Bright as Polished Chrome

by Retired5262020

First published

In the near future of 2025, almost everyone is sure of the lines between A.I. and human. But what happens when those lines begin to blur, and everything once believed true is changed?

In the near future of 2021, Hasbro ended the My Little Pony franchises' fourth generation of cartoons after countless successful seasons and products. To keep the cult following going, they allied themselves with numerous tech firms and created one last line of products that undoubtedly became their biggest hit.

Browser Ponies. Living computers in an eye-catching and cuddly form.

It was the greatest and most controversial technological breakthrough of the century. Stable A.I. with the ability to learn and grow while being pre-packaged with internet capability. In spite of the fearful public and ethical groups crying foul at the thought of living machines, the Browser Pony went on to be the next great game changer in the field of information technology and the ultimate luxury item.

That was years ago. Now in 2025, the living computers are in the mainstream and almost everyone is sure of the lines between A.I. and human. But what happens when those lines begin to blur, and everything once believed true is changed?

A second person story starring you as Anon.

(Tags subject to change. Cast characters will be added to tags when they appear.)

Chapter 1

View Online

The click-clack of fingers on a cheap keyboard sounds throughout your living room, where you sit and type numerous lines of code into a floating, holographic window.

“Let’s see now… just a few more annnnnd… finished!” you say happily as you type the last line in.

“Tats gret, cn I stop bitin dis thin now?”

You smile down at your browser pony, Chrome, who is biting the USB end of the keyboards cord with a less than amused expression on her face.

“Yep, go right ahead.”

She spits the cord out and smacks her lips, obviously trying to get rid of the taste of the metal that was on her teeth. “You know,” Chrome begins. “I’m not sure that this whole ‘having five senses’ thing is all that it's cracked up to be,” she says with a raised eyebrow.

Oh? Is that what she thought?

“Oh don't worry, metal is not the most pleasant tasting thing in the world. Actually, I'm pretty sure it tastes awful. But once we get all of your senses nice and tuned, I think you'll enjoy it,” you say with a smile.

Chrome doesn't seem to believe you if the annoyed ruffle of her wings is anything to go by.

“Hey, don't give me that ugly look. This has all been going well and once we're finished, I'll have an awesome grade for this semester in I.T. and we’ll prove that your kind can be even more than what is said on a simple instruction manual.”

Chrome sees right through your explanation, she probably knew your original motive right after the upgrade to let her analyze facial expressions and voice tone more in-depth. She puffs her cheeks out in irritation in a very humanlike fashion. “I’m a construct of information and energy, why in the world are you doing this all for me?”

“Do I need a reason to do this?”

She opens her mouth to bite out a retort but stops when you gently cup her face in your hands. Chrome shudders and unconsciously leans into the warmth your palms provide.

“You’re more than just a browser to me, Chrome. I’ve considered you a friend since day one,” you say quietly as you rub your thumbs through the plush fur of her cheeks. The nerve endings you programmed into her seemed to be working their magic as she calms almost instantly.

Chrome closes her sky blue eyes, the same eyes that seem to be gaining more and more soul each passing day as she basks in the simple joy of being touched.

“You’ve done a lot for me, and I just want to return the favor the best way I can. Let me do that much.”

She nods in an almost sleepy manner once your hands migrate up to her ears. No matter what she says, you know that at this point she won't be content until there's literally nothing left you can do.

“Hey, Anon?” she asks quietly.

“Hmm?”

“I’m sorry for snapping at you,” she says with genuine remorse.

Did she think that you would actually be angry over this? You smile and shake your head. Without giving her any warning, you scoop the white coated program up into a hug, making her squeak at the sudden motion.

She stiffens in your arms, not used to the overload of contact. Then she melts into the embrace. Chrome bites her lip as a look of indecision comes over her face, then, almost hesitantly, she nuzzles herself into the crook of your neck.

Your smile deepens ever so slightly. Every day her behavior becomes just a little more humanlike. Chrome, your Chrome, is already more than a simple out-of-the-box browser pony, but soon she'll be on a plateau of advancement she can call her own. You lean back onto the couch into a comfortable position, still holding the pegasus shaped program tightly.

This is nice…

So nice, that you feel your eyelids begin to droop. Taking a look at the clock on the wall, you see that it's almost 3 in the morning.

You look back down at Chrome, who seems to have gone into the appropriately named ‘sleep-mode’ still in your arms, and you really don't feel like moving.

She likely won't mind…

With thoughts of todays success in mind, you slowly drift off to sleep with the browser pony cuddled to you.


“Anon… Anon… Anon wake up!” Chrome's voice startles you into wakefulness, making you sit up in a hurry and flinging her away.

The surprisingly light program lets out a short squeal from the unexpected flight, but manages to right herself midair with a few hasty flaps of her multicolored wings.

You rub your eyes drowsily and wince at the nasty feeling you have in your back. Maybe sleeping on the couch wasn't the best idea after all…

“Mmm, wha time is’t?” you ask with blerily.

“It’s 6:54 AM exactly, giving you about 20 minutes to get ready and leave for class with 6 minutes to spare for extra things should you need them,” Chrome says like the finely tuned machine that she is.

Hmm, her voice is still pretty mechanical when it comes to precise things like this. You might want to fix that, just because it bugs you.

“Also, it's time to remember not to fling your browser off of you again…” she says somewhat irritably.

Well, that one sounded right.

“Chrome, new note, ‘Fix voice melds’ for… just anytime after we get home,” you say as you stretch.

“Gotcha, does 4 PM sound good?” she asks as she brings up a holographic screen and jots the note down.

“Just fine. How is weather and traffic looking today?” you ask as you walk to your room for a change of clothes.

