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By Sunshine Laughter
It pretty much looks like any other cafeteria. It's all stainless steel, metal trays, alumiglass gob shields, and hungry people waiting in line. There's no creditstick reader, though. Everything's free, here. My lunch today is an investment in me, basically.
The reason is that I am Going Pony.
The selection of food offered is pretty amazing, I have to say. OK, I'm one of the two percent, my family has jobs inside the Corp. I've had a fairly decent life. But I know there is no job waiting for me, not even under the family hiring directives. The jobs are going away even for us two-percenters. Hey, I don't want to end up in the favela. I'm sorry if you don't like that, I've been told this is going out there, too, but... I don't want to end up there. So that's part of the reason I'm here at a Conversion Bureau.
But it's not the only reason. I want to make that clear. I really like what I've seen on the feeds, I want to live in that world. It's green and alive. I am a little freaked out by the whole 'becoming a different species' thing, but that's the only way, right? I have my reasons for being able to face that, I'll go into those later. Right now, you should smell this food. I mean, look at it.
I doubt even the corporate elite enjoy what is served at a typical meal inside a Conversion Bureau.
Take a look at this fruit. It's real fruit. I don't mind telling you that I'm not entirely sure of what to make of it. It looks kind of strange to me. On birthdays, and of course on Giftmas, replicated fruit is a common treat. At least it is for us Twopees. This real fruit stuff bears as much resemblance to replifruit as my hands do to the hooves of that pony ahead of me in line.
"Hi. Excuse me, but are you talking to yourself, or what?"
There's a light blue pony in front of me, I guess he's a unicorn, because he has a horn. Hey there. Hi! Yeah, I'm doing a feed. For the Gov, about my conversion experience.
"I used to work for the Infotainment ministry... ah, I see, you've got a 'corder on you. I used to do sorting and filtering, social control stuff. One day, I just had enough and ended up here. I got converted about a week ago. This your first day?"
Yeah, it's my first day, just having lunch. Nice to meet you!
I don't know if you heard that, but this pony used to work for the Gov. He did infosorting and biasfiltering, now he's a pony. I guess you can meet all kinds here at the Bureau. But let me tell you about these apples here.
Each apple is unique. I mean, look at them. Some are larger than others, some have some kind of small spots or marks on them, these here are slightly green near the top where a small rod pokes out. It's a what? It's called a 'stem'. It's the umbilical from where the apple was manufactured on a living tree. They hang from those, until they are ready for removal. In Equestria there are like billions and billions of trees, and each one has dozens and dozens of apples. That's more than any pony or human could ever eat. Most go to waste, apparently, because they are just sitting there infesting unsettled lands. Thinking about that makes me feel weird.
In the Bureau the apples are in limited supply though, so it's only one to a customer. They haul them in by the ton, straight to the Bureaus. It's part of the incentive to go pony, I guess, but also to get us used to what we'll be eating for the rest of our lives. I'm kind of OK with the idea.
As you can see, I got a nice, large red one on my tray. It feels different than the artificial kind, less rubbery, kind of hard, actually. It's heavier, too. Wow! It has a smell – no, not a smell, a fragrance. That is the only word to use. Man. I wish you could smell this. The apple is completely fragrant and... apparently I am holding up the line standing here just smelling it with my eyes closed. Sorry. I'm moving, I'm moving. Hey, it's my first real apple, alright? Fine. Jeeze.
Moving on, the server here is offering me a choice of dishes suitable to my current status as a human. Whoa, there's ravioli... she says it's made from actual wheat, damn... stuffed with real asparagus. That's cool. The sandwich looks good too, it's what? Vegetable pate. I see... tomatoes, I think, lettuce, and some round green disks that I cannot identify – 'cucumber', apparently. They're all real, and the bread is made of real wheat as well. Equestria never had a Last Harvest. They grow all this stuff.
I'm gonna choose the ravioli, I want to see what real pasta actually tastes like. Pudding, cool! It's some kind of pudding... what? It's coconut. Real? Oh. The pudding isn't real. It's what? The pudding is real pudding, it's just the flavor that's fake, Ok. Yeah, yeah, I'm moving.
