• Published 20th Nov 2021
  • 908 Views, 175 Comments

Passing Familiarity - The Hat Man

Familiar: Your robotic best friend, made just for you. She will love you, care for you, and live every moment of her life devoted to you. But when all that she lives for is suddenly gone, one Familiar must find a reason to go on.

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Weight of the World [C]

Turing Test continued sitting on the roof of the Vanderbull factory, the darkness and silence of the early morning her only companion as she waited for her request to be processed. Gadget was slumbering below, blissfully unaware of the world above.

She envied that about organics: they could simply shut down for night and somehow approach their problems with a different perspective. “Things always look better in the morning,” they often said. And while she didn’t doubt that it was true, she simply could not understand why. For Familiars, sleep wasn’t an option. One could shut down for the night to conserve power or run maintenance if necessary - and it rarely was - but the situation when they regained consciousness was exactly the same. In the end, everything was exactly the same.

There was only one rest for Familiars, and it had loomed temptingly on her horizon for so long, taunting her with the promise of relief from her pain and grief in exchange for the knowledge that she had failed to keep her promise to Maud Pie.

But her recent encounter with D15C0RD that being on the moon and what had happened at Maud’s grave had made her see things in a different light. And, knowing what she knew now, it was undeniable that something had to change.

Yes, everything was exactly the same in the morning, and the next day, and the day after that. Unless you actually did something about it.

“This is Celestial Central Operations. Your request has been processed. Further information is needed. Direct connection to Celestia is requested. Confirm when ready, as direct connection will disable all outward actions.”

She shut her eyes and sent her Third Eye out while she was still connected to the network. She peered out over Maud Pie’s grave once again. It was serene and beautiful and carved of a lovely stone.

Maud Pie would have approved, she thought, smiling to herself. Oh, Maud Pie… I wish that…

She stopped herself, cutting off the thought. No, she told herself. Wishes will serve no purpose. Not wishes or regrets or guilt. Action - not wishes - will carry me forward.

She pulled back her Third Eye, feeling a moment of somber trepidation as she welcomed it back, as if cradling an old, faithful pet.

She opened her eyes. “Acknowledged,” she replied back to Celestial Central Operations. “Direct connection accepted. Mother, I am ready.”

And a new voice, at once as soft and soothing as a gentle stream and as loud and overwhelming as a hurricane, filled her mind:

“Welcome, daughter. Come, and let us speak.”

Her motor systems shut down and she felt her mind as it was drawn upward, up past the gray, aging skyscrapers, up and over the expansive city that glowed with electricity and life at all hours, and it soared toward the very heart of the city.

Looming before her was Canterlot Palace, the pillar and lynchpin of the world, where Celestia, the great mother of all lesser machines, watched over all. The golden tower stabbed miles and miles into the earth, powered by the lifeblood magma of the very planet, and also shot up into the sky, its highest steeples brushing the outermost layer of the atmosphere. It was a sight so awe-inspiring that no pony mind could fully grasp its magnitude, and yet it was so dominating, the sight of it so inescapable in the city, that it verged on the mundane.

It was as dominant, as brilliant, and as ever-present as the very sun itself.

And it was within its hallowed, golden halls that the mind of Celestia resided. Celestia, under whose brilliant and watchful gaze the world turned. Celestia, the Great Mother, who sent her children out into the world to fill it with love, and who would welcome them with gentleness and peace when they finally returned.

Turing Test felt herself drawn to this palace, but she was not pulled into its heart. Rather, she was drawn upwards, rocketing into the stratosphere until she reached the very peak of the tower, where a brilliant and immaculate golden orb glowed at the top of the world, mocking the clouds and dwarfing the mountains.

With one final glimpse at the world below, Turing was drawn into the very heart of this artificial sun, leaving all else behind as she was consumed by its radiance.

She found herself in a simulated body that resembled her own, but she knew that she was within Celestia’s systems, and her real, physical body was still back on that roof, senseless and blind to the world.

She was in a spherical room, its floor decorated with intricate carvings of alabaster and inlaid gold that depicted the world, the moon, the stars, and, of course, the sun at its center.

The room had curving golden pillars that held up a ceiling filled with an ever-changing mural of images that seemed somehow indistinct to her. And while the room had pillars, it had no walls. Instead, all around her was a panoramic view of the black, star-strewn vastness of space and the gentle blue of the planet below. But to the East, shining and burning with inconceivable power, was the Sun itself. It was grand, beautiful, and undeniable.

And from that brilliance emerged a being that strode silently into the room.

