A single, yellow, plastic glass of potion. Sitting there, on the table. Looking innocent.
I stared blankly at it, then at where I knew the one sided window was in the room. I gulped nervously.
"Damian." I shook my head, looking at the brew.
"Is it too late to opt out?" I asked, leaning against a wall. I looked over at the crate, loaded with still more canisters of the devil magic and shook a little, distant flaring memories of explosions and the begging of the pitiful animals screaming for mercy flashed through my head.
It had taken us so long to finally get a crate of the stuff. Lives, hundreds of them, lost as we scrambled to save humanity.
London was a nice city, all things considered. It had people in the streets, and, if you closed your eyes, you might not even notice that the sky was grey and you couldn’t see the sun. If you kept them closed you might even think that the world wasn’t dying, and ponies weren’t replacing all that mattered in the world.
That’s what I was thinking when it all went wrong. I was looking about pretty happily, smiling for the first time in a long time, my hands not even on my gun when the transport vehicle appeared five minutes before schedule.
The guard? A Gryphon. A monster made of beak and claw. The scariest thing was that the process for making more of the chimeras had expanded like a crack in glass, driving humanity further away. Before, they had always counted on humanity at least maintaining its military strength, but with the gryphon’s ability to actually fight...
Things were looking bad.
My mind flicked back to what I remembered.
A beak, a glaring gryphon, looking at me. My pistol doing nothing, watching as it tore through my companions. My legs shook at the memory, remembering how I just ran from it. That thing just... tore through all of them. It was a monster... I still smelled like blood.
I shivered again and again, the room cold as ice. We needed to find a way to stop them.
I needed to die. I stopped myself, looking over the suicide room I was in. Over by the corner, a small pistol with a round chambered in it was left as a mercy kill. I wasn't getting out of this room alive.
Sometimes, I guess, if you want to take out monsters you have to be a monster.
I needed to do this.
Suicide in the best way possible. I would be the one who kept humanity from dying, from being forgotten in a wave of fucking horses.
"Do you want more good men to die? Your friends are counting on you." Came the reply from the speakers. I felt my eyes bead up into tears.
"C-can... you guys... not call me Damian after this? I'm not going to be him. I'm going to be another one of those things." I reached out a shaky arm to lift the cup. There was a long silence.
"We won't refer to you as Damian. As of today, Damian is dead." A sad voice, one I recognized as a dear friend of mine said through the speaker. "The virus is with you, your bio scans all check out."
I stilled my shaking arms and sniffed the drink. I had a faint whiff of nuts. Hazelnut.
I lifted it to my face and chugged it in one go, feeling tears slip down my face. "Good bye..." I choked on it, coughing as it caught in my throat and having to stop myself from retching it up.
And then the pain caught me and I stopped moving, hitting the side of the table I was supposed to be laying on. I slipped, trying to stand back up, forcing it back down with what little training I could muster. I rolled on to the table and then right off, cracking my head against the floor.
Luckily, I was blessed with the calm of sleep and wasn't aware of the horrific changes.
The world around me was dappled, speckled, with sparks of color and flashes of movement. There was bird song in the far distance, echoing beautifully over the soulless prairie. I felt a wave of revulsion rip through me like a hurricane when I realized that I could count the hairs on every rabbit, every movement drawing my attention and letting me see the fear in their eyes. I felt an alien surge of pride wash through me, and felt big... strong...
I could do what I needed to do, protect others from having to suffer like I... h...a...d...
Something was burning. Something near me. The smell of char filled my nose and I winced at the sharp taste. It was flesh. I let my feet carry me through the prairie grasses, half terrified and scared as I tried to remember why I was here. It was so confusing, like bits of pieces were disjointed and moving about the second I took my eyes off of them.
And then I was at a mountain, fierce and strong. Obsidian spires, hundreds of them, sharp and jagged, easily able to pierce through me, all of them looking as if they had just been cut, all faced up at the sky. I felt a spark of anger light up, transferring down my frame and all over my body.
I climbed the mountain in flashes, halfway there one second, my hands bleeding at the unforgiving rocks and stones, then at the top in another second, my bleeding hands aching and burning.