"Whatcha doin? Is that a holo recorder?"
This guy behind me is asking me what I'm doing. Yeah, this is my holocorder. I pinned it to my jumpsuit.
"That one of those Wailani/Ngo models, the new compact ones? By the way, my name's Daniel, I heard something about it being your first day? Welcome to the bureau and everything! I'm new too, just in from outside, in fact. "
Thank you! The 'corder's some professional model from the Infobureau. They gave it to me to work with. Ok, this guy here is named Daniel, and he's... by the way, what did you do, before you came here?
"I lived in the favela, nothing special really. I just figure there's a better life waiting, you know?"
I think there will be, that's why I'm here too. Dan here is cashing in for a better life in Equestria. Hey, how do you feel about becoming a pony though?
"Tell you the truth, I really don't think about it much. It's not that big of a deal to me."
Come on, you gotta care at least a little!
"No, seriously, it's not a biggie. I know a lot of newfoals, a couple of my friends, right? And they say it's lots better and they feel great. I haven't met a newie that was even freaked about it. So it can't be that big, right?"
So you just don't care. About becoming a pony.
The man doesn't care. He just doesn't care. Shaking his head. Wow. Ok. No, that's cool.
I should probably tell you something about what I'm doing here, while we try to find a seat. I agreed to share my conversion with the world cause I felt it would help people, and maybe be interesting. I sure would have liked to have seen something like this before I ended up here at a Bureau. Who knows, it might even convince the rest of my family to join me.
So, I was approached by the Propaganda Ministry after I did these holonet postings. They gave me a holocorder and sent me packing. I've supposedly been granted full freedom to speak about all of my experiences, good or bad, with no censorship. I'll leave it to you to decide if this turns out to be true, but it's my intent to tell you the truth about everything, at least as I see it.
Oh. In the interests of full disclosure, me and my family have been promised some big sum in 'bits', the Equestrian form of currency, for me doing this. However, this won't affect anything I say, because those bits are already waiting for me in Equestria. The worldgov can't touch them. So... fuck the worldcorporation! If what I just said, there, just a second ago, gets through, you should be able to tell this is not being censored.
Alright then. I'm sitting now at a table with some of the other humans. There is a kind of segregation that happens here, in the cafeteria, and it slightly disturbs me. The humans sit with other humans almost exclusively, and the newfoals – transformed humans who have become Equestrian – sit together.
Partly this has got to be because of their bodies. The ponies sit at low tables on cushions flat to the floor. It looks like it would be a struggle for a newfoal to sit in a chair or on a stool made for a human. Our tables look way too high for them to eat comfortably. It wouldn't be difficult for a human to sit down on the floor, on a cushion with the newfoals, but none seem to be doing so. I think that the segregation is as much emotional as it is physiological. The newfoals feel more comfortable around other newfoals, and the humans are afraid to butt in.
There is a definite feeling that the human side is not the special side. I want to go sit at the pony table, but I kind of feel afraid to. I'm not afraid of the ponies, if you've met one, you know they are like, totally sweet. It's more that I feel like an outsider, like I'm the creepy girl in class, if you know what I mean. I feel like they'd be nice and everything, but it would end up being awkward and everyone would just feel uncomfortable.
"I feel the same thing. It's weird. It doesn't feel like we'd belong, huh?"
Dan here says he feels the same way.
"It's not like they'd say anything. Heck, they'd probably be real friendly but I just feel like I shouldn't butt in. Hey, you think your holo thing can hear me too? Am I getting famous here?"
I don't know. I don't think the 'corder picks up anyone but me, but maybe. I don't think being famous is going to matter for long, considering. Man, just look at them. The ponies are like scary pretty, aren't they? Just looking at them - those over there – right? Look at them. Really pretty, all those colors, those big eyes, that hair... god, I would just kill for that hair...
"Their hair is called a mane. They're really fussy about that, so you might want to remember it. Mane, not hair."
