Alyssa, Ella and Chloe sat on the floor, apart. Alyssa was by the entrance to the ponification room, her back against the white, unadorned wall. Ella was somewhere off to her left, trying to squeeze herself into the corner made by a counter-topped cabinet that met the wall on the opposite side of the doorway. Chloe was in the far corner to Alyssa's left, seeming to try to hide behind the thin metal pole of an intravenous drip rack. Some part of Alyssa's mind imagined her as a doe, hiding behind a tree. She was shaking, quietly.
Alyssa could not entirely wrap her brain around the fact that Hannah was the threat. She must have been HLF, Human Liberation Front. She must have been some kind of dangerous fanatic. She never showed it. There was no way to tell. Alyssa had liked her from the moment they had met. She had talked about her life in Oregon, about her family. Hannah had seemed intelligent, and polite. How could any of this not have shown in her? How could Alyssa have been unable to somehow tell?
Dim sounds came through the heavy steel door that led into the ponification room. Alyssa thought she heard the faint wail of an ambulance. They must be tending the wounded and dealing with the aftermath out there, down that hallway, past the other door, in Classroom A.
Alyssa looked up, at last, to see Ambassador Sparkle, in the middle of the room, by the stainless steel table, comforting Pie. The equinoid's hair -mane- she automatically corrected herself, had lost all of its curl, and hung limply down the creatures face. Her vast pupils had contracted to spots, and it was clear that she was not the bouncy, smiling being that Alyssa had come to know from countless newsfeeds and interviews.
Dr. Pastern was conferring with one of the soldiers, who had opened the ponification room door. Alyssa had startled at this, since she was right next to it; she was too wrapped up in her own feelings to notice that Chloe had jumped and set the IV rack to rattling.
Pastern and the soldier conferred for some time. Apparently the threat had been 'neutralized'. All of the applicants had fled to the parking lot, and it was unsure whether they would return for processing, or leave altogether. Some had already fled. There was a plan to transport what remained to another Bureau. Crews were dealing with the aftermath. It was recommended that Sparkle and Pie be removed to a place of safety immediately.
Dr. Pastern walked over to the Equestrian ambassadors and spoke in a soft voice to both of them. Some decision was made, and it seemed that Sparkle was fairly adamant about some point. Pastern returned to the soldier at the door. Alyssa remained quiet. Sparkle and Pie will leave, but only after the remaining humans in the room were processed. They weren't going to leave anyone in the lurch. It wouldn't take long, and the newfoals could complete recovery in transit. It was something they had to do.
Alyssa looked up at the Equestrian ponies by the table. Pie's hair was still limp, but now Alyssa could see the blue of her irises. She tried to imagine what it must be like for such creatures to have to deal with the human world, her world, after growing up in an OZ-like fairyland. They must be incredibly strong, incredibly brave, she concluded. She could barely stand living in the world of Man, for them, it must be like touring hell itself.
Yet here they were, offering a new life to whoever would take it. Tears began to well up in her, tears for such a gift, tears for what they must be suffering to be here, and tears for Hannah. She had liked Hannah. Something very wrong must have happened to make such a nice-seeming person do... what she did.
“Are you OK?” It was Dr. Pastern. Sparkle and Pie were looking at her now.
Suddenly, the one called Pie, Pinkie, bounced forward. She lowered her massive, pastel head close to Alyssa's and all Alyssa could see were oceanic eyes filling her vision. “Scaaarryyy stuff. I know. But!” The pony seemed to brighten, her hair regaining some of its original curl “There's a better land, fur, fur away!” For Ambassador Pie, she was being remarkably subdued, but there was every hint of her true nature in those quiet words. “We're gonna go there, all of us. So cheer up, little filly!”and with that, she winked, and bounced away. Alyssa's tears had stopped.
Equestria. Alyssa would probably wake up in that land tomorrow. As a pony. And so would Ella and Chloe.
Alyssa crawled over to Chloe – it just seemed better than standing up – and told her what she had learned. She took the shivering girl's hand and held it. Alyssa wasn't good at knowing how to comfort people, but it just seemed she had to do something. Chloe gripped back. Apparently, it was the right thing to do after all.
Ella had joined the pair, in the corner by the intravenous rack. It was kind of silly, Alyssa thought, but somehow sitting in that corner, not really very well hidden behind the 'tree' of the rack felt strangely safe. Perhaps it was some atavistic drive to find cover in a dangerous world, Alyssa mused. Three little rabbits hiding behind the only cover in their medical room veldt.
