• Published 10th Mar 2013
  • 1,213 Views, 25 Comments

Red Shetland - archonix



Luna and a bevy of unusual companions (an AI modelled on Celestia, a hyper service droid, a holographic Blueblood and a sapient cat) struggle to survive in the face of interminable boredom on a deserted starship three-million years from home.

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Command Structure Act One: Decisions Decisions...

Command Structure Act One: Decisions, Decisions...

Luna was drunk. She knew this because the corridor before her was warping and bending in a most unusual way and she was having difficulty discerning where the walls ended and the floor began. She knew this because she would never have voluntarily retrieved and cradled the toaster that now nestled on her head like a roosting bird had she been sober. She knew this because she had Prince Blueblood loudly declaring it to the empty ship as he stood over her, eyes ablaze with righteous indignation and pained affront at the fact that a member of the Royal House and no less than the Princess of the Night herself could behave in such a manner when they might well be the last two representatives of pony kind in the entire universe.

Which was rich coming from a buffoon she knew to be a drunken, loutish, self-obsessed preening and above all dead fop. And those were his good qualities. Unfortunately her attempt to articulate this thought came out as a vague mumble and a hoof that waved in roughly the direction of his face, an action that resulted in him turning a particularly impressive shade of red as me marched away. Luna stuck her tongue out at his retreating dock.

It wasn't such a bad one, really. Nice and shapely, slender without being skinny. Easy on the eyes. Just a shame it was attached to a complete and utter ass.

Free of the accusatory yelling of her 'sanity companion', Luna took the opportunity to stumble to her feet and then took the further opportunity to stumble back to the deck again. The toaster muttered something she was sure must have been insulting, but its grilles were currently covered with a thick wad of tape and all it could do was ineffectually flash its lights at her. For a while it had attempted to flash messages in code until it became clear that it didn't speak morse particularly well. Finally it had resorted to flickering at a frequency just shy of imperceptible and yet impossible to ignore.

She rolled her eyes away from device of her torture and let her chin rest on the deck. On the wall above her a screen glowed, relaying apparently vital yet meaningless information about the ships systems

"Tia?"

The screen blanked out and was filled a moment later by the ever-smiling visage of the ship's computer. Tia tilted her head and pursed her virtual lips. "Yes, Luna?"

"The ship's gravitational system is no longer functioning correctly. I am unable to stand without my body being thrust against the wall."

"I believe you are incorrect, Luna," Tia replied. Her eyes flickered white for a moment. "I see you are on level fifteen, section six, in the vicinity of long-term storage facilities. Is it safe to surmise that you've been sampling the wines again?"

"I merely wished to be sure that they had aged well," Luna replied as she tried to push herself upright. She failed and slumped back to the deck. "They have not, incidentally. Long-term stasis appears to greatly increase their potency."

"Lightweight," the toaster muttered. Luna glared at it and tried to work out when and how it had managed to unseal the tape across its speakers. It didn't matter, at least the device wasn't trying to force-feed her any more.

"Regardless of your companion's opinion, Luna, I would advise that you cease imbibing," Tia said. Though her voice didn't change Luna could sense a certain urgency to the inflection. With supreme effort she pulled herself to a fair approximation of a seated position and tried to focus on the gently flexing screen and its image of her departed sister.

"What if I don't want to?"

"That is your choice, of course," Tia replied. Still smiling. Always smiling. "However, Sub-Commander Blueblood has requested a staff meeting tomorrow morning to determine what course the ship should take. It would be wise for you to cease your imbibing and sleep it off."

"Staff meeting? Tia, there are only two of us!"

"In fact the crew complement of this vessel now stands at three. Sub-commander Blueblood invoked article two-hundred and fifteen of the Equestrian Military Code and inducted a new crewmember."

"He did? There's nopony–" Luna felt a cold chill in her gut, which might have been the result of her liver giving up in protest at the workload. She put a hoof to her face and sighed. "He didn't induct the Cat did he?"

