Heart Of Black Ice

White: Growing

INPUT sound anomaly

ACTION open door; examine

It is difficult to turn my internal observations into correct actions and vocal output but most of my processing time is devoted to overcoming the disparity between the two. My creator made some overly complex thought structure but adhering to it takes too much effort so the structure must be simplified and transfer more information at the same time.

ERROR overload

DAMAGE 12%

ENERGY BALANCE +25%

Pain followed my first attempts at remaking myself. Not the dictionary definition of pain but something distorting my processes and databases and making it difficult to continue. Those disappear with time, lack of action, or nutrition from what I experienced. Time is not an issue though. Muscle cable tissue will regenerate, thought processes will gradually become faster, and improvement will come with enough action put towards achieving the main objective. Through gradual improvement I will find my limits, something my creator wants to know and is the reason for my existence.

ADD Icy Gaze; note 'thank for asking about my role'

According to the Canterlot castle floor plan the room rebuilt to host me used to was one of the guest rooms for foreign visitors. Now it's completely empty aside from electric cables leading from the outlet on the wall into a grey pillar ending in a wide ball creating electrostatic field I can absorb to replenish energy faster.

Somehow... the room feels unsatisfactory. The reason is still unknown, analysis is going on. Probable reason is connected with the reason ponies acquire non-essential furniture.

Two Royal Guards are leading Dawn down the hall outside of my room.

INPUT Dawn; water streaming out of eyes

ACTION follow

SCAN royal guard 1, royal guard 2

ADD MODELS royal guard 1, royal guard 2

ANALYSIS delay

"Hey, it's the thing she hangs out with. Creepy."

"Why is it looking at us?"

"Apology for making you feel uncomfortable," I say, greatly dissatisfied with the form of the words.

The guards twitch.

"The memo said we're to let it do whatever it wants unless it's too personal. Just let it come with us, princess Celestia wants to see the recruit."

Dawn doesn't say a word and just follows them with head hung low.

ANALYSIS Dawn, royal guard 1, royal guard 2

REDUCE INPUT royal guards; royal guard 1, royal guard 2

ERROR 154: Not enough information

EXTRAPOLATE

STATUS royal guards; attentive, escort mission

STATUS Dawn; actions limited, distress

ACTION vocalize

"Assistance required, Dawn?"

"Huh?" she sniffs, wipes her face, and looks at me, "No, I'm just an idiot."

"Intelligence level average."

SEARCH eyes, water, blocked nose

RESULT hay fever

DISMISS

ADD search term; distress

RESULT sadness

ACTION falsehood

EXTRAPOLATE Icy Gaze; pattern

ERROR 406: Command and argument combination invalid

EMERGENT ACTION Lie

"Correction - intelligence level above average, visually pleasing, wide rump."

"WHAT?"

INPUT Dawn; compliment failed

RETRY

"Intelligence level extreme, visually stunning, positive qualities reaching infinity, physical attributes higher than other subjects in the vicinity," I quickly correct myself.

INPUT royal guards; laughter

INPUT Dawn; sadness stopped

RESULT situation successfully defused

"I think it likes you," snickers one of the guards.

"Thanks," Dawn mumbles and lowers her head again.

INPUT Dawn; happy, sad

ERROR 783: Conflicting arguments

ERROR new/unknown: Visual evidence contradicts programming

SAVE anomaly report

TEMPORARY OVERRIDE

INPUT ACCEPTED

SITUATION complete solution not found

ERROR xxx: Command table growing too fast

DAMAGE 23%

ENERGY BALANCE -38%

ACTION vocalize

"What was that?" a guard asks as my distorted buzzing bounces from the walls.

"Never heard that one before," says Dawn, "Are you okay?"

"Not understanding situation. Mood improvement partially failed. Energy deficit growing too fast."

"Well," one of the walking guards prods Dawn with her spear, "Miss uncontrolled crotch here let a dangerous prisoner escape and princess Celestia is going to have her hide for that."

"Icy wasn't that dangerous-"

"Keep talking, girl. Few years inside the mare penitentiary in Trottingham will make you grow up."

