Chapter Four: A
Spit In Time
froze. Hunched over, supporting the still wobbly Chloe-pony, her
arms wrapped around the filly to help keep her upright, Alyssa's eyes
stared like those of a deer, caught in the headlights.
she had envied Chloe, with her soft yellow hide and pale blue mane.
She had envied how beautifully she had turned out, and that she had
gone first. And Ella, now a striking coral and crimson pegasus. She
had envied the wings and what they meant to her.
it was her time, and fear once again gripped her stomach with a
clawed hand. What would she become? She knew what she did not want to be.
hurry, we're kind of in a rush here. Twilight was kind, but
insistent. The shock of what might be going on outside the Bureau
reemerged from the oily lake of Alyssa's mind, momentarily sharp and
not the least slipping away.
OK, 'Lyssa! Chloe's voice sounded somehow younger and, well,
charming Just help me down and you can be a pony too!
Alyssa steadied Chloe as she folded her legs close to her body, lying
down in that curious, folded way that ponies sometimes do. Alyssa
wondered if it was really that comfortable if she tried to
fold her arms and legs that way, all the blood would be cut off.
Chloe sank her head onto her front hooves, eyes drooping shut. She
was clearly still sleepy, whether from the sedative, or from the
transformation itself. She seemed very comfortable, so Alyssa stood up.
slightly, Alyssa undressed mechanically, barely aware of doing so.
Her mind was on her primary worry; she was concerned about what kind
of pony she would become.
Pinkie cheered her as Alyssa sat up on the steel table. IT'S
head fell. She stared at her hands, clutching at her knees. Dr.
Pastern lifted her left arm and began wrapping the cuff of a
sphygmomanometer around it. She rapidly squeezed the bulb of the
device in a practiced manner. As the pressure was released, she noted
A little high, but good enough.
Alyssa had to say something. She had to know. She had to try.
is it? Twilight was clearly impatient now.
there any way to control what kind of pony you become? She
already knew the answer, she had studied the available information on
the hypernet long enough. Pony 'race' in newfoals was determined by
genetic and epigenetic factors, the same factors that affected the
development of personality and talents in human beings. There was
nothing that was available to force a conversion to one type or
another, if it even could be done at all.
human asks that! Twilight was exasperated, the stress of the
previous hour showing Every human wants to be a pegasus or a
unicorn, they want to fly or do magic, it's always the same thing
with you creatures!
That's not what I mean! small tears started to form in Alyssa's
eyes. I DON'T want to be a UNICORN!
mouth gaped. She stared for a few seconds, her huge eyes wide. Her
head dropped and turned to one side. O....K... I see.
silence for a moment.
my life, Alyssa half cried all I have done is worry and
hide. I lived in my books, I read and read and read until that's all
I was. A walking wikipedia. I never had any friends, because I was
too afraid to make any. The stuff I know only makes me unhappy
I worry about every little sniffle, I overanalyze every little thing,
I don't know how to just.... to just be. I haven't a clue how to be
alive in the world. I just.... I... Her voice trailed off, a
tear spatted on her knee.
your pony world Alyssa continued flatly unicorns do all
the complex stuff, right? They do the fine detail, all the things
that people with hands do here. According to what I've read unicorns
are the craftsmen, the scientists, the thinkers and the students.
They do all the fiddly stuff. Right?
true that we unicorns are good at certain tasks that other ponies
can't do. That's what we're for, I guess. But it's a great thing to
be a unicorn! Everypony has something that they are good at. Magic
lets us, um, yes, well, basically...You're right. We do the fine
work. We're highly respected!
don't want to do that. More than anything. I'm not afraid of becoming
a pony, heck, I welcome it! I've never liked being human. I've never
fit into the human world. I just... I just don't want to be the same
kind of... I don't want to make the same mistakes in my new life. I
want to be a Pegasus, sure, but I would be just as happy to be an
Earth Pony. I just want to be something that can run, or fly, or be
out there in the world, and not... shut up in some library or something.
shifted uncomfortably at that.
sorry, Alyssa Dr. Pastern put a hand on her shoulder but
what you become is entirely up to your genes. We don't control that.
KNOW! Alyssa sat upright I just had to ask. I had to try.
