Author of The Conversion Bureau: Last Man Standing. Hoping to write more when time presents itself.
75w, 1dThe Long and Winding Road 7 comments · 212 views
98w, 3dOkay, maybe they weren't too exaggerated after all. 5 comments · 216 views
100w, 6dThe reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. 8 comments · 134 views
110w, 5dLAST MAN STANDING SEQUEL BLOG POAST 6 comments · 208 views
113w, 4hEnd of a story 3 comments · 127 views
113w, 2dNaPoWriMo? 6 comments · 121 views
113w, 6dJust a little something 6 comments · 123 views
114w, 4dUgh 7 comments · 221 views
114w, 5d~~ 3 comments · 107 views
114w, 6dThe final two chapters 1 comments · 105 views
“Sir, you appear to have a visitor,” the synthesized voice reverberated throughout the house, emanating from speakers located in every room. The message reached the ears of the man sitting at his desk in a dimly lit room, tapping away at a keyboard to his computer.
“Ah. Who might it be this time?” the man called back without removing his attention from the screen in front of him.
“It appears to be a unicorn, sir. Shall I ask her to return when you are not busy?” He leaned back in his chair, running his hand through his scraggy head of greying hair.
“That’s quite alright. I needed a break anyway. Let her in if you don’t mind,” he responded. “And can you boil up some water for tea? Raspberry for me, if you would be so kind.”
“Of course, sir.” The speaker clicked off, filling the room with silence once more. He stared at the screen again, analyzing his progress.
“Hello? Anypony here?” a shy, feminine voice called out, accompanied by a soft and apprehensive clip-clop that came from the living room. The man pushed himself out of his chair to meet his guest, as it was the polite thing to do. Making his way out of his office and into the better lit hallway, he continued out into the small living room of his house. His eyes settled on a small purple unicorn, her deep lavender eyes gazing back at him. He walked up to her, hand outstretched.
“Pleasure to meet you, miss…?”
“Sparkle. Twilight Sparkle. And you must be Isaac Hamilton.” She held out her hoof and they exchanged their greetings.
“The one and only. Now, what brings you to my humble little abode?”
“I have a message from the princesses. It’s pretty urgent.”
Isaac walked over and fell back into one of the sofas with a thwomp and looked back at the unicorn. “Interesting. Would you care for some tea? I have the water heating up right now.”
“Do you have dandelion?” the mare asked.
“Yes, we do. It shall be ready in a few minutes.” Twilight jumped at the unexpected response from the speakers just above her head.
“Is that an AI?” she gasped. “I thought they all got decommissioned!”
“Nah. I snagged SyRE before I left the IHSA, and he’s a special one at that.”
“SyRE?” Twilight repeated, confused. “That’s a funny name. It sounds like you are addressing it as if it’s royalty.”
Isaac let out a small chuckle. “Well, I have plenty of names for him. ‘Bucket-o-bolts’, ‘bit-brain’, ‘slave’…” With the last remark, a teacup shot out from the kitchen, straight at Isaac’s head. He saw it coming as he was speaking as well as from the corner of his eye. He ducked, almost feeling the wind of the teacup flying over his head and shattering on the wall beside him. Twilight could only giggle. “HEY! I didn’t say you could do that!” Isaac fumed.
“I do not appreciate being called ‘slave’, sir.”
“Quite the sensitive computer you are. Bah, fine. What I was saying, before I was so RUDELY interrupted,” Isaac shot a glare towards the kitchen, “Is that his name is actually an acronym. Synthetic Recognition Emulator, or SyRE. He’s not much of a worker, but more of a thinker. He can have opinions and ideas, but I never let him do my work for me.”
Twilight still looked slightly confused, deciding instead to change the subject. “Well then, onto business. Since your meeting with Luna and Celestia, we’ve been getting fewer and fewer reports of human sightings.” Isaac leaned forward, his eyes sparkling with interest. “A year ago, the princesses commissioned a spell study from the Canterlot Unicorn Academy, tasked with determining how many humans are left in the wilds, and where they reside.
“Pony emissaries were sent out to the few we detected, offering them homes, food, and even ponification if they desired to do so. Isaac,” she held out a long pause, “most of them chose ponification after hearing that I’m going to tell you, while the others… well… they took their own lives instead of facing it.” The words hung heavy in the air. Isaac knew exactly what she was about to say, refusing to admit it to himself. “We double and triple checked our readings, but unfortunately they all pointed to the same thing. You are the last human on Earth.”