Dr. Pastern and Sparkle set up shop for the transmogrification process. A sealed Erlenmeyer flask was removed from some kind of storage device. Inside it bubbled a gloopy, purplish liquid. Three cups were arranged, and measured doses poured into each one. Alyssa was intrigued, despite everything that had happened, her mind easily distracted by a chance to learn something new. Could this be all there was to it? A few ounces of goop in a cup? Could total physiological transformation really be accomplished with such a small thing? It wasn't like she didn't understand the principle; 'magic' infused nanotechnology miraculously rebuilding matter in but moments, without heat, without conservation of mass, beyond normal physics. But it was still just three ounces in a cup.
But then, she grimly thought, a few grams of teflon-coated bullet could turn an entire living person into a pile of unliving glatton. In the terrestrial world, destruction was simplicity itself. It was easy to destroy, and hard to build and create. Maybe in Equestria, this truth was reversed. Maybe a few ounces of goop really could rewrite life itself, if the principle behind it was the truth of another universe entirely.
Chloe went first. She clawed her way up, using the IV rack for support, almost frantically eager. There was the dream of escape in her eyes, and Alyssa wondered if her own eyes showed how much she felt the same way. Escape from a world where the violent human heart could never be truly trusted.
Chloe was asked to undress, completely, and lay on the table. The position didn't matter ultimately, but lying on her side was recommended. The girl shivered from the cold of the steel surface. “It'll be ok.” Dr. Pastern stroked Chloe's hair to calm her.
“It's not that, it's just that this table is REALLY cold.”
“You'll be all warm and comfy in no time!” Pinky was rapidly regaining her old self “You'll soon have a lovely coat to keep you warm. I wonder what color you'll be? Blue? Pink? Golden-orangey-yellow? Heliotrope? Prussian Blu...”
“Pinky! Go get the others ready!” Twilight was using her horn to levitate one of the cups over to Chloe. Dr. Pastern seemed intent on checking Chloe's pulse and blood pressure.
Ella stood up and began undressing. Alyssa remained on the floor, her heart pounding. This wasn't the way she had imagined taking on a new life in a magical land. Under siege in the back room of a clinic in Lancing, soldiers beyond the doors, cowering in a corner.
Then again, when had her life really been any better? Everything was always hard. Everything was always disappointing in some way. No, she was disappointing in some way. Here was magic, real magic, right here, right now, and all she could think about was what physics supported three ounces of goop converting how many pounds of human into a different weight of pony.
Well, that and the recent horror, of course. Her mind swirled with thoughts. Now it was hard to think about... what had just happened down the hall. It was like her mind just slipped off of dealing with it all, as if all the noise and shooting were a slimy, oil-covered rock in the lake, and her thoughts a boot trying to find footing on it. She couldn't concentrate on it, it just kept slipping away.
Maybe this is how everyone is dealing with it all. Maybe that was a blessing.
Alyssa had missed the beginning of Chloe's transformation. From her position on the floor, she could see Chloe's hands just at the edge of the metal platform, a foot and toes further down, just slightly off the bottom. Though Alyssa knew she must be unconscious - there was some discomfort in transmogrification, so a form of sedative was incorporated in the mixture – the parts of her body that could be seen were jiggling and flopping a bit, as though puppeted by invisible strings.
More than this, the skin itself had taken a liquid sheen, and seemed to flow, as if it were made of pudding. Chloe's foot rapidly retracted, swelling and becoming lumpen in the process. Her fingers melted together, and the mass swelled into a bulb and it too was retracted away from the edge of the table.
As Alyssa braced against the wall and stood up, she thought she heard -or felt- a strange sound in the air, a curious, almost musical thing, that distinctly emanated from Chloe's molten form. It wasn't sound, not really, but it was in Alyssa's head, in her body, and it made her think of flowers and colors for some reason. The faint scars on her arms, where the radiation in Petosky had burned her began to itch.
It was thaumatic radiation. It had to be. She was feeling some kind of spillover from the forces at work inside of Chloe. She was feeling magic itself.
Chloe now looked more pony than human. The form was clear and unmistakable, though her eyelids seemed an unbroken part of her forming head. Somewhere in there her eyes were enlarging to improbable size. Somewhere in there her brain was being reconstructed into a non-primate configuration. Somehow her memories would be maintained in all of that, even as components shifted, changed, vanished, shrank or expanded. Magic was impossible, yet there it was, and it was real.
Fine hair sprouted all over the nearly complete equinoid. It sprang up like some verdant field of grass all over her body, delicate yet bright. Chloe was a soft, pleasing yellow, the color of the dye that was put in butter.
