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?”
“Celestia.ai and Luna.ai 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 RDash.ai, name Rainbow Dash, and I am the best pegasus around. Now how about you, little miss purple? Who are you?”
“Designation TSparkle.ai,” 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.”