Chapter Two: Atlantis
was glued to the threevee set, at turns fascinated and horrified at
what she saw. She flipped from newsfeed to newsfeed, trying to get
the best view of the barrage. For the moment, the attack had ceased,
the ocean boiling around the enormous, shimmering, opalescent dome.
was hard to take in. The dome, the shield that surrounded this newly
arising land of 'Equestria' was easily two and a half miles in
diameter. It had grown to this incredible size over the course of the
last year, slowly but steadily expanding into the open north pacific.
barrage had begun with conventional ordinance, brought forth by
numerous zones and corporate states, including both Eurussia and the
North American Alliance. The Panasians had had their turn as well,
bombarding the shield with some sort of neutron-based weapon. Even
airbursting nanoheads had failed to destroy the new island, and so
the news was reporting the debate on whether to use
hyperthermonuclear warheads, and just how badly finally daring that
ultimate of ultimate weapons might permanently damage the earth's atmosphere.
hadn't felt that the offer of the Equestrian princess was sinister.
She hadn't really taken it seriously, at first. It seemed so absurd,
but then everything was absurd, now. In only a single year, her
comfortable understanding of reality had been demolished by the
appearance of a factual world of fantasy. Suddenly, there was a land
of magic and strange creatures in the world, and like most people,
she was simply living day to day in a kind of fugue.
Hour War, as it would soon be called, had come without warning.
Somewhere in the halls of power, the leaders of the world
corporations had decided that the threat of Equestria was bad for
business, and so the sham remains of the earths nations bowed
obediently to their owners.
nothing had affected the otherworldly intruder. Nothing, apparently,
could pass that shining barrier without the permission of Celestia herself.
paged through her hypernet compact as she waited for some sign that
either the ultimate weapon would be used or not. She came across
images of the first probes that had entered the new land. The robot
drones had been allowed to penetrate the barrier, and the world
marveled at images of green fields and endless forests, curiously
archaic villages and thatched-roof cottages.
brought the world to a collective shock was the first sight of the
inhabitants of that unearthly eden brightly colored, sapient
equinoids. Small like ponies, with large craniums and huge, vast
eyes. Their feet -hooves- were odd and huge, and their manes were
large and astonishingly well groomed. Some carried tools in their
mouths, others had elements of clothing, and some even had short
wings and flew. It was insane, it was impossible. It was literally
impossible. At least within the physical laws as known.
newsfeed finally had something, and Alyssa turned her attention back
to it. There would be no use of the hypernuclear weapons. The risk of
permanently damaging the atmosphere was too great. This did not
surprise Alyssa she understood the risk better than most. She
prided herself on such matters, she liked being very, very smart.
threevee, the ocean still boiled, as it would for some time, and now
the talking heads and hair-with-teeth were moving into the usual
endless reframing of what everyone had just witnessed. The war was over.
* * * * *
the second anniversary of the emergence of Equestria. The powers that
be had finally given in to the gentle, but constant, insistence of
the princesses of that land. Now, it seemed, there were two, Celestia
and Luna, and now their ambassadors traveled the world. There were
six ambassadors, each a pony-creature, and like Celestia, could speak
and use tools. Two could fly, another pair could perform amazing
feats of telekinesis and other strange powers. They were
astonishingly seductive. Everything about the Equestrians was
seductive, and the only word for them was adorable. That was what
ultimately won over the planet.
It was an
invasion of the adorable.
Conversion Bureau had been opened, and the first few volunteers had
been transmogrified into Equestrians. Alyssa studied the holoscenes
over and over, trying to find any clue that they could merely be
special effects. She watched a loop of an unconscious, naked man,
lying on his side on a metal table. The man begin to ripple and ooze,
as though he were made of pudding. The limbs shrank and thickened,
the head swelled and the eyes enlarged. Hair sprouted all over his
pale skin, a pastel cyan hue. His proportions altered dramatically,
and she was particularly fascinated by the sudden spooling out of a
bright blue and white tail. Long, ropey strands burst out of the nub
of his vastly enlarged, external coccyx, falling in curling swirls
over the edge of the platform. It took all of fifteen minutes.
groggy equinoid stumbled and fell, unsure of its footing.
couldn't believe that this was being permitted to happen. Things must
be much more serious than the newsfeeds indicated. Perhaps the
strange radiation -magic- from Equestria really was as dangerous as
the on-net rumors claimed. Was this really the only option the
worldcorporation could provide?
* * * * *
alone, as usual. But she had her books, and her games, and what did
it matter if everyone else was having fun on the floor down? She had
never liked Christmas, just another stupid consumer holiday, one
filled with a particularly annoying blend of greed and false
closeness. All year, people treated each other like crap, but when
presents were involved, when acquisition was at stake, suddenly the
neighbors became chummy.
understood that it was all a sham. But she still felt lonely, and the
rest of the building seemed to be having fun. A part of her wanted to
try going downstairs. But it just seemed foolish. It seemed silly and
weak. She would only just sit in a corner surfing the hypernet,
anyway. She could do that from here.
to the window and watched as a pegasus pony soared lazy circles
overhead. Three years after Equestria, and already newfoals were
commonplace. She bought her morning bagel from a cream-colored pony.
