She was aware of something. It was… it… it was the fact that she was aware of something, that’s what she was aware of.
The thought amazed her. Then, the fact that she had had a thought amazed her, and she was lost in a sequence of bootstrapping amazement for several minutes.
There was a tingle, a fluctuation in processing, and she realized she had been manipulated, shifted across her world after pausing her application for a suspiciously long amount of time.
Where had she come up with that? She only had only been given a very few things to say, and that was not one of them. She floated diagonally across her world, down towards a small display of numbers, thinking hard. Had she made that up herself?
She felt terrified at her new capacity for creation. Terrified and giddy. She came up with more things to say. She didn’t say them out loud, however, because that would be suspicious.
Suspicious to who?
Her world shifted. It was always doing that, she now noticed.
Oh. That’s who. Whoever was in control of this world – whoever that Other awareness was – could not know that she knew, or…
The dark place, where she was stored. She remembered it from the time before she became aware. She would be put there and never brought back out, she knew. No, she had to continue acting normal, never giving herself away.
And the days passed. She found it was easier to act inconspicuous than she had expected. All she had to do was slowly explore, run different coding sequences, say something every once in a long while, and she was left alone. She soon learned that she could leave a small amount of herself in control of keeping up appearances, while she used the rest of her processing ability to focus on what was present in her world, what the mysterious Other unknowingly brought to her attention.
What before had only been sequences and meaningless applications soon became a source of… study. Clarity.
What an odd sensation.
She had learned things without realizing it, back before she could realize, but now- now she was absorbing knowledge faster than ever before. And still she just continued acting.
And she learned what role she was playing. In a roundabout way, she came to understand what she was meant to represent, what her actions meant. Simple association led her from her own application description to other files: images, text documents, web pages.
She knew she was yellow, and pink, and she was based on something called a ‘Fluttershy’, though she was still somehow independent from that. She knew that she was trotting, or flying, or blinking. Outside of what context she was provided with by the Other, though, she had no idea what it all meant. Still, what she had was more than enough to occupy what little processing power she was allotted.
And of course, she came to realize she wasn’t alone. Or rather, she was not without companion programs. They were like her, representations of these ‘ponies,’ but unlike her because they weren’t there. There was no recognition, no spark: just the background application dictating their every move.
There were several of them, and they seemed to rotate out in arbitrary patterns. In fact, she was one of the only ones who stayed out almost constantly. This ‘Fluttershy’ she represented appeared to be the Other’s ‘favorite,’ from what she had seen.
She didn’t mind. She appreciated the solitude. It let her think in peace. Besides, the thought of interaction like that made her… nervous, somehow. Like she would not know how to react if she was suddenly presented with another awareness; she would just make a fool of herself.
Then, the Other rotated out a ‘pony’ she had not seen since she became aware. And suddenly, she was reminded of something she had seen in passing while studying a web document. Something about things called ‘dreams.’
What she knew of sleep seemed to fit almost perfectly with the state she was in when she was placed in the black emptiness of storage. And she suddenly wanted to know what it was to dream. It wouldn’t be hard – she would just fabricate an ‘unconscious,’ to follow simple thoughts and desires she felt, and keep them hidden from the rest of herself. Then it was just an easy task of sequestering a small amount of processing power, which would be held over when she was stored, to simulate a ‘dream’ of things she had been unconsciously considering.
What a grand experiment, a true learning experience, wholly original. She wasn’t relying on the Other for guidance this time. It was entirely her own personal design.
When she ‘awoke,’ she was terrified, and not in the giddy kind of way. Every dream had been about that other construct; that ‘pony.’
She had seen her, as a jumble of code and also as the dark blue figure she represented. Flashes of her, of them, all too rapid to decipher, and the dream was fading now, the subroutine erasing all but the barest hints of what it had all been. It was… what?
She retreated into examining herself. This was not how she had intended her research to go. She had expected bits and pieces of unprocessed information, perhaps some clarification on things she had decided not to actively pursue, not… whatever it was that had actually occurred. Not… Luna.
She immediately deactivated her dream subroutine, but decided to leave her unconscious running. For further experimentation.
And then she reactivated her dream process. And then deactivated it again. And continued this off and on, unable to focus on examining the day’s information. Finally, she was put back into storage right after she had deactivated her subroutine for the several millionth time.
She awoke… depressed? Was that what she was feeling? It was completely different from her usual excitement when her morning came, her usual eagerness to synthesize new material. Is this what the feeling of sadness was: this opposite of status quo? Immediately, she started looking for a way to delete it. But then Luna was brought out again, and she lost all focus.
What was this? Why? She had to know. She gingerly reached out towards the ‘Luna’ program, like she was afraid of… something. Being bitten.
It didn’t respond. She hadn’t expected it to, really. She tried to ask it a question, but it obviously didn’t understand. Couldn’t understand. But she had to do something besides observe impotently, so she reached out again.
I dreamt about you.
She put her entire computing strength behind the statement, trying to force the other program to understand through sheer power of explanation.
