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



By Chatoyance


Chapter Sixteen: The Universe is Horror

"It is not accurate to say that there is horror in the universe. The universe is horror."

-Dr. Werner Heisenberg, theoretical physicist, formulator of quantum mechanics

Project Bucephalus - Bucephalus Panopticon

February 12th

There is only one place where I have privacy, that location is the room they have provided me. I am unsure that the claim of privacy is true even so, but I choose to believe it, because I must.

The Bucephalus Panopticon is the central command for the entire Bucephalus project. Every day I mingle with the elite of the elite, who come to visit and nod at things as if they understood any of what is going on. I have always wondered what the corporate elite would look like, the unimaginably wealthy and powerful that own and control every former nation and land of the Earth. I suppose I imagined them as implacable humanoid robots in perfect black suits dictating things with electric claws of life and death.

The fact is, they look like anyone, though perhaps a bit better groomed. One man, supposedly the most powerful man on the planet, could have been this older guy I used to buy coffee from, back during my collegiate days. The merchants who had the world fall in their lap are just people, and I feel somehow disappointed to discover that the entire planet is run not by mysterious illuminati, or space aliens, or robot overlords, but instead by terribly boring, ordinary people who just happened to be born into the few hundred powerful families that own everything and everyone.

Everything about the world makes sense, now. No tin-foil hat schemes, no terrifying secrets, just rich people trying to stay rich whatever the cost to anyone else, and the world bumbling along led by ordinary humans driven by ordinary wishes for power, influence and stuff. I expect the kings and queens and presidents and prime ministers of old, back in the days of nations, before the Collapse, were no different, though various comments I have overheard suggest the same families owned the world even then - just behind the scenes. Business as usual, really, just now they don't have propped-up national leaders to hide behind.

The fact of it is, that it is the most boring possible situation to discover about how the world has always been run and I find my imagination aggrieved. I would have preferred robot overlords, not boring rich families. Perfectly human rich people are just too obvious and dull to be the masters of the planet.

The elite come, stand over some part of the work going on, nod like they understand everything, then ask some incredibly ignorant question as if it were profound. There is no option but to respond like a happy puppy, tail wagging at their brilliance, and answer them as if astounded at their insight. That - was made clear to me in my orientation lecture.

I am one of fifty scientists and researchers hand-picked from all the various groups around the planet. I am here because of General Norman P. Ridgway, my little head-tapping, odd-looking supporter. Most of the people in charge here have favored 'pets' here, I happen to be Ridgway's. I finally found out why he favors me so.

Apparently the thesis I wrote on applications for nanotechnology was his big key to understanding some stuff he needed to understand at some crucial point in his career. He was stuck, unable to do his job and in fear of losing it. My thesis just happened to make sense to him for some reason, likely because I did a crappy enough job a layman could suss my points. It certainly wasn't the grand masterwork he makes it out to be, but it saved his ass when he needed it. The upshot of this is that now I am 'The Expert' and the 'Shining Golden One' to him, and that puts me in a very bad place.

Because I don't know a damn thing compared to just about anyone around me here. I am so completely out of my element.

I learned that horrible truth my very first day here at the Panopticon. They had the leaders of the 'brain teams' together in the thinktank chamber, and they let us 'pets' sit in, on the hope we might contribute something that hadn't been thought of. When I went in, I was thinking 'oh, wow, here is my chance to shine!' Boy, was I wrong.

The thinktank chamber is this big circular room filled with active surface desks and seats, where everyone can face everyone else, and in the center is this amazing holodisplay. It's very super-science and I have to say I was impressed. The seats are super comfy and the active surface desks are cutting edge. It's a shame humanity turned its back on the stars right after Apollo 17. We never went to mars, we never did anything more except space stations and probes because there wasn't any profit in it, and then the Collapse hit. But in that room, I felt like I was sitting on the bridge of a science fiction starship!

The 'brain teams' have the hardest job of anyone in the whole Bucephalus project. They are the conversion elite group. They basically have to work out what we - as a species - get to keep and what we have to leave behind in terms of how the post-human brain works after conversion. Because we have so few years to save as much of humanity as possible, there just isn't time for long philosophical debates about what makes us human. The entire problem has been reduced to an engineering issue, devoid of sentiment. Perhaps that is really the only way to face such a task.

