T H E       C O N V E R S I O N       B U R E A U



By Chatoyance


Chapter Eight: Kinks And Twists

Three days later, they were on the way to the market.

The little silvern bells clipped into Pet's tail and the one on her collar jingled musically. Her antique white and pink circus browband was plumed with a great pink feather. Lacy, pink and white inverted scallop barding graced her body, and her rump breeching followed the scalloped design. Pet wore a bridle and bit, also in pink and white, and her back was graced with a faux silk saddle with ruffled edges. She was quite the little circus pony, and trotted with her hooves high and a bounce in her walk borne of pride and not a little naughty excitement. The scent from her almost made Inkwell's head spin.

Ching-ching-ching-ching - Pet's bells were echoed by Inkwell's own, though she was not a circus pony. Somehow Paige and Petrichor had gotten her to agree to the medieval styled crushed Panne velvet Caparisons. The triangular dags alternated in red and black, with a tiny brass bell at the end of every one. Ribbon ties and cinch rings adorned her, and her head was crowned with a floral browband wreath, with four matching pastern wreaths close to her hooves. The faux black and red velvet saddle on her back did not complete her costume, rather the dagged reign covers and bit in her mouth accomplished that.

"We have to go to the market, we need groceries!" The logic was sound enough at this point.

"But what about the HLF? They're after me, and maybe Petrichor was imaged! They might be after her too!" Inkwell had thought this was a valid issue. The last thing she wanted was for trouble to come to this wonderful couple that had taken her in, but her words had brought only laughter.

"I only fly at night - best time, because there is almost no traffic in the air, and if there is some nut with a gun, he's less likely to hit, right?" Petrichor seemed awfully jovial, considering the severity of what could happen. "But during the day, well, let's just say nopony would recognize me, image or not!" For some reason both Paige and Petrichor had laughed at this.

Then they opened the large, walk-in closet.

'Disguises', they argued. That is how all of it would work. Better to just maintain the normal pattern of their lives, it would attract less attention. The HLF would be looking for sudden changes in pattern, and if they were local as Inkwell had suggested, then the last thing to do would be to change their routine.

And it had seemed only reasonable that Inkwell should be dressed up too, because Paige and Pet tended to mostly hang out with other kinky friends. Worse, without a disguise, Inkwell might be recognized herself! Instantly a flurry of activity had begun, with giggles and laughs and the scents of excitement from both of her hosts. It had all made sense, in the moment.

The trio and the cart clopped and stepped and creaked and rolled along the dirt road that had once been the middle of a carbotop city street bordered by plascrete walks. Now, the tall apartment buildings and rebuilt ruins towered over farmland. The ponies and humans had worked together to break up the hard road to reveal the poisoned soil underneath. As had been done in countless cities over the past three years, teams of earthponies and unicorns had worked to purify the dirt, and return it to viability. Now imported alien crops grew where once parking lots and roadways had been, and gardens hung from nearly every balcony.

Paige was dressed outlandishly herself, in kelp leather fetish gear, her thigh-high boots attacking the ground. Her slender riding crop was held jauntily over a shoulder by a gloved hand, her dark glasses gleaming under a black leathern flat cap.

Pet walked close beside Inkwell, as if she were helping to pull the cart. The cart had no means for double harnessing, so this was the next best thing. From a distance, they seemed a team. There was zero doubt that Pet was in her element, and so was Paige, both were grinning widely, and Inkwell's nose spoke of secret excitement exuding from her eccentric hosts.

It wasn't until they were three blocks away that Inkwell finally realized that the HLF could not possibly recognize her no matter what - she was a pony now, and they were looking only for 'Gwen the human'. But it was far too late now, they were nearly at the market, and in any case, Inkwell had gotten the job of pulling the lovely little miniature haycart that served as their shopping basket. She was harnessed in and... oh, sweet Celestia, what had she gotten herself into?

SCHWAPP! Inkwell startled and whinnied at the provocative spank from the light little crop that had just impacted her flank. She found herself almost prancing after that, which made Paige giggle and Pet give the most outrageous leer.

"I suppose you two are finding this more than a little funny, aren't you? Oh, you are a pair of devils and make no mistake about that!" Inkwell tried to sound very cross, but the squeak in her voice betrayed her. Oh, it was all terribly embarrassing, but in her entire life she had never felt so incredibly... well, never should anypony mind, and it would be best to just get through this and forget about it entirely! After a few dozen showers, and a prayer to Celestia, if that was the thing to do.

