Fifteen: Notta Lotta Desiderata
Alexi tilted his primaries forward, just enough to catch the wind and slow his decent. It was something new he had learned quite by accident; he was quite surprised that he could rotate the feathers at the tips of his wings. His new body seemed to have a lot of little quirks and sometimes he felt like he was at the controls of some kind of sub-orbital transport like the ones that the corporate elite used back on Earth. He sometimes felt in his new body as if he were surrounded by thousands of confusing readouts, unsure of what action to take, or what any of the switches did.
He had found he could rotate his feathers one night when Caprice was trying to... when she was being a little overly... frisky with him, and he felt a strange no-pain in the tips of his wings. Alexi had become so fascinated with the fact he could rotate his primaries that he quite ignored Caprice, and she had stormed off into the dark in a huff.
It was starting to become a problem. It wasn't just that Caprice was in heat; almost all of the mares were. No, it was more than that.
Alexi was lost in thought, as he drew ever closer to the hill he called home. Below, the spiral roof of the new town hall reflected the light of the setting sun. It had been a long day of making weather; Droplet had an ongoing project of trying to keep the green land around Summerland Village as large as possible. She and Cirrus both agreed that once the land beyond the village truly turned to desert, it would be very hard to reclaim. The greenery they had now should be maintained, even expanded if it was possible. It was just a lot of work, and with the generation of breezes and wind, the haze layer was receding. It was not as easy to find the raw material to make clouds as it had been.
Alexi recalled the first time he had met Caprice, just after her Conversion. He had flirted with her right from the start, but then things just seemed to accelerate, sweeping him up and away. Everything happened so quickly; within three days he had found himself the head of a family, with a foal and a sister-in-law. Somehow he had ended up being effectively married without even knowing it. It was as if he had been caught up in a strange dream.
Next he had suddenly ended up in Equestria, with all kinds of responsibilities, and somehow the dream had ended. It felt like waking up, as though he had been asleep somehow. How the hell had he gotten into this? What was he doing? One moment he had been announcing newfoals and helping Miriam in the kitchen and getting supplies for Dr. Pastern, and the next he was... getting on a boat to Equestria with Caprice.
Alexi altered his glide and began flapping his wings. He turned away from his decent to the hill, and started climbing. He didn't want to go down there. Caprice would just keep throwing herself at him, trying to get him to consummate a marriage he didn't even remember agreeing to. Not consciously, anyway. As he flew, he began to slowly feel angry. One minute, he was a free man. The next minute, surprise Alexi, now you are a dad, look at little Buttermilk, she is now your daughter. Another minute and he was having ponification serum drooled down his throat. It had been to save his life, but still...
Finally, here he was with even MORE responsibility. He had not wanted any of this; he had not wanted to lead a community. He had always preferred to be in the background, helping others to get things done. Now he was some kind of leader figure. It had all happened so quickly. It hadn't been his choice, had it? It had all been Caprice.
Perhaps he would spend the night at Sky Base. Just for some peace, if nothing else. But he also needed to think. How in Equestria had all of this even happened to him?
"Venice!" Roman Bertarelli was not a man who waited. When something was to be done, it would be done, and that was that. Roman mentally sent a Daimon to determine his daughter's status. A window appeared to the left of his vision; the symbol projected onto his retina indicated that a lockout barrier had been encountered. This was the third and last time. He had warned Venice about this very thing just the other day.
Roman cancelled the Daimon and generated another; he'd send the blackmesh storming into her room if he had to. This was all for her anyway; the least she could do is to be on time.
Venice Elspeth Bertarelli descended the wide, marble staircase, one hand on the gold plated rail. Behind her the holowindows displayed scenes and sounds of blue oceans from long, long ago, the aromarators had already given the grand foyer the scent of the ancient ocean of that time.
"Venice. You know that I do not have time to waste on your foolish..." Roman's lips were covered now by her jasmine flavored ones, his mouth full of her tongue. His anger receded as his arousal increased. As usual. Predictable as clockwork.
"Now, daddy," Venice pulled away from his lips and cuddled close to his shoulder "You know it is important to give the right impression, even for a trip to the butchers." There was little he could say; there was little he could ever say.