Isaac leaned forward, staring at the floor. He ran his hands through his greying hair, taking in the new information. Twilight looked at him, expecting something more than just silence, but the room stayed quiet for a few minutes. A loud whistle of steam came from inside the kitchen, and then the sound of water being poured into mugs.
“Sir, your tea is ready.” A small robotic cart drove out with two steaming cups of tea, seated on its flat head. The small motors buzzing away as the contraption presented the unicorn with her steaming cup of tea. Twilight took hers, and whispered a quiet “Thank you,” as the cart drove over to Isaac. He took his tea and took a long sip of the soothing drink.
“Isaac, are you okay? I’m getting a little worried,” Twilight asked.
Isaac shot a glare up to the purple unicorn, a gaze that filled Twilight with dread. “Me? Oh, I’m fine. Just peachy. I was just told my entire species is extinct. Not a big deal, oh no,” he said, coldly. “Tell me, Twilight Sparkle. Tell me how you think I am. How do you think I’m feeling right now?”
Twilight fidgeted for a moment. “I, uh... I think that you must feel terrible, an-”
“Terrible? That doesn’t even begin to DESCRIBE IT!" the man yelled, rising to his feet, looking down on the terrified unicorn. “You walk into my home, cheerful as can be, and tell me, ‘Good day, sir! Oh, by the way, your species is dead. Have a nice day!’” Isaac paced back and forth, his hands clutching his head. He moaned angrily as he swung his arms down, his fists clenched so tight his nails were digging into his skin. He glared back at the unicorn. She was trembling on the couch, her mouth slack, her eyes filled with terror as she stared at him. Tears began to form at the corners of her eyes as she tried to mutter something, but all that came out was a feeble squeak of fear. The sight eased his temper; he shouldn’t be taking it out on her. She did nothing wrong.
"I’m just... ugh.” Isaac fell back into his chair, the blood draining from his red face as his temper began to ebb away. “I’m... I’m just so tired of this.” Isaac glanced over to the cup of tea before him, and took another long sip.
“I must apologize, Miss Sparkle, for that outburst. I had suspected for a while since the bombing that I was the last one, but when confronted with the fact, it’s a little... taxing on the nerves.” He set the teacup down on the table in front of him, his mind deep in thought. He stared at his hands for a moment. They shook a small bit from the swath of emotions that filled him.
Twilight opened her mouth to speak, but was quickly cut off, as if Isaac knew exactly what she was about to say. “And no, I can’t get ponified. It’s... complicated.”
“Isaac,” Twilight began. “There’s more.” Her horn lit up, filling the room with a soft lavender glow. Her saddlebag’s flap lifted open, and a red folder levitated over to his lap. The cover was marked with warnings such as ‘TOP SECRET’ and ‘FOR EYES ONLY’. Isaac looked up at Twilight, who nodded in return. He opened it, and examined the contents within.
“Each one of the humans also was asked to read this. None of this is public knowledge yet."
Flipping through the pages, a single word carried a sense of importance throughout each document. “Twilight, what is this? ‘Purification’?”
Twilight took another sip of her tea before she set it down onto the table and locked eyes with Isaac. “Do you remember back before our kind came to your world? Before Equestria was where it is today?”
Isaac scratched at the stubble on his chin as he raked his memories. “Yeah, a bit. What about it? And what does it have to do with this ‘Purification’?”
“Then I’m sure you remember that disease that was appearing on your planet, correct? Red Plague, I believe?” Isaac’s mind lit up at the name.
“I remember it. What’s its significance?”
“Our worlds were linked, even before we came. They were tiny bridges between our worlds, so small that finding one was almost impossible on your own. Typically, you could tell where one was by what was coming through it. On your side, they manifested as pockets of life sprouting up where none had been before. For us…” Twilight paused. “They were pockets of disease and death. Areas around those points in Equestria were poisonous and often harmful just by being near it.”
Isaac leaned forward and picked up his tea cup and took a sip. “Couldn’t you close them? You’re magic, aren’t you? You and your princesses could just close those and clean up whatever came through.”
“We tried that, Isaac. But for every one we closed, more opened, spreading those patches of malaise throughout Equestria. It was just about a little over a year before we appeared that we encountered the Red Plague in Equestria. The princesses saw the frightening potential of it should it inherit the magical properties of Equestria. So for the rest of that year, they decided instead of treating the visible wounds, they would deal with the source of it. The spell they wove opened one of the bridges wide enough for our entire land to fit through, appearing where the corresponding bridge existed in your world, which happened to be the middle of the ocean.”
