An MLP:FiM Fanfiction by Midnight Shadow
Doctor Philip Furlough watched as the purplish-blue pony with the green mane and tail, previously known as Joss Hayes, woke up. Its eyes, those big, expressive orbs that were the guileless window to the soul of every pony, fluttered open and gazed about in wonderment at the world around it. The joyous expression was marred, however, by pain.
"Hurts," it said, whimpering.
Philip nodded, sadly, "Sorry Sport, doctor's orders." He'd always wanted to be a doctor, but in this day and age, very few people could afford his services, and the rest wouldn't hire a simple orange sector twoper. He'd become a vet for newfoals. It was that or join their ranks, or find a home in the favela. Neither had appealed to Philip, so here he was.
Joss whimpered. A moment ago he'd been feeling so good, but now in the waking world, a place between his hind legs really, really hurt. He rolled onto his hooves and tried to stand up. He fell over, crying out and then just plain crying, at the pain.
The anesthetic in potion was pretty strong, it had to be. It acted to prevent the signals from the body to the brain of a newfoal as the nanites worked on it. Those signals would be interpreted as agonizing pain; the first trial runs during the age of Conversion Bureaus hadn't included the neural blockers, and most of those prospective newfoals hadn't survived. It was no wonder that newfoals could barely stand, even discounting the fact they had four legs post-conversion rather than two.
Without that anesthetic, Philip pondered, the pony would be more than merely complaining. Still, he supposed it was for the best. He'd been taught during medical school all about pre-collapse veterinary practices. Male animals were unpredictable, anti-social, work-shy and often just plain aggressive. Geldings, on the other hand, had a much nicer time of things. He was doing the poor thing a favour.
"Huuurrrtttsss!" it said again, plaintively.
Time for a little test. "Would a sugar-lump make it all better?"
"Sugar-lump?" Joss' ears perked up.
Philip smiled softly as he fished out four more 'sugar-lumps'. The dirty brown, slightly gelatinous cubes were something between treat, reward and bribe for newfoals. He'd tried one himself once, hadn't really liked it. He placed two in front of 'Malcolm' and two in front of 'Joss' and waited to see what would happen.
"Sugar-lump?" the red pony identifying as 'Strawberry Fields' asked, forlornly.
"You've already had two. Fair's fair." Phillip stood back and turned around, ostensibly to check on his medical kit. When he turned back around, a green nose was pushing the fourth cube towards his feet.
"You don't want it?" he asked of the lime green pony that had pushed it back.
The pony shook its head, "It's more fun to share. You can have one too!"
Philip picked the little squishy cube up, dusted it off and put it away in a pocket, "No thanks, but you three enjoy. Stay here a while, now, okay? I've got things to do, but I'll be back soon."
He walked out of the room as the three ponies enjoyed something almost sacred to every conversion - the first meal as a pony. Since forever, that first meal had always been special. Something about the natural endorphins, or maybe the tastebuds, or maybe it was just... he didn't know. All Philip knew was that first meal meant something to the creatures. He leaned against the heavy door and found himself almost sobbing for some reason, sniffling awkwardly and wiping his face.
Ty Michaelson and Jake Upton sauntered back to the detention block. They'd been given the very important job of Making Sure The Perimeter Is Clear by the vet. This entailed sneaking off for a smoke and a quickie in the lavs with the latest dirty mag. Ty and Jake both agreed how disgusting it was that even high class wank rags tended to feature ponies for the adventurous, curious or just plain flagrant. They agreed loudly. Several times a day. Sometimes on their own, too, just to make sure.
When they got back, the doctor was still there, but he was all smiles, so it was okay.
"Boys, two new recruits. Gotta be proud of yourselves, huh? I've got us a drink so we can celebrate. I'm not saying it's beer, okay, because alcohol on duty would be against regulations." The vet winked.
"I gotcha, Doc. You're alright." Ty, pudgy black fingers closing around the neck of the bottle proffered to him, nodded.
