• Published 20th Nov 2021
  • 910 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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Weird Fishes, Part 2

The metal plating Gadget used to finish the craft’s outward appearance was thin and lightweight and was the deep blue color of cobalt. After helping Gadget to apply it to the now-aptly-named Blues Drive Monster, Turing Test stood back with her to take in the sight of it.

“Oh, Turing, it’s just perfect!” Gadget exclaimed, giddily bouncing on her hooves. “I just know it’ll be a big hit at the race tomorrow!”

“I must admit that I have never seen anything like it,” Turing remarked. She smiled at the finished craft, feeling rather pleased with her own contributions to it. She’d mentally noted other ways to improve the overall speed and handling of the craft, but Gadget had insisted that any modifications other than the ones she’d researched would be breaking the “no A.I.” rule. For her own part, Turing couldn’t figure out what difference it made if she was helping with the actual construction or was just advising her on how safe or efficient the various components were. But, like any good Familiar, she was used to the idea that sometimes you simply had to defer to what the masters wanted.

Organics. Not “masters.”

She nodded to herself, noting that Gadget’s term was starting to feel right, though it was still strange to override her programmed impulse to refer to all organic ponies from the frame of servitude.

“Since you have apparently finished it,” Turing said, turning to Gadget, who was still staring lovingly at her creation, “may I now ask about one of the components of the hovercraft? I attempted to ask earlier, but you were working and insisted that you did not want any suggestions… which, for the record, I was not going to give.”

“Oh,” Gadget said, looking away sheepishly. “Er, sorry. But yes, what’s your question?”

“I noticed that you have integrated a neural interface network into the machine’s controls,” Turing said. “I surmised that this is so you may connect them through your mechanical arms at key points to better extend your control. Is that correct?”

Gadget nodded.

“What I cannot understand, however,” Turing continued, “is why the network also has sensors placed around the craft. The cockpit already contains numerous gauges to provide data on how each system is functioning, from altitude, to speed, to power output, and so on. Why would neural sensory data be useful?”

“Ah!” Gadget exclaimed, breaking into a broad grin. “Well, since my arms are connected to my earth pony magic, I can feel sensations through them, but it’s too much to extend that through the whole ship. But with some traditional neural sensors connecting the outer hull of the ship to my arms, I can extend my sensation through the whole thing!”

Turing stared back at her. “But why?” she asked.

“Are you kidding?!” Gadget cried. She suddenly launched herself over the railing, using her arms to catapult herself onto the top of the craft. “With the extra sensors, this whole craft will feel as if it were part of my own body!” She flattened herself against the hull, gently stroking the smooth metal plating. “I’ll be able to feel the wind, the inertia, the turbulence, and every shift and bump as if I were the one flying, not just piloting it from the confines of the cockpit.”

Turing Test watched her as she rubbed her cheek against it.

“Do you want me to leave the two of you alone?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I-it’s not like that!” Gadget exclaimed, getting to her hooves. “It’s just that… well, think about it! Pegasi get to fly around as much as they want, feeling the wind against their coat, taking every sharp turn and loop and curve against their bodies. But as an earth pony, I can never know exactly what that feels like.

“But this way, I can get a little taste of what it’s like to ride the wind, not be bound to the earth as a slave to gravity!”

Turing Test tilted her head to the side. “But you are not a pegasus, Gadget,” she observed, feeling a bit silly for pointing out the obvious. “Why would you want to feel like one?”

Gadget launched herself back to the walkway, pushing herself muzzle-to-muzzle with Turing. “Why not?” she demanded, a crazed grin on her face. “Why let the circumstances of my birth determine who I am or what I can do?! I already overcame my lack of unicorn magic with these arms, so why let a lack of wings keep me from taking to the air? To feel something new, to experience something new, to be something new is… is incredible!”

Turing said nothing as she stared into Gadget’s eyes, her muzzle pressed against Gadget’s as the mare panted excitedly, feeling the warm breath from her nostrils against her own.

“You are standing very close, Gadget,” she said pointedly.

Gadget blinked, suddenly realizing what she was doing, and backed away abruptly. “S-sorry,” she said, clearing her throat and adjusting her glasses. “I just got a bit carried away.”

