Heart Of Black Ice

White: Beep Boop

Canterlot, the city of white spires, chivalry, class, and politics. The seat of all power in Equestria wrapped in white marble, gold inlay decorating every surface, and with two gems more radiant than anything hiding in the depths of the land - the alicorn princesses. While the ponies inhabiting this glorious city might vary in having been born with wings, light bones, and the ability to control weather or having a horn on their head reflecting their skill in manipulating the fabric of the universe by force of will or even not having been blessed with either of those but instead with stamina and strength the previous two kinds have to admire despite their endowments, the princesses combine the peak traits of all those into the beauty of Night and Day ponified.

In the plain, secure interrogation room of Canterlot castle there's more than the two though. The newly appointed princess Twilight Sparkle is currently looking at the strange pony-like construction lying on the metal table in the middle of the room, lamps and lights casting their rays straight at it.

LOADING BASE DATABASE VALUES... success

"I must admit it looks creepy. Magistrate Twilight's husks freak me out every time she visits. Thankfully, she's considerate enough to come with just one these days. Mirror world technology is fairly strange in places. Hey, it's looking at me!"

Species: Alicorn / F

Color: White

Cutie Mark: img_01_sun

Standing: Neutral

Threat Level: High

Name: Celestia

Status: Royalty

Measurements: N/A

SAVING MEASUREMENTS... success

Damage Type: Physical(average) / Thaumic(minor) / Heat(high)

Notes: Loves cake; Hates exercise;

"You activated it?" the purple alicorn princess grinds her teeth, "I left a card here that distinctly said 'NO TOUCHING'."

Species: Alicorn / F

ERROR 138: Database entry inconsistent with sensory input

CORRECTING... success

Species: Ascended Unicorn

Color: Lavender

Cutie Mark: img_04_stars

Standing: Friendly

Threat Level: Low

Name: Twilight Sparkle

Status: Creator

Measurements: N/A

SAVING MEASUREMENTS... success

Damage Type: Physical(insignificant) / Thaumic(minor)

Notes: Smartest princess; Scared of outside;

"I just poked it to see what it was made from," the third alicorn raises her hooves defensively at the growling of princess Twilight, "I didn't push any button or whatnot."

Species: Alicorn / F

Color: Dark blue

Cutie Mark: img_02_moon

Standing: Unfriendly

Threat Level: Unknown

Name: Luna

Status: Royalty

Measurements: N/A

SAVING MEASUREMENTS... success

Damage Type: Physical(low) / Thaumic(extreme)

Notes: Shut-in; Single foreveeeer;

ERROR 3: Database entry grammar error

CORRECTING... success

Notes: Shut-in; Single forever;

"There is NO button!" Twilight facehoofs, "I set it up to start at the touch of a horn. It's not supposed to turn off, ever, unless destroyed. Why were you poking it with your horn, Luna?"

ADJUSTING SENSORS

ROTATING FIELD OF VIEW x:+30 y:+19

FOCUS

"Eeek! It looked at me," princess Celestia jumps, staring into the two black ovals imitating pony eyes in which blue segmented circles appeared and moved while aiming her, "Why is it looking at me? I didn't do anything."

"What would you do when you woke up for the first time with head full of data but no connections between most of it? It's just looking around and measuring everything," Twilight rolls her eyes at the surprising incompetence of her mentor with technology, "There's no need to be worried, it's not dangerous. Not at the moment at least."

ROTATING FIELD OF VIEW x:-80 y:-5

FOCUS

"I believed you, Twilight," princess Luna steps away from the thing lying on the steel table, "right until the point you said that and it looked at me. What is it anyway?"

FOCUS entity:creator

"That might be a bit difficult to explain," Twilight sratches her head, "When I first saw mirror world husks I returned to a little project of mine I was working on some time ago. I had all the data ready but there was no real technology able to hold it and work through it with any sort of necessary speed, not until mirror Twilight agreed to share some of the husk blueprints with me. With the mirror world alloy smelting and steel layering methods I found a blacksmith here able to make the chassis and added some improvements myself."

