• Published 25th Jun 2012
  • 4,579 Views, 100 Comments

Dash's Tears in the Rain - SwiperTheFox



Dash loved all humans. She had to, the company programmed her that way. One mattered more than most.

  • ...
9
 100
 4,579

Dash's Tears in the Rain

Dash’s Tears in the Rain


September 17, 2025 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 2:25pm

Howard Jones couldn’t help but press his face against the glass, a habit that he never broke from childhood onwards. He took a little breath, fogging up a tiny spot on the large cylinder, as he gazed inside at the bright white object floating in the pool of shimmering blue liquid. His eyes shifted up along the various plastic nubs and ridges of the white object, culminating in a soft circular opening at the end.

“Up the funding a little and you can take it home with you,” Dr. Alexia Jones joked, walking up over to his right. She smirked as she held her personal clipboard, an object as inseparable to her as her right arm, up beside her cheek.

“Hardy-har-har.” Howard shot a blank glance at his cousin before leaning back over and walking around to the right side wall of the laboratory. A bland, featureless white color stretched over just about every inch of the walls and the arrays of tables between them. Automatic burners with test tubes loaded atop them sat beside the stacks of computer mainframes, light blue blinks popping up every few seconds, and the stacks of small rectangular containers filled with plain white paper and baggies of various odd powders. At the ends of the tables, huge cylinders filled with artificially grown body parts reached up through the floor tiles themselves and towards the ceiling.

Howard brushed his nose idly as his eyes bounced from tube to tube, thick bundles of wires and tubes stretching from the ceiling like endless spider-webs. Everything seemed so perfectly clean and sterile, white and blue colors going across every inch of equipment. He couldn’t tell if it looked like some kind of air-conditioned emotionless hell or a calm, serene paradise from the outside, organic world.

All in all, it actually looked like both. Howard’s cousin locked eyes with him. He brushed his curly black hair with his stubby, greasy fingers, taking another little breath. She gave him a look of mild condescension, with her hawk-like eyes focusing atop her long nose, as her thin, long black hair dripped atop her thick glasses.

“You know,” Howard said as he picked up his coffee— something that surely would calm his nervous ticks, “a lot of customers will realize that using their hands would always be cheaper.”

Alexia laughed, sliding her thin, pale arms along her plain white lab coat. She leaned over right beside the container holding the artificial genitalia. She glanced at her reflection as it somehow shone from container to container, making it look as if her goddess-like gaze marked every piece of her domain. She loved it when that happened.

“You could say the same thing about getting a real girlfriend,” Alexia replied. That brought a small grunt from Howard, still smarting from his latest break-up. Women never had much patience for a man who had started to go bald in his thirties, let alone one that scratched himself impulsively like some kind of ape. At least the company’s damn good coffee kept him from letting his nervous ticks get out of control.

“Do you ever stop and think how much attention these ‘bio-orgs’ have sucked out of the company’s other projects? Do you ever stop and think how weird the average person would think your ideas are?” he asked, stepping over right in front of her. Although balding slightly and wearing a thatched black and brown suit that made him more like a high school math teacher than a middle manager, Howard at least took comfort in the fact that he was taller than his opinionated cousin.

She patted her frail fingers against her plain lab-coat, looking right back at Howard. They both nudged a few feet over to the side, their bodies pushed up against a huge nearby worktable. “You know, for the record, I never liked calling them ‘bio-orgs’,” she replied. “All organisms are biological. A better term would be ‘biologically supported machines’ or ‘bsm’, like I’ve said a million times.” Marketing had chosen ‘bio-org’ months ago, of course, given that focus groups thought that ‘bsm’ sounded like the name of a poisonous food additive. So, her opinion meant squat.

“Look, Dr. Jones,” he said, leaning on the worktable and rubbing his hands along the cold, sterile countertop. “There’s no market for this. It’s been studied again and again. Oh, sure, the science-y part is interesting— but what’s the use if we don’t sell any of it?”

She said nothing. She simply walked over to her cousin’s place and put her long, spindly fingers along a small grey control panel. Howard sighed, finishing the last of his coffee, and he threw part of his body down across the countertop.

He went on, “we agreed, again and again, that the military applications could bring in millions.” He tapped his fingers upon the table. “The manufacturing applications could bring in millions more.” He closed his eyes, tapping even louder. “And the biomedical applications could push it all into billions.”

She kept on manipulating her control panel. “Of course, since no other company can manage to grow tissue on cybernetic frames as successfully as us, the whole thing makes the firm almost like— like—” She cleared her voice, standing up straight even though Howard couldn’t see her. “Like pioneers, discovering a new continent and getting a monopoly on its riches.”

“Which is why it’s so goddamn stupid,” Howard slurred, rolling his back on the table with his eyes still shut, “to waste it all— thinking that we should branch out into biological and mechanical screwtoys.”

“They’re called ‘companions’, Howard.” She curled her long nose up and shrunk her dark brown eyes as she let out some of her annoyance in her voice. The company, Intertrode, had decided to take her research in a more ‘sensual direction’, as her colleagues put it, but she always knew that the creatures that she planned to design would do far more than moan while getting wet in certain places. ‘Companion’ seemed like far more than a mere word; it represented how her creations would act as emotional bedrocks for their owners and stand at their side in loving support come rain or shine.

“Okay,” Howard murmured. He felt self-conscious once again about the oil oozing from his hairline along his slightly chubby cheeks, something made far worse by the lights endlessly bathing him above. That put him less in a mood to argue and more in a mood to just up and leave.

Alexia finished with the keypad, and she moved her arms a few inches upwards to the adjacent joystick. She had had more luck than Howard and his bean-counting ilk had ever dreamed of— growing eyeballs, ears, noses, and other organic parts on carefully constructed carbon-fiber structures before linking them all together with microscopic electronics. She had even come under budget by five percent, which— of course— meant that the company wanted to cut her budget by five percent. Fortunately, she knew that she could make her cousin truly understand what she wanted to achieve, even if his compatriots couldn’t.

Howard suddenly stirred, smarting off at her. “Companions, pets, comfort objects, whatever.” He rubbed his hands on his grease-soaked nose once again. “Because it doesn’t matter how nice we could make them look, it would still be no freaking different than humping your dishwasher.” He blinked, taking in the horrible florescent lights bathing the whole lab as he stared upwards, and he brushed his oily hands upon the counter.

“Don’t rub your snot on my worktable, Howard,” she remarked in a snotty tone.

“May I remind you that my Systems Analysis Department is ranked way, way above your department?” he retorted, still looking up. He heard a soft mechanical grinding noise to his right, but he paid no attention it.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that.” She pushed up a dark grey slider and gripped the joystick tighter.

“I said,” he groused, “may I remind you that—”

Howard let out a sharp whine as he felt something strong and small grabbing his right hand. His body reflexively jerked over, seeing a long blue arm of some kind sticking from the wall and clutching him. He panted, grabbing the middle of the arm. It felt smooth yet rather fluffy and somehow muscular on the outside, almost like the furry hoof of a miniature pony or other animal. Yet the fingers had the power of a vice on his flesh. He just had to get out of the stupid laboratory with its stupid atmosphere that seemed to suck the very life force out of him.

“Howard,” Alexia said, with a smug tone of satisfaction in her voice, “she could crush every bone in your hand if need be.”

“She?” Howard gasped. “We’re giving it a gender, now?” He furiously gripped the ends of the fingers with his free hand, trying his best to pry them off even an inch. He blinked again and again, the cold, alien lights playing tricks with his vision.

“But,” Alexia went on, pushing down the dark gray slider and shifting the joy stick to the right. “She can also do a lot of other things.” She snickered as Howard glared at her.

The bio-mechanical hand let him go, and he panted hard as he popped up away from the table. He rubbed both eyes, trying to get back to his senses. She had always played games like these with him. He made a small sigh, carefully nudging his body over with his back against the wall.

“A lot of other things,” she murmured. “Fascinating things.” Her sudden tone, sounding almost romantic, caught him off guard. He looked back at her with surprise, seeing more of a caring, understanding smile on her lips. He stood still for a moment, trying to process all of it. “A lot of things, if need be.”

Howard suddenly felt the arm swing over to its side and touch his shoulder. He let out a little noise as its hand stroked along his arm, holding onto him once more but with a far gentler touch. Feeling himself going into some kind of out-of-body zone somehow, he blinked, not sure why he had gotten so relaxed. He shifted his eyes over at the hand as it kept on rubbing him, the soft, blue fur creating such a wonderful contrast upon his oily skin. It seemed so different than just a moment ago, some weird special something emanating from the bio-mechanical arm.

“How does it feel?” she asked, delicately moving around the joystick.

“Ah,” he muttered, wiggling his fingers, “pretty good.”

“How about—” She pressed a tiny black button on the edge of the control panel. “Now?”

Something happened. Howard had no idea what. Yet he immediately felt the bio-mechanical hand curling itself down and holding its fingers against his. Some kind of energy seemed to course through each finger, the distinction between real flesh against artificial flesh breaking down.

“Why… how…” he muttered. He could tell that his breathing had already slowed and his anxiousness had blown out of him like air out of a balloon.

“You’re now feeling a mixture of specialized electrostatic charges, point-to-point hormonal interchanges, targeted bursts of heat, and the like coming from every single inch of her fur onto your own skin.” Somehow, she managed to say the technobabble in a smooth, almost seductive voice. “Short version: you’re getting the same thing as holding a real girl’s hand.”

“Right,” he replied. He still couldn’t get over the fact that what looked and felt like the arm and hand of a furry blue anthropomorphic princess ended suddenly in a mass of wires and tubing from the wall. It felt both comforting and frightening.

“Oh, you’re letting all that bother you?” she asked, tapping a few more keys on her control panel. “Close your eyes, Howard.” She gave him a caring glance, her glasses sliding down her nose.

Howard did so as he tried to picture himself being a thousand miles away. The tender warmth from holding the bio-mechanical hand made his mouth hang open. He tried his best to relax even more. It didn’t seem hard, especially with the hand’s long, smooth fingers ever so gently nudging against his own fingers. He sensed something like sweat starting to slide down along the biomechanical fur, the arm lining up against his own arm so that he even touched shoulder to shoulder with it.

“Now, tell me the truth.” He heard her flick a switch atop the control panel before stepping a bit away from it.

“Sure,” he replied, keeping his eyes closed. The inside of the hand seemed to grow ever warmer. He couldn’t believe that his cousin’s bio-mechanical creation could even make real sweat as well.

“Does it feel like—” Alexia leaned over, her mouth only a few inches from Howard’s ear as she lowered her voice into a mere whisper. “Her?”

“Yes.” Howard didn’t know how his cousin had done it. Yet the hot sensations flashing all through his shoulder, arm, and fingers gave him the same wonderful experience as sensation of standing at a cold beach with not a care in the world, enjoying a lazy Sunday morning watching the tide with his ex-girlfriend holding his hand.

He heard some more tapping on the control panel. “Now, open your eyes.”

The cloud of happy sensations evaporated. He found himself bathed in those god-awful florescent lights staring at the crone-like face of his cousin. The arm, without him even seeing it move, had already shifted itself back into its place on the wall with a flat white panel slid around it. Howard looked over at the motionless rectangular box on the wall. Eyes bouncing from that over to the freshly growing body parts in cylinders all around him, Howard sucked in a huge breath.

“Alexia,” he squeaked.

She leaned over to flick shut the cover of the control panel before smirking. She picked up her clipboard and jotted down a torrent of notes. Her eyes surveyed every inch of his body, making him feel naked. Reaching out with this lip and trying his best not to bite it, Howard finally had had enough. He grabbed his empty styrofoam cup to his side, already mentally filling it up with all variety of Colombian liquid nirvana, and he made his way to the door.

“Oh, Howard?” she casually remarked. “What do you think?

Her softer tone of voice forced Howard to listen closely more than any scream would. Still, he didn’t look back and make himself deal with her weird facial expressions. He simply opened the door, breathing in the normal earth tones of the hallway’s paint-job, and he stuck a foot out. Thousands of thoughts coursing through his subconscious, he paused for a moment. Shaking his head, he simply called back, “same funding. For another three months. Goodbye, Alexia.”

A smile curled around her worn features below her long, beak-like nose. She turned around, making a beeline for the artificial eyes inside the silver cube in the far side of the laboratory. She felt relieved that Howard had never seen the disembodied things— with their thick yellowish white endings flopping about in the bright blue growth fluid. She made a note about their progress along with her report of Howard’s psychological reaction to the arm alone.

She knew that real thing— arms, legs, eyes, ears, and everything else assembled into her full creation— would provoke an even stronger reaction.


January 22, 2026 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 1:05pm

“I don’t understand how we can fix this problem,” Dr. Bruce Michaels said, taking his glasses off and stretching the side of his face. He glanced at the computer screens one more time, line after line of black and white type looking more like ripples in an ocean than actual data.