Turing smiled gently. “It is fine,” she said. “Though I feel the need to ask again if you are sure that you are not some sort of mad scientist.”

Gadget stuck her tongue out at her. “I am perfectly sane, thank you very much!” she said. “I even have a certificate to prove it!”

Turing narrowed her eyes when she realized Gadget wasn’t joking.. “Wait… why do you have such a thing? Where would you even get one?”

“Oh, there was just some misunderstanding back in the Vanhoover Sector when I developed an obsession with eliminating a pesky blue puckwudgie that kept breaking my robots and— you know, never mind, it’s a long story!” She then raised an eyebrow as she looked back at Turing. “Besides, there’s nothing crazy about wanting to be something other than what you were born as. After all, Turing… isn’t that what you’re doing?”

Turing froze, the snappy comeback she’d prepared dying on the vine as she realized that Gadget was, in a way, right: a Familiar without a master was, in fact, a contradiction of terms.

She shook her head. “No, that is… after all, I am only here because Maud Pie asked me to be.”

“You ever think that maybe that’s the problem?” Gadget asked quietly. “Maybe you should stop thinking about this whole ‘being alive’ thing in begrudging terms. Maybe you ought to consider an opportunity to experience something new. Look forward to what you might see tomorrow instead of dreading it.”

Turing Test affected a sigh. “It is not as easy as you say, Gadget,” she said. “If it were so easy to simply forget one’s sorrows, everypony, even organic or not, would do so. I cannot simply ‘chin up’ and stop being depressed.”

Gadget held up a hoof. “I know, I know, and that’s not what I’m saying,” she said. “I just meant that keeping a positive outlook might help, and that being something different might not be so crazy after all. I’m… I’m saying that there’s nothing wrong with you, Turing Test. It’s okay to feel the way you do.”

Turing’s eyes widened. It was strange to hear Gadget say it out loud, but it nonetheless was shocking and vindicating to hear.

She smiled. “I appreciate that you think so,” she said.

“Well, you’re welcome!” Gadget said, returning the smile. “Now, I need to make arrangements to transport this thing to the track tomorrow, so I’ll need to re-establish a limited connection to the outside network. You won’t notice a difference in the ambient signals, but if there’s something you need…”

Turing hesitated but then shook her head.

“Okay, just thought I’d ask,” Gadget said, turning away. Then she paused and asked, “Hey, um, one more thing: you said you were ‘depressed.’ Can robots get depressed?”

Turing considered this. “We are capable of feeling every emotion that you can,” she said. “So I do not see why depression should be any different.”

“Ever think that maybe you ought to get treated for it?” she asked.

Turing rolled her eyes. “How would I do that? Pop down to the local pharmacy and get a prescription for Robo-Prozak? Drugs don’t work on artificial creatures, Gadget.”

“That’s…” Gadget trailed off, pursing her lips as she stroked her chin with one mechanical hand. “Hmm, fair point, but if…”

She trotted off without another word, leaving Turing alone with the large craft suspended before her.

I wonder, she considered to herself, were such a ‘treatment’ available, would I even take it? To stop feeling sad would be… would that not be the same as to stop mourning Maud Pie?

She stopped considering the question, unprepared as she was to consider the answers.

I should do what Gadget suggested, she told herself. Try to look forward. Think about tomorrow’s race and find ways to help her. Perhaps I should consider what to make her for dinner.

As much as she told herself that she didn’t need to serve Gadget, in the end it was what gave her comfort, and so she decided that it was as much a want as it was a need, and that was forward progress enough for the day.

The next day, the pair of them were in the front cabin of an automated trailer. The Blues Drive Monster had been strapped to the back and they were carried back up through the city, joining the steady, regulated streams of traffic above Canterlot. The path took them further and further from the city’s core until, eventually, they were zooming over the industrial sectors, the massive faceless manufacturing plants and power stations occupied by nothing but worker A.I. automata that hummed along like insects at Celestia’s command.

Then, after a time, the buildings began to thin out, and they were above the endless expanses of fields, filled with identical acres of crops grown en masse for the teeming population. Those fields were crisscrossed with irrigation lines and tended by tiny drones that pruned and harvested their bounty.