Twilight ends with a triumphant smile of somepony succeeding in something nopony has ever done before.

"Tell me, Twilight," princess Celestia looks at her student disapprovingly, "What prisoner did you sacrifice without my permission to make this... thing?"

"No no no no, princess!" Twilight looks as if Celestia slapped her, "This is a PI, not a real husk mirror Twilight uses. It was much more expensive and complicated to make but I didn't have to sacrifice some poor soul."

"PI?" princess Luna finally breaks the stare cast on the thing on the table. No matter how much it looks like a pony, strange, metallic pony, she can't summon any sort of affection she carries even for the darkest of her subjects.

"Ponificial Intelligence," Twilight smiles widely.

"Artificial would have sufficed," princess Celestia's eyes go wide, "and you succeeded?"

Twilight blushes.

"I wanted to mark it as a pony achievement, thus ponificial, and while I would love to say I succeeded I honestly have no clue, princess. The theory is there and the vessel seems to be working, at least partially, but it's too early to say whether it can actually learn and evolve like it should or to at least guess how far it can go. Plus, it's my favourite number and food at the same time."

A short knock on the door of the room is followed by a pony stepping inside.

Species: Thestral / F

Primary Color: Black

Secondary Color: Red

ERROR 341: Physical anomaly detected

ADD ENTRY left wing; closestApproximateType phoenix

ADD ENTRY right wing; closestApproximateType N/A

ADD APPROXIMATION thaumic

CORRECTING... success

Cutie Mark: img_635_darkDot

Standing: Neutral

Threat Level: Below average

Name: N/A

Status: Nightguard

Measurements: N/A

SAVING MEASUREMENTS... success

Damage Type: Physical(medium) / Thaumic(minor)

Notes: N/A

ADD ENTRY: batpony; magical influence changed physical form;

"Sorry to interrupt, princess, but I'm leaving for two weeks so here is a list of those fit to temporarily take my place," she pulls out a scroll and gives it to Luna.

"Enjoy yourself, you deserve it."

"Well, it would be easier if there were just the two of us but Crom is going as well to be our guide in the Griffon Empire. If I don't work my charms as hard as I can I might end up with a clopbot like you here. See you after my vacation," the batpony salutes and leaves.

The two princesses look at Twilight who starts whistling innocently.

SEARCH clopbot

"Clopbot?" Celestia asks and covers her mouth.

"That's not what it is!" Twilight objects.

"It certainly doesn't look like one," Luna supports Twilight.

Under Celestia's withering gaze both of them realize they've admitted a familiarity with something they probably shouldn't have.

INPUT Approach; subject Celestia

ACTION Bow

"At least it's polite," mumbles Celestia while examining the sleek form in front of her, moving steel hooves and surprisingly flexible limbs with her magic before turning back to Twilight, "First of all - congratulations on making this, well, him... most certainly him."

INPUT Examination; target pleasureAppendage

ACTION Free line of sight

All three princesses focus on the robopony sitting on his rump and spreading his hind legs, or more likely on what's between those legs.

"Twilight?" Celestia scrunches her muzzle.

"Well, I, you know... Heart's Warming is coming and the new library is so big and empty."

"Just find a stallion like everypony else, not an experiment! Not to mention that after this thing is done with you you'll also feel big and empty."

"Sister!" Luna objects indignantly while Twilight coughs, face on fire.

"That goes for you as well. Don't think I didn't see you smack your lips when I pulled it- him up," Celestia shifts her searing gaze at her, "Besides, I have seen battering rams smaller than that."

INPUT Discomfort; subject Celestia

ACTION Retract; target pleasureAppendage

"See," Luna scowls at Celestia, "now you've gone and scared him."

"What? It's not like he can feel anything."

"Actually," Twilight stomps the floor lightly, "a PI should learn like anypony else. It's not a machine that just reacts to the input vie predetermined patterns so everything you say or do will affect him in some way. I can't say how deep his reactions can go into the feeling territory but... hmmm, one second."