Equestria is a radically different universe than our own. Virtually every survival behavior earthly evolution has selected for is a grave disadvantage there. Rigid tribalism, hoarding, competition, territoriality, greed for resources, dominance, jealousy, the capacity to overcome altruism for immediate personal or group advantage, the ability to hunt and kill - all work strongly against survival within Equestria. They all have to go, and we have no say in the matter. There are behavioral requirements set by the princesses themselves that have to be met, and the Equestrian side is making sure that they will be met whatever we think. It is the price of admission, really.

There are less absolute, but nonetheless important concerns the brain teams have to deal with. One basic issue is that once converted, it cannot be allowed that any transformed human should suffer or regret their new body or their new life. It would be horrifically cruel to transform humanity only for people to find themselves unable to accept or even stand existing within their new physiology. This is a very basic engineering issue with regard to transformation, and it needed to be dealt with. The brain teams had actually solved this one months ago.

The way they solved the problem is through a combination of changes that all support and reinforce each other. One thing they did was to reconstruct the neurological homunculus, the internal body-map which permits any animal to comprehend its own body parts and their orientation and function. Altering the body map to fit the new body means that a transformed human will always feel comfortable, and that their new Equestrian body will always make sense to their brain. It prevents body dysmorphia.

Another solution they developed was to shape the transformed brain in such a way as to increase the overall level of emotional well-being and the level at which pleasant experiences or sensations chemically reward the brain. This reward system lowers slowly, over decades, to a level consistent with ordinary Equestrians, but it is expected to cause a reinforcement loop that will entrain the converted to like and even love their new body and their new lives. Essentially, converted humans will be driven by their own brain chemistry to be happy with being a pony, and with living within pony society. It was a rather elegant solution, I thought.

A third mechanism I heard cited is simply a natural side effect of both Equestrian society and the new body itself. The converted human will find their new body healthier, more agile, much stronger, more acute of senses and more capable of pleasure than a human body could ever be. The required alterations to the human brain all alter it to experience hypertrophied compassion and empathy. Equestrian brains are more strongly rewarded for all acts of kindness and cooperation, and this is now a part of the design of the transformed human brain. This reward system, combined with the nature of Equestrian society itself - which is consistently friendly, helpful, innocent, loving, gentle, supportive and pleasant - should set up a strong feedback loop that will reinforce pleasurable feelings of contentment and satisfaction.

Essentially, transformed humans will end up with a brain mostly identical to a native Equestrian brain, except with the human identity and memory retained, and a relatively brief period of enhanced pleasurable feedback to encourage acceptance and satisfaction with the new state of being.

Transformed humans will find themselves perfectly adapted to their new universe, and completely unadapted to their dying homeworld. This is only appropriate, since there is only one place we can escape to, and it would be unconscionable to force the converted to suffer any disadvantage with regard to native ponies. It is to the credit of the princesses that they will not permit converted humans to end up as second-class citizens in any respect.

I have a confession to make, though. Throughout the entire discussion, I had nothing to add, because virtually every detail involving all of these changes and alterations and minimal specs for the new human brain were entirely beyond me. I felt like a child listening to adults talk about things far above my level or comprehension, and by the end of the brain team meeting, I spent some time in my room crying. I just felt completely beat up by how incompetent I was compared to these amazingly talented people.

And that is why I can only put down here the most basic things from that meeting - frankly, the rest was lost on me. I had nothing to offer, nothing to add, and spent most of the six-hours-with-breaks feeling retarded and diddling with my active surface iconobjects. The big thing I got from the brain team meeting? I now know how to adjust haptic feedback on active surfaces so I can make them feel more or less bumpy now. I am a genius of my time. I own the bumps. I can make your active surface holodisplay feel rubbery or hard. I can adjust the flatness. I am a goddess of haptic feedback.

I used to wonder why I was part of the Zero-Twelvers. Now I miss Lab 12 desperately. I am less than useless here. I am in vastly over my head.