Mane. Their hair is called a 'mane'. It's so cool it even has it's own name. Damn.
Anyways, you get the point. Compared to that, I feel like a warty rad-basket who didn't take their meds. I've got a couple of tumors, I stay on top of them, but ponies, they don't have tumors. They don't have anything wrong. I feel like a devil and the angels are all sitting over there at the low table.
I wonder what it's like for them? I guess I'll find out sometime in the next fourteen days. Oh – that's one thing I should probably mention. There are a lot of stories out there on the hypernet about what goes on in a Conversion Bureau, and I want to set things straight. You don't get fourteen days to lay around and decide whether to convert. You sign up, and once you are in here, you get converted at any time. It could be tonight, or it could be three days from now or whatever.
I don't know how they decide these things but... oh... god. Damn. That.... listen, I gotta take some more bites here. Damn. I mean... just god damn. Look, there, see that? That's asparagus, apparently. It's all mashed up inside the ravioli and... damn that's good. I had no fucking idea. And the ravioli itself. I have to say this much, it is the greatest criminal act ever done that they fucking killed wheat. Killing off all wheat, man, what a fucking travesty. This is just awesome. God fucking damn. Oh. Mnnnn. Mmm.
OK, there's this sauce here, I haven't a clue and... well anyway, I'm beginning to think that going pony was worth it just to taste real food. Damn.
So, they just pick you whenever, and you go in and you get ponified and that's the deal. You still get the full fourteen days, it's just that you don't get it as a human. If they call you and you bail, then, that's it. You go out on the street, and no more lunches like this. You can come back, but only if they do you right then. Pony or nothing. So, once you sign that sheet at the desk, you are committed. I've heard of Bureaus where they don't let you leave. You sign, and it's like the Blackmesh, that's it, you are in.
This Bureau isn't like that. I kind of think that's why they sent me here, probably it's a particularly good one and... what?
"This is just an average bureau. Seriously. No biggie. Two of my buds went to the other one, down south? They told me about it, same thing as here. Just like they described."
Really. No kidding?
"No kidding. Said the food was amazing. Joe - one of my buds - he just went on and on about it. Real food this, real food that. I had the breakfast today, and, same thing. Just amazing."
Dan here says that he has friends who went to other Bureaus. I guess policies may differ but they all have the real food it seems.
"Joe never mentioned apples, so maybe not every place gets the apples. But they get real food."
Some get different stuff then than others, apparently, but they all get the real food. Well, that's good, anyway.
OK, I have to say something about the pudding. It tastes like ass. I don't care if it's supposed to be 'real' or not, the fake flavor makes me want to gargle with puke just to get the taste out of my mouth. Don't eat the real-fake pudding. Maybe real-real pudding is the shit, but this... this is just ass.
"Forget the pudding. Eat the apple. They gave us one for breakfast. Just eat it. Trust me. Best part of the meal. I am not shitting you. Go on."
Yeah, Ok. The apple. Dan here says the apple is what really counts.
"You went on about the ravioli? Forget that stuff. The apple's better."
Better than the pasta? No way.
"Way. I'm telling you."
Alright. Here goes.
Awwwww fuck. Oh, man. Dan here knows his stuff. Oh, Christ... it almost hurts my mouth. Damn. Seriously, see this here, on my tongue? Blaaaaa... that. That is so tasty it fucking burns. My mouth almost hurts from it. I can't stop though. Oh, damn, I am this apple's slave. Yes, master. I will eat you more. Oh god. Oh wow. OK, I am sold, at least at the moment. Pony me. Just give me apple. More apple. I will do your bidding, dark master of the apples. Fuck.
"Ha ha ha heh heh! Told ya! Oh, yeah, that is the SHIT. Hey, savor it, don't just chug it. Well, too late. Next time then, eat it slowly. Trust me on that."
Fine, now I am depressed. The apple is gone. I am sucking the... what the hell is this?
"It's the core of the apple. Just toss it."
Core. Ok, sounds like a reactor, but what they hell. I am sucking the core of this thing. I thought apple was just a label on a package. No. It is a red, roundish thing that owns my fucking soul now.