I was burning.
I was unworthy.
The mountain opened up into a deep chamber, and thousands of miles it seemed below me was a tiny red pinprick. I stared down for a long time, wondering why I was there, was it all meant, why I felt so weak and pathetic and strong.
“Repent.” A voice hissed through a rising cloud of smoke and have and sounding like a demon searing through sulfur.
I felt like I had been struck with lightning, memories rising to the surface of my mind while I felt an agony quite unlike any other, like I was being submerged in liquid plasma.
And the pain stopped and I collapsed, looking around. “I...” My voice said, though my mouth didn’t move. “C-can... still... ch-change...”
The word was familiar. Change. It brought up such memories, most of which I didn’t even catch. They swarmed around the cave like thousands of faces, all staring, all judging, all examining me.
I was unworthy.
The cave floor I was standing on cracked and I fell forward, falling down the shaft, bits of rock whistling by my head.
“I’m sorry.” I croaked. I hit the molten core below. I was blank. I couldn’t feel anything. The pool of melting ore became a pool of blood, an endless surge around me, frothing like sea foam.
I was unworthy.
I could change.
“Repent.” I stopped burning. Something stared at me, something so impossibly beautiful and impossible powerful that it Knew me in the way that a man knows his own hand. I felt violated, like something had brushed who I was and was not amused or impressed, changing it and warping it in just the right way to suit its purposes.
And then there was nothing.
And then I forgot.
There was a horrible noise. That was my first memory. I winced and pulled my head away reflexively, my ears folding against my head as I twitched and writhed, trying to get away from the sound. Like nails on a chalk board, I felt my body tense up and bunch up, trying to turn away. I felt a ripple of unease at the unfamiliar sensations.
I felt a cry rip out of me like a roar and a pained rasp, scaring me just as badly.
A distant part of me took in the fact that when I opened my eyes I still couldn’t see anything. I stopped and let out a sigh of relief as the pulsing pounding rasping noise halted its eerie advance.
"Da-" There was a sound of something stopping. The sound of the hammer of something being drawn back and something cold and metallic pressed to the side of my head made me freeze, shaking.
"Hold still, Mu." There was a broken note to it. And right there, he was referring to me. Mu. Hm. I kept as still as I could. I was at the disadvantage here and to my credit I didn't scream when something punched into my arm and withdrew blood.
"It's a success." The person muttered to himself. "It has bonded very well with you. 100% immunity rate..." I felt a surge of happiness at the words, but I felt shamed and shaken. "I'm so sorry."
Something fumbled with my bonds and suddenly I could see again. I, not really knowing what was going on, took in the room.
It was grey. An incandescent light, ancient, old and still usable flickered in the corner and painting everything in a gleaming luminance that almost contrasted with the metal walls. The place smelled of fear and of dampness, of cold cruelty.
And then my vision flickered and a sense of vertigo hit me as I was staring at a wall like it was inches away from me, then tenths of inches away. My eyes readjusted and I blinked slowly, feeling naturally unnatural.
"The Conversion was a success." The man muttered and I flicked my eyes over to him. A shock of brown hair rimmed the top of his face, unkempt and tangled as if he was part savage. A pair of chocolate eyes widened at mine behind a pair of glasses, dirty and transparent. He blinked. His face was soft, and pale, like he hadn't been outside in a long time. He looked like someone I should know.
I blinked back. "Conversion...?" I croaked and then looked away, shocked and ashamed at the odd quality of my voice. It was rough and rumbly and slightly deeper than I thought it should be.
He stared at me, his hands shaking as he held the curious piece of plastic and metal that I was terrified of against my neck. "D-da... Mu? How much do you remember?"
"My name is Mu?" I asked, not moving, getting a distant memory of guttural explosions and pain.
"Yeah..." He looked at my face and into my eyes in the manner than one might look into that of a dogs. "My name is Ken..."
"Do you know what Conversion is?"
The word Conversion let a shot of anger and fear rip through me, raising the feathers on my wings. The sensation was maddeningly wrong and it teased me with a hint of despair. Without missing a beat, he lifted the weapon in his hand into the air and looked at it, gulping. "N-no need to be angry. It's just a question."