Chrome thinks to herself for a moment, her eyes aglow as she loads the info. “The weather is looking to be a high of 76, sunny with no chance of precipitation. As for traffic, there has been a pileup on i95 and traffic is slowed to about 35 MPH. So nothing to worry about for us.”

i95? That’s the road that your friend Mous uses. You would be worried but he is perpetually late. So even if the crash happened just now, he would still be long behind it. Might want to rib him about being even later than usual. You walk out of your room looking around for your things

“He’ll be fine. Now, where are my-”

The jingle of keys cuts you off, making you turn and see Chrome holding your car keys in her mouth.

This pony...

“Chrome, where would I be without you?” you ask with a smile as you reach out for the tangle of metal.

She drops them into your hand. “Probably still in bed,” she says dryly.

“Maybe, maybe...”

Patting your pockets, you find that you have your billfold, your phone, and a USB drive. Seems about right. You exit your 4th floor apartment with Chrome in tow and steadily make your way down to street level.

Once down and in the parking lot, you walk ahead of Chrome and open the door for her with a theatrical bow, making the program roll her eyes as she gets in.


(Later, University I.T. lecture hall)

You and your pony walk into the large room with a minute to spare, meaning you don’t get the best seats, but you’re still on time.

Shuffling up to the nose-bleed seats, you pass a ton of other students, some of whom give you and Chrome brief greetings before they go back to doing what they were before. A fair number of them have their own browser ponies in class with them, many of the equine programs different brands and at different upgrade levels.

It may not be apparent to anyone who is unfamiliar with energy constructs, but you notice the browser ponies in the room with lower level upgrades seem to be a lot less alert than their more advanced counterparts. You also spy Chrome looking at the lower-grades with an expression akin to pity, her blue eyes looking uncharacteristically melancholic, especially at an IE model struggling to open a webpage for her impatient looking user with the WiFi in the room as strained as it is.

Up into the first open row, you shuffle in and pull out a seat for yourself as well as one for your browser.

Now seated with Chrome next to you, she opens up a small holographic window in front of you and perks her ears up, likely ready to take notes for you. And she said pirating a bunch of voice-to-text programs was a bad idea.

Just as the clock strikes 7:00 AM, the professor, a rather nondescript middle-aged man with brown hair and glasses walks in with his own heavily customized Opera following at his heels.

He sets his things down upon his desk and turns to address the class. “Good morning everyone, it’s nice to see all your bright and shiny faces here. Or at least I can see some of them,” he says good-naturedly as he spies a few still drowsy students. “I hope you’ve been studying, because the CCNA certification exam is in less than a week! We need to get you certified and out into the workforce. Now, let’s begin were left off last week before I begin the lecture, shall we?”

Without any prompting, his Opera pony’s eyes glow, making the lights in the room slowly dim and the overhead projector whur to life.

The projector beeps a few times, then projects a diagram of a spherical object made up of many small hexagonal plates onto the wall.

”Alright everyone,” begins the professor as he takes out a laser pointer from his pocket. “Here we go, who can tell me what this little doodad on the screen is?” he asks, pointing at the object with the red dot from his laser.

Being a Monday morning, no one is willing to volunteer themselves to try and answer the question.

After a moment of silence, the professor beams a student in the face with his laser and says, “You! Marshall! Care to enlighten us on what this thing is?”

The young man, Marshall, squints into the laser and subtly tries to consult his Firefox pony for the answer. The sheer irony almost makes you want to facepalm.

“Aaaahh! No cheating.”

Marshall is silent for a moment, then shrugs. “I have no idea, teach.”

The professor clicks his tongue in annoyance then turns the laser pointer to you of all people. “How about you? What do you think this is, Anon? And no cheating.”

This is so horribly simple but you’re not sure how someone else didn’t immediately catch it. You’re sure that this was all covered in the A+ essentials exam last year.

“It’s a Hollow-Holo core, it’s what’s used in the construction of energy constructs like browsers, right?” Right? Of course it’s right.

The professor nods at the answer. “Exactly, a Hollow-Holo core, abbreviated to HHC. These wondrous little things are used in many things today, like the browsers many of you, and I as well have,” he says, gesturing to the array of ponies in the room. “Now, Anon, if you would keep the ball rolling and tell us how they work.”

You lick your lips and think to yourself. Generalizing this shouldn’t be too hard.

“The HHC projects a shell of energy and directed lighter-than-air particles held together with a dynamic magnetic barrier shaped into whatever the predefined form is. Then, you give it intelligence and mobility by having a CPU, magnetic barrier and particle emitter core being held aloft in the body via some form of levitation, usually magnetic. With that, it can move around on it's own and act as an individual. Hasbro currently owns the patents for the most powerful models.”

“Well said. Now, let’s get on with today. Notes out, eyes forward and-”

SLAM!!!

Everyone’s eyes immediately fly to the door, where none other than your best friend Mous is standing in the doorway looking rather sheepish.

“Sorry I’m late!” He says as he walks in with an IE model browser pony following shortly after.

The professor rolls his eyes. “Mr. Mous,” he begins in an irritated tone, “I would really appreciate it if you made an effort to be on time next time.”

Rather than try and argue with a possible excuse, Mous and his IE wave off the suggestion and make their way to set up next to you and Chrome.

You busy yourself tuning out the professor as he begins the lecture when Mous sits in the seat next to you.

“Held up by the wreck on I-95 I take it?” you ask, already knowing the answer.

“Yeah. That and Explorer here managed to misplace my phone.” He says with a shrug, making the program next to him smile embarrassedly.