"If you insist on calling them 'butchers', perhaps we should cancel this." Roman didn't exactly approve of his daughter's fascination with extreme augmentation, but he had been assured that all of it could be removed at a later time, even the permatech. He was willing to indulge Venice, but not if her passions should compromise her future, or the family's position, within the world corporation.
Venice twirled away from her father, her backless strap and short gossamer skirt rippling with holographic colors that automatically transformed the mathematics of her moving curves into figure-enhancing patterns of light. It was a mesmerizing outfit that made it seem like she was standing naked in a rainbow, and as always, he found himself struggling to disapprove.
"Come on, Daddy, you really shouldn't be so tardy!" Venice danced out the door, held open by Bohn and Drohl, the lower floor doormen. The lifterlimo was waiting in the north courtyard, blackmesh at the base, ever watchful. She really should be more careful exiting the mansion, Roman thought - the blackmesh were useful, but they were not perfect.
Venice wiggled her bottom at her father and giggled. It was a calculated, precision behavior, practiced and adjusted for angle of view and current ambient lighting. Her retinotopic occipital implant relayed an image of herself as seen from the north entrance scanner directly to her brain, she angled her body slightly so that the curve of her breasts was just visible under the backless strap. She noted that her father's heat signature demonstrated increased flushing of the face and genital region - good, that would make him more pliable.
Roman began following his daughter to the airship. Like a puppy, Venice thought. He had been fairly easy to train, considering his position. But then men were simple creatures, far easier to program than her holovision recorder.
In the air, Venice reflexively began messaging her friended contacts on the hypernet. Every once in a while, a reminder conveniently popped up within her visual field informing her it was time to smile happily at daddy, or give him a pat or a snuggle. If daddy began talking, a brief summary would appear like subtitles below her view; the chime sent to her auditory complex let her respond as if she had been listening. It was a simple system to operate; hear the chime, scan the summary, offer the appropriate response. She had no idea what he was going on about; probably his work.
Venice finished publishing her current thoughts about her upcoming augment, a full-spectrum TX-03 permatech 'Nightwander' system, to be implanted right into her skull, just over her frontal lobes. This wasn't at all what daddy thought she was getting, of course; he'd have a complete fit when she showed up after the procedure with a secondary visual system poking out of her forehead! She couldn't wait; if what she had read was correct, she'd be able to actually see any hidden aneurysms blow inside of his brain if she got lucky. Venice liked making Roman angry; it was both punishment for the old letch and a delightful challenge to win him back afterwards; such games broke up the monotony.
Seducing him when she was thirteen had opened up worlds of opportunity for her; now she could have anything in the world that she wanted, whenever she wanted, however she wanted it. That said, she despised her father because he was so easily manipulated and therefore weak, but mostly because he was a monstrous, incestuous creep; after all, he could have said no.
Then again, she smiled to herself, who could ever say no to these - she teasingly wiggled in her seat, her bosoms dancing like happy kittens under their strap.
As they landed at the Stockholm Regional Augmentation Center, a chime inside her brain alerted Venice that daddy had said something again. She sighed internally, which automatically fired off a memo to 234 of her closest followers; they loved to see how often her father exasperated her within a given day - there was a prediction pool with prizes and everything. The conversation summary suggested 'fatherly concern' as the topic. How sweet. She spoke the appropriate responses and mechanically gave the required amount of tongue in her goodby kiss. Her father was a vending machine, she just had to use the right credit stick.
He'd actually been pretty easy to handle this trip. Almost... fatherly. Venice felt a tiny twinge of guilt because of that and returned to the lifterlimo where her father sat. On a whim, she temporarily disengaged from her hypernet connection and shifted to realworld for just a moment. "I... I just wanted to say thank you for dropping me off. I hope you do well at... your thing... at that place." Her smile was genuine, an odd feeling for her face.
Roman seemed taken aback. Genuineness was not something he was used to, especially from a family member. "Uh... indeed." He had no response to this. There was no response to such a thing.
The awkwardness was uncomfortable. What ever had she been thinking? Venice instantly reestablished her interfaces and connections, and returned to full function mode. "Ta, daddy!" The gave her butt the expected waggle at him as she left; her internal gyro indicated that she had performed the act within expected erotic parameters.
