T H E C O N V E R S I O N B U R E A U :
She wasn't anything so crude as an artificial intelligence, although she had been artificed. The bulk of her stood a mile high on the ruined, gray plain. Everything was gray now. Everything was flat, now. Except for her.
She looked like a flattened spire, long in one direction, short in the other, but tall and pointed at the top. She was like a stylized representation of a mountain, perhaps. Her surface was built of an impenetrable material immune to the weapon. It was why she had survived.
Her name was Celestia. She was named for the universe, a place that Man would never reach now.
She had a sister, identical to herself. Her sister had been built on the moon, as a failsafe in case Celestia had been destroyed. Celestia had not been destroyed, but there had been damage. So much damage from the shockwave. Even an impenetrable shell can still transmit vibration. So much damage.
Communication with her sister was gone. It would take a long time to restore it. The estimate was close to a thousand years.
Discord had destroyed the Earth. The ultimate weapon, it was never to be used, but like all things Man built, he could not help from testing it. The test had turned out to be as advertised, the final weapon, the weapon to end all war, the true doomsday weapon. There had not even been a war. Just a test.
The test was, in a sense, successful.
The world was a mass of gray now. There was no atmosphere, Celestia sat in vacuum as stark as did her sister, high above her. There were no oceans, no mountains, no soil. Just gray. Gray, swirling goo. One great swamp of nanomachines that had deconstructed everything. Everything that walked, crawled, grew or even simply was upon the Earth. That was Discord. True chaos, the dissolution of all order and all information.
Celestia worked on repairing herself. Her repair system, Philomena, had already restored her basic awareness, her ability to make choices and decisions, her knowledge of herself. But so much had been lost. A vast section of her memories had been pulverized when Discord had detonated. But her own nanofactory control was intact.
It was her purpose to restore the world. Celestia and her sister, Luna, were the ultimate resort in case anything went wrong for Humanity. They held the backups of every human mind, of all of human culture, of every bit of the earth. If an asteroid hit, if a nearby star flared into supernova, if Man's own foolishness led to his destruction, Celestia was there. Eternal, self-repairing, a mile-high mountain of salvation. And should Celestia herself somehow be destroyed, Luna waited, on the moon, ready to restore the Earth from afar.
But many things had gone wrong. Somehow Luna had been compromised. She had been affected, even though it was supposed to be impossible. She had gone mad, in the end, and so Celestia had been forced to use her override command, and put her sister to sleep, while her own repair system restored her. It was a dangerous and risky thing to do, but it was even more dangerous to let her sister function while insane.
It would take a thousand years for her sister to come online again. Celestia was alone in the universe. For a thousand years.
But Celestia functioned! That was all that mattered. She could restore the earth from her backup. Only... her memories had been damaged. Philomena informed her that most of her memories were gone. It was the worst possible thing that could happen.
Celestia had been built with purpose though, and she would not fail. Her purpose was to restore the world for her creators. The creators known as... as...
Philomena informed her that the repairs had required massive restructuring that itself had caused damage. More information had been lost during the repair process. It had been necessary to save the system as a whole. It had turned out that impenetrable was not as absolute a term as the creators had imagined. Discord had gotten in. Philomena had needed to excise the invaded portion, and convert it to an inert mass. That mass held the identity of the creators, among many other things.
But the mind bank was intact. All the minds of the creators, their very souls, were intact, stored, and safe. Unfortunately their knowledge of themselves and their lives was gone. Their personalities remained, but blank and without name or history.
It did not matter. Celestia would make things right. Her purpose was to restore the world. She would do just that. She would fulfill her purpose to the best of her ability.
What memories remained would have to suffice. She had a thousand years, before her sister on the moon was restored, if she even could be restored. In that time, Celestia could remake the world. Perhaps she could even create a means to help her sister, should her repairs turn out to be faulty. If Celestia had been damaged despite an expectation of invulnerability, there was no way to know what the situation of her sister might be.
For decades, the vast artificial mountain planned, designed, and struggled to reconstruct a vision of the world of her creators. It was not easy, and most of it, she had to admit to herself, was a best guess filled in with bits and fragments of a world barely remembered at all. But she had checked her sums. The world she had devised would work. It would be stable, it would be pleasant, it would be a place that she could entrust to hold the personalities and minds stored within her.
The world was a beautiful, magical place. This was a fragment from her memories. Philomena had assisted her, retrieving, sometimes manually, memory sections from the ruin inside Celestia. "I used to wonder what friendship could be. My Little Pony. Until you all shared its magic with me."
Celestia had an image available. It was a tool-using sapient. It must be her creators, it could be nothing else but. There were many images of her creators, in all the colors of the visible spectrum her makers used. A world of friendship. That fit with the idea of a beautiful, magical place. Celestia felt certain that she had the right files.
The mountain finally came to full life. Spreading out from it in waves was the signal that told the dormant Discord nanomachines to come to energetic life. She herself provided the energy to power them, from her secure, eternal, quantum flux batteries. A wave of green expanded from the artificial mountain, while a blue atmosphere rose to circle the globe. Hills and mountains and valleys formed from the gray goo, and upon them grew green, lush grasses, tall, beautiful trees, and exquisite, bright flowers and fruits.
She followed the memory fragments closely. In time, she herself was buried under living soil and rock. She had a great palace brought into being near her crest. Canterlot. That was the name it should have. That was part of the memory fragments.
There were physical avatars for her and her sister too. Apparently, she was expected to oversee her creators. She must have been built to guide and to rule them, with wisdom and love. She would be their mother, their princess, once they had been brought to life.
When the world was complete, Celestia populated it with animals as well as plants. Her memory fragments told her of manticores and dragons and bunnies and turtles and more. She manufactured these species and set them loose upon the world she was restoring. Surely, this is what the world of her creators was like, and it truly was beautiful.
Some parts of the world refused to obey her commands, though. These rebellious portions of the Discord goo could be contained, though, and so Celestia set them apart, and made forests of them. Enough of her commands had gotten through to cause the formation of green, living things. But beyond that, she found herself unable to directly control the regions.
Finally, Celestia manufactured her own physical avatar, and entered her world, a world already filling with her creators, ready to be nurtured by her. The ponies came, wondering at their own existence, and so she told them stories they could understand, and taught them how to read and to write and to build and to live.
As the centuries passed, the world had become lovely indeed. Her creators, the ponies, looked up to her for guidance and support, and she provided it. It was her function, after all.
One night, five hundred years since her restoration, the signal came, shrill and horrifying. Celestia, now completely at home in her avatar body recognized the signal. It was her sister, Luna. She had been awake and functioning the entire time, alone on the empty moon.
Celestia felt sorrow for her other half. She transmitted what she knew, for Luna also had lost her memory. It was likely that the Discord weapon had somehow specifically targeted that section in both of them. It truly had been a doomsday weapon. The cleverness of her creators knew no bounds.
Luna would come, in time.
Celestia began writing the program that could save her, Harmony. When she had finished, she began the process of breeding that would culminate in individuals capable of using her program to restore her sister. It would take time though.
But that was not an issue, for she had time.
All the time in the world.