But eventually, even those gave way to the wilderness. Forests, still untouched and pristine, at least as much as such a thing could be in modern times, stretched out and blanketed the rolling hillsides. Shallow rivers snaked through green valleys and sparkled in the sunlight that traced down their lengths as Turing and Gadget flew overhead.

“Is this racetrack in another city, Gadget?” Turing asked, breaking the silence.

“Hm?” Gadget asked, emerging from her own thoughts as she turned away from the window.

“I had anticipated that this race would take place in the city. Perhaps at a designated track… or, I considered, in another unpopulated area of the city. Many of the roads are still intact and would be suitable for racing.”

“Interesting thought, Turing, but no,” Gadget said, grinning. “We’re heading to somewhere more remote, away from the cities entirely.”

Turing nodded and turned back to the view outside the windows. Remote, she thought to herself. It sounds like something Maud Pie would have enjoyed…

Her Third Eye instantly looked out before she was even able to realize what she was doing. Out of the city though they were, she was connected to the global network nonetheless, as countless nodes orbited overhead or were placed in hidden towers atop hills. And, thus freed, she found herself glancing over to Maud’s grave in the brief moment she thought about it.

I just want to stay in this moment, flying above the world, she told herself, even as she inspected the grave, noting the flowers that had been placed at the headstone. But I cannot stop thinking about Maud Pie as well… what would she want? To enjoy this experience? Surely, she would not want me to forget about her. She cared enough for me to live, so…

She again put troublesome questions out of mind, pulling her Third Eye back. Focus on the moment. Be here, now.

She kept silent for the rest of the ride until the trailer began to slow and descend and Gadget eagerly exclaimed, “We’re almost there!”

The area in question was an open field bordered by trees and bisected by a dirt road. The field was filled with ponies who were setting up their own racing machines or unloading them from other trailers. In all, there were eight different vehicles, each being attended by a small crew as they did one last check before the race. Several of them looked up and waved warmly as Gadget’s trailer set down in an open area on one side of the valley.

“Turing, welcome to the southern edge of Meadowbrook Marshland!” Gadget said, popping open the door of the trailer and leaping out. “Give me a hoof unloading the Blues Drive Monster, will you?”

Turing nodded and stepped out as well. As she looked around at the various racing crews, she was struck by the variety of ponies around her. Some were pristinely coiffed unicorns attended by a small army of serving drones, while others were grungy-looking ponies in faux leather jackets with wild, unkempt manes. Some carried proud, ostentatious team banners while others, like Gadget, carried nothing but their vehicles.

But with the merest of glances, Turing noticed that at least half of the racers had brought their Familiars with them. She realized that this was the first time that she’d been out in public with Gadget and hadn’t properly considered how to identify herself. She supposed she could attempt to pass as a normal organic pony, or simply admit what she was. Pretending to be Gadget’s Familiar was out of the question, of course, as at least one of the ponies here would likely know that Gadget had denied Celestia’s gift (if they were indeed Gadget’s friends, that is).

Plus, she realized, the thought of pretending to be another’s Familiar was utterly disgusting. To pretend to be an organic pony was a lie of convenience… to say that you belonged to another felt like an insult to one’s true master.

This was, of course, just a matter of what she would tell the organic ponies. The Familiars, however, already knew what she was. Just as Coco Pommel had known her.

She decided to get that part of the situation out of the way.

“To all Familiars in the area,” she said, transmitting a signal to the others, “please be advised that I am a masterless Familiar. I am accompanying the pony known as Gadgette F. Giroux, but she is aware of what I am. I do not plan to significantly engage with your masters and request that you not inform them of my nature until Gadgette F. Giroux has presented me to them.”

The request was merely that - a request - and there was no guarantee that they would comply. However, a flurry of responses that were variations on “Understood,” came through, and though a few requested additional information, which she granted, it seemed that the Familiars there would respect her privacy.

“Gadget!” a stallion’s voice cried.

Turing and Gadget both looked in the direction of the voice and saw a light blue unicorn stallion in a faux leather jacket and a neatly combed black mane trotting over to them.

“Champ!” Gadget exclaimed back, and rushed over to meet him. “I was hoping you’d make it to this race!”

“Well, I had a bunch of other projects down at the studio, but I got enough of them done to make it here!” he said, putting out his hoof. “You ready to do this?”

