By Sunshine Laughter
So you are saying that the Noe Valley favela was kind of a natural fortess, in some ways?
"Basically. We had the Mission Delores Crater to the north, and nopony in their right mind would go through there - it was still radioactive from the Austerity War after the Great Collapse. Apparently that hadn't even been the target, but that was as far as the missile went. We had the Cayuga ruins to the south, and those were pretty much impassable, and what did live there you wouldn't want to run into. Everypony knew cannibal gangs hid out there. So we just had two ways in or out, and the west path was not easy, because everything was such a mess.The east road was great. Cesar Chavez Street was almost untouched, and most of 24th was pretty good too. So that was the big trade route in or out of Noe. We had a pretty nice community, actually. We had a restaurant, if you can believe it!"
You're kidding! A restaurant? I didn't know they had restaurants in the favelas.
"There was this nice family, the Ngô's, and they used Guarantee Rations and whatever we could grow in the area, which wasn't a lot, but we had dandelions, and spearmint, and lemongrass and a few other hardy things that everypony would grow on the rooftops. The Ngô family got a share of all the food in exchange for making decent meals with it. They were big in our community."
Wait, wait. That doesn't sound right. You're saying these ing-goes or whatever...
"Ngô... it's alright. It's maybe a little hard if you didn't grow up with names like that."
I... yeah. So the nn...Go's, they got food so they could cook it for everypony else? How is that an advantage? It seems like they just got shoved some ingredients and told to get busy or something.
"Sunshine, they got a lot of food that way. They made food for everypony, but they also got to have all the excess for themselves. They never went hungry. That's a pretty good deal, if you think about it. And everypony was glad to give them a share, because eating government ration is not enough, and it's hard to choke down after a while. It gets old fast."
I think I understand, Rose. So, basically, you liked growing up in Noe?
"If I had to grow up in a favela, I am happy is was Noe Valley. We had a real sense of community... or so I thought, when I was young. I think we did... but then things changed. The gangs from the north started coming in, and the attacks kept getting worse and worse. That's how my dad died. He was trying to get to the market and... they got him. He was just a random victim, but it broke my mom.
After dad was kacked, my mom just kind of went... bad. She blamed everything for her grief. She took a lot of it out on me... I used to have these bad scars on my face... she had a bad night, too much booze, and a knife. That's when I left home."
Rose! Great Celestia.... you just say that like it was... like you were describing, I don't know, something ordinary. Not like your mother taking a... a knife to your face! I can't...
"She wasn't in her right mind, Sunshine. I said that she kind of broke after dad died. She was just... broken. She wasn't attacking me, exactly. And I did kind of make her angry a lot."
Angry a lot? That's no excuse! There's nothing a child could do that deserves a knife to the face! My Luna, Rose!
"Um... I wouldn't be too certain of that. I was... after dad was killed, after my mom went wrong inside, I became angry. Really angry. Because of losing him, because of mom, because the whole community was being destroyed by the gang raids and... I decided to form one of our own. I just wanted to protect everypony, that's what I thought. But... it kind of got out of hoof and... pretty soon we were raiding them right back.
It was during that time that I got involved with Razor. She and I... we kind of fed off each other, pushing each other, competing to see who was the most... dangerous, who could... dish out the most payback. And we did, we... ended the original gang that had raided us from the start, with a little help. But the help was even worse, in some ways. We teamed up with a south gang, and... they were pretty savage."
Wait... you said they had cannibal gangs in the south, right?
"Yeah, they did. That's who we got to help us. Nopony else would deal with them. It instantly made Razor and me outcasts in Noe, but by then we didn't care. As long as the valley was protected... I didn't care what they thought. Only I did care, but... I worked hard not to, you know?
So, we got into some bad places. We did things... I don't want to tell you. It wasn't enough just to make the northers retreat, we wanted payback. And killing them was too easy, once we had the Lectors backing us."
So... I don't understand. Like... torture and stuff?
"Like playing soccer with their heads. Like playing checkers on their chests with fingers for pieces, while they screamed. Really sick stuff, Sunshine. Really bad stuff. But we knew they'd keep breeding, keep having more little gang-bangers... we were down to killing the children of the original attackers, so we finally went for the.... Sunshine? .... Sunshine?"