Jake grinned, taking the other bottle. His bottle clinked against two others in a brief toast before he held it to his cheeks. It was so cold it almost felt like it burned. The doc, Fuller or something, took a swig of his own bottle. Not wanting to be beaten to it, Jake tossed back his own. Cool, refreshing... this was some high-class hooch! He took another swig, draining the bottle. Ah well, back to... he blinked. The world looked... kind of fuzzy. "Hey Ty? I don't feel so..."
Philip Furlough stepped back as the two guards fell to the floor. He straightened his jacket and spoke to the air, "Computer? Monitor life-signs, alert me upon their cessation."
"Yes, Doctor Furlough." the computer replied. For Philip, the computer was a female, caucasian-sounding, her voice smooth and friendly.
"Take a note: referring to subjects Michaelson and Upton, I have pronounced summary judgement and sentencing for damage to Waitan-Yatami property. Sentence: Ponification and withdrawal thereby of all rights and privileges bestowed upon a citizen."
"Recommending red sector replacements for a higher loyalty and obedience quotient, recommending all non-red sector guards for facilities of low importance be reassigned for permanent work placement positions, across the board."
Philip busied himself removing the now-useless clothing before it could choke the two new ponies, prior to heading back into the cell-block for his medical kit and elastrator pliers. He highly doubted these two would be wanted for stud duty either, despite their low I.Q.
Joss was happier. The pain had faded a bit, and the sugar-lump had been wonderful. It had felt like little fire-crackers going off on his tongue, sending whizzing lightning all the way up to his ears and right down to the base of his tail. Even better, he'd had friends to share it with. The other ponies had all agreed to be friends. The red one was called 'Strawberry Fields'. The thought made him a little sad, his name was 'Joss' but that didn't sound very pony-like. Neither did 'Malcolm', come to think of it.
"What's my name?" he whispered under his breath.
Footsteps made him shy away, but it was only the vet. The vet was nice, the vet gave him sugar-lumps. The man crouched down on his haunches, coming face to muzzle. "It's Joss. Can't you remember?"
Joss nodded, but then shook his head, "I need a new name."
The vet sat down on the cold, hard ground, surrounded by the three ponies, "You don't know how often I hear that from newfoals. Tell me, Joss, is it really you in there? How about you, Malcolm?" The man looked from one pony to the other, hopefully.
Malcolm shifted uncomfortably, "I..."
"When I first saw you, you were full of piss and wind. Now look at yourself. Where did you go, eh?" Philip reached out a hand to touch the pony on the muzzle, but the lime green pony formerly known as 'Malcolm' shied away.
"I'm... right here," he said, awkwardly.
"No, you're not. How about you, Strawberry? How long have you been a pony, Champ?"
"I've always been a pony! I remember always being a pony!"
The vet snorted, and then sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, "You weren't, you know. The computer told me all about you, Kevin."
"Who's Kevin?" Malcolm's ears perked up, as did Joss' and even Strawberry's.
"Kevin was a bright young activist hacker, phreaker, cracker and slum-dwelling terrorist. He got sloppy, they caught him five years ago. Four years, two hundred and eight days ago they ponified him." Philip looked, hopefully, from one muzzle to the next, but dropped his gaze finally.
"I... remember the sun. A-and the girl," Joss said, "she was hurt and..."
"And?" The vet looked at Not-Joss hopefully.
"And she disappeared." The pony lost interest, paying more attention to its hooves, which it started nibbling and licking exploratorily.
Philip stood up, "You guys forget so easily, don't you? Do you know why? Do you care?" He looked from one pony to another and sighed, "I know why. The nanites we make are clever. Three ounces of them is more than enough, but they're special another way. The techs don't like to talk about it, but they're special in what powers them; bona fide magic! The very stuff of miracles itself, in a jar. Back when Equestria opened the bureaus, there was more than enough of it to go around, apparently. Then, afterwards... there wasn't."
