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Forbidden Knowledge · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Applejack v. FBTwi
In Rarity’s experience, there was one sure way to make sure that something unexpected would pop up and demand all of her attention. Namely, trying to do anything productive. She frequently lamented the fact that it would often take her a week to complete a full day’s work, simply because of the unending stream of friendship problems, ancient evils, Cutie Mark Crusader activities, and unplanned trips to the Dragon Lands.

She suspected that if she could just have one month of uninterrupted work, no one in Equestria could leave their homes without wearing at least three objects of her design. She also suspected that Rainbow Dash was somehow sabotaging her for that very reason, but she had no way to prove it.

Today, the inevitable interruption came in the form of a knock on her door. As far as interruptions go, this one didn’t seem too bad. The boutique was still standing, she didn’t hear any screams, and there did not appear to be any explosions involved, so it probably didn’t involve the latest unsealed evil or the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

When Rarity opened the door, she found an annoyed Applejack and a determined-looking Twilight. “Hello, darlings. Please, do come in.”

“Now, whatever can I do for you two? Do you need me to make some formal wear for Applejack, perhaps?” It was a good guess, Rarity thought, if perhaps a bit too optimistic. But she tried her best to ignore how Twilight’s mane was curling and her pupils were a bit smaller than usual and just hope that she was right.

“No, we actually have a bit of a friendship problem that we need you solve for us,” Twilight replied in a tone that Rarity did not find very reassuring.

“I’d say it’s a bit more than a ‘friendship problem,’ Twilight,” Applejack countered with a glare. “This has gone straight into ‘legal problem’ territory.” She turned to Rarity and continued. “You see, Twilight here has decided that she can use her fancy princess powers to order me to do whatever she wants. But I say she can’t do that, because I’ve got rights and we have laws against that sort of thing. We want you to help us solve this.”

“Oh my,” Rarity mumbled, as her hopes for a simple problem and a productive day of work shattered before her eyes. “That’s certainly quite the problem, but why did you come to me? Wouldn’t somepony like Mayor Mare, Lady Justice, or even Princess Celestia be more helpful?”

“Probably,” Twilight conceded, “but we’re on a bit of a tight schedule, and they’re all busy at the moment. And we agreed that out of all of our friends, you would be the most likely to make a reasonable decision.”

“I suppose that makes sense. But why are you so rushed that you can’t wait even for a legal professional to help you?”

Applejack sighed. “Apparently Twilight has decided that Princess Celestia’s ‘casual’ visit tomorrow should be as uncasual as possible.”

“What!” Rarity exclaimed. “The Princess is visiting tomorrow, and nopony told me? I’ll have to make a brand new dress to wear. And I’ll need to find—”

“Calm down, Rarity,” Applejack interrupted. “It’s supposed to be a casual visit. You’ll be fine. Besides, we’ve got more important matters to attend to here.”

“And I was going to come over here and tell you right after I told Applejack, but things have gotten...complicated.”

Rarity took a deep breath and focused herself. Princess Celestia will be here tomorrow, she thought. That’s important. But my friends are having a disagreement and need my help to sort it out. That’s more important. And it seems to be quite the disagreement too. Very well; it is clear what I must do. She exhaled. “Okay, I’ll see what I can do. Why don’t you start at the beginning?”

Twilight closed her eyes and began explaining. “This morning, I received a letter from Princess Celestia, stating that she wished to visit for lunch tomorrow.” Twilight became visibly calmer as she explained, as if the mere action of presenting facts was soothing to her. Which, Rarity had to admit, it probably was. “Naturally, I have been spending all of my time since then making sure that everything will be ready for when she arrives. There are two parts of those preparations that are relevant to this discussion. First, I visited Pinkie and the Cakes to tell them about the visit and ask them to make some of the food for the banquet I planned. They were glad to help, but with such a short notice, there was no way that they could make everything we needed in time. So I decided to go to Applejack to ask her to help out.”
“So she shows up at my farm, asking me to make a few dozen pies by tomorrow,” Applejack continued, to Twilight’s apparent annoyance. “And I tell her that I won’t do it. Well, she doesn’t take too kindly to that, so she says that she’ll use her fancy princess powers to order me to do it. And I don’t take too kindly to that, and next thing you know, there’s a lot of arguing going on. But we’re all grown mares, and eventually we decided to act like it, so we agreed to take this problem to you.”

Rarity took a moment to digest all of this new information before continuing. “I see. This is clearly quite the dilemma that you two have. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions before I decide anything?”

Twilight and Applejack indicated that this was acceptable.

“Twilight first then. Applejack previously mentioned that the Princess’s visit is supposed to be casual. Is this, in fact, the case?”

