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(Go to the author comments to get a link to the gdocs version, now with 20% more formatting)

"What is the point of surviving if you are not yourself anymore?"
Sarve Poleit
From his personal memoirs, "President of Nothing"

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AI recording, entry #960
Entry added by ADMINISTRATOR Harth, Xco
Date: October 13th, 2065
Time: 12:05, -03:00 GMT
Recording: Personal thoughts

The wind was certainly something else. It whipped and winded its way through the parade grounds and I couldn't help but think about how my son would have deemed it to be a particularly blustery one, as his favourite book would have put it. It brought a sharp chill that wormed its way into my bones, easily penetrating the ceremonial suit that I wore, as well as offering an ill omen to another dark winter. Fortunately, the storm front that the wind rode from was still several hours away, at least according to the Wi-Net, and so we would hopefully have the process wrapped up before the rain arrived.

Before me was an assembly of what were now the world's best soldiers, probably numbering into the high hundreds. Male or female, old and young, spies, assassins, tacticians or just plain army grunts; it didn't matter what they had been before, all that mattered was that they could prove that they could hold onto what made them men or women, what made them human.

As cynical as it may sound, I knew that there probably wasn't that many of them.

"Men and women of the world, welcome to your graduation ceremony!" I announce into the microphone that was planted on the podium in front of me, the audience answering in kind with a raucous cheer and enthusiastic fist pumping. For a few seconds these soldiers, who had been grinded into automaton-like war machines, were allowed one last moment of individuality and just simply enjoy being a human. Had the wind not been so strong they would have probably thrown their berets into the air as well. I wait a few more seconds for the cheering to die down before I continue with "Today marks the end of an era and the start of a new beginning, one which you shall be the forerunners of. You have trained your minds and bodies to peak performance and your dedication has shown that we, as humans, are still capable of achieving greatness! As you step through the portal to the new world remember that no matter what you are on the outside you will still be yourselves on the inside; a testament to humanity till the end!"

I'm over the hump now. I've just lied to almost a thousand men and women that have sweated tears and cried blood for their country, their world, and chances are less then half of them will even remember where they were born by dawn.

"Do not let the words of the weak dissuade you from your chosen path, for what they do not understand frightens them. You shall walk where those who believe in angels fear to tread and, at the end, you shall stand, a beacon, beckoning to those who follow in your wake!" More cheering.

Do they not know that they give their applause to their reaper?

"I will not keep you from your future much longer, for as an old dog of the military I myself know that actions speak louder then words. But, before I release you, I offer these nuggets of wisdom," I announce as my voice drops a couple of octaves, a simple adjustment that nevertheless adds the weight of the world to my words. "First, always be alert; things are not always what they seem to be. Second, remember that you are but a rock in life's river; you cannot fight it, but neither should you let it sweep you away. Let it flow around you, let it smooth your rough edges and etch its lessons on your core. Finally, and I have said this already but it bears repeating, do not forget what made you human and keeps you human, no matter how life changes around you," I conclude, my piece spoken, although I don't feel as if I've spoken my peace. I give them an obligatory salute. The thunder of pounding feet reverberates throughout the grounds as those gathered stomp their feet and return the salute in perfect synchrocity.

As I walk off of the wooden stage I hear the beginnings of the assembly instructions. I listen in, although I already know them off by heart; five gates, each to support no more then two-hundred people, and each to be manned by one MP at the entrance. On the other side there was to be one human interviewer, one human representative and two Equestrian representatives; one of who was a native and the other a turned human.

I'm standing in for the interviewer at gate 4.

It had been difficult for me to get a position as one; the politicians had told me I was too busy to bother playing greeter for a bunch of jarheads, I'd told them to stuff it, although I had been less polite in my wording. They stepped down pretty quickly, the spineless cowards.

Besides, I owed an old friend a favour.

I walked past the MP guarding the gate, a sharp young man by the name of Ron, and gave him a nod as I walked by. I didn't see as much as I heard his hand coming up to meet his helmet as he saluted. Normally I would have told him to be at ease, but right now I had too much on my mind; I barely even noticed the transition from Earth to whatever the Equestrians called their planet as I stepped through the portal. My memory told me that I would have seen a bright white flash followed by a faint buzzing noise.

It also told me that I probably hadn't missed out on much by not paying attention.

I stepped out of the portal, my eyes momentarily squinting as they adjusted from the overcast day to the bright lights of the "greeting" room. It was coloured a clean and sterile white with nothing but a few stools to accentuate the spartan surroundings. It was probably the only place in all of Equestria that shared a likeness to a human building; unlike the plane that Earth existed on, in which muted and subdued colours were the order of the day in construction, Equestrian buildings were almost always a bright and vibrant shade, usually heavily borrowing from the warm colour spectrum. In fact, even the plain white of the room still looked a little off, and the well-initiated or exceptionally observant could see that the surrounding world almost seemed as if it had been drawn with pastels.

