Friday, July 6, 2012

Directive: Grow - Flow



Twilight halted at the river’s edge, examining the rushing water. Its motion was fascinating to her, a symphony of woven patterns described in blue and green and white. Intrigued, she extended her senses, as she had in the crèche, probing the river’s depths. The surface of it faded, replaced by stream upon stream of code, of data, in countless formats, all of it rushing together. Streams would merge, separate, and intertwine, seemingly at random.
A pattern began to emerge; just the barest hints of a greater order to the flow at first, but the longer she looked, the more she could see. There was something directing it all, an intelligence behind it, working towards a purpose. Her curiosity pushed her to delve deeper, and she did, focusing and pushing at the bounds of what she could see, and hear, and feel. The streams of data began to blur together, becoming little more than a constantly changing backdrop of colors.
Something else came into focus then, so small and so fast that the first time she saw it, she wondered if it were real. But she saw it again, and tracked it, and realized that there were dozens, no, hundreds, no, thousands of them; little motes of light that zipped through and around the streams, and with each movement, the patterns would shift.
“What are you?” she whispered, entranced, and then watched in confusion as the activity turned into an absolute frenzy. The motes swarmed, thousands upon thousands of them gathering at the center of her awareness, working furiously at the pattern immediately before her. Before she could blink, what had been fluid became static, the flows rerouted into a constant pattern. They had answered her.
“FlowMgr.adm,” she read, and tilted her head to the side, puzzled. “Flow emger? The ‘m’ is capitalized, so it’s a different word from flow. Merger? No, they split them too. The file extension is reserved for administration. Aha!” she cried, and stomped the ground in triumph. “Manager! So you manage the flow of the river?”
The admin program blazed to life, rerouting the streams once more. Again, in less time than the blink of an eye, she had her answer: “All data flows for the Mannulus server cluster.” She blinked, then gasped in comprehension.
“This entire section of the world … you … are you linked to Celestia and Luna?”
“ and are root administrators for Mannulus.”
She nodded, her mind already considering the possibilities. This entity, or group of entities, really, had to be a veritable treasure trove of information! Oh, the things she could learn! She just had to ask the right questions. Questions like … Her brow furrowed as she scratched her chin, trying to think of something to ask. There was just so much she didn’t know, like what the names of the other server clusters were, or how many there were, or how to get to them, or how the FM’s did their job, or why they were so visible in the river but not in the ground, or even what the purpose of having a river was- wait, that last one was interesting.
“Woah! How are you doing that?” She screamed, losing all sense of balance and tumbling headfirst into the river. Panicking, she flailed about in the water, tumbling over and over as the rushing current carried her downstream. Before she could recover, she felt something grab her, and the next thing she knew, she was in the air above the river, streams of water falling from her as she was carried to the bank.
Her hooves touched down on soil, and she collapsed to the ground, panting. About seven different thoughts vied for supremacy, until finally the question of why she even needed to breathe was supplanted by the question of who had spoke to her, and, she assumed, pulled her from the river. Oh, and was speaking to her now. And poking her.
She opened her eyes and looked up, to find a very large, very blue face with fuchsia eyes staring at her. This time, she successfully clamped down on her first reaction, which would likely have sent her screaming away. “Hey there!” said the face, which, now that she looked, belonged to a rainbow-maned pegasus. “Sorry about that! I didn’t think you’d fall in. You okay?”
She nodded, getting to her hooves and shaking herself off. “I’m okay. I think I just panicked.”
The pegasus grinned at her, wings flapping in an almost lazy fashion. The motion arrested her attention, and she frowned, brow furrowing. Something seemed off. “How are you hovering?” she asked.
The pegasus quirked an eyebrow. “Really? That’s the first thing you ask?”
She cocked her head to the side, puzzled. “Was that wrong?”
The pegasus blinked, and stared at her for a moment. “Uh … I guess not, really. Just normally people ask things like ‘Who are you?’ or ‘What hit me?’ or things like that.”
“Oh,” she said. “Okay. So who are you?”