Twilight opened her mouth to respond, but Applejack beat her to it. “Now wait just a minute. Are you accusing me of lying?”

“Of course not, dearie. I just want to make sure that I hear all of the facts, and that there haven’t been any misunderstandings. It’s the only way I can make a fair decision.” Rarity turned her attention back to Twilight. “Now, what were you going to say?”

“Well, the letter did technically use the phrase ‘casual visit,’ but there's nothing casual about a visit from royalty! You, of all ponies, should know that, Rarity.”

“Yes, you are correct,” Rarity conceded, “but I would like to point out that you are also royalty, and you have casually visited me many times.”

“But I’m just me! We’ve been friends since before I was a princess. This is Princess Celestia we’re talking about!”

“Yes, yes, of course. I suppose it was silly of me to mention. My next question is for you, Applejack. I know from personal experience that you are willing to do quite a lot to help out a friend, and up until ten minutes ago, I was quite certain that you two were very good friends. So why did you refuse to help Twilight?”

“Rarity, have you ever made a pie before?”

“Well, maybe once or twice, but certainly not since I met Pinkie Pie. Why do you ask?”

“No matter what impression Pinkie might give you, making pies ain’t easy. Especially not a good Apple Family Apple Pie. Could we make as many pies as Twilight wanted in time? Well, maybe, if we borrowed some ovens and the whole family did nothing but make pies until Celestia arrived. But it would be harder than calming stampeding cattle with a rattlesnake, and I’m not sure we could do it.

“And to make matters worse, it’s planting season. There’s a mountain of work to get done, and not enough time to do it in. We’re already behind because I’ve had to stop working to help deal with disasters and friendship problems nearly every week. Now I’m willing to sacrifice the farm a bit to deal with real problems like those, but it’s not worth the sacrifice just to overdo a casual lunch.”

Rarity considered this for a moment. “While I do tend to share Twilight’s views on casual visits from royalty, I must admit that your argument has merit. But the solution seems so obvious to me that I can’t imagine it hasn’t occurred to either of you. So why don’t you just ask for help? Surely there are some ponies around who aren’t otherwise occupied preparing for the Princess’s arrival who could help you bake, and you know that we would be glad to provide some assistance with the planting, just like we’ve done with Applebuck season and cider season before.”

“It ain’t that simple, Rarity,” Applejack replied, shaking her head. “The work in the planting season ain’t like harvesting, where Twilight here can just magic all the apples off of the trees. There’s a lot of jobs to do that need a lot of experience to get right, and a lot of what you’d probably call ‘earth pony magic’ involved. So I appreciate the offer, but there just isn’t much you could do to help. And before you ask, every other earth pony around who could help is already too busy working on their own or somepony else’s farms.

“As for help with the pies, I’m afraid that isn’t possible either. When we Apples make pies, we use a secret family recipe that’s been passed down for generations. I can’t just give it away to anypony not in the family, even you girls.”

“Yes, I get all of that,” Twilight interrupted before Rarity had a chance to reply, “but this is an emergency. It is in the best interests of all of Ponyville for you to make the pies or hand over the recipe.”

“Even if that were true, it’s in the worst interests of my family!” Applejack exclaimed, her voice rising.

“Why won’t you just serve the greater good!” Twilight’s voice rose to challenge Applejack’s.

“Why won’t you understand that this won’t serve the greater good!”

“GIRLS!” Rarity shouted, silencing both challengers. “You must calm down and remain civil, or I will put both of you in outfits so constricting that neither of you will be able to move until the Princess arrives. Do you understand?” The other two mares nodded as they cowered under her gaze.

“Good. Now then, Applejack, would you like to explain exactly why giving Twilight the recipe is such a bad thing? I know you said that you need to keep it in the family, but didn’t you make us all honorary Apples?”

Applejack sighed. “Yes, I did, but it’s not quite the same. And besides, there’s more to it than just that.” She turned to address her opponent. “Twilight, what’s the first thing you’d do if I told you the recipe right now?”

Twilight was caught off guard by the unexpected question. “Umm, I suppose I’d write it down.”

“Exactly. The Apple Family Apple Pie recipe is never written down. My ma taught me how to make the pies by making them with me. I taught Apple Bloom how to make them by making them with her. Someday, I’ll teach my foals how to make them the same way. It’s part of the tradition.”

This was, Rarity thought, rather interesting, and she was sure that Twilight would be taking notes on something like “earth pony culture and traditions” if she weren’t distracted by the debate itself.

“But it’s not even just the tradition that’s an issue here,” Applejack continued. “We all know that no matter what I tell her, Twilight won’t be able to resist writing the recipe down. And then what will happen? Will Spike see it and spread it around without knowing any better? Will it get misplaced and turn up on somepony’s doorstep? There’s no way of knowing how it will happen, but I can promise you that it will only be a matter of time before it does.”

