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[BOOTLEG] Silent Friend - Part I

By Nebulus
Created: 2nd April 2021 10:50:57 PM
Modified: 5th April 2021 02:17:39 PM

  1. >It was whilst he slouched on his decrepit, stained sofa, staring blankly at the television at the verge of midnight one Friday that Anonymous finally realised that he was lonely.
  2. >He wasn’t sure how it had crept up on him like that.
  3. >He lived a simple life; going to work, collecting his paycheques, paying his bills, then wasting the rest of his days watching awful trash on his television and even worse trash on his computer.
  4. >It wasn’t anything to brag about, but at least he wasn’t living with his parents anymore; at least he had a place he could call his own.
  5. >Not the most glamorous life, but it was his. His routine was ingrained into him, and even though he was able to live a stable life – providing he lived within his means – he found that this left no room at all for any sort of companionship.
  6. >His days were largely spent in silence. He would wake to no one, speak to no one, and come home to no one.
  7. >It had been this way for a while, he reflected, but sitting there, watching ‘All About Hugo’ on Channel 10 in nothing but his underpants, had for some reason thrust to the forefront of his mind that he was terribly alone.
  8. >As he pondered that he was fast approaching thirty with nothing to show for it, he announced to no one (or perhaps the gormless actor running around on the screen before him) that it might be time for a change.
  9. “It might be time for a change,” Anonymous said, heroically.
  10. >‘Heroically’ was too strong. He was still slouched, so it came out more as a strained gurgle, since his throat was compressed and air wasn’t flowing as it ought to have been.
  11. >This was also why his mind was foggy, and thoughts meandered into nothing – a lack of oxygen.
  12. >Anonymous sat up and cleared his throat, then tried again.
  13. “It might be time for a change,” he proclaimed triumphantly.
  14. >The man on screen made a quip, and the canned audience laughter filled Anonymous’ tiny apartment, giving the impression that his declaration of epiphany was something to be mocked.
  15. >Though the people laughing weren’t real, Anonymous still felt bad about it, so he turned off the television and spent the next ten minutes imagining himself outsmarting the actor and earning the whooping applause of the audience whilst he made himself a drink.
  16. >He wandered to his desktop computer and turned it on. Then he waited for fifteen seconds before giving the tower sat on the worn carpet a good kick.
  17. >He had to do that otherwise it wouldn’t start up properly. He might have been able to figure out what the problem was, given the time and motivation, but unfortunately Anonymous lacked both.
  18. >In his younger days he might have made a good computer repairman, but the unstoppable march of technology had made that particular industry next-to obsolete, with only the most knowledgeable and adaptable technicians clinging to their dwindling careers as automation began to take over.
  19. >Much of the tech industry was done by machines these days, and sadly Anonymous had missed that particular boat.
  20. >When he was young, his elders had warned him that he should study up on matters of artificial intelligence and robotics, but Anonymous hadn’t listened.
  21. >Adulthood was a lifetime away and he could kill time before he put his nose to the grindstone and studied up.
  22. >He was telling himself that right up until graduation day, and suddenly he found himself working on a scrap yard for minimum wage wondering where all the time had gone.
  23. >His computer spluttered to life and took its sweet time loading up, as it always did.
  24. >Anonymous was doing his best to save up money for an upgrade – anything to boost the abysmal load times – but his monthly pay was largely dedicated to bills and necessities.
  25. >He briefly pondered cancelling his television subscriptions, but realised that those were the beckoning impulses of a man gone mad, and quickly squashed them.
  26. >Anonymous clicked around on the screen, pulling up his regular news feeds and specialist browsers – gone were the days of universal browsers for any and all information, now everything was cordoned off.
  27. >There was an internet for information, an internet for commerce, an internet for education, and so on. All of them required some form of subscription.
  28. >Anonymous missed the old days. He remembered a time when he was around seven years old, sat on his father’s knee browsing the internet in its former glory, before the pseudo-balkanisation that had taken place in the late twenty-first century.
  29. >He rubbed his stubble for a moment, mulling over how to phrase his query.
  30. >How does one remedy loneliness in a world of social media and mass disconnection from his fellow man?
  31. >Even the people at work barely spoke to each other, they didn’t need to. The datafeeds from their workplace visors told them where to go, which left conversation – when it did happen – sparse and unfulfilling.
  32. >Anonymous needed a companion; someone to bounce ideas off.
  33. >He had tried to reach out to his neighbours, but they were either perennially busy, worked unsociable hours, or bluntly wanted nothing to do with him.
