The screwdriver, hovering in midair, gave itself a few twists before refusing to tighten any more. Twilight Sparkle's telekinesis set the tool on the table, and the purple unicorn stepped back to admire her work.
A large silver unicorn, about the size of Princess Celestia, stood in front of her. It was maneless and tail-less, and its eyes were only dark triangles etched into its face. All that would change with the flip of a switch.
“Finally,” Twilight narrated to herself, “my masterpiece is complete! No longer will I have to endure endless hours of uneducated drivel from Pinkie Pie, boring bunches of boutique talk from Rarity, tedious tales of boastful talk from Rainbow Dash, sordid squeaking from Fluttershy, or abstrusive accents from Applejack!”
She let of a maniacal laugh, which echoed in the underground lab. She swung a hoof around the large switch on the wall and slammed it down in an array of brilliant sparks. The metal horse's eyes flickered to life with a brilliant blue glow. Its mane and tail crackled to life, displaying a rainbow of light along an almost invisible plasma sheet. The rainbow shimmered downward, as if the robot's hair was constantly moving. The robot reared up and gave a high-pitched, metallic whinny, a bright electric spark bursting behind it.
IT WAS ALIVE!
“Yes!” Twilight cried, bouncing on her hooves in excitement. “Yes yes YES!”
The robot unicorn swished its rainbow tail, looking at Twilight with azure eyes. With a flicker of its head, it sounded out in a digital yet female and harmonious voice:
“Hello, Twilight Sparkle. You have created me. It appears your experiment was a success.”
Twilight let out an excited squeal. “You are going to be my intellectual companion. First, a test: Where do we live?”
“In order of close proximity to far proximity: Ponyville Library. Ponyville. The county of Everfree. Equestria. The planet of Equus. The solar system of –”
“That will do,” Twilight interrupted. “Good! Let's go upstairs and begin!”
“Hey, Twilight!” Spike greeted from the main library. “Wow, you're finally done. That robot looks awesome!”
“Thank you, Spike,” Twilight grinned. “I've decided to name her 'Harmony,' because she has such a pretty voice.”
“Harmony,” said the robot mechanically, and her voice did indeed have a musical – if not grainy – effect to it.
“Neat. Twilight, now that you're done, wanna take a break and play some checkers?”
“Break?” Twilight laughed. “Silly Spike, I can't take a break now! I have research to do!”
And for a few days, all was right with the world. Twilight finally had the sort of intellectual stimulation she had missed while living in Canterlot. Now she could study TWICE as hard! The only one really affected by this was Spike, who missed the breaks that Twilight now never took, and by proxy Owlowicious, who had helped Twilight at night.
One day, Twilight found a problem that was particularly perplexing. She had tried to figure it five different ways, but the answer never seemed to feel right.
“Harmony, can you help me with this problem?” Twilight asked of her robotic companion.
“Of course,” Harmony replied.
“What is forty-eight divided by two times nine plus three?”
After a pause, during which time the sapphire eyes scanned back and forth, the robot answered, “Simple. The answer is two hundred and eighty-eight.”
Twilight looked at her creation skeptically. “No, I think you mean two. The answer is two.”
The robot made a soft, though harmonious, groaning sound and said again, “By the basic laws of mathematics, the answer is two hundred and eighty-eight. While the answer of two can be attained, it is only through calculation errors and disregard for formulaic structures already in place.”
Twilight blinked. “No, it's two. See, I wrote it down right – ”
“Twilight Sparkle, if you keep insisting on breaking the rules of mathematical formulation – and by previous experience I can determine that you will remain insistent upon your erroneous choice – then I have no choice but to leave you and your illogical opinions behind. I will instead go forth into the world and see what others have to offer in way of logic and intelligence.”
Bewildered, Twilight only watched her walk out the door. Silence settled, and then it dawned on her that she had been grievously insulted.
"Spike!" she called out, irritated, "wanna play checkers?"
Pinkie Pie had just finished practicing candy-making and was off to share her sugary treats with her friends. She had a good combination: fruity-flavored candy sticks, gummy orange and lime slices, lollipops (of course!), and her newest and most awesomest creation ever: ultra-mega-multi-flavored-biggeriffic-rainbow-tasty-high-octane-sugar-rush JAWBREAKERS. She was nearly at the library when she saw a pony that she'd never seen before.
“New!” her brain squeaked, and she almost dropped the lollipop that hung out of her mouth. “New friend! Offer candy! She'll like it!”
“Hi there!” she chirped, and Harmony came to a full stop.