“And how can you possibly be so sure that that will happen?” Twilight countered.

“Have either of you heard of the Blackberry family?”

Twilight indicated that she had never heard of the family, but Rarity thought the name sounded familiar. She thought all the way back to her childhood, and eventually found what she was looking for. “I think I remember going to school with a filly named ‘Pearl Blackberry’ when I was quite young. Though I suppose her name might have been ‘Blueberry.’”

“No, I remember her too. She was a Blackberry, all right,” Applejack confirmed. “I take it you don’t know what happened to her family?”

“I can’t say that I do. I never really thought about it.”

“Well, the Blackberry family had a mighty good pie recipe too. They made the best blackberry pies in Equestria. They didn’t compare to an Apple Family Apple Pie, of course, but they were still mighty good. And just like the Apple family, they kept their recipe very secret.

“But back when we were still young fillies, their recipe got out. Now I don’t know all the details, but I do remember that it involved some sort of mayor somewhere getting them to hoof over the recipe for some big event. Within a few months, the recipe had gotten out and spread across Equestria. Y’all can find it in any cookbook you want to pick up.

“Once ponies could make the blackberry pies themselves or buy them from places like Sugarcube Corner, they stopped buying them from the Blackberry family. Without the income from the pies, most branches of the family, including the one here in Ponyville, couldn’t afford to keep their farms. I hope you can see why I don’t want that to happen to my own family.”

Rarity had to admit to herself that it was a convincing argument. She certainly didn’t want to do be responsible for the downfall of the Apple family, and she was sure that Twilight felt the same way. But on the other hoof, if she was going to play the role of judge here, she wanted to do it right.

“A question for you now, Twilight. The last time I checked, Equestria was not an absolute monarchy, and I assume I would have heard if this had changed. So why do you think that you have the right to force Applejack to help you?”

“Oh, that’s easy. The All Reins Act allows me, as a princess, to issue any orders ‘necessary or appropriate in aid of my respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.’”

“Care to translate that for us?” Applejack snarked.

“Basically, as long as there are extenuating circumstances and no applicable law that says otherwise, I can give whatever orders I feel are necessary.”

“Well I say that’s a load of hogwash.”

“Actually, Applejack,” Rarity interrupted, hoping to avoid more yelling and fashionable threats, “Twilight is correct. The All Reins Act does give her that power. It’s been on the books for a long time, probably since before Princess Luna was banished.”

“Yes!” Twilight exclaimed triumphantly. “Thank you, Rarity. I knew you would—”

However,” Rarity interrupted, “I happen to know that it also states that it cannot be used to create an unreasonable burden, and I think Applejack has demonstrated that this would be the case, should she be required to make the pies.”

Applejack started to celebrate just as her opponent had a moment earlier, but she too was interrupted, this time by Twilight.

“But what about the recipe?” Twilight asked? “Just giving me the recipe wouldn’t be an unreasonable burden.”

“Perhaps not,” Rarity conceded, “But I am also aware of the Cooking Assistance and Recipe Exposure Act, which happens to state that cooks, bakers, chefs, and other preparers of food can not be forced to disclose their recipes, secret or otherwise. So I’m sorry, Twilight, but the law is clearly on Applejack’s side. If you want some apple pies, I’m afraid you’ll have to find them elsewhere.”

Twilight sighed and bowed her head in defeat. “Very well, Rarity. I have no further arguments to make, so I accept your ruling.” She turned to face her opponent. “Applejack, I will abide by Rarity’s decision, as we agreed. I’m sorry that I put you through all of this. I hope that you will find it within yourself to forgive me and that we can continue to be friends.”

Much to Rarity and Twilight’s surprise, Applejack pulled Twilight into a hug. “Of course I can. Our friendship is strong enough to withstand an argument like this. And now we know better, so this sort of thing won’t happen again. Now go get yourself ready for that casual lunch.”

A small smile appeared on Twilight’s face. “Thank you. And thank you to you too, Rarity. I hope I’ll see you both when Princess Celestia visits tomorrow.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some more desserts for the banquet.” With that, Twilight trotted out the door, and then teleported away to make her preparations.

The two remaining mares turned to each other. “Thanks, Rarity. I really appreciate that you did this for us.”

“Oh, it was nothing,” Rarity lied. “I’m always happy to help two friends reconcile their differences.”

“I just have one question though. How did you even know about those laws? They don’t seem like the sort of things that would come up often in dressmaking.”