I closed my eyes and fought back the flares of anger and nervousness. "I don't remember."
He looked away from me, his arms still shaking. "Subject shows signs of mild amnesia." He spoke into a tab on his left wrist. "No signs of fire damage or insanity. I have the blood samples I need and I am leaving." There was a hiss of steam and a door popped out of the wall, lights trickling into the room.
I was aware of a tiny pin prick of pain on one of my wings. Ken turned to walk away from me, the scent of his fear doubling as he turned his back to me. I watched him leave with amusement and a bit of confusion, wondering why I was still tied up.
“Project Mu. What is left of the other participants?” Ken jerked and pivoted, almost slamming the pistol into his boss’s stomach. He gasped for air, half terrified.
“He appears to be stable, sir.” He said, slipping a half assed salute.
The blonde haired man looked at him with soulless eyes. “Is he combat ready?” He said, tapping his fingers against the leg of his pants. A thread bare spot marked where he had been doing this, a nervous habit that Ken personally found annoying as all hell, but was otherwise a bit more innocent.
“No sir. He just woke up. He probably can’t even walk, let alone shoot.” He shrugged. “Heck, I don’t even know if he isn’t fried.”
“What of the other two volunteers?”
“They burst into flame and burnt through before we could extinguish them. One started screaming about not being worthy and the other bit out his own tongue in agony.” Ken shrugged, pulling a bottle filled with water and sipping down a little.
“We need something. Something shocking.” The man said, his face pale. “We need something now.” There was a degree of cold anger and cold fear that made Ken’s heart beat speed up.
Ken looked at him. “Wha-”
“Let me in. I’ll talk to him.”
He shook his head, glaring up at a flickering light. “He’s amnesiac. I doubt he would care at this point. Jon. What’s wrong?”
“That’s sir.” He sneered, walking over to the door and tugging it open. “And I don’t think I need your permission for this.”
I jerked my head up as the door opened again. Ken walked in, looking worried, his pistol drawn. Another man walked in after, carrying the weight of authority and the atmosphere of a pissed off ass hole.
“You.” He said, his face reddening.
“Me?” I asked innocently, stretching my neck. “Who are you?”
“Break out of your bonds. I know you can.” He hissed, drawing out a pistol that looked like some sort of horrible hybrid of a scifi gun and something out of an anime. “You attack me and we’ll see if a particle shot at your head will put one of you down.”
I stretched and found, to my surprise and infinite pleasure, that it all broke off under a slight twitch of my muscles. My fur was slightly streaked with sweat oddly enough, like I had been doing something wrong. “Yes sir.” I said, looking at the both of them. I rolled off of the table and his the ground awkwardly, my limbs collapsing underneath of me.
“Stand up.” He said, training the gun on me. “Stand up you son of a bitch. I need you to be able to walk.”
“Jon?” Ken asked, looking at him. “Wha-”
“The school. The elementary school.” He said, his voice breaking. “The PER. They snuck in under the radar and detonated something and now they are fucking ponies. My little boy...”
His eyes watered up. “My wife...”
Ken looked down. “The school?”
“PER?” I asked, watching the both of them. I felt hot headed, like I should be horrifically angry. My ears fell against my head and my tail flicked out, banging against the table like a bony club.
“A group of fucking psychos dedicated to killing off the rest of humanity.” Jon paused, looking at me. I began to raise to my feet. “You know what the Conversion is, right?”
I shook my head slowly.
“The Conversion is the one true way of letting everyone know that you’ve given up. You turn into a fucking pony and all of your desires to defend yourself get shot down, turning you into a lifeless husk, a mere servant to their royalty. It’s like a parasite, eating you from the inside until all you care about is your little horsey race, and all you can think of is fun.” He spat the last word out like a dagger hitting a chest. “And their little horse gods. Fucking Celestia took our sun. Her sister let her do it and they probably laughed when they squashed most of our hopes.”
I looked at him and felt my legs hold me upright. Powerful muscles responded to my call and I had to hold back my cry of jubilation.