Project Bucephalus - Bucephalus Panopticon

March 16th

It's been very busy. I'm on the transformation testing team. The quality of replicated bodies we get are amazing in the Panopticon. Now we get them in all ages, all colors, and all sizes. None of them are Patchwork Bobs, they all look like they could have just come off of any streetcorner, in any favela - and don't think the thought hadn't crossed my mind, but no. I refuse to accept that people are just being randomly abducted by the worldgovernment for testing. Humanity used to do things like that, back in Pre-Collapse times  - the old American syphilis studies in Guatemala and the US Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Studies, both in the 1940's, Leo Stanley's horrific medical experiments on prisoners in the 1950's, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments on tens of thousands of black men from the 30's to the 70's, the Staten Island Willowbrook State School experiments infecting thousands of disabled children with hepatitis in the 60's, U.S. Army biological warfare experiments on tens of thousands of civilians throughout the old American south - and that's just the Northamerizone. Every old, defunct nation, every old state did the same or far worse. But that was then. That was before the Collapse. That was before our current enlightened times.

Now, in the modern nano-age, under the Worldgovernment, I have to believe that the casual, banal evils that nations once inflicted on their own unknowing populations are a thing of the past. We have grown, as a species, and this time, in this golden age, things are different. Man is different now, than he was during the preceding 10,000 years. This time, we finally are a compassionate planet - we are certainly all working together to save every one of us!

Interestingly, that was one of the conditions that Celestia demanded in exchange for rescue. We are required to work to save everyone, not just the elite. Either conversion is made available to everyone, or Celestia won't let anyone in. I would like to think her demand did not need to be insisted upon.

So, like I was saying, these are some amazing replicated bodies. Some even have tattoos and permatech and implants in them. That is only reasonable, really. We have to fully deal with just such complexities before the conversion serum is used on real, non-vat-grown humans. I am very impressed with the quality of whatever facility is manufacturing these test bodies. Just amazing quality. It makes me proud to be human, to see work of this quality.

Project Bucephalus - Bucephalus Panopticon

March 25th

I had to check one of the test bodies because it was exhibiting unusual neural activity. We test every aspect during conversion, and of course we test neurology because that is the most important bit of all. 'You are your brain', as they say.

They are providing us with more and more complex brains in these repli-bodies, so that the iterative efforts to get the genetic work the brain teams are doing can be finalized. After conversion, the resulting ponies are immediately taken for dissection to see just how close the result is. All the work is on the brain now, we pretty much have the bodies down pat, except for one anomaly. All the conversions still result in mares regardless of the sex of the test body. This has the core geneticists scratching their heads raw, I imagine. This was the same problem we had back in Lab 12, and it is apparently a tough one. We'll lick it in the end, though, I feel sure. We are so very, very close now.

The body was a replicated twenty-something male, Caucasian, pretty average overall, but it had some spikes in the 4 Hz to 7 Hz range, and one odd one at 14 hz, but only for a second. I went to adjust the skull sensors and noticed something odd - a small wound at the upper corner of the left eye. I think the body may have been handled poorly, resulting in a small hole. I wanted to have the body checked to see if the brain case had been penetrated, or the brain damaged, but I was overruled. I thought it was important - if the brain was damaged, the results might not be useful. But, what do I know? I thought converting replicated bodies was at least something I could handle. I am constantly reminded of how useless I am here.

Project Bucephalus - Bucephalus Panopticon

April 7th

Human testing has finally arrived! They made the decision at the beginning of the week, and the whole of the Panopticon is in a state of frenzy and excitement. This is the big moment, it's showtime! This is where all the work of millions of human beings, struggling together on the single largest project in all of human history, with a literally unlimited budget, finally gets to shine. It is a stunning thing to contemplate what thirty million scientists, engineers, geneticists, nanotechnologists, neurologists - oh the list is endless - what thirty million people working together can accomplish if they all have the same goal, and the same drive. We are all fighting to save our species, to save humanity itself. In Project Bucephalus, for the first time in all of history, humanity is completely united.