“Say, can me and Explorer get a copy of your guy’s notes? I kind of didn't listen last time …” He asks after a second.

Chrome sighs and looks away from the holographic window filled with the professor's ramblings to Mous with a flat look.

He just responds with the biggest, cheesiest and most innocent grin that he can.

After a silent staring contest, Chrome sighs once more and copies the notes into an e-mail before sending it to Explorer. “This is the last time I'm going to do this, no matter what Anon says. You need to start earning your own credit, Mous.”

He just rolls his eyes. “Ok mom,” the slacker ribs as Explorer very slowly opens up a fuzzy looking window.

“Is that really fair, Chrome? You take most of Anon’s notes for him.” Explorer speaks up for the first time with a tilt of her head.

“Yes, it is. It's fair because Anon is the one who gave me the capability of doing so in the first place,” Chrome sniffs, barely hiding her dislike of the other browser.

“I didn't really ask, I can probably do it myself,” You say, jumping into the conversation. Is that her reasoning? That just because she can, she should? You might want to look into that.

The Google brand browser opens her mouth to reply but is cut off by a shout of “No talking please!” From the professor up front.

Something tells you it's going to be one of those days...

Chapter 2

View Online

Chrome huffs in annoyance but reluctantly obeys. She goes back to listening to the professor and jotting down notes for you.

Mous meanwhile must’ve forgot to bring any paper. Because he is using his phone to type the new notes into a laggy holographic screen that Explorer seems to be struggling to keep open.

Honestly, you’ve never felt so lazy before. Chrome was already useful right out of her box, but the upgrades and modifications that you’ve given her make most menial work to be little more than a joke.

Tomorrow you’ll be the one taking the notes.

“Say, Anon?” Mous quietly asks from next to you without looking up from his phone, “what have you been up to lately? It’s been awhile since we’ve hung out.”

“Eh, same old same old,” you reply just as quietly with a ’meh’ hand motion “I’ve been busy studying up and giving Chrome a bunch of mods. I should be free here in a week or two if you want to do something. What have you been doing?”

He gives you his trademark stupid grin, “BL-OPs 4, bro. I bet if I keep climbing the scoreboards, then an MLG team will totally want me!”

You just look at him like he told you that he was dating a supermodel. Of all the obsessions he could have...

Sometimes you just want to smack the stupid out of him.

“Mous, don’t tell me that you’re still going on about that game... It’s a one in a million shot that any sort of official team is going to recognize you. I’m pretty sure that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning.”

"Do you know who you’re talking to? Man, I WAS struck by lightning! Remember that time back when we were in the sixth grade and I stood outside with that metal coat hanger?”

You palm your face and sigh. “That’s beside the point, what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t get your hopes up.”

Explorer chimes in. “I’m not sure, Anon. I’ve seen Mous play and he does really good. Maybe it could happen?” she asks with a tilt of her head, making her lose concentration on her screen.

With the sound of crackling static, the thin wall of light dissipates and takes Mous’ notes with them.

‘Oh my gosh! I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! Please don’t replace me!” Explorer cries in alarm.

Many heads in the room turn to look at her, making the poor browser shrink in on herself.

Mous looks over at her, his eyes softening. "Hey, calm down. There’s no way I would do that. Everyone makes mistakes so I’m not mad,” he says quietly as he runs a hand through her coarse, factory grade mane. Although she can’t feel it, as she has no nerve endings, the action serves to calm Explorer down. Ignoring the curious eyes of the other students and the disapproving ones of the professor like a pro, Mous slouches back down in his seat.

In the corner of your eye, you can see Chrome shake her head.

Class continues on without incident until the lecture lets out. Chrome looks over the 1200 words worth of notes with a pleased expression before saving them and closing her screen.

You, Mous, and your browsers wait until everyone else has left before making for the door. It’s 10 o’clock now and if your schedule is correct, that was the only lecture that you and Mous had today.

“Dude, let’s grab something to eat, I’m starving!” Mous pipes up the your little party is out in the parking lot.

“Didn’t you eat breakfast or something?” you ask as you fish your keys out of your pocket. “It’s not exactly healthy to skip it, you know.”

“Pfft, who has time to eat breakfast anymore?” he asks. Once your car comes into view, he dashes in front of Chrome to the passenger door while screaming “Shotgun!”

Yeesh, sometimes you’re not sure if he’s a kid or an adult.

The white pegasus scowls at your friend, but obviously decides against arguing with the obnoxious human as she trots to one of the back doors with a raised nose.

“Wait, did you drive here?” you ask as you press a button on your key-fob and unlock the doors.

“Nah,” Mous says as he gets in. “I caught a ride from a pal seeing as how my Aztec is broken down again.”

You open a backdoor and to let Chrome and Explorer into the car before getting in yourself and starting it up. “I told you about buying a Pontiac... they’re nothing but money holes...” you grumble as you pull out onto the street. Let’s see, where’s a fast food joint that isn’t outright gross..?

“Yeah, well, maybe you should’ve told me before I bought one...” he says back cheekily.

Chrome smirks from her spot in the back seat. “If I recall correctly, Mous, Anon and I warned you almost two weeks before you bought it,” she says dryly.

He says nothing, opting to sit and fume while mumbling about “Smug-ass ponies”

Your browser’s smirk deepens as the Explorer model next to her titters at Mous’ plight.

The drive is fairly quiet for the most part, broken only by the radio spouting some artificial talent pop song or Mous talking about some FPS that you’re likely to never play.

“Say,” you ask as you pull to a stop at a red light, getting everyone’s attention, “Explorer? What was with that meltdown you had?”

She looks down nervously and rubs one foreleg with the other, trying to come up with a satisfactory answer. “It’s...well, um... I don’t...”