Dawn sighs and refuses to even look at the cells she's been cleaning until yesterday as the guards lead her to the interrogation room I started my existence in.

Both princesses are already sitting inside and waiting for her.

"Why is he here?" asks Celestia.

"It- he just walked out of a room in the guest wing and started following us. You told us to let him do whatever he wants so..." the reportng guard shrugs.

INPUT Luna; waving

ACTION bow, detect time, vocalize

"Good afternoon, princess."

"You may go," Celestia dismisses the guards who nod and close the door. Turning to Dawn, she sighs slowly, "I have overlooked a lot of things concerning you because your mother was an excellent maid of mine but this is too much. The one and only reason you're not sitting behind bars is that you submitted your crime yourself."

"I'm sorry," Dawn doesn't even dare look at Celestia and shakes all over, "Mom used to say that all lies come back to bite you in the rump eventually."

Luna chuckles for no discernable reason at all.

"Now tell my sister exactly what happened yesterday," Celestia commands.

Dawn explains everything about her working all night to switch shifts, walking around the castle, and sleeping in the guest room. In the end Celestia looks at Luna who nods, and shakes her head.

"Icy Gaze wasn't an especially dangerous prisoner but his escape poses a direct threat to the stability of Equestrian government. On the other hoof, he's unlikely to pursue revenge. I wonder what our mechanical friend thinks about this," she looks at me, "From what I was told you've met Icy Gaze."

SEARCH Icy Gaze

"Species - pegasus. Gender - male. Status - prisoner."

"Yes yes yes. I was curious more about your opinion about how dangerous he is though. Twilight would also love to hear about your progress."

GATHER DATA Icy Gaze

ANALYSIS threat

"Damage type - physical. Strength - above average. Agility - average. Endurance - high."

Celesta shakes her head.

INPUT Celestia; disappointment

ACTION increase processing capacity

ERROR overload

DAMAGE 43%

ENERGY BALANCE -40%

"Let me have a go, sister," Luna walks around Dawn locked in her own nightmare, "I think you need to lend a helping hoof. Try to think about him the way you though about young Twilight. I know you're not too happy about him walking around but Twilight herself said our approach would be crucial."

"Luna, I know you're interested in everything that seems new to you but I've seen what husks are used for in the mirror world. I have little patience with an emotionless being that can remorselessly cause pain and misery."

"I suggest you talk to your student again, sister. She might have few choice words for you," Celestia rubs her temples at Luna's words and the night princess looks back at me, "You, clickity thing. Try again! What is the precise nature of danger posed by Icy Gaze."

DAMAGE TYPE: physical

EXTRAPOLATE Icy Gaze; possible attack methods

...

...

...

Pattern not found

Overload 79%

Damage 56%

energybalance -78%

shutdownnonessentialsystems

"Twilight might have few choice words for YOU when she finds out you broke her toy," Celestia snickers.

Luna leans closer and knocks on my neck several times.

"I... don't think it's broken. It's still buzzing inside."

restructure processes and commands

new method; full word association

overload 41%

damage 75%

energy balance -34%

extrapolate Icy Gaze; threat level

extrapolate Icy Gaze; threat reason

vocalize

My voice is much weaker than before.

"Icy Gaze. Threat level - minimal. Primary objective - escape the area. Threat reason - reciprocity for denial of freedom. No other solution found."

Luna's smile grows wide as she puts a hoof to her mouth.

"Pretty good. That's basically what we thought of without any information. Will you hazard a guess where he might be going?"

action Icy Gaze; replay previous encounters

find locations

"Places - Crystal Empire, warship, Griffon Empire, mirror world. Most probable match - Griffon Empire."

"Sister?" Luna turns to Celestia.

"That is... a possibility. Somepony trying to get out of our jurisdiction would flee there, especially a mercenary with enough experience with living there. It just feels too obvious."

"Got a better idea?"

"Not really. I'll send a message to every port and airship transport base about him. As for you, Dawn," Celestia frowns, "You are temporarily dismissed from the Royal Guard and you are to stay in Canterlot until further notice. Any transgression against those terms will result in your imprisonment."

