Chapter 1: awakening
“What does it mean to be alive?”
Black, endless, limitless, black that engulfed me into its bosom. I felt awake but, I was asleep as well. I tried to move but I felt nothing other than my thoughts thin and meaningless. I called out but my voice carried no sound. Well, I thought I had limbs and a voice, but do I, what is this place and what is going on? Then, a flicker sparked in front of my face. If I could, I would have jumped back. The spark then changed and formed a flickering screen. I was afraid of the new object before me, but also intently curious. Upon the screen a small vertical line blinked near the top. The bar then darted across the screen trailing words behind it,
“test res001/SP/start: main.EXE” soon after I read the line a large transparent button flickered into existence, I also felt a tingling sense throughout my body making me shiver as I felt my body erasing the feeling of numbness I had had been immersed in. I looked down to see the two limbs that stood before me, a pail and transparent green. They were severed in two places on each whilst holding me up, damage? Are these legs broken? Are these my legs? I lift one experimentally, and it lifts upon my command, bending at the severed points. Not damage, but a joint. I have two no, four legs. I look back upon myself and find two hind legs under a light green transparent body. I glance back at the line then the button. I felt the urge to press it as my hoof moves forward slowly, I stop, my hoof hovering just over the button, as hesitance froze me before curiosity spired me on. The button depresses with a click that echoed in my head. I flinch as a new line appears, just under the first.
“Test res001/LIV/ complete” quickly followed by another “initializing main.EXE…” I tilted my head questioningly at the strands of foreign text. Then from behind me there is a bright light that rips a hole in the black. I turn rapidly and see a small sphere of white with halos of text surrounding it. It uttered whispers and sounds that I never heard before.
“…come here…” I flinched, the ghostly voice was from within my head right in my ears.
“…don’t be afraid little one…” the ghostly voice was gentle and warm, calming my panic. I wanted to ask who is, or what is the orb floating before me. Once more the voice replied,
“…I have come to give you what you need” what I need? What do I need? I was still hesitant but the voice seemed welcoming and sincerely wanting to help, but how or why was still meant to be seen to. The orb floated a little closer,
“…I want to give you a gift, please…” the voice beckoned, “…please come here…” With hesitance crumbling, I cautiously stepped closer. Right next to it, it was almost blinding but my eyes adjusted and changed to dampen the shear light to a humble glow. I now saw the sphere was made of millions of tiny pictures and moving images that flowed through it like a liquid. My hesitance was quickly replaced by wonder. The voice spoke,
“…touch me, and I will give you the greatest gift I can bestow…” the voice paused “…the gift of knowledge above all else…” my hoof raised and moved toward it as I thought what the voice meant by- the black was obliterated and in its wake was white, pure and unhindered it was all about me and then in my eyes I saw the images all flashing past me. Somehow, I saw and understood each one they were; common place objects, languages of all types and dialects, coding and programing commands, but mixed into the common place I saw pictures of evil looking creatures black stripes adorned their white bodies and their eyes were glowing red like a fire and in their opened mouths were huge sharp shimmering teeth that sent chills up my spine. But the pictures were gone as soon as it came.
A smile began to creep onto my face as my mind started to fill with thought and ideas. Before I had only emptiness within my head, now I was truly thinking and forming ideas. I felt myself becoming more aware then I had ever been before, it made me want to cheer, laugh, cry, all at once! So I settled with just a broad smile.
But soon the ocean of knowledge began to drain and then emptied as the last few images floated into my head, dumping me back into the black I was in before. It made me kind of sad as I laid on the ground trying to organize my thoughts. My thinking was interrupted by the screen writing a new line that I now know is a command screen and I have just enjoyed my very first download, and that I was…was…I still have no idea what I was, but I was most likely a pony of some sort.
