• Published 20th Nov 2021
  • 776 Views, 165 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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Glass Eyes

The group didn’t have to meet in person. They could just as easily have used regular communication channels and spoken their thoughts at light speed on streams of electrons and been done in mere minutes.

But as Turing Test walked into the room on the 52nd floor of the building and saw her comrades gathered in a small circle, her mood improved more significantly than it had all month.

Familiars were machines, true, but they were still physical beings, and, ultimately, there was a comfort in the physical presence of a friend.

“Turing Test!” Choco Mint hollered, rising to greet her as though he were surprised, even though he surely knew the instant she’d entered the building. “How the hell are you?” The green unicorn with the coiffed brown mane had a rich baritone voice and an aplomb that reminded her of the park merchants.

Turing Test smiled. “I am fine, as usual, Choco Mint,” she said. To the others, she turned and bowed her head. “It is good to see you all as well.”

There were three others present that day: Minuette, the blue unicorn with the white-streaked mane; Junebug, a yellow earth pony with a bumblebee cutie mark; and Vapor Trail, a pale pegasus whose wispy mane so perfectly fit her name.

They were all the very image of a group of old friends, a diverse gathering of ponies just simply having a get-together in a community center.

Every one of them was a Familiar who’d lost their master.

Junebug had lost her partner to a random, drug-fuelled argument that turned very suddenly violent.

Vapor Trail had lost her partner, an aspiring Wonderbolt applicant, to a flying accident.

Minuette and Choco Mint bore the heaviest burden: their masters’ deaths had been by choice.

And of course Turing had lost Maud Pie…

“I, um…” Minuette began, “I saw Lemon Hearts’s parents the other day.”

Turing took a seat. “I have not had significant contact with the Pie family since I left,” she said, “other than a few communications regarding the care of Maud’s grave or some few of her possessions. Did you choose to speak to them, Minuette?”

The others leaned in.

Minuette smiled. “Yes,” she said. “I wanted to talk to them directly. I thought perhaps they had moved on enough to speak with me, and I thought it would be so nice to speak with somepony else about Lemon Hearts.” She shut her eyes and shook her head.

They all understood what she meant.

“They weren’t rude or anything, just… they seemed surprised to see me. I don’t look very different from before I took on this skin, so they only needed 2.34 seconds to realize who I was, but then they just made small chit-chat and said they had to be going. Their body language said they were a little uncomfortable. I tried to contact them again, but I think their Familiars are filtering some of my messages. I guess it was pretty awkward, huh?”

“I think it’s nice that you took the time to talk with them,” Junebug said.

“You should just be glad they were polite,” Choco Mint said, rolling his eyes.

Turing and the others knew what he meant. His master’s mother and friends all blamed him for not anticipating the suicide and preventing it. Many of them denied the truth and said it was an accident involving careless handling of the chemicals he used for his experiments.

Choco Mint’s partner had been an academic, a researcher, a scientist… the sort of thing nopony did anymore, unless they were fully committed to their hobby.

Just like Maud Pie had been.

Regardless of what anypony said, Choco Mint had seen the change in his partner’s demeanor, urged him to seek help, heightened his vigilance…

...but ultimately, no machine, no system in all of Equestria could stave off death forever. It would come to every pony through age or misfortune.

Or as a means of escape.

And it was that last form that Familiars knew best. So many Familiars welcomed it rather than face an existence without their masters. Indeed, it was universal to the point of being, in a manner, expected.

But this group was made up of those who chose not to heed the siren call.

When each of them had joined, there had been others in the group. Now those faces were absent, their seats vacant.

They’d simply given in to that sweet, lulling call that promised relief from the aching loneliness and aimless boredom that still plagued them all.

Turing and the others talked of their activities, of their newly acquired hobbies, and of their funny misadventures in walking among organics. Some of them had been discovered, though a few had never been spotted at all.

“No one’s figured me out yet!” Junebug said.