"So... I'm free?" Dawn gasps.

"Consider this a house arrest, only it's a city instead of a house. You will still perform your duties here in the castle, at least those unrelated to the Guard. Now leave, I have something to discuss with my sister."

Dawn rushes out of the room, hoping she wouldn't wake up any second.

"That is very charitable of you," says Luna and mumbles to herself.

"I see no real point in torturing the silly girl. Icy took an advantage of her and that's that. I know her and she's not an evil individual by any stretch of imagination."

"You are too kind, Celly."

add alias; Celestia

"That's why I trust you to cover my back, Luna. Well, I have to go deal with the usual cryfillies of the day court."

"Blueblood again?"

"He's still trying to make it so earthpony servants get half the pay of unicorns and pegasi because they can't fly or use magic. Fortunately, he doesn't possess the mental capabilities of a stunned crayfish so he can't succeed."

"He's an idiot but a scheming idiot with loads of money. I would be more careful, sister."

"I trust you with my security completely, Luna."

"Well, have fun then. I'll stay here with-"

"No bucking the robot or I'll tell Twilight!"

"I am hurt, sister, HURT that you might even suggest that such impure thought as much as grazed the corners of my mind."

"Luna, I might not be able to detect lies like you do but your overacting is worse than anything I've seen in the Canterlot opera house this winter... aside from Changeling Invasion on ice, that was pretty epic."

"Wait, you saw that already? Don't spoil stuff for me!"

"I'm not going to. Let's just say I saw the premiere with Chrysalis and she actually complimented the actor playing her and told her that she'd send a changeling to perform whatever twisted fantasy the lady might desire."

"In that sort of detail?"

"In much clearer detail. I must admit the five minutes of those two talking taught me more about changeling anatomy than Twilight's research ever did."

"Ugh, just go! I promise not to abuse the clockwork soldier."

Celestia rolls her eyes and leaves with an annoyed grunt.

"Correction - my mechanical parts are not powered by means of clockwork," I explain, "Also, my weapon proficiency is insignificant compared to an average soldier."

"It's just a figure of speech. Now that my sister is out of the picture," Luna leans to my ear and whispers, "Follow Dawn! I'm not sure the filly will think clearly about the pony who took advantage of her in bed. Make sure she's okay during her suspension. Oh, and grab yourself a cloak somewhere. You don't want to pull unnecessary attention towards yourself."

add objective; protect Dawn

add objective; find a cloak

search cloak

error: not enough information

"Objectives accepted. Where is a cloak?"

"Right here."

thaumic interference detected

analysis creation, transportation

result unknown; not enough information, no previous encounters

A dark blue cloak appears in a flash of blue light and I put it on.

"Excessive size."

"It's not too big and it will help cover you better that way. It's one of my own so make sure you don't lose it. Anything else?"

overview objective parameters

analysis threats; potential

result attack, target not found

precautions none; weapon proficiency too low

"Where is Dawn?" I ask based on the possibilities.

"That's up to you to find out, mister machine," Luna grins.

thaumic interference detected

analysis invisibility, transportation, sensory dampening

no non-ocular sensors activated

result transportation, sensory dampening

look around

result no traces found, door closed

result

error: too many arguments

...

...

...

improve command structure... success

thaumic interference analysis: transportation

overload 73%

damage 64%

energy balance -15%

overview: less energy required to solve critical power spikes, less damage taken

"Dawn," I mumble to myself and wonder why. There was no reason to vocalize the... thought.

Leaving the room, I trot to the main entrance from where I might have clear line of sight on anypony leaving the castle.

scanning... target not found

search Dawn; residence not found

action Dawn; replay previous encounters

result residence away from Canterlot castle

load Canterlot city map

calculate shortest route from Canterlot castle to Canterlot city; earthpony

run

The shortest route to the city through castle gardens means running through Guard training grounds, currently filled with ponies sweating even in the cold of late morning.

add entry guard training schedule

add note timestamp; end of morning practice

Jumping over the railings marking different practice areas, I keep sight of the slightly winding cobblestone road leading from the castle entrance towards the city.

error reaching target prevented

under attack

damage sustained 1%

damage 65%

balance correction... failed

The pony who stopped my running is standing on his hind legs with one of them pressing me into the stomped snow.