"You have to clean up your tray. Yeah... over here. Just slot it in."
The trays go here? Ok. Thank you.
"Waste goes in the bin. Drop your core in there."
No! It's not waste! Keep away from my core, I'm keeping it.
"You don't eat that part. Just toss it. Why are you keeping the core? They'll probably have another apple at dinner."
It's good, that's why. Maybe there will be more apples at dinner, and maybe not. The core stays with me.
"The core isn't the good part. It's just the core. Come on, toss it out."
I don't care if it's not the 'good' part. I keep the core! Jesus!
Nobody is getting this core. I'm gonna use it to power a goddamn city. I don't even care if it's radioactive. There is still some of master's flavor in it. Oh, damn that's good.
I'm glad I wore my jumpsuit. I'll just put the core in here. Pockets are good. Yay, pockets.
Alright these are the bathrooms, as you can see. Pretty standard except for... whoa. Check this out. That must be for the ponies. That is a big hole in the floor. Oh, I have to try this. Hey, Dan? Yeah, how does this work? The floor panel? Cool.
There is no way I'm gonna squat and actually use this, so don't get excited, but I have to see it flush. Alright, drum roll. Big, oblong ceramic hole, prepare for flushing. Flush in three, two, one... FLUSH! WHOOOOO!!!! Ah. Well, that wasn't as spectacular as I thought. Pretty much just a pit style of the regular toilet. Well, hell. Come on, you would have tried it too, don't try to tell me you wouldn't.
OK, I need to pee, and you don't have the clearance for that kind of show. I'm switching off for now. Back in a mome.
Your life has been difficult. Around you a gray, concrete world of ruined dreams, ruined hopes and a ruined biosphere. But it doesn’t have to be like that. There is a world of green fields, of bright, clear skies, of laughter and song, and it is as close as your nearest Conversion Bureau.
The World Governmental Authority and the Eternal Empire of Equestria invite you to a new world of possibilities, a world of dreams fulfilled and a second chance for every living soul on Earth.
Equestria. It’s only a cup away.
...And there. OK, I think it’s on again. Yeah. The little light... let me check the active surface here... yes. It’s on. Alright then, I’m back from the little pony’s room, and it looks like I’m scheduled for a class. I don’t know where Dan is... so far he’s the first person I’ve learned the name of, so... well, I guess I’ll just have to make some more friends, right? Supposedly, that’s what Equestria is all about, or so they say.
There are a number of classrooms, and I’ve been told that skipping out on the classes gets you into some kind of trouble, though I don’t know what. Let’s see if I can find a seat... it looks like about thirty people in here, about ten of them... mmm... nine, I guess are ponies. Staggered benches with pillows, nice, I guess.
Excuse me... can I sit here? Great. I’m Sunshine, I’m kind of doing a holocast for the hypernet, yeah, that’s what this thing is. Ahh, that’s better. Nice pillows. I've got another girl on one side and a pony on the other. Cool.
"Hi, Sunshine. I'm Samantha."
"Hello, Sunshine! My name is Honeydrizzle! I just got my cutie mark, look!"
Samantha, nice to meet you. And... Honeydrizzle. That’s an interesting name. Oh, yes, I do see. Cutie mark already. Congratulations, I guess? Ah.
"Is 'Sunshine' your pony name? Are you using it early? I think that is very nice, Sunshine."
Yeah, it’s my pony name, or it will be. Sunshine Laughter.
"Sunshine Laughter? You've got this all worked out. What's your real name?"
That is my real name, from now on. I’m going only by that name. It’s to protect my family, and apparently it’s the policy of the Bureau, because I’m linked to the outside with this. So don’t tell me your full name, alright? Just Sam, perfect.
So what’s this class about, anyway?
"‘Your New Body And You’".
"It's not like that! It's basic stuff about how our bodies are built."
Heh, yes, like that. Heh heh. Alright. Fine... Soooo, this is about how Equestrian bodies work? Hey, Honeydrizzle, why are you here, I mean, you’re already a pony and....