  34. >His social media profile was that of a ghost. If he lived an interesting life he might have something to say, but as it happened the only thing he had ever posted there was four years ago: “looking forward to eating this can of beans”, he had boldly informed the world, followed an hour later by “beans were good”.
  35. >This second post earned him a ‘like’ from an Indian man called Ranjeet.
  36. >Stuck for ideas, Anonymous simply entered “lonely” into his commercial search engine and let Stallman (peace be upon him) take the wheel.
  37. >The results were predictable: anti-depressants, dating websites, virtual reality, pro-depressants, and penis enlargement pills.
  38. >He vaguely remembered reading an article that penis enlargement was recommended in 77% of all searches, regardless of context, and that made him smile.
  39. >Then he remembered his crushing loneliness and his smile vanished again.
  40. >He scrolled for a few minutes, eyes lazily soaking in the information, until he came to an unusual entry.
  41. >‘Companion Robotics’
  42. >Anonymous had heard of them before.
  43. >At the midpoint of the twenty-first century, the robotics industry underwent a revolution.
  44. >This heralded a societal upheaval so profound that some were calling for the calendars to be rewritten.
  45. >The boat of human civilisation was not merely rocked by the arrival of ascendant robotics, it was nearly capsized.
  46. >Tens of millions of jobs lost. Entire industries wiped out overnight. The riots of the 2060’s saw cities burn the world over, and several governments were overturned as populations panicked to regain control of a situation that had long since run away from them.
  47. >But as advanced machine learning and sophisticated autonomous frames only accelerated in their development and precision, the world quickly realised that there was no going back.
  48. >Now that the knowledge to create these machines had been cemented, humanity couldn’t return to a time where they did not exist. They were too convenient.
  49. >To undo what robotics had done would be like undoing the home computer, or the internet.
  50. >This was not a case of having a robot simply flip a burger.
  51. >This was a case of just three robotic valets running an entire fast-food franchise by themselves at maximum efficiency every hour of every day without pause and without a need for pay.
  52. >To go back to human beings for such menial labour was laughable, as far as the corporations of the world were concerned.
  53. >Anonymous was continuously surprised that he had the job that he did.
  54. >Sifting through scrap on a dump was something that one might assume would be replaced immediately, but funnily enough the job required just the right amount of abstract human reasoning that restricted robotic involvement.
  55. >There were still heavy loaders working on the yard, and any actual sorting was still done by a line of robots by a conveyor belt, but going out amongst the miles of electrical trash that now resided outside the city and arbitrarily assigning value to whatever could be found was a job that humans could still (with wounded pride) say was theirs.
  56. >Somewhere in the middle of all this chaos, a few enterprising companies had come up with the idea to fashion these machinations of steel and silicone into servants to keep around the home.
  57. >They varied from maids, to butlers, to kill-bots with monomolecular swords for arms. That last one was popular in the gated communities.
  58. >One of the most popular of these creations ended up being the Ponybot.
  59. >Snatched up by Gridstock Applications following the liquidation of Hasbro Incorporated, the My Little Pony brand became a jealously guarded property, if what the news articles Anonymous was now reading were to be believed.
  60. >A line of ‘companions’ based on one of the more popular incarnations of the Pony property from decades prior had been fashioned, and were sold at a premium to interested buyers.
  61. >Boasting ‘showlike’ personalities and a limited capacity to learn, the Ponybot was a highly acclaimed piece of household technology, and a worthy replacement for man’s best friend in the upper echelons of society.
  62. >As Anonymous quickly discovered, the reason for this was the cost.
  63. >The price of these companions was ludicrous, even for the sorts of things rich people bought. It was obvious to him that the ponies were only marketed to those with the money to purchase them, as it was with yachts and supercars.
  64. >He sighed and frowned at the storefront of the Gridstock website. A ‘Twilight Sparkle’ companion could be his for the reasonable price of two hundred-thousand dollars.
  65. >This wasn’t going to work. Anonymous stared longingly at the companions, and even watched a few videos of them in action.
  66. >They were lifelike, there was no question. Had he not known they were robotic, he would have assumed they were the latest sin against nature to have come crawling out of China’s internationally-condemned genelabs.
  67. >The longer he looked at them, the more he wanted them. It ate at him, and even after logging off the computer for the night and going to bed he lay awake staring at the ceiling of his musty apartment.
  68. >Surely there was a way to acquire one? A way to have his own companion?