Rarity gave a ladylike laugh. “Oh, they most certainly don’t, in my experience. I learned about them when our sisters tried to get their cutie marks in ‘lawyering.’ They tried to sue Pinkie Pie to get her secret ‘super-duper-extra-chocolate-chunk cookie’ recipe. But Pinkie proved surprisingly adept at defending herself, and no cutie marks were received. Though I believe Pinkie taught them the recipe anyway.”

The room was dark. Darker than a normal room had any right to be, even during a cloudy night. But it was actually still the middle of the afternoon on a sunny day, and the unnatural darkness was only there because of a spell Twilight had cast to set the mood.

A single candle sat upon a table, providing just enough light to outline the three ponies sitting around it.

“Do you have the goods?” Twilight asked the other two figures.

“We do,” said the first figure.

“Do you have the payment?” asked the second.

“I do,” said Twilight. She dropped a large bag on the table, making the candle flicker and rattle. “One point three thousand bits.”

The first figure dropped a scroll on the table. “And here is one guaranteed genuine Apple Family Apple Pie recipe.”

Twilight picked up the scroll in her magic and opened it. In the dim light, she could barely make out what it said, but it looked like an apple pie recipe to her. As she examined the scroll, the other two figures inspected the bag of bits, and appeared to be equally satisfied.

“How did you get it?” Twilight asked.

The figures chuckled. “Don’t you worry about that,” the second one said. “All you need to know is that it we got it straight from the Apple family.”

Twilight was not entirely satisfied by this explanation, but she knew that it was the best she was going to get. “And the pies?”

“They are being produced as we speak,” the first figure assured her.

“They will all be ready by morning,” the second one added.

“Very well,” Twilight replied before standing up. “I eagerly await your results,” she said as she walked away. She didn’t like dealing with characters like these, but she did what she had to for the greater good.

After she had left the room, the remaining two figures turned to face each other. “See, brother of mine, I told you this community had opportunity for us.”
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#1 · 3
· · >>ZaidValRoa >>The_Letter_J
Some nicely voiced characters:

But I had two issues with the story, both of them centered around the "Cooking Assistance and Recipe Exposure Act." First, Twilight doesn't react with alarm when Rarity brings it up. She should, though, because either she knew about the law and should therefore be embarrassed about being caught trying to break it, or she didn't know about the law and should be upset that she was unknowingly trying to break it. And second, why didn't the Blackberry family use that law to stop whatever mayor it was who forced them to reveal their pie recipe?

#2 · 1
· · >>The_Letter_J
Twilight sure is hell-bent on cracking the secrets of that Apple product, isn't she?

>>Baal Bunny
should therefore be embarrassed about being caught trying to break it

It's not illegal when a Princess does it. (If I could use a Big Mac emoticon, it'd be right here)

And second, why didn't the Blackberry family use that law to stop whatever mayor it was who forced them to reveal their pie recipe?

I thought of that too. Maybe not everypony is as well versed in law as our dear seamstress.
#3 · 1
· · >>The_Letter_J
Well this was a read. I'm not so sure to call it a story, but it was a read of some sort. Long story short AJ and Twi end up arguing over sharing a single recipe. In which Rarity is asked to intervene and end the conflict. Twilight loses and ends up becoming a drug dealer- I MEAN smuggler! Not gonna lie author. It just was something to read. I didn't really seem to notice that it was a story but more so a script piece. A really small script piece that takes place in two settings and has about a scene and a half.

-Word Play
This is the first of your strengths displayed within the story. You have a definitive display of complex wording that actual ties well together. This is shown in Twilight's complex teaching of the "All Reins Act" and with Rarity's "Exposure Act" which actually does sound very official and "law-like", if that's even a word at best to describe it. The way the conversation flowed back and forth was well done. I for one don't like banter too much, but it did seem to have a court feel to it. The complexity of wording also seemed to drop the characters in their respective characteristics. I really thought I'd hear about some country euphemism from AJ and more of a polished charm with Rarity. That's just oversight on my part and could just be that I'm picky about my own view of the characters.

The idea for the story is great! Twilight and Applejack have a problem and ask for help to solve it. Twilight ends up in her Paranoia state right before a visit from her beloved mentor. While Applejack is refusing to fill out an order, or more so a request, for this very same visit. It was wonderful as the concept of the story. I just really didn't think the way it turned out fit how good the idea could actually be. It'll take more of a friendship problem to make both AJ and Twi get to this point where they're fighting about Pie and who's making it. Probably change it up and show Discord setting up pranks for the lunch. Or trying to undo all the preparations to make it a disaster. I just think more thought could have been placed into this without completely redirecting the story.