“Hold on a second. Wouldn’t coming closer to the source of the Plague give it more opportunities to mutate to what your princesses wanted to avoid?” Isaac objected.
“Technically, that is what most of us who knew the details of it were worried of. But when our worlds joined, the bridges were broken, so the Plague couldn’t sneak into Equestria the way it had beforehand. When we perfected the Ponification serum, we made sure that the disease was eliminated in the process. We’re naturally immune to the most common strain that infected your people, but we couldn’t let the sources that spawned it persist to create a plague that could harm us.
“The Purification Spell: the single greatest piece of arcane spellcraft ever conceived by anypony in our history. Harnessing the casting power of millions upon millions of unicorns, a wave of energy would wash over the planet, refining everything the spell touched to the base elements that comprised it, and imbuing it with natural life energy. When the spell is finished, all that would remain would be a world virtually untouched by human hands. A clean slate. Everypony would take shelter in Equestria when the spell is cast, to avoid the effects. This is why we’ve been pushing to get the last of humanity poified. So you can survive.”
Twilight expected Isaac to take more time reflecting on the new information she had presented to him. “When is this spell supposed to be cast?” he said.
“One week from today. Believe me, Princess Celestia has been trying to put it off for as long as possible, but if she waits any longer, even the Purification wouldn’t be enough.”
“And all human technology, architecture, the quintessence of our entire history will be erased from the Earth, correct?”
“I’m sorry, but yes, that is correct.”
Isaac folded his hands in front of his face in quiet contemplation. After a few minutes, he spoke again. “Is there anything else you need me for? I told you my stance on ponification, regardless of this ‘Purification’ spell.”
“Well, we knew you were part of the IHSA, and we wanted to know what was going on there before the bombing. I-if you don’t mind, of course.”
After a few moments of silence, Isaac responded. “Sure, why not. But after it’s over, I want to be left alone for a while. I have a lot of work to do, and apparently, only a week to do it all in. Where would you like to start?” Isaac leaned back in his chair, and took another sip of his tea.
Twilight Sparkle levitated a clipboard and a pen from her saddlebags. The moment the pen touched the paper, it immediately started scribbling notes on the things the voice recorder couldn't get. "I would like you to start from when you first heard about the Bureaus. Knowing what led you to the IHSA is very useful for knowing the circumstances of..."
"I know," Isaac cut Twilight off before she could finish. "It really all started when I got a message from a friend of mine."
Isaac meticulously picked at the scummy food littering his plate. The package supposedly said “Chicken Parmesan”, but it looked more like some sort of gelatinous swamp-monster his mother was trying to feed to him. Unsurprisingly, his appetite was not with him. If it had been at any point earlier, it ran for the hills at the sight of the meal before him. This was the common fare for his family: ultra-processed synthetic meats, fruits, and vegetables. Rumor even had it that the water would even light on fire from the faucet.
“I’m not hungry,” Isaac mumbled, pushing the meal away from him. The way it jiggled as he did so would have elicited a response from his gag reflex, had he not been so used to the sight.
“Oh… well I’m sure your father will be more than happy to eat your helping,” his mother, Susan replied. She sighed, looking down past her blond curls at the plate, the food virtually untouched. Her eyes locked with Isaac’s, and mouthed ‘I don’t blame you’.
“Well I’ll HAVE to now that it’s already cooked up,” a voice grumbled from the room over. “You’re gonna wither away if you don’t eat anything, Isaac. Gotta grit your teeth through it, jus’ like everyone else does.” Isaac’s father, Jeff Hamilton, spent all of his evenings sitting in the same exact chair, flipping through the hundreds of channels their television received.
“I think I’m just gonna go to sleep,” Isaac mumbled.
“Can you tell Erika that dinner’s ready when you get up there?” Susan called from the kitchen.
“Sure,” Isaac moaned back as he rose from the rickety wooden chair. He shuffled his feet along the hard wooden floor to the stairs as he slogged his way up. He was exhausted from another day of fruitless job searching. But at least he tried, and it kept his parents off his back for living at home.
He reached the top of the stairs, the old house creaking underneath every step he took. He leaned up against the wall next to a door and knocked a single time. “Erika, mom says dinner is ready.”