SCHWAPP! That one was for Pet - there was no calling her 'Petrichor' today, it was clear she was 'Pet' through and through - and the leer on her muzzle turned first to a startled, wide-eyed shock, followed by a look so filled with ardor and arousal that it was positively lewd. They did this every week? Sweet Luna, neither of the scamps had been kidding one bit about their kinky way of....

"A new pony in the show, mistress Paige?" The voice was male, human, and jovial "Or a pet... for Pet?" He gave a laugh, whoever he was. Inkwell stared intently at a pair of dark shoes and gray socks, and the bottoms of hand-sewn favela breeches. "Shy one, isn't she?"

"Come on, Ink! Smile for the grocer!" Pet whispered, standing close. Another SCHWAPP! from the crop rebuked her for her words. Pet stiffened, then relaxed with a faint sigh.

"Behave, Pet!" Paige would brook no insolence from the little pegasus during playtime. "This is Inkwell, mister Ferguson, she's an old friend of Pet's and mine, come to stay a while with us. She's a bit untrained, but we're working on that." Inkwell felt a comforting pat on her flank. "Say hello to mister Ferguson, dear, he's the nice man who we buy all our tasty hay and goodies from!"

Without a thought, Inkwell found herself looking up at the tall, graying human. Sweet Luna but he was tall! It was like gazing up at a giant! A moment later, Inkwell recalled that it likely wasn't that mister Ferguson the grocer was a giant as much as it was that ponies were much lower to the ground, and that Paige wasn't all that tall for a human. Ferguson smiled around a thick, gray-tinged mustache, waiting.

"Hello... mister Ferguson." Inkwell found herself staring at the human's shoes again, feeling a flooding mixture of emotions she was having trouble figuring out. There was a certain amount of embarrassment because of the way in which she was dressed... harnessed? Done up? She didn't have the right word for whatever it was that she was wearing. It was less clothing than decoration. She felt like she was on parade, somehow.

She also felt little-foal-shy in a way she had not felt since her earliest years of life. She no longer felt thirty-one, that was for certain. If anything, she felt like a teenager. That might not be so far from the truth, come to think of it. The average Equestrian could expect to live from one hundred and fifty years to three hundred, depending on how misadventurous they were. If she lived a quiet life, and stayed away from dragons and mysterious forests, thirty one was only one-ninth of her potential life span. For a pony, she literally was the equivalent of a teenager. In human terms, she might be anywhere from age ten to sixteen.

Good Luna, she was pony Jailbait! So to speak.

By the time her thoughts turned again to the world around her, Inkwell felt the cart she was hitched to shaking as large bales were dropped into it. Ferguson the grocer had been busy fetching and depositing the week's groceries into the cart, and they were quite a haul. Inkwell turned her head to see Paige extract some tiny golden coins from a pouch and give them to the favela grocer. Bits. Equestrian bits. Currency had returned to the world with the increasing dominance of ponies in human lands, and in the favela, bits had become the money of choice. Creditsticks were useless when there was only two hours of electricity a day, and barter was slow and tedious. Bits had been welcomed without fuss or question. Every favela dweller, pony or human, had complete faith in the government and wealth of Equestria.

It was, after all, where all the real food came from.

"Thank you, Mr. Ferguson, I think we're done here. Have a nice day!" Paige was busy rearranging one of the crates of fruit in the cart behind Inkwell.

Ferguson the grocer came around to the front, where Pet and Inkwell quietly stood. He crouched down, smiled, and placed his hands to their muzzles, and opened his fingers.

Inkwell couldn't help herself. Senses twenty-thousand times more demanding took control, and before she could even think her lips had already taken the sugar cube from the human's hand. In an instant her eyes had rolled back in her head, her ears had begun to quiver and lean forward, and her legs had begun to tremble. She could only barely feel her tail, of its own accord, flogging against her hocks and cannons. Her mind was explosions of purest sweetness, a transcendental rush through the middle of candyland at something approaching warp speed. By the time the last of her sucrose seizure had left her, quivering in some pony delight that verged on an almost sexual ecstasy, her ears picked up the last of Mr. Ferguson's happy chuckle, as he walked back under his tent in the marketplace.