Oh scheisse. Merde. F...ffff... fuck. Oh.... muffin fuck.... where... got to get.... just got to get.... oh Luna... Sorry! Sorry! Muffin, knocked him down, oh Luna, oh ffff... I gotta get somewhere.... outside, there's the door, the door, they want to know if I'll be back, how am I supposed to know if I'll be back, oh crap, oh poop, crap, doo-doo, damn. DAMN!
Where do I go? What... I can't breath, it's... no way, that can't be true, that stuff can't be muffin true, no muffin way, no, no... I'm in some kind of down the stairs, gotta go down the stairs... Ok, Ok, in here, in the back... down behind the boxes, I haven't a clue where I am but it's away, It's away from there.
Oh sweet Luna, how can... I don't understand! I just don't understand! She's a muffin pony now, and she can still talk like that, she can say that stuff and... how is it even... no. No. I refuse to believe it. She was just lying to me. It was a muffin lie. She was... trying to push me away, that's it, trying to end the relationship. She just couldn't say it's over so she made up some swirl that she figured would scare me away, well damn, filly, it surely worked. Luna, it worked.
Gangs. Who comes up with this stuff. No muffin way. Not even humans do stuff like that! OK, well maybe they do, but that doesn't really happen, not for her, not for sweet, nice, kind little.... oh Luna I'm crying aren't I, yeah, yeah, I'm crying, I'm crying now all over myself, and that's stupid because none of that was real. It just wasn't real it couldn't be real it couldn't Awwwww..... awww-hawwwww hawww hawwww... uhhh.... uhhhh... oh.... oh.... Rose, no, no, no... not Rose, not Rose...
Ow. I hit my head, oh, ow, have to get some control. I have to get control of myself, I can't keep rolling and tossing like this, ow.... I just can't sit still, it just... it just hurts so much...
I've been sleeping next to her for more than a week! Sweet Celestia, I. Have. Been. Asleep. Next to her. Right next to her, all night, she's been right there, a... a... monster... that could do that.... no. No, it isn't true, remember? Remember? Not true. She's just lying, for some reason. That's all it is. HOW COULD CELESTIA LET HER BE A PONY? How exactly does that work? She's a muffin serial killer or cannibal monster or something HOW DOES THAT GET A PASS TO BE A PONY? No. No. She didn't do those things.
Of COURSE! Sweet, Celestia, it is so OBVIOUS now! She was just telling me what the others around her did. That's all. She couldn't possibly have actually done those things, she was just part of it. She and Razor, they were what, leaders she said before, OK, they led the group, but it isn't like a leader or commander or whatever can control what a bunch of crazy cannibal gang types do. She couldn't have watched them all the time, right? Right?
So it's obvious, completely obvious, it just all got out of hoof for her, and she couldn't stop the crazy types and she was just telling me what THEY did, not what SHE did, no, what THEY did. The others. The one's she brought in that weren't her at all. See? See, that's what the deal is. Of course. I got it wrong is all. Oh, cinnamon swirls, that is exactly what I did. I am such a silly filly. Just silly. Silly. She probably cowered in a corner, while all that brutality went on around her. Probably had to not say anything or else they'd turn on her. That's it. I can picture her just turning away, a tear in her eye and OHHHH.... AHHHH.... NOOOO.... no, no, no.
Heh. Hah. Huh. Hah.... oh, get my breath, get my breath. It's a misunderstanding. That's all. Please, please sweet Celestia, gentle Luna, if you can hear me, make it just be a misunderstanding. I just heard wrong, or I interpreted it all wrong. Rose isn't... she wouldn't... she couldn't do those kind of things, not even as a human not even back then, not ever, not ever, not...
Ever. I slept beside her. All night. Right there. Every night. We ate together. Oh, Luna... did... did she eat... with the cannibal gang? But she's so soft spoken! She's so gentle, she makes plants bloom! She makes that little 'eep' sound when she comes, it... it can't be her.
That's it. Conversion really does kill the human part. Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. I'm dead. The human part that drank the serum? She's dead. She died so that I, a pony, could be created. Yeah. It isn't conversion at all! We're not the same at all! No! Not a bit, Not a bit. I'm somepony new. Completely new. Sorry there, Hallie Dellile Holloway, you one dead-ass human woman, I'm here now, I'm Sunshine Laughter, pegasus pony and I have replaced you. You dead, you are stone cold dead, just like Millie is dead. Hallie and Millie, dead at the Conversion Bureau. Completely replaced by new creatures. That's all potion does. It kills the human and makes a pony out of the meat. Brand new pony. No connection, it's all an illusion. Just an illusion. No connection.