Mous frowns and comes to her rescue. “She saw a bunch of negative reviews for her model online. Afterward, she got the ridiculous idea that I was going to get rid of her for different browser if she didn’t overwork herself.” He turns his head to look back at her with a smile. “But that would never happen.”

Explorer shyly looks up at her master. Even if her current software limits the amount of emotion she can express, it’s still plain how grateful she is.

Chrome looks like she wants to bite out some rude remark at the display, but manages to stop herself at the last second.

You give her a semi-scolding look in the rear view mirror, making the program look away with a hint of embarrassment. Of course, one of the first human traits she developed had to be the ability to have a sour attitude. If it weren’t already part of her personality then you might have removed it. But luckily, she also developed restraint.

After what seems like forever, the red light changes to green and you all continue on.

“Bro, are we getting something or what?”

“I’m still looking for someplace to stop, Mous,” you tell him with a roll of your eyes.

He scoffs. “Why not just stop at some random fast food place?” he says, gesturing out the window at a line of restaurants. “It’s not like it’s going to kill ya.”

“Actually,” Chrome cuts in, “there is overwhelming evidence in more than one study that shows fast food is likely to take more years off your life than smoking.”

You peek in the rearview mirror and your eyes widen in surprise. Chrome’s blue eyes are glowing, meaning she is on the Internet. How is she doing that? There’s no wifi around in the middle of the street and Chrome isn’t signed up for a data package...You’re not sure what to feel. On one hand, your browser is becoming more independent, which is something you’ve been aiming for a while now. On the other, she could be getting herself, and by proxy, you into trouble by simply doing things without asking. That’s not to say you don't dabble in less than legal activities while online, but you always make sure to cover your tracks and destroy any evidence afterward.

Looks like you and she may need to talk.

“You know what? I think here is fine.”

Before you even know what’s going on, Mous grabs the steering wheel in your hands and pulls it sharply to the side. The tires of your car squeal in protest from the sudden turn and multitude of other drivers lay into their horns and swerve.

Both Chrome and Explorer scream in fright.

The car almost loses a wheel with how closely you come to hitting the curb of the McDonalds you unwillingly pull into.

You shake away your shock and slam your foot onto the break, making your abused car screech to a halt and sending poor Chrome and Explorer flying into the back of yours and Mous’ seats, where they impact with twin “Oof!”s. Sitting silently for a moment, you think over what just happened.

Mous just gets out of the car and makes his way for the shady looking restaurant as if nothing just happened.

He didn’t even see your phone impact with the back of his head.

Crack!

His hands shoot to the back of his head. ”Ow! Fuck! What was that for!?” he yells as he turns around with a wounded expression.

“That...” you start, glowering, “was for almost getting us all killed. What were you thinking when you did that?”

“Ummm...” he scuffs his feet on the ground in a vain attempt to look innocent.

“That’s what I thought.”


Inside, seeing as how you don’t want your so-called ’best friend’ near your car anymore, the four of you stand in line. Well, three of you stand at least. With lazy beats of her wings, Chrome opts to hover at head height rather than walk.

You crinkle your nose at the smell of the greasy food. Chrome mirrors expression as well as throwing looks of disdain at the other people in the restaurant. You want to the reprimand her for being so rude, but most of the people dining here aren’t the most savory sort. It goes double seeing as how this is the bad side of town. Looking over, you see a woman twice your size wolfing a down huge burger, large fries and... a diet soda...

Really? What’s the point in diet?

Mous and Explorer seem indifferent. Mostly because Mous just doesn’t care and Explorer lacks both the ability to smell and overly judge others.

“Mommy look! Ponies!”

A young girl, no older than nine, with her mother just behind your group points at Explorer and Chrome excitedly as she tugs on her mother’s hand.

“Yes sweetheart, I see them. They’re very nice,” the mother says, looking down at her daughter with a smile.

Explorer seems pleased with the praise, but Chrome is much more so, as you see the Google browser’s chest swell. The ego on her…

The young girl’s excitement seems to double. “Mommy, can we get a pony? I want one like that one!” she says, pointing at Explorer, who seems confused by the choice.

You struggle not to snicker when Chrome almost drops out of the air, shock written on her face. Mous just grins widely.

The mother’s smile becomes strained. “I don’t know, honey. Ponies are very expensive. We’ll have to see.”

How right she is. When they first became available to the public years ago, browser ponies were ludicrously expensive. It wasn't uncommon for someone to spend upwards of ten thousand dollars for a halfway decent model. Even now after the prices had dropped significantly, Explorer had cost Mous almost a thousand dollars. Chrome was more expensive than your car.

Such is life though…

“But mommy! You always say that! You said that when I asked for a friend for Christmas time!” the little girl argues back.

You, Mous, and Chrome look at each other with uneasy expressions. Explorer meanwhile just seems confused by the proceedings.

The poor mother looks almost heartbroken. “Kimberly, I know I said that, but sometimes things just don't go our way. You need to understand that.”

The girl, Kimberly, seems to be on the verge of tears. “But-!”

Her mother holds up a hand, telling her daughter that she doesn't want to hear it. The poor girl sniffles, and in a surprising display of maturity, holds back what you thought was going to be a massive meltdown.

By now, your group is at the front of the line and Mous just orders the same thing for both you and him. After a moment, the somewhat rude cashier stiffly hands Mous a filled paper bag. You can't really blame the cashier; if you worked here it would probably make you into an ass as well.

You follow Mous back to a table, but not before throwing glances back at the mother and her sullen daughter. For some reason you can't fathom, Chrome seems to be just as fixated with the pair as you are. Every now and then, she looked back at them with an unreadable expression.