I took a cursory look at those in wait with me; to my right stood the native Equestrian, a garishly coloured green-and-yellow pegasus mare, who seemed a little out of sorts in the unfamiliar room. Directly in front of me was the human representative, who I exchanged a knowing glance with. The human-turned-Equestrian was sitting on his haunches to my left, his coat a bland and unusually-normal shade of brown, the only distinguishing feature on it being what could have passed as an old sheriff's star that marked his flanks.

No words are spoken between us, and if there were, what would we talk about? The economy? Earth is crumbling around us while Equestria is about to go into a massive boom. The weather? It would just be depressing to compare our regular super-cell storms and smog-filled skies to the heavily regulated Equestria horizon. Our respective populations? That's what all those soldiers outside are for; so that there won't be a human race to talk about.

Or at least, that's what will come to pass if everything goes according to plan.

Really, all there is to do is try to get comfortable, a feat that is amazingly hard in my itchy uniform, and wait. I fail spectacularly on the first count and the second one, thankfully, is short lived.

The portal itself is relatively ubiquitous. The gate almost completely blends into the white-washed wall, the only mark of its existence being a ripple that flows from the center as if someone was dropping rocks into a sideways pond. Contrary to popular science fiction there are no bright heavenly lights blossoming from it, no elaborate machinery sustaining it, and, much to the disappointment of Lovecraftians, no ominous chanting emanating from it. Now, when someone steps through it…

A bright light appears and a dusty red earth pony appears.

…Well, the truth of the matter is that isn't very interesting either, barring the… colourful results that the majority of humans elicit. Human walks in, and ninety-nine-point-eight percent of the time a pony walks out.

Simple, effective, the two holy grails of modern technology that, ironically enough, had very little to do with the magically-made hole that has ripped a tear into the very fabric of space and time a few feet behind me. According to the techies an exceptionally talented magic user can open one of these holes and have it stable enough for beings to cross through mostly unscathed, the exception, as previously stated, being the majority of humans. In fact, the only problem to bridging into any number of alternate realities is the sheer astronomical amount of luck required to not only bridge into a reality that doesn't immediately destroy matter but also land on habitable planet, a chance so small that they had a ten to the power of a negative number so large that it went across three pages

It's probably worth mentioning that number was based off of only one positive result and chances were it was a fluke, not the law of averages evening out.

Fortunately for the Equestrians their magic is capable of extending past the portal and, more importantly, doesn't implode, spontaneously combust or otherwise produce amazingly deadly results when it encounters non-existence. According to my original briefing they just happened to find us one day, copied down the components and variants of the spell, and walked in on the Large Hadron Collider crew to introduce themselves the following morning.

Personally, I like to think that they had just finished the morning newspaper and a stale bagel before, of course, thoroughly brushing their teeth, just in case we looked in their mouths.

I stand at attention and, mustering all of my authority, bark "Earth pony! What is your name, country of birth and the name of your leader?" I stare down at the thing, its three-foot frame barely rising up to my waistline, although if you count the height of its sunset-orange mane it might reach the top of my gut.

He looks around for a few moments, seemingly in a daze, until his eyes rest on the letter-like tattoo that's plastered on his rear. "My name is Dawn Runner and I was… er…" More hesitation, this time as his brain fills the sudden gap in his history with new memories brought from some unknown source, although I would bet good money on it being magic. "I'm from… Coltsdale! Yeah. And I serve Celestia, the bringer of the Sun and Luna, the bearer of the Moon."

I give a non-committal grunt, flex my head towards the Equestrian representative, and blandly reply with "Well, get a move on." He looks over to where I motioned and, noticing the Pegasus beckoning him, clops over happily. She pushes the handless door open with her muzzle before stepping out of the way to let him through. He flashes her a big toothy grin and waltzes on through, my last sight of him composed of his ass swinging in synch with something that most likely had no tune.

I look down at the clipboard that had been lying discreetly on my stool, a plain black pen thoughtfully shoved in between the pages so it wouldn't fall out. I pick it up and, with a disenchanted sigh, mark an X beside Donovan Reat's name while the others in the room follow suit, with exception going to the pegasus who was happily putting a checkmark on his face. I couldn't help but notice the human-turned-stallion was having a difficult time keeping the pen steady in his teeth as he made his mark; I don't know how anyone or anything could ever get used to not having opposable thumbs after living with them for their entire life.

Oh well. He's going to have plenty of time to practice making X's before we're through.

First one was a washout and I mentally add that fact to my list of bad omens; it's gotten pretty long as of late. According to the short dossier beside his name he was born in Oklahoma in 2025, enlisted in the army to fund his college, decided he liked it and eventually joined the SEALS. He survived several covert operations and had a near perfect mission success ratio. Ten years he had been the best of the best before he had been asked to join the Equestrian Reserve Initiative and, most likely sensing a chance to secure an early semi-retirement as a member of their royal guard, signed up. He had almost certainly been educated in several advanced fields as well as received extensive training against various methods of both psychological and physical torture. He had completed the training to become an Equestrian soldier with flying colours and would have most likely been on the fast track to becoming an officer.

Now all of that counted for jack shit.

A brain with an IQ of a genius and the ability to resist unimaginable cruelty hadn't saved him from "Joining the herd", as it were. When a human walks through the portal their body is assaulted with the magic that inhabits Equestria. Except in a few rare cases like mine it results in the permanent transformation from human to pony. The other part of the transformation is, to a degree, less random.