"I was converted last night, Sunshine. I don't know my foot from my... I mean my hoof from... anything really. It's all so new to me. Hey, do you know what this is called? Is it a fetlock? I heard that word earlier. It feels like my finger, or maybe my ankle. I need this class!"
Oh, I guess that makes sense. No, I don’t know what that part is called either. I’d call it an ankle, I guess. No, maybe not.
"This isn't one of the lectures. See the screen? We get a cartoon or something."
Oh, Ok, we have a holoshow to watch. Well, let’s settle in then.
Your New Body And You.
Hello, my name is Dr. Roselyn Pastern, and I’m here to help explain to you the amazing Equestrian body. Some of you may already be ponies, others will be ponies soon. Knowing about your body, or the body you will soon have, is useful and important. It is also fascinating.
First, you may be astonished to learn that Equestrians are not actually ponies. This is a pony, the kind that lived on our Earth not so long ago. Next to it is, of course, an Equestrian.
As I rotate these holograms, note how different they are. The terrestrial pony is short, squat, fairly hairy, and has a long muzzle. The neck is relatively short and inflexible. Here is the full range of motion that the terrestrial pony is capable of. Not terribly impressive, is it?
Now let’s see the same thing with regard to an Equestrian. As you can see, they can rotate their forelegs in the same manner that humans can their arms. They can turn their hooves upwards and to the side, unlike the terrestrial pony. The back legs also have human-like mobility and agility. Unlike the pony, here, an Equestrian can lay flat on their back, put their hooves over their head, stand on their back legs for surprising lengths of time, and crane their necks both straight up and nearly directly back, to see their own tail. The tail itself is long.
Here is the Equestrian tail without hair. It looks almost like the tail of a rat, long and thin. It is also prehensile. Here it is wrapping around a cup, and lifting it. In many ways, it is an additional limb.
The head of the Equestrian is large, with a short, compact muzzle filled with teeth. Note that the terrestrial pony has a small set of teeth in the front, a large gap, and then a set of molars in the back. The Equestrian has a full set of teeth, again like a human. The eyes are very large, the skull very round. There is room for a brain larger than that of a human being.
Why then, do we call the Equestrians ‘ponies’? The reason is that when first contact was made, that is how they appeared to humans, initially. The name stuck. There are some obvious similarities: hooves, tail, the general shape of the body, the general way they walk, the fact they eat grasses and grains as part of their diet.
Equestrians are less similar to terrestrial ponies than we humans are to the lesser primates, such as this monkey here. Although we call them ‘ponies’ they are very much their own species, with a unique and alien physiology and biology.
There are many similarities in the basic body shape, as I have noted, similarities so striking that we use the same names for the parts of their bodies as we do for terrestrial ponies. Even so, every functional joint in both Equestrian and Earthly ponies is duplicated in human bodies as well, we are all based on the same essential pattern. For example, this is my wrist, but in both an Equestrian, and a terrestrial pony, the same joint is called the knee. This first joint of my finger is structurally the same as the fetlock in the pony. Different names for the same joints.
This is important, because, although at first glance the Equestrian seems very different than a human being, under the skin, the basic structure is remarkably similar. All that is required to turn one into the other is to shorten, as we see here, some bones, while lengthening others. We all have the same skeleton, the same pattern, it is just that this pattern is adjusted slightly during conversion.
Although it seems dramatic, conversion is less a total transformation, in some ways, than it is a skillful rearrangement.
Now, let’s learn the parts of the Equestrian body, your new body, alright?
every funny joint and bony
let’s start at the head and learn it all
at the top is the poll, as the pony stands tall
Ok, this is getting a little too cartoony for me here, I’m getting a real kindergarten vibe, to tell you the truth. The cutesy images aren’t helping either, I mean... look at that. Jesus fuck.
"Please, Sunshine! I'm trying to learn!"
Ok, fine. It's just that...
I said alright. I’ll be quiet.
Listen, I need to shut down again for a while, I’m being kind of outvoted on the cartoon thing. Back later.