-Cause of Conflict
Pies. Out of everything else that could have been associated with the conflict it had to be about pie. Not apple tarts. Not apple crumble. Not apple sauce. Which by the way is very easy to make those compared to a complex crust and filling for an apple pie. Why did it have to exactly be apple pie for this one shindig? Why couldn't they agree to have AJ do a much simpler dish to help with the lunch? I'm pretty sure at this point the mane six will be able to call upon the rest of the town to make something. So it goes without saying they could have more than enough help for a casual visit. Unless only God knows what Celestia might do without her pie. But I kid! It made way for a somewhat interesting conversation. Which I guess was suppose to be silly or somehow comedic? I can't tell. I just know I didn't enjoy it. I'm sorry.

So when I open a can of food I expect something to be in it. It's the same for a book and a story. I opened this one up and I get a long drawn out conversation that pretty much ends and then a shifty shady scene that doesn't feel like it had any effect. At the very least play it out more and show what happened or who the culprit was to stealing to formula to the Krabby Patty. The ending had little to no effect when it feels like the story cuts off immediately. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't have time to shape the story out more like you had wanted. You most likely only had a couple of hours to write this and didn't end up finishing it before the deadline. Alright, cool. What you did get right was that it was a good quality conflict between friends. With Rarity being the hero. Hurrah she slayed the dragon!

Okay. The problem was Pie. No! The problem was not getting enough food for the lunch. The only two known procurers of any type of food at all in Equestria is Sugar Cube Corner or Sweet Apple Acres. At least that is how this story makes it out to be. We still have Hay Burger's and the farmer's market that the ponies constantly visit from time to time in the show. We already have desserts from Sugar Cube Corner coming in but we need more? AJ cannot make her own pies for the moment but we need them? I say this like a question because the conflict didn't really make sense. we can see that you're forcing the character here of AJ to be backed up into a corner, with all her excuses and reasons actually being legit and holding for true concerns that would be justified within an AJ character and her family. What I didn't get was why those pies were so special that they just desperately needed it. It was however very good that this turned into a court like trail with the Honorable Rarity in session *Stands up, sits down*. This interaction was the highlight of the story and actually provided quite a bit of detail and showing for your work.

This felt lackluster at most. First I want to say, bravo. You've shown effort and skill in your writing. The potential for that is very admirable. Don't take this as nothing but a negative, because out of your own strengths you will find your own style and become even better than you'd ever expect to be. You keep trying and I promise you! You will become what you've always wanted to be. For now keep working and we'll be here to help you. As always loved being here for you and thank you for writing for me.
#4 · 2
· · >>The_Letter_J
This was a rather odd read. Based on the title, this is clearly either inspired by the recent Apple Computers vs. FBI legal drama -- where the FBI ordered Apple to write them a backdoor which would allow them to bypass an iPhone's lock screen protection, and Apple fought the injunction -- or this is a direct ponification thereof. My major problem it that it straddles the line between those two possibliities in a way that feels to me like it leaves it incoherent as a story.

A story like this can work as direct commentary on the source issues, but here it seems like it's taking steps to abstract those source issues out in a way that leaves them Equestrian enough to obscure the parallels. Instead of the need to write software, Twilight's ordering Applejack to bake pies, and then we're talking about pie recipes which is yet another layer, and we're talking about the financial harm of recipes and going out of business (and the Blackberry thing -- I don't remember that being cited as precedent in the real case, but maybe I missed that part?) ... and rather than there being something unique about Apple for the situation, the way there was in reality because it was an iPhone the government needed to unlock, in this story Applejack wasn't even Twilight's first choice (which makes it even odder because she's willing to order Applejack around but not the Cakes). I'm passingly familiar with the IRL Apple case, at least from the infosec angle (the argument that having a backdoor to bypass security is a Really Bad Idea if the security is supposed to mean anything, and the near certainty that a backdoor for the "good guys" will be exploited by the "bad guys" before long), and I was struggling to read anything meaningful about the IRL case out of this. That's exacerbated by the choice to have this be about the innocent, pony-flavored core dispute of pies for a royal visit, rather than about trying to deal with a "bad guy" (maybe something like AJ baking a pie for a suspected changeling, because her pies are so awesome that everyone who eats food will drool at the smell, and changelings won't?) -- a lot of the drama of the original case was about the angle of "yes, nobody likes terrorists, but this is about a principle much bigger than a single bad guy".

So the other way this could go is to take the inspiration -- the flavor, if you will -- of the original events, and use those as the premise of a piece of original fiction which takes this in its own direction. On that level, the problem I'm having is that this clings too hard to its core conceit -- a legal battle between corporate giants -- in ways that keep it from feeling like, well, a pony story. There's a lot of lampshading here over the premise that Twilight would issue a royal order to Applejack (as there should be!), and that they would consult Rarity rather than a legal authority, but the literal climax of your story is Rarity dredging up an obscure point of Equestrian law to settle the issue, and the only thing I could think is: why wasn't this treated as the friendship problem it is? If you're just using the real-world events to establish the premise and then showing us a pony story based on it, then this needs to resolve with pony logic. That's exacerbated by the fact that the story hinges on a court ruling, when in reality the case sort of dwindled out when the FBI said "never mind" because they found a contractor who was able to hack the phone (and, ironically, found nothing actionable in it), so not only does this resolve in a non-pony way, it resolves in a non-pony way that doesn't even reflect reality!