And that's how it's OK, see? Rose is Rose. Hee! A Rose by any other name would be a dead woman who died because of potion. So it isn't her. She isn't that human, she never was, see? See? It makes sense. She can't be Millicent, not the human Millicent, because that human died, and a brand new, spankin' new, shiny new pony was created. Rose right out of the ashes of the other. Rose. Heh! Funny. So funny. Rose... right out of the ashes. Can't be the same. We can't be the same as we were. We just have fake memories of having been human is all. It's all a lie. We were never 'converted', there is no 'conversion', just kill off the human and replace it with a fresh, new, guiltless, spotless, innocent pony that...
Oh, muffin, muffin, I know that's not true. Rose explained it about Velvet and all the bigot stuff and... oh, sweet Luna, we really are converted humans aren't we? Can't get out of it that way. Face it. I know I'm me. I know my life, I know my childhood, I know my dad, my mom, I remember walking into the Bureau, and wanting to be a pony so bad, and getting hit by that guy who went nuts and.... I'm me. I'm me, pony and all. It's real. That's not a way out.
And that means Rose is... she's a pony but she was.... How? How does any person get to a point in their lives where they say to themselves 'hey, I guess chopping people up while they watch is a good idea?' How does that happen? Yeah, OK, her dad was killed. Her mom went a little knife-happy, I suppose that could change a filly a bit, but it's still a long bucking way from getting a scar on your face to playing scrabble with body parts. I... I... I just. I just don't.
How I am supposed to deal with this? Seriously? Luna? Celestia? Do you answer your little ponies? Huh? DO YOU? no muffin better than human gods, that's for sure. Yeah, nice conversion dreams, thanks for the welcome, but now that I have troubles, where the swirl are you? Huh? Not here, that's for sure. What do I do? How do I face her again? How could anypony face her? How can she look at herself in a mirror? How does she get through the day, knowing that... that...
Celestia must have said something pretty bucking amazing to her in her dream, that's all I can say. I couldn't live with that. If I knew I had done stuff like that, I'd be off a bridge. Wait. I can fly. OK, not a bridge. A... ah... how does a pegasus kill itself anyway? Dive bomb. I could dive bomb a bridge. With my face. That would work. Don't have to fly, just because I can. OK. Yeah. I'd end it all, that's the point. I could NOT live with myself knowing that.
MUFFIN! I've been sleeping next to her every night! Asleep! Luna. Sweet Luna.
It must be hard on her. I couldn't live with that. No wonder she's so nice. How do you make something like that up? How do you forgive that? OK, her community was being attacked. I get that. Defending yourself, I get that. But... taking the ball to the other court? No. No, that's too far. But they'd keep coming, she said. OK, maybe, maybe they would, but what she described...
I don't know how to deal with this. I was going to go to Equestria with her. I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. Maybe we'd adopt a foal or one of us could get knocked up, we were going to have a family, we were part of the Pony Breakfast Club and.... I don't know what to think anymore.
Listen... I... I need some time. I... I'm going to shut this muffin thing off for a while. I don't know if I'll be back. I Just don't know.
Um, hey. I've... I've been ranting and stuff for... a while. I'm in some kind of storage... place. It's morning, I think. Maybe even noon, I'm not sure. There's some light from somewhere. I've kind of been afraid to move. I doubt anypony's missed me, but... I didn't want to be found, you know?
I've done a lot of thinking. I guess I kind of lost it there for a while. I guess I lost it pretty bad. Listen... it's really something to find out stuff like that. Especially about somepony you thought you knew. But then again, I've really only known Rose for nine, maybe ten days now. Something like that. Less than two weeks.
I guess I need to make a decision, really. I mean, that's what this is all about, isn't it. A decision. It's so hard. I... I'm really conflicted here. On one hoof, she's Rose. I adore Rose. I felt something for her the instant I saw her. If love at first sight is real, and Pony does it feel real, then this is it. And it's something special, whatever it is. I'm bright enough to know that. Or at least I think I am.
But... no... actually yes. That is the real question here. Is the pony I fell in love with really... her? Can a person change... that much? And if that much change really is possible, what does that say about what we are, what I am? Am I me, like I think I am?
I've figured out that I'm not in any danger from her. Even if she wanted to, she wouldn't be able to harm anypony. That's one of the things we lose, going pony. I was... heh... I was so worried about the fact I was sleeping with her, like she was some demon in the bed waiting to slit my throat. But... factually, I'm safer with her than with any human I've ever shared a bed with. She's been neutered as far as murder goes. We all have. So what is my real deal, here?