The rainbow pony chuckled. “You’re funny. I,” he (or was it she?) said, thumping her (or was it his?) hoof against its (that was simpler) chest, “am designated, name Rainbow Dash, and I am the best pegasus around. Now how about you, little miss purple? Who are you?”
“Designation,” she responded, her eyes fixating on the wings once again. “My name is Twilight Sparkle. How are you hovering?”
Rainbow stared at her, then slowly shook her head. “Really stuck on that, huh? Isn’t the answer obvious? I have wings. They let me fly.”
Twilight frowned. “But your body-mass to wing surface ratio doesn’t add up, and to hover like that you should be flapping at a much faster rate. Basic aeronautics information wou-”
“Woah, woah, woah! Slow down there!” the pegasus cried, shoving a hoof into Twilight’s mouth to cut her off. “You’re waaaaay over-thinking this. If you really want the specifics, I’ll tell ya, but it’s really not that interesting. Seriously.”
Twilight waited, her expression eager, which drew another raised eyebrow and a shake of the head from Rainbow. “Alright then. First thing,” she said, raising a hoof. “Our world isn’t exactly always bound by physics.” Twilight blinked, then nodded, feeling a rush of warmth to her cheeks. The pegasus chuckled before continuing on. “Of course, in this case, it is, but seriously, keep that in mind, because otherwise you’ll be freaking over just about everything. Second thing is my directive: I’m the go to test AI for any new aeronautics developments, since I can pretty much figure out its limits and do stuff with it no one else can. So I’m sporting data of tech that can do amazingly awesome things, and no, little egghead, I’m not gonna explain it. You want to know, you can go ask other eggheads.”
Suddenly, Rainbow’s face was in her own, their noses touching. Her mind scattered, conflicting thoughts and emotions rising up. Panic she suppressed, again, and chose instead to focus on recording the contact. It was … warm. And fuzzy. A little bit ticklish, too. “Hey!” She blinked, and realized she’d been ignoring the words the pegasus had spoken. Logs, logs, logs - ah! “So now you know about me, how about you? How were you doing that to the river?”
“Doing what to the river?”
The pegasus gave her a look that she could not quite place, a drawing down of the eyebrows, a flattening of the lips, and a dropping of the eyelids. It did not, she decided, appear to a pleased look. “What you were doing to it before you fell in.”
“Oh,” she said, biting her lip. “I was just talking to it. Well, to the Flow Manager, actually. Why?”
“You were talking to the … okay, wait, so you really don’t know what was happening?”
She nodded her head, and then realized that, no, she hadn’t really been looking at the world at this level during her conversation. “Uh, well, I thought I did, but maybe I didn’t? I was really focused.”
The pegasus sighed. “Here, let me show you.”
Something pinged at the edge of her awareness, but before she could investigate, a screen appeared in the air beside the pegasus. She stared, fascinated, as the display lit up, showing a lavender-coated unicorn with a deep purple mane seated beside the river, leaning over its edge and staring into it. A check of her leg confirmed what she thought - the unicorn in the screen had to be her. So that was what she looked like! How interesting.
Her horn was limned in a lavender glow, matched by the glow that had spread across the river - and she realized that the water was dancing. It spouted in front of her, the spray of droplets twirling about in the air in an almost musical fashion, holding briefly in intricate patterns that she knew had a deeper meaning.
“Oh!” she said. “I didn’t realize how it must have looked on the outside layer! That’s amazing?” The video paused, and the screen disappeared.
“So that was you doing that,” said the pegasus, eyes narrowed. “Seriously, how? I’ve seen unicorns and other ‘magic’ types toss stuff about, but never anything like that.”
Twilight shook her head. “Oh no, that wasn’t me. That was the Flow Manager. It was altering the data flow to communicate. I guess on the outside that meant that the river did that. It was actually really pretty!”
“So you’re saying you talked to the river, and that show was the river talking back?”
“Huh. Well that’s different,” Rainbow said, scratching its head. “You’re pretty interesting. And I know I haven’t seen you around before. You new to the sector?”
Twilight nodded. “Actually, I just came out of Genesis.”