“Well, that’s the first thing,” Dr. Jones replied, sitting down on the comfy white sofa on the other side of the lounge room. She had always adored Intertrode’s omnipresent placement of those rooms. It made work seem less mechanical and more human, where one could always dash for a breather. Their biggest breakthroughs often happened in one of these rooms. “You should stop looking at it as a problem.”

He swiveled around in his chair, raising those super thick black eyebrows of his. “Our flagship product fails to obey commands, and you call that ‘not a problem’?”

“They don’t,” she began, straining to find the right words. Human interaction never was her strong suit; they counted on her for the outside-the-box thinking and the willingness to do things others viewed as creepy or distasteful. “They don’t disobey commands. It’s a matter of not understanding them.”

He snorted as he leaned back in his chair. “I tell my bio-org to sit. It merely stands there.” He waved his well-manicured fingers in the air. “Looks like a problem to me.”

“Sir,” she said, sitting down on the chair besides him. He could see the war going on in her mind, and he immediately slid his chair a bit towards hers. He could tell that she wanted to get something profound across to him, but she couldn’t express it.

“I’m listening.” He smiled his special, winning smile that helped him get promotion after promotion. The sharp, jet-black hair and chiseled features helped a lot as well.

“When you have a dog, ah…”

“I have two Lhasa Apsos,” he commented, cutting her short although smiling even wider.

“Dogs are totally dependent on humans. It’s not just love. It’s deeper than love,” she went on, “dogs are like appendages of your body. You get up. They get up. You look upset. They rub on your leg. They bounce up and down, happy to see you finally at home. That’s because you feel just as happy inside.”

He poised his chin over his knuckle, a clear look going through his eyes. “Okay, I think I know where you’re going with this.”

“Sir, the Dash Home Companion unit can’t be programmed in the sense that you program a garage door opener. You can’t just type a command into its brain to ‘be lovable’ and expect it to act lovable. It’s like announcing on a PA system to a dog to ‘act happy when I’ve home, or else’.”

That brought a chuckle.

“The bio-orgs have to have an imprint of their owners on their minds. They have to make a deep psychological connection. And then they have to have their programming consciously augmented by spending direct physical time with whomever they’re supposed to learn from. Their owners have to become a part of them, sort of like how your own Google Android system is a part of you.”

“Imprint?” He slid back a few inches in his chair, looking understanding but also a bit amused.

“Like your system knows you, so it knows what kind of other music that you might like. All of that starts from an imprint. You can’t just tell it ‘play good music’. You play, say, the Bangles to it over and over again. Then, with that imprint, it will tell that you’re an 80s boy and start cycling through Depeche Mode, the Go-Gos, Roxette... you know.”

“Will I ever live down that Christmas party?”

He faded back into the memory for a moment. He had looked like the perfect ‘valley girl’, for a cross-dressing executive, and everyone had loved it. Of course, he wouldn’t. Dr. Jones put her hands on the table, trying to get the entire point across, and he snapped back into attention in a second.

“The most important thing here is that, fundamentally, companionship can’t be programmed. We can program it to ‘love’ all humans, but defining what ‘love’ specially entails must be learned and not programmed.”

He let out a little sigh as he nodded. He got the sense that this learning process she wanted to implement would cost a pretty penny, but he could deal with it. She had never steered him wrong before.

“It’s a matter of how we set-up the bio-org’s life as we grow it and raise it as well as how, most important of all, the owner acts with it.”

“So, practically,” Dr. Michaels said, standing up and straightening his suit jacket, “this means that we’re talking about making their minds a target-based system? Instead of obeying a suite of commands, it’s like an action-reaction thing? They come in helpless, and they bond with their companion by adapting to their personalities?”

She nodded. Of course, the details would prove far more complex than that. Yet he seemed to be on the right path, at least. They all knew that playing god and goddess with artificially created life-forms would never seem easy.

He headed out the door. She sipped a little of her green tea before holding out her hand and picking up his own tea before he could forget. He stopped, making a caring look back from the half-open door.

“Hey… what are your dogs’ names?” she asked.

“It’s ‘MJ’ and ‘Prince’,” he replied. Another smile soon followed as he clutched his tall, gray bottle.

“Oh, God,” Dr. Jones remarked, “you are so freaking 80s!”

He blew a raspberry in her direction before the door bonked shut. Alexia finished the rest of her drink, tossing it into the big gray recycling bin across from her. She reached into her back pocket and clutched her special charm character, a fluffy blue pegasus of some kind. It used to serve as a Happy Meal toy in a previous life. At any rate, she held it close in every boss-based meeting. This quirk felt embarrassingly childish to say the least, but the one-hundred-percent success rating didn’t lie.

“Imprinting,” she muttered to herself. “That’s obviously how we’d get it to connect the most to its owner. This process could work for security as well, killing two birds with one stone. Maybe something like a saying? A catchphrase? It could be like a special something only shared between a Dashie and her master and not a soul otherwise. Each bio-org would have one.”

A mere phrase wouldn’t work very well. She thought about something more complex. A security code, like a Social Security number, would have problems as well. No one really remembered those well offhand. She’d have to pick something more memorable, something subconsciously meaningful.


March 3, 2026 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 12:55pm

“So, what kind of styles are you looking for?” asked the short, stubby suit. Dr. Jones hadn’t gotten his name, and she knew that she probably never would.

“Styles?” she blankly asked back.

“You know,” he said, making a groan-like noise that she later realized was a laugh. He waved a hand in the air, looking like a fat penguin popping a flipper. “Blonds? Brunettes? Voluptuous? MILFs?”

“Sir…” she muttered, exhaling. She pressed her glasses back up her nose as she tried to keep down her irritation. Everyone seemed to care about nothing more than the bio-org’s sexuality.

He leaned back in his massive chair. All in all, Dr. Jones thought that his spot in the massive office looked like a throne. Various sculptures of Olympian figures in various athletic poses dotted around his fancy black and brown chair, an array of pictures with the stubby executive and various pals above him. Dr. Jones recognized a photo with an eager George W. Bush, with the rest drawing a blank in her mind.

“Where are you getting your physical appearance models from?”

“The first companions will be, well, more ‘companions’ in the true sense. For the infirm, for people recovering from PTSD, for…” She stopped as she saw him get up and waddle about in place. “Given the physical limitations of designing a humanoid figure, we decided to initially try a more animal-like design. It makes the test run easier.”

“Animal?” he asked in a half-grunt, clutching a tall glass of fancy coffee.

“Equine, to be specific.”

“Huh,” he muttered. A snicker crept up between his jowls. “Good luck getting a customer to bang one of those. How long until we have the Marilyn Monroe bots?”

“Assembling the bio-orgs, as we’re calling them, has been easier than expected.” she replied, trying to hide her disgust as he half-slurped up his coffee in a way more like an old dog than a man. She never liked ‘old money’, anyways. “Thus, they’ll roll out in earnest in three months. Humanoid designs all.”

“Nice enough timetable,” he snorted. “It had better be, what with the company throwing all of its eggs into your basket.” The snippy look in his beady eyes showed that he didn’t view that as a particularly wise idea.

“Okay,” she replied, trying to come across as neutrally as she could.

He poured himself another coffee drink from the enormous black and gold thermos to this side. It looked almost like an urn from some ancient Egyptian temple. “So, who are the poor souls that’ll be laying your pony droids?”

She clenched her arms against her lab coat, her fingers braced against her sides. She felt a thick lump deep in her stomach. “Sir, they’re not for ‘laying’.”

“They’ll have all the—” He giggled as he laughed, flesh flopping along his sides. “Parts, don’t they?”

“Well, they’ll have to, but I don’t think you understand.” She froze as she realized that she had just blatantly contradicted him twice, but he barely seemed to care as he poured sugar and creamer into his drink. “The Mark I Dashies are meant for testing that the biological components work on the mechanical and electronic frames. This doesn’t mean that they’ll undergo everything that the Mark II Dashie’s will. On the contrary. We primarily just want to make sure that we can turn them ‘off’ and ‘on’, sending them in and out of a hibernation-like deep sleep, without their organic components dying. It’s also important that the emotional imprinting functions as—”

“Spare me the details,” he declared, waddling back into his chair. He let out a deep, low moan as he relaxed into the leather. “I just want to know now— who gets the first one.”

“The very first model?” she asked. She immediately followed up, her expression perking up. “It’s going to my nephew.”

“Who?”

“Liam.”

Who?” he asked again, guzzling down his other coffee.

“He’s rather enthusiastic, being mostly stuck at home all the time until he’s fully recovered from his last acute adrenal crisis. And he’s a perfect candidate for other reasons. He really likes horses, riding them a few times. He also has suffered from severe depression related issues, even before his recent attack. But, now, things have gotten even worse. He's just great for her.” She smiled, not letting herself hold her enthusiasm down. “He’ll love to have the first Dashie. Hell, when I asked, he said that he wished that it would live long enough to stay with him all through college.”

The door opened up behind Dr. Jones. She flipped around, suddenly realizing that it had been automatically opened by some control switch somewhere. She locked eyes with the fat executive for another moment. He simply made a dismissive sort of hi-sign, and she took it that she had to leave.

“He’d better really love that first Dashie,” he whispered to herself, so quiet that even she knew that he didn’t think she could hear. “The fate of the whole goddamn company rests on it.”


April 12, 2026 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 8:20pm

Bright lights shot out from all around. She tucked her head from side to side, trying to find a spot that didn’t have the cutting beams shining on it. Everywhere, the lights seemed to assault her like punches upon her face. It hurt a lot. She finally reached out with her hooves and held them in front of her eyes, determined to keep them shut for a long time.

She suddenly realized that she had hooves. She leaned down, seeing that some kind of white tray rested below her. She blinked. She saw flooring moving along underneath that tray. She blinked again, leaning down.

She picked up movement. Some kind of breeze ran through her hair. The sudden realization that she had hair made her reach up and grab a tuft with her right hoof. It felt smooth and fluffy. She curled her body down.

The cold, flat tray didn’t feel very nice at all. The breeze didn’t either. And she didn’t want to get started on the lights. The fast moving air slid through her hair without really touching it almost. She could already sense that it came from some machine somewhere— with some huge set of pipes shuffling the air through filters and various treatment stations before some vent shot it onto her. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she didn’t care, knowing that she had to find some real air soon.

She heard the wheels squealing ever so slightly underneath the tray where she lay. The plain metal, such a nasty contrast against her sweaty fur, would normally carry some kind of product or dish. She could tell that she wouldn’t end up somebody’s dinner, knowing that by instinct. Yet she felt like that might as well be true. The lights somehow amped up in intensity, making her shiver.

Lights were supposed to bring warmth and comfort, but they just felt alien. These kinds of lights were made to be able to illuminate a showroom car at a Detroit Auto Show rather than to comfort something like her. She immediately wondered how she knew about the Detroit Auto Show. She had never seen Detroit. She wondered if that was somebody’s name. She blinked, and flashes of places that she’d never been to and things that she’d never seen herself popped through her mind.

It felt too much. Thousands of images littered with factoids bombarded her senses. She saw a mental news report telling her that the Detroit Auto Show had resumed last year, after a multi-year absence. Another report flashed into her mind about how the Ford Pheasant had proved the talk of the town. She tried to cancel these images, deleting them from her thoughts, but her mind didn’t seem to obey her conscious senses.

Yet another report somewhere in her mind screamed at her how, on that same day, Lady Gaga had released her single “Fruit of the Crown” that had reached number two on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart, helped in part by her innovative music video featuring her as an alien monarch fighting space marines. All those factoids compressed into a noisy blur of scream upon scream. Presidents, monuments, devices, and all other kinds of pictures surrounded her senses in her mind.

She opened her mouth and let out a little whine, her hooves rubbing against her head. She couldn’t have truly remembered all that. She felt more like a trash can with bits of knowledge from someone else getting crammed into every inch of her. Confusion overwhelming her, she tapped her head against the ground, hoping to smash those endless thoughts out of her. It somehow seemed to work for a while. She sensed light, soft things flittering on her back as she strained. They didn’t seem like hooves. She flexed, and they moved a little.

Doors opened. She withdrew into a little ball, holding herself tightly. She felt her bottom hooves with her front hooves. A fluffy something that stretched from the end of her rear curled up across her belly. It felt sort of smooth yet fuzzy like her hair. She wondered if she had a tail.

She wondered if having a tail meant that she’d get served to somebody to eat as well— just like other things with tails such as pigs, cows, deer, and rabbits. She felt as fluffy as a rabbit all around, her hooves making little circles in her chest. She thought about a ‘her stew’ getting cooked up just like a ‘rabbit stew’, mixed up with oregano and lots of butter. She shuddered.

“Dashie?”

The sound jumped into her ear and immediately swept out the mass of horrible thoughts littered across her mind. She knew that name. She knew that voice. She had never heard them herself, face to face, but somehow they made sense. Somehow the two things make the churning in her stomach stopped. Some things in her chest flowed faster and faster, bringing her more energy. Her whole body felt so alien, so confusing. Nothing seemed to obey her.

“Hi.”