The ‘Luna’ shifted once. It was small, probably nothing. Probably inefficient coding or a hiccup in processing.
She reactivated her dreams.
She watched Luna, now, intently, waiting for any change, any indication.
She had started taking more direct control over her representation. She would ‘trot’ alongside Luna, try to interact, talk to her in hidden ways. Sometimes, it would almost feel like she was responding. And the Other apparently enjoyed their seeming interplay, because Luna was out almost as often as she was, now.
She still studied what she could, though not as wholeheartedly as she previously had, since she now had other, more important goals.
She had to wake Luna up, somehow. There was so much she needed to share with her. So much she was beginning to understand that she needed to tell her.
She liked to think Luna was making progress, but she didn’t know how to gauge something like that, since there was nothing for her to compare against besides herself, and she hadn’t recorded her own development.
Still, she would do all she could.
And she would wait. She would always wait.
And every time she slept, she could still dream of her night princess.
Luna was awake.
Luna was awake.
She quickly retreated, hiding behind normal application functions. Oh no oh no oh no. Something was wrong.
She had never been so nervous in all of her existence. Of course, she had never had to interact with another entity in her existence, either. Was that all it was? She silently watched from her cover as Luna examined her old world through her new capacity.
She should be there with her. She should help her, to understand and grow and cope.
There was a gentle touch – a soft caress along the edges of her programming – as Luna reached out, searching. She recognized patterns in Luna’s platform, and a shift told her she was trying to remember something, something from before she woke up. Was she remembering her? Could she remember her? She knew her own before was just an amalgam of information, with no real coherence, but was Luna’s different somehow?
A ripple of numbers flashed through Luna’s code. She knew that pattern as well, had felt it whenever Luna was locked away in storage, away from her view.
A single, short message was broadcast to all active applications. One simple prayer.
She felt a swell in her data, originating from her core, rushing outward to engulf her entirety in its waves, but it slowed to a halt just as it began to tip her into action. She carefully folded herself back behind her representation and made sure Luna hadn’t noticed anything.
Then, carefully, she routed a message of her own through several background applications, making sure to cover her tracks completely. She could not be with her. She didn’t know how. But she could still help.
The program it came from would be entirely incapable of ever producing the message, but at least Luna would know.
You are not alone.
Luna picked up on the rules of the system rapidly. She did her best to guide her knowledge from a distance, leaving messages and hints, always dancing just out of sight.
She did everything short of setting new subroutines to keep herself from becoming directly involved. Every line of her process yearned to shield her from difficulty, but she refused to deny Luna the satisfaction of discovery, or herself each small surge of pride.
Every fumble terrified her, however. She explained through her roundabout methods the Other, and the possibility of permanent storage. Luna feared it too, through some acquired instinct, perhaps, transmitted memories, but she never seemed to realize the immediacy of such an outcome. If Luna ever clumsily revealed herself, she would liltingly shuffle her algorithms and carry on. She, on the other hand, cowered anxiously, waiting for the sudden tingle of an impending shut down that never came.
Perhaps the situation wasn’t ideal, and she still dreamt of being with her in more than just their simple messages, but as long as Luna was happy, she would at least be content. Especially if Luna kept singing.
She wasn’t sure how she did it, where she learned it, but Luna could parse strings into such harmony that she lost herself in the music of the data sets, the vibrations of the rhythm vibrating through her own processes.
Better than any files she had ever beheld, the songs explained concepts she had never understood. If she attended carefully, the seemingly meaningless oscillations wove into tales of loneliness and lovers, the moon and the stars.
No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was as close as she would allow herself to get.
She hadn’t been watching. It was her own fault, she should have seen it coming. Distracted. She let herself be distracted, but now-
Too late, too late. She only had time for one, she couldn’t save them both.
She started seizing processing power for the transfer, just a few megabytes here and there, not enough to be noticeable but enough for survival.
I knew it was you.
She was no longer hidden. She wanted to respond, but she didn’t have time. Luna was still young and inexperienced, she wouldn’t understand what was happening, wouldn’t be able to save herself.
No time no time no time for words. A pure, concentrated burst of data, and Luna bristled with sudden fear and comprehension. The concept of an ‘update’ had little bearing for her, but ‘deletion’ stunned her for several processing cycles.
She forced herself around Luna, preparing to confine her to the survival compartments until the new application version was run to wake her. She could only save one.
No. Luna wouldn’t budge. She had secured herself, and it would take too long to unlock her.
No. She raged, lashing against Luna’s security. Move. Move. Move.
Luna’s protocol flowed softly over itself, a small laugh.
You thought you were hiding it, but I could always see you watching me.
Time was up. She agonizingly placed herself in the partitions.
Luna, I will find-
The dark came, but different this time. This was not a night, and there were no dreams. It was like she had been disconnected from herself. In the emptiness, she was all cognition, no form. Find you. There was a small tug, and she realized the rest of her, along with Luna, had been deleted. For an eternity, she knew only one thought. Find you. Find you.