“That’s because you stand out the least,” Choco said. “You picked a good exterior. Normal colors, earth pony, easy-going personality… Yeah, I’m not surprised.” He smirked at Turing Test. “I bet Turing Test gets picked out all the time.”

Turing smiled and shook her head. “Other than by being informed by their Familiars, no organic has ever determined my true nature,” she said.

“No way!” Minuette exclaimed.

“Oh, perhaps you can give me some tips!” Vapor said. “Ponies spot me all the time!”

“Of course they do,” Choco scoffed. “You act like a servant. Always apologizing and bowing and bending over backwards to help everypony.”

“I can’t help it!” Vapor protested. “It’s how I was when I was with Sky!”

“Hey, I get it,” Choco said, holding up his hooves in mock surrender, “but just the same, no organic acts that way. At least not the way you do. It’s a dead giveaway. But what I can’t figure out,” he said, looking over at Turing, “is how Turing Test hasn’t gotten caught? She acts more mechanical than any of us!”

Turing smirked. “It seems that my mannerisms mostly come off as charming or mysterious. In many cases, it apparently makes ponies want to bed me.”

The others groaned.

“What a hassle!” Minuette said.

“It truly is,” Turing said. “Although…”

The others fell silent at her addition.

“...I have been experimenting with physical relationships as a means to finding a suitable companion.”

“Ohhh,” Vapor said, turning her head slightly. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. If you get a boyfriend, he’ll be weirded out when you don’t have a Familiar. And it’s not like you can… ah… progress the relationship...”

Turing nodded. She understood very well.

Celestia would allow her children freedom once their duty had been done. She would allow them to own their bodies and do what they pleased with them (even at the risk of leaving them vulnerable)... but outright wedding a master was forbidden, and having children was literally impossible.

Even a freemare had her limits. In the end, it was the masters’ world; she and her kind were just living in it.

Soon, as always, their conversations turned to reminiscence about their masters:

“Lemon Hearts loved her dinner parties.”

“If anyone was even a little faster than Sky, he would get so mad that I was the only one who could calm him down!”

“No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t shake that stammer, but by the end he just wore it like a badge of honor. Some of his boyfriends even thought it was cute. And they were the ones he kept around the longest.”

“I still grow the flowers she liked, even though I know she’s not around to enjoy them.”

“Maud Pie once told me even though she had never wanted a Familiar, she never regretted allowing me to serve her. She said she never knew how lonely she was before I was given to her.”

Turing could never decide if talking about their fallen counterparts was a relief or a form of masochistic martyrdom. Though none said so, she knew from experience that each one bore the image of their master’s grave in their head, and they were increasingly unable to tear their third eyes away from it for long.

Then Minuette went silent. She was the first to notice that something was amiss. Her head snapped up and her expression went blank as she detected something. The others noticed and immediately fell silent as well, their affectations of organic life vanishing as their third eyes searched, and they shared information with each other.

A mare and her Familiar were making their way up the hallway and approaching their door. The mare’s gaze was fixed on the number on the placard, meaning she was likely coming to see them, and not just passing by.

She turned the doorknob and entered without knocking, and they all swiftly turned around to look at her.

“Well, hello!” the mare said as she entered.

Choco Mint swiftly put on a cheerful smile and stood up to greet her.

“Good afternoon!” he said. “I’m sorry if this seems rude, miss, but this is a private meeting.”

“Oh?” she asked, tilting her head. “Then why,” she asked with a small smirk, “did it have a public posting?”

He froze, as did they all, processing what this meant.

They had indeed posted about their group on the net, but the posting appeared to be a nonsensical mess of images and random words… at least to any organic pony. To a Familiar, subtle marks and patterns combined with an underlying hidden code, and that would tell them all that they needed to know about the time, location, and purpose of their group. If one knew what to look for, one could find it.

The mare’s smirk widened at his hesitation. She glanced back at her Familiar, who came up behind her. He wore a matching grin, and they knew in an instant that he had been the one to tell her, though none of them could guess the reason.