Tears began to trickle down his face. “My wife. My Alicia...” He shook with a sob.
I looked straight at him and something told me that he was a good man. “What should I do?” I asked, ignoring the void that had replaced my memories and ignoring the urge to start freaking out. I was Mu. That was all I really cared about at that moment.
He looked at me and my tail hit the table again. “He’s prepared, right?” Jon asked Ken.
Ken looked down at his wrist and flipped something, turning it into a stream of numbers. “He’s set.”
“Here’s what you can do. You can sit here and wait for us while we all do what’s right and kill off some clowns, and maybe we let you go with only a bullet in your brain.” He paused, wiping tears with his shirt sleave.
“Or, you come with us and help us fight. That’s what you wanted, right? You wanted to help humanity? Then grab a gun and start shooting. We have some ponies to kill. And then you can do whatever the hell monsters like you do. Go away, kill off some Equus bastards, get laid, screw whatever the hell you want, make a family. Just never forget that we gave this to you, and that you can’t give up the mission.”
I looked at him blankly and looked his ramblings over, my mind centering on one thing. “I’m not a monster.” I said, testing my front legs to see if I could walk. “I’m a gryphon.” And it hit me that I was perfectly fine with that and I felt my mind dance around in circles trying to figure out why I wanted to hate myself.
He nodded, gritting his teeth. “So, your choice?”
My wings stiffened and I felt a wave of anger and hate towards him and everyone else in the room. I growled under my throat. “Get me a gun.”
I needed answers, and a bullet in my brain sounded like a bad way to start getting them. I felt the bare start of a smirk gracing my face. Things were going to die.
"Here. Take this." Ken said solemnly, handing me a piece of shaped plastic.
I looked at it blankly, turning it over and over. It was black, dull and had a few grooves and recesses made for someone with much smaller... talons... than I had.
Getting into the room had been a bit harder than I had thought, though I felt like I remembered the gray almost lightless halls far better than I should for walking through them the first time. My legs felt a bit unresponsive.
I looked it over, noting its shape and size before looking at Jon. "So... what do I do with this?" Admittedly, I hadn't been quite sure what a gun was when I asked for one. It was another one of those things that I wasn't really sure of. It was like wondering why the humans kept throwing me pitying glances and, when they did, I found myself bristling with tension.
Jon audibly growled under his breath, stalking towards me. "Mild amnesia? How the fuck do you forget how to use a gun?" I stared at him levelly and kept the weapon pointed away from me.
He sidled around me and pried it from my grasp, positioning his hands around it in a manner that I found revolting and at the same time familiar. In his frail little fingers it was almost like he was cradling it like a baby and aiming it like it could kill.
Which I guessed it could, considering that I was expected to kill people with it.
"You pull the trigger-" He broke from his firing position and pointed at the appropriate part of the gun while Ken carefully shied away from the other end of it. "-And the bullet comes out this side." He pointed the gun away from himself. "And whatever you hit should die, so aim for th-" He dropped his hands, and by virtue of still holding the weapon, the gun as well.
"Will you stop?" Ken asked, glaring at Jon. "He clearly doesn't even know what's going on. Maybe we should just take him back to his roo-" Jon pointed the gun towards him and I felt a wave of anger rush through me.
"Ken. Shut the fuck up." He said, his body shivering. "If he doesn't come with us, I'll kill him myself. One less monstrosity for the fucking world to use. What's one more sacrifice?" he said, half slurring his words. I felt something slip over my thoughts like a curtain, cloaking them in a fit of anxiety.
"Jon." He said, clearly half terrified. "What are you doing?"
"Fuck the HLF. Fuck the PER. Fuck everything. After this, tell the higher ups that Mu was a success and that I fucking quit." He kept the gun trained on Ken, and I could see sweat start to form on the back of Jon's neck.
Suddenly, for a brief second, I lost control of myself and I lashed out, spinning Jon around and slamming a fore foot into the gun. It shot out of his hand as he lost his grip from surprise and hit the wall with a clatter, landing on the ground partially warped. In the same second that the gun was thrown out I pushed Jon to the ground, pinning him in place.
