Lavender Screen of Death

by Irrespective

Chapter 1: Press Any Key to Continue

* * 💻 * *

“Princess Celestia, Princess Luna!” Rarity bowed before her diarchs, but quickly straightened. “I’m so glad to see you both. This is just positively dreadful!”

“We came as quickly as we could,” Princess Celestia replied, and the two royals followed Rarity toward the Carousel Boutique. “Tell us everything, and please, do not spare the details.”

“Well, I’m afraid there’s not much to tell.” Rarity chewed on her bottom lip for a moment as she thought. “Twilight came to my shop about an hour ago, and she was wondering if I might be able to create a new gown for her to wear to the upcoming Grand Galloping Gala. I obviously would never tell her no, as she is one of my dearest friends, to say nothing of the free advertising I receive from her. Why, I had so many new orders after my first Gala, I nearly hired Fluttershy to help me take care of the backlog! It’s nice to be wanted, but I was totally unprepared for the influx of business.”

“I believe we are getting off-topic,” Luna stated.

“Oh my, so I am,” Rarity tittered. “Well. I told Twilight I would be more than happy to accommodate her request, and I asked her if she had any specific requests for the dress. I turned my back to her to sort my recent shipment of chiffon, but Twilight knows I’m not trying to be rude, and she told me she was thinking of something in soft pastels. When I asked her if she would prefer Twinkle Blue or Ethereal Blue, she didn’t reply. That’s when I turned back to her to repeat my question, and I was quite shocked to see her in such a dreadful state!”

“And there’s nothing else?” Luna asked.

“I’m afraid not, darling. I wish I had more to tell.”

“Do not fret, fair Rarity. I believe I know what may have happened,” Luna said as the trio entered the shop. “Hopefully, we should be able to correct the issue forthwith.”

“I do hope so. At the very least, having Twilight stuck there like that will be terrible for business.” Rarity motioned with a hoof. “I do hope you can help her.”

“Oh, dear,” Celestia said with a slow sigh, and the two elder alicorns began to circle their smaller counterpart. “What do you think, Sister?”

Luna didn’t reply immediately. For several long moments, she simply stared at Twilight Sparkle, who was emitting a low hum from somewhere deep in her chest while holding two pieces of nearly identical blue cloth across one forehoof. Her unfocused gaze was on something beyond the wall of the shop, her mane had frayed in several places, and her tail was sticking straight out behind her. Her wings were fully extended, her head, neck, and ears seemed to be locked in the most upright position they could be, and she was repeating what sounded like ‘buh’ at a rapid and repeated pace with a small jerk for each repetition. A wave of the hoof in front of the newest Princess’ eyes yielded no results, nor did poking, prodding, or an attempt to fold her wings down with Luna’s magic.

“It is worse that I originally thought,” Luna finally said. “She is locked up cold, and even the usual troubleshooting steps have failed.” The Princess of the Moon bent her neck slightly, moved to Twilight Sparkle’s immobile ear, and stuck her tongue inside.

“Sister!” scolded Celestia.

“It had to be done eventually,” said Luna once she had returned to observing the youngest princess. “And it would be highly inappropriate for you to carry out the boot menu sequence.”

“Well...” Celestia licked her lips and observed a rather fascinating bit of the ceiling. “I suppose. Oh, now that’s just wrong,” she added when Luna repeated the action on Twilight’s other ear. “Didn’t even save one for me,” she grumbled.

“Errr...” managed Rarity. “What in the world—”

“Let me enable debugging mode and we can see if it’s something simple.” Luna reached up and rotated Twilight’s horn to the right for two clicks, then tapped her on the nose. A soft blue light began to radiate out of the alicorn’s eyes and projected an entire array of complicated numbers and information onto Rarity’s far wall.

“Much better,” admitted Celestia. “Do you remember when we had to debug in a henge of standing stones, with a dozen young stallions running around in the moonlight wearing nothing but torcs?” She gave out a lingering sigh. “Such pleasant memories.”

“Torcs?” managed Rarity.

“A far better debugging medium than dumping to paper tape and draping it all over the palace,” said Luna, engrossed in the projected numbers and lines. “Or when you decided to use magnetic core memory and got stuck to the icebox for a week.”

“Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis,” said Celestia, turning to the projection with a frown. “I wouldn’t think it was a hardware issue since she has been an alicorn for such a short period. Is she still under warranty?”

“Perhaps,” mused Luna, “but before they would open a ticket, we would have to go through all the normal troubleshooting steps anyway. Besides, we are out of their service area, and would have to pay extra for a tech to come visit.”

“I believe you’re right,” Celestia said with a grunt of determination. “Let’s find the memory dump, and then we can do a stack trace from there.”