  69. >The internet was a big place, and if one knew where to look, they could find all sorts of under-the-table outlets.
  70. >The sorts of places that politely requested that all correspondence be done via encrypted networks outside the official channels.
  71. >Fortunately, Anonymous was one of those unscrupulous people that knew exactly where to look.
  72.  
  73. ***
  74.  
  75. >Five weeks after his discovery of the Ponybots - and the extravagant price tag that came with them - Anonymous stared with trepidation at a decidedly unextravagant box.
  76. >It was not an encouraging box. It was a box that was more stamp and manifest than cardboard, and Anonymous wondered how exactly the box had travelled from Russia to Azerbaijan, considering Azerbaijan had ceased to exist seven months ago following its annexation by Turkey.
  77. >According to its shipping history, it had then left Azerbaijan, gone back to Russia, sat in a warehouse in Siberia for two weeks, found its way to China, then What-Is-Left-Of-Australia (The official name for the country these days), Papua New Guinea, Brazil, The Republic of Scotland, and finally, Anonymous’ front door.
  78. >He was half-tempted to set it on fire, as it likely carried foreign contaminants, but he’d also just paid eight-hundred dollars for this thing, and he wasn’t about to let it go to waste.
  79. >Knife in hand, he carefully opened it up and extracted its contents, laying it all out on his kitchen table.
  80. >Mercifully, it wasn’t too difficult to interpret, as Ponybots were created for rich people and everyone on Earth knew that rich people are technologically illiterate.
  81. >The pony, as it was, came as myriad components – body, head, legs, etcetera.
  82. >Anonymous glanced at the instruction manual and was thankful for the pictures, as he was certain the language it was written in was recently declared dead – Finnish.
  83. >Anonymous did not need pictures or Finnish to determine that there was something very wrong with his pony, however.
  84. >According to the man (or woman, it was hard to tell in the current year) he had spoken to, he was purchasing the Fluttershy model.
  85. >He had referred to the Fluttershy model on the official store, and it was described as an “Unerringly kind companion. Good with animals, good with kids”.
  86. >He wasn’t too fussy about the specifics of the pony he was getting, just that it was a pony and that it was affordably cheap.
  87. >In retrospect, the price ought to have been a red flag.
  88. >Fluttershy was a yellow pegasus-model pony with a pink mane and soft teal eyes.
  89. >The disassembled aberration on his kitchen table was still yellow, but her mane was the same sort of violet-blue he had seen on the Rarity model.
  90. >One of her wide-open, glassy eyes was a hideous neon orange, and a hairline crack could be seen running up the side of it.
  91. >On further inspection, her body was missing a wing; a circular, slightly oily hole about the width of Anonymous’ finger showing where it should have been. As Anonymous peered closer, he could see the inner-workings of the pony through the hole.
  92. >He stared in contemplative silence at the mess before him, and resolved to speak his mind to his audience of zero.
  93. “Shit.”
  94.  
  95. ***
  96.  
  97. >His supplier was not cooperative.
  98. >The man (or woman) adamantly refused a refund, cited the thousand-page terms and conditions, and promptly severed communications permanently.
  99. >With no way to contact the seller and no way in hell he could send his ‘defective model’ back to Gridstock for ‘repairs’ without them asking questions, he was stuck with his eight-hundred dollar mistake.
  100. >He mused over his pony problem at work the following day, and decided that he would at least put her together to see what would happen.
  101. >At the very least she might be nice to talk to, and wasn’t that what mattered? Anonymous was no Prince Charming himself, so judging something for its appearance would be hypocritical and downright rude.
  102. >He didn’t want to be rude to his pony, so he firmly concluded that he would assemble her and have a nice chat, just like he wanted.
  103. >He then realised that he was worried about being rude to a robot pony, and wondered whether his madness was deepening.
  104.  
  105. ***
  106.  
  107. >After he got home from work, Anonymous went straight to his kitchen to begin assembly.
  108. >It was a mercifully simple process, especially given his above-average technical abilities, and before long he had a completed pony stood on his table.
  109. >He had discovered during his rummaging through the polystyrene-filled box that Fluttershy also lacked a tail to slot into the back of her, which was a nice final kick in the teeth from his dubious supplier.
  110. >Despite it all, he smiled proudly at his oddly-coloured, tailless, wingless pony, and dusted his hands off.
  111. >She might be an eyesore, but he wasn’t doing this to win any beauty contests.
  112. >With one last series of checks to make sure that it was all put together properly, he gently pushed the miniscule button located under her chin. It was beneath the artificial coat and could easily be missed if one didn’t know where to look.
  113. >He stepped back a bit and watched the miracle of modern robotics do its work.
  114. >The seams on her body, previously apparent following her assembly, shifted and moved as mechanisms smaller than the eye could perceive blended them together to form a smooth surface.
