Chapter Two: Her
Name Is Teacup
violet-maned mare was a little slow to learn. Cornflower started
with the basics, just as she would have with a foal of her own. It
was a might strange teaching a mare like it was a foal, but, she
remembered, only a short time ago this mare was some strange critter
from a scary, dangerous world. Cornflower reckoned that it couldn't
be easy to try to become a proper, normal pony after that, and she
wouldn't have it said of her that Cornflower Provender lacked pity
for them that were worse off.
the befuddled mare up and trotting around the kitchen by the middle
of the first day. Cornflower, Missus Provender, reckoned that all
foals are born with the knowledge of how to stand and walk, so this
newfoal couldn't be all that different. It just took a little time
and encouragement for any young'n to get their hooves on the ground.
seemed happy to clop around the lower floor of the farmhouse, but
there was no getting her up the stairs yet. Missus Provender resigned
herself to having a makeshift bed in the kitchen for awhile, so she
laid out another comforter and brought down a pillow from the guest
room. When she got downstairs with the pillow, she was pleased to see
the newfoal trying to straighten the impromptu bed as best she could.
She was a bit clumsy, but there was no doubt she wanted to help. That
was a good sign.
Provender tried to get the mare to go outside before the Princess
lowered the sun, but again her guest balked at the stairs out, as
well as the ice and snow. It made sense, if indoor stairs were too
difficult for the newfoal, then slippery outdoor stairs would be even
more intimidating. Cornflower felt foolish then, it should have been
obvious. Just gettin' old I guess, she thought to herself.
newfoal was clearly interested in the world outside though, and stood
at the door staring at the farm, and the hills behind, sniffing the
cold air for all she was worth. It was as if she had never seen a
farm before. This was getting the room cold, though, so Cornflower
nudged her in the flank, moving her back into the kitchen, so she
could close the door.
followed her everywhere, staring intently at whatever she did as if
it were the most amazing thing in the world. While she set about her
chores for the day, Cornflower constantly talked to the mare, hoping
some words might stick. Also, she had to admit, it was kinda nice to
have someone about the place during the day, while Mister Provender
was out tending to the livestock. It reminded her of the days when
her daughters were still home, days filled with laughter and an
endless series of fusses and messes, which in retrospect, she missed
a lot more than she ever reckoned she would.
newfoal mare tried to talk back to her, using whatever language they
speak in strange critter land, but none of her new guest's words
meant anything to her. Missus Provender went about her tasks, the two
of them close and chattering to each other in different languages. It
was a might silly, Cornflower felt.
early afternoon, Cornflower liked to have a cup of tea. She had Durum
get her tea whenever he went into Withers, and she was cross if he
should forget. She decided to see if newfoals liked tea, and so set
out cups for them both.
newfoal had some trouble at first, perching on a hay-bale seat by the
table, but soon she was sitting nicely enough. She seemed both
fascinated and troubled by the teacup Cornflower put down in front of
her. When the newfoal put her hooves up on the table, clearly trying
to pinch the cup between them, Cornflower stopped her, and motioned
for her to put her hooves back down. This seemed to further confuse
the poor creature, and for a moment it seemed as if she was going to
cry. Cornflower couldn't make any sense of this. Maybe human critters
ate with their hooves or something.
tea was steeping, the newfoal was going on in her peculiar language.
She seemed excited by the teapot, by the cups, and by the situation.
It seemed to Cornflower as if the newfoal was familiar with it all,
somehow. She had heard that the world the newfoals came from was
somehow linked to Equestria, perhaps they had tea there. If they had
tea, then they couldn't be all bad, she decided.
newfoal was trying to lift the cup by the handle. She had learned not
to use her hooves on the table, and had seen Cornflower bring the tea
things to the table in her teeth. The newfoal had grasped the handle
of the teacup in her mouth with some effort and was lifting it. It
was a good thing there was no tea in the cup, because if there had
been, it would have been all over the table by now. Cornflower
figured she had better show the mare how to properly use a cup.
caught the mare's attention and said "That's a teacup. Teacup.
Let me show ya how to use it." Cornflower lowered her head, and
lifted her upper lip in an exaggerated way to show the newfoal how
she used her teeth. She clamped the lip of the cup between her upper
and lower jaw, then lifted it up. She held it a spell, and even shook
her head a twitch to show that she had the cup held firmly. Next she
tilted her head back a might, and made a slurping sound with her
lips. Finally she lowered the cup to the table and set it down.
newfoal mare looked at her own cup, then at Cornflower, and appeared
to be considering. She duplicated the behavior Cornflower had
demonstrated to her. Then she set her own cup down. It wobbled and
fell over, so she nibbled at it until it stood upright again.