“Stack trace?” Rarity tilted her head, perhaps in order to make more sense out of the situation. “That’s… um… what?”

“How can I explain this simply?” Luna tapped her chin, then brightened. “Ah! Miss Rarity, Twilight has encountered a fatal exception and needs to be shut down.”

“Fatal?!” Rarity swooned across a convenient nearby couch. “Shut down?! No, not Twilight! She’s too young! Think of the gowns that she has not worn yet! You simply must save her from—” Rarity looked at her frozen friend— “whatever that is.”

“Not the best choice of words, Lulu,” Celestia chided with a grin. “Please remain calm, Rarity. When my sister says ‘fatal,’ she does not mean that Twilight’s life is in danger. What she really means is that Twilight’s operating system ran into a problem that it couldn’t handle, and she crashed into what you see before you. I am sure she will be just fine, once we determine what caused the so-called ‘fatal exception’ in the first place. Now, let me see. What admin password did I use?” Celestia sat in front of Twilight and grabbed both of her former student's ears. “Maybe it was up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right…”

“Problem?” Rarity repeated vaguely as Celestia tugged and yanked on Twilight’s ears. “What sort of a problem?”

“As my sister said, Twilight Sparkle is not in any immediate danger,” Luna said. “She is simply experiencing a system conflict, and that has locked her into a loop. Once we figure out what is causing the conflict, we can clear it, restart, and then she will be as good as she was before. Provided my Sister can remember her local root password, that is.”

“But, how did this happen in the first place?” Rarity asked.

“We won’t know until we look at the logs,” Celestia said with a grunt. “No, that’s Cadence’s password. Maybe it was…”

“Usually, these things happen when a new update comes out,” Luna picked up where Celestia left off. “These modern operating systems, in my opinion, are needlessly complex. My one and only segmentation fault was over a thousand years ago, when some corrupted executable files turned me into Nightmare Moon. I have not had an issue since, despite using the same version. Celestia, being the oldest, has never experienced a serious system failure, and as long as she keeps her punch cards in the proper order, she never will.”

“Oh, you’re a riot, Lu,” Celestia muttered. “You know full well that I upgraded from punch cards ages ago.”

“Switching to a reel-to-reel does not count as an upgrade, Sister,” Luna snickered. “If only I could convince you to give up on those old vacuum tubes and convert to solid state.”

“I’m not going to dignify that with a response,” Celestia huffed.

“Well, that sounds… No, that doesn’t make any sense at all,” Rarity interjected, and Luna put a comforting hoof on her shoulder.

“Do not worry, fair Rarity. AlicornOS is complex, and it takes many years of study to fully understand the intricate complexities of its code. In fact, I believe there are less than twenty Alicorn-plus-plus certified ponies in the whole of Equestria. But rest assured, we will get Twilight Sparkle back, and hopefully with a minimum of data loss.”

“Ah, here we go!” Celestia cheered, and she leaned in to study a specific batch of incomprehensible lines on the wall. “Let’s take a look at those sound drivers. That repeating audio loop is rather irritating.”

“So, how long will it take to,” Rarity hesitated, and put on a brave face, “fix Twilight? I can’t imagine this is good for her in any way.”

“It will all depend on what caused the problem in the first place. Some problems can be easily corrected, and some are far more difficult. We may need to restore Twilight to a previous save point to fully diagnose her.”

“There’s no need,” Celestia said, a grim frown crossing her features. “I have found the problem. It appears Twilight recently installed an unlicensed, third-party app called ‘E-Z Speed Reed’ from F&F Software. It’s a unicorn app, which created a conflict with the wing drivers, and that’s what got her stuck. It may take some time to sort out why this happened and to uninstall the app, however.”

“I should think that your star student would know better, Tia,” Luna grumbled. “Apparently we learned nothing from the Chrysalis ransomware attack. Please tell me Twilight Sparkle at least has her nightly backup turned on.”

“That’s where things get worse. She turned off the backups.” Celestia shook her head in dismay. “I told her to leave that on, but she was worried about running out of bandwidth this far from the Canterlot archive. Her last restore point was created when she ascended. We’d lose years of work if we reset her.”

“I told you we needed an iLo module for remote access.” Luna jabbed a hoof at the still-stuttering Twilight. “If we had, there would be a backup in the cloud, and she would already be repaired. But no! You were too worried about privacy concerns.”

“We’ve been over this, Luna.” Celestia pinched the bridge of her nose. “If we create a backdoor for us, that creates a door for every creature to use! Can you imagine what would have happened if Sombra had found that kind of vulnerability? Besides, I have never been able to get her to enable two-factor authentication, and she always uses the same password for her encryption.” Celestia rolled her eyes. “Books4me!”