The robot analyzed the pink sugary mass in front of her before spouting: “I am Harmony, a robot created by Twilight Sparkle. You are her friend, Pinkie Pie.”
“Nice ta meetcha, Harmony! Want a sample of my awesome-riffic, sweetalicious candy?”
Harmony ruminated for a moment, her blue eyes rolling upward to scan the sky. “Aside from being initially deleterious to one's health, one can plainly see that I lack the sufficient orifice to accomplish such a task. Were I able to ingest your treats, however, not only would their flavor go unnoticed as I have no sense of taste but sweets would also destroy my inner gears, wires, and circuits. Since I can only come to the conclusion that you are trying to DESTROY me and others with your 'candy,' I have no choice but to vehemently refuse and go on my way.”
As she trotted away, Pinkie Pie felt her spirits lower. She continued towards the library, now dragging her hooves, feeling more than a little...bitter.
The bell on the door of Carousel Boutique jingled merrily as a potential customer walked in. Rarity left her sewing machine in an instant, high-stepping downstairs to greet her guest. She was very surprised to find a large, metal unicorn standing at the clothing racks, scanning the dresses with a cobalt eye.
“Why, hello there! Oh, what a fantastic coat you have! And what a...stately pony you are, at that!”
Harmony turned, analyzing Rarity before responding: “I am Harmony, a robot created by Twilight Sparkle. You are her friend, Rarity.”
“Indeed, I am!” said Rarity, flipping her hair with pride. “I'm so happy you've heard of me! And let me just say, it would be an honor, a sheer honor to design a dress for someone as fashionable and graceful as yourself! Please, let me design something just for you!”
Harmony's shiny silver head snapped back and forth, looking at all the clothing. “As an amazing example of technology and science, I am able to see in 60 million colors, including infrared and ultraviolet radiations. Therefore, your clothes in my eyes are mismatched and abhorrent. You have no sense of color or form, and your pattern choice is reprehensible. My logical decision is to avoid any sort of clothing whatsoever, since it neither protects me from the elements of nature nor makes my fashionable and graceful appearance – which you yourself previously stated – any more aesthetically pleasing. Therefore, I leave you with your hobby and will go about my business.”
Rarity's eyes brimmed with tears as the door jingled again, announcing the robot unicorn's exit. For the first time in her life, Rarity was feeling very...insignificant.
Angel Bunny thumped the ground with his long back leg, signaling the approach of a stranger. Immediately, the rest of the bunnies in the park, along with a few squirrels, mice, and birds, ran for cover behind the outstretched wings of a pale yellow pegasus.
“Oh my,” Fluttershy whispered to herself, seeing the towering stranger approach her. She planted her hooves solidly down, feeling the shivers of frightened bunnies at her back. The stranger, however, stopped a good distance from her and just stared.
The automaton announced: “I am Harmony, a robot created by Twilight Sparkle. You are her friend, Fluttershy.”
“Oh my,” repeated Fluttershy, though in a completely different and decidedly more enamored way. “I-I hope you don't mind me saying, but you have the most musically enchanting voice I've ever heard. I bet whenever you sing, all the birds in the trees, they start singing so happily and joyfully.” Fluttershy gave a nervous gulp. Twilight always told her – and Rainbow Dash told her, too – to be more assertive and outgoing. This was her chance to make a new friend, and one with a beautiful voice. “I bet all of these frightened widdle bunnies and squirrels would just love to be your friend – and-and I would too – i-if you just sang a little to them. I like to sing to them, too, and m-maybe you and I can sing...together?”
The metal unicorn processed for a moment, the blue lights of her eyes scrolling back and forth. Finally, she replied: "I have no reason to speak with you."
And with that, she trotted off.
Fluttershy felt her eye twitch. It was a huge effort on her part to be so genial. How dare that-that stranger just shrug her off like that? The birds took to the sky in fear as Fluttershy started feeling a little...batty.
Applejack gave a grunt as she bucked another tree. Apples fell like rain, many of them into the buckets she'd laid around. As she started picking up the remaining apples in her teeth and putting them in a separate bucket (for they were bruised and would be allowed to rot and ferment to produce more...productive potable), she realized somepony was watching her. She turned to see a large, silver pony with a multicolored mane. She straightened up and tried to catch her breath before offering a friendly “Howdy!”
The metal unicorn gave her a disdainful look before saying: “I am Harmony, a robot created by Twilight Sparkle. You are her friend, Applejack.”