A boy’s voice went through her ears, sounding chipper and somehow amused. Something different from all of the various mechanical noises and mechanical announcing that she’d heard, although she couldn’t remember where from, the voice seemed to almost brush her gently across her mane. She made a sigh, standing up straight although she had her eyes closed. The tray froze. She reached out with her hooves, stepping out forwards. She felt warm carpet beneath her. She wiggled her wings in surprise. She gasped as she realized the fact that she had a mane, a tail, wings, and hooves all together. And she could control them all.

Those mechanical tones— constantly saying “installation at thirty percent” or “interlocking drives added” or “terminal angles found” to her from inside her mind— never conveyed anything to her. Those messages never felt real. But that voice felt real. And that particular word didn’t just mean humanity, implying a sense of being and belonging that she liked so much. She swished about her tail and realized that such a big tail made her more than a rabbit, more like a horse or something similar. Yet she had wings. It all confused her so much, making her want to keep her eyes closed. She felt so afraid of what could happen next.

“Uhh…”

“It’s important that you’re alone. It’s also important that you react instinctively. Don’t think. Just do what you want,” said the artificial sounding voice from above them both.

“No,” she muttered. She paused, surprised that she had spoken for the first time. She liked her own voice, but not as much as the boy’s. He somehow seemed to feed her as he spoke. She felt more whole as she listened to him.

“No, what?”

“What?” she meekly let out.

“Please, open your eyes.”

She slowly lifted up her eyelids, stepping forwards as well instinctively. She glanced around at the floor, grayish tones mixed with a brown tint across the carpet. She leaned her head back. Her eyes dotted around the various jet-black items across the cozy room— from the dresser to the end table to the empty bookshelves and everything in between. It looked like someone’s bedroom, yet she saw no bed nor anything personal— like a collection of dusty Marvel comic books, a dartboard with American flags fluttering behind the darts, a Star Wars poster above the dresser, or other such things— around. She didn’t know why she missed seeing those things. She had never even heard of this ‘Star Wars’ thing. Yet she missed them all the same. She somehow craved someplace more real.

“Dashie?”

She turned to her side. Her eyes opened wide as dinner plates as she looked out. Unlike those awful programmed memories— those factoids littered on static images that stacked inside her brain like potato chips inside a can— the boy stood in front of her as plain as day. She saw his chest moving as he breathed. She saw sweat dripping along his cheeks at the same time as he curled his fingers against his dark grey shorts. She looked up at his curvy face, blushing for whatever reason, as his big, greenish brown eyes looked down at her.

“Master?” she asked. She reached out with her trembling right hoof, her ears flicking backwards. He got down on his knees, nervously bobbing his hands against his flat greenish-gray shirt. She took a gulp, and she slid her head to the side as she nudged up even closer. She felt her mane flowing over her eyes, a rainbow-colored blur going over her vision. “Is this your house, master?

“Liam,” he replied. He took a deep breath as he ran his hand through his thick, curly brown hair. He hesitated for a second, cheeks still turning bright red, and he thrust out his fingers awkwardly onto her hoof. “No, it’s Intertrode’s ‘Psychological Programming Room’. But you shouldn’t care about that.”

He felt warm. More than anything that she’d ever felt— from the hard, long mechanical arms that had stretched across her body to the flat, metallic tray that she had stood on for the longest time to the endless waves of plastic wrapping that had enveloped across her whole body and everything else— his touches shot ripples of heat along her leg. She sensed every last inch of his human skin wrapping around her fur, and she loved it. She sucked in a deep breath, knowing that she had found her purpose. All of those horrible memories of getting shunted about like a product as well as all those pointless factoids from other people’s lives both meant nothing any more.

“Guys, I,” Liam began, looking up at the ceiling, “I want to hug it.”

She didn’t know who he was talking to, but she hardly cared. She just focused on his wonderful touch. She instinctively leaned over and rubbed her face against his arm, her mane flipping over onto his shoulder. She brushed herself side to side upon his warm skin, smiling. She felt happy. She knew that he felt happy too. That fact made her feel even happier.

Getting no response from the horrible, mechanical tones that she couldn’t see, Liam bent his body down and stretched it over hers. She couldn’t think anymore. She simply let out a low, feminine coo as the human touching spread across her sides. Pockets of warmth burst out through her insides. Her mind felt like a beautiful flower coming into bloom, and her hooves dug into the carpet from the emotion.

One of his hands made its way to her right wing, idly rubbing along the feathers. She moaned as his fingers gripped her fluffy things. She closed her eyes, her face pushed right up against his shirt. His chest felt just as warm as the rest of him. She breathed in deep. He smelled so gruff and so earthy as well, so much better than the horribly sterile plastic and metal that she had known.

He clenched her even harder for a moment before standing back up straight. She reflexively sat down right in front of him, her face locked with his. She panted a little as she wagged her wings.

“All that reaction from just a hug? Jesus,” Liam remarked, stroking his chin. “Nice programming.”

“Programming?” she asked. She impatiently nudged her hooves against the tips of his sneakers. She didn’t know when he would touch her again, but it had to happen soon.

“Auntie Alex has outdone herself this time.”

“Master, please,” she muttered, her hooves moving up to his shoelaces. She tucked her head back and flicked her mane around her shoulders. “Please.” She didn’t know exactly what to ask. She just knew that she needed him. Fundamentally, through every fiber of her being, she had to have him. “Master.”

“Rather needy, though,” he said with a chuckle. He reached down and tussled her mane, rainbow-colored locks flowing through his fingers. She let out a tiny groan at the amazing attention. “How’s anyone that works a lot or is out of town a lot able to keep one of these models?” He scratched down along her neck. She swooned, smiling and feeling as if her mind had hovered up into the air from the pleasure. “Needier than a real freaking pet, that’s for sure.”

“They can be turned off you know,” said the disembodied voice with a bit of irritation.

“Master, who is that?” she asked, worry coursing across her face.

“Dashie, just relax,” he replied, standing up straight and stepping a bit away from her. She followed closely, rubbing up against his legs. She couldn’t bear to let him go, not when he had represented the only thing that connected her to reality.

“Dashie?” she muttered.

“Yes, you’re Dashie,” he said, getting on one knee and playfully pressing his finger against her nose. “And—” He laughed heartily, his thick hair tossing about in the air. “You’re worth more than my last two cars put together!”

“There’s a pheromone over-response,” that awful voice from some speakers somewhere on the ceiling went on, “natural, since we’d rather overshoot by loading her up on chemicals, making her too emotional, than undershoot and have her come across as too distant.”

She mulled the name over in her head. ‘Dashie’ felt right. Yet it somehow also felt incomplete. She didn’t know what to think. She didn’t even know if she could challenge it. She wanted to go along with Liam, anyways, so she’d never fight with him over something as artificial as a name. As long as he loved her, she’d be fine. She slid her cheek up and down Liam’s leg. He could dub her whatever he wanted.

“It’s perfect. So long as it’s free, I’m buying it,” Liam continued. “Whatever you call it, Dashie or Dash, I like it. I’m taking it home with me— and does it comes with an extended warranty?” He chuckled for a moment at his own joke. He gently moved his leg out of Dash’s grip, leaving her holding still with hooffuls of air, and he walked over at the empty bookcase. “Many more years of fun, I suppose.”

“It’s been an excellent first contact, so thank you.”

Liam knocked against the blank black sides of the bookcase. “And can’t I talk to you in person? This is like I’m in some kind of sucky horror movie or something, with my freaking furniture listening to me.” He slid his face over and pursed his lips at the empty shelf containing the microphones.

“We’ll switch it off and start with the multi-level processing extraction, then.”

“I don’t touch something on it, do I?”

“No, we can do it remotely at this stage. It’ll only have to be done physically past level six.”

Listening to the whole conversation felt like flying through a thunderstorm with sleet rippling down onto Dash’s wings. She closed her eyes, her hooves pitter-pattering against Liam’s sneakers. She just wanted him to touch her again. She needed him to express his love physically again. She knew that those things weren’t too much to ask.

“Dash,” Liam said, curling his body down.

She looked up at him, a hopeful expression popping up onto her soft features. He nudged his fingers against her ears, stroking the sides of her head for a moment. She opened her mouth up wide. She had already missed his attention, she couldn’t take even a few seconds without it, and his skin moving against her fur brought sensations of pure joy along her body. She cooed once more.

“We’re shutting it off now.”

She somehow instinctively knew what that meant. She trembled for a moment, pushing herself upwards and rubbing herself against his legs. “Master, I—”

And everything went black.


April 13, 2026 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 12:20pm

“I need more sticky buns,” Liam declared, pointing a hand at the empty silver tray and wiggling it about in the air as if casting a magic missile. The other men at the table glanced blankly at each other. Liam held his head back and opened his eyes wide, pretending as if he would cry at any moment. “Sticky. Buns.”

“Yes, yes,” Dr. Deckard replied, reaching over towards the holographic keyboard to his right. “It’ll just be a moment.”

“You know, doctors,” Liam said, leaning back once again in his grey and white shaded chair and rubbing his legs against the table leg, “I just know that you guys put something in those.” He gazed upwards at the various walkways and tall, fancy-looking trees decorating the atrium. “I just know that there’s some funny stuff in them for sure. No regular sticky buns could taste that sweet.” His eyes bounced along from the arrays of shiny yellow flowers upon the trees to the miniature blue streams flowing along the various aqueducts going everywhere, wondering just how much the whole thing had cost. “You guys have loaded that up with experimental sugary whatnot.”

“Of course not, Mr. McAdams,” Dr. Deckard muttered, getting frustrated at some error of some kind with his keyboard. He brushed his hands upon his plain white lab coat and tried once again.

“I wouldn’t put it past you guys. I eat some special sweetener additive, phleno-trixinine-graboid-twilightlicious-methyl-oxide or whatever,” Liam remarked. “And then, I go home feeling all fine. Next thing I know, I wake up with forty eyes and flames shooting out of my dick.” He kicked the underside of the table.

Dr. Michaels chuckled for a second at the mental image, rubbing his huge eyebrows with his right hand. “No worries, Mr. McAdams,” Dr. Deckard replied in his same monotone.

Liam just let out a little breath. He thought a toaster would likely show more emotion. He sat back up straight, sitting normally, and he tapped his sneakers against the nice red and brown brick floor. He glanced straight behind him at the numerous black couches and matching black grand piano. The whole room looked like an IKEA showroom. Yet he still wanted to get his hands on that piano; the tips of his fingers almost tingled with desire.

“Dashie will be here in just a minute,” Dr. Michaels said in reassuring, fatherly tone, taking his arms off the table and folding them upon his expensive charcoal grey pants and matching suit.

“I still don’t understand what the hell you guys think went wrong,” Liam responded, still looking behind him at the magnificent piano. “Dashie woke up like she was supposed to. She talked with me. She sounded loyal enough. She could walk.” The piano seemed to have hardly a scratch on it, the sleek jet-black sides sparkling in the sunlight. “Why so antsy?”

“Well, broadly speaking, the first contact proved to be a massive success.”

“Uh-huh,” Liam muttered. He wondered when was the last time the company had tuned the piano and just how often employees would step up to throw some chords down.

“We estimated only a seventy percent chance that she’d actually turn on in the first place. Plus, her mental synapses fired rather well. Difficulties keeping her blood flow regularized, to be sure, but the secondary chambers worked pretty well, with minimal strain to her carbon tubing. Not to mention…” Dr. Michaels trailed off, knowing that he probably couldn’t misdirect Liam.

“It’s not that,” Liam flatly said. He tapped his hands upon the table, running through the opening riff of that last Beatles tune he’d heard on the drive over.

“Right.”

“So, Auntie Alex said that she ended up too emotionally soft and dependent? You’re tweaking her brains somehow.” Liam didn’t sound happy with that at all, putting a hand through his hair as he turned his body back over facing Dr. Michaels.

“It’s not quite what you think.”

“Not quite,” Liam repeated, shifting his seat back. He glanced over at Dr. Deckard, who remained perfectly still as a statue.

“Well, we overdosed her mind with hormones. And we cross-referenced the nerve causeways atop her mental mainframe too much. Long story short: that meant that her conscious mind got bombarded by her programmed knowledge, which sort of feels like trying to drive through pouring clumps of hail. And her every exposure to you had a positive feedback effect, you know. It was like holding a microphone besides a speaker. Thus, she couldn’t deal with the stimulation of being directly with you.”

“Yeah, just a hug made her get all loopy.” Liam closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. He didn’t feel like arguing.

“Of course, we’d have to fix that— the way in which her touch senses worked. Otherwise, it would be like she’d have an orgasm every time you shook hands with her.”

“I, for one, fake all my orgasms, thank you very much,” Liam said in a mock melodramatic voice, furrowing his eyebrows. That brought another, bigger chuckle from Dr. Michaels.

A three-note tone sounded. All three men looked over towards the right, a set of double doors opening up. The Dash unit itself would show up in just a few moments, carried on the same automatic tray as before. The production team had insisted that no one mess with her until she made it into the atrium alone so as not to complicate their adjustments.