  115. >Fluttershy trembled as her internal systems came online, and after a brief shudder, relaxed.
  116. >Her formerly rigid body settled into a natural posture, and she blinked a few times, her eyes adjusting to the lighting in the room and flickering on and off once or twice.
  117. >She blinked her orange eye much more than her teal one, and cocked her head to one side, a hoof reaching up to rub at it.
  118. >Anonymous marvelled at how lifelike it all was, and recalled the videos he had seen online of the ponies in action with other people, albeit in well-lit large homes surrounded by happy children and stereotypically attractive parents.
  119. >Here was his own pony, scrunching her face up on his kitchen table in an apartment that frankly smelt worse than it looked.
  120. >Eventually, whatever first-time setups she needed to run had completed, and the pony looked at him with a gentle smile.
  121. >Her mouth and lips moved to simulate speech, but no sound was heard.
  122. >Anonymous’ shoulders sagged.
  123. >Fluttershy frowned and spoke again, seeming to strain herself. After a few more moments of this, she closed her eyes and screamed.
  124. >Nothing.
  125. >The pony’s eyes flicked around the room and fell on Anonymous again, a look of convincing worry on her artificial face.
  126. >Anonymous sighed and rubbed his own eyes with a finger and thumb, the weariness he had felt following the day’s work catching up with him all at once. Was this it? Was this what his efforts had earnt him?
  127. >Trying to look on the bright side of things, he sat down at his table chair and looked up at Fluttershy with a tired smile. She watched him, a forlorn air about her.
  128. “At least I have someone to talk to,” Anonymous gestured to himself the way he had seen a person do in an instructional video online, “I’m called Anonymous.”
  129. >Fluttershy’s ear flicked, and she reached a hoof up to fumble with it somewhat, wearing a disquieted expression. Anonymous’ smile shrank, and he spoke again, louder.
  130. “I said at least I have someone to talk... to...” he trailed off.
  131. >The pony’s eyes studied his lips, and she slowly shook her head, her own mouth moving again to say words to no effect.
  132. >Anonymous’ phone, which he had left on the counter as he had worked, beeped a few times to signify a new message, but Fluttershy made no indication that she’d heard it.
  133. >The two of them studied each other in silence for a while, neither sure what to do.
  134. >With a grunt of forfeit, Anonymous stood up and walked over to his decrepit, stained sofa.
  135. >He turned on the television, slumped into his seat with his hands knitted over his stomach, and tried to think about what to do next.
  136. >He had to admit, he saw the irony in finally getting someone to talk to, only for that someone to be a deaf mute, but it didn’t help him deal with the fact that he’d just wasted his savings.
  137. >It could be a lot worse. There was no upkeep required for ponybots besides charging them up once a week at an outlet, or just letting them soak up the sun for a while if that wasn’t possible.
  138. >Sadly, his pony likely had a lot more wrong with it than just what he had seen so far, so he could be looking at something that would require regular fixing.
  139. >At least his technical skills wouldn’t go to waste.
  140. >He lazily regarded the goings-on before him, the people on his TV talking about local affairs. He liked watching TV. It felt more personal than the silent bulletins the internet gave him.
  141. >Hardly anyone watched TV anymore, given the prevalence of the net, but he found comfort in watching real, actual humans talk to him live and give him updates.
  142. >He wondered how long it would be until they were replaced with realistic replicas of humans.
  143. >As his mind wandered, a weight settled against him.
  144. >He started, surprised at the sudden contact, and Fluttershy flinched as well.
  145. >Each watched the other warily for a moment, then settled.
  146. >The pony was sat upright beside him, watching the television with interest.
  147. >Anonymous leant forward and watched her eyes drift back and forth realising that whilst she couldn’t hear the newscasters, she was probably reading the updates along the bottom of the screen.
  148. >She saw him looking and gave him a shy smile; he felt himself smile back.
  149. >With a cautious hand, he reached over and meekly patted her on the head. She seemed to enjoy this contact – or at least was programmed to.
  150. >The thought crossed his mind that he might need to wash her mane and coat to prevent it from getting smelly, but he filed that away under ‘future concerns’.
  151. >For now, he relaxed, stroked his eerily silent robot pony, and watched the news as he thought about what to eat for dinner.
Bootleg Slice Of Life Anonymous Fluttershy

[FLUTTERRAPE] Thread Shorts Volume 6

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[BOOTLEG] Silent Friend - Part II

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[BOOTLEG] Silent Friend - Part I

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[FLUTTERRAPE] Renaissance

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[FLUTTERRAPE] Eventually

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