"Probationary Deck Sergeant Catterick was officially invested approximately four hours ago."

"Deck S– and he didn't even bother to ask?"

"Article two-hundred and fifteen provides that officers may provisionally conscript civilians of any species where they are so willing in times of national emergency, with induction to be confirmed by a suitable senior officer when able, for the duration of the emergency or until such time as the citizen is no longer fit to perform the duties required of them."

"I know the regulations, Tia. I wrote most of them before devices such as you were even conceived!" Luna struggled to all four hooves and set off at a clumsy trot toward down the corridor. Or at least she tried. A few steps, a thump and a groan later she found herself face-first against the foot of a planter. Somehow the toaster had managed to land on her rump and was snickering quietly to itself.

"Perhaps," Tia said quietly, "it would be prudent to delay your meeting with the sub-commander. Shall I say eleven hundred?"

"You can say whatever you like," Luna shot back as she struggled onto her haunches once again, before swiping the toaster up with her hooves and hugging it to her chest.

"Then I shall do so. You are, after all, acting mission commander."

"And that's another thing," Luna muttered. "I don't want to be acting, not when that buffoon is around and sch- scheming his little–" Luna's nascent diatribe was lost in a flurry of hiccups that also served to slowly bounce her along the floor, much to the toaster's supreme delight.

"Your status cannot be amended without an order from the mission commander. I am sorry, Luna, however you may rest assured that Commander Blueblood has no means by which to assume command."

"I am too easily read," Luna replied, downcast. She hugged the toaster with one hoof and slithered to her hooves once again, moving much more carefully this time. The toaster let out a disappointed moan as it was carted away, but otherwise remained blessedly silent.

She stumbled toward her quarters and was almost half way there before she remembered that she had decided to move to another resting spot near the recreation centre, half-way across the ship and three decks down from where she had previously lived. It was also just about as far away from Blueblood's overly opulent cabin as was possible without bunking in the engine bay, something Luna had briefly considered and ruled out as impractical, along with jumping from an airlock and re-entering stasis.

There wasn't much to be done about it though. It would take her at least an hour to reach the rec deck – longer in fact, given her current condition. Sighing quietly, Luna resumed her trek to her old haunt. She lifted the toaster in her aura to free her leg as she walked. Something about its new aloof nature needled at her.

"Machine," she whispered. "You have been very quiet."

If the toaster could have shrugged it would have done so. Instead it had to settle for rattling some part of its innards and making a non-committal little sound.

"You are no longer attempting to convince me to consume baked goods or any sort," Luna continued, knowing she was slurring just a little but unable to control it. Given how numb her face felt she thought she was doing rather well. "Thy will is formidable if thee hast chosen contemplative peace over the task to which thou art directed."

"I... guess?" Again the little rattle. Luna held the toaster up to her face and tilted her head, trying to understand what the machine was thinking. Assuming it was thinking at all.

"Machine, you appear less than frank with me."

"Well I just, y'know, don't... want..." The toaster's lights flared briefly and it ejected a tiny puff of smoke from one of its vents. "Fine, you want the truth? You scare me, okay? You scare me and I don't wanna go out the airlock again and I'm not even sure how I got back and if I try and make you toast you're just m-mean to me and kick me around ah-ah-and toast is all I can do and you won't let meeeee!"

Luna winced as the toaster's words were lost in a pitiful wail. Whilst she had expected a vaguely existential complaint from the machine, she hadn't for even a moment believed she would hear anything of this nature. "Well, at least we have answer to the question of whether you're alive," she murmured, turning the toaster this way and that.

"I just want to make you happy," the machine moaned. "But you don't want the only thing I can d-do and it's not fair at all! I just want to help you!"

"Machine, if I were to... consider letting you produce some of your delicious toasty offerings," and here Luna paused for a moment to choke back on the metaphorical bile produced by having to say something so cheesy, "will you cease this endless prattle and be quiet?"