"You OK, Inkwell?" Paige seemed half concerned, and half ready to burst out laughing.

"Oh, you've never had a sugarcube before, have you?" Pet's eyes were wide, but filled with mirth. "It's different as a pony. Waaaayyyy different. Wait till you try actual candy!"

Inkwell could feel her muzzle and face turning what felt like the brightest of reds. She almost felt like she had been caught enjoying something naughty, what with the sheer impact of the experience, and how tingly it had left her feeling.

Paige gave her a pat on the rump. "It's all new experiences right now, Ink. They're bound to be a bit overwhelming, you know? Just enjoy, OK? This is a special time, when everything is new. Enjoy it as much as you can." Unspoken in her words, was an implicit 'for me?' that dimmed some of the sugar-ecstasy. Inkwell felt a splash of guilt that she had gotten to be a pony, while poor Paige was still waiting. They were stuck on Earth until Paige could be converted. But they were clearly making the most of things, as best as they could.

The trot home was not embarrassing, like the journey to the market. This was surprising to Inkwell, and she wasn't entirely sure why it wasn't. Certainly all the well-wishers that came out to chat with Paige and admire her two fancy ponies seemed to fill the day with joy and pleasantries. It seemed everyone in the favela and the apartments knew Paige and Pet, and their... proclivities... and that not a bit of it was the least bit questionable. The humans found it delightful and fascinating, and the ponies seemed to find the whole thing cute and harmless.

Inkwell had not known that the favelas were like this. She had assumed that they would be desperate places filled with thieves and bandits. Not once in her green-jumpsuited life had she dared to leave her Twoper existence and venture into the favela. She had a job, she was green-level, she stayed with the workers, away from the pitiable rabble. If only she had known.

Her life among the Twopers - the two percent of humanity with jobs - was a sterile desert compared to life in the favela. Far from being a dirty hive of poverty, the humans, and now ponies, of the favela took pride in their hand-built houses and restored apartment complexes. They worked together for the benefit of each other, and looked after each other. They cared about each others lives and and looked after one another in good and bad times. They were an intensely social bunch, and it seemed that everypony knew everypony else's business. And there were no arbitrary rules - all that mattered was keeping the peace.

If a woman wanted to parade her bondage-ponies down to the marketplace, well good on her. More than that, among the favela dwellers, any parade was a celebration, and the oddball and the kook held special places in their collective hearts. The favela loved and adored their Emperor Nortons, and it seemed that Paige and Petrichor were more than a little famous as local color.

Part of Inkwell still cried out inside her that this was all ten paces too far beyond weird for the likes of her. But there was no denying that in all of her life, she had not once had such a happy, fun day. Every twenty or thirty paces some soul, human or pony, would come out and greet them, ask about their day and admire the fine show of ponies in fancy tack and Paige all in her leathers and crop. The entire world had gone some flavor of mad, and the most troubling thing about it all was that the flavor was sugar, and Inkwell couldn't find enough reasons to not like it.

When they had finally made it back to their apartment, it was late afternoon. Shopping was clearly an all-day affair, what with the greeting and socializing and all. In her human life as a Twoper, Inkwell had sullenly trolled the Security Mall, using her creditstick in front of bored Red-Level mall staff. Rarely was a word spoken, and what words were said were usually prices spoken in a monotone drone, or instructions from Blackmesh guards to avoid certain areas, or to not linger too long in given spots.

Today had been a revelation for Inkwell. As they all worked together to haul the heavy cart up the winding stairs to the fifth floor - CREAK-THUNK! CREAK-THUNK! - Inkwell decided she had spent her previous life all wrong. If she had known... she wouldn't have been so overly proud of being a Twoper, or of being permitted to wear a green jumpsuit and carry a Green Level creditstick. She would have gone shopping in the favela markets... and maybe even have made a friend or two.

"See? Not a single pony recognized you! We could have trotted right past the head of the HLF himself, and he wouldn't have seen either of us!" Petrichor was stretching, arching her back like a dog, which frustrated Paige's effort to remove the pegasus's fancy costume and tiny bells. "And... tell me truthfully... it was fun wasn't it? Wasn't it?"