Any human who crosses the threshold is bombarded with the underlying magic, a magic so powerful that not only does it change the physical, but also the mental. A human can hold onto their original memories and personality, given enough strength of character; however, and I can speak from personal experience, the desire to give in is overwhelming. Submit, the magic says, give in and you shall be granted eternal happiness in a veritable paradise, although it should be mentioned that just about anything in comparison to Earth now looks like paradise. It doesn't just speak to you, it sings, it weaves a tapestry so beautiful it makes you cry, it tells tall tales that make you laugh,  its siren song so effluent that you want to sing in a duet with it forever.

And to hold onto yourself you have to tear it all down.

You shut your ears, your rip apart the art and set it aflame, it screams in pain as you assert yourself over it and the entire time your doing the deed it asks" Why? WHY? We only want to love you, to share our bounty with you so that you may too know our peace! Why? WHY?"

That, though, is the root of the problem. It is akin to a honeydew plant, sweet to smell yet when the fly is caught in its sticky grasp there is no escape, no quarter, until it has sucked every last bit of life from it. It offers you its gifts and all you have to do is become its slave. You must subscribe to *its* peace.

I don't know why he gave in, and I'll never know. Perhaps its offer was simply so extravagant he couldn't refuse, or, conversely, it promised a basic life, carefree and idyllic. After all, spending half of your waking life being trained to assassinate, sabotage, and squeeze information from other human beings takes a toll on even the most hardened killer. The promise of a clean slate, of a mind unfettered with the worries of the world, is a very tempting offer.

Perhaps using soldiers wasn't the best of ideas. Everything is 20/20 in hindsight, as the saying goes.

The portal reacts again, this time a cobalt unicorn with a magenta tail and mane appearing. Same routine as before; name, place of birth, leader.

"I was born in Hoofington by the name of Night Write, sir. My allegiance belongs to the night's mistress, Luna." His voice is formal, his posture erect and his eyes, for one who has lost himself, unusually bright. Judging from his mannerisms and his name I gauge him to be a scholar, a theory that is supported by the pen on his flank. I flick my head toward the pegasus and, after giving me a quick bow, moves to the now-open door. He gives the mare a curt nod of thanks for holding the door open for him, which she returns with a flutter of her eyes.

That's zero-to-two for the visiting team now.

They know what they're getting into of course; we're not so callous as to not let them know what it is that they were going up against, although we may have downplayed the inherent risks in our seminars. Still, these were trained professionals; we thought they wouldn't have a problem with the change from the practicum to the practical. Early estimates had put the success rate at ninety percent and even after more was discovered about the portal's effects there was still an estimated eighty-five percent chance of retention of mental facilities.

I'd told them that we should have done a small test group first, that we had no large-group statistics to compare or contrast. 'No, it'll be fine' they'd answered, and now here we were, far too along to stop the process without causing mass speculation and paranoia into just how pervasive the magic was to humans.

Still, we're only two out of two-hundred into the deal, a mere one percent, and I find myself hoping that my early fears are groundless.

Then, as if fate itself is laughing in my face, the third subject, another earth pony who's painted a pristine white, complete with an emblem of a pair of scissors on the usual location, steps through and whinnies loudly. I ask the questions and I get the answers that I would have preferred not hearing.  The score now stands at three-oh.

Sometimes, I hate it when I'm right.

I snap out of my reverie when the gate fluctuates again, a black pegasus appearing from its depths. It wobbles around unsteadily for a few seconds, although that's usually a good sign. The fact that it's lacking the marking on its flank is an even better one. "Pegasus pony! What is your name, country of birth and the name of your leader?" I intone.

It clumsily raises a hoof up to its head, although it quickly goes back down when it almost falls over onto its side. "Sir! My designation is Petty Officer Grade Two, codename 'Dark Days' and my birth name is Daniel Telth. I was born in the Northwest Territories in Canada and I serve under Prime Minister Jeanne." I snatch a quick look at his dossier; everything checks out. Found a love for flying when his father took him out ice fishing, joined the Canadian Air Force at age twenty-five, proved his mettle in several aerial engagements and bombing runs. Figures he'd become a pegasus. Even his codename already fit the noun-adjective format that the Equestrians seemed to love so much, although he would probably have to change it to something less inflammatory.

I let a thin smile crease my weathered face.

"Welcome to Equestria soldier, and congratulations on your successful passage through the gate. If you follow this stallion here…" I gesture towards the brown colt, "…you will be shown to your quarters where the second phase of your instruction will begin." He rolls his eyes at the mention of more training but still looks more or less pleased with himself for his success.

He begins walking over to the door before he stops and, with what was most likely a great amount of difficulty, cranes his neck to look at me and asks "Are the others that were before me in there?"

Damnit, he just had to go and ruin the mood, didn't he?

"I'm afraid not," I answer truthfully. His gaze continues to bore into my head, his face telling me that he knew there was more to it then that. I break eye contact before I continue with "I'm sure it was just a rocky start. You will have plenty of others joining you in there soon enough." He blinks a few times, trying to discern the truth from my statuesque expression, before giving up and wordlessly moving through the door. As the closes the door behind the pegasus I give another salute, the only answer to it being a sad look from the brown colt.