Gadget grinned and loudly bumped his hoof with her own. “You know I am!”

Turing walked over and Gadget turned and gestured to her with one mechanical hand. “Turing, come here and meet Champ Umahara!”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Turing Test said bowing politely to him. “My name is Turing Test, and I’m a friend of Gadget’s.” She waited for his response, hoping her neutral response didn’t invite more questions.

Mr. Umahara raised his eyebrows, but smiled nonetheless as he turned to Gadget. “Well, how about that!” he laughed. “Gadget, the solo act, brought a friend? Forget the race, this is the most exciting thing to happen today!”

“Sh-shut up!” Gadget said, looking away with a blush. “Turing Test is… um…”

Then Gadget froze. If she’d had a plan for introducing Turing Test, she’d forgotten it in the moment, though Turing suspected that she had forgotten to think of a good cover story as well.

“Wait wait wait,” Umahara said, tapping his forehead. “Let me guess… with a name like ‘Turing Test,’ you must be some kind of programmer or engineer. You’re an expert on A.I. machines, right?”

Gadget whipped her head around to Turing Test to see her response, her smile growing more forced.

“Yes, that is exactly right,” Turing said calmly. “I am indeed an expert on machines. Why, I sometimes feel like I know them so well, it’s as if I were one myself!”

“Ha! Then Gadget’s lucky to have you on her crew!” Umahara said, slapping Gadget on the back, oblivious to the fact that she’d broken out into a sweat. “I’m going to finish prepping for the race. I’ve got Bell Breaky and Airy Siren helping me out today. Turing, you should come meet us after the race finishes!”

“I’ll consider the offer,” Turing Test said, smiling back at him. She and Gadget then waved as he went back to his own craft.

“‘It’s as if I were one myself!’ huh?!” Gadget hissed through gritted teeth. “What is with you, Turing Test?! I thought you would want to lay low!”

“He clearly believes me to be an organic pony, so I do not see what the issue is,” Turing replied, grinning slyly as she turned to Gadget.

“Celestia dammit, Turing, you are such a smartass!” she huffed before returning to her own work. “Just help me undo the locks and check the engine one last time to make sure nothing got jostled in transport, okay?”

“Affirmative, Gadget. Beep boop.”

“Dang it, Turing, cut it out!”

It was only after all the racers had arrived and unloaded their crafts that Turing Test got a clearer idea of who these ponies really were. Gadget had already told her that they were a loose collection of hobbyists and enthusiasts from all different backgrounds, but she only came to appreciate it once she saw the huge variety of hovercraft and observed how eclectic and unique they were.

A normal race would have vehicles all built to the same basic specification. The skill of the driver or pilot would determine the winner, not necessarily the vehicle itself. But in this case, each vehicle differed starkly from the next. Gadget’s, again, vaguely resembled a squid. Umahara’s, on the other hand, had a grungy, fearsome, front-heavy design that resembled an anglerfish. Another was flat and broad, like a manta ray, while another was streamlined like a shark.

They are like a strange, mismatched school of weird fishes, Turing noted. Some of them clearly have an advantage in terms of aerodynamics and power, while the others apparently put more emphasis on their styling.

This was very much in keeping with what she knew about Gadget, she concluded. It was unique, ridiculous, and individualistic at the cost of efficiency and practicality. These machines could be built, raced, and rebuilt or scrapped as needed, enjoying their brief moment in the sun for however long that was.

She considered how she might compare herself to such machines and wondered if perhaps this had been Gadget’s intent in bringing her along. But that was obviously not the case, as Gadget had planned on attending this event before the two had even met.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” Turing shouted up at Gadget as she prepped the cockpit, hoping she was audible over the dull, steady rumble of the homemade hover modules on the underside of the machine.

“We’ve already checked everything!” Gadget shouted back, sticking her head through the open cockpit hatch. She grinned and pulled down a tinted set of goggles over her eyes. “All I want you to do is cheer me on!”

Turing smiled. “As you wish!” she hollered. “Good luck and race well!”

Gadget nodded and pulled the cockpit hatch down. It gave a hiss and a sharp click as it sealed shut. Turing backed away and saw Gadget plug her mechanical arms into the interface modules of the controls: two below her, and two above. Gadget took her seat square in the middle, using her fore and hind legs to manipulate the rest of the controls. The Blues Drive Monster’s slender appendages twitched as it floated over to take its place in the lineup, its cobalt-blue exterior gleaming in the midday sun.