I've got no complaints about the prose here, and the core concept definitely seems workable, but this just fundamentally seems misaimed right now to me (in the construction sense, not in the "Horizon will never like it" tier sense). It needs to pick one of the two paths above rather than trying to split the difference, because right now it's in an uncanny valley that is leaving it near the bottom of my slate, and by committing to either a satire of RL or a genuine pony story, it could so very easily transcend that.

Tier: Needs Work
#5 · 2
· · >>The_Letter_J
My biggest problem with this? The ending.

While I can buy the rest.. Applejack and Twilight fighting over such an issue isn't out of character... And I liked the legal wrangling and the explanation of why Rarity knew that sort of legal wrangling... Twilight is COMPLETELY out of character at the end.

I just can't believe that Twilight, of all ponies, would break the law or at the very least circumvent it in such a way. Especially when doing so endangers the livelihood of one of her best friends! If the world were in danger, okay, maybe. Same if Celestia had ordered her to. But bribing some seedy characters (Flim and Flam I presume) to steal the recipe for her? No, it's just not working for me. At all.

Also, I would expect a touch more concern about Twilight using what is more or less 'Eminent Domain' on one of her friends in such a fashion. While not quite out of character for a panicked Twilight (Lesson Zero anyone?) it's still a rather jarring thing for the Princess of Friendship to do...

Really, if you'd dropped the ending, I'd have been happier with it. Or at least made it funny... It's Granny and Bic Mac in disguise selling her the recipe... Sweet Apple Acres pies are so delicious because of the apples, more so than the recipe... AJ just played up the recipe's secret nature to get one over on Twilight... And the bag of coins is the traditional Earth Pony Tax on Snooty Nobles Who Try To boss Farmers Around or some such...

Besides my discontent with the ending, the rest of the story was quite good and cleverly done. ;>
#6 · 1
· · >>ZaidValRoa >>Baal Bunny >>TheCyanRecluse
>>Baal Bunny

First things first: Of the people who read my story, how many of you realized that it was based on the whole Apple v FBI case that was happening a little while ago? Clearly ZaidValRoa and horizon did, but I'm not so sure about the rest of you. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I think that the people who know about the case are more qualified to give me accurate reviews. But on the other hand, I would have liked this story to be able to explain what happened and why it was a big deal to people who didn't know about it. But since those people probably didn't realise that I was trying to tell them about real life events, I doubt it was able to do that anyway.

I think that horizon got the major problem with this story exactly right: it wasn't really clear if it was supposed to be parody, satire, ponification, or just inspired by the case. My original intent was for it to be more of a parody ponification. But as I was planning and writing, I realized that I was having a very difficult time translating some of the real life issues into pony equivalents, especially since I wanted Applejack to take Apple's role in this.