At least I get to put a checkmark beside a face now. I only wish I could do it with as much gumption as the pegasus.

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And so it went. We made it through the first fifty with little in the way of distractions. A violet unicorn with a flashy gold mane brought out some water, which I greedily quaffed in the hopes that it would stave off the encroaching heat; my suit was beginning to plaster to my skin from all of the sweat. On the bright side, the human-pony intellect ratio increased to about one-and-a-half ponies to every human in the guise of a horse. Turned out the beginning really was just a stroke of bad luck, although the success percentage was still far below the original projections.

It was number sixty-eight that posed a problem, which is to say that he didn't cause the problem but was the center of it when sixty-nine came through. It began benignly enough, I asked the rote questions and we had another bonafied human-pony in our midst. No, the problem arose when he asked whether his brother, the one before him, was waiting for him in brown's room. A sense of despair and regret hung in the room for a few tense moments before brown shook his head and pointed towards the pegasus' door. He muttered something that passed for thanks before he went past the petrified pegasus and disappeared behind the closing door. She had been chipper for the entire time up until this point, and now it was as if someone had reached into her chest and ripped out her heart. She pushed open the door too and disappeared into the hallway beyond. A few seconds passed before a gruff looking unicorn took her place.

I inwardly swore. I screamed and frothed at the mouth in my minds eye at the unfairness of it all. This was why such a heavy preference had been given to single men and women who had little to no family left. If he was lucky his brother would at least remember him, although it would be an entirely different set of memories and experiences. If he didn't then all he would get would be a blank stare as thirty years of sibling rivalry and brotherly bonding was for naught. There was still a way for him to re-enter his brother's life, although it would involve him sacrificing himself as well to the magic. The magic filled any holes in a turned one's memory and, if his brother also joined the stream, it would bring them together once again.

Live in regret, or die and be reborn, never to know what lengths you were willing to go to in order to save the ones you love.

The portal only changes a person once and, if you deny its temptations, it leaves you alone forevermore; to truly join the magic after that you have to be exposed to its pure essence. However, this is easy to do since every time a person walks through a portal for the first time a massive amount of waste magic is given off. For the most part this semi-fuel is reserved for casting the most powerful of magic but, when a human or human-turned-pony is exposed to it, it immediately brings them into the stream. Not even I or the other humans who have managed to keep their shape when crossing the portal can fight its power and, when exposed to enough at once, it can outright kill a man before absorbing them completely into the stream.

I've seen it happen once, about a year ago, if memory serves. A man who still heard the clarion call of the magic beckoning him finally snapped. No one had been able to stop him before he reached into one of the vats that held the essence and suddenly evaporated, his entire being drawn into the magic. I asked one of the unicorns about what it was supposed to be like in the stream the following morning and, after she pressed me on why I would want to know, told me that some of the most accomplished magicians had gone into the stream and returned. According to them it was a place of pure bliss, where you just simply existed until you were reincarnated from the stream as a pony to begin life anew.

I found the whole reincarnation theory to be a bit farfetched myself but, then again, three-foot-high talking ponies.

The next several dozen passed with no incidents, although the tone in the room was decidedly more sombre after the two brothers had passed through. Number one-hundred thirty-seven changed that. He walked out of the portal, perhaps a little hairier then normal, but was nevertheless a real flesh-and-blood human. The human representative positively glowed at this revelation; he had been quite lonely for the last two hours. I walked up and shook the hand of a very confused man who had most likely been assuming he was going to come out a quadruped. "You are a very lucky man, Corporal Jensin," I explain as he tries to grasp the situation. "Over there you'll find a Mr… hmm, what was your name again?" I ask the other human.

"Luceyenkov," he answers, his voice tinged by a slight Russian accent. "Come here Corporal, we have much to discuss," he commands as he opens the door behind him, the only one in the room that was complete with a regular handle. The man named Jensin obliges and soon the two have disappeared behind the shutting door. I marvelled at just how surprised he had been; he hadn't said a single word while he had been in the room.

I can appreciate a strong silent type.

Seeing another human briefly buoys my spirits, although they quickly fall when number one-hundred sixty-three comes through kicking and screaming, his body flailing, his eyes wild and his mouth frothing. There's no mistaking the symptoms; I start to reach for my tranquilizer before a loud crack echoes through the room. I look over to where it originated from and see a man dressed in black swat gear, a smoking pistol aimed at the head of the dead pegasus. He puts another hole into it for good measure before disappearing into the recessed door that had been secreted in the corner. A unicorn that looks like its seen things that even grown men would balk at appears and efficiently cleans up the mess; crimson blood is wiped away with a cloth, the body levitated and taken away by another unicorn while the first one covers up the smell of copper and gunpowder with a quick spell. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, they vanish, their work done. I notice that the low calibre bullets hadn't even made it out the other side of the pegasus' skull to mar the pristine tile.

The white hospital-style room had been chosen for two reasons; the calming effect it had on those who entered it, and the ease of seeing where blood landed.