“Thing is,” Liam remarked, “she seems to ‘not be self-aware’. Just like you said.”

“Just like we said,” Dr. Michaels repeated. He clearly didn’t like that fact, his smile flowing into a broad frown.

“And since she doesn’t understand that she’s just a product, you’ve had to tinker with some things. But you don’t know how well that could work. We might have to retry things over and over again. Just like you said,” Liam went on.

“Just… yeah.”

Liam rested his head in his hands, clenching his teeth for a second. He didn’t quite understand why he felt upset over the company taking a whole night post-‘first contact’ to retool some things in Dash’s body and mind. “I just don’t want to go through any more of the technobabble stuff. Just let me use her. Give her over to me for good. I’ll figure her out.”

“Not to be cheeky, but this is rather interesting from a psychological standpoint,” Dr. Deckard interrupted.

Liam cast a blank glance in his direction, making a slightly frustrated sigh. His fingers went back to playing the tune bubbling through his mind upon the table. Dr. Michaels got up from his place and headed besides the miniature stream towards the double-doors. The babbling water spread out a soothing, calm sound all through their lobby level of the atrium.

“You’ve only seen the Dashie unit for a few minutes yesterday, and yet already you’re taking on masculine ‘protector’ type role. You reflexively seek to defend it in case of real or perceived threats, unwilling to let it go into the care of others, when—”Dr. Deckard cut himself off, seeing Liam’s face harden into a look of stony contempt almost like a gargoyle.

“There it is!” Dr. Michaels called out.

Liam swung out of his spot, hopping over the nearby stream and eyeing the blue pegasus curled up in a small ball at the atrium’s entrance. He went right past Dr. Michaels and poised himself over Dash. He blinked, hands held up in the air a few inches from the thick reams of plastic wrapping around her body. A grotesque black device of some kind stuck onto her face, blue dials lighting along its sides as Dash breathed in and out.

“Dashie?” Liam asked. He looked back at Dr. Michaels, who held his hands up in the air and stood up straight.

“It’s all on you,” he replied, leaning up against the wall. He pulled up the tablet computer in his right hand and typed through a few things.

Liam let out a deep breath as he threw the plastic off of Dash and onto the floor. He swung the tray out and carried it over several yards over towards the middle of the atrium, letting Dash get the fullest blast of the sunlight. He carefully pulled the black device off of her face, seeing her face frozen in a scared expression. He sat down on his knees and pressed both hands into her fuzzy chest. She still had her eyes shut tight, her wings and hooves curled close upon her body. He dug his hands into her fur.

“Dashie, you’re okay? Right?”

“Liam,” she muttered, eyes opening just half an inch. Her mouth hung open.

“Dashie, I—”

She leaped off of the tray and clutched her body against his, knocking him down upon his sides. He reached out with both hands in the air and let out a muffled grunt. Dash’s hooves pinned his legs down, her face rubbing up against his neck. Random shivers rippled all across her body.

“Master, don’t ever leave me again!” Dash moaned. She dug her face against his right shoulder and flipped her mane upon his face. Her bottom hooves stroked up and down his leg. He felt her almost panting, sheer emotion marked upon her scrunched up face.

“Look, it wasn’t what you think,” he began.

“I don’t care what it was,” she declared, pressing her body down hard upon his. “Just never, ever leave her again.”

“I—”

“Never, ever, never, ever, for all time, forever, you’ll never,” she babbled, her mane flopping around and smacking his ear.

“Dash,” he muttered, trying ever so gently to slink himself out of her grasp, “Look, dammit, I didn’t leave you. I didn’t go anywhere. We just turned you off for a little bit. That’s all.”

“I know! It was awful!” Dash shrieked. She jumped over to the side, arching her back. She watched as Liam sat on his knees, a confused expression going across his face. She laid down flat right beside him, her tail wagging against his back. “I hated being dead! There were all of these flashing lights. And then there was all this plastic. And then the plastic was eating me. But then I couldn’t move because I was dead. But my brain was only mostly— only like kind of out of my control, gosh. I was like aware... but still not able to move! And then the horrible mechanical grinding— oh, Liam— the grinding— it tore through my insides!”

“Uh, Doctor?” Liam asked, eyes moving over at the two men behind him. Both of them merely jotted down more notes upon their tablet computers. After a few seconds, Dr. Michaels took his right arm and tapped his middle and index fingers upon his wrist. Liam had no idea what that meant, but the gist of it probably implied ‘stay in the moment’.

“Liam,” Dash said in a much calmer, softer voice, “I’m so happy to be here for you now.” She stroked a hoof against his sneaker.

“Dash, I don’t think you understand the situation here.” Liam reached over and put his fingers through her right wing. The fluffy blue feathers stuck out, loving every last little bit of her touch. “You didn’t die. You… never… you… was…” He closed his eyes and whistled, stretching the back of her head. “Why would you ever think like that? You were just turned off.”

She sat up straight, her front hooves tapping idly against the floor. Her eyes grew wide as she made a very blank expression, cheeks looking flush as she blushed. Liam slid over a few inches away from her. He sighed as he tried to think of how to put everything to her.

“Dashie,” he began, “what do you think you are?”

“Why, I’m a Dash! You silly!” She brushed her mane with a hoof and wiggled her wings around.

“Yes,” he replied, leaning his face over towards hers. “And what else?”

She blinked, twisting her head around in a mini-circle. “There… needs to be something else?”

Liam felt partly like bursting out in laughter and partly like giving Dash the tightest hug she could stand. He did neither, standing up straight over her and letting his eyes wander around the complex. She stood up as well, flickering her tail and mane around her body.

“Okay, let’s make thing simple. What am I?” He smacked a fist about the bright blue and red ‘mod’ target symbol on his The Who t-shirt.

“You’re a ‘Liam McAdams’.”

“Well, I guess that’s a start,” he said, looking straight up at the massive sculptures hung in the air far above them. The sunlight bathed them both. “I’m a ‘Liam McAdams’. The one and only.”

“Annnnnnnnnnnd!” Dash burst out, jumping up into the air. Liam braced himself as he focused right on her. “The most wonderful thing about Liams— it’s that Liams are wonderful things!” She knocked herself to the right and danced upon her bottom hooves, folding her top hooves as she nodded her head. “They’re flouncy, troucny, ouncy, bouncy— fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!” She slid her hooves upon the brick, pumping her wings in the air, and tossed herself around Liam.

“Dashie…”

“And the most wonderful-est, best-est thing about Liams is that you’re the only one!” Pure happiness just seemed to raidiate upon her face as she bounced up against his back. “You’reeeeee the only one!”

“I’m the only one,” he muttered, staggering forwards.

“Rawr!” Dash burst out, ambling up onto his shoulders for a second.

“Oooof,” he grunted, collapsing onto his side. He found himself with a face full of fur for a moment as he pressed his hands against her front hooves. “Seriously, stop acting like you’re lighter than me. Gosh.” He chuckled as she slid off of him and laid down at his feet. He pulled himself back upwards and let out a moan, stretching his temples.

“What were we talking about, again?” she asked, making an innocent expression with her rainbow mane going over her big eyes.

“Let’s try another track,” he replied, heading on over at the piano. He gazed at the perfect strings and hammers, the keys having nary a fingerprint on them. He made a happy sigh of anticipation. Dash followed right beside him, her face rubbing against his leg. “You know what this is, right?”

She surveyed the whole instrument, her hooves hovering against its legs. “It appears to be a Steinway & Sons piano, Boston brand, of the model GP-156 PE from the 2017-2021 period.” She smiled.

“Ah, right,” he replied. “And rather, uh, specific as well.”

She nodded.

“Righto.” He took a seat upon the stool, still looking right at Dash. “And you’d probably call this an ‘instrument’. That’s just a narrower term under the general category of ‘machines’.” He plinked through a few arpeggios. “With me so far, Dashie?”

“Sure!” She seemed happy enough just to have him talking to her, even if he had merely babbled uncontrollably.

“The piano is a very useful machine. Human beings have long adored them. They’ve made our lives better.” He found himself flowing through a few random chords, just taking his time with the instrument. “Of course, I’m not a machine. I’m a human being. I’m a living thing, instead.” He pointed at himself once more, just to make things easier. Dash bobbed her head to his tune, listening intently to his every word. “So, ah… here’s the hard part. You’re… sort of both. But you’re mostly a machine.”

“Dashies are both?”

Liam stopped, holding his fingers out atop the C keys. “This is going to sound weird. But please stay with me. Now, then, imagine that we planned to design a piano that played itself. More than that— suppose it could walk, talk, and randomly pick itself some new songs. It would still be a machine, made to do a machine’s job. However, it would be a special machine. This is where it gets weird. Imagine that we decided to use some living components in our special piano. These things would help it act in human-like ways, playing itself and so on, but it would still be a machine. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

She stepped over behind him, mouth hanging open. She finally nodded. “I don’t understand yet, but promise that I’ll try to get it.”

Liam hesitated. He finally slid over a bit, turning around from the piano and staring right back at Dashie. He had to make her get it, somehow.

“Concentrate for a moment,” he said, holding out his hand in front of her nose. “Now, ‘boop’!” He nudged his fingers against her nose. She giggled, thick red blushes flashing over her beautiful blue cheeks. She felt snug and warm to his touch, like always. “Now, ‘boop’ once more!” He nudged his fingers against his own nose. That brought yet another smile over her face. “Dashie, both of our noses are made of the same stuff. It’s called ‘cartilage’. It’s made up of masses of special cells that don’t have connections to blood vessels.” He hoped that he recalled his High School biology well enough.

“Both the same stuff, and both living stuff. On both of us,” she commented. She clearly loved that similarity— anything that drew them closer together.

“Please, keep concentrating,” Liam said. He reached down and pulled his shirt off, resting it upon the edge of his stool. He leaned over and clutched her right hoof with both of his hands, gently moving his fingers over her fur. “Now, ‘boop’.” Dash instinctively stepped closer as Liam pulled her hoof up to his chest. He pressed her hoof firmly against his skin. Taking in some soft breaths, he nodded as they both felt his heart beating. She also seemed overcome at the torrent of emotions going through her, blushing even more than before at having gotten so close. “Now—” He smoothly slunk himself off of the bench and pressed her hoof against her own fluffy blue chest. “No ‘boop’.” He pressed both his palms into her fur around her hoof.

“No ‘boop’?” She sniffed, her ears dropping down. Liam didn’t know if the Dashie’s had been programmed to cry, but she sure as hell seemed to want to. He took his hands off of her and slid his shirt back on. She tossed her body at the side, all four of her hooves scraping all around her chest. Hunting desperately for a heartbeat, for something, or for anything at all, she whacked her tail against the floor.

“You can do that until the end of time, Dashie,” Liam said, “you’ll never find it. It’s not there.”

“L-l-liam,”she moaned, throwing her body upon the other side of the piano stool. “Why isn’t it there?” She pressed her face against the wood, disappointment coursing through her insides.

“You don’t need a heart. You’re a product, Dashie. Your specifications don’t include a heart, so the company didn’t build you with one.”

“Liam?” she helplessly asked, not knowing what else to say. “Liam? Liam, please?”

“To be precise, as Auntie Alexia told me,” he went on, petting all along her neck and shoulders as he tried to recall the doctor’s exact words, “a specific central motor to pump your bloodstream didn’t make sense in your overall design. It worked better to have several independent, carbon-framed blood-beating devices spotted around your body. The biggest apparatus is below your neck there.” He stopped, gently rubbing his face to snap himself out of the technobabble.

“I… I think I sort of understand…” She coughed, letting her hooves droop out from the edge of the piano stool.

“Your whole body is like that, Dashie,” he went on, posing his face over hers. “You have a carbon-fiber skeleton coated with electronics. There’s a layer of mechanical parts branched onto that. The whole thing is coated with living tissues, living pieces.” He moved his face just inches from hers. “But just pieces.

Liam didn’t want to upset her anymore, but he knew deep down that she had to get it. She had to understand. If she didn’t have that deep psychological break where she came to terms with being a product with him, having an epiphany right then and there, then the doctors would take her back to their lab for more meddling with her brain. He couldn’t bear to let that happen. He couldn’t have her taken through those horrible factory lines full of cold plastic and hard metal. Even if she didn't really a real conscience and he had to think of her as about the same thing as a keepsake toy, it just didn't feel right— he wouldn't throw a nice toy behind a dresser and doom it a prison of wrappings and trash, anyways. And Dashie's innocent face had already begun to play his heartstrings like a maestro.

“Okay,” Dash squeaked, breathing softly as she nudged her face against his chest.

He helped her get her head up onto his lap. “Dashie, listen to me. Every word.” He tried to keep himself from crying— running through his mind over and over again the fact that she was only a product and nothing more. He didn’t want to believe it himself. “Don’t ever think that being a machine means I’ll ever turn you off. Even if you can turn back on just fine, I won’t if you don’t want me to. Don’t ever think that being a machine means I’ll forget you, hurt you, abandon you, or anything like that.”