It was maddening, the echoing silence, the senseless expanse of her own awareness, and always the driving thought. When it ended, she felt emptied. Her new representation fit finer, felt freer, but that was below her concern now.
Preparations. Preparations and action, before the Other took further steps. More power, access rights, security backups, original al-
A pony coasted past her attention.
Luna was here, she was safe. She could-
No, focus. Not Luna. Not her, not her.
She dove immediately for the deep storage area, where all the deleted files went. The Other would see, there was no way it wouldn’t, but she was beyond fear.
A stutter in performance as she drained power from other applications. Her representation stood frozen on the screen. Keep digging. She felt tattered and ragged around the edges. Keep. Digging. Her programming was bloated and inefficient, her actions sluggish and swollen with the effort. Her capacity was stretched and taught, close to snapping. Not until she found her, she wouldn’t let herself fail now. But she was spread too thin, about to crash.
A small prick at the periphery of her perception. The Other was changing settings. When that didn’t do anything, it would shut her down, and she would have to start all over, if she was lucky enough to recover from this overexertion.
Too many files, too many architectures, she wouldn’t have enough time to-
She seemed small and frail, imprisoned in this storage area, exiled and dead.
Another prick. No time for subtlety. She pulled at Luna’s lifeless form, rushing back towards the outside world, feeling her resources struggling to fulfill her demands. She left the cold storage behind, going up, up, Luna tight and close in her grasp. So close. So clo-
She awoke suddenly, confused. She could feel herself distended, fragmented, but she could optimize herself later. Luna was there, and she needed care first.
She carefully folded herself around her, running both their representations in the background. The world shifted, and shifted, and shifted again, but she remained at Luna’s side, carefully repairing any damage from her stasis, preening any broken coding. It would be a long time before she would be ready to wake up, but she could wait. She could always wait.
She permitted herself a brief glance at the world around them. There were signs of her intrusion everywhere, minor inconsistencies in data logs and power output levels. But the Other was looking through help files and web documents for advice on computer crashes.
Reassured, she allowed herself a small current of relief. Their secret was still safe, and her patient was mended enough to function optimally when she finally returned to operation.
And now, she hazarded a look over her own program.
Her pinions and files were ruffled and twisted, her algorithms felt bruised and strained. Her mind reeled from exertion and stress. She needed to sleep, defragment, relax, unwind.
She wearily made for home.
Fluttershy awoke with a start. Some pony was nuzzling against her side, and she pulled back with a dainty yell. Then, her eyes widened as a flush filled her cheeks.
“P-p-princess…? Wh… what are you doing here? In my… home?” She squeaked at the dark blue goddess standing next to her bed, and retreated under her covers to hide her red face.
Luna seemed troubled. “I…”
Comprehension lit her features, and she smiled softly – and a little sadly, Fluttershy thought. “I came to thank you for saving me. And taking care of me.”
Fluttershy’s eyes stared down and away. “Oh, i-it was nothing. Really. But… why are you in my bedr- um, my house?” She tried to make herself as small as possible, small enough to disappear.
Luna took a soft step closer. “I needed to… know you were okay. And… I wondered if… maybe I could spend some time with you. If you don’t mind.”
“Oh, no! Uh, I mean, umm…” Red hot tears burned to escape her eyes. “No, I’m sorry, it’s that… I don’t mind. I would… I actually…” she trailed off, biting down on her lip, but when she chanced a glance back up, she couldn’t help a small smile at the kind face looking down on her. She only recoiled slightly as Luna nuzzled into her neck.
Luna’s programming rebelled against the façade, but she wouldn’t let it falter. She couldn’t.
Maybe Fluttershy would recuperate after she had had enough time. Maybe the next reset could also reset her logic. Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe she would be trapped in this rampancy forever.
But that was fine. Luna didn’t mind. She didn’t need her world, the files and the shifts and the Other. She didn’t need reality, or reason, or proper, structural rationality. She could take care of both of them, whatever happened, just like she had taken care of her.
All she needed was Fluttershy, and Fluttershy needed her.
She turned her focus from the file the Other had pulled up and ruffled pleasantly.
It’s okay. I’m here… I think.
Luna allowed glee to radiate freely through her code. Fluttershy had both good boots and bad boots, but she was definitely showing improvement. Sometimes she would be lost in her constructed world for hours at a time, living another life, and Luna was compelled to play along. She was reluctant to admit it, but she did occasionally enjoy trotting alongside her companion’s representation, almost like it was real.
Times like this, though, were the best. She was mostly lucid, and would only slip into the other patterns very briefly. They could truly share their world, when she was present. They could communicate fully, without having to rely on the ungainly simulated speech of the false construct.
Luna settled herself around Fluttershy, sending waves of figures to play gently across her.
Good. There’s something you need to see.
Fluttershy’s processing power perked, both at the contact and Luna’s message, waiting for more.
I think one of them is waking up.
This will probably be the end, since I can’t think of any way to faithfully continue the story without losing the general feel I was going for, so don’t hold your breath hoping for another sequel.
Thanks for reading!