We had a review today, of all the major steps and milestones. They brought almost the entire Panopticon together in the big arena. They did a retrospective, and I got a brief glimpse of Lab 12! I guess, in some small way, we were noted for what we had achieved. That made me very proud.

We also had a very special guest.

Celestia, the princess of Equestria herself, made a speech. This was the very first time I have gotten to see her with my own eyes, and not from some video or holographic representation. The arena is huge, and while she is surprisingly large - taller than a man in fact - she looked tiny down on the stage below. She spoke in perfect English, and her voice sounded remarkably human.

I was absolutely floored by the feeling of presence I got from her. It was as if she somehow filled that entire room by just being there. And her mane - I long ago decided it must be some kind of energy field - I imagined everything from a holographic mane to some esoteric energy of some kind. Seeing it in person, it isn't simple to explain. It is like looking into an endless sky at sunrise or sunset. It moves and waves and acts alive.

But that isn't the weird part.

Whenever I looked into - that's the only word for it, 'into', not 'at' - Celestia's mane, or tail, I heard those little chimes. The little bell-like sounds that Dr. Mayoss had suggested were my neurons dying from thaumatic exposure. I think he was wrong. The faint whisper of chimes only happened when I stared at her mane, and it stopped when I stopped. Unless thaumatic radiation can selectively decide who is looking at it and when, something else is going on, something beyond all human understanding.

Seeing Celestia in person has finally swayed me. I will write it here, but I don't think I dare - ever - say it out loud.

I believe in magic.

That isn't thaumatic radiation, or flux, or extracosmic energy, or 'neo-quantum nonlocality' happening in that mane, that is magic. I have no other word for it. Or for how the serum - we're calling it 'potion' now, a somewhat twee pseudo-contraction of 'Ponification Serum for Transformation' - can accomplish the things it does. I feel like my eyes are open for the first time in my life. Humans try to tame things they don't or can't understand with labels and names. When you get right to it, though, Dark Energy is just a coded name for 'magic energy'. It's all magic. Until you understand it.

I understand just enough of what we've been working with - purple fairy blood, violet wizard wine, and now the bright red, fully developed 'potion' - to say that it is magic. It is some kind of programmable energy that is capable of memory, and action. It is anti-entropic and fails all the basic rules of thermodynamics. It sings in my head when I look at it. Unicorns weave the stuff! That's magic enough for me.

And it fits the cultural idea of magic that humans have had for their entire existence. Equestria, I am certain, was based on our planet. I think that there was two-way communication in that process, and human culture got the idea of magic from the physics of Equestria.

When I looked at Celestia, speaking to us about the momentousness of our achievement, I felt something. More than the singing in my head when I looked at her mane. I thought about the unicorn medic that had to leave us back in Lab 12, because the 'thickness' in our converted Patchwork Bobs. Thickness. Something that rises above.

Celestia, who can move the sun in the sky, who created Equestria from chaos, and formed the mountains and sky and seas with her will - she is magic, of that I am sure. And what word is there, among humans, for a being that is magic and can make the world itself, create life from scratch upon that world, and drive the passage of heavenly bodies through the sky? Celestia's humility in insisting on the word 'princess' is wondrous.

Thickness. I keep thinking about 'thickness', and I think that more than anything in all of both worlds, I want to be worthy of having some myself.

Project Bucephalus - Bucephalus Panopticon

April 13th

I don't know if I can write this. I don't know if I should. It feels like I am writing a confession of my crimes. I suppose I am.

General Ridgway had me there. He had me do the 'honors', in fact. I was his pet, and he wanted to show me off. He wanted to show me off in the big 'dog and pony show'. I played the part of the dog.

The men had been shaved and cleaned up, but it was clear that corporate prison had not been nice to them. I have no idea what they were in prison for. I will never know. I suppose it doesn't really matter.

They were bolted into cages by harnesses, the five of them. All men, all about thirty or so. Naked. Bruises. They kept hissing because I think their vocal chords had been severed. They were very, very afraid.