Poor bastard had split. A roughly one-in-a-million chance had killed him long before the bullet found his brain. A split occurred when a persons mind rejected the stream, like a sort of mental allergic reaction, and then tried to take on parts of both. Technically he was still alive when he was shot but there was nothing in his head that resembled cohesive thought. At first they had tried to bring splits back but that had quickly been abandoned when a lobotomy revealed that their brain had, quite literally, fried. After that standard procedure was to terminate the afflicted. Officially it was called a mercy killing, but those in the know simply said "They put it down" or "They put it to sleep". When I had asked one of them why they used euphemisms from a vet's they he blithely replied with "'Cause they're not human anymore."

I nearly got suspended from the program when I broke his arm in a full-nelson.

I was a little shaken but, having seen it happen before I quickly regained my composure. The unicorn looked a fair bit more shocked but he forced himself back together while brown stood impassively, his sheriff star mark hinting that he had probably seen executions before. At least my fellow human had been spared the spectacle since he was still in the back talking to Jensin; chances were he wasn't going to be needed back anyways.

Then the next inductee walked through the gate and we carried on as if nothing had ever happened.

The last part went by in a blur for me; greet, question, send them on their way. I just couldn't bring myself to care anymore and at this point I just wanted to reach two-hundred and finish the day off with a tall glass of what passed for alcohol in Equestria. At least it came by quickly.

A cobalt unicorn with a shield as his mark appears. Last one just had to be one of them, didn't it? "Pegasus pony! What is your name, country of birth and the name of your leader?"

"My name is Stormfront, ambassador! I hail from Stalliongrad and my life belongs to the eternal sun goddess Celestia!" and then, as if to punctuate this point, he stuck a pose that, while probably impressive for a pony, looked a little ridiculous from my perspective.

The unicorn was about to call out to him before I held up a hand and demanded "Leave us be. I'll send him to you shortly." The unicorn looked uncertain for a moment before shrugging its shoulders and exiting the room. The human greeter still hadn't returned and brown had left shortly after when Stormfront had begun his spiel. The room was empty save for me and the freshly-minted pegasus. I check the hidden doors to make sure no one is hiding behind them and then put down a silencer, a simple device that creates a cone where sound couldn't escape from, and move forward.

And embrace the pegasus around its neck.

"God damnit Zack. I was supposed to greet you, to welcome you here. I lied to hundreds of people, I even watched one of them die, in the last three hours and now you've gone and buggered it all up your stupid git," I bemoan softly. The pegasus just stands there, unmoving. "You and me, we were going to tour this place together. We were going to hit up every single god damn bar and see just how many new and exciting ways we could get piss drunk, and right at the end you give up on it all…" I finish my tirade. I have more to say but I'm afraid if I keep going I'll break do…

"Oh, for fuck's sake, just skip to the part where you kiss me and bring me back to my senses or whatever contrived bullshit they entertain here." I pull back in surprise and shock to see a pair of bright and intelligent eyes above a stupid smirk of satisfaction.

"Zack? Zack!" I move in to give him an earnest hug. "You son-of-a-bitch, you actually had me going there for a moment!" I retreat again as I give him a half-hearted throttling.

He breaks away easily and laughs. "Ha! And there I was thinking you were supposed to be the stone-cold one."

"Humph, I would have figured it out anyways. And besides, there's a difference between showing your emotions and feeling them." I stand back up as I feel a bit of my old life flowing from him and coming to me, the life of being two friends who had grown up beside each other, had a double marriage with our respective wife's, and the inevitable drifting apart as our children and jobs had taken us our separate ways.

"So, how are you, old codger?" asked the fifty-eight year old, although he looked a good degree younger after his transformation; from what I'd heard ponies could apparently live up to a  be more then a hundred-fifty years old.

"Better then you, young grasshopper," I answer as I think about my golden-years age of fifty-nine. Despite our mere one-year age difference we still joked about it, and he never let me forget the fact that I was statistically more likely to die first either.

"You know, now that I have an unnaturally long lifespan I'm far more likely to outlive you now," He boasted.

Yep, definitely Zack.

"Anyways, what was with the whole strike-a-pose thing?" I inquire.

"Oh, you mean… this?" he answers as he does it again.

I laugh and rub my eyebrow in exasperation. "I swear, you think rainbows sprout from your ass."

"And now that I'm a pegasus I can probably do that too," he answers chidingly. I roll my eyes as he begins to whip his tail around in figure eights. "Hey, I think I'm getting the hang of th…" his bragging is interrupted by his tail coming up to whip him in the eye. At his point I'm laughing so hard I have to hold onto the near stool to keep my balance as he furiously blinks to get the fibres out of his eye.

"So, how'd you do it?" I ask after I've wiped the tears from my eyes.

"Do what?"

"Well, you walked in here like you'd had four legs your entire life, spouted the Celestia nonsense, and even managed to have the tattoo on your ass."

"Well, the walking part was easy; I just imagined I was crawling. I was worried you guys might have noticed how stiff my legs were but I guess I managed to pass that off as lock-step. As for the whole I-swear-allegiance-to-the-sun thing I watched a couple of videos of other Equestrian soldiers doing the same thing and just went from there."

