Chapter Five: The
Roselyn Pastern put the sealed, Erlenmeyer flask carefully into the
armored red case. The flask, containing 18 ounces of purple,
nanotechnomagical plasm, fit neatly into a hollow in the dark gray
foam that lined the case. Pastern then lifted the red armored cover,
and laid it over the front of the case, making sure that the locking
mechanisms were properly aligned.
At the top
of the case, near the handle, was an active surface; this she touched
to initiate case lockdown. The red case politely locked itself, an
artificial voice indicating that lockdown had been successful. The
entire clinic could now be destroyed, and the contents of the red
case would survive, untouched. Such a comfort, thought Dr. Pastern.
late. Dr. Pastern placed the case on the shelf, and went to the door.
Lynn had already tidied the Conversion Room for tomorrow, so there
was nothing left to do. The reports were completed, all conversions
for the day had been accomplished, and three more human beings had
been changed into the strange, beautiful creatures of Equestria.
the chamber, Roselyn sealed the Conversion Room door with the swipe
of a finger on the active surface built into the Maxium Security
doorframe. It had been a strange day, and things had not gone as
smoothly as they should have. Roselyn reached out to the right to
close the 'boo-boo' room door, the infirmary, which had been left
open. She liked things tidy.
conversion had been a woman named Carmine, who had turned out to
apparently be a sociopath. Conversion hadn't agreed with her. For two
weeks she had lived among the staff and applicants, seemingly the
most kindly and gentle soul among them. Upon conversion, she had
screamed of her unworthiness, filled with guilt and shame, for the
first time able to feel both. She had run out of the building, along
with an older man, Tyler, who had been scheduled for the second
conversion of the day.
conversion had been a walk-in, and Pastern had allowed herself to be
swayed by the funny, eccentric woman who had bounced in from the
ruins outside. After conversion, she had become the most elegant and
peaceful of creatures, Caprice, who had in mere hours established
herself as the darling of Bureau clinic 042.
conversion of the day had taken forever, with a pregnant teen named
Sharon unable to decide, exactly at the end of her two-week
orientation period. That had been the kind of unpleasantness that
Roselyn disliked the most; sticky relationship drama of the basest
sort. Roselyn loathed histrionics; they got in the way of effective
solutions. Roselyn loved effective solutions.
her second conversion had saved the situation; Caprice had somehow
convinced the young mother to undergo conversion at last, though very
late in the day, saving Pastern a lot of forms, explanations, and
trouble with the Bureau.
was very grateful for that; now she wouldn't be up all night, and
could get some rest. She could also have some time for her own
personal need. It was something she did not want anyone to know
about, something she was deeply embarrassed that any other person
should ever see.
private room within the clinic, Roselyn carefully locked the door.
She moved to the chest by her cot. Sitting on the floor, she told the
chest who she was, and gave her security phrase. It was a quote from
Aldous Huxley. She spoke in a steady, quiet voice: "Maybe
this world is another planet's Hell." The chest considered
for a moment, then unlocked itself.
reached into the chest and lifted from it a worn stack of thin,
ancient books. They had been written for children, long, long ago,
and had been printed on actual paper made from the last of the trees.
To a wealthy worldcorp elite, they would be the find of a lifetime,
to a Pastern, they were a family treasure, passed down
generation to generation. But to Roselyn, personally, they
were her only peace.
been called 'Little Golden Books' and Roselyn's favorite was an
ancient tome, faded and yellow, called 'The Pokey Little Puppy'.
She didn't know why it held such power over her, but it did, and
when she opened it, her heart sang and cried at the same time.
Somehow, little childlike things answered some grief in her; she had
wondered if she was mourning her own lost innocence. In any case, it
was not something a respectable professional should be obsessed with.
Roselyn desperately needed her little books about sweet little
puppies, and kind animal friends. Even as the faded images nourished
some deep, lost part of her, they also caused hurt, somehow. It was
just that some days, her small collection was the only way she could
calm her mind, the only way that she could sleep.
been a trying day. Tears, as usual, ran down her cheeks as she began,
in a soft, quiet voice; "Five little puppies dug a hole under a
fence, and went for a walk in the wide, wide world."
had removed the cots from what had been Sharon and Tyler's room.