I glared into his eyes and growled loudly. "Will you two stop fighting? We'll miss the battle." I shot Ken a similar look that promised pain. “The battle that I’m coming too.”
Jon shook underneath of me and I looked back at him. His blue eyes were filled with an expression that was like fear but without a trace of regret. I got off from on top of him and looked over at the gun.
Broken. I could tell at a glance it was mostly useless.
I flicked my eyes about the area, taking in yet another dull grey room barely lit. The only real difference between the one I had woken up in and this one was the table set to the side piled high with various guns. Under the table were stacks of ammo sorted out in various boxes.
I closed my eyes and focused. "Have I always been a gryphon?" I asked politely, hearing Jon stand back up and swear under his breath.
"No." Ken said breathlessly. "Your nam-" My eyes shot open and I looked at Ken and felt my tail flick out.
Jon cleared his throat. "Your name is Mu," he growled out, glaring at me. He pulled a pistol almost identical to the one I had broken and gave it to me. "This is a pistol. You take the pistol, and you start shooting things when I tell you."
He went through the motions of showing me how to reload the gun, look down the sights and other such things that were rather simple once you knew what the hell you were supposed to be doing. Annoyingly so.
Deeming me semi competent at killing targets, despite the fact I had the remarkable talent of having not fired a single shot yet, he tackled the issue of keeping ammo and the gun attached to me. The issue was quickly resolved with bungee cords tied around the clips and the weapon, though I felt a flare of irritation at his blatant disrespect of the objects.
Walking was slowly getting easier, every step making me feel like I was getting something accomplished, like something was actually happening in my head that made it easier to understand how I was walking, how I was supposed to interpret things.
Just barely confident enough to walk out of the room, I couldn’t stop my face from going into an equivalent of a smirk. The hallway stretched on and on and I walked through them with the direction of the two beings with me, half watching them for a cue that they were planning to shoot me in the back. It was tense, with little conversation besides a quiet conviction that we were on the same side for the time being.
I’m really not sure why, but I was disappointed when I finally emerged from the network of rooms and corridors that I had been inside. There were no bird calls, or grass to greet me, and there was no sunshine to make my feathers feel better. It was an urban sprawl that greeted me, what little bare dirt around reeking of decay and being in general bad. It was cold, like someone had forgotten to warm the place before I had arrived.
Even as I half stumbled, half stepped out from the overhang of the building, I felt like I was walking into an alien world despite the familiarity of it all. Buildings, their roofs stained odd colors from centuries of acid rain looked almost like a primitive mosaic instead of failures to do what they were designed for. The pavement was a wash of dirt and concrete, patches visible only barely.
It was raining. Somehow, with all the other things around me that I took note of, the fact it was raining was the worst. Like little daggers descending from the skies, and my wings ached oddly, like I needed to use them. In a way I was disgusted in how I delighted in noting all of it, but amazed that I could at the same time.
The gun and ammo, hanging across my back from a bit of cord, seemed almost unneeded with the rain. Who in their right mind would be out in weather where the rain seemed to hiss as it hit the pavement? I turned and looked back at the two humans and blinked, suddenly feeling rather stupid.
They had two large umbrellas, stripes of neon surrounding the edges of the brim. It made them a bit more visible and it protected them from the rain. They shot me a smile and I walked back to them sheepishly. “I don’t suppose you have something like that in my size, right?”
Jon looked at me blankly. “No.” He said in the tone that I imagined he reserved for small children or particularly slow people. I wondered which one he considered me. The thought twitched my unreasonably easy to anger mind and I felt a low growl rumble out of my chest.
“Oh relax, you have feathers.” Ken tried not to look too smug, I know he did, but I caught it on the wisps of his voice that wasn’t muffled by the rain. I shot him a death glare and ignored it, letting the rain soak into my coverings.
It stung for only a moment, and only because it was colder than I was expecting. It was dreary weather, not half what I was expecting on my first battle.