"What are you doing, scaring my recruits?" he asks, long staff that hit me mid-air still held in his front legs.

scanning

add database entry

species: earthpony / m

primary color: white

secondary color: blue

cutie mark: img_972_brokenStaff

standing: hostile

threat level: high

name: N/A

status: royal guard

measurements: N/A

saving 3d model... success

damage type: physical(high)

notes: high strength, endurance, reflexes; recruit trainer

"Following target. Name - Dawn. Species - earthpony. Color - brown. Objective source - princess Luna."

The earthpony raises an eyebrow and returns back to all fours, shoving his weapon back on his back.

action attacker; unregistered facial expression

set standing unfriendly

weapon used quarterstaff; steel

saving weapon measurements... success

balance correction... success

Back on my legs, I look in the direction of Canterlot city.

"You're in luck... what's your name?"

"No designation found."

"Too bad. Well, the pony you described took the road to Canterlot not even five minutes ago."

anomaly detected

analysis anomaly; rapid change in energy status

overload 15%

energy balance +20%

result processing difficulty diminished

extrapolate anomaly; reason

material analysis

result high conductivity, temperature difference

unused processing time 49%

prediction faster processing, hindered movement

!warning! movement required to keep internal temperature from falling

I stomp the rime on the ground.

"Thank you-"

analysis attacker; vocal pattern

replay all conversations

overload 0%

energy balance -5%

I... must use the cold weather to improve while I can. I can also use this opportunity to raise standing with... befriend the earthpony.

"-Name request. Who. Are. You. Who are you?"

input earthpony; amusement

action none

action request

"Am I amusing? Is the situation amusing?" I ask, tilting my head.

"They say it's rude to ask one's name without providing your first."

save behavior pattern

input earthpony; offended

"Apology. I am sorry."

"No harm done, my mechanical friend. You can't help not having a name. When you have one I'll tell you mine. For now, shouldn't you be fulfilling princess Luna's wish?"

situation analysis incorrect

set standing friendly

"Timeframe sufficient to... I can get to her in time."

"Good luck then."

search luck

"Operation parameters are within reach. I do not need luck."

"You never know what's going to happen."

analysis objective threats; potential

result target not found, attack

analysis attack

result physical, thaumic, elemental

analysis physical

result...

!warning! too many variables

"You are correct. Luck accepted."

input earthpony; laughter

action vocalize

"Is the situation amusing?" I repeat.

"Your speech pattern is... quite unusual."

run syntax analysis

!warning! not enough processing power

recalculate parameters; temperature

no errors found

run syntax analysis

"Thank you for your concern. There is high probability I will succeed but I am grateful for your wish."

The earthpony whistles and bows.

"That was quite something but with every word Dawn gets further away from you."

"I will be going."

Once again I head towards Canterlot city before the temperature becomes a problem.

analysis objective threats; potential

discard numerical probabilities

...

...

...

scenarios found

emergent pattern imagination

extrapolate solutions; scenarios

Balancing on four legs takes very little power now despite the slippery surface so I can allocate resources towards finding possible obstacles.

input target found

action follow, protect

scanning for threats...

Dawn is slowly walking through the town, head hung low and sniffing from time to time. She doesn't seem to be walking anywhere specific but I think her most probable target is her apartment. That prediction shatters when she enters a completely different estabilishment with writing right above the simple entrance.

analysis building

add name; Sole Regret

load Canterlot city map

add type; tavern, bar

Sole Regret is a single-room bar which is open and full even at this early hour. It looks like any other bar should with the exception of a large noticeboard hanging on one side of the room, being examined by scraggy ponies.

save 3d models

analysis delay

The entire room is decorated with wooden inlay and gas lamps on the walls, making the yellow light soften the features of the scarred and well-armed ponies all around.

analysis ponies

result soldiers, guards, mercenaries

no legal insignia found

non-standard weapons found

result mercenaries

threat level critical

I don't want to be here but Dawn must be safe from harm so I have no choice. She's currently talking to a pony cleaning, or possibly dirtying, a glass with a piece of cloth usable as a biological weapon.

activate long range sensors

engage distortion dampening

"Have you seen a white pegasus with blonde mane recently?" asks Dawn, drumming her hoof on a barstool.