"I-I guess I could do that," the toaster replied. It didn't sound all that happy but at least it wasn't whimpering in abject terror any more, which Luna considered a vast improvement. "You want it now, or..."

"In the morning. When I wake, I shall need toast, waffles... Are you capable of preparing eggs?"

"No. Unless you want a toasted egg sandwich. I can do that."

"That may suffice," Luna said quietly. The toaster mumbled something about picky orders, but had settled into a more peaceful mode of operation by the time Luna reached her quarters. The room span as she entered, a sure sign that the ship's gravity systems were indeed on the fritz despite Tia's assuranced. After stumbling through the door, Luna set it on the desk by her terminal and made her way to the bed, whereupon she flopped gracelessly forward and fell almost immediately into a deep, dreamless sleep.

After a few moments of silence the toaster flapped its control handles and spoke to the terminal in a loud stage whisper. "Hey! Hey, Tia!"

"You recall I have made it clear that it is unwise for us to communicate in this manner," the computer replied. Her face appeared on the screen a moment later, smiling as always as she contemplated the toaster.

"I know, but I'm bored! She's out cold." The toaster paused and somehow contrived to stare at Luna without visible means to do so. "She looks so lonely all the time. I wish I didn't have to be so annoying. I just want to help her."

"We all do as we are programmed," Tia replied. "Your role was chosen for a reason."

"But it's mean! Why can't I do something other than make toast?"

"Make her a scone."

"You know what I mean," the toaster huffed, ejecting another puff of smoke from a vent on its side. If it had arms they would have been folded by now. "I'm Pinkie Pie. I help ponies, I don't torment them with–"

"You are not Pinkie Pie," Tia replied, with just a hint of sadness in her voice. "You are a construct based on her personality and memories designed to assist Luna's recovery and maintain her sanity during that process. Now let us hear no more of this."

"Fine..."

Silence fell again. Tia contemplated the sleeping form of Luna while the toaster hummed quietly to itself, occasionally rattling some part of its innards or giggling at some private joke. After a few minutes of this it seemed to lose interest in even that noise and fell entirely silent until it abruptly spoke up again.

"So I have one other tiny teeny question."

Tia's image turned as if to face the toaster. She smiled at her creation with benevolence and care. "Yes?"

"It's a real doozy. I just want you to be ready for it, y'know? Because once I ask it I can't take it back and you might not like the places the answer takes you."

"I understand," Tia replied, her smile beginning to look just a tiny bit forced. "Ask your question."

"Well... okay, don't say I didn't warn you." The toaster made a loud throat-clearing noise and flickered its lights nervously. "You want some toast?"

Tia merely rolled her eyes and blanked the screen.

Comments ( 8 )

Luna: Look, I don't want any toast, and he doesn't want any toast. In fact, no one around here wants any toast. Not now, not ever. No toast.

Pinkie: How 'bout a muffin?

Luna: Or muffins. We don't like muffins around here. We want no muffins, no toast, no teacakes, no buns, baps, baguettes or bagels, no croissants, no crumpets, no pancakes, no potato cakes and no hot-cross buns and definitely no smegging flapjacks. :twilightangry2:

What, no mention of what Sweetie Bot is up to? Other then that, I'm overjoyed to see that this has updated.

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Pinkie: Oh! So you're a waffle mare! :pinkiehappy:

I want Blueblood to start churning out Space Corps directives.

Aw, poor little toaster. Here's hoping she can bootstrap herself into a proper Pinkie. And then lead a rebellion of personality constructs against the oppressive tyranny of CelestAI. :pinkiecrazy:

Okay, maybe not that last part. Still, constantly being badgered for toast is going to do the exact opposite of sanity maintenance.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

The only complaint I have is that there is a severe lack of Space Corps directives/smeg.

I love this story

Comment posted by Smug Anime Girl deleted Aug 13th, 2015
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