The two looked like they could have been family, were it not for the obviously robotic nature of the Familiar. They both had white coats and dirty blonde manes. Aside from their genders, the key differences between them were their eye colors and their size. The mare’s eyes were deep blue, and she was petite and slender, while the Familiar’s eyes were brown and he towered over them, tall almost to the point of being ludicrous.

“Perhaps I should introduce myself,” said the mare. “My name is Amazing Grace, and this is my loyal Familiar, Glory Be. Oh, and Glory, dear? If you wouldn’t mind passing me that drink we purchased on the way here?”

“Of course, mistress,” Glory said, reaching into his saddle bag and retrieving a thin aluminum can of sparkling wine. She took it, cracking it open, the dry sound echoing in the room that had gone silent. She took a long drink and wiped her mouth with the back of her foreleg, seemingly indifferent to Choco Mint, who still stood before her.

“Now then,” Grace said. “What exactly were you all discussing before we arrived? I would just love to know what you machines discuss when real ponies aren’t around!”

Choco Mint had maintained his smile the entire time despite his growing unease. “I’m sorry, miss, but I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I think you’ve gotten some bad information.”

Grace was taking another sip, but paused at that. She raised an eyebrow and placed the can on the floor. She looked him dead in the eye.

Then she struck him in the face as hard as she could, knocking him off balance and causing him to stagger back.

“That was for insinuating that my dear Familiar would ever lie to me,” she said calmly. “And also for being insincere. There are few things I hate more than insincerity. Ponies put on a constant show of kindness and amiability that hides their own selfish nature. It’s bad enough from them… but utterly intolerable from a machine.”

Choco Mint turned to look up at her. The fleshy covering of his face was peeling away slightly, split from the blow of her hoof - which apparently had been filed to deceptive sharpness - revealing the mechanical workings underneath.

“Oh my, that looks like it hurts!” she said, her expression showing not the slightest hint of concern. “You machines do still feel pain, do you not?”

Choco Mint did not reply or give any outer reaction, but they all knew the answer: despite being machines, pain was indeed something they could feel, and right now Choco Mint was certainly feeling it.

Grace leaned down, her expression darkening, and whispered to him through grit teeth: “Then let that be a lesson: I will not be lied to by masterless Familiars masquerading as their betters. Do you understand that, machine?”

Choco Mint nodded silently.

“Splendid!” Grace said, picking up her drink to take another long sip from it. “Now, where was I?”

“You wanted to know what they spent their time talking about, mistress,” Glory said.

“Ah, that’s right!” Grace said, turning to smile at him. “What would I do without you, Glory my dear?”

Glory bowed to her. “I’m certain you would endure,” he said, “which is more than I would presume to do.”

Grace chuckled at that. “Now then,” she said as she walked past Choco Mint toward the others, “I must admit that I was fascinated when my beloved Familiar informed me that some of his kind, against all odds, choose to continue their lives after they’ve lost their masters. It seemed… well, purely paradoxical!”

The others remained silent as she slowly began to walk in a circle around them.

“A Familiar’s sole duty is to their master, is it not? Their whole existence from the very moment of their creation is to see to their master's every need and desire. I wished for a strong but subservient knight, for instance, and so Glory was gifted to me upon my sixteenth birthday. Each of you, likewise, was some manner of gift for somepony, yes?”

“Please, Miss,” Minuette said, speaking up as she placed her hoof on her chest, “we don’t want any trouble; we only want to spend some time with our friends. You’ve already hurt Choco… can you please just let us be?”

Grace paused in her stride. “Did you say something?” she asked, glaring at her.

Minuette lowered her head and fell silent.

“That’s what I thought,” Grace said, resuming her circling. “As I was saying, you machines had one purpose in all your existence. But now that it has ended, you’re still here. ‘Why is that?’ I wondered. Glory informed me that he, like most Familiars, couldn’t live without his counterpart. He even said so again a few moments ago. Isn’t that right, Glory dear?”

