“So, you want our AIs to do... what again?” Quincy asked.
Isaac looked across at the group. “I need a complete cypher of the effects of ponification on the human gene.”
“Honey,” Roxy began. “That’s gonna take... oh I don’t kn-”
“A year and a half. I know. I did the calculations. Getting the gene records of every human who underwent ponification as well as their genetic makeup after the fact won’t be anything to worry about. I asked Roger to bring it up to Frank. If all of our AIs work in tandem, we could have the cypher in eighteen months. Without it, we really won’t have any idea where to head for this project.”
“Your plan sounds, erm, how do I put it? It makes sense, but what the bloody hell are we supposed to do in the mean time? A year and a half of sitting here on our hands won’t do a lick of good.” Quincy took his glasses off and wiped the dust on the lenses off on his shirt.
“Roger brought that up to me too. He says that Frank will be able to give us temporary work assignments around the compound while we wait on the results.”
The group of four stood in silence in the lab, none of them knowing what else to do. The past six months of work had produced no results in the form of progress towards their goal. The door opened to the lab, breaking the silence between everyone.
“I got everyone’s new jobs!" Roger cheered, waddling over to his desk, dropping a big stack of papers onto it. “Quincy, you’re going over and helping out at the Stillwater Clinic. Your knowledge of pharmaceuticals will be sure to get you into the swing of things quick and easy.” Roger handed Quincy a small folder. He walked over to his desk, reading the contents.
“Roxy, dear. You’re gonna be heading to help out at the school. We got plenty of kids here, and we can’t have them just sitting there doing nothing. The principal will assign you a class and a subject when you start.” Roxy took the folder, her smile brightening the room.
“Will! You’re headed to Comms and Intel. Your skills with computers will be indispensable for getting data from still live networks around the world.”
“And Isaac. You... Uh, Frank found out about your little... encounter a few months ago. Two injured, one dead. He agrees that it was in self-defense, but can’t let you get away with it with no consequences. He assigned you to the Stables. You’re going to be a guard for the Stock.”
Isaac took the folder and slogged to his desk. He was really hoping that it was too dark for either of the two thugs he left alive to identify him, but it seems that his luck ran out. At least he wasn’t going to be punished too badly... until he reminded himself of his new job. The Stock ponies. The captured ponies the IHSA gathered and experimented on. Isaac’s stomach turned, the photos of the ponies experimented on back when they were first trying to graft the counter-magic gene into them directly floating back into his memory.
Isaac was half regretting the proposition for the cypher compilation and subsequent reassigning of jobs. He screwed himself over.
“Hamilton! Get your sorry ass out here!” Isaac winced as he ran out along the raised platform. His superior, Major Joseph Anderson, was going to be a hard ass from day one it seemed. Isaac stood straight before the uniformed man. “Do you know what Frank told me to do to you while you’re down here?”
“No, he did not, sir.”
“He told me to make sure you do your job. That’s it.” Isaac felt his hope rise a bit. “You’re gonna be on the graveyard shift. Only one. The filth down there just needs a pair of eyes on them. There’s nothing left in them. No hope, no drive. They’re miserable, pitiful excuses for intelligent life.”
Anderson did a run-down of the things Isaac needed to keep in mind. Isaac was to do patrols every hour during his shift to make sure that everything was quiet, keep an eye out for any interactions between the ponies, and in case of some sort of an issue, to hit the alarm button in the security office. Most if not all of the ponies would be either asleep or crying silently at the time, so things were bound to be uneventful. Anderson left Isaac to his duties, heading off for some shut-eye.
Isaac decided to get his patrol done with for now, walking along the elevated wooden platform, looking down into the shallow pits where the ponies lay. Many of them were asleep, others gazed up at him through glazed over eyes. He felt a chill run through his spine as he watched them. Isaac really wished he could do something for all of these innocent ponies. They were here only to die by the hands of mad scientists who treat them as something lesser than just another sample.
Isaac finished his short patrol of the six pens, none of the ponies lively at all. He retreated to the security office, eager to get out of the chilly night air that constantly blew in through the poorly built structure. It was hastily assembled from steel beams and wooden paneling for the walls, and wooden platforms rising up from the ground, isolating the six pens. Each pen was about twenty feet wide on all sides, a single ramp with a gate barring the only entrance or exit.
The only thing worse than the conditions they lived in was what they did to the ponies themselves. The earth ponies didn’t have anything that made them special, so they were left alone. Unicorns had their source of their magic, their horn, sawed or broken off. Horns are capable of growing back through rigorous magic therapy, but such treatments take months to complete. Then there were the pegasi. All that remained of their majestic wings were fleshy stumps rising from their backs. Each one had their wings removed upon entry to the pens.
Isaac stared at the computer screen in the security office: 12:30. It was going to be a long night.
“Oh... my...” Twilight began. She had stopped writing, her eyes growing wide at the conditions they ponies had to suffer through. “And you had to be a security guard? F-For this... place?”