And, just like the rest of the old stone and concrete structures, the school was no different. In fact, I wouldn’t even have noticed the school if it wasn’t for the explosion that shattered the ground in front of me. “Get back.” Jon hissed, tugging me by a wing behind a building for cover.
I nearly bit his face off. Literally, I felt the urge to ram my beak into his neck when the searing sensation of having one of my wings tugged with enough force to move me hit my brain. I glared at him snarling, almost forgetting about the school until the corner of the building let off a shower of concrete chips. I snapped out of it almost instantly, turning my head just in time, my brain speeding up to ridiculous levels.
And suddenly the flow of raindrops slowed and I could count each and every single one of the beautiful knives flowing through the sky. A bullet, and that was what I knew it was slowly sped by at the pace that I could watch it spiral off on its path, hitting raindrops and shattering them into hundreds of sparkles that captivated and held my eyes.
And something sparked in my head like a lightning strike.
The world was infinitely less colorful, like someone had swapped color film for black and white. There were shadows cast every which way and it was raining. The path in front of me was illuminated only by the precursors to the peals of thunder which hounded me forward like it was nipping at my heels. I felt... smaller... weaker...
I kept my eyes straight ahead, locked on the door that I knew was familiar.
And then I was inside, and I was staring at the corpse of a man clutching a note. A gun was beside him, a single round fired out.
I picked up the note and read it out loud.
“Gone to the conversion bureau.” I didn’t know why I broke into tears.
I snapped back into reality, soaking wet, feeling the sting of the acid rain in the few pores on my skin. The world sparkled with color that I hadn’t appreciated and I let out a sigh of relief from returning to the land of color. Every oily drop was properly painted like a canvass and it was only when brick exploded from another bullet almost blasting against me that I truly realized that I was, in fact, in danger.
“Luckily for us, they are using bullets.” Jon said with half of a laugh. “In this weather, we need all the blessings we can get.” I blinked my eyes and looked around. It seemed like less than a second had passed.
I looked at him and responded in kind to his tone. “What else would they be shooting?” I shut my eyes so they would stop burning from the slow motion.
“Potion canisters. Literally, a shot from one of those and you’ll be spouting off peace slogans like a goddamn hippie and eating grass.” Jon said, tapping the butt of his gun against the wall.
Ken finally spoke up again, his face going a bit white. “How long until they run out of bullets?”
“Who knows. I want to know where the rest of th-” The building shook with an explosion and the sound of something wet and fleshy getting hit a few times by something going a significant fraction of the speed of sound.
“One down!” Came a cry through the rain. Another spoke up.
“Set yer phasers to fun boys, we got sum pony bastards to fry.” Flashes of light, like magic spells hurled through the void greeted us. Ken grinned.
“Ready? I think that’s our distraction.”
I drew the pistol off the cord and flipped off the safety a few faint memories flashing behind. I ignored them, and ignored the single tear on my face before it was swallowed up by the rain.
I dove out of cover, suddenly feeling once again faster than the rain itself, like I could disappear and jump between them without getting wet. Something exploded off in the distance and I recognized it as a gunshot. I twirled the gun into position in my talons and fired thrice, watching the bullets streak through the air as I dodged the returning fire.
The first bullet was dead on target for the shadowy figure’s face and was only unluckily dodged as a gust of wind blew it to the right. It smashed into the school behind it. The second and third bullet struck the target with considerably more accuracy, one smashing through the shoulder and turning it into a pulp of bone and blood and the other burying in the chest of the figure.
Even through the rain, I heard him gurgle and collapse. I still had ten rounds in my gun by my count and I resisted the urge to instantly reload, instead moving swiftly and fluidly behind the cover of another building.
The world returned to normal speed and I was aware of a slight pain in my head from the pounding rain as my visibility reduced to almost zero. My vision, almost perfect, could barely see through the slight fog that had decided to spring up. The rain was starting to stop, and at least that was in my favor.
Something metal was forced against my head and an annoyingly familiar click was brought to bear. “What the hell are you and who gave you a HLF gun?”
I slowly turned around, mindful of the weapon. A man, unshaven with little bits of coarse black hair peppering his face held a revolver to my body. I rolled my eyes at him. “I’m on your side, moron.”