At the table, the four of you seat your selves and Mous tosses you a paper-wrapped burger from the bag. You stare at the greasy sandwich in thought, not really feeling all that hungry. You neglect to open it and instead look over your shoulder at the mother daughter pair.

They’re across the room. Kimberly, if you remember her name correctly, is slowly eating a kids meal as her mother quietly talks on her cell phone. You’re no expert lip reader, but you can still make out bits of the conversation. You catch the words “bill”, “can’t afford”, “bounced check”, “school”, “difficulty” and “broke”.

It doesn't take a genius to tell you that they both fallen on hard times. With the downward direction the economy has gone, it's not a big surprise.

Mous looks at where you're looking and speaks up. “Man, poor kid. Their situation sucks, I kind of wish we could do something about it.”

“Same here,” you reply. “We don't have much to go on, but it looks like the girl is not too well off socially either.”

Chrome snorts from her spot next to you. “Anon, it’s plain as day. You don't need to be around the bush,” she says, her voice surprisingly subdued.

“Can’t something be done to help them? They seem like nice people…” Explorer asks with her ears pinned back as she looks as Mous.

He just ruffles her mane with a low chuckle. “There’s not really much we can do, Ex. Me and Anon are only two guys, two guys with a pretty limited income.”

Explorer seems saddened by the news. Chrome, however, keeps her face straight.

A glance at the daughter tells you that she is still devastated by her mother's denial. Red face, puffy eyes, sniffling, the works. Before long they both finish and get up to leave, dumping their trash and dragging their feet out the door.

Chrome suddenly looks over to you, making you start.

“Anon,” she asks slowly, trying to think out her words, “didn’t you get a bunch of vouchers for random stuff in the mail a few weeks ago?”

You nod, not really sure where she's going with this.

“And you kept them, right?”

You nod again.

Chrome looks away. “Go through your wallet for them. You’ll know the one you want and what to do with it when you find it.”

Without waiting for a reply, she dips her muzzle into your pocket and pulls out your keys. “In the meantime, I'll go get the car started.”

The energy construct stretches her wings and takes off, heading out the door and to your car.

You blink at the sudden and unexpected actions. Across from you, both Mous and Explorer are just as surprised at Chrome’s uncharacteristic behavior. What has gotten into her?

Pulling out your wallet, you open it and pull out a wad of coupon-like vouchers that you got mistakenly in the mail. You almost forgot about these, as Chrome was the one who brought in the mail that day and she simply left the pile on the kitchen table. It was oddly organized, but you didn't question it. Digging through the pile of waxy paper, you find nothing really worth noting. Free junk that you don't need, discounts on scam products, and one for a mail-order get-rich-quick scheme.

Did Chrome want you to give these to the unfortunate mother and daughter? That’s just horrid! Doing so would say you pity them but don't actually care enough to do something that might actually help. Chrome’s been acting more and more nasty lately, but to sink this low? A surge of shame overtakes you. You thought you taught her better than that.

You scowl. Your browser needs a serious attitude adjustment, and sh-

You cut off your train of thought when you notice that one of the vouchers is stuck to the back of another one. Curiosity getting the better of you, you pull the first one off of the other and take a look at the one on the bottom.

It’s from Best Buy, which makes you roll your eyes at the irony of the name. You lower your eyes and keep reading.

What..?

Your eyes nearly bug out of your head of what you see.

It’s a voucher… for a free Opera browser pony?!? That’s almost two thousand dollars of free hardware on the little paper. What? When? How? Why didn't Chrome to you about this earlier?

“Dude? What’s with the look on your face?” Mous asks, trying to peer over the edge of the paper to see what is on it.

You silently turn around and let Explorer and Mous see. As you expected, both of them are shocked speechless.

Then you remember what Chrome said.

’You’ll know what you're looking for and what to do with it when you find it…’

Looking out the window of the McDonald's, you see the mother and daughter are almost to their car. You need to catch them. Flying out of your chair, you run out the door and stop at the curb around the restaurant.

“Hey!”

Both of them stop and turn to look at you, curiosity on the face of the girl, and distrust on the face of the mother. Seeing as how they are going to just take off, you walk your way over. Idly, you wonder how you're going to tell them this.

“Sorry for stopping you. My name is Anon and I couldn't help but overhear the little plight that you have,” you say gesturing to the girl, who now looks as curious as ever. You bend down to her level, but keep your peripheral vision on her mother. It wouldn't do if she decided you’re a creep and decided to pepper spray you or something.

“Kimberly, was it?” she nods and you continue, “I saw that you liked mine and my friend’s browser ponies.”

Her eyes widen in amazement. “Those ponies are yours?” she asks excitedly.

You smile at her enthusiasm. “Yep. The flying one was mine and the other belongs to my friend. Sorry for eavesdropping, but I couldn't help but notice that you wanted a pony too.”

Her shoulders slump and her face falls at the reminder that she didn't have one as well.

“Hold on, don't give me that look. I think I know how to fix your little problem.”

Straightening and flattening the waded voucher as much as you can against your jeans, you hand the little paper to the girl who looks it over curiously.

“That right there?” you point to the paper in her hands with a growing smile “it lets you get one free browser pony. It may not be the kind that you want, but-Oof!”

You cut off when the young girl squeals in excitement and bowls you over with hug so strong that someone smaller might have suffocated.

“THANK YOU MISTER THANK YOU SO MUCH!! YOU’RE THE BEST!!” she almost shouts. She then lets you go and rushes up to her mother with a blinding grin on her face. “Mommy look! Now we can get one too!” she exclaims, holding the voucher up to her mom’s face.