Tea-cup." Missus Provender intoned. "Go ahead, you try it.
the mare blurted out, in perfect Equestrian "TEACUP!".
It was her newfoal's first word, and Missus Provender could not be
prouder "Yes! Teacup! That's right. Teacup! Very good!" It
felt like she had a daughter at home again. Warm memories filled her
newfoal seemed very proud of herself. "Teacup!" she
repeated, and put a hoof to her chest "Teacup!" Then she
added a string of words from her own language that made no sense.
Next she pointed at Cornflower and surprised her by saying "Cornflower!"
guess you've been payin' more attention than I gave ya credit
for." Cornflower was happily surprised. She used a hoof to
gesture at herself "Cornflower!" Then she pointed her hoof
at the newfoal.
I wanted your name. Your name, honeycake." Cornflower gestured
again "I'm Cornflower, and you're..."
The mare pointed at Missus Provender "Cornflower!" Then
she pointed at the tea cup in front of her and said a word in her own
language. After that she rattled on a bit, nothing of which made any
sense at all.
dear." Missus Provender poured tea into the two cups. "I
guess we'll just call you 'Teacup' then. Here, have some tea, Teacup."
looked down at the tea and called it something in her own language.
"Cornflower?" Teacup was now staring intently at Missus
Provender with a glad expression on her muzzle "Teacup...."
She paused a moment, and then hugged her front hooves to her chest
"...Cornflower." The newfoal looked grateful, that was the
only word for it.
welcome, honeycake." Cornflower sipped her tea.
a bit of a mess, but in the end Teacup managed to get some tea down
her, and likely had learned how to use cups in the process. As Missus
Provender cleaned up afterwards, Teacup looked a might embarrassed.
There had been various assorted spills, and one time the newfoal
nearly broke her cup when it dropped as she was setting it down.
Messes and fusses. "It's OK, Teacup. Shucks, ain't nothin' I
haven't dealt with before!" Memories of her daughters flooded
she wasn't about to fully admit it, maybe having an untrained,
refugee newfoal on her farm wasn't such a burden after all.
Cornflower hadn't had such a fun day in many a year.
outside the multi-paned windows of the kitchen. It was obviously a
kitchen of some kind, food was prepared there. Tikvah had never seen
one made entirely of wood before, and such wood as well! If she had
to be a pony, well, this was not so bad. The comforter was warm and
soft under her belly, and the nice lady had tucked her in, as she had
the previous night, and given her a nuzzle before going upstairs.
couldn't help but think of the light gray mare as a nice old lady.
That's who she was in her mind. A world of talking ponies, and now
she, Tikvah Feinstein, was one of them. She wondered if the human
world was truly gone. Had the great 'Purification' already happened?
All of human history, all of humanity itself, swept away like so much dust.
again, she thought, maybe it was for the best.
been living, when she was human, in Wilmington, Jersey. Just a ride
from Newark, faster if you took the maglev. She had worked as a
nanofabricator in the huge plant they had opened - she was one of the
lucky 11% in the North American Alliance that had a job at all. After
all, 89% unemployment was the norm, but she didn't feel special, just
fortunate. She had known somebody that knew somebody. That's how it
worked. That's how it always worked.
It was a
pretty crappy job, really, but Tikvah was beyond grateful to have it.
She took the maglev to work, even though the plant was only a few
miles away, because it was safer. It cost a lot to ride the maglev,
but that was better than being slashed open and harvested for organs.
A lot of that had been happening on the regular routes, but so far
the organ muggers hadn't dared the high security of the maglev.
nicer, too. The maglev cars were in disrepair, like everything else,
but the seats still had covers on them, and that was much better than
riding on bare springs.
was a tedious task. Every day, at the start of her 16 hour shift, a
list of morphological parameters would be uploaded to her
workstation, and she would begin sorting them into topological
groups. Then she performed transforms on the data so that the quantum
system could digest it more efficiently. When that was done, she
moved to the fabrication center and checked the bins and tanks,
topping them up as needed. She was one of only five people in the
entire, vast building, each isolated in their own section.
the streets had been packed with an ocean of the destitute and the
dying, makeshift shelters and the endless favela that encrusted the
world like cardboard and sheet-metal barnacles. Ninteen billion
humans lived on the earth, all but one tenth of one percent of them
impoverished slaves working for the most minimal of wages, or merely
fortunate to be a slave now; her contract, like all employment
contracts, was so arranged that no matter what her pay rate, she
would always fall deeper in debt to the corporation. Having work
meant that she was restricted to purchases from her employing
corporation, so all of her food, shelter and power had to come from
Eastern Corporate. Fortunately, Eastcorp owned everything that
existed in her sector of North America, so all it really meant was
that she couldn't buy anything off the hypernet.
