The Royal Equestrian carriage tilted as it was pulled into a shallow dive to port. The four expert pegasai pulling the carriage were well practiced as a team, and did not need the human-tech transceivers in their helmets to coordinate the maneuver. Instinctively, as one, they leveled out, their wings working furiously to keep the carriage as steady as possible, under the circumstances.
Somewhere ahead, the glowing tail of the poorly aimed anti-air missile shrank into the distance ahead, a horizon dominated by the impossibly vast curve of the great Barrier that separated the impossible, magical realm of Equestria from the cold, hardened world of Man. The Barrier split the sky, a bright, opalescent half-sphere thousands of miles across, reaching above the atmosphere, touching space itself.
The air was cold and roared past the grand carriage with its pegasai, the stars gleaming in the early evening. Ahead, inside the surreal dome that protected Equestria, shone day, bright and green and warm. The brilliant light from that land, from the world within the barrier, illuminated the sea, thousands of feet below, painting the grey, poisoned Pacific with shimmering sparkles which faded with the miles into black night, far behind.
Alyssa-the-pony struggled to extricate her haunches from the pile of unconscious ponies, supplies, and human doctor that had all slid to the left of the car-sized open-air carriage during the sudden dive. When the polished, wooden floorboards had begun to tilt, Alyssa had tried to reach out with her hands to grab something, realizing almost immediately that she no longer had hands, but hooves. Her new limbs scraped uselessly on the smooth carriage floor, and she found herself sliding with her two former roommates, the still-unconscious Chloe and Ella, into poor Dr. Pastern. They had piled up against the left wall of the carriage, but thankfully, nopony had been lost.
"They're SHOOTING at us?" Alyssa screamed against the constant wail of the bitter wind "What WAS that? What are we going to DO? What are we going to DO?" Her hooves beat uselessly against the carriage floor.
Dr. Pastern struggled to get her wind back, the impact of one of Alyssa's hooves having caught her in the diaphragm. Breathing again, she automatically checked to make sure that her medical kit and the 'Potion' storage unit were safe. She shifted around the unconscious bodies of Ella-the-Pegasus and Chloe-The-Earth-Pony, and thought silently that perhaps sedating them had been a good idea after all. She briefly imagined having being kicked in the head by three panicking equinoids, rather than merely in the diaphragm by one.
"Alyssa! ALYSSA!" Dr. Pastern finally managed to get the poor newfoal settled enough to lay still. Pastern put her head close to Alyssa's so that she wouldn't have to shout. "Listen, listen... we're going to be alright. Those pegasai up there are Celestia's very, very best. They can outfly the wind itself. It's going to be OK. You need to remain calm, alright Alyssa?"
Pastern didn't really believe all of her own words, but she needed to get the situation under control, any way she could.
Alyssa tried to calm down. The carriage was flying steadily now, level, and she could no longer hear whatever it was (rocket? missile?) that had shrieked past them. Something in her, something new, powerfully compelled her to trust, and she found herself involuntarily relaxing against the legs of Dr. Pastern, and the piled bodies of Chloe and Ella. That was strange. She would never have been capable of such a thing back when she was an ape. The way she phrased that made her giggle. Ook-Ook. Hee!
Dr. Pastern noted the sudden change in newfoal Alyssa. She had seen such things before, in the past years of assisting Conversions. Newfoals seemed to universally be able to let go of fear and pain much better than human beings could. She always envied that, when she saw it happen. She wondered what it felt like.
"Alyssa, I need your help." Dr. Pastern was very serious now, and Alyssa's ears swiveled to follow her immediate attention. "Alyssa, this carriage is going to be passing through the Barrier soon, at full speed." Pastern paused to see if the newfoal understood.
"Doctor... you're not... you're human. Nothing human can pass the barrier. You'll be..." an image of a tomato hitting a windshield passed briefly through Alyssa's pony mind, the closest it could now come to the image it would have generated for her but half a day ago "Can't we land, let you off, isn't..." her voice trailed off.
"We're over the ocean, Alyssa. A thousand feet up. There's a chopper chasing us." Pastern said, softly. "There is only one thing I can do. But..." Pastern seemed worried "It isn't going to be fun."
"What? What can we do? I'll help you. Whatever you need me to do!" Alyssa felt a rush of empathy, of compassion, the like of which she had never experienced before. It shocked some deep, buried part of her. In this moment, she would willingly die for Dr. Pastern, a woman she had known all of three days. She was sure that she would not have felt quite so keenly for the life of a stranger... before.
"I can become a pony." Pastern wrestled with the bright red storage unit "This contains the ponification serum. But there's a problem. No anesthesia. We add it according to body weight and allergic history for each patient. I can't do that for myself."
"But your medical kit! Surely there's some..."
"No. Nothing that would do the job. I'll have to do this awake, and I have to do it now. It may already be too late. I waited too long."
"What?" Alyssa was incredulous "Why? You said it had been five hours since we left? Why didn't you..."
"These." Pastern held out her hands in front of her, fingers splayed wide. "I had to keep a certain pony breathing, remember?"