"And the mark?"

"That just happened. You know how they're supposed to reflect your talent or whatever, right?" I give an affirmative nod before he continues, "Well, after I left the army I got a job as a security officer for a big tech firm, as you know. Pretty boring stuff but hey, bills to pay and kids to send through college. Then you told me that the head honcho here was looking for a private entourage of fresh blood and I guess the powers that be decided that the mark on my ass meant I should watch out for hers."

"Okay then, but what about the wife and the kids? I hope you got their approval before you came here."

"We've seen the adverts and, after we all talked about it, we decided as a family that we'd go through the process. They're going to wait for that breakthrough that you told us about though, you know, the one where they won't have to worry about that 'stream' thing or whatever stealing their souls. Oh and on that topic, that was pretty intense. I'm glad you were waiting for me," he says as he shuffles his hooves absentmindedly.

"What're you talking about? I mean, sure, the numbers weren't that great but I knew you at least had it in you."

"Really? Then what was with the whole confessional thing?" I open my mouth to reply before he interrupts me with "Don't answer that, let's just say it was a rhetorical question. I really mean it though, I'm glad you were on the other side waiting for me, that thought gave me something to hold onto." He flashes another smirk at me.

I wonder… I wonder if the brother who had gone first would have made it through if he had been the second instead, if he could have known his sibling was waiting for him on the other side.

Zack notices my unease and, as only close friends can do, made it worse. "Oh, are you thinking about the guy who died?'

I give a defeated sigh as the day's trials catch up to me again. "No, he split. The guard had to do a mercy kill, but at least he didn't have to live with his pain for very long. The thing that really got to me was… well, there were two brothers…" I explained the circumstances of the situation to him as he listened with an uncharacteristic amount of reverence.

After I'd finished we stood there for a few moments in a sort of prayer before he broke the silence with "Damn. I didn't know or else I wouldn't have…"

"It's fine, just forget it, there's nothing we can do," I cut in before I bring up my AI's clock. "Jesus, we've been here talking for the last fifteen minute and they're probably waiting for you right now. You should get going before they get suspicious," I explain to him hastily.

"Crap! I almost forgot about that. Time to pony up I guess," he tries to joke as he gives a false smile for my benefit. "Where can I meet you?"

"Catch me in the mess hall at seven. There are directions to it in just about every hallway," I elaborate as I shut down my silencer and pick up my coat and clipboard. He gives me a wink before pushing his way through the door that the unicorn left out of while I head off to my room to freshen up.

There'll be plenty of time later tooo catch up on the pass and dwown the present with a safdaxcsdfabrandyawofchsssssssssssss……………

Attempting to retrieve AI Recording files
WARNING. Remaining portion of file is corrupted. Please initiate a memory recover t[END]
Process terminating
Edit: Gdocs link - [link]

That's right people, the Pony phenomenom has ensared me too. Run, run now, lest you too become enamoured with realistic characters, smart humor, quality animation (Flash no less) and a simple yet enticing storyline. Don't worry, this should be all the preaching I do on this subject; there many other people who will gladly spout drivel about how great the story is in my stead.

This is *technically* a final draft of *this* form of the second chapter.
First, you may notice that things are a bit disjointed, which is due to the fact that I was originally going to have a story that didn't follow in chronological order. However, this ended up making me shove in a ass-load of exposition that didn't really fit the situation and, as such, this chapter will be gutted to improve its pacing and the flowery writing will be more evenly distributed among its respective chapters. The first chapter will most likely stay as is unless I decide to add/replace something in it.

Some things that I didn't bring up in the story or otherwise mention would be that A) Humanity is nearly extinct following the melting of the polar icecaps and the resulting loss of land and fresh water, thereby causing billions to die (Ohhh, grimdark) due to dehydration and malnourishment, B) This is only hinted at in the story but Harth is acting as Earths Ambassador and, as the first chapter reveals at, he eventually masterminds the final contingency plan. I won't give anything moer away, you'll just have to wait for me to gather my shit and fix up this trainwreck.

Also, to any other writers out there, please feel free to bring up spelling mistakes, continuity errors or just plain bad writing. I'm not as infallible as I like to think I am.

The story is partially inspired by Blazes Conversion Bureau story.

Also, I realize that Zack is lame. He is merely a placeholder for now until I can develop his character better.
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DrIvoRobotnik Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2011
Hmm, I get the mechanics of the story but I'm not sure I understand the plot just yet. Still, a great read. Keep up the good work!
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2011
Read the artist comments and the other comments I've answered to get a fuller understanding of where the story is going. It's supposed to be a disjointed timeline but I've abandoned that since it's too difficult too pull off, and your confusion shows exactly why that is.
I should be posting the first half of the (Chronologically) first chapter in a bit which might help somewhat.
Windchaser1 Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011
I completely forgot I was reading a fanfic 1/4 of the way through. The writing style you used was beyond anything i could ever dream up myself, and everything knit itself together so well. Good god you have talent.
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
It probably helped that I tried to play down the Pony element.
It`s a double-edged sword, writing like this. I overextended myself and now I have to do some massive reworking.
I try :D.
Windchaser1 Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
I can't wait to see what you have in mind for the next chapters for the story. Best of luck to you!
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
Thanks ^_^.
I have a complete rewrite in mind unfortunetly so it may be a bit ^^;.
Windchaser1 Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
Take your time, I'll be looking forward to it!
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2011
Great :D.
Priderage Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011
This story has not so much as a god damn _single post_ in my thread?