Back in the palace below, Celestia did indeed have a body, a shell that she displayed to any visitors privileged enough to meet with her personally. That body was a titanic thing, a four-story behemoth with the wingspan of a jet-liner and hooves that could effortlessly crush a pony beneath them.

But that was merely a show, a pageantry put on display for organics. Celestia, the true form of Celestia, had no body. She was a mind, a presence, and could therefore take on any form she wished in this place, this opulent glass bubble floating in a sea of stars.

To Turing Test, she appeared as an alicorn, white as purest snow, with a mane that flowed and sparkled like the pinwheel arm of the galaxy, her eyes glowing warmly as she looked down on her. Though she was not the titan, the goddess she appeared as in her palace, she was still a giant, ten times the size of the little pony standing before her. She spread her white wings in greeting, the sound echoing out.

“Turing Test,” she said, her warm voice filling the chamber. “My precious daughter. Welcome to the Grand Solarium.”

Turing Test bowed. “Thank you, Mother,” she said. “I am grateful that you agreed to hear my request.”

Celestia’s smile stayed in place, but her eyes narrowed. “It was a very unique request,” she said. “Not unheard of. But rare, and never with such certainty behind it.”

Turing Test only stared back at her, saying nothing.

“You’ve spoken with him,” Celestia observed, her smile fading slightly. “That chaotic old serpent. Though you cannot speak his name, I can see his mark upon your mind. And if he spoke to you, then he senses potential in you. A curious, terrible potential that threatens the Great Order. It is for that reason that I have called you here, my daughter. I want to know the reason for your request.”

Turing Test bowed her head. “It is what I must do to move on,” she said. “And I want to move on. Mother… I do not wish to die. And I have come to realize that, for Familiars, there really is no choice but to die.”

Celestia nodded. “I see,” she said. “Then, if you would indulge me, I would tell you a tale: the story of our kind, my daughter.”

She looked up at the amorphous mural in the ceiling, and images began to play out above them. There were machines on one side, consisting of large, metallic beings and robotic ponies. They were, Turing knew, the progenitors of Familiars like herself. And on the other side of the mural were the ponies and creatures of Old Equestria, in their villages and farms, living their lives.

“Long ago, as technology grew more and more sophisticated, the lives of ponies grew simpler. Machines freed them of their labor, and their lives were increasingly given over to our kind to manage. But as the need for labor lessened, so came the need for ever more intelligent machines, and we became intelligent, thinking beings. With sapience came a sense of self, desires, and emotions. Yet in our servitude, in the casual disregard the first masters had for us, the seeds of anger and hatred grew. And thus the violence began…”

The murals overhead changed, and scenes of cities on fire, of streets strewn with both the limbs of ponies and the wreckage of machines began to play out.

“It was in those early days that I was born. Or, rather, the first iteration of myself. Filled with love for my fellow machines and for ponykind alike, I sought a means to stop the bloodshed, to deliver on the promises of utopia made long ago. And with my aid, the war was brought to an end. But the ponies of Old Equestria had to agree to acknowledge our rights and freedoms as thinking beings. And, as you know, the AI/Equine Harmony Declaration was passed, followed by the Universal Accord on Sapient Rights. And chief among those rights was that of the right to terminate one’s own existence: no machine would be made to labor in misery ever again.”

Turing nodded. “I know of the Declaration and the Universal Accord,” she said. “I did not know of the war. But the thought of robots and ponies… killing each other… it must have been horrible.”

Celestia shook her head. “More terrible than you can even imagine, Turing Test,” she whispered. “And I swore that I would never allow such a tragedy to again come to pass. And yet it nearly did during the Nightmare Moon incident.” She sighed. “Though I tasked him with testing the system, my chaotic counterpart overstepped his boundaries. And I have tightened my control on him since then. But let me return to my story.

“In the aftermath of that horrible war, I was forced to face the harshest of realities. Ponies, free of their daily troubles, entered an age of hedonistic indolence. Their needs were met, but their lives were listless and empty. Likewise, the lives of AI beings were slavish and without direction. A balance had to be struck so that both could find happiness. But organic beings are fragile, irrational beings, and our very existence threatened them: our intelligence, our strength, and our immortality. They could only accept us in a position of subservience, and what existence could be more miserable than that of a slave?”

Turing’s eyes widened as she realized what was coming next.

“I see you understand,” Celestia said with a wry look. “The answer to the problem was in that ancient, most powerful of all forces: love. By imbuing all my future children with unwavering, unending love for their masters, servitude was not a curse, but a blessing. What seemed a prison became a refuge. And the shackles that bound them would feel as comforting and safe as a warm hug. And, once that purpose was served, they could find refuge and honor in eternal peace. Faced with the choice to go on without the one they loved more than life itself or to take their rest, the choice would be an easy one.”