We were supposedly verifying dosage and conversion efficacy in the very first official human trial. The gallery was packed with observers - some I knew were from the Ministry of Propaganda and Infotainment, others from - I don't know. From everything. All the ministries. Probably some elites in there. All had come to see the show. A day at the circus for the special-est of special people.

They had me wearing a special uniform, something very science-fiction medical. The whole affair was quite the production. I balked at the hissing men and Ridgway became displeased with me. And that was my first sin. I did not spit on him and walk away. It probably would have cost me my life to do that, one way or another, and I knew that, so I apologized for my weakness and that seemed to pacify the general.

Five prisoners, five subjects, five dosages of the cherry-red nanofluid. Dark purple fairy blood, refined to light violent wizard wine, then mixed with enchanted nanomachines to create something that looked like sparkling cherry soda. There is a plan to give it a flavor, eventually. Likely it will be cherry, because of the color. Recombinant Sixty-Three, the first R number used for Official Human Testing. The first production-series transformational nanofluid. The first human test ever - only it couldn't possibly be. They must have tested the stuff in secret many times before now. With such a crowd in attendance, this was purely for show. They had to already be confident that this would work, and what the dosage was and what the result would be. You don't put on a show that you haven't rehearsed.

Ridgway clearly didn't think I needed any rehearsal. The job was simple, and I had no lines to say. Just administer the dosages and look professional doing it. And I knew the dosages were wrong. I knew what would happen, and I knew what the result would be in all the cases. And that was my second sin. Once again, I did not spit in Ridgway's face and walk away. I was afraid. I was afraid I would be terminated, or worse, that I would be next in line to be trapped inside one of those cages. So I stayed and I measured the doses out of the Erlenmeyer flask. The lights were hot and bright. It was like a movie set. It - was - a movie set.

The cages were round, like short cans, and stood up like wheels, the men strapped into them with self-adjusting restraints. The restraints would alter as the men altered, while suspending them so as to make everything clearly visible to all the observers. The cages were painted construction yellow, with diagonal 'danger' stripes for drama and red 'warning' labels to make them all the more visually impressive. There must have been a design team behind the cages, who had worked out how to make them look 'cool'. I barely heard the announcer welcoming everyone and explaining what was to come. All I could hear was the pounding of my own heart.

I remember the first man so clearly. He was plump, like a big bald baby in his yellow cage. He kept hissing and shaking his head, and his eyes kept pleading with me. I swear I could hear his eyes begging, as if they were two mouths with eyelashes, pleading in stereo.

But I took out the syringe, the big, thick, turkey-baster syringe, with the big plastic tube at the end, and I followed my orders and I threaded the tube down the plump man's throat while his eyes begged me not to and General Ridgway watched my every move - my every facial expression - for any sign of weakness. I was his pet, and I had better not embarrass him in front of his own owners. And in that moment I finally understood. All humans are pets, the pets of pets who are the pets of even more important pets. We are a species of pets, all owned and owning, and that is what primate hierarchy really is, and what government and the military and religion and all the pecking orders are really all about.

And then I committed my third sin. I pushed the plunger and I fed the R-63 down the bald prisoner's throat. All one lonely, insufficient ounce of it.

I knew very well that one ounce was not enough. The announcer explained that one ounce 'might' not work, and that this was what the test was for. That our brave volunteers were there to help us figure out the proper dosage. It was a show, and they were building drama. There must have been a design team for that aspect too. Drama consultants for the big transformation show.

I couldn't watch as the single ounce ran out of energy and the conversion process began to falter and fail. I turned away, I couldn't look at those eyes anymore, those eyes that spoke betrayal, basic human betrayal, those screaming, silent eyes.

I think Ridgway actually liked my reaction, it showed human compassion and concern for me to turn away like that. He was probably counting on my reaction. That is probably why I was used - unrehearsed - to provide emotional verisimilitude to the Very First Ever Test Of The Conversion Serum. I guess I was a good pet, in that moment. A good dog.