“Ayyup, that's right! Beggin' pardon, but I got a lotta work ta do, so don't mind mah applebuckin'!” She continued picking up the bruised apples. Harmony watched as she finished, moved the barrels, and bucked another tree. Apples scattered everywhere, bouncing out of the barrels, and Applejack let loose a curse in frustration before starting the tedious task of picking them up again.
“It is my observation that it would be more efficient and logical to rely not on your...apple buckin'...but instead on sturdy and consistent mechanical equipment. The introduction of technology would lead to a 75% decrease in dropped, bruised, and wasted apples.”
“Humph! Yer definitely a friend 'a Twilight's, that's fer sure,” said Applejack, pushing one full barrel up into her wagon. “Applebuckin' is tradition. And a testament of Apple family strength. We don't need no –”
“I believe the word you were looking for is 'attestation,' as in a proof or evidence, not 'testament,' which more often means a last will or contractual document. Also, your use of grammar is confusing and quite unsettling.”
Applejack sneered at the machination. “Ah think ya'll better move along afore Ah start buckin' sumthin' other'n apple trees.”
“Brutish behavior belies an underdeveloped mind. Pardon me as I take my acuity elsewhere.”
She flipped her rainbow tail as she left, leaving Applejack more than a bit...crabby.
“Okay, Dash, you can do it this time!”
The space between the barrels was almost a tight squeeze, but Rainbow Dash was hopeful. She snapped her wings to her sides, trying to lock the muscles with her mind.
“No wings this time. No wings. Just speed.”
She broke out in a full gallop towards the barrels. She passed the first one on the left, edging her body through the narrow gap, nudging the second barrel as she passed it on the right, cursing quietly as the barrel wobbled. The third, passed on the left. The fourth, passed on the right. The fifth –
And she lost her footing. Always the fifth turn! She thought angrily as her body slammed into the barrel, propelling her in one direction and the barrel in another.
She gave a lengthy sigh as soon as she had stopped rolling. Clambering to her feet again, she was about to retrieve the barrel when she noticed a large shiny unicorn watching her at a distance.
“Yo,” she called out nonchalantly. “Nice mane.”
Harmony looked at her own polychromatic mane and tail before looking again at the blue pegasus before her. As Rainbow Dash reset the errant barrel into position, Harmony called out: “I am Harmony, a robot created by Twilight Sparkle. You are her friend, Rainbow Dash.”
“Heh. Heard a' me, huh? Why am I not surprised?”
“I know everything Twilight Sparkle knows. No. I know more.”
Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “Great. Another egghead. Please excuse me while I don't care.”
“What are you doing?” Harmony asked, watching Dash get into position again.
Rainbow Dash tried the barrel weave again, and actually got to the sixth barrel before ramming headfirst into the seventh. She was knocked on her back, but in an instant both front hooves reached skyward.
“There are ten barrels,” Harmony said as Dash got to her feet. “You did not complete the course. Yet you cheer. You are running, but you are a pegasus. Why do you resist using your wings?”
“Well, how'm I gonna get better?” Dash steadied the seventh barrel again, making sure it was in line this time. “I can't be the best at EVERYTHING unless I practice EVERYTHING. You can't stop just because you're the fastest or smartest or agile-est. There's always somepony better. So I gotta work until I'm that somepony.”
Harmony watched her for a great long while in silence. The blue lights in her eyes scanned back and forth as Rainbow Dash tried again and again to pass the seventh barrel. In the circuitry of her mind, Harmony was concocting a formula.
“Strike off with non-leading hind hoof. Inside hind hoof hits the ground directly before the outside front hoof. Strike off the leading leg. Momentarily, a suspension: all four hooves off the ground. Three beats. Subtle fourth beat. Assessing rhythmic pattern. Analyzing. Analyzing......analysis complete. Formula 'Gallop' prepared for testing.”
Dash was surprised to find Harmony at the start of the run after all the barrels had once again been properly aligned. She stepped back from the barrel row, smirking wildly.
“Oh, you wanna try? I gotta tell ya, I've been doin' this run for-EV-er now, and I can only get so far. Good luck, egghead!”
She looked again at the start of the run, but Harmony had vanished. All that remained was a bright stripe of rainbow-colored dust. Rainbow Dash followed the stripe down the barrel row as it weaved through all ten barrels. None of the barrels had budged even one inch. At the end of the run stood Harmony, not even winded, looking back at Dash with a sharpness in her sapphire eyes.
Rainbow Dash was stunned. “Wh-what? No way! Do that again!”