“Just a minute~” she sang. Erika was Isaac’s younger sister, still enrolled in college. Her unusually optimistic attitude was grating to Isaac whenever she was around, but Isaac always cared for his little sister. The door swung open, momentarily blinding Isaac with the viciously bright colors of the decorations of Erika’s room.
“I wouldn’t touch it if I were you,” Isaac mumbled as she sailed right past him.
She spun back around as she reached the stairs, giving him a wry smile. “I’ll take what I can get!”
Isaac sighed and continued to his own room. Just down the hall from Erika, his own room was much darker and plainer than his sister’s by comparison. Books and papers littered any open floor real-estate, his desk covered in half-empty drinks and snack wrappers. On most nights, he would spend countless hours staring at his large computer screen, working on collaborative projects with his old college buddies, chatting, or just checking out how miserable the rest of the world was compared to him. It was one way he could cheer himself up.
Falling onto his bed, he buried his head in the solitary pillow, trying to let sleep take him. Unfortunately for him, his room was right above the television, and his father liked his volume unnecessarily high. Every night he tried to get to sleep before midnight, he would be forced to tune into the audio of whatever caught his father’s fancy for the evening. Tonight, it seemed, nothing could hold his attention for too long before he would change the channel.
<Welcome back to StormWatch. We’ve been following Hurricane Pauline for a few hours now, and in just the time from when it was formally classified as a hurricane three hours ago, it has already escalated into a devastating category five storm, marking the sixth of these mega-hurricanes this season.>
<Unemployment now stands at an unhealthy thirty-nine point five percent, a substantial rise of three percent since last month, mostly in the IT fields and manufacturing. AIs have finally been integrated into virtually all workplaces, bringing productivity and efficiency through the roof. Protests and demonstrations have been taking place outside of the very places employing these new virtual workers, the old workers demanding their jobs back.>
<Riots once again populate many of the countries of the Middle East, further adding to the tensions for energy in the global market. The oil shortage shows no signs of slowing down, as wells are pumped dry and fewer fresh ones are found with each passing day.>
<With the sudden emergence of the new disease now referred to as ‘Red Plague’ in central Europe last year, many small towns are still locked down in quarantine. Major cities are encouraging less travel to the rural areas, where the disease is thought to have mutated from industrial runoff basins.>
The sounds of metal crashing, gunshots, and explosions now rattled the walls of his room. Jeff must’ve found some sort of cop drama to keep his attention. A more distinct rattling met his ears, clearly not coming from the television downstairs. Isaac pushed himself up and reached to his bed-side table, grasping his phone and bringing it to his face, half buried in the pillow. He had a new message.
[Meet at the diner tomorrow at 2. –Will]
William Rathmore was a good friend of Isaac’s from high school. They were known to be troublemakers throughout their school career, winding up on the wrong end of the Principal's attitude more than a few times. Even though they ended up at different colleges, they still kept in touch through online chatting. And, it seemed to Isaac, that Will had yet to give up his habits if he was intercepting private files from his home computer.
Will’s head popped out from the crowd, flashing a smile when he saw Isaac standing at the corner by the diner. Almost running over a few people roaming the sidewalk in front of him, Will kept his balance while running over to Isaac.
"Good to see you again," Isaac said as he shook Will's hand.
"I was getting ass-cramps from sitting in that chair all day. I needed to get out sooner or later,” Will wheezed.
The two strode into the diner and chose two stools at the main counter. The place was a favorite of theirs back in high school since it was open 24-hours a day, providing them with meals whenever they wanted. And fortunately for them, the meals they served here tasted like what they were supposed to be. Most of their planning and pranks were devised there in the dark hours of those mornings. It was a small place in town, mostly unchanged from the last century of innovation and shifts in style, helping it keep its charm.
One of the waitresses brought over two glasses if ice water, and handed them each a menu. Heh. Even the menus don't change, Isaac mused to himself. He spent no time looking over the menu, already knowing what he was going to get. Will spent a little bit longer looking it over, but eventually settled on his choice.
"So what can I get you boys?" the waitress asked, notepad ready.
"I will get a Coke and a triple stack of pancakes," Isaac piped up.
"Uh, I'll get lemonade and an order of French toast."
"Coming right up, sweethearts." She took the menus and disappeared behind the double doors into the kitchen.
Isaac tapped the counter with his fingertips, waiting as he and Will sat in silence. Will stared at the wall opposite from him. Impatient, Isaac finally broke the silence. “Okay, I’ll bite. What did you want to show me?” Isaac asked, growing impatient with his friend.