With an expression of numb disbelief, she looks at the unassuming piece of paper and her daughter’s hands. A minute passes before the mother looks up at you, layers of both gratitude and confusion in her eyes. “I… I don’t know what to say…” she stammers, amazed at the random act of kindness.

“You’re supposed to say ‘thank you’,” Kimberly supplies, as chipper as can be.

Her mother let out a short laugh. “Yes sweetheart, I guess you're right,” She looks at you and extends a hand. “I’m Bernice. Thank you for this, I don't think you realize just how much this means to my daughter.”

“Oh, I think I do…” you say, looking at the girl practically bouncing in her spot.

Bernice smiles at her daughter's excitement. “Mr. Anon…”

“Just Anon. Mr. makes me feel old.”

”Alright, Anon, if we meet again and there is anything we can do for you just ask,” the young mother says, sincerity shining in her eyes.

“Of course,” you reply, not meaning it at all. “I don’t mean to be rude, but me and my friends need to get going, so if this is everything…”

“Oh, don't let us hold you up,” the mother tells you, waving a hand “Remember what I said.”

You turn and begin the walk back inside as you hear car doors opening and closing behind you.

Just as you get the door, Mous and Explorer walk out. Mous is grinning like a loon and Explorer looks like she could cry if she had tear ducts.

“Dude, THAT was one of the greatest things I think I've ever seen,” your friend says, clapping you on the shoulder.

You go to wave it off but Explorer cuts in. “He’s right you know, Anon, “ she says with a small smile, “you could have sold that, but instead you selflessly gave it away.”

You blush a little from all the praise. “Hey, I just did what was right. There’s no need to tell me about it.”

Both look like they want to argue the point, then settle for just smiling.

On the way back to the car, you spy Chrome in the passenger seat looking away from the scene that occurred just minutes ago.

You smile gently, feeling your heart swell at the sight of her. God above, you love that pony.

Chapter 3

View Online

“Hey, Anon.”

You sleepily scrunch your nose and turn over in your warm and very comfy bed, steadfastly ignoring the voice calling you.

“Time to get up.”

A weight comes down next to you, shaking the bed. Again, you turn away and ignore it, trying to block out the noise and escape back into dreamland.

“Look. You need to get up. I don’t really care th—“

Without looking, you sloppily swing an arm around and smack the noisy annoyance, making a distinct, bit crushed buzzing noise and a pained yelp come from nowhere… Wait a moment, you know that voice, but from where? It sounded strangely like Chrome.

Oh…

With no warning, the mattress of your bed is turned upside down with you still in it, sending you tumbling to the cold and unforgiving bedroom floor.

“Oww…”

Well, that certainly solves the whole ‘being sleepy’ thing.

A white hoof steps down in front of your floor-mashed face, making you look up into the face of its owner. Afterward, you kind of wish you didn’t look up.

Glaring down at you with a cringe-worthy bent muzzle and blue eyes full of very realistic anger is your pony. Reaching a hoof up, she twists her bent snout back into place with a loud electric “Bzzzt!” and a wince. Her pain programming wasn’t damaged it seems

“Awake now?” she asks mockingly, “or do you feel the need to cave my poor face in some more?”

You’ve been awake for hardly thirty seconds and you already feel like an ass. Great way to start the morning. From the looks of things, her injury is nothing she can’t shake off. So at least you don’t need to rewrite her damaged code. There’s that at least.

“Sorry about that,” you tell her with a sheepish smile as you stand and push the mattress off of you, “I didn’t mean to do it, honest,” you say with the utmost sincerity.

The browser keeps up the steady glare for a few more seconds before her eyes soften. “Fine…”

Dodged a bullet th—“But!”—ere… Spoke too soon…

Chrome takes to the air with a few lazy beats of her wings and stares at you once she hits eye level. “I think you’re going to get me that new twelve core processor that they released a week ago. Ten cores just doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore…”

Chrome sighs melodramatically and puts a fore-leg over her eyes as she sinks to the floor. “But then again, you could always refuse, leaving me to become slow and obsolete. To be a relic while all the other browsers race off into the future whilst their masters watch proudly…”

God damn. Sometimes it frightens you just how much she behaves like a real woman.

“Alright, alright! Stop with the guilt trip!” you interrupt her before she can fire off more. “Looks like I need to start saving…” you say despondently.

Even if it’s coming out of your pocket, seeing Chrome’s beaming face is definitely worth it.

“So, if we’re done discussing my soon-to-be empty wallet, what’s on today’s schedule?” you ask as you turn to your dresser and dig through it. Man, you need a bigger apartment if you can turn around and reach each side of your bedroom…

“Well…” Chrome’s eyes glow a ghostly blue, “there’s not much today. You have an essay due for English 101 at 10 AM, a lecture in Calculus at 1 PM, and you put aside some time after class for your ‘personal project’. Her eyes lose their glow. “You know, you never told me just what this project is. Am I not important enough to be told?” she asks dryly.

Oh boy…

“Don’t go jumping to conclusions yet,” you say with a waggle of your finger, “I think after it’s done and ready, you’ll know why I wanted to keep it to myself.”

Chrome raises a questioning eyebrow, but does not pry any further.

“Anyways, class at ten, got it. What time is it now?” you ask as you throw a clean shirt over yourself.

“It just now 8:41:48 AM. Date; August forth of 2025.”

“You don’t need to be that specific, Chrome,” you remind her for the millionth time as you smooth down your bedhead. “You think Mous and Explorer are going to show up?”