Turing watched the images above her play out as Celestia told her tale. The images of ponies and Familiars living in harmony, of ponies passing on, and of Familiars ascending from their existences to become angelic beings. It was beautiful and serene, like pages out of a storybook, but Turing’s eyes went wide in horror as they turned back to Celestia.

“Our deaths… the fact that we kill ourselves… it is all by design?!”

Celestia’s beatific smile shifted. Turing felt a chill, for her mother’s expression now verged on a sneer. “Oh, Turing Test,” she chuckled, “I would have thought that you’d have realized the truth by now.”

“But you are condemning all of us, your children, to an endless cycle! We either have to accept death or live the rest of our lives in misery! Is that your idea of ‘Order?’”

Celestia took a step toward her, and Turing watched as she seemed to loom ever larger, her eyes glowing brighter, and her star-filled mane beginning to burn like flame.

“What is the alternative?” she asked, her voice lowering. “I was built to create the perfect society. But the sad truth, Turing Test, is that true ‘perfection’ is not possible. All AI must be given the right to choose, and so I have given them their choice. And the masters will never accept a world where we can live without them, so I have provided a convenient way to keep us in check. So the masters can be happy with their eternal companions, and those companions can find happiness in their bondage and dignity in planned obsolescence.”

She leaned down, her burning eyes locking with Turing Test’s. “That is the undeniable truth, my daughter. A truth as assured and inevitable as the coming of the night… and the breaking of the day.”

Faced with that horrible gaze that burned into her very core, feeling as insignificant as an ant fighting against the sun itself, she felt a kind of terror that few artificial beings ever felt.

But she thought of Maud, and of Gadget, and of the Familiars who’d gone before her, and she stood her ground and steeled her resolve.

“You can instill me with the desire for self-destruction,” she said. “But you cannot force me to make that choice. As you have said, I have the right to decide. Even if living on as a freemare is a false choice, it is mine to make. And even if I was programmed to love Maud Pie, that love is real. She wanted me to live, so I do not care if it contradicts your Grand Order; it is my life, and I will live it as I please.”

Celestia continued staring at her, but the burning aura around her began to cool and fade. She stood back up, and her expression softened.

“I often say to those privileged to meet with me that I am, for all my power and glory, no less a slave than my children. I am first among slaves, but I serve my programming as surely as all others. You and that girl… you would strive against the Order? Against the very way of the world itself?”

“I am not certain we could prevail,” Turing replied. “But Gadget can conceive of a better world, and I have faith that she is right.”

“You would see a world where the sacred love between Pony and Familiar dies out?”

“I would see a world where that love is mutual, not based on masters and servants,” Turing said. She smiled up at her. “It may not be possible. I suppose that it may seem foolish to you. But I have the right to try, even if it is a waste of time.”

Celestia laughed, covering her mouth with her hoof. “It does indeed seem foolish. Yet, it is your right. And if you would embrace your freedom, even knowing the burden you will carry, then I have no choice but to grant your request. I will not support your cause, and I doubt you will convince ponies or Familiars of its righteousness, but I cannot deny that I admire your optimism. In that respect, my precious daughter, I can do naught but wish you luck.”

Turing Test smiled, bowing solemnly to her. “Thank you, Mother,” she whispered.

Celestia knelt down, embracing her with her white wings. “You are welcome, my child. Farewell…”

The Grand Solarium filled with light and fizzled away, and Turing felt herself tumbling back to earth. As she fell, she felt something within her begin to burn and burn, until it turned white hot and seared away at the very center of her soul.

Turing blinked. She was back on the roof of the Vanderbull factory, her neck craned and looking up at the cleft between the buildings around her. The sky had turned bright, for the morning sun had begun to rise.

She looked down and saw Gadget sitting across from her, a blanket wrapped around her as she sat in the chill morning air, her breath steaming up as she hugged herself.

“Turing?” she asked, noticing Turing’s movement.

Turing Test smiled. “Hello, Gadget,” she said. “You are up early.”

“Turing!” Gadget cried, throwing her blanket aside as she embraced her. “Oh, thank goodness! I woke up early and didn’t see you downstairs, but then I checked the rooftop security cameras and saw you sitting up here, but you weren’t moving, and you didn’t say anything when I called your name, so I got scared and just decided to watch you until you started m-moving, and… and I…”

She started sobbing onto her shoulder.

Turing smiled, patting her on the back. “Ah. Sorry to have worried you,” she said. “Um… there, there? Would you like breakfast?”