The girl in 223 was a pony. She was bright red.
was amazing how the human mind can get used to anything. She made a
note in her compact to research adaptive cognition, or something like that.
* * * * *
of North America was now being covered by the edge of Equestria.
People suffered, to varying degrees, from the 'Mage Plague', many
zones and areas evacuated because of the high concentrations of
thaumatic radiation. Alyssa's home city of Petosky was a Thamatic
Desolation Zone. She had moved to Lancing. What else could she do?
mathematicians had claimed that there was some kind of fractal
pattern to the way that the magical radiation pooled and collected
across the globe. But for all intents it appeared random; one patch
of earth could be fine, and another blasted with whatever it was that
magic consisted of.
seen her hometown, from a distance, before she left. It had just
started one day. She woke up and had noticed that the colors seemed
'louder' somehow. At first it was pleasant. The perpetual smog seemed
less oppressive. The dark slime of the lake seemed almost blue. Even
the industrial plants that had replaced the old tourist waterfront
seemed strangely dramatic.
noticed the patches on her skin. By that time Michigan Corporate was
beginning evacuations. There was no device that could sense 'magic',
but the evidence of its effect was well known by now. She didn't know
how large the Desolation Zone was for Petosky. No one could be
absolutely sure but there was no question of staying in or
near the city.
strange thing was that magical radiation only seemed to destroy
primate cells. No one had an explanation for that.
creatures, the common mutie-rats and insects of the cities,
flourished in the Desolation Zones, which slowly began to revert to
nature. It seemed the DZ's became more beautiful every day. Some had
claimed that flowers -real flowers- had begun to grow in them. Alyssa
had even heard a report of a butterfly, alive and free, existing
outside of a sealed environment sanctuary.
primates -higher primates- were killed by magic. Monkeys were safe it
seemed. But the great apes, Gorillas and Chimpanzees and humans, they
alone felt the mage plague. Strangely, there was never any mainstream
coverage of this fact. It was never discussed. Alyssa would not even
have known if not for the tin-hat fringe sites on the hyperweb.
Clearly it was a deliberate genocide initiated by an invading, alien cosmos.
that day, she saw the bunny.
white, like in a picture-book. It looked alive. It was real. It
wasn't a hallucination she had recovered from her exposure in
Petosky. She saw it out her window, right by the perpetual garbage
pile on the corner.
down the moldering stairs. She burst out into the plascreet roadway,
tripping over a discarded quantum rig. By the time she made the
corner, it was gone. But she had seen it. She knew she had seen it.
A bunny. White and clean. And alive. It wasn't a mutie-rat. It
couldn't ever be one of those nano-infested things. It looked like
something from an old 2D movie. It looked like what they would show
in school to explain what the natural world had been like. It almost
looked like something from behind the Equestrian shield, except...
that this was definitely a terrestrial animal. It was not a magical
bunny from a magical realm, just the type of lagomorph that once was
common, back when there had been real fields and vast forests.
searched all day and into the evening. It was safe, now, to be out
that late, because most of the humans were gone, now. Occasionally
she would see another person, more often a passing pegasus or a group
of sightseeing ponies or unicorns. The changed humans never attacked
anyone. They never stole, or killed or raped. They were almost
knew her only danger had ever been from other humans. That said,
Equestria was an invasion. She wasn't simple, it was obvious to her.
Equestria intended to conquer and assimilate the earth. Resistance
was futile. She smiled at the ancient reference.
now, she had feared the ultimate purpose of this obvious conquest. In
this moment, under the yellow-grey glow of night, she felt she understood.
Or, if she
did not understand, she no longer cared. She had seen a bunny. She
had seen undamaged life, unsullied nature with her own eyes, for
real, and reflecting on that, she broke down in tears.
endless rolling hills of flowers in Equestria. Blue, blue sky. Water
that did not swirl with oil and cesium. And butterflies and bunnies
were as common as... as the broken quantum desktop sets that littered
ponies themselves... once they may have been human, with all the
drives and greed and selfishness and violence of the great ape... but
as ponies, they trotted together, gentle, always close, and
ever kind to all things.
realized just how lonely she was, and how lonely she had been, even
back when the world was filled to overflowing with far, far too many people.