Okay, so it's time to explain all the parallels and such so everyone can explain what I was up to.
Several months ago, there was a small shooting/terrorist attack in California. One of the terrorists was a government employee of some sort, and he had an iPhone 5C that he had been issued for his work. He also had a personal phone, which he completely destroyed before the shooting. His work phone, however, was not destroyed, and the FBI wanted to get inside it to see if there was any useful information on it.
This is where my story picks up. In real life, the FBI went to Apple and told them to make a custom operating system that would make it trivial for them to unlock the phone. In my story, Twilight went to AJ and told her to make lots of pies. In both cases, everyone knows that the government's demand won't really accomplish anything useful, except for setting a precedent, and Apple(jack) refuses, saying that the government can't place an unreasonable burden on them like that (which is true).
In real life, the FBI then said "Okay, then just give us your source code, and we'll write the new operating system ourselves." In my story, Twilight tells AJ to give her the recipe, and she'll get the pies made herself. In both cases, this is clearly a terrible idea, because it will only be a matter of time before the secret stuff gets out and the Apple company and family are screwed forever.
And now we bring up Blackberry. This part might have been confusing even to people (like horizon, apparently) who knew about the Apple v FBI case because it was a big news story, but don't actually pay much attention to most computer security news, because it's actually a completely separate, though somewhat related, story. Just a few weeks ago, it was revealed that the Canadian government has had what is essentially the master key to (almost) all Blackberry devices* for quite some time. And while we don't know this for certain, it's hard to believe that the Canadian government won't have shared with with the US government and their other allies, who in turn probably shared it with their allies, and so on. And it's also basically guaranteed that some hackers have gotten ahold of it somewhere in that process. This was just one more huge nail in Blackberry's coffin (though to be honest, that coffin was buried years ago). Obviously I changed this a bit for my story, but you should be able to see the similarities.
*Okay, only the ones that use Blackberry's encryption. It's possible to use your own encryption server, or something like that, which many big companies that give their employees Blackberries probably do. So they're safe, but everyone else is screwed.
Now back to the Apples. In real life, this case never actually made it to court, because the FBI pulled out at the last possible minute, so the whole thing ended up as more of a PR battle between the FBI and Apple. In my story, they technically didn't make it to a court either, and I toyed with the idea of Rarity representing the public, though she did end up acting more like a judge.
In real life, the FBI claimed that they could do what they were doing under the All Writs Act. In my story, Twilight used the All Reins Act, which is the exact same thing, but with a horse pun.
In real life, many people, including the judge who would have heard the case, pointed out that the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) specifically prohibits the FBI from doing what they were doing. In my story, the Cooking Assistance and Recipe Exposure Act (CAREA) serves the same purpose (and I couldn't think of a good horse pun to use for this one).
In real life, the FBI pulled out because they found some hackers who got them into the phone. (At least, that's the official reason. The fact that they knew they were going to lose the court case and that a large part of the public, including the entire tech industry, were on Apple's side.) They paid at least $1.3 million for the hack. In my story, Twilight accepted Rarity's decision, but still payed Flim and Flam 1,300 bits for the recipe (because I thought 1.3 million seemed a bit excessive for this).

And that's where my story ends. But in case you're curious, here's what happened next:
To absolutely no one's surprise, there was nothing useful on the phone. So in my story, Twilight would probably realize that the recipe was just a completely normal apple pie recipe (I actually like TheCyanRecluse's idea about it being the apples that are special here).
Neither the FBI is not likely to tell Apple what the hack way, and Twilight probably won't tell AJ where she got the recipe.
Finally, a draft of the "Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016" (formerly the "Burr-Feinstein Anti-Encryption Bill") has been released. Basically, it says that anyone who makes or distributes any sort of encryption software must be able to provide decrypted versions of anything they encrypt to any government in the United States that asks for it. This is, to put it mildly, absolutely moronic. I can't think of a decent pony comparison that would fit with my story (which is why I didn't include one, though I wanted to), but it would be sort of like if Twilight developed a mind-reading spell and tried to pass a law saying that any government official could force anyone to submit to the spell. But don't worry, there's definitely no chance that any unsavoury characters will get their hoofs on that spell. But even that doesn't cover the full stupidity of the real bill.

Anyway, thank you to everyone who read this story. My only regret is that many of you apparently didn't realize what I was going for.
#7 · 1
· · >>The_Letter_J
>>Cold in Gardez
I agree with CiG.

That's not to say you have to go out of your way to make sure your audience understands you're drawing parallels to a real world event. You can still deliver an enjoyable story to people who may not know what happened between Apple and the FBI. I mean, what about the people who aren't aware of what happened? If you end up publishing this as it is on FiMFiction, will you put up a disclaimer telling people that this fic is meant to satirize an FBI case? WIll you put up all of what you said in the author's notes?

I really enjoyed your story, not just because it spoofed the FBI vs. Apple thing, but because it really was an entertaining story. Sure, it had some issues, but I don't think you should focus too much on getting people to understand that it's also about this other thing. You don't have to mirror all the incidents of the cracked phone case for the story to be fun, it should be able to stand on its own.

I like the whole government vs. freedom of the individual your story has going, and that's a good angle to play up, so don't get too hung up on that.
#8 · 1
· · >>Remedyfortheheart >>The_Letter_J

For my part:

I missed the parallels to the San Bernardino iPhone case entirely.

That's always the problem when basing fiction on reality. Fiction has to make sense, but reality isn't constrained that way. :) Maybe here, you could have Twilight and Applejack take their case to the Mayor with Twilight asking for an emergency exemption from the Recipe Exposure Act? Something that'd make sense "in universe"...

#9 ·
>>Baal Bunny
Actually that would have been really nice and episodic. With rarity being on Twilight's side and,oh I don't, Pinkie Pie on AJ's? That actually sounds very fun to write!
#10 ·
· · >>The_Letter_J >>Cold in Gardez
Yeeeeahhh... I'm kinda embarrassed to admit that I totally missed the connection until I read someone else's review... At which point it became obvious. (I thought the title was kinda weird... ) I could have gone back and edited my review, but I decided to let it stand as a monument to my cluelessness. ;>

I'm also embarrassed because I was sorta, kinda, a little following the whole Apple case thing. Not to anywhere near the level of detail I'd have needed to get all those jokes, mind you, but still. I thought this was a bit of morality play on eminent domain or some such.. Which it also kinda works on...