Action must be taken.
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
Oh... there will be posts...
Priderage Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2011
Action has been taken.


In hindsight, maybe I was a little too enthusiastic, but God help me, I couldn't stop reading this. My eyes literally hurt and I didn't stop.

Also, I noticed _after_ I'd plugged this that my own variant of The Conversion Bureau was mentioned. I actually plugged first, read that second. I'm honoured to have that called a work of art, truly honoured.

I was serious about reading until my eyes hurt, by the way. I need to go walk and stop my eyes from burning holes in my head.

- Pride
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
I would say `curb your enthusiasm`but I`m quite enjoying all the attention lavished upon me suddenly :D.

Your writing is amazing and I can honestly say that I felt something in this cold dark heart of mine when I was reading pride and that Addun gave me goosebumps.

Apparently my story grants the ability to rapidly evolve eye lasers.
Priderage Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
Yeah, I think I overdid it a bit...

Regardless, I'm a fan of narrative in stories, which means that all the work put into the computer system interaction went down like a spoonful of sugar for me, especially the long delay before activating Harth's final note in the first chapter.

I'd love to hear what parts of Arddun Lleuad had such an impact on you, by the way. I think that would be good information to know, would appreciate that very much.

Crap, gotta go, can't type more.

- Pride
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
No no, keep it up. I don't mind and everyone else (Except for mush, but he's a couple apples short of a bushel if you know what I mean) seemed to think your reaction was justified.

I was wondering if anyone was going to notice how that signified his hesitation. You truly are a detailed-oriented guy ^_^.

I dunno... all of it? Although the bit where he was sneaking into Twilights tree and meeting Luna made me miss a few beats. You did an excellent job on making the ponies aggressive towards a threat without breaking the slight-pacifist thing and I think your story is the first where a human couldn't immediately understand a pony so that definetely heightened the stakes a bit. It was always something I wondered about, that being why no one ever made them not be able to understand each other. Unfortunetly for my story I'll be hand-waving it by saying the magic lets them talk, although I'll at least be giving a reason, even if it's weak.

Good luck with whatever it is your doing.
Priderage Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
After having _written_ so much, I've gained a real appreciation for other stories on a line-by-line basis. You can write so much, and then have your reader devour it all in a matter of minutes. I can't remember the exact quote, but I remember this one in particular meant alot to me when I read it:

"The reader brings as much to the story as the writer does."
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2011
Its rare that I go over a story slowly, but yours are one of the exceptions.

Peronsally I hate deconstructing a story; its like talking something magical like, say, a unicorn, then dissecting it to find out it only glows because it eats a certain fungus. Suddenly all of the wonder and mystery is taken out of it. Probably why I never bothered to really try hard at English class.

Also, have you ever read Jasper Ffordes books? He makes a series where the main character is a "Book Jumper", someone who can see the message between the lines so well and envision the story so fully that they can phsyically go into the book. It's a bit tongue-in-cheek (Like when the main character discovers that Jiminey Cricket from Pinnochio has a stunt double for when Pinocchio smashes him with a hammer) but also offers some interesting insights into stories.
Nines-Tempest Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
So this IS what conversion bureau is like; I haven't bothered reading it yet. Three stars and lots of angry comments really turned me off.

This really is fantastic so far. Zack is not lame, he seems confident and entertaining, and a jokester (hurdurr one of the four humors), and I can't wait for more of this. It is smart humor and fun characters, keep it up. (BTW this is anon 95 from memories, fuck your self inserts, getting me interested in stories). The idea of not having things in chronological order is very possible, but it would take some ridiculous planning and a timeline/outline that's so precise that writing it would be more like work, and less like fun. Also, is the last line of the file supposed to be weird (dwown?)

Also I realized humans were near extinct but giving us a reason is fine I guess. Also I kind of figured he was such, since he was human still, and was meeting soldiers on the other side of the gate.
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2011
The first two chapters of the original are shit; half the fun for me was lampooning them with another guy in the messageboard. The third is a remarkable step-up but still pales in comparison to works of art like Pride and, if you don't mind grimdark, 10 Rounds. Slog through the crappy original then read the far superior spin-offs. I don't really consider my story to be a true spin-off from his since the basic setting is far different.

I want to flesh him out some more. He's a joker but he's also a veteran like Xco and I need him to have that sort of fake-smile-for-the-world. Also, none of the charaters are self-inserts (Well, Zack could be if you really strained) but Xco is very, very far removed. He's an OC, not a insert.