“Patience, young padawan.” Will took a quick glance at his watch, noting the time.
Will pulled out his tablet and fiddled with the icons for a short moment. The television on the wall behind the counter flickered on, surprising many of the guests and workers. Will only shot Isaac a smirk.
One of the waiters stepped up to the television to turn it off, aiming a glare at Will and his tablet, mouthing ‘damn punks’. A bright red 'BREAKING NEWS' notification lit up the screen with a loud jingle. He stepped away with a look of confusion, knocking some of the plastic cups onto the hard ground, drawing the attention of the other customers in the diner to the racket. They all stared at the television in the same stupor that the waiter did.
<We apologize for the interruption of your regularly scheduled programming. We switch you now to a live press conference in the UN in New York City, held by the president.>
There was a brief transition, and the camera opened on an older man standing at a podium in front of an audience of thousands. Camera flashes were constantly illuminating the stage as the noise started to die down.
<Hello. My name is Henry Eismann, president of the United States of America. What I’m about to tell you, quite possibly, will change your view of the world. I know it has changed mine.>
<About two weeks ago, a large landmass appeared in the ocean, approximately five hundred miles offshore from New York City. We sent several reconnaissance missions to gauge what we were dealing with, none of which were able to achieve any kind of information aside from basic geographical data. The island was extremely large, about the size of Georgia. The terrain was not unlike anything we hadn’t seen before; mountains, forests, swamps, and grassy fields.>
<A few days after this new land appeared, we had an encounter with the inhabitants of this new place. They spoke of desiring peace between our two civilizations. I spoke with the members of the royalty of this land, and we have reached an agreement. The details of this will be explained by none other than the Princess herself.>
“You’re gonna love this,” Will whispered to Isaac. Isaac had never heard of a group being able to organize a worldwide broadcast within just a few days. Whoever they were, they must have left quite the impression on the president. The president walked away from the podium, disappearing behind the curtain. After a moment of pure silence, both in the diner and at the press conference, a single figure emerged into the spotlights. The audiences on both sides of the television gasped.
A majestic white horse walked out from behind the curtain to the side of the stage. Her mane wafted in the stagnant air of the room by some unnatural breeze, reflecting all of the colors of the spectrum. On her head she wore a single golden tiara set with gemstones the likes of which only seen in museums, and holding that in place was a long, ivory horn. On either side of her slender body were tucked-in wings. She wore many other golden decorations, each emblazoned with an insignia of a blazing sun. Isaac could hear people around him talking amongst themselves about the revelation of the nature of this ‘guest’.
"What in the world... It’s a unicorn!"
“It has wings? And a horn?”
“That’s a pretty sick tattoo on it’s ass!”
"My lord! It’s beautiful!"
"I don't like this... Ain't natural."
"Don't tell me THAT’s the speaker! Horses can't talk!" someone spouted from the back of the diner.
<Greetings, people of the world. My name is Princess Celestia, one of the rulers of the verdant land of Equestria.>
Her voice was regal, majestic, and beautiful. She exuded an air of confidence and gentleness about her, translating clearly through the television. Isaac stared in wonder at the Princess.
<We come to you not as a nation seeking power, but one willing to share what we have. While we cannot force you to believe what I say, we will let our actions speak for us. I and my sister, Luna, both expect that your people have already begun plans to try and colonize our land, seeking to utilize our resources for your own gain. For your own safety, we ask you to cease these efforts. Our fair nation of Equestria is rich with magical energy. A few members of various countries discovered this the hard way, for which I am dreadfully regretful for. Because of this, no human can ever set foot in Equestria.>
A loud roar of outrage erupted from the audience attending the speech. After a moment, the din started to taper away, leaving the white alicorn at the podium, her expression shifting from one of seriousness to a soft smile.
<We can offer humanity a future, though. Our top scientific minds are hard at work combining our magic with your technology to complete a process that will allow humanity to live in our lands, as one of us. We can offer those interested a simpler life, honest work, and the joys and happiness we have lived with for generations. We offer this gift to you in good faith. We will be opening Conversion Bureaus for those who are interested all over the world in the coming months, beginning the treatments for ponification once we are one hundred percent sure that the process is safe for everyone.>
<We look forward to hearing your concerns and answering your questions. We have uploaded an information document onto your internet, and will be hosting meetings in cities worldwide to ease any worries and answer any questions you may have. We look forward to welcoming those of you willing to join us as our brothers and sisters.>
The diner had fallen silent. As Celestia walked off from the stage, the entire audience erupted into a cacophony of cheers, screams, and even boos as she left.