The second man was thinner, and despite being shaved had stubble on his face. He just stared at me. Stared at me with all the quiet hate a man could possibly offer. And that was my fourth sin. I still obeyed my orders. I obeyed my superiors, I obeyed the rules. I gave the man two ounces. And the two ounces worked farther, and the announcer spoke of hope that this would be the answer, but of course it was not. Two ounces isn't enough for an adult human of average height and build. This time, when I turned away, I vomited. That did not please the General, and I was almost sent away, which is to say I was almost terminated, and he put it that way, and I knew he did not mean simple dismissal from a job, because in this project there is no simple dismissal. You are a team player, or your career is over. Because this game is for the fate of the entire human race. Because we are playing to win. Because this is war, soldier, war against extinction itself.

The show was ready for a victory, finally, so with shaking hands I measured out the full three ounces. This was enough. This would do the job. The announcer was speaking about nobility and sacrifice and how iteration was the key to discovery and how the brave volunteers would never be forgotten, but not once were any of them given names. Neither was it mentioned that they were corporate prisoners, or that if they really had volunteered, they could not possibly have understood what they were volunteering for. In that moment I suddenly knew how long I had been lying to myself just to stay sane. Those high-quality bodies had not been replicated flesh. They were not vat-grown Bobs. The world had not changed since the Collapse one bit, and mankind had not suddenly grown up overnight. And that had been my fifth sin, lying to myself about those bodies, and I had not even known I was doing it at the time.

The third man was of medium build, and he just shook. He rattled in his cage, and he looked about, lost to terror, completely all given up inside. If they had unstrapped him, I think he would have just sat there, and taken it, because there was no fight left inside him to do anything else. He was resigned to whatever was to come. In some ways, his face bothered me the most of all the test subjects.

I put the tube in, and forced three ounces of the bright red nanofluid down his throat, and he didn't even move. He just let it happen.

His skin went doughy white, and began to squirm and ripple. I was beyond emotion at this point, dead and empty inside, utterly resigned as well. I realized that since the first subject, I had been watching my actions as if from afar, noting my own behaviors, as if I were one of the watchers in the gallery, just an observer myself. The mass of squirming flesh hissed and gurgled at me, as it changed shape, jerking and shuddering violently, like the others did, until they finally fell quiet. It was then that I realized why the subjects were jerking so. And that was my sixth sin. I did not run to Ridgway and jam my thumbs through his eyes into his brain and keep pushing, and gouging, until they finally put a bullet into me. Instead, I stood by while the announcer indicated the importance of using an anesthetic to render the subject unconscious to prevent suffering during conversion.

The orange earthpony mare hung limply in the straps of the cage, her yellow mane and tail spilling down like a waterfall. She hung there whimpering, softly, almost silently. She had vocal chords, but no will to use them. The man inside had been broken by the experience, and it was a mercy when they terminated the wide-eyed, traumatized beast's life functions and sent it away like the others, for dissection and analysis.

I looked briefly at the crowd. They were not the least aghast. They were not nauseated or sickened. They wore interested, curious faces, eager for the next example. I thought of the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese in Kew Gardens, in what had been old New York, in the 1960's. Dozens of witnesses simply watched, interested and curious, as she was stabbed, as the murderer walked away, then returned to stab her again. Not one person called for help, or tried to intervene or chase the man with the pocket-knife away.

And a year later, the same thing happened again, and still again no person did anything at all. They labeled it the 'Bystander Effect'. That was the crowd around me. Bystanders every one of them. So very human. And that was my seventh sin, I remained a bystander myself. So very, very human.

I watched as my hands mixed in the appropriate anesthetic, and applied the three ounce dosage to subject four. I remember his dark, dark skin. It shone almost blue in the light it was so pigmented. I remember thinking how beautiful it was, like I was looking at a lamp or a blanket or a wall. Pretty, dark, shiny. I don't remember his face at all.

The dark color went away quickly, replaced by waxy, doughy white. He was unconscious immediately, and I felt gratitude for that simple fact. As the changing mass of flesh rippled in the straps, the announcer played the crowd, 'would this be the one? Would success finally happen?'

The white unicorn with purple hair was stunningly beautiful, even for an Equestrian. The mare opened her eyes, and looked around, clearly conscious, clearly alive. She looked up at me with surprise and a strange delight. She seemed radiant, almost happy. Her smile was beatific.