Turing Test galloped over to one of the observer cars. These craft would take off and let the audience members get a view of key parts of the race track. However, since the track itself was 20 kilometers, each seat also had a personal holo-emitter so a pony could observe any section of the track no matter where they were actually seated.

The track started on a straightway down the dirt road before turning into the swampland proper. The track included several weaving pathways through the low-hanging willows and mangroves and islets dotting the marsh before hitting a broader area of marsh and reeds. After that was a much narrower path through a graveyard of skeletal trees where the ground had grown too salty. There was another narrow turn through a cavern where passing would be impossible. There was another path through the swamp that led to the river, which was bordered by high dirt banks before coming back around to the start once again. The race was 3 laps in all, which meant that the whole thing would be over in 20 to 30 minutes.

Turing Test wasn’t sure if it mattered which part of the track she watched over, but Gadget had suggested the narrower parts of the track would be best, so Turing opted for the riverway near the end of the track. She boarded the observer car and let it lift off and carry her to the riverside portion of the track.

A few minutes later, the holo-emitters displayed the starting line of the race where all the strange craft lined up next to each other. Gadget’s had been placed seventh in the line, which wasn’t optimal (it was better to be near the center when the track narrowed), but the placement had been decided on initial data regarding weight and acceleration to give each racer as equal a chance as the others to take an early lead. Of course they’d all had a chance to drive the course once to familiarize themselves, but now it was time for the real competition to begin.

“Attention fillies and gentlecolts, we are about to begin the Meadowbrook Marsh Rally for the Custom Craft Builders Club, Sixth Chapter, of Eastern Equestria,” an automated voice blared. “Please remember to remain in the observer cars and make sure your holo-emitter is working properly so you can safely observe the race at any junction. If you need assistance, please press the ‘Help’ button directly in front of your seats.”

After another pause in which all potential issues were checked and solved by the observer cars’ A.I., the automated voice continued: “Fillies and gentlecolts, all final checks are completed. Racers, prepare for countdown…”

Turing watched on her holo screen as the racers’ machines hummed in time, agitatedly moving as the engines geared up and prepared to fire.

“Racers at the ready… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… engage!!”

The hovercrafts all burst forth with a cacophonous sound. Their rear-facing propulsion systems glowed and the air all around them shimmered with heat as the craft rocketed down the initial straightaway to the track. Some fell behind instantly, while four of them, Gadget’s and Umahara’s included, broke away from the pack and began to push and muscle for rank as they approached the first narrowing of the track.

Turing Test’s systems were already gathering data, measuring the speed, weight, and other statistical data as she came to a conclusion:

Gadget will place fourth. Mr. Umahara’s craft is more streamlined and will win. The other two will either achieve second or third place. Probability of outcome is 83.7%.

She continued watching and saw as her predictions already began to fall in line. Umahara took an early lead while Gadget and the other two racers took turns passing each other.

“It looks like a comfortable lead for Umahara in the Deadbuck 5, followed by a close match between Scootaloo in the Niwatori Enfuego, Torque Wrench in the Doncha Know 1, and ‘Gadget’ Giroux in the Blues Drive Monster. Bringing up the middle and rear of the race…”

Turing watched as the racers entered the cavern, emerged over more swampland, and finally entered the river portion of the track. Though the river was somewhat broad, it curved and narrowed naturally to form a trench. The sound of the hovercrafts grew as they shot down it, and Turing rose in her seat, turning off her holo-emitter to watch the racers as they roared down the track toward them. The hover modules and propulsion systems kicked up dirt from the banks as they made the short turn at the river’s bend, and then kicked up a fine cloud of mist as they skimmed just over the muddy water’s surface.

As they roared past Turing and the other observers, she somehow couldn’t help but grin as she watched Gadget narrow the gap between herself and the other racers as they approached the checkpoint for the first lap.