When they had begun, Inkwell had felt tricked into some dubious fetish game. But truth be told... it had been the best day of her entire existence. Her mind was in some terrible conflict, that was real - something between what she had been versus what she was now, and what she had thought was proper versus what she had found delightful. Oh, she felt quite the mess inside... but a happy enough mess. She could not keep the grin off her muzzle. "Yes, yes... Pet... it was... fun."

"Oohh! She called you 'Pet' and not all proper 'Petrichor' now!" Paige was laughing, trying to get the bells out of her lover's tail, not an easy task now that Pet had made a challenge of it. "I guess your high-and-mighty status as rescuer has dropped into the shame of being mistresses' silly little pony!"

The bells jingled and Pet squirmed until the both of them fell down laughing, arms and legs and legs wrapped around each other.

"Help?" Inkwell had realized that she had no idea how to undress herself, and she needed to use the toilet. A mad scramble ensued to release her after this was explained, and soon she was au naturel once more and on her way to the loo. She felt oddly sad to be without the bizarre costume she had felt embarrassed by at the beginning of the day. Somehow, she felt plain now, and oddly naked, despite that being her proper state as a pony.

The toilet in the apartment, like almost every apartment now, had been adapted for pony use. Water and plumbing had been restored by the favela dwellers two decades ago, and the common sit-down toilet had been replaced by a variation on the Japanese Squatting Toilet. This style of ceramic toilet, low to the ground, long and easy for ponies or humans to use, had been a cultural artifact of the great Japanese Migration. When Japan had finally been recognized as completely uninhabitable, the Japanese people began wandering the Earth, a population without a Zone. Their impact had affected every Zone within the Worldgovernment, and squat toilets had become nearly the planetary norm.

When the ponies came, the squat toilet had seemed positively prophetic.

Inkwell went through the steps in her mind, the new steps for her new body. Center herself over the trench of the squat toilet, move forward half a body length to account for the way things were expelled. Angle her rear down, and LIFT THAT TAIL! High! Oh! And to the side, too, just to be sure. A messy tail was a grave embarrassment, and Inkwell did not want to repeat that incident, thank you very much. Paige had been very gracious about it, no doubt there had been incidents with Petrichor early on, but still.

The pair really had been wonderful to her. Just like that. It was such a strange thing, to take a pony in like that. She'd been rescued from a roof, given potion to save her life - potion that Paige had been trying for months to acquire for herself - and just... taken in like a member of the family. Inkwell had never heard the like before, but Pet and Paige had explained that this was often how things were in the favela. Families, temporary or permanent, just formed, because folks needed each other. It was nothing odd, down here where the majority lived.

When she was done with her business, Inkwell gave her rump a little shake to make sure there were no Klingons At The Shuttlebay Door, and thanked Celestia for designing (mostly) trouble free plumbing. Wiping generally wasn't an issue, because of how everything worked. The intelligent and purposeful design of a godlike being beat clumsy evolution hooves down, Inkwell decided. Evolution did not care about being tidy, evolution just plain did not care at all.

It was interesting, living inside a designed body as opposed to an evolved one. Inkwell thought about it and decided that the difference was that nothing in her new, pony body, felt like a kludge. Nothing was a carryover or a compromise. Every part of her was there for a reason, the reason was specific to a pony body alone, and everything was built solid, and to last. No weak, poorly constructed human knees on a pony body. Equestrians were engineered, and it showed in the flawless perfection of the design.

It was humbling, and also filled Inkwell with awe. In her human life she had often spoke of Mary and Joseph and all the Saints, but now she fully understood the emptiness of such words. In Equestria were real deities, who had personally designed the species she was now a member of. There was no evolution in Equestria, because there was no random nature in Equestria. Ponies were nature, and everything that happened in the world happened as a result of conscious, aware, caring action.

When faced with something real, the old ghosts of false hopes just lost all meaning or power. Celestia was real. Luna was real. They could be met, they could be talked to, they could be seen, they had a physical expression in the world. Bronze medallions of silent saints could not compare to that simple fact.

It was no wonder that conversion changed not only citizenship, but any pretense of previous religious affiliation. 'You can pray to a god your whole life, but all of that means nothing at all the moment you actually get to meet the real thing.' Inkwell thought, as she lowered her tail, and turned to press the handle with a hoof. As the water swirled and drained down the low trench of the squat toilet, Inkwell stared after, following it down. That was her previous life, and her old beliefs, all gone down, swirled away, and considering how much happier she felt, good thing too.