Originally Nathan and Tyler had been assigned there, but Tyler had
immediately and quietly swapped things around so that he could have a
love nest with Sharon. There, he had kept her isolated for his own
benefit, enjoying the hospitality of the Bureau. He had planned to
run in any case, once the two weeks were up; Sharon's pregnancy was
simply last call to him.
cots, two thick, fabric-covered foam slabs had been placed on the
floor, each with a comforter and a pillow. Ponies did much better
sleeping on a low, flat surface, than struggling with a cot made for
humans. The foam rectangles were too small for a human to entirely
fit upon, but the smaller Equestrian form was perfectly suited to them.
explained to Sharon and Caprice the basics of sleeping in their new
bodies. "As newfoals, you have basically three ways to sleep.
What I mean is that there are three positions that most new ponies
ways to sleep?" Sharon thought this sounded very exotic.
of. You can lay on your side, that's pretty common. You can lay on
your belly, like Caprice is doing right now." Beth indicated
Caprice, who had folded her back legs so that her rear hooves met her
belly, and her forelegs so that her front hooves curled up and nearly
met her rear hooves. "You can also sleep standing up."
This was new to Sharon.
are many differences between terrestrial horses and Equestrian
ponies. But there are also many similarities, and one of those is
that you can lock your legs." Beth tried to show the motion of
joints locking with her hands and arms.
legs can lock? Like stick in place?"
yes. I can't tell you how to do it, you'll have to try it
out. But apparently it's pretty easy to do." Bethany leaned
against the wall to rest her back. "Once your legs are locked,
ponies can just go to sleep like that."
we fall over?"
you won't. That's what the leg locking is for. You can just stay that
way, and you won't fall over."
Sharon began trying to get her legs to lock. It wasn't as easy as
Beth seemed to say.
a catch, though, according to Dr. Pastern. She says that you won't
sleep as well standing, as you would if you lie down, because if you
sleep standing, you won't dream. Apparently dreaming is important,
somehow." Beth straightened up, intending to leave.
about lying on our backs?" Sharon had given up on trying to lock
her legs, and was now squirming on her foam mattress, belly up.
you like. If it works for you, great. But most ponies can't
seem to stay comfortable long on their backs. Something to do with
the way their legs are, or their spine or something. You'll figure it
out. Now, be good girls, and I'll see you in the morning." Beth
stepped out into the main room. "We've gone over how to use the
toilet, how to get water, and now bed. Tomorrow there's a basic class
on personal grooming; it would be a good idea to go to it. Oh! One
Caprice looked up expectantly.
should give Dr. Pastern a big thank you, Sharon. She's
authorized you one more week at the clinic so you can have a chance
to catch up on what you missed before. She's really sticking her head
out for you on this one, so don't let her down, OK?" Dr. Pastern
was a big softy, Beth thought, deep down.
won't mess up this time, I promise!" Sharon meant it. She wanted
to be the best pony she could be.. for her foal.
smiled. "Good night you two. Oh, and welcome to Clinic 042, Caprice."
you very much, Bethany." Caprice smiled up at the receptionist.
"I'm sorry I gave you such trouble, earlier."
You made Doc Pastern smile, that's good enough for me. G'night!"
Beth shut the door behind her as she left.
swung her long neck, and moved her pillow with her teeth, adjusting
it just so in front of her. She tried lowering her face into
the pillow, but that didn't quite work. She moved the pillow closer,
so that her nose and mouth were clear. Better. She tried laying her
head sideways on the pillow. Hmmm. That kind of worked, but she
worried she might wake up with a kink in her neck.
going to take some experimentation, apparently. Then again, it was
an entirely new existence.
