Chapter One: Lancing
bunk was not overly comfortable, but it would do, and in any case
Alyssa knew she would only need to use it for a week at most. The
rate at which Conversions were being performed had been recently
stepped up, the news of Equestria's expanding magical barrier
shrouding the very last of Los Angeles - 'Los Pegasus', she corrected
herself generating a rush on all of the North American
Conversion Bureaus. Here in Lansing, far from the west coast, the
crowding was not as bad, but her room, built for two, now slept
double that number.
through her dufflebag, her last earthly possessions. The conversion
process was free, as was placement afterwards, and all the training,
room and board, paid for by both the inexhaustible Equestrian
treasury and government assistance, but it was the rule that an
applicant leave everything behind. Alyssa had liquidated her meager
funds, and given the money to her neighbors, what few remained,
keeping only enough to make it to the Lansing Bureau. She had left
her belongings in her apartment, as most did, and her car was
abandoned on a side street eight blocks from the Bureau. She could
not park closer because other abandoned vehicles covered every open
place, clogging the streets as well.
the way of things in post-Equestria earth, abandoned human
possessions a silent testament to their owners abandonment of their
biological humanity. Now, five years after Emergence, most of the
human race had 'gone pony', as it was called.
no real alternative, of course. Alyssa had spent a great deal of time
on the hypernet researching the effects of thaumatic energy on
primate biology. Something about the magic emanating from Equestria
destroyed human cells, damaging the mitochondria, ravaging liposomes,
causing demylination of nerves and... Stop. she thought
to herself Enough. I'm tired of that.
was. She was very tired of books and diagrams and journals and
carrying a head heavy with too much knowledge too incompletely
understood. She was tired of who she was, how she had hid from the
world, the face she presented as much to herself as to the world.
little scientist, braniac, know-it-all this was her childhood,
and she had never grown up. Feeling weak and picked on, she had
developed the defense of appearing smart, smarter perhaps than she
really was. It had worked for a long time, but the older she grew,
the less effective it seemed, and the more annoying to herself, and
everyone around her.
pushed open the lockless, swinging door, and cocked her head at
Alyssa Soups on, Aly! Hannah was one of Alyssa's three
roommates at the Bureau, a gregarious older woman who had come all
the way from Oregon. She had family in Michigan, and Lansing was as
good a place as any to have her conversion. Alyssa had become
friendly with her almost immediately.
hall was bustling well past limits, what with double the number of
applicants at the Bureau, and many people were sitting on the floor,
holding their trays in their lap, or on one knee. Mixed in with the
humans were over a dozen newfoals, recently converted humans, either
awaiting transfer to Equestria, or still receiving training on how to
live as an Equestrian, before returning to the streets outside.
Alyssa followed Hannah to the line.
want? asked the pony behind the stainless steel foodservice
counter. Her name -her new name, Alyssa hadn't met her before her
conversion- was Flower Meadow, which Alyssa had thought sounded more
like a Chippewa name than an Equestrian moniker. Flower was a soft,
pale yellow with a forest green mane, all of which somewhat evoked
her name. It was doubtless why she had chosen it.
I guess the carrot salad and the tofu look good.. Flower
skillfully used the serving tong in her mouth to dish up first the
carrot and raisins, and then used a wide scoop to deposit tofu in
some sort of sauce onto Alyssa's plate. Alyssa always marveled at
such maxillofacial dexterity, and worried whether or not she would be
so able... after.
You have any of those Equestrian apples left? Equestrian fruit
was a huge hit with everyone, equine or human in the Bureaus, and was
brought in as a cheery indication of the future, when there would be
only Equestria, only Ponies, and the dying earth renewed. Equestrian
apples tasted like the ideal of what an apple should be, and had no
taint of genetic modification, nanotechnology, or chemical waste.
Alyssa often wondered if terrestrial apples had ever been as good,
before the industrial, atomic and nanotech ages, or, in lacking
Equestrian magic, no apple in history had ever been so delicious.
really sorry, sweety Flower seemed deeply regretful What
with the rush of new applicants and all, they're all gone.
Alyssa couldn't help but pout, the apples really were that good.
Tell you what next shipment I'll set one aside just for
you to make it up! Flower really was a particularly nice pony.
found a patch of floor by the trash bins wide enough to sit down
amidst the throng, and called Alyssa over. Alyssa set her tray down
first, then clambered to sit tailor fashion on the concrete. Setting
the tray in her lap, she noticed Ella and Chloe -her other roommates
at the bureau- enter. She waved to them over the din, then scootched
over to make extra space for them to join, when they had gotten their trays.
from Boston, another victim of unemployment. Homelessness had ceased
being a problem for her as ponies outnumbered humans, and for a while
she had enjoyed living in the abandoned homes of the wealthy.