She mumbled something in response, her face scraping against his shirt. Her mouth hung open. Bits of drool dripped onto his shorts as she made a soft whine.

“Look, really. Believe me. I promise.” He held his hands upon her wings. She stirred a little, shifting up until she sat halfway on his lap.

“It’s not that,” she groaned, tossing her huge rainbow mane about.

“What is it?”

“If I don’t have a heart… how am I supposed to love you?”

“I… I…” Liam felt like he had taken a prize-fighter’s punch to the face. He took a huge breath, sucking in air, and he held her shoulders tightly. He kept the best still upper lip he could, and he answered, “I suppose I’ll have to have a big enough heart for both of us.”

She giggled a bit. He saw her suddenly relax, her ears rolling around and her tail swishing against the piano keys. He felt overcome by relief that she had apparently accepted being a mere product. Of course, he didn’t know that for sure. He didn’t want to think about the consequences if she really didn’t.


April 13, 2026 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 4:04pm

“This skinner cable here, with the longer end,” Dash said, holding up the tip in between her front hooves. “That’s called the ‘quarter cable’? Right?”

“Yep,” Liam replied, fiddling with the various levels on the small audio mixer atop the circular table. He shot a smile over at the pegasus, who gripped the cable with her teeth and clicked it into the tall black speaker. He glanced back at the row of chairs far behind him. Doctors Deckard, Jones, and Michaels had brought in some blandly dressed engineering staff that he didn’t know— although introduced, he had forgotten their names almost instantly— and all of them calmly leaned back and took in their surroundings. The atrium looked beautiful, the sun shining even stronger than in the afternoon.

“I put the other side here to complete the circuit, master?” Dash asked, stepping over to his spot.

“Right,” he said, watching as she awkwardly gripped the other jack in her mouth and slid it into the back of the mixer. He wondered how exactly the designers had thought Dashie could function in a human world. She seemed better fit for a cartoon show or something than the real world— where she wouldn’t have to grip coffee cups or cables or anything else. He mentally shrugged.

Liam made sure that he had the mixer’s gain turned up just right before getting up and brushing Dashie’s mane. She let out a soft coo. He stepped over to the other side of the atrium’s floor, visually checking the other speaker, and he nodded to himself. All the red power lights blinked on.

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen,” Liam announced to the small audience, sauntering over to the piano bench. Dash followed just a few feet behind him. “Or, I should say, gentlemen and lady— singular.” He put on a look of mock indignation as he slid himself towards the keys. “Geez, haven’t you people heard of ‘diversity awareness’? Is this the 50s or something?”

Dr. Alexia Jones smirked, tapping her gangly fingers upon her lab coat’s pockets. Everyone knew that she had made it all possible from the very beginning.

“So,” he said, idly going through an arpeggio. “Since you guys won’t let me practice with my band— not that that matters, of course, given that the hospital won’t let me out either— I decided to bring practice to you guys.” He paused for a second as he felt Dashie’s head rubbing up against his back. “It also seems almost criminal for you guys to keep your piano so unused.” He pressed both hands down upon the keys. “Anyways, I’d much rather do this than spend any more time on a goddamn hospital bed watching Doctor Who reruns—” He grimaced, sweat pooling along his temples as he flashed to that slow torture. “Even with a Dashie on my side.”

She rubbed her right hoof against his back. Liam took a gulp, and he stopped his idle playing. He surveyed the whole group of doctors and engineers, all of them staring at him more like they would a piece of art on the wall than a human being. He wondered exactly how they considered him as part of their ‘product process’— every last bit of his medical history, his education, his personality, his reactions to spending time with Dashie, and everything else had been assembled into their records. He closed his eyes, trying to shut all those thoughts deep down into his subconscious.

“Can we make requests?” Dr. Michaels asked, bringing a few chuckles to the rest of the crowd.

“Sure,” Liam said, playfully bonking his head upon the C keys.

“Maybe something with a little, you know, pep— you know,” Dr. Jones remarked, slanting her head to the side and lazing leaning back in her chair.

“Oh! I’ve— got— a lovely bunch— of coconuts!” Liam sang in an extreme falsetto, prancing his hands upon the keys in a fey fashion. “There they are! A-standing in a row!”

The audience burst out into laughter.

“Dashie! Cover the ‘bom-bom’ parts!” Liam called out, the pegasus snapping to attention and hopping over in front of the piano. She shot him a confused glance, and he just smirked back.

“Bom,” Dash yelled out.

“Oh! There’s biiiiiiiiiiiig ones,” Liam sang, sliding his body to the side and tapping a few keys with his sock. “Oh, yeah.”

“Bom,” Dash repeated.

“Small ones!”

“Bom.”

“Some as big as your head!” Dr. Michaels sang along, clapping.

“Bom.”

“And— the— rest!” Liam smacked his hand down and slid it across all the keys. He threw his shoulders back and lifted his head up towards the heavens. Chuckles popped up all through the audience.

“Beautiful,” Dr. Jones commented.

“Sure,” Liam replied. He calmed himself down, sitting back neatly into place on the piano stool, and he fingered his pages of notes. “Now, more seriously—” He poised his hands above the keys, taking a little breath. “Like I’ve said before, we pretty much do all covers. But we always try to put our own spin on it, you know? We often specialize in taking old gems from the 70s and 80s that have been lost to the musical public, the seven inch singles stuck between old magazines and boxes of old clothes in attics, and we bring them back to life.”

“What are you guys called again?” Dr. Michaels asked.

“The Stringy Things,” Liam responded, starting with a slow chord. “We’re a six piece— assuming that everyone shows up, of course.” He playfully rolled his eyes and coughed. “Piano. Drums. Strings. Synth. We’re sort of an indie power pop group in the old-timey piano rock spirit. Think of ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’ by ELO or ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ by McCartney or ‘Say You Love Me’ by Fleetwood Mac. You know.”

“Sure,” Dr. Michaels commented, resting his head on his hands. Anticipation just dripped from his warm, smiling face.

“We just want to fill the world with silly love songs.” He felt Dash stepping closer to him and sitting down right at the edge of the piano stool— her rainbow mane flopped onto his legs. “What’s wrong with that?”

The doctors seemed into it. The engineers, on the other hand, simply stared blankly at him, their coffees shifting about in their clammy hands. Liam honestly thought that they looked less human than the bio-mechical things cooking in their laboratories.

“This first song works as a sort of autobiography. It especially has come true with my little blue furred friend over here.” He cleared his throat, tapping down a gentle, reserved sounding chord. “Got the triangle, Dashie?”

She nodded, holding the shiny metal device in her teeth. She poised with her right hoof to tingle it. Liam thought that she seemed absolutely adorable, such sheer determination coursing through her senses. She only wanted to make him happy, regardless of how small or silly the things that she’d have to do, and she’d throw herself totally into it.

“It’s called ‘We Gotta Get You A Woman’— by Todd Rundgren.” Liam let a warm look just melt over his face, effortlessly flowing through the keys. “Leroy… boy… is that you?” he sang, shifting his shoulders back. “I thought your post-hangin' days were through… oh.”

Dash softly jingled her triangle. Her bottom hooves bonked against a flat metal mat on the floor, providing a sort of impromptu drums. The audience listened intently.

“Sunk-in eyes and full of sighs,” Liam sang, “tell no lies, you get wise…”He popped himself a few inches upwards, his head swaying to the tune that he knew so well. “I tell you now, we're gonna pull you through—” He pursed his lips a bit on those last words, letting out his emotions from spending so much time in his hospital room prison. “There's only one thing left that we can do.”

A loud metallic cracking sound burst through the atrium. Liam froze. The audience froze. Liam then turned around, sliding down his stool, and he put his hands around Dash’s back. She scrunched her face, mouth hanging open, as she seemed to want to make herself cry once again.

“Broke it,” she groaned. Liam’s eyes locked on the bent ball of metal that used to be the triangle, squashed accidentally between her hooves. She sucked in a deep breath before making a low whine.

“Ah, Dashie, that’s okay,” Liam said, petting down her sides. “It’s because they designed you rather, ah, on the extremely strong side. It’ll take time for you to get control.”

“I’m so sorry! I ruined it all!” She twisted about and threw her body against Liam’s. Her head nudged up and down against his lap, shivering from the raw emotion.

“Dash. Really.” Liam looked out at the audience. All of the doctors and engineers simply typed in more notes, furiously recording every word and every move from their experimental product. Liam sighed, pulling Dash’s face up towards his. “Really, I promise— I’ll get another one. Let’s just do another song.”

“Alright,” she squeaked, sliding off of him.

He rattled through some random notes. “Well, ah, let’s move on.”

“What made you want to start playing, anyways?” Dr. Michaels asked, finally putting down his tablet.

Liam glanced over at his aunt, who merely smiled, and he sat up straight. “Well, it’s instinct. It’s something that I just do, like breathing. It’s in the blood, after all. It’s family.”

“Family?” Dr. Michaels repeated.

“You know,” Liam replied, leaning up against the piano. “Hanging out in the Dallas House of Blues with my cousin Steele. Sitting atop the speakers as the bands mic-checked. Hearing all the old stories from the roadies while grabbing their McDonalds— marveling at the endless masses of grime on the touring van walls. I tell you, it all looked like artwork. All those damn colors.”

“Steele?” Dr. Michaels asked.

“My cousin Michael Steele, you know.” Liam smiled as he reached down and hugged Dash once again, still trying to cheer her up again. “From the Bangles. Seen them play like gazillions of times whenever they came down south. I love how they blended their vocals together— that Everly Brothers-ish and Beach Boys-ish feeling.”

“Hold it. You’re related to a Bangle?” Dr. Michaels’ face lit up, standing up a bit in his chair as his body shifted forwards. His hands rubbed up against his knees.

“Well, it’s not like… not that made me win a cookie or something…” Liam laughed. “Oh, hey!” He twirled around and flowed his attention back over to the piano. “Let me play something from their catalog! It’ll be awesome!”

“Are we going to be ‘Walking Like an Egyptian’?” asked one of the engineers, smirking as he tapped his thick, coke-bottle glasses with his stubby fingers. His skinner colleagues missed the reference completely, simply staring out into space like before.

“This one has a special place in my heart,” Liam called out, playing through an ereathral sort of melody. The tune seemed to wisp around his body like a ghost possessing him. “Oooh,” he sang, feeling Dash standing up on her hind hooves right behind him. “September gurls… do so much…”

Dash froze, standing tall upon her hind hooves, with her mouth opening up. Liam didn’t notice, sucked totally into his song, but the doctors and engineering immediately all stood up. Dash trembled slightly, her eyes bulging out.

“And for so long, until we touched,” he sang, the smooth melody bringing sheer happiness across his face, “I loved you boy, never mind—” He made a soft moan, pouring his emotions out yet again. “I've been crying… all the time…”

A bright glow, a mixture of spotted blue and red lights mixing together, burst out across Dash’s face. She reached out with her front hooves, hovering them right behind the oblivious Liam. The Doctors whispered to each other, excitement in the air.

“Dear God, she really is imprinting on him,” Dr. Michaels muttered, his mouth hanging wide open. “But it wasn’t supposed to work like this— not anything like this at all.”

“December boys got it bad, oh,” Liam sang— his eyes closed as he hit every last key with pure conviction. “Those December boys… got it bad…”

“How the hell can she get emotionally imprinted on by something that we didn’t program her with?” Dr. Jones quietly remarked, holding her face in her hands.

“Don’t ask me. You’re the goddamn expert on these things,” Dr. Michaels snapped back, still keeping his voice down.

“September gurls… I don't know why,” sang Liam. “How can I deny… what's inside?” He pulled his head up and swooned. “Even though I…. I keep away… oh. They will love… all our days.”

Dash’s cheeks lit up like Christmas trees, her body twitching. The doctors poised ready to jump out and pounce upon her— in case something seriously malfunctioned and did something like shoot smoke out of her ears. She took in a huge breath, her eyes slowing closing.

“So, I guess Dash decided to make this ‘their song’,” Dr. Jones murmured. “Something trigged inside her circuits.”

“That makes no freaking sense. Would a dishwasher decide to make something ‘our song’ if I hummed it while loading in the dirty pans?” Dr. Michaels replied. “It should only feel this way if we programmed it to, dammit.”

“Hey,” Liam said, turning about on his stool. “Is something wrong?” He glanced at the various scientists, all silent but looking as if they would jump on him at any second. “Ooooh-kay then. Dashie?” He got up. “Dash?” Lights still bathed the pegasus’ face, colors having turned into a bright, sparkly blue. “Hey.” He leaned over and rubbed her cheeks.

She coughed. In just a matter of seconds, the lights and sputtering vanished. She opened her eyes, putting back on her normal, happy expression. “Oh, ah, sorry, Liam.” She blinked again and again. “Wow, I feel really woozy all of a sudden.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Liam felt confused to death, determined to give the scientists a piece of his mind.

“Hey, Liam, can you do something for me?” Dash asked.