I guess... I guess it's the idea that she may have done things, seen things, been willing to do things, in the past, that... that are just... well, horrible. Beyond horrible. The worst that humans are capable of. The kind of things you read about in Blackmesh reports and see on the Info as the latest horror from the favela and aren't all you red and blue level workers glad you have jobs and live in the secure facilities... and yes, yes, I am glad of that. She could have ended up one of those reports. Muffin... something she was involved with could have been on some report I saw on the holo.
Every day with her has been joy, though. That's a fact. I've never been happier in my life. That's a fact, too. What else is a fact here? She can never hurt me, at least physically, that's a fact. I do love her. Fact. No question about that, that's why this hurts so much. Um... she's a pony. She didn't melt on the table or whatever. So... Celestia and Luna accepted her. She said she begged them to... what was it? Wash her clean. She begged to be wiped clean. Can they do that? Why didn't they erase her memory? That would have been kinder, I think.
Unless the Conversion Dreams aren't real. That's always possible. Sure, they all have a lot of things in common, but... that can be reasoned away. Anypony in a Bureau would know Celestia and Luna, and have strong common notions about Equestria... it could easily be that the dreams are just that, dreams. Maybe they share common themes because that's just how the nanomachines affect the brain or something. Maybe the serum was built to do that on purpose. There's no way to know.
But, if Celestia and Luna really are goddesses, then... they accepted her. And even if they aren't, then... the fact is she is a pony now, and she's harmless and...
No, no. No. All of this is ponyfeathers. Heh. Ponyfeathers. That's kind of a slight against pegasai, isn't it? I never realized that. Huh. In any case, none of this matters, I'm still just avoiding the real question. Do I want to stay with her? Oh, Pony, that's hard to ask. Can I still stay with her, knowing her past?
Oh, Celestia, what must it be like for her? I think it's hard for me... maybe as a human she was alright with all that... butchery... but as a pony, there is just no way she could be alright. So... she's suffering, isn't she? She has to be hurting all the time, every time she remembers any bit of that. As a pony... it would be intolerable. Miserable. You'd think if Celestia were really a goddess, and the Dream was real, she would have erased the memory of all of that. It's just mean, it's just cruel to leave it there.
Unless. Oh, swirls, that's a thought. What if... what if Rose asked to not forget... as some form of penance or something? Oh, wow. That's just too horrible to think about. Deliberately choosing that, if there was another option. I don't think I could do that. It would be like 'erase me now!!!'. Only I wouldn't have done stuff like that in the first place.
Stop it. Come on, Sunshine. Get a grip. You have two choices, two paths here. You can break it off, or you can stay. So, what if I break up? I told her she could tell me anything, and it would be OK, didn't I? And she trusted that. Makes me out the liar, wouldn't it? I said I would love her no matter what. Well that part is true. I still love her. It burns like fire. Right now. It burns just to be apart. She's got to feel pretty bad right now, with me running off like that. I'm hurting her every second I am not there, aren't I? I didn't think about that. I just ran. What a muffin coward I am. What a piece of dung.
If I broke up... what would it mean? It would hurt. I can't imagine not being with Rose. It would suck. It would suck, Pony but I miss her. I miss her right now. Pony. Muffin. D-damn. Whoo. That felt good. Damn.
So... I don't want to break up, do I? I guess I don't. Hey, this has got to be a treat for all of you out there in... holo-land, huh, listening to me blather on about what a weak, mixed up creep I am. This is not going to get the ratings. Pony, I suck. So why don't I just go find her. I'll need to apologize for running away. That... that was really wrong of me. Luna, I should not have run. That was just completely wrong. I told her she could tell me anything, and then I run. Fffff.... swirl. Just Swirl.
She's got to be hurting. She's probably afraid and ashamed. No, she's probably angry at being betrayed. I kind of betrayed her there. I didn't mean to, Celestia, if you're listening... I really didn't mean to. I just... I just kind of freaked out. It was like my entire little pony world just exploded and... all that stuff, that horrible stuff and...
I should be telling her that. I should be talking to her, not... laying next to boxes in some... storage... thing. I don't even know where I am. OK. I need to apologize big time. Oh PONY! I've been worrying about whether or not I could deal with... what if she won't have me back? I ran out! I ran out on her like a damn coward! I wouldn't blame her if she doesn't want to talk to me. I am so ashamed. Oh, Celestia... I am so ashamed. I should have dealt with this better. It must have been awful for her... telling me that stuff.