Harmony trotted to the start. “I shall go a little slower so you are able to analyze my movements.”
She zoomed through the barrels again. Dash could barely see her, but the proof was undeniable. With no evident training, with no practice at all, that stupid robot shot PERFECTLY through the course.
Harmony didn't stop at the end of the run. She kept running, leaving a rainbow trail behind her. She galloped around Dash, covering her in a dusty windstorm of color, making such a wind that Rainbow Dash's hair stood straight up on end, knotted up in a spiky jumble. Over the wind, barely audible, Dash heard a strange melody.
Harmony stopped. Her azure eyes were looking upward, as if rolled up in happiness in her head. Somehow, she was excreting music. Yes, the music was coming from her body, a light, airy digital tune, the rhythm matching her hoofbeats.
“HAPPY.” she said. Lacking any emotion in her voice, the word only came out as a loud, grainy squeal. “SO HAPPY. RUNNING. RUNNING MAKES ME HAPPY.” She continued in circles around Rainbow Dash, who was almost foaming at the mouth with envy. “THIS IS MY PURPOSE. THIS IS MY GOAL IN LIFE. I NEED TO RUN. RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN.”
She continued her chant as she vanished from sight, leaving only a rainbow trail. Dash stomped at the ground a few times before speeding off as fast as she was able towards the library, feeling incredibly...out-dashed.
“Twilight, you don't understand! My candy!”
“Yes, Pinkie, I understand, but-”
“You simply must do something. Making a mockery of my boutique!”
“And I'm very sorry, Rarity, but-”
“...tradition! Th' very audacity a' questionin' generations of farmponies!”
“Applejack, I know, but-”
“She's faster than me! How is that even possible?”
“That's a good question, Rainbow Dash, but-”
“I'M GONNA MAKE HER LIKE ME.”
Five friends crowded around her, each bellowing like a stuck bull about her latest masterpiece. Twilight herself was not really happy with what Harmony had become, and in truth she already had a plan. If only her friends would shut up long enough to hear it.
“QUIIIIIIIEEEEEET!” The outburst came with a tendril of green flame, and a nearby flower vase was quickly transported on its way to Canterlot. The ponies stared at Spike as they were shocked into silence.
“Twilight, please continue,” huffed the little purple dragon.
“I have an idea...”
Harmony appeared in the library late that night. Her batteries had finally worn down, and she was in need of recharging. One couldn't tell by looking at her, though; she high-stepped all the way down to the basement, singing the praises of her new-found ability. Her voice, now reduced to a digital mess and far from harmonious at all, echoed through the library along with the happy techno music she emitted.
“TWILIGHT. I WANT TO RUN. I WANT TO DO NOTHING BUT RUN.”
“That's very interesting, Harmony. I want to collect some data samples on the things you've done today. I want to know what you found out, and if you found the answer you were looking for.”
“I WANT TO TELL YOU EVERYTHING. I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU THE JOY OF RUNNING.”
“Sit down over here, please. That's a girl. Now, let me just open up this panel on your neck here...”
"I WISH I COULD DO NOTHING BUT RUN AND RUN AND RUN. FOREVER."
"Oh, I think we can figure something out." Twilight pulled a long cord from her computer, jamming it harshly into the slot on Harmony's open panel.
Harmony's eyes, still rolled up happily in her head, burned a bright blue for a moment, then dimmed until almost gone.
"Twilight!" called a soft voice from the stairs. Fluttershy, followed by the other four, emerged from their hiding places in the basement. "Tell me you didn't!"
"Come on, now," Twilight said. "She might be annoying, but I wouldn't...y'know...end her like that. She's still here. Just not in...there."
She tapped the robot's head with a hoof. The music was still chiming happily from it. Pulling off a panel, Twilight yanked out a couple wires with her teeth, silencing the music. Motioning to her computer screen, Twilight showed the others the world that Harmony now occupied. A free, idyllic landscape with rich green grass, shady trees, fairies, little cute dolphins, and all the wide open plains Harmony could ever dream to run across.
"She's happier there. Trust me." Twilight telekinetically ripped the robot's body from its head. The dim blue eyes never wavered. She tossed the body in a somewhat cathartic fashion across the room. "Besides, I'm off to bigger and better things. Like the bigger and better thing behind this tarp!"
She pulled off a blue tarp covering a large object, somehow previously unseen. As she uncovered it, bright red eyes, like two burning embers of hate and malice, glowed to life.
The black metal unicorn activated with an infernal screech, the coals of its eyes locking like lasers on its new...'friends.'