Eventually she had come to the decision that a life of raiding empty
stores and markets could not compare to life in a bountiful
fairyland, even if it meant walking on four legs.
how's tricks? Ella had been in classroom B most of the morning,
Alyssa hadn't seen her since wake up call and breakfast.
got basic Equestrian etiquette and customs today, bow to the
princesses, say please and thank-you a lot, that sort of thing. How
actually. So, you think those princesses are really goddesses, like
real goddesses, all powerful and all? Ella picked unhappily at
her tofu. She really missed meat, and particularly disliked that it
had been discontinued entirely at this Bureau.
can't be! Chloe had joined them, a tray piled high with
cupcakes and muffins she really liked her carbs and was
struggling to squat down without dropping her load I mean, like
seriously. Goddesses? No way. That part's just fantasy!
not so sure Alyssa began We are talking magic here. Real
magic, whatever magic is. This is Gandalf, Harry Potter, Sorcerer's
Apprentice stuff. We see it every day the unicorns for
example. Levitation, illusions, transformations, heck, remember when
Whirligig pulled off that Restoration spell on that cup the other
day? I mean, that was a direct violation of physics, that was
true... Alyssa paused thoughtfully ...thaumaturgical
extropy! She smiled at her own feeling of cleverness.
Ella was always annoyed when Aly showed off; she secretly suspected
the girl deliberately choose kilocredit words knowing nobody else
would understand them.
is magic, and extropy is the opposite of entropy. So there,
Alyssa. Chloe was more educated than she often let on, and she
too felt that Alyssa tended to show off a bit much.
I mean is continued Alyssa, oblivious, is that putting a
cup back together like that, perfectly, is impossible. It cannot be.
You can't un-spill a cup of tea or un-break an egg. Not by just
willing it to be so. So we are dealing with real, honest to god...
goddess... magic here. If that is possible, then what is the limit?
Maybe these princesses really can literally shape reality itself.
Maybe that stuff about them raising the sun and moon in their world
is literal fact. Any being that can whistle up day and night by sheer
force of will... well, that would be a god, or rather goddess, to me!
was raised New-Catholic. Hannah had turned her attention to
some pudding that Alyssa felt sad to have missed I believed in
god for a long time. But in the end, it's just about power.
Government or church, they all use fables and stories. I figure
Celestia and Luna are no different. Yeah, we see magic. So what? One
fixed cup doesn't mean immortal, all-powerful beings actually exist.
Just the story they use to stay on top.
disturbed So, what, we're getting into some kind of weird cult
as well as being turned into ponies here?
not so big a deal - Hannah was wiping her hands on a napkin now
Egypt had god-kings, and they did alright for themselves, it's
just whatever story works to keep order. You don't have to worship
them or anything. Just bow and go about your business, and it's no
different than meeting one of the Popes.
a voice over the loudspeaker HELLLOOOOoooo!! the voice
giggled and made raspberry noises for a while. It was unfamiliar.
This is Ground Control to Major Tom! Woo-Woo Woo-Woo! Alert!
Alert! We have some special ponies here today!
looked at her roommates, Chloe shrugged back.
the way from Equestria, well, actually from the former Bureau in Los
Pegasus, by way of Albuquerque, Memphis, Bloomington,
Hamtramck... another voice cut in PINKIE!
The original voice responded.
don't need to hear the entire itinerary, just introduce us!
they'd like to know. Maybe they NEED to know. You never know.
me, everyone the second voice seemed to have taken over at
this point We're here to check out how things are going in the
various bureaus, and today we are here in... the voice paused
Lancing. Lancing, Michigan. We'll just be here for a while, but
I would like to meet and talk with some of you in order to get your
impressions of how we are doing and where we might improve things. My
name is Twilight Sparkle, by the way, that was Pinkie Pie, and we may
be observing some of your transformations as well. Don't mind us,
we're just here to make sure your experience is as good as possible.
by now, knew those names. When Equestria had first emerged from the
sea next to what was rapidly unbecoming the west coast of North
America, the first emissaries were six pastel-colored equinoids. Then
came their sovereign, the one called Celestia. There wasn't a human
or pony in Lancing Bureau that wasn't excited at the thought of
catching a glimpse of the original emissaries. They had been all over
the threevee, and in all the newsfeeds for a long time, so they were
the closest thing to universal pony celebrities. Alyssa wondered if
all six were here, or only Sparkle and Pie.
class was a special event, and saw everyone - everypony, Alyssa
corrected herself: it was her intention to think as much like a pony
before she actually became one as she could - crowded, as best as
possible into Classroom C, the largest of the three. It served best
as a meeting hall since the cafeteria area was surprisingly smaller.
her three roomies sat together on one of the several long benches
that filled the room. They had made a beeline there suspecting that
today's schedule might be special, and managed to get third row,
unicorn took the simple podium, and she needed no introduction, but
she got one anyway, a simple Miss Twilight Sparkle, Emissary of
Equestria, wishes to address you. Alyssa thought it was
probably instructor Silverspark, the serious-minded newfoal unicorn
that did basic Equestrian History on Alyssa's first day at the bureau.