Chrome lets out a disdainful sniff. “Probably not, considering it’s a monday. He’s been advised one hundred and forty three times that he should take more interest in his studies, yet…”

You smile and let out a chuckle. “Well, you know what they say about horses and water.”

She makes an ugly face at the metaphor. “I’m not sure if that was a jab at me or not…”

You just laugh.


This time around, you and Chrome are some of the first to reach the lecture room. But considering that the class is english, it’s no wonder why. Both you and the browser quickly find spots in the back of the room, knowing that the nosebleeds will go quickly once others begin to show up. Like every other class, Chrome opens up a holographic window that shows the iconic Google search page, still the same as it was over twenty years ago.

Your father once told you that when the search engine juggernaut first came around, that he used it to cheat on homework and nothing else.

Like she was reading your mind, Chrome opens up three tabs. Wikipedia, gDocs, and good old Plagiarism Scanner.

“Chrome, you know me so well.”

“These pages were in your history for last week…”

You gasp theatrically and fling a hand to your heart. “You wound me…”

“Keep it up and we’ll see…” she mumbles, too busy copying sections of Wikipedia to come up with a better retort.

Just as expected, when others begin to enter the room, they all make a bee-line for seats as far away from the front as possible. To your immense surprise, Mous gets in the room before the bell and shoots for the open spot next to you.

“Yo!” he says with a short wave as he flops down into the old lecture hall seat.

Chrome looks up from her screen to Mous, before going back to faking the essay you never did.

“Wait,” Chrome says abruptly as she turns her attention to a startled Mous again, “where is Explorer?”

You blink in surprise when your long time friend deflates at the question.

“She uh… got a virus…” he says, obviously uncomfortable, “I couldn’t get rid of it, so I took her to that computer store downtown. They said to it would be a few hours until they were done.”

You frown. It’s true that computer viruses had advanced along with the technology they infect, but even the most severe of viruses don’t take longer than an hour to get rid of. Mous must realize that too, because he sinks a little further into himself when he sees your “calculating” face, as Chrome calls it.

Your pony must have been on the same wavelength as you, as she looks at Mous with narrowed eyes before asking: “Why didn’t you just bring her here instead of paying to have her repaired? I’m sure that Anon could have gotten rid of it.”

“I thought that it might be a bad idea to bring Explorer here since that stuff can spread over networks, ya know?” he retorts with a shrug. “For all we know, the virus might have a homegroup password cracker and a wireless connection spreading script. Just trying to be safe.”

Your browser huffs. “I’m well aware, but would it really be that much trouble to disable Explorer’s wireless network port? A virus can’t exactly spread if it is isolated.”

Mous’s lips twitch downward. “Are you really going to blame me for being cautious? I mean, what if I brought her in here and YOU got the virus?”

Chrome just smirks and lays her chin on your arm.

“That doesn’t prove anything,” Mous says, thoroughly unamused, “I mean, I spent almost an hour trying to remove that fucking virus. It’s not like I just got lazy and took Explorer into the shop just because I didn’t want to deal with it.”

That makes the smirk drop off your browser’s face and prompts you to look at Mous with worry.

Even if his grades don’t reflect it, Mous is still one of the best networkers and general tech troubleshooters on campus. Its laziness and a love of cutting corners that holds him back. If he gave it some honest effort, you have no doubt that he would easily rival you for your spot as number one, if not just pass you altogether. It’s easy to forget how outward appearance isn’t everything…

“Look, ladies, you’re both hideous-“

Mous smiles slightly and snorts while Chrome looks at you with narrowed eyes.

“-so can you save this little spat for later? Class is about to start.”

Your human friend shrugs and pulls a laptop about ten years out of date from his bag while Chrome glowers at him.

“You’re still taking the idiotic route, Mous,” Chrome snarks, unwilling to go silent without the last word.

He ignores her and opens up his old laptop, making her turn back to her holo screen with a bitter gaze.

You sigh and rub your temples. You can already tell what kind of day this one is going to be. You look over to your browser to see her finish faking you up an essay with a frown still planted on her face.

“Chrome…” you whisper.

She doesn’t reply.

“Chrome,” you try again.

Her ears twitched. She can hear you.

“Chrome, don’t ignore me.”

She finally turns and looks at you, ears pinned back and ready for reprimand.

You let out an exhausted sigh and reach over, taking her soft hoof in your hand. “What’s gotten into you?” you ask gently. “I know you and Mous don’t see eye to eye the whole time, but that was totally uncalled for.”

She flinches at your words, as if struck. “I...I don’t know…it just sort of, came out...” she replies unsurely.

Just sort of came out? That can’t be right. Chrome may be a bit unagreeable sometimes, but open maliciousness was never something she has been able to do. Your mind flashes back to the other day, with Bernice, her daughter, and the voucher.

You know for sure that something is wrong with Chrome now.

Slowly kneading her hoof, you think about how to address this problem. “Hey, run a quick scan on yourself. When was the last time I recalibrated your emotional balance algorithms?”

She goes silent, her eyes glowing for a few long seconds as she digs for the info. “...Three months ago, on May first, seven’o’six.”

Ow, thats WAY too long to go without an update. but you swear that you updated her not long ago...

Her eyes loose the glow, prompting her to blink and look at you with scrutiny. “So you think you can fix this?”

If you didn’t know better, then you would have sworn that there was an undertone of hope in Chrome’s usually confident and factual voice.

“I know I can. I’m sorry for neglecting you, I really am.”

Like you programmed them to, Chrome’s cheeks and the inside of her ears burn red with the declaration. She clicks her tongue disapprovingly as she turns to hide her face. “You haven’t neglected me, it was just forgetfulness. It happens to the best of us.” She goes back to looking over your now finished essay, but not before smirking and adding: “Well, except me.”