I figured, maybe, you could add some DNA or something, maybe
something new had been developed, I don't know... something.
be OK, Alyssa. Twilight's voice was calm and gentle
whatever you become, you can still choose whatever you want to
be. Unicorns aren't required to do or be anything. And there is only
a one in three chance you would become a unicorn anyway. Her
voice faltered just a little That's pretty good odds, right?
wiped her eyes, and shook her head. I'm ready. Sorry. I'm.. I'm
sorry. That was selfish of me. Let's get me changed.
glowing with faint purple light, hovered in front of Alyssa. She
reached for it and held in in front of her. Inside, the thick purple
semi-liquid seemed to swirl by itself, and Alyssa could see the
metallic sheen of what must be clusters of nanotech, swimming through
it. She felt an itch in the magic scars on her forearm. The cup
almost seemed to be singing in her head.
It was Pinkie Pie, bouncy as could be I know JUST WHAT TO DO!
reared back making the most awful gurgling, hacking noise in her
throat. The noise got louder, sounding like someone choking horribly ACCCCCHHHHHH-CHHHH-CCHHHH...
a white-flecked translucent splotch was expulsively deposited in
Alyssa's cup. And a hair for good measure! Pinkie had
somehow snatched a short strand of shining pink from her mane, and it
somehow ended up, curled, on top of the splotch.
PINKIE! Twilight was... not approving in tone.
It's got DNA in it! Pinkie winked at Alyssa Think Pink.
stirred the mixture with her finger. The spittle faded into the
nanogoop, the bright pink hair broke down as she watched, chopped up,
she imagined, by innumerable submicroscopic scissors, knives and
scalpels. No, not those things. Atomic fields did the cutting, with
electron charges performing the necessary...
God damn, even now. Alyssa hated what she had done with her brain.
pulled her finger back, it was almost unrecognizable. The tip had
become pale wax, and was rapidly swelling. It looked like it had
become a blob of weirdly rippling glue. Oh, she thought, of course.
single motion she downed the cup. She couldn't help but instinctively
feel a slight gag in her throat at the thought, but then again, it
wasn't like there was any disease she could get from Equestrian
spittle. It was just the... idea. Hardwired revulsion, she had once
read an article about just that. Primates had evolved the reflex of
being revolted by such things as a protective mechanism to...
her head hit the table, as she fell over backwards. Dr. Pastern had
tried to catch her, but she was a little too slow.
* * * * *
wind was whistling loudly through her ears. She flicked them because
it bothered her. The flicking didn't help. Wait, that was cool. She
could move her ears. Half asleep, she giggled softly, moving them
left and right, trying to make them dance in unison. In her dreaming
mind, her ears were bunnies, and they were doing a little dance.
Left, right, left, right. She smiled, her lips spreading wide around
her long face.
startled. She could feel how different she was. It didn't feel bad,
but it did feel strange and new. She tried to take stock of it all.
She remembered playing with her ears. She gave them an experimental twitch.
we waking up, Alyssa? It was Dr. Pastern. She was close by but
speaking loudly to compensate for the howl of the wind. Alyssa tried
to open her eyes. Her lids felt heavy and slow. Gradually she lifted them.
looking at a pair of shoes, and the legs of the pants above them.
There was the edge of a blanket wrapped around the pants. Alyssa
looked down. It seemed like her head was resting on two aquamarine-colored
hills. They were covered in short, fine grass. The grass was rippling
in the strong, howling breeze.
rolled her gaze down to study the hills. They stretched out in front
of her, dropping precipitously off at the ends. She could feel the
weight of her own head from them. It felt like her head was on the
back of her fingers, sort of. She tried to move her hand. One of the
hills, the right one, jiggled. She was laying just like Chloe had
been, back in the room, and the grassy hills were her own front legs.
She raised her head slightly, with great effort, and clopped her
right hoof. She remembered that a hoof was equivalent to a human
fingernail. Weakness overcame her, and her head plopped down onto her
knuckles -fetlocks?- again.
bluish green then. Pale aquamarine. Aquamarine was a good color. Not
her first pick, but, what the hay.
giggled. What the hay.
awoke again, the wind was still blowing through her ears, and it was
much colder. It seemed thinner, too. She was warm, though, pressed
against her side was a soft comfort. She turned her head to see that
it was Chloe, sleeping. Chloe's body was pressed close to Alyssa's,
and tight in next to Chloe was Ella. All three were lying down,
huddled together in the small... space?
like an open-topped rectangular box, made of finely polished wood. It
seemed about as wide as a car, and about as long. One end was higher
than the other, and she could see something like the tops of brass
fixtures along the edges above her. But what really caught her
attention was what was outside of the box, or rather, what was not.