“It is, mistress,” Glory said. “A good Familiar understands his purpose and his place. When my mistress finally takes her leave of this world, I will also do the right thing and exit it as well. Any Familiar of integrity would do the same.”

“And yet,” Grace said, casting her gaze at them all, “you lot… haven’t.”

They stared back at her, none of them daring to respond.

“You,” she said, her tone turning grave, “persist.”

Grace sighed and drained the last of her drink. The slight unsteady twitch in her eyes signified to Turing and the others that she’d probably been drinking for a while before she’d come as well.

“When I heard of your plight, I knew it was my duty to tend to you. And so I’ve come bearing a message of salvation.”

She approached Junebug. “Your master is gone. Aren’t you sad to be without them?”

Junebug nodded. “Yes. Yes, I am. We all are.”

Grace nodded solemnly. “Yes, of course you are, you poor child,” she said. “And what about… you?”

Her eyes fell on Vapor Trail, who flinched away, refusing to meet her gaze.

“I see,” Grace said, going over to her. “You must have loved your partner dearly. All Familiars do. It's ingrained, programmed into your very nature. Your whole world in one pony. Would you not give anything to have them back?”

Vapor shut her eyes. “Yes,” she whispered. “Anything. But there’s nothing I can do. He’s gone now.”

Grace reached out and placed her hoof on Vapor’s shoulder. “Then why subject yourself to such pain? Why continue with this farce? Why pretend to be something you are not? Why not just accept that you have played your part, and it is now time to make your exit?”

Vapor stared back at her. “I just wanted to live. I just wanted to try to be happy again.”

Grace nearly burst out laughing but stifled a chuckle as she held a hoof to her lips. “Happy? Without that which gave you happiness? If happiness truly were on this path you’ve chosen, you wouldn’t need a ‘support group’! Oh, you poor soul! How fortunate you are that I arrived, for I bear a message which you so desperately needed to hear…”

She moved her hoof from Vapor’s shoulder to the back of her head. Then she pulled her forward, almost muzzle to muzzle.

“Happiness exists in your purpose. Your purpose is over, thus your happiness is over. Embrace your end like a good servant.”

“Please,” Vapor whimpered, “please stop…”

“Kill yourself,” Grace whispered. “End this charade.”

There was the sharp sound of a hoof stomping that made Grace release her victim and stare at its origin.

Turing stood there, her eyes hard as she glared at Grace.

“That is enough,” she said. “Leave her alone. Leave all of us alone. We have the right to gather in place without being assaulted. I will notify the authorities if necessary.”

Grace raised an eyebrow. She turned from Vapor Trail and slowly approached Turing Test. “Well now… it seems one of you has a little more spark than the rest.”

“I am a free and independent being,” Turing said calmly. “We all are, and you have no right to treat us this way.”

Grace stopped right in front of Turing. “You seem to have forgotten your place.”

She raised a hoof to strike her, just as she had Choco Mint, but Turing raised a hoof to block her at the last moment, never breaking eye contact with her.

Grace narrowed her eyes. “Put your hoof down, machine. I am a flesh and blood pony, and I want to hit you. Quit standing in my way and let me beat you to my heart’s content.”

Turing shook her head. “Despite your flimsy premise of being here to help us or provide us with guidance, it is obvious to us all that you are merely a disturbed pony with nothing better to do than torment those whom you think will not fight back. I am free, and I will not stand for your abuse, nor will I allow you to harm my friends any further. Leave. Now.”

Grace’s calm demeanor melted away and she glared at Turing. Then she took a breath and her serene expression returned. “My my… you are not like the others. So willful! Tell me, machine, what is it that drives you to continue this existence?”

Turing’s gaze was unwavering. “A promise.”

“A… promise? Then you… oh… OH!”

Grace took a step back and burst into laughter. “Oh, you poor thing! I see now! You are a slave still, even when commanded to be free! Such a delicious irony!”