OK. That's it. I go and beg her forgiveness, and if she still wants anything to do with me, then... I guess I'll just have to deal. She's Rose. That's enough. What's done is done and... She's Rose. Rose Vale. That's all that matters. And she trusted me... and I ran. I hope she can forgive me. Please. I hope she'll listen to me.
"I have been."
Wha.... hello? Is somepony there? Hello?
"I've been here all night. And all morning. It's nearly noon I expect. I've just listened, and waited, while you worked things out."
Rose? What the? You're here? You're... oh, sweet... you've been here the whole time?
"Yes. Right behind that crate. I was here the whole time."
How... why.... thats.... I had no idea! How could you just be there?
"You were pretty upset, Sunshine. And... the... way I was before... I wouldn't have survived that life if I wasn't good at being very, very quiet. Some skills we retain, apparently."
This is a little creepy, Rose.
"I was a little hurt when you ran off, Sunshine. And then... you were too upset for me to dare to say anything. You were just freaking out. So... I just lay down and decided to be quiet. And wait. I wanted to say something several times, but then you kind of freaked out all over again, so I just stayed quiet. Then it just kind of became how it was, you know?"
Um... yeah. I guess... I did kind of... get a little out there for awhile. Sorry. I get... emotional sometimes.
"Yes, you kind of do. And I love you for it. I really love you so much, Sunshine. I'm so sorry that... I had to be... such a problem."
Rose... Rose... no... please... it's me. I ran off and I shouldn't have and...
"I understood why you ran off. I was half expecting it, to tell the truth. My past is pretty bad. I'm not upset. I'm not mad."
Um... is it alright... if I... come give you a hug?
"Oh, sweet muffin yes, please, please give me a hug. Please."
Oh... Oh Rose. Rose. Oh... I'm sorry to make you cry, I am so sorry, I'm so sorry...
"S-Sunshine... it's alright.... it's... they're happy tears. I didn't think you'd ever want to touch me again after... finding out..."
I... I can't say that... all that stuff is easy for me, but... I know I love you. I guess that's all I know. I just love you. And... whatever you were or weren't before, as a human... you're Rose now. You're a pony, and I'm a pony, and... it's a new life.
"Millicent is dead, Sunshine. That life is dead for me. You got that part right, that's how I feel about it. To me, I died during Conversion. I... I just want to be Rose, just Rose. But... I also... I didn't want to be dishonest and try to hide my past either. I was so scared when I told you. I was so scared."
Rose? What did you see in your Conversion Dream, anyway? I... kind of really want to know. I need to know. I'm not sure why.
"I was in a house, Sunshine. A little cottage. Like the kind you see in the holos of what Equestria looks like. It was just this small cottage. And I was resting my head on a warm, white belly. It was Celestia, Sunshine. I was on the floor, with my head on Celestia's belly, and she was kind of curled around me, like I was a filly and she was my mother.
That went on for a long time. I started to cry, because... I missed my own mother, the way she was before.... so much. You can't imagine how much. It was like being back before all the bad stuff, back when I was a happy girl, my mother's girl, in Noe, and I only knew nice things and I only did nice things and...
...and Celestia licked me, Sunshine. She licked my forehead, I was already a pony, and she licked me like I was her little foal. And I felt so happy. But then I was so incredibly sad, because I realized I didn't deserve it, any of it. So I leapt up and away, horrified that such a beautiful being would let some... thing... like me touch her. That she would touch me.
Luna was there too, somehow, watching. And when I saw her, I just broke. I felt so bad, I just fell to the floor, on my belly, and I... I begged her to just destroy me. Just let me die during conversion, because I couldn't be a pony, I didn't deserve any of it. I begged her to end me. Not to forgive me like I said. To end me.
And... then she was there, with me, and there was no place left to get up and run to, and she held me tight, and she told me that it would be alright. She told me I had suffered too much as a human, and that I deserved to be a pony because of what the world had done to me. She told me to always remember that. She told me that she felt sad for me, and that I would have a better life now.
But I couldn't accept that, and I tried to tell her the things I had done and... she knew already. She knew, and she... she forgave me, Sunshine. She just forgave me. I was a pony now. The human life was done. All there ever is is now, and tomorrow, and that was all that mattered. I was her pony, and would I accept her friendship? I couldn't say no, who could say no to her?