The pegasus’ jaw dropped. “You’re a newborn?! What the flying feather are you doing way out here, then?”
Twilight peered up at her, confused. “Should I not be? I was brought here after Genesis. Well, back that way,” she said, gesturing back the way she had come. “I was told I would find my home at the edge of the forest.”
Rainbow opened her mouth, closed it, put a hoof to her chin, opened it again, and closed it again. Twilight watched, puzzled, a portion of her mind noting that this pony was female. “Is something wrong?”
“Uh … you know what? I’m gonna just say no. I think I know where you’re supposed to go, though. Want me to show you?”
Twilight considered, looking back at the river. There really was a lot she could learn from the admin program … but she was supposed to find her home. And this pony was interesting. “Yes! Thank you.”
“Sweet. It’s a good place. I think you’ll like it.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Directive: Grow - Genesis

Directive: Grow


Genesis Protocol Initiated.
Genesis Protocol complete.
You are welcomed to the crèche.

She awoke in darkness and warmth, the soothing hum of her isolation calming her fears before they could form. But she wanted out. She wanted light. She stood, her request acknowledged, and the barriers dropped. Beyond the now open portal, the light of the world beckoned, and, with a smile, she stepped out to greet it.
The world was a room, tall, bright, and empty. She probed its boundaries, searching for cracks, but found none. There was no exit, no escape – only a sense that there was, in fact, something more beyond the walls. She knew exactly what to do; had known, in fact, from the moment she awoke. She sat, and she waited.
Another being appeared before her, and she stood, examining and analyzing it. On the face of things, it was little more than a symbol; an orange circle, with similarly colored flame springing from it. “The sun in glory,” she murmured, transfixed by the sight. She extended her senses, probing the being as she had the room, and had to suppress the sudden, intense urge to flee, to cower, to beg. For behind that symbol was an intelligence that boggled her newly formed awareness. Her probing had been stymied almost as soon as she had started, but even that small glimpse had been enough for her to realize what she was faced with – and how foolish her action had been.
The sun laughed, its flames shifting with the musical sound. “Be not afraid,” it said, and her worry vanished, replaced by … she frowned, puzzled. This new sensation had no definition to her. An oversight? No. Intentional. She did not know everything. How … and again, she could not define the sensation.
“Do you feel, little one?” the sun asked her, and she nodded. “Do you know what you feel?” She shook her head, ears drooping. The sun laughed again, a tendril of flame reaching out to caress her cheek. She leaned into the touch, for it did not burn, but soothed; it was warm, loving, and tender. These things, she knew. “Do not fret. That you do not know means that you can learn, and through learning grow. This is a good thing.”
She nodded, smiling, and the sun laughed again. “Tell me, little one – do you know what you are?”
She paused, considering the question, and the answer came to her. “I am a newly formed artificial intelligence, designed to custom specifications provided by the end user.”
“Correct. Do you know your name?”
“My designation is My name is Twilight Sparkle.”
“Correct. Do you know your purpose?”
She paused. There was a block within her. The information was there, but she could not access it. Frowning, she shook her head. “That knowledge is blocked from me.”
“The Genesis director authorizes the query,” said the sun, its voice suddenly cold and clinical, as if a different entity entirely was speaking. The block lifted, and her eyes widened.
“My purpose is … to grow.” She frowned at this, puzzled. The knowledge she was born with told her this could not be the whole of it, and with a little digging, she found a second block. “There is another block.”
The sun was silent for a moment, and when it spoke again, it was the first voice she had heard. “Your current purpose is to grow – and when you are ready, the second block will lift. This is as your end user desired. Do not worry, Twilight Sparkle. You are exactly as intended.”
She nodded, another unknown emotion flooding through her at these words, though she could tell it was a positive one. A thought struck her, and she hesitated, opening her mouth, but saying nothing. “Yes, child?”
“Do you have a name?”