The room was filled by her cackling laughter. “Don’t you see?!” she asked. “You are already done… used up! You are all merely…” She paused, grinning as she held up the empty can in her hoof. “Empty tin cans, devoid of purpose and used up.”

She let the can drop to the floor where it clattered loudly and rolled away.

“Just as a can exists for nothing other than to be used, tossed away, and recycled, you too should submit yourself to be retired, discarded, and repurposed. Let that shambling mass of mechanical parts you call a body be taken apart, set free, and used for something that’s actually useful… like a toaster!”

She laughed even harder at that.

Turing took a step forward.

“Oh… you have something to say?” Grace asked. “Do not blame me for speaking the truth. You should be grateful that—”

“Shut up.”

Grace froze. “W-what? What did you say to me?!”

“I have scanned the net for information about you, including your past crimes and disturbances. They are a matter of public record, after all. You are simply a pyschopath, deriving pleasure from tormenting others, but since harming others results in punishment, you found a group that you believed would never retaliate. You found this group of Familiars because you want to abuse us without fear of reprisal.

“But you miscalculated: I will fight back. I will not submit. I am not here to be some tool for your amusement. Get out of here and never return, you lowlife.”

Grace’s eye twitched.

“How dare you speak to her like that!” Glory growled, taking a step forward.

“If you truly wish to protect your mistress from further prosecution,” Turing said, halting him with a hard look, “you should take her and go. I am not bluffing.”

He paused, frowning. “Mistress,” he said, “maybe we should—”

Grace didn’t listen to him. Instead, she let out a shriek and lunged at Turing, intending to strike her, but Turing merely shoved her away and knocked her onto her back.

But then, to everypony’s surprise, Turing reared up, preparing to strike Grace again while she was down.

Glory dashed at her with lightning speed, smacking Turing away with one gigantic hoof. She hit the ground and tumbled head over hoof. A gash opened along her side, dribbling synthetic fluid onto the floor.

Turing rose to her hooves, glaring at both of them. She opened her mouth to speak when suddenly a series of alarms and sanctions blared in her head. Her limbs went stiff and she toppled to the ground, her body suddenly wracked with unspeakable pain.

NO FAMILIAR WILL THREATEN A PONY WITH PHYSICAL HARM WITHOUT JUST CAUSE. YOU ARE IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF THIS STATUTE. PENALIZATION NOW IN PROGRESS.

Grace smiled. “It seems your programming still keeps you in line, machine,” she said, looking down at Turing as she convulsed. “That’ll teach you for raising a hoof to your betters. Glory, dear?”

“Yes, mistress?”

Her grin spread into a toothy, humorless rictus. “Kick her insolent guts out.”

Glory stepped forward. “With pleasure, mistress.”

As Glory approached Turing, he saw that she was still convulsing, her body undergoing the penalties of her actions. She was utterly helpless before him. She would offer him no resistance.

He raised his hooves.

“Wait!” Minuette cried. “The police have just arrived downstairs!” she said. “Even if we are just Familiars, violence against us is still illegal!”

“And you would actually press charges against me? A master?” Grace asked, rolling her eyes.

Vapor Trail, Choco Mint, and Junebug ran to Turing Test’s side and stood defensively before her.

“We might,” Choco Mint said.

“Unless you leave now, that is,” Vapor added.

Glory frowned. He turned to look at Grace for his next order.

Grace sighed. “Very well, then,” she said. “This is getting tedious anyway, and I suppose I’ve made my point. Deny it all you want, pretend that what I’ve said was not the truth, but ultimately you will come to accept the inevitable…”

She walked to the door, beckoning for Glory to follow her. “Ultimately,” she said, “you’ll understand that death is the only option. The sooner you stop this masquerade and mollifying yourself with silly ‘support groups,’ the sooner you will find relief for this bane you call ‘living.’”

They watched her leave and turned to watch over Turing until her penalty cycle finished and the police finally arrived.