That shocked her. Inkwell turned and walked to the sink. She reared up, placing her hooves on the edges of the sink and stared into the mirror over it. Her white muzzle and dark, shining eyes, her short spiral horn and tall ears filled the mirror. Already she had gotten used to seeing her new face. Inkwell bared her teeth, white and perfect, flat with no canines. She studied her ears as she flicked and moved them. Finally, she focused on her horn, willing it to glow.

Over the past three days, Inkwell had begun a regular regimen of practice with her horn. Ace had stopped by several times to give her some tips, and she was making progress. The could work up a decent glow on her horn, a pale and silvery light that she found amazing and beautiful. It was like her horn was surrounded by a blob of plasma, swirling and pulsing, only with a cool and pleasant energy. Magic. She, Inkwell Quillfeather, was expressing magic, real magic. She was one of the fairies now, a fairy herself and no less.

How she wished old Eachann could have lived to see the day. She missed her grandfather terribly. He would have loved to see her off to live with the fairies, and he would have gladly come along himself. Inkwell tried to imagine the stallion Eachann would have made, but the fact of the impossibility of it now just made her sad. It had been such a happy day! Enough of that. Her grandfather would have to live on in her heart.

Inkwell let her hornfield dissipate. The silvern effulgence faded as her concentration lapsed, until only a few rivulets of faint light followed the twist of her horn, then they too vanished. The day before she had moved a marble, rolling the tiny glass toy around the tabletop in the kitchen, purely by thought, purely by will. No doubt a proper Equestrian unicorn, or one of the ancient, robed ones that the author of the notebook had mentioned, would find her telekinetic abilities laughable. But for Inkwell, it had been a moment of purest wonder. "They need not hands, they who can miracles create". Inkwell stuck out her tongue at herself in the mirror, and laughed at the sight.

Dinner was a feast, a tradition for Paige and Petrichor on market day, and featured a marvelous eggplant parmigiana with Sicilian spicing and a roasted asparagus and tomato penne salad with goat cheese. Equestria had other hooved species capable of a slight degree of simple speech. They were mentally simpler than the ponies, and all but incapable of caring for themselves. As a result, the ponies cared for them, and in return benefited reciprocally. The cheese had come from one such creature, roughly similar to the terrestrial goat, and the name had stuck on the earth side of the Barrier.

Inkwell had asked about such beings - barely capable of thought or speech, needful of supervision and care by the ponies. If every living thing in Equestria had been created by the twin princesses, how could there be such relatively inferior entities?

"There is a rumor - it's only a rumor, and I have no way to prove it." Paige was very satisfied with her work on the parmagian, and savored every bite. "But the story goes that Celestia and Luna didn't get things right immediately. They had to iteratively work up to the pony form. More than a few people have noted how similar everything is in Equestria to our planet, and suggested the two princesses based their cosmos on our world. But it's clear they didn't get things exact."

"It's almost as if they had to take little peeks, but couldn't get a solid look. That's what I think, anyway." Petrichor couldn't get enough of the salad. Pet loved the 'goat' cheese in it.

"So the theory is," Paige took a second helping of eggplant "that they started small, with bunnies and dogs and such, and worked their way up, increasing intelligence as they went. Equestrian goats, or at least goat analogs, can hardly say a word. But their version of cows can talk your ear off, or so I hear. But only the ponies have magic and civilization. It's one thing to be able to speak, and another to cause marble to flow like water and form a seamless tower or a castle!"

"Wait - that's how they... we... build things?" Inkwell hadn't heard that before.

"No, not all things." Petrichor licked the penne off of her muzzle with a long tongue. "But the fancy castle stuff. I heard it from a native, one of the mail pegasai that carry from Equestria to Earth across the Barrier? The cottages and such, they all work together lifting and toting. But the castle was built with magic. There are these high-level unicorns that can shape stone and glass and stuff with their thoughts alone. And who knows the limit of what the princesses can do, am I right?"

Inkwell had seen pictures of the castle at Canterlot. It exceeded the works of Man by many times. The Taj Mahal could have been a bathroom for Canterlot Castle. She thought about the horn on her head. She had been concerned with losing her hands, because it would prevent her accomplishing fiddly tasks! With enough practice, it appeared, she might be able to create the most delicate of devices or greatest of structures through thought alone, weaving flowing metal, stone and gem however her whim chose. By comparison, fingers seemed like clumsy breadsticks now. She resolved to take her telekinetic practice more seriously.