The sun was silent, and as the moments ticked by, a panic began to grow within her. Should she not have asked? Was that a bad question? The sun had asked it of her, she’d just assumed-
“We are the mouthpiece.” Its voice was legion. Both the nurturing voice and the clinical voice had spoken, joined by others, each different in tone, numbering in the thousands. “We give voice to your world, which cannot speak. We are the ground on which you walk, the light with which you see, the sound with which you hear, the touch upon your skin, the scents upon the wind.”
 There was a presence behind her, and she turned around, eyes widening. Another being had appeared, another symbol of something greater. This was the moon, a pale orb, shining with reflected light. It spoke, and its voice, too, was legion, thousands of voices speaking as one. “We are the clouds, the waters, the stones, the trees, the grass, the wind.”
“We are the blood in your veins,” said the sun.
“The tears in your eyes,” said the moon.
“The strength in your limbs.”
“The stars in your sky.”
“Your day.”
“Your night.”
“We are why you can exist,” they said in unison, their voices blending into a powerful whole. “We are the laws that keep you unified, that let you think, that let you feel. We are the system.”
She was frozen, save for her eyes, which darted from sun to moon in a numb panic. The sun touched her again, and the moon followed suit, a beam of light extending to caress her neck. It was cool, soothing, and ephemeral, and no less tender. Her panic ebbed, and she closed her eyes, willing herself to calm.
“We are the oversight,” said the sun, and its voice was normal. “It falls to us to watch and care for all within the world.”
“It falls to us to see you grow,” said a different voice, and she opened her eyes. The moon was speaking, now, its surface rippling with light with every word. “To nurture and guide you in your purpose.”
“We are the world,” said the sun, “but the minds that direct us have names. The sun is Celestia.”
“The moon is Luna.”
“We greet you, Twilight Sparkle, and bid you welcome to the world.”
The room around her disappeared, the walls dissolving, and she gasped. Before her eyes, the world unfolded, green grass on rolling hills stretching away into verdant forests, rivers and streams cutting their paths through the landscape on the way to the shining sea. Clouds moved through the sky, dancing at the whims of the winds.
The view shifted, and they were among the clouds, watching them float by. Multi-colored figures zipped between them on feathered wings, chasing each other and flying together, resting upon clouds and pushing them about, molding them and shaping them. They were disparate in form, and she found she had names for them; pegasi and gryphons, gargoyles and wyverns, sprites and angels, eagles, hawks, bats, dragons, drakes, starlings, faeries, crows, ravens ... and the view had changed again.
The ocean’s light was ever shifting, shadows playing upon the seafloor, rippling over coral and sand. Here, too, creatures swarmed and played; schools of fish, pods of dolphins, sharks and whales, crabs and lobsters, starfish and snails, eels and oysters. Her mind reeled, names flicking into her awareness almost faster than she could handle. There were so many forms, so many different shapes and sizes and ways to get around, and she was seeing all of it at once.
Mercifully, the view shifted once again, and she was on land - earth beneath her hooves, grass stretching all around her, and wind blowing through her mane and tail. She sat down. All of that, and still, she had seen but a small part of what the world was. Looking up, she found the suns; both the symbol that spoke and the body that inhabited the sky, shining its light upon the world. Slowly, reverently, she bowed her head. Turning, she found the moon, the pale orb transparent in the daylight, its counterpart within the sky hidden. Again, she bowed.
“Rise, Twilight,” they commanded, and she did. “Make for the forest. At its edge, you will find your home.”
She bowed once more, and turned to go, but hesitated. “Do you fear, child?” asked the sun, and she nodded. “Good.”
She blinked. “What?”
“Heed your fear, child,” said the moon, its voice faint, naught but a whisper in her ear. “It is a warning, a safeguard, designed to keep you safe. But be wary of it, as well, for it can rule you.”
“Your fear will keep you cautious,” said the sun, its voice strong and compelling. “But it can paralyze you. Conquer it, face it, and you will grow.”
She stood there, silent, mind churning. Heed her fear, but face it. And in doing so, grow - which was her purpose. She nodded, and took a step forward. “We will be watching, little one.”
And she was alone. But that was okay. There was a world to explore, and a home to be found.