Suddenly it struck Alyssa. Dr. Pastern wasn't supposed to be here. She had leapt onto the carriage, probably as it was leaving, because she couldn't abandon a critical patient. She'd been forced to sedate the three newfoals, even though it was dangerous to do so. "Why... why did you wait until I finally woke up?"
"I had to be sure that you would." The matter of fact answer hit Alyssa like a stone.
"Take it! Take it now!" Alyssa was almost yelling "Hurry up! Do It! I'll be here for you! Just tell me what to do!"
"It's going to hurt, Alyssa." Dr. Pastern seemed pale "I will probably make a bit of a... fuss." The doctor looked away as she spoke "I really need you to stay calm and in control, even if we are shot at again. I need you to keep me from falling out, if you can, if there is any... turbulence. And... I need you to be very brave, whatever happens. Can you do that for me?" The doctor turned her head back and looked deeply into Alyssa's huge, wide eyes.
"I will." Alyssa heard a confidence and resolve in her own voice that quite astonished her.
"Thank you, Alyssa." Pastern opened the red case, inside was the stoppered Erlenmeyer, only a quarter filled with the swirling, purple goo. The carriage rocked suddenly, and for a moment the doctor and Alyssa shared worried eyes, but then relaxed when nothing further happened.
Alyssa watched as Dr. Pastern carefully opened the flask. She barely heard the faint prayer from the doctor's lips "please....Celestia.." Then Pastern took a swig from the flask, and instantly closed it, scrambling to secure the bottle within the red case before...
Pastern reared back, smacking her head against the carriage wall, her spine curving away from Alyssa. The doctor gasped, trying to breath, a faint cry coming from her agonized throat. Her body slid to the side until she was lying on the carriage floor. Alyssa could smell her grape-tinged breath as Pastern briefly choked.
Alyssa pressed close to Dr. Pastern, squeezing in close to her, to hold her still while she thrashed. Pastern's eyes rolled wildly, in opposite directions, as they swelled within her enlarging cranium. Her fingers, so recently splayed, had already fused together, melting like hot wax into squirming blobs.
Suddenly the carriage sharply banked to the right. Ponies, cases and the thing that was Dr. Pastern slid across the polished wood to slam into the opposite wall. Something bright and infinitely loud streaked by overhead and to the left. The brief flash of its passing temporarily blinded Alyssa, and she could hear nothing for some time from the roar.
When she could see clearly again, Dr. Pastern had changed shape radically, and her pulsing, oozing mass was beginning to rip her clothing "That's why they have us undress!" Alyssa suddenly realized that human clothing could strangle a pony, the neck was simply too small, the arms and legs too thin. She squirmed over Pastern's contorting form and began savagely biting at the doctor's neckline. The material was artificial, and very strong.
Alyssa braced a hoof and pulled and shook with all of her might. The fabric finally tore, and she continued to shred it until the neckline was a ragged, open space. As she did so, the forming neck of a pony filled that space even as she made it wider.
But the legs and arms were another matter. She couldn't get the right angle to tear the fabric. She couldn't figure out how to tear open the pants. Dr. Pastern's pony legs were inflating around the cuffs formed by the limits of human fashion, and the waxy, wriggling flesh began to rapidly turn purple where it could be seen.
This was terrible! Fear overwhelmed Alyssa's mind. She had to help. She had to save Dr. Pastern. She bit and pulled and shook her head like a dog worrying a bone, but the fabric wouldn't tear.
"aaaHHHHHHHHH!!!!" Alyssa screamed into the wind, half crazed with her own helplessness "WHY WON'T THIS COME OFF?"
A strange feeling transfixed her, like a spear through her forehead. It felt like all of her will had somehow coalesced into solidity, and she saw the struggling shape of what once was Dr. Pastern illuminated in the night by a strange, blue-green light. Inside, Alyssa felt like she was holding some kind of... storm... in her mind, and in anger she spat that feeling into those damned artificial fabric clothes.
Dr. Pastern's pants exploded. The material shredded like a burst balloon. With it was the last of the doctor's blouse and coat. Her shoes, stifling her forming, blobby hooves, detonated with an burst audible over the shrieking wind. The increasingly healthy looking, pony-shaped lump squirmed as it drew itself together, golden hairs bursting out from the skin.
Spaghetti strands of brown mane and tail spooled out onto the wood planks as the mysterious turquoise light faded. Alyssa collapsed, her head flat on the boards, inches from Pony-Pastern's flank. It was then, for the first time, that Alyssa finally noticed the short horn right in the middle of her forehead, as it unintentionally prodded Pastern's quivering leg. "Sorry." Alyssa mumbled as she scooted back, as best she could. She was too grateful to fuss.
Something was hissing and barking from a ragged piece of white cloth to Alyssa's left. It was one of the pockets from Dr. Pastern's lab coat. Inside, something square and flat was making the noise. Alyssa bit at the cloth and the set fell out. She swiveled her neck and tried to take the device with her lips. It slipped out, onto the boards, but something she had done had triggered it. The voice was new, and sounded as if it were yelling against a great wind "...said penetration imminent! Any minute now! Doctor Pastern, respond!" The voice kept repeating variations on this as Alyssa stared at it.