The problem with the split-timeline is that I was forced to put in a ton of exposition that wasn't necessary; as I wrote I couldn't help but think "Why is Xco describing all this stuff and deconstructing it? He already as seen it" (Chonologically speaking. I was planning a chapter that detailed how he went to Equestria and I realized that a ton of exposition explaining how the portals worked would fit far better in that and so I decided that I had to rip out a big chunk of the current chapter two. Makes it more even and natural that way.

That's supposed to be the recording starting to glitch out. If you look you'll also see that the "too" has an extra "o". I'll make it more wonky since reading it over again doesn't immediately give the impression that it's tripping cyber acid.

Again, another thing I have to address in the replacement chapter two (The current Ch. 2 will become either the thrid or fourth chapter). I'll establish that humanity is on it's last legs as well as move the portal exposition to it to make this chapter less of a wall of text.
Nines-Tempest Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
My my you are quite the verbose commenter.

I only like it because the way he narrates things REALLY reminds me of an online friend who's trying his hand at scriptwriting/prose, and he makes me proofread everything; he has comical and absurd ideas about self identity and high school and somehow his narrative sounds like yours. So I really like it, even if you think it's shit.

Self-insert was the wrong word, herpaderp. I meant to say self-promotion. Since you just spewed it out in the chatroom. Regardless of self-insert-status, I don't care if it is; if the character is interesting in the story and plays out your plot, who cares?

Yeah when you're donig this journal-recorded-memory style of writing, it wouldn't make a lot of sense. It's actually one reason I'm avoiding writing first person unless the story involves lots of different, out-of-the-ordinary-to-the-character situations. It does take a little insight to see that it's an issue, so that's good. Too be honest I haven't read anything with a "split timeline" unless you count Slaughter House Five.

Too be honest you could actually just work in a quick summary of what is going on in the human world right now; why would Xco talk about something he knows all too well, being that "ambassador" or what have you?
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2011
I try.

I have an eye for what shouldn't be, sorta like Sesame Street's One of These Doesn't Belong. His spelling is atrocious, his punctuation sub-par, the themes overbearing and his character is the typical gary stu save-the-world-despite-not-having-the-credentials (In the second chapter in one paragraph he can barely fly, the next he's soaring over Everfree forest and then the next one he's doing a blind dive to save his friend. That's stupid and unrealistic, even for a fic about humans becoming ponies).

Well, in my defence I DID say "Shameless self-promotion" so you knew what you were getting into. Also, it was more for muffies benefit since I've been helping him edit his story and I was trying to get him to do the same.

The story is largely centered around one character so a first-person fit the bill. It makes his constant inner turmoil more natural and allows me maintain better pacing; whenever I want him to think about something I don't have to say "He thought" or "He pondered" at the end of every sentence for example.

There are stories that have a split timeline but they're rare and I've learned the hard way why that is. Now, opening up your story with the ending so that way people know what's going to happen but not how it comes to pass? That's pretty common, easy to do and it works nicely, which is why the first chapter is staying where it is.

That's what I'm planning. He'll probably watch a short news bulletin on the state of the world and fill any blanks himself. Quick, dirty and effective.
Nines-Tempest Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I guess that's why I love him. Such characters are so silly and enjoyable to read, realistic or not. Besides, I think it could be reasonable, since he is a pegasus pony and such. Quick question about that; why do the ponies have a conviction in regards to Celestia or Luna?

No problem with that, haha.

Yeah, I'm not disagreeing; i'm just saying I can see why such a decision would make the messed-up timeline even... well harder. Too be honest I write my third person and as long as I'm stuck behind one character, I don't add the "he thought" to everything, unless it's really needed to emphasize thoughts or ideas that relate to the dialog. Or if it came out of nowhere.

Quite. NO issues with chapter one.

Sounds good haha.
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2011
Gah, I can't stand them. Unless the author actively aknowledges the fact that they're a gary stu and lampoons the fact I write them off as being the result of an untalented hack who doesn't know what the meaning of character flaws and growth is. Also, it wasn't the fact that he's a pegasus pony that's the problem, it's the fact that he had only been one for a single day and yet was capable of performing incredible feats mere moments after he was supposedly unable to get off the ground.

My story is establishing a class system for the ponies; a serf class for those who are the mindless workers (Ergo they blithely follow their leaders), an aristocracy for those capable of deduction and leadership and royalty for the few that are capable of problem-solving and the ability to invent.

The point is to make the Equestrians taking on the humans more of an equal exchange as opposed to "We are ponies so we are nice and we give you our land and food since we are ponies so that means we are nice blah-blah-blah." Equestria gets an influx of cheap labour in the form of people who "join the stream" as well as the largely more ingenious and intelligent humans who retain their personalities and, in exchange, humanity gets off the proverbial sinking ship.

I write my third-person in omniscient so that way if I think of something good for a non-main character I can make use of it.
spiritplumber Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2011
I shall try my best ^_^.
dwreanchinotan Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011
ha, i knew this had to take inspiration from the conversion bureau story!
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011
Inspiration for the human-to-pony, but that's where the similarities end more or less. I saw a story and then I saw an improvement.
LemonyHooves Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011
I really enjoy your style of writing. I'll have to check your others out!
lightsideluc Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2011
That would be greatly appreciated ^_^. I'm afraid i don't have much of a baclog though and this is the only story in this style.
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