The microscopic sensor dust that she had secretly peppered in his underwear relayed to her implants that his blood chemistry had enjoyed an increase in norepinephrine; this outcome had triggered a 'reward!' icon in her visual field. The awkward moment had been successfully rendered invalid. Excellent.
As Venice entered the Augmentation Center, she suddenly had the strangest empty feeling inside. It was the god-damnedest thing! She was having fun, wasn't she? That was all there was, so... why...? Never mind. It was probably daddy's fault somehow. It always was.
Caprice awoke, disturbed and shaken. For a moment she wanted to cry. It took her a moment to remember where she was, to realize that she had only been dreaming. Pumpkin was softly breathing, asleep on her right, pressed close for warmth and comfort. She checked on little Buttermilk; the yellow foal was fine, curled close to her udder as usual, head resting on her thigh. Caprice saw what had awakened her; Buttermilk's horn had been growing, and the sharp point had jabbed her in her other thigh. Ow.
It was dark, and the moon was high in the star-filled sky. Alexi was still not back. He had still not flown down from the growing mass of the cloudstuff castle in the sky. She had waited for him all day. He hadn't shown up for the dinner graze. He hadn't joined her on the hill at night. And she had sooo needed him tonight. The feelings caused by the increased sunlight were driving her mad. It was hopeless to tend to her urges herself; her new equinoid anatomy made it virtually impossible to reach her own sexual organs, they were too far back and too high up for her hooves to reach. Her legs just couldn't stretch or bend far enough. Caprice had even tried rubbing her rear up against the side of a crate when she thought nopony was looking; that hadn't worked either. This lack of personal access was one fact that had never been mentioned at the bureaus; right now she felt it really should have been discussed.
The dream. Caprice hated dreaming of her life before. She didn't like who and what she was back then. When Equestria arose, when she had heard the words of Celestia, when she had met the ambassadors (thanks, Daddy!), something in her had changed. She had lost all of her excuses. She had lost all of her rationalizations.
In her human life, as Venice, she never had difficulties, or problems, and the only drama in her life was what she created for herself. She had no one to blame but herself for anything that had happened to her; nothing had ever really been denied her, and she had never known anything but getting exactly what she wanted.
After meeting the Equestrians, the comparison had shocked her with an understanding of what she herself was; a spoiled, manipulative, ultimately nasty person. The Equestrians were just... so nice. They were so terribly, sincerely, truly, impossibly nice. Venice had never known 'nice' before. Well, maybe once. Long ago. In her dim, faded memories of mother.
She became obsessed with the aliens, and as she saw more of their world, and learned more of their lives, she became more and more unhappy with herself. She had studied everything she could find about Equestria. She used her position to gain access to the most secret details of their language, their culture, their world - at least as far as the world government understood such things at any rate.
As she learned about the Equestrians, she began to see, for the first time, the world she lived in. For the first time she actually noticed the endless favela, the sea of impoverished humanity, the dying world outside of her father's mansion. The more she saw, the more unhappy with herself she became. She left her home one night, using the power of her augmentations. She began to wander through the ruins of San Francisco. She was never in any real danger: she had senses and enhancements vastly beyond any human that might try to harm her, and could avoid trouble with ease.
What she saw in the ruins destroyed her; amidst such terrible poverty, despite the occasional act of violence and horror, were acts of kindness, and of sacrifice that truly meant something. She had looked back at her own life, and the feeling of hollowness came back in force. She didn't want to be 'Venice' anymore. She didn't want to be anything of what she had been anymore. The worst of it though, was that she had chosen to be the person she had been. Any fault belonged solely to her.
Finally, she had come to the Conversion Bureau. There was no point in going home; she had ruined what few relationships she had once had. If she went back to that life, she knew she would slip back into her old persona like a hand fitting a glove. But... as a pony, as an Equestrian, maybe, just maybe, she could become someone worth... existing.
She had felt desperate; if she could just assemble all the pieces, all the parts, she could be a good person. She could fill the right role, she knew how little of her was real; with the right situation around her, she would have no choice but to be a decent person. It would come naturally. She just had to bring the components together. It was like augmentation, really.
She thought she had succeeded. She'd done everything right, hadn't she? She had a sister now, Pumpkin, who depended on her. Nobody had ever depended on her before; if they had, it certainly would have been the biggest mistake of their lives. She had a daughter now, Buttermilk, to whom she was the entire world, not to mention breakfast, midmorning meal, morning meal, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, supper and midnight nummies.