No plascrete walls, no towering buildings, no... nothing. Anything.
Just a deep shade of greyish-blue.
couldn't make sense of it. She looked for some texture, some
structure to it. It took her still sedated mind several moments for
it to dawn on her that she was looking at sky, sky that must be
mostly above the perpetual smog layer. The air still smelled a bit of
the smog, but it also smelled of the metallic tang of saltwater and
oil. Her thoughts reeled. Were they somehow over the sea? How long
had she slept?
have been hours, it was late, perhaps early evening. Alyssa couldn't
believe how cool the air was. They must be above the smog, above the
world. The box was not steady, she realized. She thought at first it
had been her. They were flying, and the box was being buffeted by the winds.
tried to stand on her front hooves, to raise her head above the edge
of the lip. She caught a glimpse of the backs of four hard-flying
pegasai, white, with some kind of helmets on. She was in a carriage
of some kind, being pulled through the air at a fearsome speed. The
blasting wind punished her face, and her hooves, unsteady, slipped
forward. She flumped to the floorboards with a gasp.
why we're all crouching down! Dr. Pastern seemed concerned
We've been trying to outrun an angry bird.
long? Alyssa's voice sounded strange to her, slightly higher,
and it had more throat to pass through.
five hours. You've been out almost all of that time. You seemed to
wake a few times, but it didn't last. Do you feel alright?
Alyssa tried to take stock of her body I feel... drowsy, but
good. Really good. Really.... Good. And she did feel good. She
felt wonderful, other than a bit disoriented. Everything about her
felt fresh and new, as if she had been manufactured just that day.
She giggled. In actuality, she had been.
you're laughing, that's a good sign. Any dreams?
do you... Suddenly Alyssa remembered. She had the most vivid
dream. She only barely remembered the details, but the emotional
power of it somehow reached the very core of her.
I had a dream. It was really... beautiful. I usually have nightmares,
but this was a good dream. Alyssa couldn't remember the last
time she had ever had a good dream.
you tell me about it?
It was just a dream.
single newfoal I have ever spoken with has had an unusual dream
during their conversion. They all shared common elements. Humor me.
surprising to hear. Alright... um.. Alyssa struggled to
pick the fading details out I was running, over grass. Green,
green grass. I was already a pony in my dream, I remember that
well, not quite a pony, but... something like the... essence of...
being one. Then I was surrounded by others, too many to count. We
were all running together, and... it felt really free. It felt happy
and free, and like all the others were family, or... like best friends.
yes, go on... Dr. Pastern seemed to be waiting for something.
was running with... the herd, I suppose, and then suddenly, I was in
a vast hall. It was gigantic, I mean, as big as the sky. It was
gorgeous. The curtains were like... pictures of the aurora, back in
the old days, and the windows were made of stars.
I knew there were two... others... there. I remember! It was the two
Equestrian princesses, Celestia and Luna. And they looked at me
they were gigantic too and I felt.... I felt...
Dr. Pastern stared at her What did you feel?
I felt... loved. Wanted. Welcomed. I felt like they were the most
perfect mother figures you could ever imagine, and they actually
wanted me. Not like my mom, they wanted me. They approved of me, and
when I looked up at them, into their eyes, I... w-well.. Alyssa
looked down, she felt like the memory was too precious to describe
is actually pretty common stuff, Alyssa, what you have described is
essentially universal to newfoals, in one form or another. Please
tell me the rest. It's alright. I really want to hear.
Pastern sounded strangely sad. Alyssa couldn't leave the doctor
hanging. When I looked at them, I felt such love, I felt such
gratitude, that... I don't know how to put it exactly. I... gave...
myself to them. That's the best I can describe it. I knew I had a
choice, even then, and in that moment, the only thing I wanted, the
thing I still want, is... to be theirs. The way she said the
words was nothing short of reverent. The feeling overwhelmed Alyssa,
and she fell silent.
you. Dr. Pastern said, after what seemed a long time. Her
voice was just barely audible over the roaring wind. The stars were
becoming visible in the deepening blue.
time in silence, Alyssa noticed that Twilight and Pinkie were not
with them. She also noticed that Ella and Chloe were still sleeping.