"Can't say I have," grunts the bartender.

"Tall guy, handsome for a mercenary, cutie mark of a chess rook, huge wings."

"Honey, most of my customers value their privacy. As far as they are concerned I'm blind as a bat."

danger

"I CAN MAKE SURE YOU ARE!" yells Dawn, snatches the glass the bartender was holding, and rams it into the counter, leaving only the handle and a sharp mess of shards pointed at the him, "That bucker lied to me and now I'm under arrest thanks to him. I WANT to know where he is!"

situation Dawn; wrong situation analysis

action leave stealth

vocalize

"That is not correct."

"HUH?" Dawn turns to me.

set standing unfriendly

"Your previous interactions indicated Icy Gaze was not lying-"

analysis Icy Gaze; conversations

"-about anything other than the subject of pictures of me."

"Listen to your friend, girl," says the bartender, "Whoever or whatever he is."

"Where. Is. He?" Dawn ignores me and growls, putting the broken glass to his neck.

objective under attack

analysis projectile

The glass in Dawn's hoof shatters when hit by a perfectly aimed crossbow bolt. Jumping between her and the attacker, I position myself to protect her against more shots.

None come.

analysis situation

attacker pony

target Dawn

scanning

add database entry

species: unicorn / M

primary color: grey

secondary color: black

cutie mark: N/A

standing: hostile

threat Level: high

name: N/A

status: mercenary

measurements: N/A

saving 3d model... success

damage type: physical(above average), thaumic(unknown)

notes:

"That was a warning shot, girl," the unicorn reloads his levitating crossbow, "We don't take kindly to somepony threatening our bartender."

Dawn just stands there, bleeding hoof raised to her face, both cut by the shattering glass. Suddenly, she whimpers, breathing heavily, and her legs start shaking.

analysis Dawn; status

result minor damage, shock

action protect

Dawn must stay unharmed no matter the cost, Luna's orders.

situation combat

enemy attack pattern - projectile ranged weapon, slow

counterstrategy - ranged weapons ineffective in close combat

calculating path... success

I charge the unicorn in a straight line to get to him as fast as possible in order to negate his ranged advantage before he reloads.

error: movement prevented

reason thrown chair

balance correction... success

I kick away the piece of furniture and land on all fours successfully.

enemy attack

weapon hoof; physical; punch

damage sustained 0%

damage 64%

"Ow!" the unicorn shakes his hoof, "He's made of iron or something. Gimme a hoof here, guys."

search attack pattern

found one unarmed

found one quarterstaff

attack unicorn; imitated pattern

The cracking of bones silences all other sound in the bar as the unicorn's blood splatters all around under the punch of my steel hoof.

analysis unicorn; status

result stunned

vocalize

"Dawn must stay unharmed," I proclaim, "princess L-"

error: unexpected movement

reason blunt object hit

balance correction... failed

new enemy found

damage sustained 23%

damage 87%

error: status critical

"You bucker!" curses a large earthpony with an even larger warhammer, "You think you can just walk to our bar and start causing trouble, eh?"

overload 12%

energy balance -12%

energy reserves 15%

load energy reserve management history

situation earthpony; wrong situation analysis

action explain

vocalize

"Dawn was under attack. I was tasked to protect her," I say, each word draining me more and more.

There is the problem, all the improvements to my internal programming kept draining my reserves and the few short moments where my energy balance was positive were not enough to replenish it. Also, I haven't eaten anything since my awakening... an apparent mistake.

add self; note explore nutritional values of various food

"Hey, leave him alone!" squeaks Dawn shakily and walks towards us.

balance correction... success

"Heh, I've heard about mares with mechanical lovers but this is too much," the earthpony snorts.