“The HLF doesn’t work with monsters.” The man stated firmly. My tail flicked out as I tried to resist the urge to scream.
“Do you really want to give away your cover?” I asked, instinctively ducking further behind the wall as a distant explosion rendered the corner bricks to shrapnel. The ground rumbled loudly and I looked at the man oddly before he pulled the gun away from me.
“Not worth the cost of the ammo.” He muttered.
“Oh shut up.” I spat, wondering how much trouble I would get in for killing him. The man next to me drew another gun, a dinky looking plastic thing that would’ve looked better in the hands of a child, and twirled a dial on the back, turning the entire thing an eerie red. He smirked and stuck his arm out from cover just long enough to toss it. Chips of plastic rained down, a large section of the stock bouncing over the top of the building and landing next to us.
Thirty seconds later it exploded in a massive detonation of light and sound. Once again, a human pushed me out from where I was. “They’re blind. Go get them.”
Ignoring the part of me screaming to pull out the gun and remove the idiot’s face, I ran through the fog and rain to where I had saw the school. A large singe mark, blood spattered everywhere from the remnants of a PER’s torso, the rain quickly clearing the stone of most of the red liquid.
Poor guy had probably not even known what killed him.
I swept by him without much of a though, my gun kept ready and clutched in one of my forelimbs like one might cradle a knife. There was another gust of wind and it tickled my wings like a faint dream, leading my gaze to the sky.
I needed to fly. I squashed the thought almost instantly.
I shook my head, cobwebs slowing down my thoughts as the world seemed to, for only a second or three, change into a maelstrom of greys.
The rain pattered down, a dull constant. I flicked my gaze back down to earth. There was nobody in sight, despite the smouldering remnants.
The rain slowly stopped and my vision swam.
“We’ve won.” I heard someone shout.
I poked my head out of the school building and my eyes focused on the form of Ken, smiling widely. His smile didn’t fade even though the front of him was spattered with blood. He looked around and slowly, the rest of the group pulled themselves out from their hiding places, each almost as curious as the previous.
Something was shouted from inside the building, perhaps meant to be encouraging or discouraging. I honestly couldn’t tell. Something was thrown, and my eyes trained on it; A silver canister, tens of bio hazard symbols scrawled across the side like urban grafitti, streaking through the air like a graceful grenade.
Without thinking and reacting on reflex, I drew my gun and fired, the canister almost seeming familiar in what I was used to shooting at. The first round tipped the top of it, sending it spiraling still towards us.
The second shot made it explode into an angry purple mist directly on top of me. The humans behind me ran for it and I stood there in mild shock as the mist washed over me with the smell of grass and fields of flowers.
I stood there for a long moment with warning signs flashing in my head and a feeling of deep regret. Clearly, the gas was some sort of nerve poison and any second now I would be bowled over in pain and then shot by my comrades in mercy.
I blinked and shrugged, my wings moving up and down my back as I tried to figure out why I was panicking. The mist had cleared, and I was now an unhealthy shade of purple instead of the browns and greys I had been beforehand.
I walked slowly out of the puddle of gas and then towards the one who threw it, a man that looked entirely too shocked for my liking.
Ignoring the urge to shoot him, I instead walked up to him and grabbed him by his throat, suddenly realizing that I did indeed mostly tower over him. My purple cloaked talons dug at his throat and he only smiled at me.
“Thanks.” He said as if I did him a favor, a segment of the purple coating me sinking into his skin. His body gave an unsettling jerk and I dropped him.
His body sprouted pastel colored fur, his bones locking together. My mind told me he was turning into a pony, though it was going wrong. Where the fur was coming in it quickly fell off, turning into an ashen powder and leaving bare ugly raw skin. And then the bones collapsed in on himself and he literally caught on fire, collapsing into a nauseating blob and then a puddle of singed and burning flesh.
I stared at it in disgust, and turned away.
I caught sight of a pony running for it and flicked my gun over to it, looking down the sights with my vision homing in like a scope itself. Brown. It had a brown mane, and a yellow coat of fur. No cutie Mark. A young child.