“Um, Your Highnesses?” Rarity interjected with several back-and-forth glances. “Does all of this mean that Twilight can’t be fixed?”

“It means that getting her back to normal will be more complicated than we anticipated,” Celestia said. “While I am sure she can be restored, we will need to send her back to a certified alicorn service location, and it may take some time. Luna, why don’t you contact tech support and get that service ticket opened?”

Luna nodded, but then frowned. “This is a most unfortunate turn of events, Sister. As I recall, Twilight’s schedule was filled with official Princess business this week. Without her, it will fall upon us to take on her workload.”

“And Cadence is out with her scheduled downtime for Flurry Heart,” Celestia mused, a hoof rubbing her chin. “I warned her about the inherent instability of homebrew systems, but she was so sure that she and Shining Armor had it all figured out. I’ve lost track of how many patches they’ve applied to their young one so far.”

“Perhaps there is an alternative.” Luna’s gaze went to the fashionista, who gulped loudly when the nocturnal princess’ grin turned anticipatory.

“I fail to see how I could assist, much as I might like to,” Rarity said nervously.

“No, Luna is on to something,” Celestia said, her eyes slowly studying Rarity’s immaculate lines. “You have the grace and the poise algorithms already, and your form factor is ideal. It would only take a few minutes to install the wings.”

For as long as Rarity could remember, she had always harbored a not-so-secret desire to ascend into the strata of royalty and become a princess. She had spent most of her formative years training and conditioning herself to have the lofty airs and calm elegance of nobility, to say nothing of the voice coaching lessons she had undertaken without her parent’s knowledge or permission. While she did love her family deeply, she had always considered them to be somewhat boorish and rather uncouth, and if she were to ever achieve her goals, both in fashion and in elevated rank, she simply had to take matters into her own hooves.

Those dreams of royalty had suffered a violent and inglorious end at the hooves of one Prince Blueblood during a Grand Galloping Gala that she had mostly blocked from her memory, and she had contented herself with nobility by proxy when Twilight Sparkle had joined the ranks of alicornhood. It was quite enjoyable to say that she was best friends with the Princess of Friendship, and it was under Rarity’s superior tutelage that Twilight was being taught the refinements and sophistications that a Princess should have.

But now, Princess Celestia was offering her the chance of a lifetime, the one thing that she had wanted so badly and had thought that she might never have. All she had to do was say ‘yes,’ and all of her hard work would finally pay off.

But as she turned a wary eye on the twitching, locked up Twilight Sparkle in her showroom, she couldn’t help but feel like those lifelong dreams had suddenly become nightmares. “Forgive my hesitation, your Highnesses, but I don’t think I would be a good princess. I haven’t done anything to earn it, like yourselves or Twilight.”

“It would just be for a week or two,” Celestia replied. “Think of it more as a temporary assignment.”

“Will it really take that long to get Twilight back to normal?”

“It may take longer, truth be told.” Celestia drew in a deep breath. “All of Twilight’s kernels and registry files must be checked to ensure they have not been corrupted, and a thorough antivirus scan must be completed, too. We must leave no stone unturned, as it were.”

“I’d suggest having a more robust firewall installed while you’re at it,” Luna quipped.

“That too,” Celestia said with a resigned groan.

“Couldn’t somepony else step in?” Rarity asked, the desperation creeping into her voice. “I have such a busy week ahead of me. I’m sure Applejack would be delighted to assist you.”

“Oh, no. I’m afraid that wouldn’t work,” Celestia said with a shake of her head. “While the wings are plug-and-play compatible, it would take far too long to install the horn. Opening her chassis would void any warranty she might have left, to say nothing of the highly sensitive calibration needed. They—the horn, I mean—are also prone to overheating, and I’m not sure Applejack could handle the voltage needed for the cooling system. It’s much easier if the horn comes pre-installed, like with yourself.”

“But won’t turning me into a princess also cause whatever happened to Twilight to happen to me?” she squeaked.

“Not at all,” Luna said with a reassuring grin. “We will simply put you in safe mode. That should prevent any conflicts, though it will disable most of the alicorn features.”

“But I’m the wrong color,” Rarity said in a desperate attempt to escape the seemingly inevitable. “I don’t look like Twilight at all.”

“Your appearance can be easily changed in the system settings, and then restored to your default once Twilight is fixed and returned. Sister, you do have the Twilight Sparkle language pack somewhere, I hope?”

“I have a backup on a Zip drive in Canterlot,” Celestia replied. “Rarity, while Luna and I would greatly appreciate your help, I will not force you to do this. If need be, we can shoulder this burden on our own.”