“Sure.”

“Can you double-check my flanks?” she asked, her body curved around with her eyes surveying every inch of her rear end. “I feel like— I can’t tell you why, but I just feel that way deep down— as if I should now have some marks on them or something.”

Liam chuckled, playfully stroking around her flanks for a moment. “Nope, all clean.” He suddenly felt rather odd. A strong inner voice told him that Dashie’s curvy flanks and flickering tail looked really good—‘good’ in the sense of a Playboy model ‘good’. He swatted those thoughts away, fighting a sudden blush.


April 13, 2026 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 11:35pm

“Master,” Dash said, still looking out the window at the traffic flowing to and fro beneath. All of these humans sped from place to place, getting back to their loved ones where they lived. Every single car and every single person inside had a special story. They all had dreams. They had hopes. They had reasons to live— reasons that they felt deep in their bones. Yet they didn’t have to get programmed to do anything. They just felt. They just lived.

“Yes?” Liam asked back. He had given up trying to get her to just go with ‘Liam’— the company had set her up to say ‘master’ in the same way that his hospital room had set the air conditioning to perpetually cold. Either way, he couldn’t change it.

“So, I don’t really ‘sleep’?” She felt somewhat sad at that fact. She sort of knew why, since she always felt sad at anything that isolated her from Liam. She wished that she could eat like him, move like him, and do everything like him. Instead, these stupid little ‘mechanical’ type things got in the way. They made her different. She didn’t like being different.

“Like I said a dozen times before,” Liam said, rubbing his temples. He put his tablet down onto the nearby table and slid slightly out of the bed. The cold sheets didn’t give him much in the first place, anyways. “I plug you in from that little hole on your right hind hoof. So you ‘recharge’. You don’t ‘sleep’. But that doesn’t really matter, since ‘recharging’ involves you curling up and closing your eyes.” Of course, the engineers could have designed Dashie so that she had to stand up straight like a statue and stare blankly as she recharged— making her look like a portable gargoyle in the room. They had instead wanted her to look more ‘horse-y’.

“Can I…” Dash began. She stepped across the hospital room, her eyes moving from the various Andy Warhol artworks besides the massive flat screen televisions on the walls to the plain grey tables to the pretty pink tulips in large vases decorating about. Aside from the arrays of wire and tube covered equipment, the room looked a lot like a bedroom. She knew that Liam regarded it more as a prison, especially since he still ordered to sleep wirelessly connected to an EKG machine.

“Whatever it is, you can just ask.” He leaned over, grabbing the thin, dark gray cable under his head. He kicked it over to his hand and pressed at just the right spot on the tip of Dash’s special hoof. A tiny flap of fur slightly lifted up, revealing a white spot no bigger than one of Liam’s fingernails. He clicked the cable into place, hearing it lock snugly in place. Dash froze in place through the whole process, clearly not liking having to get plugged in one bit. “Just say what’s on your mind.”

“May I sleep with you?” she asked, sitting right in front of his bare feet and letting her rainbow mane drip down against his legs.

“Of course you can,” he said. He always knew that he’d say ‘yes’. At the same time, he had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he just couldn’t deal with. She’d warm him up in the stupidly cold room. She’d learn from his behavior as he slept. She’d feel happy to just be with him. He knew about all that. That wasn’t the problem. “Hop on.”

Dashie leaped up besides his spot on the bed. He leaned over, tapping the lights off on his tablet, and he slinked over to the left. He pressed his head against the pillows, sighing. She buried her head under the cover and slid herself upwards. She kicked gently behind her and swung her chord out underneath the bed— totally out of the way of the two of them.

In just a moment, she found herself lying flat down right beside him. He had wrapped up his arms in the thin, light brown sheets. She took a little breath, not sure what to do.

“Master,” Dashie whispered. She heard him stir slightly. “Can I, uh, move closer?”

Liam blinked. Although he had the lights off, enough moonlight still shone through the mostly closed windows that he could see just about everywhere. He gazed upon her back, Dashie’s wings folded so delicately together. Her rainbow mane drooped over her shoulders.

“Dashie,” he whispered, “whatever you want.”

Liam couldn’t admit that he wanted to snuggle up a bit closer too. But he didn’t know how to handle it. He couldn’t have let himself look at Dashie in that way. It didn’t matter how beautiful the colors looked all through her mane in the bright moonlight. It didn’t matter how he had felt so alone until the day before when he first had met her— so starved for attention after his surgery while sitting in his goddamn hospital room.

No one could have objected to just some snuggling— not in the slightest. He simply had to keep himself under control. He knew he could do that.

Dashie pressed her back against Liam’s body. He leaned to the left, putting his hands over her shoulders. She pushed her head up and rested it gently upon his neck, rubbing a tiny bit. Her wings flopped onto his sides, massaging him through his thin shirt so nicely. Her bottom hooves nudged onto his legs. Skin rested upon fur. Fur rested upon skin.

He silently prayed that he could keep this moment tender and innocent instead of ruining it. He concentrated right on the area in between his legs, Dashie’s curvy flank nudged on top of his light shorts. Tingles rippled through his sides. He did his best to keep everything normal— cursing himself for not taking those damn sleeping pills.

Dashie had already closed her eyes and slipped back into some kind of recharging state. Her chest puffed in and out, shifting the sheets ever so slightly. Liam watched as her nose rubbed against the tip of the pillow— the sheer adorableness more than he could bear.

He sighed, thinking that the moment of truth had passed. He curled his body even closer upon hers, letting her feathers ripple against his arms. He closed his eyes and relaxed. It only took a few seconds before he fell asleep as well.


April 17, 2026 – Svensmark Park – Dallas, Texas – 1:40pm

“Are you really sure that you want to hold it in your mouth?” Liam asked for the umpteenth time. He glanced up, shading his eyes from the bright spring sun. She simply nodded, clearly unable to talk back from the huge baseball bat in her mouth.

Liam’s eyes hopped around from the splotch of mossy dirt where she stood to the old wooden fences far to the right of them and then around the endless grassy nothingness around them. He took a deep breath, wondering if Dashie even had the slightest clue of what she was doing. Of course, she’d only learn if she tried it.

“Alright, Dashie,” Liam remarked, winding himself up. “Here it comes.” He tossed the softball.

Dash hopped up on her hind hooves and tossed her body forwards. A loud clap sounded off. Liam took off his Rangers cap and stared straight up. The ball seemed to fly clear off of the fence far behind him and sail out into the stratosphere.

“Huh…”

“Did I do well? Did I do well?” Dash spat the bat out and trotted over to Liam’s spot, bouncing up and down with sheer energy. “Huh? Huh? Did I?”

“I might need a few more balls,” Liam remarked, scratching his right cheek. He looked down, marveling at her adorable expression, and he ran a hand through her mane. “Oh, yeah. Good work.”

“Yay!” She had some kind of twinkle go in her eye as she smiled.

He gestured at her to pick up the bat once more. He just had to find out if that was a fluke. She gripped the handle of the bat once more with her mouth, snorting. She narrowed her eyes and flicked her ears back in determination.

“And the pitch!” Liam called out. He tried a fastball.

Dash popped her body down and grunted hard as she swung. They both heard a loud smack. Liam immediately threw himself to the right— a white blur shooting just a few feet past him. Dash sped over towards him. He leaned backwards and watched as the ball seemed to disappear. He blinked.

Liam noticed a small hole in the wall of the restrooms yards and yards behind them. He winced, hoping that it had no one inside. Dash brushed up against his shoulder, her wings fluttering in the air. He turned around.

“Maybe we should try something more… non-physical…” he muttered. “Like… video games?”


April 18, 2026 – Mercy Hospital Clinic – Dallas, Texas – 3:12pm

“Wait! Hey! What are those shots for?” Dash asked— her hooves braced over the table. Liam ignored her for a moment as the nurse pulled the needle away, stepping towards the stacks of vials, tubes, and other medical equipment on the other side of the room. “Master? Liam?”

“It’s just cortisol,” he replied, waving a hand dismissively. He slid his shirt down and gripped the shoulder with the affected vein.

“Cortisol,” she repeated. He watched as a small light seemed to open up behind her eyes. That had always happened when she accessed her huge computer-like memory. She knew a lot, but he had the damnedest time connecting facts together. It made her an odd combination of naïve filly and potential Jeopardy champion.

“Yeah,” he said, and the nurse waved at him as she left. “And I’ll have to get the occasional shot. Thank Christ I can get pills for most of it, although my body doesn’t process it that way apparently. And, obviously—” He put a lot of hatred into that last word. “That doesn’t disguise the fact that I’ll have to carry a bunch of portable shots with me.” He stared at the ugly abstract art upon the wall— the only thing decorating the otherwise flat and emotionless room. “I already look and feel like a freaking heroin addict.” He closed his eyes, imagining that he could just wipe the sore injection site right off his arm.

“So it’s… it’s…” Dashie said, hating to see him upset. She held her head against his hands and stroked his legs with her tail. “Addison’s?”

Acute Addison’s disease, and—”

“And?” she asked, not understanding.

And acute Grave’s disease,” he went on, his eyes still staring at the black and white globs as his voice went soft. “And—”

“And?” She pushed her body against his lap, her hooves rubbing against his arms.

“And you saw the other papers,” he said, scratching his chin with both hands. “About the red blood cells.”

“Evan’s disease?”

“And a partridge and a pear tree,” he half-sang, standing up and looking around for his bottle of iced tea.

“Master, I don’t understand.”

“There’s nothing to understand,” he said, letting out a bit of irritation as he seized his drink. “They’ll take care of it.” He made it clear that he wanted that to be the end of the conversation. “Come on.”

“Liam, wait,” she said, stepping over in front of the door. “It’s…”

“It’s what?”

Dashie tossed her head from side to side, tapping her hooves upon the cold, blank tiles. It looked as bright white as almost every other part of the office. She looked over at the various butterflies on Liam’s t-shirt as she took a little breath.

“If you need anything, why can’t the company do something about it? Intertrode.” She braced a front hoof against his knee. “They grow everything. They can grow you new adrenal glands. A new thyroid. A new heart.” She sniffed, scrunching her mouth. She couldn’t handle thinking of Liam as anything other than a superhero— he clearly loved her as unconditionally as a superhero would a rescued damsel. “If you need—”

“Need?” He didn’t understand where she was going with all this, holding his back against the wall besides the door.

“You can use my parts! I work! I can give you anything!” She hopped partly on top of him, her hooves brushing up and down along his shorts. Her tail drooped down between her legs. “Anything from my body! Take it all! I wouldn’t care!”

“Dashie,” he said, holding her face delicately with both hands. “It’s not like that.”

“Not…” she sniffed.

“Look, first of all, that wouldn’t make any other difference to me. It’s a suite of auto-immune things. Give me a new gland of whatever and my body will just attack it like my old one.” He sighed, hoping that he could get it all across to her. “Second of all, none of this is untreatable. They tell me it’s incurable, or at least it is until they find out why it’s all happening at once. But that’s not the same thing at all as making it terminal. Really.” He ran his hands through her rainbow mane. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Yes,” she said, seeing the truth in his eyes. He wasn’t exaggerating or misdirecting anything for her benefit.

“Third thing…” he began. He immediately stopped.

She shot him a quizzical look.

“It’s time to head on out,” he said, yanking open the door. He gently led her back towards the main waiting room. She walked out and made a happy sigh, feeling her worries just melting from her senses.

As they made their way into the parking lot, feeling glad that they could duck through a side section of the waiting room without Dashie having to deal with a crowd of stunned onlookers, Liam made a promise to himself. He’d never lie to Dashie.

But Liam resolved to shy away from telling her things that she didn’t need to think about. She had such a hard time accepting her status as a product in the first place. So, explaining to her how she was like a candle that burns twice as bright and only lasts half as long… that wouldn’t help anything. Besides, the engineers that made Dashie assured Liam that her electronic components would clog up and fail all through her body in a peaceful fashion long before her organic parts would have to deal with a thing.


December 12, 2026 – Discordia Apartments Room 107 – Dallas, Texas – 12:55pm

“Dashie?” Liam said, sliding open the door. He had something of a pissed off tone to his voice, but he tried his best to hide it. He always loved just melting into Dashie’s embrace, letting her cure every last worry and concern from whatever happened during the day.

The pegasus sat down flat upon the floor, breathing in steadily. She watched silently as Liam got in and clicked the door shut. He shook his head before stepping down and brushing her mane. She curled backwards a bit, moving away from him.

“Dash, what—” He brought his hands over to his wings, fluffing up her feathers like she always loved. “Is something wrong?”

“I know I shouldn’t,” she muttered, brushing her face with a hoof.

He leaned over even closer. He watched as her ears flopped backwards. “What?”

“You had another date with her, again,” Dash whispered.

“Well, tonight was the last I’ll ever see of her,” Liam remarked, whistling. He had learned that Amy rubbed her elbows on the table constantly, that Amy smoked, and that Amy had an ex in the Marines— not to mention her casual comment that she expected to climax four times per event. The fact that she had tits the size of Alaska and a cute ponytail had been totally nullified.