Also, my take on the FBI vs Apple was focused on a different aspect that I never saw mentioned in the news... The FBI had physical access to the encrypted device! Aside from a one use cipher pad, there is no form of encryption that can protect you if your opponent has a physical copy of the data! Just yank out the memory chip, read it, and cycle through password combinations until it breaks! A program that 'erases' the data after four or five failed access attempts is meaningless if you control the hardware the data is on! Ugh!
#11 ·
· · >>Cold in Gardez >>TheCyanRecluse
>>Cold in Gardez
Yes, I am very much aware of the perils of entering a story that requires some foreknowledge into these competitions. I still think that the best story I've written was the MasterChef crossover I wrote for the Out of Time contest, but it was really hurt by the fact that only about two other people had ever seen MasterChef. I was hoping that that wouldn't be an issue this time, because the Apple v FBI thing definitely got a lot more attention.
I was counting on at least the Americans and anyone who pays attention to technology news around here having heard at least a bit about the Apple v FBI case. And based on some of the comments here, it seems that the problem wasn't so much that people didn't know about the case as it was that they didn't draw the connection. I'm not really sure how I could have made it clearer though. I thought that just the title would have made it pretty obvious, but I suppose not.

If I put this up on fimfiction, I would probably say that this story is a satire of the Apple v FBI case in the description. But I currently have no plans to do anything else with this story, so it's not too important.
Should I do something like this in the future, I will try harder to make the story still enjoyable for the people who have no idea what I'm talking about.

>>Baal Bunny
You just reminded me that I forgot to talk about the Blackberries and the Recipe Exposure Act in my first post.
I did notice that little inconsistency you mentioned while I was writing, but I forgot to put in an explanation. I was going to say that the Recipe Exposure Act was relatively new and didn't exist back when the Blackberries were having their problems. But I forgot to include that, so I smacked my head a bit when you pointed it out.

Well, do you have any idea how I could have made the connection more obvious?
Also, you're not entirely correct. In general, you're right, but the iPhone was constructed in such a way to stop that from happening. I don't remember all of the details exactly, but it should suffice to say that they couldn't do that. That's why they wanted Apple to write some custom firmware that would take away all of the delays and automatic erasing. I know there was some talk of just copying everything elsewhere and just reloading the copy whenever you fail enough times for it to erase the data, but I believe there was some reason why they couldn't do that.
And really, pretty much everyone agrees that a large part of the reason why the FBI was doing all of this was to set a precedent, and they couldn't do that if there was an easy solution.
#12 ·
· · >>TheCyanRecluse

I was counting on at least the Americans and anyone who pays attention to technology news around here having heard at least a bit about the Apple v FBI case.

I think Stephen King said it: "Love your readers, but never trust them."

And really, pretty much everyone agrees that a large part of the reason why the FBI was doing all of this was to set a precedent, and they couldn't do that if there was an easy solution.

That's a rather definitive statement to make. I don't want to turn this into an argument about the FBI or this particular case, but be aware that what you feel is a statement of fact may seem to others to be a statement of opinion, unless you can firmly back it up with evidence.


What you're referring to is NAND mirroring (and it was mentioned extensively in tech journalism circles), and the FBI stated that the didn't believe it would work in this case. Certainly, there are ways to protect against it, and in the later versions of the iPhone it's widely believed Apple has managed to do so.
#13 ·
Hmmmmm... Ways to make the connection more obvious.... Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Maybe... Have readers who aren't as completely oblivious as myself? O.o Really, I have no suggestions, and no idea how I missed the friggin obvious! DOH!

>>Cold in Gardez
I'm not particularly familiar with cutting edge computer hardware, and I'm not sure what NAND mirroring is.... But I'm familiar with physics... If you physically have the device, then the encrypted data is stored on it in some format. Whether it's a thin magnetic platter, solid state memory, or future holographic crystal. Right? And we have companies and organizations that can recover data from a drives or devices that have more or less been dropped into a blender... while on fire. Unless IPhones now contain a tiny anti-tampering thermite charge (which would be totally awesome and convince me to switch from my Samsung Galaxy) it should be possible to pull out whatever chunk of the phone has that data, and then read the ones and zeroes off of it.... Shouldn't it? O.o

Which is why the whole thing struck me from first to last as a massive government ever reach, and a threadbare excuse for more government power.

Annnndd... Probably getting a LITTLE off topic as far as reviewing Horizon's story.... Sorry! :)