“Well…” Rarity bit her lip. She studied her stuttering friend for a moment, then glanced between Luna and Celestia. “I suppose I could help for a short time. I’ll just have to contact Sapphire Shores and tell her there’s been a slight complication with her order.”

“Thank you, Rarity,” Celestia said with deep relief in her words. “This will help out immensely. Now, I believe Twilight has a spare pair of wings at her castle, and Spike should know where they are kept.”

“I call dibs on the impact drill,” Luna quickly said with a grin.

“What?” Rarity gasped.

“Do not worry, young Rarity. The process is quick, harmless, and virtually painless. We’ll hardly feel a thing.”

* * 💻 * *

“Excuse me, Princess Twilight?” Derpy said as she knocked on the ornate throne room doors and promptly showed herself in. “I have a delivery for you.”

“Just bring it in here, please,” Twilight replied, her eyes glued to a page in the AlicornOS for Dummies book in front of her.

“Um, well, it’s actually more of a box. A big box,” Derpy added with a wince. “Is there any way you could bring it in? It’s really heavy.”

“Oh, of course!” Twilight’s magic sprang to life, and with a flash, a large cow print box appeared on the cutie mark map table before her. “There we go. Thank you, Derpy. I believe Spikey-Wikey is making some muffins in the kitchen, if you’d like one.”

The dutiful mailmare was gone in a flash with a squeak of joy, and Twilight chuckled to herself as her magic summoned a box knife. “Let’s get you set up, shall we? I’m terribly behind in my work, and I dread to think of what Sweetie Belle has done to the boutique while I’ve been gone. Though I do wonder if there’s a way to keep my magic overclocked. The extra power has been quite useful.”

The box was quickly opened, and Twilight was pleased to find another Twilight Sparkle within, though she was covered in packing peanuts and had a large foam pad on the tip of her horn. It took a few minutes to free the shipped Twilight from the thick plastic wrap and cardboard spacers around her legs, and even longer to remove the wire ties that held her mane and tail in two tight bunches once she was removed from the box.

“Now, Celestia said there would be a set of… instructions!” Twilight snatched the bundle of papers from the box and glanced them over. “Let’s see. ‘First, please ensure that you have reset your appearance back to default. After this major crash, Twilight’s system may not be able to process what would appear to be a temporal paradox if you still look like her.’ Oh, of course.” Twilight put the papers down, and an elegant blue magic field lept from her horn. “I certainly don’t want Twilight to crash again.”

With a flash and a small pop, Rarity reset to her normal appearance, and she took a moment to primp her beautiful coiffure. “There, that’s better. Mama is sorry she had to change you, my precious mane, but don’t worry. I’ll never do it again. Though I must remember to have a few words with Twilight about her manestyle.” The papers were hoisted up again with her magic, and she moved to the next step. “Let me see. ‘Upon arrival, Twilight will be turned off. To wake her, push her nose in and hold for five seconds. She will go through a power-on self test, a short boop sequence, and then return to her normal self.’ Well, that’s a relief,” Rarity said, reaching up with a hoof to poke Twilight’s nose. “It would seem that the restore was successful. I do hope she learns something from this little incident.”

A chime sounded from somewhere deep inside of the real Twilight Sparkle, followed by a beep and a twitching of each extremity in turn. After a moment, Twilight’s eyes fluttered open, and a broad smile overtook her as her wings stretched upward.

“Did you know you’re all my very best friends?” she sang, and Rarity chuckled.

“I did, but it is rather nice to hear it again. Welcome back, darling.”

“Rarity?” Twilight put a hoof to her head and groaned. “Oh, what happened? Why am I back in my castle, covered in packing peanuts, and…” she stalled, and reared back slightly while pointing to something hanging on Rarity’s sides. “Why in Equestria do you have my set of spare wings?”

“Oh, goodness. I forgot about them,” Rarity said with a nervous flap of her lavender appendages. “I’m afraid I’ll need to explain later. Right now, we haven’t got much time.” Rarity produced her two cloth swatches again. “Which do you prefer for your dress, the Twinkle Blue or the Ethereal Blue? Twilight, dear?”

Rarity paused for the briefest of moments before rolling her eyes as Twilight went stiff and began to stutter at a rapid pace. “Oh, bother. Spike! I need you to take a letter for Princess Celestia again!”

* * 💻 * *

Author's Notes:

Now, before you ask, let me answer your question: does this mean Twilight is an android? The answer is: certainly not.

She’s definitely a Windows device. :)

Loosely inspired by this comment. I hope you're happy, Sykko. :twilightsmile:

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