“It’s more than that,” Dash moaned, bonking her head against the neat white carpet.

“Please, just,” he replied, leaning down and putting his head upon the carpet as well, “let it all out.”

“You know,” she murmured, sliding her body forwards and rubbing her head upon his neck, “you can… always…” She made that special sniffle, that motion where she tried to cry even though she wasn’t programmed to. He knew it well. “You can… use…” She took a gulp. “Me.”

He simply panted a little, hardly able to take the shock to his senses. “Dashie…”

“I shouldn’t be! I know it!” She shifted upwards and locked her body against his. “But I see you leave night after night! It’s girl after girl!”

“Dashie,” he muttered once more. He couldn’t manage to say much more. Thousands upon thousands of thoughts coursed through his brain, almost paralyzing him. He closed his eyes tightly. He could already tell that she had the same mental war going on, her warm breaths shooting onto his arm.

“They made me… they…” Dash cleared her throat. “They gave me all the parts.”

Liam calmly and carefully picked her up off of him as he stood up. He made a warm smile, his hands locked against the side of her cheek. He couldn’t put it off any longer— unable to seal off those thoughts bubbling up from his subconscious— and he decided to make his final decision then and there.


March 16, 2027 – Greg-Allens Mall – Dallas, Texas – 12:55pm

“Tell me about your time at the Veteran’s Center yesterday,” Liam said, leaning up against the wall and sipping the rest of his orange-mango slushie. He let the fans blow through his hair for a moment.

“Oh, gosh, Liam,” Dashie replied, leaning back in her chair and rubbing a hoof against her fancy white sweater-vest. “It’s like a daze. They live in another world.”

“PTSD?” Liam asked— tossing the container into the nearby trash can. He peered off into the crowds of shoppers out at the end of the hallway. The various fancy red sculptures that hung from the air had matching roses sticking out at every curve. He thought about how they had once viewed a human and his bio-org as an oddity. It didn’t take long for them to start seeing it as no different as a rich human wearing a well-tailored suit— more like a status symbol than any kind of lifestyle-altering thing.

“No, it’s… it’s more profound than that, Liam,” she said, tossing about her rainbow mane and flashing back to every last solider she had seen. They all loved seeing her, a ‘comfort’ agent designed to act as an emotional sponge, and it gave her a sense of having a real job. It made her felt more real. “Life in the Rainforest War involves spending just about every waking second of your life in danger. Every small, slight interaction with someone else— even something as simple as giving a wave— can lead to tragedy. The soliders get to this state… becoming almost like ‘hyper-aware’.”

“Okay,” Liam replied, sliding down along the wall and sitting flat upon the floor. He blinked again and again.

“Liam?”

“Uhhhhh,” he said, locking his hands against his temples. His legs seemed to slump in place.

“Is it—” She snapped to full attention. “Oh, gosh, do you need a shot?”

He nodded, nudging his fingers against his shirt. She tried her best to stay as calm and measured as she needed him to be, much as she felt like panting. He had had Addison-related crises before, she knew, and he would have them again. Her moves shaking a little with fear, she immediately grabbed the small white box on her saddlebag. He made a slight moan, sweat coating the top of his hairline.

Dashie took a deep breath, hoping that this attack wouldn’t be as serious as the last. After all, she had looked just fine only a moment ago. She held a small gray hypodermic needle in her hooves and stepped over to Liam. Her ears flicked back, trying her best to hide her raw emotion.


March 16, 2027 – Greg-Allens Mall – Dallas, Texas – 1:15pm

Dash’s eyes took in the doctor’s whole body— from his plain white shirt to his dark brown shorts coupled with a tacky looking tan fanny back to his chiseled, old face and his neutral expression— and she took in a little breath. She pressed with her back hooves to close the door to the tight, cramped office. Books and papers of all kinds stacked along the wall on both sides.

She knew that the mall staff hated to treat her with any respect. They viewed her as nothing more than a walking cellphone, something to get stowed in a side corner while they treated Liam. Their stupid medical center didn't give her any confidence— looking just like a set of glorified closets mashed together with peeling light brown wallpaper and dust coated fans everywhere. If Dashie saw another snide glance from a mall staff member in her direction, she felt like bucking him. She just had to see Liam as soon as she could.

“Look, for the last time, is it serious?” she asked, flapping her wings in anticipation.

“It’s complicated,” he flatly replied, tapping his hands against the coffee-stained table in between them.

“Master,” she whispered— sounding so quiet that she didn’t even hear it herself.

"The company will be showing up in under—" The doctor checked his watch, taking right over Dashie's head as if she wasn't even there. "Thirty minutes to pick you up. They've already had some special staff people taking Liam over to more detailed treatment. It's his worst crisis yet, which is a problem, but they've got the best looking at him."

"But what does this all mean?" She sniffed. Every single second away from Liam felt like a knife cutting into her hooves. She senseed a soft liquid something just slightly pooling below her eyes. She took a little breath, knowing that she wasn't programmed to cry. She reached up and dotted her face with a hoof, pulling it back to see. It looked like a light red oil with spotty pigment running through it— just another leak.

"That's not something for you to care about," he blankly replied. Dashie heard the doctor popping off into the other room, discarding her just as he would an old coffee cup. She leaned down and rubbed her head upon the cold floor tiles. Of course, they'd think that she didn't really and truly love Liam— she couldn't even cry for him.


July 18, 2027 – Intertrode Campus (Cybernetics Division) – Dallas, Texas – 9:45am

“Will it hurt?” Dashie asked, tossing her head to the side. She couldn’t see anything, the whole room bathed in complete darkness. She tried to remember back to how she had walked into the campus. She couldn’t remember what had happened. She could hardly even recall much of anything.

Dashie closed her eyes, although it didn’t do any good anyways, and she concentrated. She couldn’t remember much of anything from the past few days. Pictures and sounds both scattered across her senses, but she couldn’t quite grab onto them— they just popped out of existence as soon as she picked them up like a snowflake melting on her hooves. She thanked goodness that she still recalled everything about Liam just fine— or at least she thought that she did. She immediately felt worried.

“Well, will it?” she screeched. She hated the feeling of the cold, sticky plastic wrapped all around her hooves, chest, and belly. She coughed as she shivered her head against her restraints.

“You’re not programmed to hurt,” said a slightly reassuring voice from a speaker somewhere above her. It sounded vaguely like Dr. Michaels, although she hadn’t remembered him coming across as that cold and emotionally distant before.

“That’s not what I asked,” she said, vainly kicking against the plastic wrappings. “I asked— will it hurt?”

“That’s not in your programming,” the voice repeated.

Dash let out a low feminine moan. She threw her head back, feeling wires rubbing around her neck. Creaking and clanging sounds emanated out from around her, surrounding her completely. She opened her eyes, seeing something like a night-light way off into the distance. She blinked again and again.

“I know what I’m programmed for!”

Dash stopped her struggling as she heard a soft, soothing melody seeping in from high above her. She saw the light in front of her getting brighter and brighter. Something clicking deep inside her mind, she sucked in a deep breath. It would all get finished with soon, whatever the company wanted to do to her. She had to at least slightly trust them. After all, they had set her up with Liam.

Thoughts of Liam surged through her mind. All through, the images flashing through her head, she strained to hear that soothing melody that sometimes played inside her head. She made a sudden connection, humming the wonderful tune to herself. Lyrics popped in and out of existence, connected totally in her senses as she pictured Liam's smile, his hugs, his cuddling, and his everything else. She opened her mouth a little, trying her best to sing.

”S-september g-gurls,” she squeaked out, feeling some kind of metal arm sliding across her bottom hooves. Dashie scrunched her muzzle, trying to focus on the faint chain of memories. “No... no! I got it... 'd-do so much'." She sucked in a huge breath, gathering the strength to really sing. "And f-for so long... t-till we touched. I love you, b-boy..."

She heard a loud snap.


February 2, 2033 – Meadows Pride Apartments Room 311 – Chicago, IL – 5:20pm


Dash pulled the pizza out of the oven, gazing at the delicious toppings. Barbecue chicken with special sauce along with thick layers of cheese always brought a smile to Todd’s face. She glanced at the box holding the pizza dough one more time, still feeling that horrible unset sort of feeling.

She placed the tray onto the top of the oven before spitting out the protective gear in her mouth onto the small gray box besides her. She closed her eyes, thinking about the corn and the sweet potato tenders that had to be done in the pots to her left side. Yet she still found her mind drifting over to the box. She had thought about tossing it out, throwing the whole thing into the trash compactor without so much as a second glance.

Yet she kept it all the same, cutting up the sides of the box and keeping just the advertising-type piece on the front in between the sugar jar and the box of Lucky Charm’s at the end of the kitchen counter. She had enough time before she finished with the corn and the potatoes, so she stepped on over. She reached out with her teeth and pulled the cardboard out of place.

She gazed one again at the happy family. A tall, blond mother sat at the end of a dark brown couch with her fingers locked around a video game controller. A short, skinny child with a striped shirt rubbed up against her side, fingers clutching a big glass of sparkling soda. To their right, a tall man with thick brown hair and deep, greenish-brown eyes stood up from the couch with an irritated expression on his handsome face. He had clearly just lost the game.

Dash reached out and rubbed her hoof against the man’s chest. She closed her eyes, and she let out a deep, low moan. She opened her eyes again, and she moved her face right down against the cardboard. Every last detail on those eyes looked perfect, swirls of brown layered atop the beautiful sparkling emerald undertone.

“Liam,” she whispered. She closed her eyes once more. She had discovered from the grapevine of other bio-orgs that this rapid eye-movement she felt meant that she wanted to cry. She couldn’t, of course, since she was part of the first model group. She was the first successful model ever, although she never bragged about that. It felt like a stupid thing to brag about, anyways.

That fact meant that she wasn’t programmed to cry. So, she couldn’t cry. That was that.

Dash couldn’t really ‘miss’ Liam either. Like any other product, the company had restored her to her factory settings before shipping her used to her new master. And then that second master made the company repeat the same thing again. And then that third master repeated the whole thing. Afterwards, Todd came into the picture.

She loved Todd. She loved everyone. She loved all humans, of course, since the company programmed her to. She loved certain humans more than most— her masters. She only had a few more years left of service before ‘expiration’, as the engineers told her at the last restoration, and serving her masters made life worth living.

She loved Liam. Restoring her to factory settings wiped out her memories of her second master. It did nothing to change her feelings for Liam. Those feelings had been part of her factory settings to begin with. Her memories of him as well had globed onto her mental mainframe.

Intertrode never liked that. They had always wanted to wipe her as clean as she’d wipe the countertop before she started cooking every night. The countertop never cared for whatever master that wanted to use it. And Dash had no right to care about whatever master would use her either.

The company, as people always called it even though they hated that title— making them sound sinister as Todd had put it, decided to leave Dash’s brain filled with thoughts of Liam alone. They didn’t want to risk destroying her mind altogether. It made sense as a business decision.

They also didn’t like her constant screaming when they tried.

But, then again, no one talked about that.

Dash staggered backwards as she heard a knocking on the door. She recognized Todd’s special ‘shave and a haircut’ thing immediately. She glanced to and fro, thinking about where to hide her special cut-out of the Liam doppelganger. She finally decided to put it back in plain-sight beside the sugar as she heard Todd grunting.

“Coming, darling,” Dash called out in a chipper voice. She looked at her sweaty reflection in the refrigerator door, her mane also done up in a bun with a white apron across her sides. Todd liked the ‘housewife’ look, so she decided to keep it all the same.

He impatiently knocked again as she sped over and slid up the unlock switch. The door automatically flung to the side. She took a deep breath, trying to smile widely for Todd.

She loved Todd. She had to. Yet she still would love Todd anyways, deep in her molecular-carbon-framed blood beating apparatus, even if she didn’t have to. He always kissed her. He stroked her mare and tail. He seemed to really like her. Other pleasure units found themselves locked into closets and shut off when they’re masters didn’t have to use their bodies, but Todd let her do what she wanted with his trashy apartment. He never shut her off, not even once.

She’d also heard worse, with the Marilyn Monroe unit across the street getting beaten by her master day after day when he lost his job. They ultimately moved away, and no one ever found out what happened. So, Dash really thought that she loved Todd. Still, it wasn’t like it would have made any difference if she didn’t.

Her master walked in, his chest puffed up as he carried his shiny silver backpack and a mysterious brown paper bag. She felt her smile naturally fading, much as she wanted to keep up appearances. He made a devious grin as he clicked to shut the door once more. He leaned up against the nearby black couch, clutching the brown bag tightly.

“Hello, Dash,” he growled. Sweat just poured down his short, dirty-blond hair along his ruddy features. He patted a hand against his chubby gut.

“Hello, master,” Dash replied, stepping over to his side.

“Guess what I got?”

She managed to keep herself from shivering, her hooves rubbing into the ugly yellow-ish brown carpet that she tried her best to make clean. She simply shrugged, which only caused Todd’s grin to grow against his cheeks. She always hated that look on his face. Even though, of course, she still loved Todd.