Later, after dinner, after dishes and cleanup, Inkwell snuggled into the large bed with Paige and Petrichor, and opened the notebook.

She had taken the two into her confidence the second night, and had told them of everything she knew and understood about the small tome. They had a right to know, she felt, because their lives were in danger harboring her. They had saved her life. They had been nothing but good to her from the first moment. And also... it was a secret too large for one small unicorn to keep by herself alone. She had shared with them the Underground Bookmobile project too, and how she had come into possession of the notebook, and the likely reasons that she was being chased by the HLF.

It had now become a shared experience, to read a page or three from the notebook before bed. Inkwell had caught her new friends up on what she had read so far, and tonight was beginning a new entry.

"Let me see the picture of the human again!" Petrichor wished she could know more about the mysterious author of the work.

Inkwell lipped through the pages until she found the little replipaper snapshot of the red-haired woman wearing glasses. Petrichor stared hard at the image for a moment. "Huh. She looks like a fud, all right."

"A what?" Inkwell was at a loss.

"A fud! P-H-D, you know 'Piled Higher and Deeper?'" Petrichor grinned "As in poop? Piles and piles of..."

"Pet! Be nice to poor Inkwell! Goodness, don't mind her, Inks. What have we tonight in the grand saga of potion?" Paige found the history of conversion serum mildly interesting, but not actually fascinating. Serum worked, she wanted some, and that was basically enough for her. Petrichor, on the other hoof, found the idea of the very first contact between Equestria and Earth an exciting notion.

"Hmmm..." Inkwell shifted her weight, feeling Petrichor snuggle in against her, and Paige scritching and petting her rump. "...ahh.... oh, yeah... right there...." The base of her tail was just the best, and now she understood why dogs liked being scratched there. That was one thing human fingers were good for... maybe they couldn't make marble flow like water, but they could scratch really, really good. "Oh... wow. Thank you Paige!"

"Me! Me next!" Petrichor started wiggling her rump in the air which caused Paige to have to lean over to provide equal scritchies for her beloved mate.

"OK..." Inkwell found the place in the book. "We're up to the end of February. Looks like genetics. Exciting stuff!"

"Oh... goody." Paige sounded less than excited, but she was willing to listen.

Project Bucephalus - Laboratory 012

February 23rd

I don't know what to think anymore.

We got the results back from the effort to sequence the Equestrian genome. We have the sequence, and we have used the nanobots we have to construct what we think is an Equestrian kidney. And it lived, at least until it was sent down for dissection and study on level eight. We used a variation of the existing kidney program for the bots, because it was what was ready. We don't have anything from the code team that is focusing on programming for the little machines. There are so many projects, all over the globe, each dutifully concentrating on one tiny part of the whole. I strongly suspect most of them do not even know what the ultimate purpose of their work is.

So, we have proven we can take a lump of earth meat and use earth nanobots - powered by 'wizard wine' - and construct a living Equestrian kidney-like organ. And this would be wonderful, because you would think that this was the answer to everything, right there. If it is possible to make a kidney, then we should be a hop, skip and jump from making equivalent organs to having humans that can survive in Equestria!

No. That isn't going to work, and the reason changes everything I thought I understood about pretty much everything.

We started with a living, vat-grown human kidney, courtesy of some transplant hospital for the elite in Antarctica. We injected it with our nanosurgical fluid, programmed to analyze what it found, build whatever necessary temporary vasculature and support structures it needed, convert the cells into equestrian cells, and then deconstruct the support scaffolding and exit the organ. We're still working on having the nano's dissolve themselves entirely - that's yet another project out there, somewhere.

It should have created a human kidney, made out of Equestrian cells. That isn't what happened. Despite using the same nanoconstruction program we have been using all along, the result was not human. It was... something else. We had a medical unicorn from level two come down and identify it as being mostly an Equestrian kidney - from a female pegasus no less. We weren't sure what the unicorn meant by 'mostly' and he wasn't willing to elaborate. It ended up a funny looking thing, pill shaped and spotted, and more than a little rubbery. It could be squeezed and stretched in truly disturbing ways, and this made us all very curious how that could be.