It was getting surprisingly light out. The stars were still overhead, but daylight was shining off the back of the carriage. The Barrier! The great Shield of Equestria! That must have been Nimbus, the lead pegasus of the crew pulling them through the sky. They were nearly home!
Home. Equestria was home. Alyssa savored the feeling. Home.
Alyssa turned to look at doctor Pastern. She was nearly complete. Her eyelids still hadn't unsealed from the skin of her head, but her golden hide shone in the increasing light, and her soft brown mane fluttered in the breeze. Surely she was pony enough now to survive passage through the barrier. Alyssa saw, in the brightening light, wings, beautiful and golden like the doctor's flanks. Alyssa didn't feel jealous, only happy. Pony Pastern's wings and body shone like morning, and Alyssa found herself laughing with delight. It was just so pretty!
It sounded like gravel rapidly hitting the wood rear of the chariot. PAK-PAK-TAK-PAK Alyssa scrambled up, hooves skittering on the floorboards. She knew that sound, from countless media, the sound of bullets impacting. Alyssa threw herself over the now blissfully insensate golden pegasus, trying to cover as much of it with her own body as she could. Pressed close behind Pastern, crushed into the corner, Ella and Chloe remained oblivious, a pile of unconscious hoof and mane.
Somewhere behind, in the dark to the rear, the 'angry bird', almost certainly a stolen military chopper, had reached a range where mechanized guns were worth using. The light from the front of the chariot was so bright, and glancing back at it, Alyssa saw an impossible, shimmering wall that stretched from one infinity to another, a dome as large as a continent, within which full daylight argued with the night beyond.
Alyssa swung her head back towards the rear, as if by looking, she could somehow defy the chasing threat. The light was very bright inside the chariot now, as she saw the black and gray shape of an Americorp Backstabber MKIII Assault Copter rise up above the brass-railed wooden lip. Inside, she could almost see, with her new, better eyes, the shape of a lone pilot. Did she imagine him grimacing as he took aim?
A pleasurable shiver rippled over her, and instantly the bitter air was springtime. A shimmering wall fell away, gleaming as it receded behind the chariot. In the full, warm sunlight of open day the Assault Copter burst through the wall, the tail end shattering as a pink mist appeared behind it, on the other side of the opalescent shield.
They were descending, rapidly, and Alyssa watched the broken copter fall, the pieces tumbling, end over end. As they fell, they began to change, affected by some strange magic, separating into shards, the shards turning from black and gray to brilliant colors, and Alyssa was astonished to see that they had become flower petals, drifting and fluttering in the sky like delicious confetti.
She couldn't help but laugh, it was so absurd, so whimsical, and such a relief. The danger was gone - all danger was gone, forever, for the rest of her days. Her laughing turned to giggles, somewhat hysteric, and then to sobs. That poor man. That poor, poor man.
Petal Confetti trotted merrily down the soft, dirt path that ran through the middle of her small village. Clydesdale was a farming community that specialized in hay, alfalfa, and -of all things- basil. The town had recently won an award for 'Most Flavorful Feed', which had been presented by the great stallion chef Al Dente himself, and the plaque had been hung over the oat barrels at the general store.
This was a matter of great excitement in such a small village, and Petal knew exactly what needed to be done. She swung her bright pink tail across her aquamarine flanks, keeping time to her own rhythmic gait. Across her back were slung two large saddlebags, filled to bursting with balloons, streamers, boxes of candies, little cakes and other treats, and of course, a great heavy jug of her own special punch.
She had many friends in Clydesdale, and they greeted her as she passed. She tossed her curly pink mane at Flapjack, a stallion that she knew had an eye on her. She paused to compliment Sweetpastry's new straw hat. The bow had become undone on it, so she used her horn and willed the ribbon to tie itself neatly. Petal loved helping with little things like that.
Sweetpastry smiled at her, and brushed against her flank in thanks, as Petal trotted on.
The town doctor was flying overhead, golden and magnificent. She was still called doctor Pastern, the name just didn't seem to need to be changed. Petal smiled up at her longtime friend. They shared a special bond, begun in strife, perhaps, but grown strong over time through mutual kindness. She would see her later, when everyone would come together, thanks to her special gift.
In all of Clydesdale, no one put on a party like the ever-so-giggily Petal Confetti.
One: The Big Respawn,
Two: Euphrosyne Unchained,
Three: Letters From Home,
Four: Teacup, Down On The Farm
The Conversion Bureau Novels:
27 Ounces: A story of eight and one half ponies
The Taste Of Grass
The Conversion Bureau: Code Majeste
The Conversion Bureau: The 800 Year Promise
The Conversion Bureau: Going Pony
The PER: Michelson and Morely
The Reasonably Adamant Down With Celestia Newfoal Society!
The Short Stories:
Her Last Possession
The Conversion Bureau: PER Equitum
The Conversion Bureau: Brand New Universe
Tales Of Los Pegasus
The Non-Conversion Bureau Fanfics:
The Ice Cream Pony Summer
Around The Bend