Her mane and tail came in, bursting out like a flow of water from a tap. It was an utterly improbable sky blue, pale as if from a fairy tale, and silken like nothing Alyssa had ever seen. It shimmered like spun glass, and almost seemed faintly translucent. It was truly beautiful.
The process was over, just like that. Where once an overweight, messy-haired human girl had lain, now a trim, surprisingly lovely creature lay, breathing slowly and regularly, a slight smile on its muzzle. Chloe the pony seemed lost in some sweet dream, and what fear Alyssa had about Conversion fell away as she stared. She suddenly envied Chloe going first.
“Pinky!” Twilight was serious in tone “lay down a blanket or something!”
The pink Equestrian dashed to the shelves across from the table and snatched a thin, hospital-styled blanket. With a twist of her head the blanket swirled open and landed on the floor, mostly smooth. These ponies have astonishing control over objects, Alyssa thought to herself.
Chloe was surrounded in faint violet light. The yellow and blue newfoal floated above the steel table and landed, like a leaf, onto the blanket on the floor. The glow from Twilight's horn faded.
“Try to wake her. Gently. Ella was it? You're next.”
Alyssa went over to Chloe-the-pony and squatted next to her sleeping form. She reached out a hand and slowly moved it down Chloe's yellow flank. It was so soft and smooth and warm. She gave it an experimental pat. “Chloe? Chlooooeee? Time to wake up. Chloe?”
Slowly, as she jiggled the newfoal's haunch, the delicate creature opened an eye. The iris was the same pale blue as the mane, and it lolled to gaze, unfocused, at Alyssa. Suddenly the pupil contracted into full awareness. “Lysssaaa?” The voice was slurred, the pitch somewhat higher, but it was clear that Chloe at least knew what she was seeing.
“It's time to wake up. You're a pony now.” As she said the words, a part of Alyssa's mind reeled at the bizarreness of such a sentence. The world had gone mad, been mad, for a long time now.
“How's our new filly doin?” The bright pink head of Ambassador Pie hung over Alyssa's shoulder, and she could smell the faint, sweet, almost flowery musk Equestrians had in place of terrestrial animal odor.
“She's... a pony.” Alyssa felt incapable of defining the situation further.
“HURRAY!!!” the Equestrian ambassador proclaimed, a little too loudly. Alyssa noticed that all of the curl had come back to the pony's mane, and, in the moment, she seemed as bouncy and full of life as she had been... before. They certainly recover fast, she thought. Maybe that's how they have coped with being in the human world without being completely scarred by it.
Alyssa stroked Chloe's soft hide. She couldn't help herself, it was strangely mesmerizing, and it was a normal thing to do with an animal to comfort it. Suddenly she stopped and withdrew her hand. “Um, sorry. I... well... I was just trying to...” Stroking the body of a naked girl she barely new was not exactly an acceptable behavior; she had just realized that new form or not, this used to be an ordinary human girl named Chloe, the same species as herself.
“Mmmmm. I don't mind...” Chloe said dreamily “I don't mind!” she said in a surprised voice “Seriously, I... don't mind. At all. Huh!” The pony-girl seemed astonished at her own reactions.“How... did I turn out?”
“You're going to turn a lot of heads back in Ponyville!” chirped Pinkie “Wooo... she turned out niiiiice.” The way the pink pony said the word made Chloe blush. Alyssa noted this, and wondered how she could even see a blush through that soft coat of yellow. Maybe Equestrian hair scattered light differently than terrestrial hair. Maybe they even blush magically. That was a thought.
By the time the groggy little Earth Pony newfoal had managed to stand on her own, Alyssa supporting her delicate weight as best she could during the first attempts, she was surprised to find that Ella had already been Converted. She had been so busy helping Chloe that she had missed the transformation.
Alyssa steadied Chloe and walked her off of the blanket, allowing Twilight to float a coral colored pegasus pony down from the table. Ella had a striking dark crimson mane and tail, with streaks of lighter shades running through it. It was a dramatic look, but then, Alyssa reflected, it wasn't as if there were any ugly ponies. Beauty, even stunning beauty was unremarkable in their species. She wondered what criteria these ponies used to judge their own relative attractiveness within their culture.
Whatever beauty meant to these creatures, Ella had become a dramatically colored entity. Alyssa found herself staring at the neatly folded wings. She couldn't help but envy that. Suddenly, she wanted to be a Pegasus more than anything in the world. To fly, to soar, to just stop fussing over every little detail and just...
“Alyssa?” Twilight's voice was kind, but a little impatient.