Sharon was on her side now, realizing too late that her pillow was
opposite her head.
little angel?" Caprice decided to try laying on her back, just
to see. Her legs hung over her. She tried to lay them flat, as a
human might rest, but they didn't seem to lay flat, and it hurt to
try to strain them that way. So that was the problem. Or part
of it, anyway. If she had a much softer bed, then maybe...
wanted to thank you for helping me. I wouldn't be here now if you
hadn't come over." Sharon's eyes looked wet; she felt like
crying although she didn't understand all of the reasons why. She
couldn't help a little sob.
rolled over and stood up. She tugged at her mattress with her teeth,
and kicked at it with her hooves, moving it up flush with Sharon's
bed. Caprice carefully lowered herself to the mattress, and moved her
pillow again. Now she was lying on her side, facing Sharon. "Come
here, little angel."
squirmed, hooves flailing over to Caprice, and snuggled into the
crook of her foreleg. Caprice lowered her other leg over Sharon's
body, resting it there. Sharon sobbed gently against Caprice's chest,
her muzzle warm against the soft, peach coat.
while, Sharon stopped crying. She felt warm and safe next to Caprice.
It was like she was a baby again, and was cuddled up next to her
mother. Was this what it would be like for her foal, one day? "Caprice?"
gave Sharon's head a little nuzzle with her own "Yes, little angel?"
kinda left the light on."
raised her head and looked up at the active surface on the wall. It
seemed miles away, and she was so tired. "Yes... yes we
did." Caprice lowered her head and closed her eyes. It had been
the most amazing day. The best day of her life. But it had also been
The peach mare was already asleep. Oh well, maybe ponies sleep with
the lights on? Sharon didn't want to move either.
settled into his large, foam bed. He had the best bed in the clinic,
and probably the entire Bureau. It had taken a few unusual trades and
barters to get the bed, but he valued a good night's sleep. He worked
hard to keep clinic 042 in whatever they needed, there was no reason
he shouldn't occasionally improve his own situation. Only fair, really.
had managed to get carrots at the last minute for Miriam, apparently
Dorcas had forgotten to order more from supply. He had needed to
agree to arrange for the San Francisco Bureau director to get five
Equestrian apples with the next shipment, and he wasn't exactly sure
how he was going to accomplish that. Nevertheless, he would find a
way. He always seemed to find a way. Heh, he thought, if he were a
stallion, that would probably be his Mark.
a 'procurement' Mark even look like?
also gotten Lynn her blankets, finally. That had been more
complicated than he thought, but Sergei in 084 had owed him several
pillows for over a month now; he had managed to convert that debt
into blankets, after setting up an interim trade with clinic 064 for
more toilet paper and the use of a plumbing torch for a week. The
064'ers always had trouble with their plumbing; that part of the old
AppleSoft complex had suffered the most damage back during the
bombing of San Francisco. Always somebody needs something, and always
there is something another has extra.
shaking in agreement? No, an Equestrian 'cutie' Mark would never have
a hand as a symbol, theirs was a world without hands, without humans.
Alexi rolled on his side, and tried to imagine if two hooves could
shake. Maybe if they pressed them together somehow. Did Equestrians
even shake hooves? If he were a stallion, would they need someone
like him in Equestria?
suddenly realized what he was really thinking about. Her.
"Easy, there, boy. That's some strange territory, after
all." He was surprised that he had said that to himself out
loud. He was thinking about a pony, and he was thinking about her that
way. She was not even human. Alexi felt a little creepy. Was it still
beastial if the other party was a fully sapient being? Did such
things even matter anymore? And what if he were a pony too? Did that
suddenly make it all right? And if so, why? This was strange territory.
Let's think about this. He took a deep breath and rolled on his back
again. She was a girl, a human girl, just this morning. Now, she's an
Equestrian, a completely different species, but... she's still
a person. A sapient, self-aware being. No, that wasn't the issue. He
was just deflecting from the real issue.
boy! Be a man and just admit it. So, she had more legs that the usual
girl. Hey, Alexi was known to be a leg man. So she had big ears. Lots
of girls have big ears. Besides, they suited her. Because she was a pony.
No. No. No. This was getting nowhere. Why couldn't he stop
thinking about her walking away to talk to that girl? Stop it, Alexi. Warning.
You are entering the weird place, where the weird people live, doing
dealt with hundreds of ponies during the past six months. Half of
them were females. Not once in all of that time had he thought this
way. Some of the women who came through, sure, some had been really nice.