"Does he accept orders?" Luna asks.

"From us, yes. From anypony else, I doubt it since the social structure can't have developed yet," Twilight looks directly at her creation. His basic shape is a pony, smaller than an average unicorn stallion. The body consists of grey, metal plating with strange twisted cables underneath sometimes peeking out where knees would be and where pony body bends in a way metal itself wouldn't. With the hardness of the plating there is no need for large size so the slim mare-like frame suits the image of a panther prowling in tall grass the machine evokes. The sharp teeth and hooves with retractable talons prove Twilight's creation is more than just a companion for lonely ponies.

"Hmmm," Celestia leans closer-

INPUT Examination; target primaryMagicalFocus

ACTION None

-and touches the steel horn on the machine's head, "I thought husks had a single piece of crystal in the forehead."

"Those are very vulnerable. I made a replica of a horn, etched a spiral on it and filled it with the ground-up crystal mirror world engineers use, Cadance sent me some supplies. The downside was that I had to include the magic dampening capability in the cables serving as muscles, making them take forever to craft."

"Magic dampening?"

"Yes, I... persuaded Mistake to assist me in some experiments."

"How?" Luna asks sternly, "I don't wish to put the young stallion through more than he's gone through already."

"Ehm, I said the crown would pay for a vacation for two ponies and a griffon in full. Plus, the ocular sensory research I had to do in order to make this guy work might serve as a way to restore his sight. He agreed, well, his lady did and I managed to replicate the way his ability works... to a certain extent."

"Twilight, I know you haven't faced Mistake but I have and I feel no desire for a second being with that ability to roam around."

"It's not like that. This guy can only absorb small amount of magic going his way and he can't use it in any way yet. I haven't even managed to make telekinesis work. The magic resistance is just there so a fireball doesn't inflict fatal damage immediately."

"Well," Celestia taps her hoof on the creation's head, recieving no reaction whatsoever, "What is it good for then, aside from the obvious Heart's Warming action you so heartily deny?"

Twilight thinks about the answer for quite a while.

"I... I don't know," she shrugs, "I just tried to create a working PI and a vessel that could host it effectively. I had to make the database and processing happen throughout the entire body-"

"So if he stubs his hoof he'll forget how to count?" Celestia chuckles.

"NO," Twilight waves her hooves furiously, "Not this one. This body has redundant systems and self-replicating-"

"This one?"

"The previous body had a little accident. Spike dropped a book on his head and the machine forgot how to breathe and died."

"A machine needing to breathe?"

"Yes, see the cables under the steel plating? Those are the really interesting stuff. They are tough, work like muscles which means he doesn't need any motors, transfer information and work as a brain at the same time. They also can grow and diminish depending on their use."

"Great," Celestia snorts, "A robot that can get fat."

"If I wanted a machine I could have built it. I don't know what he can do and what he can grow into, that's where the fun is."

"Fine. Will he just sit there or will he do something?"

"I," Twilight starts and stops, having no clue how to answer, "don't know."

INPUT Hoof waving; subject creator

ACTION Keep in sight

"Can you speak?" asks Luna.

"Engage vocal output," Twilight orders.

"Partial-"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, MY EARS!"

ADJUST VOLUME -60%

"Partial or full?" says a raspy voice.

"Partial," answers Twilight and looks at Luna, "That's just speaking. Full vocalizes even the commands going on inside."

"What's your name?" Luna asks the sitting robopony.

Nothing happens.

"Eeerm," the clockwork in Twilight's head goes into overdrive, "I think... I think he doesn't have any sense of self, maybe? He's not a machine so to give him an input directly you would have to tap into his head, well, mind. At least any input outside of a built-in command."

"Into a leg, you say?" Celestia chuckles, puts her hoof under the robot's chin, forcing him to look at her, and taps on his head, "You are you. Whatever is occupying this meshwork of steel and half-alive cables is you. When somepony talks while looking at you they are talking to you, understood?"

INPUT Vocal

ACTION N/A

PROCESSING...

ACTION Emergent process

"Yes," I answer.

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