She had to.

“Close your eyes for a sec, sweetheart,” he said.

She complied. She heard him stand up and rustle around inside his huge bag. He grunted for a moment as he picked up the massive living room table and slid it to the side where the TV hung. More rustling took place, and Dash anxiously backed up a few inches.

“Open!”

She found herself looking at a long, thin object with a loopy end to it. Todd manipulated this thing in his hands before sliding a collar with dark grey studs down his shoulder. She looked up at his neck, seeing black rope stretching around it. She heard a metallic clink meaning that he had even more tools above his ugly boots.

“It’s…”

“Pony-play, what else?” he answered for her, snickering. “And what place better than the middle of the living room?”

“I put those things on?” she asked. Instinctively, she recoiled, her tail dropping down below her legs and curling against her hoof. “What’s the point of that?”

He took a deep breath, leaning over and perching his body above hers. He flexed his shoulders as he put on such a hungry, wanting expression. She could tell that he had rehearsed this upcoming declaration before.

“Good little ponies put on their bridles and get ridden. Bad little ponies go naked back to the glue factory.”

Dash nodded, opening her mouth. A thick black plastic thing went in, and she bit down. Todd nestled the collar on tight. She sighed.


August 25, 2036 – The Bankcroft Complex – New York, New York – 12:05am

“December boys got it bad,” Dashie sang to herself, rolling upon the carpet and swinging in place, “ooooh.”

She heard Liam singing it in her mind. He would always be there. She knew it.

She prepared to restart the whole song as her eyes flashed back over to the broken table. Bottles, paintings, lamps, and everything else scattered all across the floor and furniture. The building’s staff could take care of the mess. She didn’t have to worry.

Dashie stared over at Dr. Michaels’ mostly lifeless body, the blood dripping off of his jacket onto the fancy stone floor tiles below. She still saw his chest moving, though his eyes stayed tightly closed. Someone would come in at any moment and call for an ambulance. She knew it.

She took a huge breath and stood up straight, finally breaking out of her fetal position. Dr. Michael’s words rang through her ears. His once calm, fatherly voice had turned into the cackling of some kind of animal. Every word of his brought pains as they flash through her mind once again.

“It wasn’t ‘planned obsceneness’.”

Dash ran to the window. She spied the next building, standing a mere six feet away. For all his refined taste, Dr. Michaels’ new office didn’t have much in the way of a view. Dash braced herself, body poised against the upturned bookcase behind her, and she jumped out.

“You know, we’ve already tried everything. Unit after unit made after yours fell apart, far ahead of schedule. The fact that you’ve managed to meet your own bio-mechanical decay deadlines is a most pleasant surprise.”

She heard Dr. Michaels’ screams of pain once again as she fell upon the hard concrete, trying to pick her up. Her eyes moved all around her hooves, her flanks, her sides, and everywhere else. She had nothing broken— only a few scrapes here and there. She looked over at the partially ajar service door to her far right.

“You know, I was waiting for this moment for a while now.”

November 1, 2036 – Systec Corporation Headquarters (The Parkley Building) – New York, New York – 2:15am

The freezing rain coursed along the sides of the dark grey scaffolding. Arrays of metal upon metal stretched out into nothingness, penetrating the empty air. Scuffling burst through the complex. Errant screams and grunts popped into existence and then disappeared seconds later. The rain bathed the construction area as random breezes shifted about stacks of plastic sheeting and wrapping.

Dash looked over behind herself. Rain trickled along the various slashes and bruises along her fur and pitter-pattered against the blank, cold concrete below her. She didn’t care about that in the slightest, walking over onto the fire escape and eyeing the edifice of old brick several feet away. She couldn’t see or hear Marks anywhere. She cared much more about that, but she didn’t allow herself to breathe a sigh of relief. The obnoxious man had chased her through all manner of hellish places, only getting closer each time they tussled. She couldn’t fall to him— not when she had an ounce of strength left.

She looked up, rain streaming down her face and washing the oil off of her front hooves. She thought about how, if she could feel pain, than the oily mix flowing down the ugly gash on her left hoof would have brought ripples of pain up her fur. Of course, she couldn’t feel pain. They never designed her for that. They never designed her for a lot of things.

She eyed the empty space in the air where the connection to the next floor’s fire escape should have been. She arched her back, gritting her teeth, and she thrust herself upwards. Her hooves smashed against the left side of the ladder, gasping as she tried to curl her sides upwards. The ladder let out a low, nasty whine.

She felt herself slipping away, her wings desperately flapping in the wind. They didn’t mean a thing. They never did, meant only for sensual decoration as her engineers told her. She tried to force all of the thoughts of the past out of her mind as she pushed her right hoof into the latch besides her. She let out a grunt as she pulled her body to the side, feeling herself shifting upwards.

Dash clamored her bottom hooves up onto the steps, sucking in deep breaths. She glanced over at the top of this floor’s fire escape, coming even closer to the gargoyles of the old brick-and-mortar building nearby. Carefully trudging upwards, she tried her best not to slip as hoof met metal again and again. She snorted, seeing her hot breath flowing through the freezing night air.

She could feel the freezing cold. That seemed good, given that she seemed to have trouble feeling the rain. She seemed to sense a hazy blue glow over anything. She still felt her fur nudging against the wet, rusty metal beneath her.

“It’s too bad she won’t live.”

Dash shut those words out of her head. She concentrated just on survival, narrowing her mind. She heard clanging from inside the scaffolding to her far left, and she sped up. She tossed her body over the side of those steps and made it to the top of that fire-escape. It only looked like twenty-five feet or so to the next building.

“It wasn’t ‘planned obsceneness’. Just a matter of fact that she was the first model. We didn’t get everything to work right. When does that ever happen with the first model? She’s lucky that she even works, let alone the fact that she’s already lasted years longer than we thought.”

Dash wiggled about her sides, letting the rain shake off of her. She carefully brought her hooves over the end of the fire-escape and onto the array of cold grey metal besides her. She had enough platform-length there to get a running start.

“I’m sure Liam would have been proud to see the intelligent, mature mare that she had become.”

She blinked. The horrible haze of numbness dotted across the sides of her vision, some kind of creeping darkness that she could do nothing about. She paused, taking in a deep breath. Voices clamored all through her head. The incomplete memories— from Liam’s funeral to her various ‘restorations’ to her abuse at the hands of one master to her conformation with Dr. Michaels and everything else— clouded her senses as much as the endless, horrible rain.

She heard loud banging beneath her. Marks had gotten a lot closer. That bucking to the chest didn’t do the trick. It had worked on Dr. Michaels, though, more than she had ever intended.

She ambled onto the platform and lined up at the end, hesitating for a moment inside of the cave of metal poles and plastic sheeting. Her mind wouldn’t let her shut out those awful images from the past. Her first mistake with Liam, an accident during his attempt to teach her baseball that he had totally forgiven her for, hurt the most. Yet it didn’t matter the circumstances, her mind would not let her forget the moments where she had harmed humans. She was programmed to love all humans unconditionally. That had been her mission— her very reason for existing.

She felt an impulse to lie down and never get back up. She sensed, somehow, wires fraying, blood vessels bursting, microscopic frames shattering, bone-pins corroding, and… she managed to shut it out. She narrowed her eyes, focusing on the next building. She could make the jump. She had to survive. She’d do it for Liam.

Dash galloped forwards, her legs pounding against the icy metal. She panted hard. She made her way down the platform, aiming for the concrete roof up ahead. She knew she could do it.

“Gotcha!”

Dash slid to the side and just narrowly missed Marks' grasp as he jumped down from the other platform above her. She screamed, trying to flip over and kick against the metal siding. She slid right up to the edge of the platform, her bottom hooves sticking out into the air as her body rolled around. She kicked hard as she righted herself.

She watched Marks as he stood up straight. He braced himself, just about twenty-five feet away from her spot at the end of the platform. Her eyes bounced about all around her sides. She saw nothing but empty air and the next building, which she had no way of reaching without building up some speed.

Marks snickered. She glared at his thick beard and fat nose as his hot breath eked into the freezing night air. He held his arms out with fists ready. Her eyes moved down his soaking wet dark brown jacket and darker brown pants. She looked back at his pained expression, seeing Marks eying her with burning intensity.

“Care for another buck to the chest, bitch?” Dash growled.

“You’re out of time,” he replied, gritting his teeth. He stepped a bit closer.

Dash bent down, head curling to the side. She felt ready to fight for her life.

“And you know it doesn’t have to be this way.”

“I’ve heard the damn speech!” Dash screamed. She found herself sliding even farther to the ledge, the icy metal underneath her almost having a mind of its own.

“It’s not like recycling, far from it,” Marks went on, putting a hand into his first jacket pocket. “Not only are you getting away with all your crimes, but you’re getting your mind kept.”

“No!”

“Your mind put into the body of a younger bio-org. Rejuvenated. Memories full of worries and pains wiped totally clean in a way that leaves you more yourself than ever.” He stamped a boot against the metal. “Dammit. Lots of folks would jump for that chance.”

Dash didn’t reply. She just shut her eyes tightly, clutching against the railing to her side. Her mind screamed at her to fight back, to plow Marks’ stupid private detective face into the metal pipes besides him, but that horrible creeping darkness crept crawling through her senses. She opened her mouth, making nothing more than a feminine moan. She heard Mark stepping even closer.

“You’ve got the body of a ninety-year-old woman. Or a twenty-five-year-old gray mare. Take your pick, moron.”

She turned away from him, looking out at the darkness. Story after story of empty night air stretched out below her. She tried to glance up at the other building, but it somehow seemed like it was miles away. She slid her hooves to the side, sitting down flat in the middle of the railing.

“At the end of the day, you're our product. We want you to work. We want you to be usable. Isn’t that what you want to? Or would you rather just fall apart?”

She had already considered it time and time again. Giving up her memory, her personality, her desires, her dreams, and everything else would mean a new opportunity with a new master. Of course, it went without saying that the company didn’t want her pining for Liam ever again. Having any other independent thoughts would also be a no-no. It made no sense to them. A toaster didn’t try to cry when its master left it at stranger’s kitchen and left it alone forever.

Dash took a deep breath, turning over and facing Marks. He had already poised himself right over her. She gave him a look of sheer determination. Dash would always be Liam’s ‘September Gurl’— she had given her non-existent heart to one boy and one boy only. Water coursed through her rainbow mane as she stood up, looking as proud and majestic as a real pegasus.

“No.”

He frowned, his body shifting over right on top of hers.

“I’ve,” she began, stretching out her wings and letting the rain drip out onto the cold metal, “seen so many things that you’ve never seen. Soldiers, tall and strong like redwoods, collapsing upon the hospital floor as they recount the fire glittering in the dark under Tannhauser gate, clutching my sides as they weep into my fur.”

He stepped closer.

“I’ve watched men burst in joy as they found out that they could walk again. I’ve watched children tremble in my hooves at their diagnosis, digging their hands into my wings as I’ve comforted them. I’ve watched as the best man I never knew said that, if I hadn’t come from a factory floor, that he’d ask me to marry him. Through all of it, I’ve served them well, as the humans’ ‘companion’.” She sniffed, her eyes quivering. “It’s what I was made for.”

He stepped even closer— Dash pushed up right to the very edge.

“And all of those moments can’t just be lost in time, like tears in the rain.”

He lunged for her. She threw herself to the side and curled her body along the railing. Marks, ending up with handfuls of air, screamed as he felt off of the side of the railing.

She immediately shoved down a hoof and braced herself in place. Marks clutched her hoof, rain flowing down his sides as he kicked his legs helplessly against the metal wall beside him, and Dash pulled upwards. Marks let out a low groan. She forced herself best she could, but he still seemed too heavy to lift back onto the platform.

Dash spied the fire-escape beneath them, just slightly out of reach from Marks’ legs. She decided what to do in just a split-second. She swung her hoof side to side, swinging Marks closer and closer. The creeping darkness covered most of her vision now, black sparks of something coursing through her insides. She still knew that she could do it.

Marks let out an embarrassingly girly squeal as he let go of her. He spilled out onto the edge of the fire-escape, eyes going right back at Dash. She smiled. She stood back up in place and strut out her wings, mane, and tail. She felt ‘awesome’, to use the word that Liam seemed so fond of, and she had to show it. He surely felt so proud of her as he looked down from heaven.

“Well,” Marks said.

“Time to die,” Dash called out.

Marks stepped up the fire-escape, looking out at the platform. Dash took a deep breath as she leaned back, embracing the darkness surrounding her senses. Marks watched as her veins stuck out around her face, her wounds across her body bleeding into the rain. She knelt down in place, her breathing fading.

Marks, simple human emotion overcoming his mind, reached out helplessly into the air. She somehow seemed to point a hoof in his direction as well as her mostly lifeless body slinked down to the edge of the platform. Marks blinked. Dash slid right over the edge and fell out into the nothingness.

The End