“What just happened?” Isaac asked Will, who seemed to have a better grasp of the situation.
“Well, a few weeks ago I stumbled into the Pentagon mainframe…” Will began casually.
“Err, yeah. And I found these reports of a giant landmass that just appeared a few hundred miles out to sea practically overnight. Flights were redirected away from it, satellites were taken over to prevent any unneeded sightings. I've never seen the net subjected to such a widespread censorship campaign. Any mention of it, any pictures, anything pertaining to it was immediately deleted and the user would go silent. A few days after the island appeared, a picture surfaced with a couple of those ponies meeting with some military personnel on a ship a few miles off the coast from that island. She wanted to hold a press conference today, and now we have… ponies wanting to turn humans into more ponies.”
“Well that’s just great.” Isaac took a sip from his beverage. “Hey, pull up that file she mentioned. Let’s see what this is all about.”
Will pulled out the tablet from his pack, and set it down on the counter. After a few moments of fiddling with the controls, the screen was filled with color. The cover was a color photograph of rolling green hills, rivers, and snow-capped mountains in the background, with all sorts of ponies playing around and an old English style town right behind them. A message was displayed along both sides of the scene.
[Are you tired of your life of exhausting work for little pay? Have you had your job taken from you and you are struggling just to get by? Then enroll in one of our Conversion Bureaus! During your 7-day stay, you will be supplied with everything you'll need to live amongst us in Equestria. Ponification is an easy, painless procedure that will allow you to live in our home land, along with all of the other ponies!]
[Our top scientists are teaming up with their human counterparts to perfect this process. Administered at our Conversion Bureaus early in your stay, you will grow into and adjust to your new pony body while keeping everything that was ‘you’ right where it belongs!]
[Room and board, meals, education, and medical expenses will be free of charge! Yes, you read that right! You can start your new life for no cost whatsoever! Questions? Come and visit the Conversion Bureau nearest to you on July 2nd for a Q&A session!]
[Conversion Bureaus opening near you: all New York City boroughs, Newark, Trenton, Camden, Philadelphia...]
Isaac removed his attention from the screen to see everyone else in the diner looking to their own screens. They were all entranced by the promises the ponies were offering. A new life? For free? It was an offer countless people would take at the drop of a hat.
"No way am I doing this. There's gotta be something more to it than that," Will objected.
"Yeah. Not asking for anything in return? No cost for the process? Sounds fishy."
"Says here that the Newark one is scheduled to open tomorrow. Care for a small road trip?" Isaac knew where Will's mind was going, and knew he had no choice in the matter.
Isaac and Will pulled into the colossal parking lot in front of the large building. The entire lot looked like it could rival the Meadowlands Stadium parking lots at a first glance. There were thousands of spaces, most of which were empty. There were several dozen cars, all up near the open doors to the building. The two strolled inside, voice recorders already on, eager to discover what was being discussed. They had decided to record everything the ponies said, since most of their announcements were still painfully vague as to the details of what they were planning.
A series of signs and arrows pointed them into a large presentation room. Voices were heard from inside.
"... but what would we do when we move to Equestria?" one of the audience members finished asking.
The pony at the podium was a deep purple unicorn; presumably female judging by the way her mane was styled. "Well, each pony is given work and a place to stay. Jobs can range from farming, to tailoring, to cooking, and so on. Don’t worry; we are sure to find ways for everyone to make a healthy living!" A roar of applause grew from the audience, cheering at the prospects of a newer, simpler life.
Isaac and Will made their way into the middle of the group and found a pair of chairs they could use. As they sat down, the applause began to peter off, giving way to silence once again.
"Any more questions?" the unicorn asked.
Isaac's hand shot up almost involuntarily.
"What's your motivation?" Isaac could feel the glares from everyone in the audience settling on him at that moment. Taking a gulp, he continued. "You offer humanity a new start, and you ask nothing in return. Why?"
"Ahem, well... we have watched you and your civilizations constantly rising and falling. We see famine, poverty, starvation, and exploitation running rampant through your world, and we only wish to offer you a hand to be free of it all. What was your name?"
"Isaac. Isaac Hamilton."