to be careful with loading the nanohoppers, because everything she
worked with was perilous. She spent much of her day inside a sealed
environment suit, but her actual task was pouring something grey into
something a different shade of gray. A tear or rip in her thin suit,
and it could mean two weeks quarantine without pay, and possible
mutilation or death. Naturally, she tried to be careful, but failure
to complete her tasks adequately was a firing offense, and of course
the debt she was already in for having a job at all would be with her
for life. Then, if she was lucky, she could hope for industrial
prison, or if unlucky, she could return to the world-spanning favela,
and the usual life of the sickness and barely surviving.
her degrees in nanoscience weren't really elite enough to hope for
industrial prison. So, it would be the slums if she was ever fired.
She'd still have to pay back the corporation, even from there, or end
up part of the mandatory organ donator selection pool. She wondered
if she should have studied law, or finance, instead.
was a living pod in the Union Park megacomplex. She was lucky to have
it, it was just within her budget. Two meters long by a full meter
and a half tall and wide, she had space to stretch out, plus just
enough room for a microfridge and her threevee tablet. She slept bent
around these items, and she liked to imagine they were friends she
was cuddling with. She felt so fortunate!
best part was the hatch. Each pod had its own locked hatch. The lock
was a quantum lock, and could not be broken by anything short of the
might of a corporate entity. Inside her pod, she was safe. She would
never be raped again, never lose her other ear, never be beaten,
never be hurt while she slept. Her living pod was more than a place
to sleep, it was a fortress, a castle, and for the first time in her
34 years, Tikvah knew what it was to feel safe.
Equestria first rose from the sea, Tikvah didn't really pay it much
attention. Her work was demanding, and she only allowed herself a
half an hour to surf the hypernet, just enough for half of an old
show, before dropping some Noeticin for two hours of concentrated REM
sleep. It simply wasn't part of her personal world.
discovered her world had changed irrevocably when she lost her job.
It was a very strange situation, because not only was she discharged,
but everyone at Eastcorp, at every division, everywhere in North
America had been fired simultaneously. All debts were cancelled. No
severance, no debt, no hope of prison, no nothing. Eastcorp was
simply gone. The single, monolithic, singular industry of the entire
east coast had pulled out of North America entirely. No person was
employed anywhere in the North East Zone.
a cryptic explanation: Due to current events, all employment has
been terminated without penalty.
heard anything. As far as she knew, nothing was going on, the company
had never mentioned anything in their employee bulletins. There had
been no mention in the net shows she watched, then again she only
watched reruns of old favorites, so there was that. She never
bothered with newsfeeds, there was no point - there was nothing she
could do about anything, hell, it was all she could do just to stay
had been so insular - pod, food dispenser, maglev, work, maglev, food
dispenser, pod - that she had basically missed the last five years.
On that last day, she finally met one of her co-workers at the
nanofabrication facility, the woman shrieking about something as she
ran past her, clearly outside of her normal workspace. Tikvah was
lost, her world, her life, everything suddenly destroyed.
years the world had changed. With her robotic schedule gone, Tikvah
wandered, in shock, away from the secure tunnels that led from work
to maglev. For the first time in five years, she found herself above
ground, and in her stunned state had forgotten to put on her Resperex
breather to deal with the smog and ash.
perpetual smog and ashfall that blackened Wilmington was simply...
gone. The vast skyscrapers that towered over the ramshackle favela
huts and constructions were as grimy and dark as always, but
something impossible glowed behind them. A vast field of blue, a
color Tikvah had not seen outside of images on the hypernet, filled
the sky. It was the sky. The original sky, which she had read about
in her childhood. The sky was supposed to be blue, somehow.
breathing easily. As easily as in her living pod, as easily as in her
envirosuit. Her lungs almost stung from the raw freshness of the air.
She couldn't take it in. It was impossible, insane. The sky was ...blue.
is the exact moment she saw her first pegasus, turquoise with a
crimson mane, gliding overhead. It was followed by others, many
others, and as she felt her sanity failing her, she whipped her head
down and crouched low to the ground, hands on the side of her head,
staring intently at the crusted plascreet walkway, as if somehow that
patch of normality could bring her mind stability.
me, are you alright?" The voice was eerily kind, as though it
were genuinely concerned. It was a soft voice, high of pitch, and it
wasn't asking for money, or demanding her kidneys. Somehow she
managed to look up, her curiosity overcoming her fear. She couldn't
take much more.
you need help? I'll help you!" It was a peach-colored unicorn,
wearing saddlebags and a Jersey Nets baseball cap.
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