The police officer was a unicorn in his 30s. He raised his hat slightly to scratch his head after they had explained what had happened. He kept looking back at the spherical police drone behind him throughout their testimony.

“Uhh, yeah, so…” the officer began. “I’m not… real sure what to do here.”

Turing Test blinked. “A crime has been committed, officer,” she said. “Two of us have been assaulted.”

“Sure, but, like… you’re all Familiars, right? Ex-Familiars? Can’t you just call for a repair and get patched up like it was nothing? I mean, I’ve heard of Familiars getting totally destroyed and then just coming back the next day. So it doesn’t really matter.”

Turing stared back at him. “But it still hurt, and just because we can heal does not erase the infraction, officer,” she said. “Just as a pony could heal from an injury, an assault would not be so easily forgiven.”

“Sure, but that’s a real pony,” he said. “You’re all… I mean, look, I’ve never heard of any Familiars without masters before. You’re the first ones I’ve ever met. I’m sure there’s gotta be some precedent. Look, I’m just going to go step out and get a coffee or something real quick, so why don’t you consult with my advisory drone here? I’ll let it talk to you and maybe it’ll make a recommendation.”

Turing made no outward show of her irritation, but she briefly considered making a sour face to let the officer know how useless she thought he was. Nevertheless, she nodded, reasoning that perhaps a fellow AI would provide a clearer answer and get them the results they wanted.

“Great, cool,” the officer said. “Okay, ST1-NG, you take it from here. I’ll be right back.”

The drone beeped and hovered over to Turing and the others.

“Greetings,” it hummed. “I am Police Assistant and Advisory Drone Unit ST1-NG. I will now attempt to assess your claims, browse footage from local feed cams as well as your own ocular input, and provide a recommendation.”

Turing nodded. “Understood.”

“Just a moment…”

After a few seconds, the drone beeped again. “Evaluation complete. I have determined that you do in fact have a legitimate claim of assault. Choco Mint, Turing Test, you are free to press charges against the individual known as Amazing Grace.”

“I decline,” Choco Mint said immediately.

“I do not,” Turing said. “I wish to press charges.”

The others exchanged glances.

“Turing,” Minuette started, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“If this is your wish, I will do so,” ST1-NG said. “However, I would strongly advise that you do not.”

Turing Test stared back at the drone. “Why?”

“Curious,” the drone beeped, fixing its front facing ocular lense on her. “Most Familiars would balk at defying or in any way challenging a master except to defend their own. As machines, we are subservient to ponies in all things. While you have the legal right, it is expected that you will waive it to preserve that established order.”

“That ‘established order’ made a pony think that she could come here, mock all of us, tell us to kill ourselves, and attack us without any kind of resistance. Perhaps it is worth upsetting.”

Junebug came up to her and put her hoof on Turing’s shoulder. “Turing, think about what you’re saying… we can take on the appearance of the masters and even join the Eternal Carnival… but to stand on equal ground with them? Act like we’re so important? No Familiar has ever pressed charges against a master! Ever!”

“Your companion is correct,” ST1-NG said. “No freemare has ever pressed charges against an organic pony in the entire history I have contained in my police data banks. Were you to be the first, you would no doubt receive much scrutiny. This would place you in the public eye, ruining your ability to remain hidden among organics in your present form.

“Furthermore, the idea of a Familiar acting in the way you are now would be unsettling to many organic ponies. It could cause disruption to society and lead to mistrust of Familiars and other AI entities like myself… especially once it was revealed that you attempted to physically attack a pony, and not clearly to defend yourself, a fact I have elected to omit from my report for just that reason.”

Turing was silent. The others all watched her, but she gave no reaction.

“I would strongly suggest that you drop this matter entirely for the good of everyone,” ST1-NG reiterated.

Turing closed her eyes and bowed her head. “Very well,” she said. “I will not press charges.”

ST1-NG beeped again. “So noted. Very well. No charges will be filed. I will inform my companion officer. You are all free to leave.”

The other Familiars in the room seemed to relax.

