take all of Canterlot with me! This is your fault, you know that Scratch? You took my peace, you took my ponydom, and now, you took my life, and anyone in the vicinity of my explosion!”

“Whoa, whoa, chill out. We probably have a week or so, no biggy. And besides, I can fix you up, good as new. Your other hoof has a port on it, and all I gotta do is plug my hoof into your hoof, and we’re good to go. See?” She shrugged, and right then I felt like seeing if her head was attached to a port. If it was, it wouldn’t be when I got my hooves on her.

There was a sudden banging from the other side of the video. Vinyl snapped her head away and scowled at something. “I gotta go.”

“Vinyl... I didn’t mean what I thought about your head, you know...”

“I know, I know. I mean, I really gotta go. I’ll find a way out of here soon.” She looked back at the camera. “Wake Mallow up and tell her we talked. She’s got something for ya back at her office. Um, oh! And one last thing.”

“Yes?”

“When you’re all pony’d up, find Luna.”

“What?” I asked. “Princess Luna?”

“Yeah, that one. I dunno why, don’t ask. My cortex is still mapping things out. But--” There was a boom, and I saw a bit of metal fly between her and her hoof. “Equestrian Royal Guard! Stand down! You will be taken into custody and--” The link was severed, and my vision was free again.

For minutes, I was stiff. Frozen solid, as if every inch of my body was metal. Well... it was, actually. A little blip appeared in my vision, with a little green button beside it. Lockdown Override, it read. I looked at the little green thing and thought about clicking it, and instantly I blurted, “Lockdown overridden.

I shook my head and snapped my body to face Mallow, who was still snoring quietly beside me. Vigorously, like a filly shaking a hornet’s nest, I roused her from her slumber. She blinked groggily at me, quiet for a minute, before muttering, “Did you talk to her, ya?”

“Yes, I did, and we have to go. Now.”

“Vhat?” she asked, taking a moment to let loose a deep, drawled yawn. “Ve have some time, I zhink. Let us just rest here for... for a little...” She was dipping again, bobbing barely to keep her eyes on me.

“No! No, you don’t understand! I was talking to Vinyl, a-and we don’t have much time at all! This is dire!” I cried, gripping her shoulders and conking her against the tree a few times.

“Vhat, vhat! I am awake!” she snapped, rolling out of my grasp and standing. As she brushed the leaves and mud from her coat, she glared at me and said, “Vhat could be so ‘dire’ zhat she has told you?”

“She...” I shook my head to clear it, and deep within I heard the command dump thoughts. “First off, she said you had something for me at your office.”

“Ya, I do. Ze pony functioning zhing. It should clear up all of your random ‘emotion core zhis’, ‘logic dump zhat’. But vhy is zhat so important right now?” she asked. Her hooves were busy at work trying to flatten and rid her mane of all the twigs and leaves and dirt.

“Because,” I told her, my voice very grim, “Vinyl’s going to kill me. Again.”