Doctor? Where are the ambassadors? And why aren't Ella and
Chloe awake? Are they alright? It seemed worrisome, since
Pastern had said it had been five hours since leaving the Bureau.
and Chloe are pretty heavily sedated. The government goons made me do
it. They insisted when all of you were packed up for transport. We
were evacuated in an armored troopcarrier. Very hush-hush stuff. You
were already unconscious, but they wanted you injected too. I was
concerned about interactions, so I cut back on your dose when they
weren't looking. Even so, you gave me a rough time.
do you mean?
stopped breathing a few times. That's why I'm here. It was too risky
to leave you. Pastern patted a grey-white medical kit resting
on the wood floorboards by her side. Next to it was a larger, bright
red case, which Alyssa remembered was the storage unit that had held
the original Erlenmeyer that contained the nanomagical solution that
made Conversion possible. I'm part medical doctor, and part veterinarian!
giggled at that. Stopped... breathing? That was more than
a little disturbing.
so. Anesthesia is a dangerous thing. I'm sorry. Government goons are
too scary even for me. I did what I could under the circumstances.
OK. I made it. Thank you for keeping me alive. Alyssa felt
very grateful; although she had experienced little, so far, with her
new body, her new life, already she could tell she was going to like
it. Inside, she felt happier than she had ever felt, for no reason at
all. The warm pressure of Chloe at her side made her feel safe and
content in a way she could not explain. 'Part of the herd?' she
wondered to herself. And her senses... she could hear and see more
clearly than she ever did as a human, and the smells... she realized
in that moment that the wood of the chariot was wonderfully warm and
complex hints of summer flowers and delicious grasses... oh,
being Equestrian was strange, but it was good-strange.
all else, the thing Alyssa loved the most about her new state, was
the peace she felt, inside, in her heart, in her ...soul? She knew,
with a certainty that she could not explain, that she would never
again think a truly dark thought. She knew she was now incapable, in
some fundamental way, of daydreaming about hurting an enemy, or
exacting revenge for a slight.
scary, dark, cruel, violent parts of her had been washed away. She
keenly felt their absence, and she felt as if she were lighter for
it, almost floating as she lay there on the floorboards. It was as if
the most enormous tumor had been surgically excised from her essence.
Thinking about that feeling made tears come to her large eyes.
about the Ambassadors?
Yes. They are why we are being chased, Alyssa. Because Twilight
Sparkle and Pinkamina Pie are on board, hundreds of meters over the
Pacific Ocean, racing to reach the safety of the Barrier of Equestria
before they can be assassinated by the Human Liberation Front.
they aren't here!
Alyssa, they aren't. But the HLF doesn't know that. Consider this
flight as your first official service to the Crown of Equestria. We
are a decoy. Sparkle and Pie are being transported via other means.
They are not expendable. So cross your fingers, girl. Pastern
looked uncomfortable Sorry. You know what I mean.
HLF is after us?
far behind by now, I should think. That is what all of todays...
excitement... was about. They wanted to take out the ambassadors.
They still do.
far are we from Equestria? For the first time as a pony, Alyssa
me check. Dr. Pastern took out a handset from under her
blanket, and huddled low to the boards to hear over the wind.
Nimbus? How much further? Alyssa guessed Pastern was
probably talking to the racing pegasai with the odd helmets, that
were pulling the cart they were all in. The helmets must have radio
links in them.
Thanks. We're fine. Yeah. I understand. Thank you, Nimbus.
Pastern put away the handset, and sat up, wrapping her blanket more
tightly around her. If we dared to stick our head over the
rail, there, the Barrier would be very visible. About half an hour,
more or less. He says there might be some turbulence coming up, so I
wouldn't recommend taking a peek right now.
She was going to see Equestria in less than an hour! Alyssa's heart
sang inside her body. She wished she could wake Chloe and Ella for
this. She bent her head and nuzzled the sleeping yellow shape of
Chloe. Chloe? CHLOE! Wake up! Equestria!
the loudest noise Alyssa had ever heard screamed past behind her, on
the right side of the cart. She felt the noise through her haunches
and tail, where they were pressed up against the wall. The
chariot bounced and bucked, caught in a terrible wake. Alyssa smelled
some strange, burning, chemical fumes. The noise slowly wailed
into the distance ahead of them.
WAS THAT?! Alyssa screamed over the ringing in her ears.
AIMED, I SHOULD THINK! Doctor Pastern did not look at all like
she was trying to make a joke.
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