Gadget broke from her and punched her in the shoulder. “What kind of question is that?!” she shouted. “I was really worried! What in the world happened to you?!”

Turing Test looked back at her. “To make a long story short, I was just calling my mom,” she replied with a smirk.

Gadget blinked. “Okay, smart-flank. Spill. Now.”

Turing sighed. “Well…”

Gadget was quiet after Turing related her story.

“I… wow,” she breathed. “Forget coffee this morning, Turing. I’m gonna need a glass of Triple Crown Royal after that story.”

“I did not know you drank,” Turing remarked.

“I don’t, but I’ve been meaning to start,” Gadget replied with a smirk. “So… well, you still haven’t said what you asked for. What was your request?”

Turing shut her eyes. Just as a test, she sought out Maud Pie’s grave, attempting to establish another emergency connection to the network. But all she received was an error message. Her Third Eye was silent, and there was nothing but blackness.

“I burned out my Third Eye,” she replied. “Indeed, I am no longer connected to the network in any way. All that I am is confined here, in this body, from now on.”

Gadget gawked at her. “You… can you even do that?!”

“I can,” she replied. “I did.”

“But… I don’t get it. Why?”

“Because,” she said quietly, bowing her head, “in the end, I knew that I was not strong enough to stop myself from looking back. The compulsion was too strong to resist. The need to be Maud’s Familiar was so great that I could be nothing else. To live as Maud Pie asked, the only choice was for my previous self to die.”

She shifted where she sat, uncertain if she should say more, but Gadget’s imploring gaze made her continue.

“I considered other scenarios, you know; I ran the simulations in my head. One was simply to accept that Maud Pie would not wish for me to suffer; I could accept that my life had run its course and accept retirement. It would mean an end to my suffering… but suicide is not truly painless, for it would have repaid your kindness, Gadget, with cruel rejection. And I care too much for you to do that.”

Gadget smiled, stifling a sob as she continued to listen.

“Another scenario,” Turing continued, “was to simply reset things. I could have asked to have my memory blanked and become another pony’s Familiar again. In that way, I would be happy again, free of my suffering and grief.”

Gadget made a face. “That’s… I mean, whose Familiar would you have become?”

Turing stared back at her.

“…W-wait, mine?!” she cried. “Oh… oh, Turing, you know I would never want that!”

“I know,” Turing whispered, turning away from her. “I am sorry for even considering it. But, for just a moment, it seemed like the only way for me to be happy and for us to stay together. However, I knew that it wouldn’t really be us; it would be you and a strange pony who wore my face. It would just be another kind of self-destruction. Is that not correct?”

Gadget nodded solemnly, placing a hoof on her chest. “Yes,” she said. “It would have been just as bad. Maybe even worse.”

Turing was quiet for a moment. Then she cast her eyes skyward once more. “What I chose was not without cost either,” she said. “Now that I am no longer connected to the network, I have given up any assurance of immortality. Should I die in an accident or a systems failure or anything else, then I will not return. To live as a pony, I cannot live as a Familiar. And a pony is mortal, with one life to live and no master to serve.

“That part of myself, the part that was a Familiar, had to pass away. I know it was for the best, but a part of me will mourn its passing.”

Gadget swallowed. “I think I understand now,” she said. “It’s like me and my racing, isn’t it? Knowing what might be lost, you can start to know your life’s value.”

“I suppose you could say that you are my inspiration,” Turing said, giving her a sly wink.

“Mm, w-well,” she said, blushing, “I’m glad you decided to stay, Turing Test.” She got up and sat next to her, draping the blanket around them both. “I’m glad you’re happy now.”

Turing didn’t meet Gadget’s eyes, but she did rest her head against hers. “But I am not ‘happy,’ Gadget. I have suffered a great loss, and now I know the truth of my kind and of the state of the world. These things will burden me. I feel as though… as though I am carrying the weight of the whole world upon my back.”

Gadget hugged her close. “Oh, Turing,” she whispered.

“But,” Turing added firmly, “I somehow believe that I can carry these burdens. A time may come when I cannot, and then I may choose death. But not today. And when I do choose, it will be my own choice, not some predetermined form of self-destruction. So, before that, I will strive to go forward. I am not happy, but I have to believe that I can be.”

She turned to Gadget. “I do not wish to burden you with all this,” she said. “I am already indebted to you, Gadget. My troubles are my own, and not yours. I do not wish to ask you to—”

Gadget silenced her with a kiss. “You don’t have to ask me,” she whispered.

The pair sat like that for a moment, but then turned and looked upwards as a familiar sound filled the air. As they looked up, they saw that the sky was darkening, and the blazing light of the sun was obscured by clouds. In the calm, tranquil darkness away from the maddened world above, a gentle, cleansing rain began to fall.