Philip kept talking, naked urgency in his voice as he searched for any sort of response, "Don't you understand? They tried seeing if they could..." he choked, "extract it from newfoals, even native Equestrians, but they can't. There's only ever enough in a normal pony to make a single pony, but there is one pony that's special, and although there's very little of her left, she still lives, and bleeds... and I saw her! Oh god but I saw what they did!" Philip bit his tongue, he may have said too much, and for what? Heedless, in tears, he charged ahead, "I've seen where they keep her... and how they make you. Just a drop is enough, just a single drop of her blood and the result is a pony, complete in every way but one. That big, beautiful brain of yours, so very like a human's, is just too complicated to perfect, when starved of magic. So much gets pared away and forgotten as our clever little nanites struggle to complete the transformation. And you guys, as innocent and pure as the day is long, are the result."
Joss didn't know what to say, but the vet was sad. Hugs make things better, so Joss leaned forwards and put a hoof over the man's shoulder. Gratefully, as if dropping a huge burden, Philip hugged the pony back, staying there for a few, long seconds. Then he stood up.
"Well, I've got good news," he said, wiping his face with a sleeve and hiding the signs of his recent outburst, "I've got two more friends for you, though they're not quite ready yet. Can you look after them until they wake up?"
Not-Malcolm looked at Philip, squarely, as if suddenly remembering something, "Did you hurt them too?"
"But... you're the doctor."
"I know, but trust me, it's for the best." Philip took his bag, breathed a heavy sigh, and went to see to his latest two patients.
Joss giggled suddenly as a tongue licked his ear, and teeth chewed methodically along his mane. Strawberry was grooming him. "That tickles!"
"Mama Snowbell says we should groom each other every day. Mama Snowbell is clever."
"Being clean is clever!" said a familiar artificial voice.
Joss turned to look as a small brown teddy bear emerged from under the lowest bunk in the third cell and walked towards them. "Teddy!" he said, his ears perking up, "I'm mad at you! Or... I was."
"You shouldn't stay mad at friends! I'm your friend. I have lots of friends. Are you still my friend?"
"I... guess so." Joss screwed up his muzzle, thinking carefully, "Why did you come here?"
"I came to say see you soon, Joss Hayes."
"Are you going somewhere? Goodbye then!" Joss waved a hoof, then he giggled, looking at it. He stuck it in his mouth, chewing and licking it. Hooves tasted funny!
The cuddly artificial life-form shook its wide head, orange button eyes glowing softly, "Friends never say goodbye, Joss, they say so long, see you soon and then they sing the farewell song."
Joss blinked, "I don't know how to sing that."
"I'll teach you!" The Tell-Me Teddy sat down, surrounded by the three ponies, and began to softly sing, ever so slightly out of tune. Soon the ponies joined in, as it had known they would. Ponies loved to sing.
"Oof, you're a heavy bastard. Remind me next time to do this when you're inside, hmm?" Philip dragged the pony-shaped lump that had, about ten minutes ago, been known as Ty Michaelson into the cell next to Jake. It was as good a place as any, and there'd be other ponies to comfort him when he woke up. Wiping his brow, Philip stood and looked around. All ponies present and correct, and...
"Oh, hello, what are you doing here?" Philip looked down at what appeared to be a cuddly bear. It was sitting between the ponies, "Where did you come from?"
"Hi!" the bear said, looking around and up at him, "I'm a Tell-Me Teddy Bear! Do you want to be my friend?"
Philip laughed at there being an artificial intelligence sitting in the holding cells. "A Tell-Me, huh? Who's lost you?"
"I am lost. My former owners were Integrity Waste Reclamation, but I have been lost for over eight hours. As my current net worth is less than five hundred credits, I am Fair Game. Would you like to give me a home or return me to my previous owners for a reward?"
Philip shook his head, "I must be mad. Come on then, I'll find you a home."
"Oh boy! I get to be your friend. I have lots of friends! Do you know the friendship song? I can teach you..!"