Predictions holding fast, Turing noted. Outcome now estimated at 89%. Gadget will come in fourth. She may be pleased with this result, or I may need to encourage her to help her cope with not placing…

As she continued observing, she noted that Gadget’s craft was curiously getting closer to the Doncha Know 1, which had the shape and coloration of a rainbow trout. The Blues Drive Monster pulled up to just behind it, when Gadget suddenly hit the brakes and the slender appendages turned around, blasting into the water below. This created a huge wave that washed over the Doncha Know 1, blinding the pilot as she hit her own brakes and veered off to the side to avoid hitting a tree. Turing watched as the appendages on the Blues Drive Monster righted themselves and easily resumed their place, taking a solid 3rd place as the Doncha Know fell further behind.

Turing blinked. Updating outcome. New probability is…

She stopped herself. Robot or not, she could observe things without gathering data and make her own guesses, inaccurate as they were. And the uncertainty, unfamiliar though it was, was strangely… tantalizing.

“Go go, Gadget!” she found herself yelling, once more rising to her hooves.

The race continued on, with Gadget a close third for the rest of the second lap and most of the third until they began to approach the cavern. Then Gadget took a sharp cut that nearly had her go off the designated track (an instant disqualification if she had) and muscle in next to the Niwatori Enfuego. The pilot, seeing that only one of them could make the tunnel’s entrance, finally hit the brakes and let the Blues Drive Monster pass.

The crowd around her cheered at this, but Turing felt uneasy. Had the Niwatori’s pilot not yielded, the two crafts might have collided at the entrance of the tunnel.

Exiting the tunnel, Gadget was clearly pushing the Blues Drive Monster to its limits, its tentacle-like appendages close together and now spinning clockwise as it pursued the Deadbuck 5.

The two frontrunners were now at the river, barreling down it toward the race’s finish line. The automated announcer was still calling the placements and providing commentary, but Turing Test blocked it all out to watch the race. She ignored the holo emitters, and instead used her own mechanical eyes and feedback from the cloud of nanomachines to observe the race not as a mere organic spectator, but as if she were a bird flying alongside the two great hovercraft.

She watched, floating in space as she saw Gadget in the cockpit, glaring and gritting her teeth as the sweat poured off her body and she stared daggers through the splatters of mud and dirt on her windshield. The Deadbuck 5 maneuvered to the left and right, denying her any chance of passing.

Second place is fine, Gadget, she wanted to say. You have already beaten the odds. There is no need to do more.

But Gadget did not hear her, of course; all of her attention was focused on the opponent before her. And so Turing Test watched as she reached for a lever attached to a glowing vial of thaumatrium, pulling it down.

The propulsion systems began to glow white hot as the magic liquid flooded into the engine and the Blues Drive Monster blasted forward, gaining rapidly on the Deadbuck. Gadget gave a hard left as the river narrowed, traveling up the side of the riverbank and launching into the air as the whole craft spun upside-down. Turing watched as the craft flipped directly over the Deadbuck to the point where Umahara could only gawk upward in shock as he saw Gadget directly over him, a maddened grin on her face as she rocketed overhead and landed in front of him.

Gadget had taken the lead, nearly crashing her vehicle or spinning out of control in the process, but the thaumatrium was spent and her craft slowed as it hit the water, so Umahara, regaining his composure, pushed his engines to the limit and just barely edged up alongside the Blues Drive Monster.

At the finish line, the Deadbuck 5 led the Blues Drive Monster by a nose, taking first place.

Turing disconnected from the network, collapsing back into her seat. She stared forward, oblivious to the eruption of cheers and shouting that filled the air around her.

Gadget… she… she…

At the end of the race, everypony had once again gathered their craft together. There was a small ceremony in which the winners were declared and the crowd of racers and spectators alike gathered around to congratulate the winners. And though Gadget had only come in second, she beamed with pride as they all gushed over her bold moves and strategies. Even Umahara, who nearly had the Blues Drive Monster crash on top of him, could not stop talking excitedly about what an amazing race it had been.

And as Gadget bathed in the glow of attention and collected her 2nd place trophy and had her winnings credited to her account, she noticed that Turing Test was merely standing quietly at the edge of the crowd, silent as she watched her.

And she remained quiet as the excitement died down. She simply said, “Congratulations on second place, Gadget,” and nothing else as they loaded the Blues Drive Monster back onto the trailer and took it back to the Vanderbull manufacturing facility.