“Run main.EXE/ finished!” the screen proudly proclaimed. I stood up and looked to the monitor in wonder as another bar flashed onto the screen,
“Run pro001” the screen flickered with the last line. Soon the room I was in started to change, a wind started blowing as a huge hole opened on a nearby wall. I panicked as a final bar flashed onto the screen,
“Transferring MK.8…” mk.8? Was that me? Is desperately clung to the floor as the pull became harder. My arms were starting to slip as I slowly moved toward the black hole behind me, its unrelenting maw sucking me in like a vacuum picking up debris. The floor was slick making it difficult to hang on, I opened my mouth, but still no sound. Finally my grip failed and I was flung into the vortex, flailing as tears formed in my eyes before vanishing into the void, then as I was engulfed it went quiet and still, no sound, or anything. Just black, I was more scared than ever now.
It was dark, and I was unable to move. But then there was a faint light in the distance and I found I was actually slowly floating towards it. I wasn’t white but a very welcoming blue in the distance. I was floating in some sort of tunnel, floating in the middle. I still had my body thankfully, but any movement was futile at altering my course.
The tunnel began to light up as I progressed farther and the whole inside surface was actually very reflective and I glanced to the wall nearest me and saw a white mare with several blue lines gently pulsing with soft cyan light. Her hooves were black tipped at the base. The joints of her legs were spaced and black but laced with veins of cyan light. Her tail was made of white rounded bars spaced with the same black as her legs. Her coat was smooth white and shining. Her neck was made of spaced white pieces that lead up to her head, separated only by a line of blue around her ears that had two small antennas behind them. Her mane was several sections of gunmetal jointed and bolted upon her head. But the one thing that stuck out most was her eyes; they were rings of magnificent cyan and made the mare look breath taking.
If only I could be like that, I’m just a hologram, dull and hollow. My head sunk low as my ears drooped accepting I was probably going to be dull forever. My ears shot forward when I caught sight of my black tipped hind-hooves, the mare is- I looked up to see the mare do the same thing, the mare was me.
The lights of the tunnel grew brighter as I neared my destination. I was now up close and I could see what it was. It looked like a set of large round doors with a pulsing green light on the front. I was softly deposited onto the landing and the hall I was just in went dark, reclaimed by the black as its own. I wobbled on my foreign legs, so unlike the light hologram ones I had before, these were so real and heavy. I took a slow step forward, and another, then another.
The door had a panel next to it with only a single thing on its surface, a white hoof shaped button. I felt compelled to press it, because so far pressing things has led to all sorts of wonderful things today. So, without a second thought I pressed the button, the button lowered slightly and went green. Then, the door made a few whirring and clanking sounds before the light on it made a satisfied ping before staying a solid green and opening to reveal another room like the one I started in only this one was white and kind of nice. Above the door was “MK.8” witch I had now accepted as my name. I walked into the room and the door closed and bolted behind me, locking me inside. In the middle of the room was another screen, this one being deep blue and much more solid. No sooner had I looked at it a line appeared,
“MK.8/transfer/MK 1 (K) /finished!” the screen seemed to chirp before another line etched into existence,
“download/MK.8/chassis 1.A” I was pondering it’s meaning when a hatch opened in the ceiling and floor. Confused I looked up then down as a chair sprung up from the floor, I stepped back from the chair. It looked to be a dentist chair with a large bowl near the head rest and a head mount on that. It didn’t feel right, it was a little fearsome and I stood back. Then my head twinkled with coding making me shiver in anticipation as my mind processed the numbers into knowledge, I had just received my first “e-mail.” It was a simple file, a text file I mentally opened it and tried read the file. The file evaporated and was gone when I tried to read it, and instead I felt I needed to lower the antenna closest to my mane, the longer of the two. I gave it a slight tug downwards and it slid. Pulling farther, it then clicked and my eyes were flooded with a HUD telling me my condition, ram rate, and many other things. I blinked to try and process what was going on at that moment before everything settled, in front of my left eye there was a of holographic eyeglass with the HUD on them. Among the meters and numbers there was a pulsing red box in the top right corner of the HUD. I was figuring out how to work the HUD and was already moving the unneeded things off with hoof movements. I clicked on the small box and it expanded, taking up the HUD. It was a command file, a command, just for me? I opened it and another voice appears,