Hello. I am Twilight Sparkle. Clapping and cheers broke the
silence, a spontaneous reaction to seeing a celebrity. I guess
you've heard of me. This was followed by laughter.
been asked to present my original orientation speech by... some of
the faculty here. I really didn't want to, because it wasn't very
good, as I have found, and caused a little unintended distrust at the
time. I was still learning your language and nuances, and well, it
just wasn't as good as it could have been.
Twilight's horn glowed as papers shuffled on the podium in front of
her it seems that for some, it has some value, and, anyway,
here it is:
I'm almost positive all of you are here because you want to become a
pony. This is a fact. You don't come here because you don't want to
be a pony, unless someone forced you at gunpoint, but that's a
looked out over the quiet, attentive crowd. No human had ever laughed
at her first attempt at a joke using human language, and it seemed
certain that no human ever would.
may not fully understand your reasoning behind your choice to become
a pony, considering I was born one myself, but I can understand what
we have been facing in the past few years. Humans such as yourselves
have brought your world to shambles, all because of the selfish greed
of big business, and the horrible health habits of the majority of
shuffled again. She'd had such trouble with this part, having written
the entire speech in a cold panic while being transported on one of
the humans noisy and terrifying flying machines. Most of the content
had come from a flight attendant who had explained her own view of
how the human world worked.
faces overpopulation, in ways that the tiny isle of Equestria simply
can't keep together for long. That's why we moved into your towns and cities."
wasn't even true, but it was the best she could do at the time. Only
later had she learned that the word 'isle' did not mean a universe,
and that 'overpopulation' referred to an increase in the number of
individuals, rather than an cosmological expansion. It had all seemed
to make sense, back when she was still struggling with basic human
grammar. Worse, the whole thing made it sound like the ponies wanted
human land. No wonder so many humans were upset. If only she had been
given more time to learn the language.
plan is to ponify you, the sooner the better. Expect this to happen
when you least expect it. You'll get used to our culture, our food,
and our lack of thumbs. Trust me, it's easier than it looks. Because
humans can't handle the magic radiating from Equestrian borders,
becoming a pony is crucial to expanding the peaceful, friendly aura
that surrounds Equestria every day of every month of every year.
applause and cheers met the purple pony's conclusion, though Alyssa
could tell that miss Sparkle was uncomfortable with it. Reflecting,
Alyssa could see how the speech did seem a little sinister in
composition, but nothing the Equestrians had ever done, nor anything
she had ever seen in them personally (ponifally? Equisonally?) had
ever been anything but guileless and kindly to a fault.
room, later, Chloe was being silly, something Alyssa envied. Alyssa
had never been able to feel free enough to be silly in front of
others. Ooohh! We will PONIFY YOU when you LEAST expect it!
Here I come to turn you into a PONY! She had cornered Ella
against the wall beside her bed Wibble-wobble zappity-zap!
You're a pony now! Both young Chloe and the older Ella giggled
like children at this. Hannah was doing her best to ignore the noise.
She was writing in her diary.
do you think it will be like? Alyssa abruptly asked.
we already know. We've heard it from the others who already did
it. Chloe sat down on the bed next to Ella. You go to
sleep, you wake up a pony. She shrugged and gave a quick derpy
look at Alyssa.
what I mean is, what does ponification actually do to consciousness.
Does it change our mentation? I mean, this is total physiological
transmogrification here. The brain changes. It isn't just like
growing some hooves and developing a craving for hay. What will it be
like inside? Alyssa tapped the side of her head for effect.
you fuss, don't you? Chloe glowered.
I know is that everyone we've seen changed so far came back the same
person. Hannah closed her diary well... mostly.
what I mean! Alyssa sat in a rigid stance There is a
world of difference between exactly the same and 'mostly'. What do
you mean 'mostly?' Be specific!
noticed that everyone comes back... Ella considered what word
to use ...nicer? Certainly more happy. I saw a guy go in - he
looked like he'd never had a friend in his life and when he
came out he was... happy. He smiled. He trotted around and talked to
everyone. I hadn't heard him say a word up till then. Ella had
been there the longest, her orientation week was basically up.