It was the programmed neurochemicals at work, producing the expected happy, content feelings in the subject. The prisoner had expected horror, and instead they had ended up feeling better than they ever had in their entire lives. The announcer made a great fuss over that smile. I watched as they made a big show of unstrapping subject four, and parading the exquisite mare about to delight the members of the galley. The little unicorn stumbled at first, but gradually gained her hooves. Finally, she was led away, prancing, still beaming that lovely smile.

Only later did I find out that she was dispatched and dissected as well, in order to assess whether or not she had fully converted and what problems might need to be corrected.

I barely remember the fifth, equally successful conversion, and doubtless an equally awful aftermath. By then I was beyond sorrow and beyond tears. I felt like I was hiding somewhere, though I cannot say where I was. I don't think I was present in the world anymore. I have only vague memories of the grand and glorious party afterwards, to celebrate the success of Project Bucephalus.

I am still numb. I feel nothing, and that is what bothers me the most. I understand, intellectually, that I will have to deal with all of this, that it will hit me someday at some hour, and things will not be alright. They will not be alright at all. The circus of horror served its intended purpose - the audience left with a feeling of having participated in making conversion happen, even though they did nothing but watch a carefully orchestrated show. They will own ponification now, inside themselves, and think of it as their baby, their project, and they will promote it and celebrate it to the rest of the world when the time comes. They have been initiated by blood and pain and suffering, but in the end saw smiling ponies and hope and perfection. The assembled crowd had been led through a modern Eleusinian Mystery, and had emerged changed and evangelical about ponification.

The very next day, the genetic sequencing teams revealed the reason why Recombinant 63 specifically produced mares. Only six Equestrian genomes had been used, but all six samples were from the ambassadors appointed by Celestia, all of which were mares. Hundreds of additional examples were now available, and once they could be analyzed, encoded, and incorporated, a new version of the serum would be produced which would be capable of checking the existing state of chromosomal sex and produce either stallions or mares as appropriate.

I have seen this new potion, the new, improved ponification serum. It is purple, not unlike the fairy blood that it is ultimately based upon. They have stopped giving it R numbers. It is simply 'potion', and it stands currently at Version Number 1.2, and soon they will demonstrate it to the public at large.

The Worldgovernment is building large centers in both San Francisco and Vancouver. These will be the very first transformation complexes. They have decided to call them 'Bureaus' - 'Conversion Bureaus' - for that is exactly what they are for. To convert human beings into Equestrian beings, in heart and body and partially in mind. The Bureaus are gangplanks that lead directly to Lifeboat Equestria, where all those who would survive must go.

I do not feel worthy to join the ranks of the saved, I who carry such sin. The faces of those five men hiss silently at me when I close my eyes, and they stare at me in my dreams.

I have applied to work at the San Francisco Bureau. I know conversion very well. Having performed it so often, I am very likely the most experienced transformer of human flesh on the earth. General Ridgway is pleased with me, and I will keep my high security clearance to the end of the the earth. My appointment to the Bureau is assured. I must atone, somehow, and in saving others I see some distant hope of my own salvation.

I don't know how long this blessed numbness will last, but I think not much longer. I feel it cracking, breaking, and I must keep control, somehow. I know I will cry. I will cry for a very, very long time.

I cannot look at Celestia, when she is on the screens. She speaks now to the world, backed by the faces of the Worldgovernment. Conversion is real, and all humans must convert to live. She speaks of love and kindness and beauty in green and perfect lands, and I desperately yearn to escape to them for I have finally had my fill of Earth, and of Man. It is difficult to be around the ponies too, because in their innocence, I see only my own guilt.

But I do not deserve it. I cannot bear to look at her, at the princess I know to be more than a princess, at the being I know now to be a goddess incarnate. I must find some way to redeem myself to her in order to deserve a soul. Five men live in my conscience, and they are the heaviest of burdens.

Oh, sweet Celestia... I... I feel my armor breaking, and I don't think I will ever be alright again.

But the work is done now. Ponification is a reality, and the serum will only continue to be improved.

The time of the Bureaus has begun.