"Would you mind staying afterwards, Isaac? I would love to address your worries and concerns a little bit more thoroughly and personally, if you don't mind."
"By all means," he responded, taking his seat again. Throughout the rest of the presentation, he could feel much of the animosity from the rest of the audience around him begin to fade away. Most of the questions everyone had were what would happen to them during their stay at the Bureau and what Equestria was like.
Once nobody raised their hands anymore, Isaac noticed that a few hours had passed since they arrived.
"Thank you all for coming out to meet with us today! We look forward to seeing you when we officially open!" the unicorn concluded. The audience, save for Isaac and Will, were smiling and laughing while leaving the facility, excited for their new lives to come.
The unicorn stepped down from the stage and walked over to where the two of them were standing.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Isaac. And you are?"
"Oh, I’m Will Rathmore."
"Wonderful to meet you too, Will. My name is Twilight Sparkle. I’m going to be in charge of this Bureau once it opens, so I believe I can answer most of your questions." The unicorn, Twilight, cleared her throat. "So you wanted to know our reasoning for why we’re doing this, correct?"
The two nodded in unison. Isaac spoke up, "Yes. You see, we are naturally very apprehensive when something is offered to us for free. Never in our history has something been given free of any strings or conditions attached."
"Yes, we were fully aware of the opposition we would face from some humans. Be assured, we truly mean you no ill will. We just want to see you thrive, and we believe we can help you in that through ponification."
“I apologize for sounding rude, but that sounds like a very arrogant claim. Humans have to become ponies to live happily? We need to join you to thrive? I’m sorry, but there are many people out there who are going to be taking your claims that way, and not being as polite as me about it.”
Twilight looked down at the carpet of the small conference hall. “I know. We still are in wonder at the technology and knowledge your people have been able to achieve. Humans are amazing, I am proud to believe that. Your kind does truly fascinate me. But... I’m sorry if I sound rude, your kind does tend to have... aggressive mannerisms and harbors hostility moreso than our kind. Equestria has never experienced war, famine, disease, or anything of that nature. We have a peaceful society. We only wish to share that with you.”
Isaac smiled. “I believe you, Twilight. I only wish it were that simple, to change a person that way.”
Will took the opportunity to voice his concern. "What I’d like to know, Miss Twilight, is how you plan to, well, 'ponify' us humans. How does it work?"
Twilight let out a soft sigh. "To be honest, I’m not too sure how it works right now either. The research has been under very tight security since it was started so only the ponies and humans working on the project have any sort of extensive knowledge on the subject. But what I have heard is that your scientists have had most of the work done for years now, and all that we need to do is add the magic and start trials."
Isaac did a double take at what he just heard. "Did you just say 'magic'? Like abra-kadabra, shazam, that kind of stuff? I heard your princess mention it during her speech yesterday."
Twilight masked a small giggle. "Oh, heavens no! We unicorns can use actual magic, like this." The tip of Twilight's horn began to glow a soft purple, and the chairs around the small group began to levitate and stack themselves. They kept doing so until the entire room was empty, except for stacks of chairs lining the walls. Isaac and Will could only look in amazement.
"Well that's something. Sure wished we got that on video," Will whispered. Isaac only nodded in agreement.
"We ponies come in three forms: unicorns like me who can use magic, pegasus ponies that have wings and can fly, and earth ponies who are agricultural masters and animal handlers. The ponification process selects which one of these three you are most suited for, and that is what you become."
"Alright, well thank you for your time, Miss Twilight. It's been a pleasure." Isaac held out his hand to meet Twilight's soft hoof, and after an awkward moment of figuring out how to grasp the alien appendage, he gently shook it. The feeling was entirely unexpected. Her coat was not unlike velvet or silk, her hoof not hard or dirty, but supple and warm to the touch.
"Indeed it has. I hope I’ve eased your apprehensions! I look forward to seeing you two once we open in a few months!"
Navigating the empty halls of the giant building, Isaac and Will walked out into the soft glow of the afternoon sun, looking out over the empty desert of asphalt before them. Will let out a drawn out sigh.
"Dude, it sounds so appealing. A new life? To be able to start over? I would take it in a heartbeat if it wasn't for that 'ponification' she kept talking about." The two of them were walking out across the parking lot, over to the individual car left out in the middle of the asphalt wasteland.
"I hear you. And that's why I can't bring myself to do it. Because I want it so badly. I don’t want to get caught up in the rush of it. People make bad choices when they get too excited. Let’s wait and see what happens with this. I already know I’m gonna have a busy evening," Isaac said, gazing down at the ground.