That's a big change. That's not just 'mostly the same', it was
like night and day. But.. The Bostonian looked thoughtful
It's a difference I could really use. She looked almost
like she might cry.
yes, happier, nicer, more polite, but... what else changes?
Alyssa seemed almost frantic in some internally controlled way
Do you think that, well, that you might become REALLY
different, even another person entirely? Do you think that is what
happened to that guy?
seemed concerned by this. He remembered people's names. He
seemed to know who he was and how he had gotten here. Maybe he just
got to be who he always wanted to be. Before life kicked him to the
curb. The way Ella said this, it seemed that she felt some
identification with the man.
day, after oatmeal and fruit, the women were returning their trays
when a familiar sound the tone of an incoming loudspeaker
message peaked their awareness.
everyone! It was Dr. Pastern yes, her real, human name,
and the joke of her name being part of horse anatomy was well worn at
Lancing Bureau Due to crowding concerns, and recent news
events, we will be performing ongoing, immediate conversions today.
For those of you who feel ready, no further waiting is required.
After Conversion, there will be direct transfers to Equestria, with
all necessary training and assistance provided there. This is an
excellent opportunity for those that feel themselves ready to take
in the cafeteria area was abuzz at this news. Maybe it's
because of having Twilight here! someone said. What if
you don't feel ready yet? asked another with some emotion.
looked at Ella who looked at Hannah, and they all looked at Alyssa.
Alyssa stared back, her eyes strangely wide.
report to Classroom A if you are interested. You will be processed
shortly thereafter. Thank you.
went immediately to their room as if in some unspoken agreement.
seemed nervous What do you think this means? I haven't heard
about any 'news events'! Do you think it's the HLF? The Human
Liberation Front were dangerous terrorists, opposed to the conversion
process, rabidly opposed to the very existence of the Equestrians,
and they had made horrifying attacks on Bureaus in the past.
could be, maybe that's why they are moving the converts directly to
Equestria right after! Maybe we're at risk here! Ella fumbled
for her hypernet compact. She began scanning for Bureau related stories.
could just be to show off to our pony celebs here. offered
Hannah. I mean, maybe they just want to get a good rating or something.
said nothing. She stared intently at her hands, clutching her knees
as she sat on the edge of her bunk. Her heart pounded inside her
chest. Briefly she worried about tachycardia with resultant
circulatory collapse. She caught herself. She always thought too much
about such things. She wished she didn't even know those words. She
wished she wasn't... who she was.
the HLF! Ella almost hissed the words they've made a
direct threat against THIS bureau. They intend to destroy the Lancing
Bureau. There's nothing on how or why, but I bet it has something to
do with our special guests!
off a high profile Equestrian ambassador or two would fit their
not just evacuate everyone? Chloe was rocking on her bunk, worried.
there is no place to go. Alyssa said the words flatly, coldly.
We've all cut our ties and just come here. No money, no home to
go back to. They can't just tell us to just go live on the street.
They don't do that.
stared intently at Alyssa.
no telling when or if the attack will occur, right?
there's no way to know how long to kick us out for. That's how
terrorism works. They win even if they never attack. They want to
stop the conversions. They want to shut the bureaus down. And it
This was a
serious issue. Most of the human species had become Equestrian. There
were perhaps less than one and a half billion humans left in the
world. If the bureaus shut down, what then for those that were left?
Nothing could stop the expansion of Equestria. Nothing could cure the
creeping death of magical radiation spreading across the planet as a
result of its emergence. In the end, there would be no place left to
hide, not even the other side of the globe itself. To remain human
was a certain death, even if groups like the HLF were convinced they
could find a way to stop it all.
thinking, rapidly, in the back of her mind, about how people were
affected by thaumaturgical radiation. First the skin seemed to
shrivel and the person became gaunt. Hallucinations and loss of
coordination, eventually patches of necrosis. Finally total organ
failure. There were zones, near the barrier that separated Equestria
from the rest of the world, that could kill within minutes or hours.
There were patches all over the world that had become no-go areas for
anyone other than ponies.
be now, or never.
not want to miss the chance to survive. She'd been there three days.
That was enough. What else was there to know? Besides, she always
over-analyzed everything. Following her usual ways, she would have
haunted the Bureau for weeks, trying to become expert on every little
detail. It was her way of hiding, her mask, her wall. The little
professor that could avoid facing things because she had things to study.
up. Her hands were balled into fists. I'm going. Chloe
going to room A.
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