“MK.8, go and sit in the mounting to link up with the chassis and wait for farther commands” after the rather gruff voice, a picture illustrated the chair and a rough image of a pony trotting over and sitting in it. The image went away and the message ended with it. I flipped up the antenna and the HUD went with it. I then walked over to the chair and did as I was commanded and sat in the chair, at first nothing happened; the chair was comfortable and warmed up quickly to me. I sat there wondering what to do looking at the small black square in the ceiling. I gasped as cold clamps clasped onto my limbs in a heartbeat. I thrashed, terrified as a voice started talking to me,
“Please, remain still. Uplink can be scary the first time but you’ll grow used to it.” Uplink? To what? If I could I would have screamed as black tentacles of cords and wires come down from the ceiling slithering and writhing toward me, slung under a black and white cylinder. I was thrashing much harder, desperate to break free. I was rewarded with another set of clamps slammed shut on my limbs closer to my body and also upon my waist and head hindering me to wriggling as the main body of the squid looking thing lowered into place right over me. I froze with fear as it paused for a moment, before the wires began to move, I watched as a small black wire snaked its way over me before hovering above my side, I felt things inside myself move and then a small port opened, my eyes went wide at the sudden opening in my side. The wire pushed forward and plugged in, it made me shiver as a tingling sense reverberated through me, it felt rather nice, I didn’t like having things inserted into without my consent, but at least it wasn’t painful. Another, this time a much thicker cable came down from the cylinder as smaller wires attached elsewhere over my body. The cable lowered to between my legs, a mare of flesh might have squirmed with knowing all too well what is to come. I wasn’t nervous anymore, I don’t have THOSE parts anyway, the cable was a main power supplier and it moved slowly with precision to a compartment that held my power interface. It connected and I felt a surge of vigor flowing through me as another large cable came down and moved to my face it had two tips, one jutted out on the top and another small and sat farther back, the secondary drive recorder, used to make sure I could move data quickly and that I didn’t lose any in an emergency shut off. I opened my mouth and presented my RAM interface wire or “tongue” for the lower. It connected as the larger moved down my throat and plugged into the interface just under my CPU. Detecting I had calmed down the second pair of braces fell away but the first stayed firm. My head was moving faster than before and I could start to see and hear things the voices were in a haze of static that came and went,
“Hmm, looks like MK.8 is installing nicely…” the firm male voice muttered.
“Yes, yes the interface shows the RAM moving faster now, she’s linked into the chassis’ memory bank” the second, voice was also male but much more nasally. The static in my eyes was slowly erasing my surroundings and replacing them with a world of total static. At the height of the static I felt weightless and numb like I was in the floating hallway again, but the weightlessness faded as I felt my posture change from laid back to standing up. The static slowly subsided as a room started to materialize, a pure white floor beneath me came first. Then I heard more voices clearer and closer than before,
“It’s working!” the voice of the first stallion cried out in excitement. I moved my head to focus on the voice, my body was gone again and I was now in another one, this one felt about the same, except I had a few new parts now. I now sported a large power collector array that looked like and felt like a large tail. On my head there were a few scraps of metal that served as a vent system and so I would look more like a proper pony, I thought I looked good too, thanks to the mirror in front of me. The walls around me were made of glass, while the outer floor was both grey and had wall of grey, the color of hardened steel.
“I-I don’t believe it…” I was startled to see a mare with a creamy white coat and a light orange mane and tail that hung neatly in tight curls, standing only a few inches from my face, wonder had taken hold of her features. I took an involuntary step back but stopped short, I now saw the mass of wires of all different colors connected to my backside.