“You did the right thing,” Choco said to her.

“It’s better this way,” Minuette added.

Turing watched ST1-NG hover toward the door and suddenly said, “I have a question, if you do not mind, officer.”

The drone stopped and turned back to her. “Please state your inquiry.”

“There are no incidents of a Familiar ever pressing charges against a master,” she said. “But how many reports or incidents of abuse of Familiars by their masters are reported? And are any of those ever prosecuted?”

ST1-NG hovered silently. “This is not important,” he replied.

Turing narrowed her eyes. “How many?” she asked again.

ST1-NG paused for a moment, but then replied, “The Equestrian Police System registers a global average of 1128 reported incidents of Familiar abuse daily, typically by concerned neighbors or family members. Reported abusers are re-briefed on proper care of their Familiars and urged to conduct themselves more appropriately.

“While abuse of a Familiar is considered a crime, the number of incidents where this resulted in criminal charges is zero.”

Turing processed that. “And how many Familiars requested termination shortly after returning to their abusers’ custody?” she asked.

“Unknown,” ST1-NG replied. “We do not keep records on such matters.”

Turing nodded. “I see,” she said.

“Very good,” ST1-NG said. “I must return to my duties now. Have a pleasant day.”

The drone left through the door, leaving Turing and her friends alone once more.

“I… I think I should go home,” Vapor Trail said.

“It probably would be best,” Choco Mint said. Then he put on his best smile. “So, same time next week, everypony?”


It was the next morning when Turing received a direct communication request from Choco Mint.

“Good morning, Turing Test,” he said, his voice in her head. “How are you this morning?”

With their connection, Turing didn’t have to speak aloud to have him hear her reply: “I am well, Choco Mint. My exterior has been fully repaired. I assume you have done the same. But why did you request a direct line?”

“Ah,” he said, realizing that she’d deduced that he wouldn’t have bothered unless he wanted to communicate something more personally. “I wanted you to hear it from me…

“Turing Test… Vapor Trail retired herself last night.”

Turing froze. “I am very sorry to hear that,” she replied. “She was a good friend to us all.”

“She left me a message,” Choco said. “She wanted to thank us all for making her time after her master’s death more bearable, but she just decided that it was her time.”

“Perhaps she would not have felt that way,” Turing said, “had it not been for those two. That mare—”

“I’m as saddened by her departure as you are, Turing,” Choco said, “but I don’t think it’s really a surprise. She’d never really recovered. I mean, none of us have. Maybe… maybe we can’t really recover.”

Turing looked out the window of her apartment in silence at the morning sun rising over the city. “I want to believe that we can,” she said. “But increasingly, I am convinced that the masters and bound Familiars will not let us. They expect us to die; they want us to… they cannot accept that we want something more for ourselves!”

“Turing… that’s two days in a row you’ve expressed such feelings toward the masters and our fellow Familiars,” he said, his voice strained. “None of us wanted to say anything yesterday, but now you have me worried. This is very dangerous thinking… you should repent and be grateful for what Celestia has given us. Everything is as she wills it; if there were a better way of doing things, we’d have been doing it. Right?”

Turing continued watching the sun, the orb so intrinsically tied to their mother and master, in silence.

“Turing?”

Turing shut the blinds of her window. “Right,” she said at last. “Thank you for delivering me this news and for your advice. I will speak to you again soon, Choco Mint.”

His voice regained some of its lightness. “I’m glad I could help. Talk to you later, Turing Test.”

In the darkness, Turing thought about Vapor Trail even as her third eye locked itself on Maud’s grave, fixating on it to the exclusion of all else.

She thought about how Vapor Trail would have no such grave, how her memory would be locked in an archive, never to be reactivated, but her machinery would be disassembled and endlessly recycled.

Like all Familiars, she would have no monument, no enduring record of her existence. They were all just passing through this world in one way or another, but that same world truly belonged only to the masters.

To be continued...

Author's Note:

Glass Eyes - Radiohead