I didn’t take the shot, regardless of whether or not the gun could hit from that far away.
“Arachne's web is a success.” I heard Ken say out loud. I turned around and looked at him blankly as a bit of purple goo dripped over one my eyes.
I turned away from him, not waiting for his response. There was something tingling on the tip of my tongue, like a half forgotten taste. “What about the children?” I was only a few feet from the school building.
Jon spoke up. “We kill them and give them burials. Better to be dead than to be ponies.”
I felt a wave of emotions I couldn’t identify flash through my head. “But...” I muttered, not putting any force behind it. “Let me see something in the building first, ok?”
He only nodded.
I carefully walked around the puddle of human pony goo and trudged inside, ducking behind a door.
Like hell I was going to let them kill all those kids.
Easing my way through the bullet riddled hall way, I found another canister looking device and carefully carried it in the crook of a wing out to the front doors.
“Right,” I said, looking out over the eight or so humans watching me. “Here’s how I think this should play out.”
Ken glanced at me with a look of betrayal as if he knew what I was doing.
“I think that anyone stupid enough to try and enter this building,” I grabbed the canister in my talons and tossed it a few feet up, catching it as it fell. “Should have to deal with me and this potion.” I threw it up and caught it again.
I wasn’t sure whether I looked threatening or not. On one hand... talon... whatever I am supposed to use, I had a canister of gas that made a man turn into a puddle. On the other hand, I was purple and my feathers were sticking out at odd angles because of how the goo clung to them. I thanked my eyes for being awesome as I scanned the group in front of me for their reactions.
“Mu. Listen to yourself.” Jon said in a flat level tone. He was clearly the leader. “You just helped us fight off the bastards that did this and now you want to protect what they did?”
It disturbed me and angered me that he would be so callous as to not even refer to the kids as being living things. “These are kids. They can learn.”
“They are ponies now.” He said, trying to reason with me. “And where would they go from here? We are miles from anything that will let ponies in besides the PER outpost. Do you really want to give them all those fresh young ponies?”
In a cold clinical way I understood what he was saying. They were either going to die or be captured and force fed propaganda. I stared at him without moving. “Then get them to a city. That shouldn’t be hard, right? Just escort them...”
Jon laughed harshly. “Yeah? And guess what happens the second we turn them in? We get arrested, tried, killed and even more PER get to go without us trying to keep their numbers down. And then they bomb another school. And another school.”
And in a way I knew he was right and in a deep burning way, like my soul itself was screaming, I knew he was wrong. “This is what you are going to do.” I said, letting an angry hiss into my voice. I felt part of my feathers try to puff up but it was held down by the goo.
“Mu. Shut up. Let us put them down.”
I glared at him and calmly threw the cylinder up again, and in the time it took it to soar up into the air I had drawn the pistol into my talons and without missing a beat, shot the ground in front of them. I dropped the pistol and caught the cylinder.
“I’d rather have the PER take them than let you kill them, Jon.”
He stared at me with such a look of abject hatred that I almost feared my feathers would catch on fire. He slowly looked up into the grey sky and shook his head. “Stand down men.”
The men around him didn’t move.
“Stand down, DAMN IT.” He roared.
They slouched into more relaxed stances.
“Mission accomplished. Let’s go home.”
The men filed away, a disorganized rabble, and left with only a few discouraging words.
Ken stayed next to Jon, Ken’s brown eyes looking at me with nothing less than pure betrayal.
“Mu. I swear to god I didn’t have a problem with you before this. Mark my words. If I meet you again, no force on this planet is going to stop me from unloading a clip or three into your head. Do you hear me? You aren’t the man I used to know. He was smart. He wasn’t an idealistic idiot. You were right. He’s dead.” And then he turned and walked away.
His words struck me like a dagger twisting into my stomach. I almost panted in barely constrained rage looking at him like a hawk looks at a mouse.
“I’m sorry.” Ken muttered, then did the same as Jon.
And just like that the rage vanished. Ken had cut it down like a machine gun firing squad, leaving my emotions in confused pieces.
I had never felt more alone.