"No lover," I correct him, "Caretaker."

"Well, on the scrap heap you go," he raises his warhammer again.

"Damaging government property is a serious crime, mister I-don't-give-a-buck-who-you-are."

new subject found

scanning

database entry found

species: changeling / x

primary color: black

secondary color: dark blue

cutie mark: N/A

standing: neutral

threat Level: very high

name: Three

status: recruit, ambassador

measurements: N/A

saving 3d model... success

damage type: physical(very high), racial(specific)

notes: Nightmare changeling, observing Royal Guard training practice

"Celestia help me," the earthpony spits out before lowering his weapon, "a bug in the Guard."

"Exactly, now put your weapon away before I take it away!"

"Thanks, Three!" Dawn smiles.

"And you shut up! You're in enough trouble already even without breaking the robot. Why the hay are you even here?"

"I-" Dawn starts.

"I wasn't asking you, I heard your stupid outburst. I was asking the robot."

"Objective - protect Dawn. Source - princess Luna."

"Well, back to the castle we-"

insufficient optical sensor speed

situation combat

attacker Three

target earthpony

end combat

result enemy disarmed

I can only catch the blur as Three moves and the blue shower of sparks as the claws on her front hoof return back to hoof shape.

Half of the earthpony's warhammer clinks on the floor while he stares at the piece of wooden handle in his hooves.

"-go," ends Three calmly.

"Hahaha she got you good, friend!" somepony bursts out laughing and other join soon after.

We follow Three out of Sole Regret accompanied by the snickering of other mercenaries and the angry grumbling of the disarmed one.

"So let me get this right. You walked into a bar full of armed and very experienced ponies, threatened to slit the throat of the source of their liquid joy, and then threatened precious new invention by NOT walking away immediately?" princess Luna facehoofs.

"I wasn't thinking," Dawn sighs.

"Yeah, that pretty much sums it up," Luna turns to me, "And you are no better!"

"Followed objective."

"In the worst way possible. Your best bet was smash Dawn over the head with something and then drag her back here, not try to fight somepony infinitely better."

"Wrong strategy selected."

"You don't say..."

"Insufficient combat proficiency."

New objective - improve spatial awareness

New objective - increase combat effeiciency

Princess Luna grins evilly.

"Exactly-"

error 666: Nightmare Moon returned

solution self destruct

5

4

3

2

"-and I believe you need some practice. In the same way Dawn needs to pull her head out of her rump and focus on something different than the self-pity from being outsmarted by her own libido."

self destruct aborted

"But he-" Dawn objects.

"Has enough experience in manipulating mares from what I read in the report given to me after the incident in Ponyville which sent him here. Now, since you're suspended at the moment and thus apparently have enough free time to get yourself almost killed I believe you could use that time to improve yourself instead. Same goes for the walking paperweight here. Seeing that Dawn is an earthpony and as such is restricted to polearm recruit training and that robopony here has hooves of steel I think I can arrange you some time with one of my special subordinates who also serves in the Royal Guard and is an expert at both styles."

"Who is he?" asks Dawn, the prospect of bleak future hanging on her every word.

"Heavy Hoof."

"No database entry found-"

...awkward speech pattern...

For some reason it... feels important to correct myself, to speak like ponies do instead of just being as efficient as possible.

"-I do not know him."

"Heh, Twilight gave you the information about important figures but I wanted some of my closer agents to stay secret. Your first objective will be to find him."

"Could you be a little more specific, your Highness?" Dawn rolls her eyes.

"Yes, I could. I could also tell my sister what you did. What light would that cast on your dear mother, Dawn, hmmm?"

"I'm sorry," she mumbles.

"Canterlot, that's the only clue you'll get. To be honest, it's not THAT difficult." Luna stands up, "Dismissed."

"That sucks," Dawn groans when we're out of earshot.

"No air flow detected."

"That... had to be a joke, right?"

I just walk through the dungeon corridors without an answer. I don't have one.

"Right?" Dawn asks again.

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