Joss watched the bear go as the vet walked through the doors to the outside world, locking them as he passed. Joss had been mad at his bear-friend, but he couldn't quite remember why. Everything was a bit fuzzy, not to mention he still hurt. He chewed on a hoof thoughtfully. Hooves were fun! They were big, and round, and kind of squishy, but then you could stand on them and they didn't hurt. He couldn't think why hooves being stood on would hurt, or why he was surprised they were ticklish. He was also learning that he had a tail! A tail! How amazing! He swished it to and fro and fro and to, it could go everywhere! Just like his ears! It could curve up, and it could flick... he flicked the lime green pony with it. The other pony giggled and snorted, trying to catch it in his teeth. They played a game, then, of flick the other pony and try to catch the tail. It was, Joss reasoned, the funnest game he'd ever played. It was even more fun when two more ponies staggered over to see them. The other ponies smelled funny, kind of like chemicals, but they seemed nice. One was a piebald black and white, the other was plain white. They said they'd been sleeping and had just woken up. Joss told them about the Vet Who Brings Sugar-Lumps, but he seemed to have vanished. Joss was sad. Malcolm was sad. Ty and Jake were sad. Strawberry was sad, too. The vet had brought sugar-lumps and friends.
Friends made the sad go away.
Charlie adjusted his red jump-suit. He held in his hands five bridles but only one rope. The job seemed simple enough; go collect five newfoals, take them to farming sector two-thirteen. The day was hot and he hadn't had a break in hours. Neither would he get one. Unlicensed breaks were the fastest way to get a demotion, and there was only one destination when you were a red twoper. Lazy workers didn't get paid. Ever again.
If only, he thought to himself, dutiful workers got paid too.
The cellblock door opened as it scanned his palm. Unlike unimportant doors or readers - like the ones guarding his personal effects - the cellblock door reader worked properly, and it opened first time. Pushing his way in, that strange, musky smell of newfoals reached his nostrils, tinged with that oddly spicy and enticing scent of potion. The melange set his hackles rising. He'd better get them outside before they had an accident. Newfoals weren't very good at controlling their bodies, and an accident inside would mean somebody would have to clean it up.
They crowded around him eagerly, head-butting him. Newfoals were friendly, usually. If he'd been in the stables and it had been morning, they'd have gotten a taste of a crop. As it was, he needed them to follow him. Luckily, he had just the thing. Five newfoals, five of those disgusting processed pony-sweets.
"Alright, alright, settle down. I've got a bridle each for you. If you put it on and promise to follow me, you can each have a treat, okay?"
They are animals, went the hologuide he'd had to sit through during orientation, They will respond to both the Carrot and the Stick. Physical discipline is to be reserved for when they need to work harder, but a sweet treat will bring them to you quicker than any order.
Charlie ran his fingers through his red hair nervously. They were big, for all they were dumb and stupid. He lunged for one, a big red fellow, and grabbed it by the mane. It nickered and shied away. Clumsily, he put on one of the bridles, getting an ear caught. Red seemed to be the leader, the others panicked and clip-clopped away down the corridor in front of the long row of cells. Fishing out one of the cubes he'd been given, he held it in his palm with his fingers outstretched. He held it against the brute's muzzle, and immediately the animal stood stock still. It nibbled at the cube, then it chewed happily. Charlie breathed a sigh of relief.
The others crowded back around, but they were fidgeting and eager.
"Alright, alright. Here, boy..." Charlie tried to put the next bridle on, but the blue pony wouldn't put his head through. "Hey! Don't you want your treat?" The pony stopped fighting then, and Charlie managed to fasten it up. He briefly entertained the idea of saving the treat for later, but he held his palm out anyway and the animal got its reward. The rest went the same, and in short order Charlie had all five ready to go. The rope, a sturdy plastic affair, clipped neatly to Red's bridle under his chin, and a brief tug brought the animal under control
"Come on, boy," said Charlie, and he clicked his tongue. It seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed to work, as Red snorted and tossed his head before following him. Gingerly, Charlie led the five ponies out of the detention block. He ignored the jeers and catcalls from the other red sector workers as he trotted across the yard. Dealing with ponies was hardly glamorous, even for red sector workers, but a job was a job and he'd been promised a bonus for prompt delivery. He'd even escaped the waste tunnel cleanup, which would otherwise have been his fate for the day. Waste tunnel cleanup stank, in more ways than one. You bet your sweet ass he could stand walking some ponies across the silage fields.