"Yeesh. I forgot. Erika. She's gonna be all over this. Best of luck, dude. You're gonna need it."
"Did you see how cute they were?! I'm going right away once they open up!" Erika squealed. Isaac looked on with a baleful gaze. He was afraid of this. They ponies had appealed to everyone with the lure of utopia waiting with them. And his sister fell right for it.
"Oh honey, you simply must calm down. While it does sound absolutely wonderful, you have a perfectly good life here at home. You have a job, your friends, and a loving family, everything a grown woman would want! Don’t be so quick to get whipped up in it," Isaac's mother called from the kitchen.
"Yeah, pipe down. You're giving me a headache," Jeff grunted from the living room.
"Jeff! Don't speak like that to your daughter!" Susan yelled.
Jeff replied only with another grunt and went back to watching his television shows.
"So, Isaac! You gonna get ponified? Well? Hm?" Erika said over Isaac's shoulder.
"Nah. Pass. Too girly for me," Isaac lied. He knew that deep down, he did want to go through with it, but he simply couldn't admit it to himself.
"Funny, I would think you would be ideal for it!” Erika playfully sneered. “You haven't had a job in almost two years now, you don't have any friends aside from Willy, and you've just been living off mom and dad since you got out of college!"
"Now that’s enough Erika!" Susan yelled, her red face peering out from the kitchen. "I will not have you talking to your older brother like that! It's not his fault that those things took his job from him! And he is always welcome in this house! And that’s the end of it."
Isaac stared at his mother. He couldn't believe the passion she had showed in standing up for him. But, to Isaac, everything his sister had said was true.
Three years ago, Isaac had finally scored a job working at a computer science firm, developing new programs and technology for the world to utilize. When his boss had suggested working alongside an experimental AI, Isaac thought it was a decent idea. Having some sort of program help him with the grunt work? It sounded good to him.
After a few scant weeks, the AI had grown to be able to emulate Isaac's programming skills, and eventually surpass it. Since then, the entire company was being outfitted with AIs to take over human held positions, resulting in Isaac being ousted from his job. During the weeks that followed, he was constantly asking for interviews and employment opportunities, but found none. Every programmer, technician, developer, and engineer had been steadily replaced with AIs. The only ones still with jobs were the AI developers.
Isaac stood up from the table he was seated at. "Thank you for dinner, mother." He brought his bowl into the kitchen, placed it in the sink, and walked upstairs without saying another word. His family looked on, saying nothing. Only the drone from the television filled the air.
He stepped into his room, which immediately sparked to life. His computer terminal lit up, routing him straight to the chat room he frequented in his free time, signing him on immediately. All of the other users were abuzz about the Conversion Bureaus, the ponies, and especially 'ponification'. Isaac had heard enough about these ponies for today. He powered down his equipment, deciding on sleep instead of his usual online work.
He needed the sleep. It would let him rest and give him time to be able to reflect on the test humanity as a whole was about to face. Is the promise of paradise really worth losing one's humanity?
Trying to get to sleep, Isaac could hear the television blaring from downstairs. His father almost never turned it off. Just like the other night, he was forced to sit in on his father’s program.
<Hello, I’m Gabby Fitzsimons, and welcome to the nightly news at 8. It’s the thing that everyone and their mothers are talking about! Ponification! What is it? Should you be afraid? Should you go for it? Well, there are already those who are voicing the proposal as an insult to humanity. They are already calling themselves the HLF, or the Human Liberation Front. It’s a grassroots movement sprouting up all over the world, with one unifying goal: to keep humans and ponies separate. With the ponies facing vandalism and threats of violence, they chose to address the concerns some people had.>
<A spokesma- err… spokespony… really?... said the following:>
<”We wish humanity no harm. We offer this service as a voluntary choice. We are not forcing any humans to get ponified, only holding the doors open for those who wish to move to Equestria. Humanity is entitled to its own decision on an individual basis. We don’t think that one pony or man should choose what an entire species must decide.”>
<Frank Dunland, self-described leader of the pro-human movement, responded with this:>
<“The simple fact of the matter is that they are insulting the human condition, saying that we are incapable of helping ourselves! How have we been able to achieve the technological progress we have without our unending will to succeed? The real motivation behind these ‘Conversion Bureaus’ is that they want to control the human population!”>
<More on this story after the break.>