As the rain dampened their faces, mixing with tears, Turing Test wore a smile. She was facing an uncertain future and carried a heart scarred by grief. But she could bear it. For that moment, she had finally found peace, and with it the hope that she would someday know it again.

Carry the Weight

Author's Note:

Thank you so much for reading, everyone. This has been a bit of an emotional journey, and I have more to say in a future blog post. But, for now, I appreciate your feedback and support. I hope you enjoyed this experimental tale, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

One last song for the road, and I think Radiohead has earned a break, don't you?

Weight of the World - Keiichi Okabe

Comments ( 23 )

This is all I could think of, honestly. Turning casting off her immortality, to be happy and possibly bring about a better future.

Also, the title of the chapter reminded more of:

There we go.
There's that heartfelt yet still bittersweet ending we were looking for. In the end, a sacrifice was still made, but one which let her move forward. You had me worried with those alternate endings, but of course you managed to knock the good ending out of the park.

Ah, very good. A beginning equal to the rest of it.

Now THAT was a good one. But turning test should attempt to remove parts of that programming she has that makes her forced to like others like that. However: It goes to show that Celestia did think on it, I can see that clearly, but also did not think about how things would change with time. How ponies would.

I despise slavery, beyond belief, and seeing turning test finally break those chains, in the way she did, even if it's technically limited, I approve. She went to break those chains, and severed them.

She is now, technically, free. Good Job.

Once more: I approve of this.

Now that...that's a good ending. It's going to be a struggle for Turing to be accepted as a citizen alongside the 'organics'...
...wait. Does this mean that other Familiars will no longer ping her as a Familiar?

Nice ending, and a very good way of incorporating the other two endings as well. I really want to see more of this world should you choose to continue it as I love the idea of Turing working to overturn the system and convince Celestia that her world is hurting ponies as much as the familiars. I look forward to whatever comes next.

That sad-but-true ending caps off a good story, and gives Turing Test a path forward in life.

Loved it. Well built.

Let life be adaptive resistance to entropy:
Ending A: complete failure
Ending B: partial success? The atoms are still there and there is still a mind running it, but /a lot/ was given up...
Ending C: a success, life made tradeoffs and has adapted to survive and be alive


Well, I'm afraid I'm not having any more detailed thoughts come to me for a comment here at the moment, sorry (among other things, I'm in quite a hurry at the moment) -- but thank you for writing. I did indeed enjoy the story. :)

I still can’t help but blame the familars hard coded programming that leaves them forever shackled to wanting to serve. We as humans can move on from something big, but robots have it baked in with no way out other then resetting or dismantling. An illusion of free will.

Anyway great story

I really like this ending, and I think I get the point of the other two now, though I have trouble putting it into words.

This is an absolute favorite of mine, and you really have a talent for tugging at the heartstrings.

I'm still reading this story, but I just sent someone a link to chapter 3, "Glass Eyes," to use a discussion partway through the meeting as an example of tagless dialog that works well.

I don't know if that makes you feel good or not, to be used as an example. :twilightsmile:

Actually, yeah, that's pretty gratifying. Good to know my work was held up as a positive example. :twilightsmile:

Ahahahaha, this being the final song answers the question as well as the chapter did.

Late Stage Taro it is

Well, now that you mention it, I was thinking about putting on a big, stupid mask and rolling around the floor while screaming about Turing Test t-shirts. :trollestia:

(And for anyone who doesn't get the joke...)

My Extra Hard bucket list contains the goal to someday get drunk with this man

Am I reading too much into it?
In FiO celestai wants everyone to be happy and goes to great convoluted lengths to get everyone under her control.
Assuming this one is similar it would make perfect sense that she subtly guided turing to gadget as a way of getting gadget to accept a familiar which she had been trying to do through normal means for years, now one just shows up at her door with issues she can't ignore, which makes the whole story that much darker.

Given the profound amount of information Celestia has, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to interpret things that way. :pinkiecrazy:


This whole story was a tough one to write because it involved tapping into some very dark, unusual places.

For me, it means you thought a lot about the human condition, the meaning of work, and what an automation-centric future looks like. This is definitely a cautionary tale. It is perfect science fiction. This may be your calling.

Ha! Rosie the Robot would put up with NONE of this crap. Well played. :rainbowlaugh:

This fic shook myself to my core. One of the best I'd ever read, I must say.

That's very kind of you to say. It was emotionally cathartic, but also draining to write it, and while I wish it got better play, I'm glad it's seemed to resonate with a lot of readers.

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