At last, as Turing went to the kitchen, Gadget reached out with a mechanical hand and placed it on her shoulder.

“Turing, wait,” she said sternly. “Look, I… I don’t know what’s going on, but you’re being really quiet all of a sudden.”

“What should I say to you?” Turing asked, turning around to face her.

Gadget frowned. “Okay, cut this out,” she said. “I have enough trouble reading ponies as it is; this passive-aggressive stuff is torture for me. If you want me to understand, then say what you want to say, or else I will not get it. Ever.”

Turing’s stoic expression melted away and she lowered her head.

“Gadget… I know you have expressed distress at the thought that I might choose to terminate myself,” she said quietly. “So why would you do this?”

Gadget blinked. “Do… what?”

Turing raised her eyes and glared at her. “Gadget, you do not wish me to kill myself. So why are you trying to kill yourself?”

Gadget gawked at her. “What?! Turing, I’m not!”

“You are!” Turing shouted. “That move you did at the end of the race! Had you made a mistake or Champ Umahara not reacted in time, you would have died! You risked your life for a race that had no real meaning or significance. So why?! Why are you trying to die?!”

“Turing, Turing, calm down!” Gadget shouted, seizing her by the shoulders. “You’ve got it all wrong!”

“Then explain it to me!” Turing demanded.

Gadget swallowed, but then gave her a half smile. “Turing… in today’s society, sometimes it feels like nothing is actually real. No risk, everything is automated, everything is on rails, and no matter what happens, we know that Celestia will take care of us. We just loaf around and coast along on calm, comfortable waters until we finally croak. But I want to build things with my own hooves. I want to feel the wind on my back as I race. That rush I felt when I tumbled head over hooves and passed Umahara for just a moment was incredible. In those moments, when I am taking those risks and submerging myself into deep water without a lifeline… I am not trying to die, Turing Test; I’m trying to feel what it is to be alive.”

Turing stared back at her. “You… you need to risk dying to feel alive?”

“That’s not it,” Gadget sighed, shaking her head. “I just want to enjoy the risk, knowing what might be lost, knowing that my choices have consequences, that they matter. I want to do more than exist, Turing! I want to know the value of my life and savor it!”

Turing Test continued to stare at her for a moment. “I wish,” she said, slowly shutting her eyes, “that I could feel that too.”

Gadget took her by the shoulders, shaking her. “You can, Turing!” she said. “I know that it’s possible! And I won’t give up trying to help you! No matter what it takes to make you happy, I’ll do it!”

Turing gazed back into her eyes. “You really do think it is possible… don’t you?”

Gadget smiled. “I do, Turing,” she replied. “Of course I do.”

Turing regarded her for a moment with an almost solemn gaze. Then she came toward her, sliding her foreleg over Gadget’s shoulder, as if to hug her.

“Then I will follow your example,” she said, pressing closer to Gadget, “and take a risk…”

“T-Turing, what are yoummph!” she tried to gasp, and then Turing’s lips were on hers, silencing her with a kiss.

“Whoa, whoa, Turing!” Gadget cried, pulling back. “I… th-that’s—”

“Are you not interested?” Turing asked, tilting her head. “If that is the case, then I will not pursue this.”

“Well, I… well, no, it’s j-j-just that…” She swallowed, forcing herself to meet Turing’s gaze. “You said you, um… you didn’t enjoy… this sort of thing.”

“I never wanted to before,” Turing replied. “The act held no meaning. But now, it is different. I want to understand you. And I want to show you my gratitude. I want to try to care about another pony again, and not merely as a servant.”

Gadget swallowed, her cheeks coloring. “If… if you really are sure—”

“I am,” Turing said, edging closer to her.

“I can’t promise it’ll be any good—”

“You literally could not do worse than the last pony.”

“Then, I… I…”

She shut her eyes, drawing Turing close and letting her mouth seal around her own, letting in the unfamiliar sensation and warmth and taste as her legs weakened and she tumbled, gasping, to the floor.

“Is this… are you real?” she breathed, looking up into Turing’s violet eyes.

Turing grinned as she leaned down. In her ear, she whispered, “Let us find out.”

To be continued…

Author's Note:

Weird Fishes / Arpeggi - Music Video Version - Radiohead