But she said that this friendship had one requirement. I had a duty I had to perform."
What... what was it?
"She said I had to forgive myself and just be a pony from now on. I had to let go of being human, and just be a pony. And I promised her that I would. I promised. I promised. She said that when I woke up, it would be to a new life. Every time we wake up, it's a new life, and what matters is what we do with that life, not what we did with the last one. And then I woke up, and I was a pony, and I cried and cried. The poor doctor was so worried about me! I just couldn't stop crying. And that was the day before you met me."
Wow, Rose. Just wow.
"Can... can we still be together, like... like we planned?"
Oh, Rose! Rose... I... yeah, I think we can. If you're willing. If you want to.
"I want to! I wouldn't be asking if I didn't want to! I was more worried that... you would want to."
I do. I know that now. I guess I kind of knew it before you let me know you were here all along. Yes. I want to be with you, that has not changed. I am really, really sorry I freaked out on you. Can you forgive me for running? I won't do it again. I won't.
"Silly... of course I forgive you. Besides, you didn't really run away... we were together the whole night!"
Only because you're some kind of pony ninja or something. Wow, are you quiet. Seriously. I would never have known you were there, Rose.
"Yeah. I... well, I guess I'm just good at that. Listen... I am really, really starving. Are you hungry?"
Oh, sweet frisky fetlocks am I hungry! I am freaking ravenous. I'm ready to eat these boxes and crates!
"Then... what if we went and tried to get some food at the cafeteria, Sunshine?"
I would LOVE to get some food. But first there is something I really need to do. If... if you're willing.
"W-what... what do you need to do?"
The kiss was long and soft, and sweet, and very, very tender. As Venice watched, the two ponies slowly closed their eyes and lost themselves in the gentleness of their moment. She barely noticed the little pop-up in her right visual field designating the action as 99.999+ authentic, because she couldn't see much of anything anymore, what with the gush of tears streaming down her cheeks. She never cried. Never. Not since she was very small. Not like this. Not ever. And she was crying and crying and she couldn't stop crying.
Venice didn't see much of Sunshine and Rose's lunch together, as she sat holding herself tight with her arms wrapped around her torso. She hugged herself as hard as her muscles allowed and still it was not enough.The tears just wouldn't stop. She became aware of some high pitched keening, and realized with a start that it was her own voice, wailing at the screen, at the walls, at her life, at her self.
When the show ended, she wasn't sure what had happened after lunch to the pony couple. She found herself rolling around on her bed in her cabin, dimly aware of the clouds passing outside the large, oval window. She kept rolling back and forth, holding herself tight, and it wasn't enough. The feelings in her burned and seared and yet she couldn't get enough of them, she hungered for more even while it hurt so terribly. It took some time before she finally put a name to what she was feeling, besides regret, sadness, joy, and sorrow... yearning. She was yearning so powerfully she could not stand it.
It was a hunger, a craving, raw and vast and terrible, and she wasn't sure what it was for hours and hours. She didn't want her dinner, much to the concern of the airship staff. Over and over, Venice returned to that scene, the last few minutes before the kiss, and watched it again and again from just before the point where Rose had revealed herself.
Over and over she studied every moment, until she could recite Rose's Conversion Dream from memory, and yet the tears kept erupting. Just when she thought that the tears had finally stopped, some little nuance in the holo broke open the taps and her cheeks flooded once again.
Late in the night, almost morning, she lay in the darkness, as the first glimmer of sunlight began to touch the high clouds through which the Lifting Body traveled. The holoscreen had been off for some time, and Venice had ceased hugging herself, she lay limp and exhausted. She had shut down her inputs, all of them, even the new Nightwanders, and for the first time in years sat only within herself. The pop-ups and the data felt intrusive and... unwanted.
As Venice lay there, her thoughts turned to her recent experiences. Her first interest in 'Going Pony', the strange ways she had begun to act because of it. The lower floor servant, Phillipe - she still remembered his name - how he had been concerned for her, and how she... had been concerned for him. The little girl Petra. She would never know any real kindness or love or friendship like Rose and Sunshine. This made Venice feel incredibly sad. She found herself crying again, for Petra, for the little girl in Antarctica, because she would never know even the simplest taste of genuine friendship... until she realized that she wasn't really crying for Petra at all.
She was crying for herself. And in that moment, Venice knew, finally, perhaps for the first time in her entire life, what she truly wanted.
Venice, more than anything in the world, did not want to be Venice.