And she had Alexi. Caprice the pony had a family, she had a complete family of her very own, and she was important to them. Caprice wanted to be responsible, to take care of them, to support them. She wanted so much to be genuine with them. It was just so hard; she really didn't know what genuine precisely meant, but she had managed to find a way. She ran on instinct. She was a pony now, so she did her best to step out of the way and let her body guide her. In a way, her natural flesh was her new augmentation system; it had no chimes or bells or icons, but it nevertheless filled her with information. Surely that was being genuine - just be the body, right?
So where was Alexi? Had she done something wrong? Did something else happen; was he OK? She was worrying, and it felt painful. Worrying was a new sort of feeling for her, at least this kind of worry, and she didn't know what she was supposed to do about it. Alexi wasn't here, he should be here, and yet he wasn't. Now she felt angry. Didn't she always do her best to help him, to support him? He should be here. Where the hell was he? Dammit! Where the hell was Alexi?
Buttermilk had awakened. She had awoken her; apparently she had been shaking her head somewhat violently and pounding her left hoof to match her angry thoughts. Sorry, little girl, she thought. Caprice licked Buttermilk behind the ears, but the little unicorn didn't settle down. It was like the foal could tell that she was upset.
Buttermilk began to cry. It was a plaintive sound, surprisingly human. Caprice tried licking Buttermilk more, and nuzzling her harder, but it didn't help. The crying would surely wake up Pumpkin, and then there would be questions and talking and Caprice didn't want that. Shut up, Buttermilk! Dammit, the crying was getting worse. Here, suck on a nipple: Caprice tried to push Buttermilk's head down towards her udder. Buttermilk wasn't hungry. Dammit, where was Alexi? Why didn't he come home?
Caprice lay her head down on her front legs, and tried to ignore Buttermilk's crying for a while. She could feel Pumpkin shifting, half awake. It had all been so perfect. It had just been so perfect. Why wasn't it perfect tonight? Why wasn't Alexi home just like always, and more importantly, why wouldn't he... fuck her?
The words burned like two coals from hell in her mind. She hadn't used words like that, even in her own head, since the day she was Converted. Well, except about Windfeather. What was going on with her? Maybe it was just part of being in heat? That must be it. It was a new experience, and she was just outside of her normal, operating parameters - like that one time the implants in her hands had sent spurious data to her occipital lobe. She'd been pretty weird, for nearly an entire month, until the fault was traced.
"Ca..Caprice?" Pumpkin raised her head, heavy with sleep. "What's going on... Buttermilk... she's crying really loud."
Buttermilk was wailing now, and Caprice didn't know what to do about it. "I don't know, Pumpkin. I can't get her to stop crying. I don't know what's going on."
Pumpkin looked around. "Where's Alexi? Isn't it late?"
"Alexi... he didn't come home tonight." Caprice said the words flatly; she felt besieged by her own emotions, she wasn't sure what she felt anymore.
Pumpkin struggled up, then carefully walked around to the other side of Caprice, then folded her legs to lay down again, close to Buttermilk. "Shhh.... Shhh.... it's alright, it's alright! Auntie Pumpkin is here, right here, shhhh...." Buttermilk turned to Pumpkin and buried her head into Pumpkin's chest. Pumpkin groomed and comforted the little unicorn.
"No. It isn't alright. And I don't know why." Caprice sank her head between her legs, her chin resting on the grass, her cannons pressed tight against the side of her skull, her ears flat and pulled back. "Something is wrong, and I don't know what, and I don't know what to do." Tears dropped from her eyes, yet she felt strangely numb.
For a long time, this is how it was; Caprice laying flat, half-crying, and Pumpkin comforting a crying Buttermilk.
Eventually, Caprice was out of tears, and Buttermilk was finally quiet.
"Caprice?" There was a long silence.
"You kind of... push." Pumpkin's voice was very soft, very quiet. "I know you don't mean anything bad by it, I know you only want the best for all of us but..." Pumpkin paused, her voice just a little quavery "You kind of... push."
The faint breeze rippled the grass on the hill, the moonlight shining on the blades.