So we had atomic force studies done, as well as x-ray diffraction. And then we went for the serious stuff.

I said we started out with a human kidney, I should have stated that we started out with earthly matter. The nanobots are not just being powered by whatever the crusty old unicorns on level three whip up down there and stick in the violet 'wizard wine' - they are also acting as a conveyance for something else.

I have a theory. I think the scary unicorns are making their own nanobots. Only these ones are not material. They are not matter. They are, well, spells. Magic nanobots, or little program ghosts, or microscopic gods - take your pick, because I sure as hell do not know. But it is like our nanobots have another nanobot ghost superimposed over them, in them, through them, a nanobot soul of some kind, and that part of them has work to do that is a separate agenda.

And what the ghost side of the nanobots can do is just short of terrifying.

The thing that resulted, the mostly Equestrian kidney thing? It wasn't matter anymore. It wasn't made of atoms anymore. Oh, it was made of molecules, and they did stuff as molecules should. But in our universe molecules are made up of atoms, and there were no atoms in that organ when the nanobots got done. The nanobots were not made of atoms anymore either.

We don't know what they are. They are square. We know that much. Little cubes measured in angstroms, totally indivisible, utterly alien, we haven't got a fucking clue. The nanobots are made of them now, and anything they work on gets turned into whatever that stuff is. It's not matter as we understand the term. It's Equestrian matter. This is no longer just a project about transforming flesh - it's become alchemy. The magic fluid changes earth matter into Equestrian matter, which we don't even have a name for.

We've discretely asked for samples of stuff from Equestria. Plants. Rocks. Mayoss cut a sliver from Buttercream's saddlebags when she wasn't in her room. All made of Equestrian matter, not earth matter. Not an atom to be found. No electrons, no quarks, nothing of our reality. Other matter. Else matter. E-Matter.

I have eaten Equestrian apples. They bring us food items as gifts, to inspire us. I've probably eaten pounds of Equestrian produce. I'm still alive. My organs are fine, as far as the human doctor can tell. We checked the apples. E-Matter.

My hair has E-Matter in it. So does my blood. There is E-Matter in the cells inside the mucosa of my mouth. The same is true with all the members of the team, as far as we can tell. Little magic cubes, sliding and moving over each other, doing the job of atoms, but they are NOT atoms.

I don't know what to think anymore.

I'm not going to stop eating the apples, though. You would not believe how good they are. Jesus Nonexistant Christ are they good. Same with the bread items. And the salads. I am gradually becoming made of alien matter. With every bite. You are what you eat, and I am slowly exchanging atoms for - little magic cubes. I feel fine. Hell, I feel great, except for the long work hours.

I wonder though. At some point I will be more E-Matter than atomic matter. A-Matter, I suppose. I don't think I'll notice. It doesn't make me the least bit immune to the danger of thaumatic radiation, I can tell you that. Lost a bit of skin on my index finger and my thumb, due to being sloppy with a vial of dilute wiz-wine and bots. It'll grow back, but I have these bandages and I feel like an idiot.

So, we can make this project work, it seems. But we can't just convert a human into a magic-safe human. What will come out the other side will be made of different matter, and it will be a different creature. A human kidney became an Equestrian kidney. Mostly. Our program didn't do that.

You see, even though we got the results of the sequencing of what Equestrians use for DNA - and a weird thing it is too, a helix ladder like we use, but arranged in a six-lobed star shape and there is a fifth and sixth base that have no earthly equivalent because they are made of freaking magic - none of that was put into the nanobots. The first run was just to test the concept, we don't have the coding of the sequencing done for nanobot use yet. That's yet another team.

Yet the result was a mostly Equestrian kidney, and not a human kidney, even without proper programming. I can only think the unicorn wizards on Three are ahead of us. Their work made the bots build a human kidney into an Equestrian kidney. Mostly.

It may not matter what program we put into our bots.

Our bots are haunted with submicroscopic ghosts, and the ghosts are dominant.

In a way, as weird and creepy as this sounds, it is also a relief. For the first time I have real hope we can save humanity in the short span we have. We might just do it, but only because we are getting help from powers way, way beyond us, and frankly, I think that is the only possible hope of getting this thing done at all.

So, I guess the little bot ghosts are our friends.

But still. I have spent my life a staunch materialist, and now -

I just don't know what to think, anymore.