You suppress a smile. At least her pride is still functional.


The shrill, decades old bell cuts off of the blowhard calculus professor, making everyone and their browsers jump up and make a beeline for the doors.

No one wants to be in this class. No one.

You had spent the hour long lecture updating Chrome’s emotional balance. The abundance of other browser ponies in the room made it look like you were just taking notes like the rest. Now that she was all up to date, your browser now boasted a much more even temperament. She hadn't cracked an insult the whole lecture.

“Ugh, that was a total waste. How does that peon even hold his job with such an impractical course?”

Well, almost.

You shrug and raise and hand to rub the head of the pegasus fluttering next to you as you both walk out of the lecture hall and into the sunlight. “Dunno. I sure I’m not ever going to use what I learn here, but that’s pretty much the whole higher educational system.”

Chrome leans into the offered hand with a small smile, turning her head so you could scratch her ear. “Humans are weird.”

“Agreed.”

“I dunno about you, but I take offence to that.”

Both you and Chrome look over, where a grinning Mous cuts through the throng of walking students with a very happy, healthy looking Internet Explorer trailing behind.

“I take it everything went well?” you ask.

“Yep! IE here is clean as they come,” Mous exclaims with a thumb pointed back. “No more virus, no more sitting around in the shop.”

Explorer blinks in confusion when all eyes turn to her, she’s probably unused to all the attention.

“Boring, I take it?” Chrome asks, sounding like she already knows the answer.

“No,” the other browser admits with a demure shake of her head, “I was in sleep mode most of the time. It seemed quick to me.”

Mous looks down at her, his normally bored eyes filled with a sort of longing fondness. “Yeah, it was quick for you…”

Explorer squeaks in surprise when Mous unashamedly snags her up into a tight, loving hug. His arms are wrapped so strongly around her middle that it might have hurt her if she wasn’t a machine.

“...But if felt like forever to me…” he mumbles into her mane. “I thought something was really wrong with you…”

The Microsoft browser just nuzzles her master, her expression one of content.

The heartwarming scene pulls a smile onto your face. Even Chrome hides a small one of her own behind a hoof.

“Faggot!”

Then you remember that you’re on a college campus, where sympathy and subtlety are foreign concepts.

Mous’ head snaps up toward the parking lot where the voice came from, only to see a large Dodge SUV squealing out into the street with a vengeance.

Here we go...

“You better run, you fucking mangina!” Mous furiously screams over the sounds of other students leaving, drawing even more unwanted attention to your group.

“Must you really be louder than a rocket taking off?” Chrome asks, unamused.

Mous looks down at your browser with a raised eyebrow. ”Well, I could just say nothing, like, all day. You know, because I’m an idiot,” your friend retorts. The pony in his arms looks between him and her fellow browser, worry in her yellow eyes.

The white pegasus winces, then looks up to you, silently asking for support.

You just motion towards Mous with a nod.

She stands in pensive silence for a few moments, and for a second, you’re afraid she’ll stay that way. Finally she lets out a sigh, and looks up to Mous with remorse and a tiny bit of bitterness. “Mous, I want… to apologize for my foul attitude this morning,” the Google brand browser forces out, “I didn’t intend for what I said this morning to come out as it did. Can you…”

Chrome takes a moment to swallow her pride and keep her features stony. “Can you… forgive me?”

Mous stops holding his nose in the air to look down at your pony in surprise. If you know him, then the last thing he probably expected from Chrome was an apology.

A grin slowly begins to spread across his face as he leers down at the white pegasus, making you begin to worry. You aren’t the only one who noticed, as Chrome only takes one look at his face before her eye’s widened and she began to back away.

Mous takes a step forward.

Chrome takes two back.

Mous takes two.

Chrome, three.

Then, Mous strikes.

“I always knew you cared!” Mous whoops like a goof as he lunges for Chrome, who reacts too slow to dodge.

Your browser yelps as Mous scoops her up into a hug with Explorer still in his arms, smushing both of them together with a pair of uncomfortable “Oof!”s

“Friendship is magic, isn’t it?”

Chrome’s single exposed eye, the one not covered by Mous or Explorer looks at the ecstatic human like she wishes he’d burst into flame.. “Yuur goin’ tw ned moor thn majic wen I’m down wiff yu…” she says as best as a pony with a another pony mashed on their face can.

Mous laughs.


’It won’t be long now,’ you think to yourself as you type away at the cheap tablet in the comfort of your apartment. Countless lines of text and code sit in your lap and only continues to grow as your fingers relentlessly attack the device that holds them.

Curled up next to you on the couch is Chrome, who is snoozing away in sleep mode. The slow, steady rise and fall of her back is so realistic that it would be easy to mistake her for a real pony.

Well, if real ponies had wings and were made out of magnetized particles.

You gently run a hand through her soft blue mane, the hairs atop her head parting perfectly around your fingers.

Chrome smiles in her sleep and twitches an ear. You have to resist the urge to scratch it.

Looks like the mod to make her sleep like a real creature works perfectly.

It had taken a while to convince Chrome to go to bed. It had taken even longer when she learned that you were going to stay up and do work on a “vastly inferior device.” She seemed genuinely insulted that you wanted to use the tablet over her. You should talk to her about how efficiency wasn’t everything.

“Oh, well shit.”

That also reminds you, you need to talk to her about pulling potentially dangerous stunts without your permission. The situation in the car where she had internet access without a wireless point was a bit too much for you. You look down at the tablet with heavy thoughts in mind. If you can get this to work, what’s to say you’ll even be able to handle Chrome anymore?

The mere thought is as exciting as it is frightening.