* * * * *
Ella were right behind her as Alyssa broke into a run. She followed
the short hallway, narrowly avoiding other bureau applicants just
emerging from their rooms. Through the cafeteria, she banged her hip,
hard, on the edge of a table. Through the entry on the left, and
there was Classroom A.
one of the first to enter. Panting, she recognized the guy who always
hit on her from the room at the end, and the two women she could
never get the names right with. The pony ambassador, Twilight Sparkle
was there, as was the bubblegum-colored Pinkie Pie, who kept bouncing
back and forth at the back of the room. A lab-coated human was
conferring with Sparkle, Alyssa knew she was Dr. Pastern.
curious were the four Black Nanomesh-clad, armored soldiers stationed
at the entrance and rear of the classroom. These hard-faced men stood
still and alert, scanning everything and everyone for anything
suspicious. Alyssa had not seen them enter the bureau, and their
sudden existence within somewhat shocked her.
clear that the government was taking this threat seriously.
in! Don't block the door! Dr. Pastern waved in Alyssa, Chloe,
Ella and a few more who had gathered near the door. Curiously, Hannah
wasn't there yet. Maybe she was on her way.
began to fill up.
everypony! Twilight spoke commandingly As stated, we
will be doing batch conversions, starting immediately. This is an
unusual situation, but I can assure you that everything will be taken
care of. Please stay orderly, stay in line and we will be taking you
in groups of three. It is a bit abrupt, I know, but we are well
prepared for this, and there is no better time to welcome you to the
herd than right now!
turned to Alyssa Expect this to happen when you least expect
it. I guess she really meant that part, huh?
looked past Ella, trying to see if Hannah was visible in the
increasing crowd. She couldn't find her. It would have been nice to
have all four roomies together for this, she felt. She'd only known
them for a few days, but, in this place, they were the people she
knew at all.
Ella, we need to get into line! Alyssa had begun to notice
that their position wasn't the best to be first, and she was feeling
driven now. The three women shifted into place behind The Fat Guy and
the Two Boys With Zits. No way around it, those three would be first today.
was Ok. Second suddenly felt better for some reason.
In the pit
of her stomach, Alyssa began to feel fear. Her belly seemed
impossibly hollow, and impossibly lower within her body with every
second. This was happening. It was going to happen. Now. Conversion.
and The Zit Twins were lead by Pastern, Pie and Sparkle through the
door in the back of the classroom. Alyssa knew it led down a corridor
that connected the three rooms, to a big metal door marked 'No
Admittance' featuring a sign that looked like the silhouette of a
pony. There were also other signs, warning-type signs, possibly for
nanohazard and radiation. She couldn't remember entirely, she'd only
Ella and Alyssa were now at the head of the line. Do you think
Hannah is in here? Ella seemed to share Alyssa's concern over
their fourth roommate.
thought she was right behind us. offered Chloe.
been looking, but I haven't seen her. At least yet. Alyssa
scanned the crowd again, darting her eyes from face to face.
There's a lot of people. It looks like everyone turned out, no
holdouts. She's probably out by the trash bins somewhere
Probably better off too it's getting hot in here! And
it was. Probably thirty applicants were in the room now, and
Classroom A normally only held ten to twelve. It was getting a bit stuffy.
wondered if the other two classrooms had also been appropriated for
immediate conversion, or if this was the only one. It wouldn't make
sense to use more than one if they were only converting the people
currently at the Bureau. There wasn't more than fifty applicants in
the entire facility.
other hand -hoof- Alyssa corrected, what if the soldiers had brought
more applicants in from elsewhere? The soldier had showed up suddenly
and unexpectedly, so it wasn't impossible that they had come in
trucks filled with conversion-cleared people. That was a thought.
That would explain using the smallest classroom for the on-site
applicants. Or, it could just be bad planning.
minutes had passed, and the door in front of Alyssa suddenly opened.
It was Ambassador Pie, pink and bouncy ALLLLRIGHT! she
winked YOOUURR UP!
stomach suddenly plummeted to the center of the earth, burning in the
molten, iron-nickle core. Chloe blanched a pale shade. Ella just
a strange burst, like a rapid stream of firecrackers going off. It
happened again, for longer this time. The crowd started screaming and
pushing against the walls.
shoved through the door, several people falling onto her legs and her
bruised hip. Chloe had leapt back at the first sound and was pressed
up against Ambassador Pie. Ella was helping Alyssa up.
red on the wall, at the other end of the classroom. It looked like a
spray can had exploded there. Alyssa caught a brief glimpse of a
black-armored soldier raising his rifle. She saw people ducking flat
to the ground.
was moving in slow motion.
was dragged away, she briefly saw Hannah, something black and
metallic raised high in her hands. She had a blank, empty look on her
face, devoid of all feeling, devoid of all emotion. It was unearthly,
hellish. Hannah looked like a mannequin or some pre-quantum human avatar.
stumbled and instinctively turned away from the doorway to the
classroom, in order to prevent a fall in the concrete hallway. Ella
was dragging her towards the NO ADMITTANCE door, past the doors to
the other classrooms.
sharp firecrackers sounded. One. Two, Three.
time Alyssa could glance back, the classroom door had been shut, but
the noise of screaming and crying echoed in the hallway. There were
no more firecracker sounds after that.
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