Real 'lookers' as the old detectives used to say. But then they
became animals, and pif - that was that. He had no interest in
ponies. Why should he? He was a human man.
reasonable that... tastes... would change, once a human was
Converted. Conversion changed everything, it was only reasonable that
attraction would change too. That was just natural. Such a thing
would have to happen, or no newfoal would ever be able to find a mate
or raise a family. Only reasonable.
aika! That tail swinging over that big round....NO! Alexi
flopped over on his other side. ENOUGH. He willed his brain and body
to behave, and began listing what he needed to get done in the
morning. He definitely needed to solve the apple deal with the
director, and maybe there was a way to help the 064'ers fix their
plumbing once and....
was so kind. She was the most amazing person. The way she just helped
that girl! And direct. Alexi liked a woman who knew what she wanted
and said what she meant. She was what his grandmother had called a
hyvä nainen, a good woman. Her heart was truly kind and...
rolled over on his other side. He would never get to sleep at this
rate. All this was his fault. He had given the wrong impression. His
love of grandiose gestures... biting that apple from her teeth -
romantic, perhaps, but stupid. Stupid, stupid Alexi. She's a pony
now. She's out of your species. She'll soon enough be out of your
But... still... if he were a stallion....
buried his head into his pillow and softly screamed: Vittu
Roselyn Pastern was dreaming. In the dream, she was somehow aware
that she had experienced the same dream before. It was familiar. The
general was there. He was explaining about how she had been chosen
because of her paper. She had written a paper about her experiences
treating the victims of the attack on the nanofactory. The
technicians had suffered nanocoversion of large patches of their skin
and limbs. She had made the symptoms and treatment clear for the
general, and he was convinced of her expertise.
like a fraud. She wasn't an expert on any of this. But the job, oh
the benefits! She'd be working directly for the military branch of
the world corporation!
she was in an office. It was incredible. Everything was so
shiny and expensive. This was how the elite lived. Metal and glass
and holographic decorations, fountains with running water and carpet.
Oh, the carpet... and there was real coffee to sip. She signed the
holodocuments, of course she signed the documents. The security
clearance requirements rolled past forever and ever and...
It was the
room. She knew this room. There were the five men. She couldn't
remember their names. She never knew their names. They were ugly men,
dirty and mean and frightened. They had been shaved bald, and bound
into some kind of restraining mount, not quite a chair, not quite a
table. Their vocal cords had been paralyzed so they wouldn't be bothersome.
corporate prisoners. It didn't matter what for. They were the
property of the government now.
looking at her. He had a large body and a wide face. His mouth moved
at her, soundlessly. Then she saw the large spoon-dropper in her
hand. The shaft of the tube held a cherry red, viscous liquid. She
saw her hand squeeze the injector bulb and the red fluid ran to the tip.
was crying, his silent mouth moving. The general was by her side,
waiting. The lieutenant was telling the general about how Roselyn was
not fully committed to the project, how he felt that she was a poor
choice for a top secret project of such global importance. Roselyn
knew what happened to washouts given Umbra-Cosmik-Magik level clearance.
afraid, she was so afraid.
head was being held, his mouth open. Two blackmesh corporate soldiers
held the man's bald head. She put the dropper in. The general was
nodding. She squeezed exactly one ounce into the struggling mouth.
The next man would get two ounces. They were trying to find something out.
blackmesh soldiers jumped back. The bald man railed against his
bonds. His face contorted, as if he were screaming, but all that came
out was a soft hiss. Over and over the man hissed.
his neck started to extend. His fingers began to glue together. Parts
of him began to melt, and he was hammering his body against the
restraints, faster and faster and his face began to turn soft, like
dough, and his eyes began to sink into the dough and the hissing
became a gurgle and the man was jerking, jerking, his twisting limbs
shaking so quickly and then his hands stopped changing, and his neck
stopped stretching, and his eyes just froze there, half submerged
into his head, and he stopped gurgling and he stopped shaking and the
man was just quiet now, and she was there, looking closely at his
face, what was left of it, and it looked partly human and partly like
the aliens from the dome in the ocean, and she thought he was dead
now, only she could tell that what was left of him was still
breathing, and the thing just kept breathing and she made the
lieutenant laugh at her because she couldn't stop throwing up, and
throwing up and then there was nothing left to throw up but her body
just kept doing it anyway and the lieutenant just kept laughing.
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