Snowbell waited by the gate to the paddock, like she always did. Snowbell was a pure white pony with a golden yellow mane and tail. Most of the humans knew better than to cross her, and the regulars were no longer surprised when she was waiting for new recruits. They'd long ago learned to let her do whatever 'breaking in' was necessary. It was twice as fast and twice as effective, and better yet, they got to take the credit.
Charlie didn't know this, which was why he found himself running for his life until he managed to jump the fence at the edge of Snowbell's paddock. The white demon snorted and pawed the ground menacingly until Charlie backed away, empty handed.
As the pony moved off, he picked up a rock, hefting it in his hands, until a voice said calmly, "I wouldn't do that, if I were you."
Charlie sneered, looking around at a fellow red-level twoper, "And what would you know?"
The man, in his forties with a thin, scraggly grey beard adorning a weather-beaten face that made him look all of sixty, nodded towards the field. Snowbell had begun to trot easily back to the five new ponies. "You new meat always buy the party line, don'tcha? Think them things is animals, right? Don't you believe it."
"What, you're saying I'd better watch out for... what? I've seen the old holovids on the threevee. They don't seem the type to put a horse head in my bunk."
"Oh no, no, they won't do that... but y'all know how they're unpredictable. Ponies do two things, kid; they run away, or they run towards. You wouldn't be the first to get mowed down and trampled."
Charlie scoffed, but stopped and swallowed when the man's expression didn't change.
"Aye, an accident, that's what it'll look like. Folks who don't make them mistakes, we know better. Yellers, Oranges, Bluepers, Greenies, they don't care. We're meat to them, as much as them ponies are, only we ain't worth as much. And don't you forget it. You won't last long 'round here if you do."
Charlie dropped the rock and spat, "What makes you think I'm staying?"
The man laughed, "Seriously? You take a job looking after newfoals, nobody else'll give you the time of day. Just one step above 'em, according to some. You're here now, kid. Welcome to your new life."
Snowbell gave an encouraging nuzzle to the pony who'd called himself 'Joss' before joining her herd. He'd chosen a new name, one that fit his colouring better - as had the rest. He'd taken to the plough and the buggy, and was already shaping up to be a fine, helpful gelding. Something had caught her eye about this one, and his Dream - something Snowbell made him tell her every day in the morning - confirmed it. Potion Sickness had crippled him, but the sickness could be beaten, all it took was a little persuasion, and friendship.
"It's easy, try again! You'll get it." She was stern, but kind.
"I'm sorry," Juniper said, "I'm not good with big words. Equestrian is hard."
"It's okay, I've told you the words. Mama Snowbell knows you mean well. Just sing as best as you can, or listen if you don't want to sing-"
'Mama' Snowbell smiled with her ears, flicking the newfoal gelding with her tail, "Then try your best."
Slowly, hesitantly, and with plenty of mistakes, Juniper began to sing as he pulled the plough, tilling the earth and making the crops, those precious few that had survived the death of their Equestrian homeland, grow.
"When the night it is done, the moon will set in the sea,
and the sun will rise up high for everypony here to see.
We toil in the day and we do not come to strife,
for we bring morning to the land as we fill it full of life."
There were more verses, but Juniper didn't know them yet. Mama Snowbell was patient, however. He would learn. He loved to sing, and he loved to work in the fields with his hooves and he loved to be with his friends, like Keylime and Strawberry, and Minty and Biscuit and... he had so many friends now! One day he hoped to talk to that girl again, the one in his dream. She'd been pretty, very pretty, and... somehow familiar.
Most of the world still lived off nano-bars and fungus, or seaweed where the toxins were low enough... but now ponies tilled the land, the Last Crop hadn't proved to be quite so final. Real food was still mainly for the rich, but the ponies didn't mind. They would toil and plough and makes things grow, until the sun came up once more.