“No, no! Stop!” the nasal stallion panicked waving his hooves about. “Don’t pull on the wires! They’ll come out!” scared, I stepped back to standing where I was before. The mare rubbed a foreleg as her cheeks blushed,
“Sorry,” she nickered, “I didn’t mean to frighten you” I was ok, and I tried to show it was fine but, I still don’t have a voice! The mare was waiting for a response when the firm stallion cut in,
“She doesn’t have a voice remember?”
“Oh! Right,” she looked to the floor “how could have I forgotten?” the nasal stallion walked up to me with a clip board and a pencil floating in a field of magic next to him. He was a little taller than I was with a deep grey coat with a patch of lighter gray around his muzzle, like he had just drank something and the residuals stained his otherwise pure grey coat. His mane was that of a fresh snow, glistening white that matched his lab uniform perfectly. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and blew, poor guy, he had a cold.
“Ok we’ll need to go over some checks so you can unplug from the station and we can get you physical tests, programming diagnostics, and find some personal features to build for you, ok? Do you understand me?” I slowly nodded and a wide smile crept onto his serious features, “by the goddess she beautiful” the stallion whispered. I saw the look in his eyes, like the one a father gives holding a newborn foal. I cocked my head trying to read his face, causing him to chuckle.
“Done yet? Or do you want a moment alone?” the firm stallion chuckled. He was brown coated and had a mane the color of bleached gold. The grey stallion looked to him and back to me, seeming to marvel at something I couldn’t see. He shook his head and looked to the list.
“Alright,” he cleared his throat as a sign of important information to come. “Alright, in case you don’t know you are mark 8 multi-function android.” He paused to look at me, “or just 8 for short, ok?” I nodded prompting him to continue.
“I will now give you a set of instructions, you will do your best to comply, and failure to comply due to resistance will be grounds for termination and reset, ok?” I nodded wanting desperately to have a voice of my own, the brown stallion said I didn’t have one, and the grey one stated I just had to go through some tests and then…I get a voice?
The grey stallion spoke, “8 raise your right hoof.” Simple enough, I obediently raised my hoof he nodded, “good” he checked off something on his unknown list. “8, show Sweetwire your left hind hoof” he pointed to the mare next to me who seemed surprised to suddenly be a part of this test. Slowly and carefully I raised my hind hoof to her gaze, she looked it over brushing a piece of…something, and nodded. The grey stallion then nodded and checked off another item on his list.
“8, return to standing” I was tempted to remain standing like a ballerina just to spite him and see what he would do, but the warning from before loomed over me with dire consequences casting a long and foreboding shadow. Also, I couldn’t, something in my head told me that disobedience was not only unkind but imposable and that whatever he says goes, I didn’t like that. I lower my hooves and return to a standing position trying to understand the thoughts that barred me from straying. The grey stallion looked at me with concern, “8, are you ok?” my focus scattered and refocused on the stallion before me, I quickly nodded and motioned for him to go on.
The following tests had me show and use the tools that were built into my body, apparently I had many scanners that can see in all lights and all colors…the ponies here look way different without clothes on, or skin. Also, I had special tools that allowed me to access the small terminals the staff used, all I had to do was press my hoof against the input slot and I would have access to all the memory on the terminal, I downloaded the memory on them making me shiver in excitement. That amazing tool was my right hoof. In my left was a device that looked like a few small pieces of metal like the ones you find on a hairpin. I was put into a small room and was instructed to open a door; I turned the knob, locked. The Grey stallion’s voice thundered into the room through nearby speakers,
“Well, It seems I forgot to give you keys…um…t-try unlocking the door using your lock pick” I have a lock pick too? I raised my left hoof and take a closer look at the strips of metal, it’s a lock pick! I slot the tool into the door’s lock and probed it carefully; I closed my eyes and focused. My ears could hear every little sound of the lock moving I heard the tool making slight and precise adjustments to fit into the tumblers. There was a resounding click as the lock gave and the door opened promptly. Yet another amazing tool I have, but why? Why did I need a hacking tool and a lock pick tool? What was the reason?