“Yeah, it seemed that those thugs told Frank that I was trying to protect a pony when I attacked them. What worse punishment could you put someone through than witnessing such depravity first hand?” Isaac took a sip of his drink, relishing the sweetness as it bathed his tongue. “So I had to put up with it for all that time. Anderson ended up not being so much of a hard-ass, but I rarely saw anyone else.
“Whenever I would try and talk to any of the ponies, they would all scurry away from me, as if I were some sort of monster. The ones who did... they weren’t there the next night. They were bumped up in the experiment queue. I still remember each of their names... Limelight, he always wanted to be a star on TV. Glimmer, she wanted to be a weather pegasus. Domino, he was a farmer.
“The pattern started to emerge that if anypony talked to me, they’d be as good as dead. It was Frank’s way of sticking it to me, I guess. So instead, I would work on some solo projects on the computer in the security office to get my mind off it. All that time I spent on the computer was dedicated to that gene sequence and how to implement it.”
“And so I’m guessing that things were fairly routine until SyRE and the other AIs finished their job?”
“Yeah. SyRE still helped me out with my work. He couldn’t handle the amount of data the others were, being a special AI and all. Roxy was loving her work at the school, Quincy constantly complained about his work at the clinic and how everyone there came in with the tiniest little things wrong with them. Will would frequently tell me about his exploits in hacking through mainframes around the world, ripping data from them as if it was no big deal.
“I... The work was grating to me. Seeing the melancholy faces of those ponies all night every night... It was getting to me. Just like Frank knew it would. I wasn’t getting numbed to it, certainly not. But fortunately, my work with team eight finally started back up.”
“God DAMN I’m glad to get out of that place. Pesky gits. I mean, some bloke came in yesterday with a splinter. A SPLINTER.” Quincy recanted his story to Will, who laughed along with it. Roxy walked next to Isaac. He hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before since he had to work his last shift. He had to sleep during the day, and with everyone milling around the house, he was frequently woken up, and rarely able to get any sleep after that.
“You alright, honey?” Roxy asked. She had been trying to help console Isaac about the things he saw at the Stock Stable. Fortunately, he wasn’t needed for the... amputations or the experiments, otherwise, he would have snapped.
“I’ll... be fine. I just want to have a normal sleep schedule again. That’s all.” Roxy gave Isaac a soft hug, his woes slowly dissolving for the brief moment. She pulled back and gave him a smile, which he returned. He was feeling a bit better.
Upon entering the lab, the group met with Roger again. They exchanged greetings after being away on other jobs for so long, the now less pudgy man pulling up a file on his computer. “Well, we got it! A full cypher for ponification’s effects on DNA. Any DNA sequence we plug in, we will know what it’s outcome would be after ponification. Brilliant idea, Isaac. Now, we need to actually-”
“No need.” Isaac patted the shoulder of the confused man. They all looked at him, interested. “I had plenty of free time, so SyRE and I worked a method of applying the sequence to the templates indirectly. We punch in a pre-primer sequence into our sampled DNA, that after ponification, will open itself to easy genetic manipulation through an injection. That would fix our clone’s DNA to have the desired gene.”
“That... Just how much free time DID you have, Isaac? Surely science and genetics wasn’t the first thing you did all alone at night over there.” Will joked.
“Alright, alright. Come on, people! Let’s get this started! Isaac, you and SyRE have the proper pre-primer sequence to put into the clones, right?” Roger asked, tapping the keys of his keyboard.
“Yeah. SyRE should’ve uploaded the templates to you.”
Roger stood at his computer for a moment more. “Alright! Well, no time like the present, let’s collect some samples!”
Roger took swabs and handed one to each of the four people, and instructed them to run it along the inside of their mouth. After collecting them all, he deposited them into separate beakers filled with a milky white fluid.
“I’ll get these samples fixed up for you guys. Go ahead and take the rest of the week off. The clones will be ready for ponification by then. Go! Get outta here! Go relax!”
“So why are you still working?”
Isaac sighed. He placed the beaker down on the lab table and looked up at Roxy. “I still have plenty of research to do on this stuff. I mean, sure, we have the cypher, but I want to know a bit more about the serum itself.”
Roxy took the beaker off the desk and looked at it herself. “So it’s purple, it smells like grapes, and it turns people into ponies when they drink it. What more is there to know?”
“Think about it. I mean, they’re able to achieve a complete genetic remapping. Throughout an entire human’s body! Sure, magic plays a big role in it, but...” Isaac paused. He turned his head to see Roxy staring right at him. His heart began racing, his eyes peering into hers. Isaac took the beaker from Roxy and turned back to his desk, his cheeks practically on fire. The serum sloshed lazily in the beaker, the walls tinted purple from where it washed against.
Isaac bgan pouring the serum into a small test tube, the thin stream of fluid slowly dripping down.
“How about I treat you to dinner?” Roxy whispered, wrapping her arms around Isaac’s waist.
Isaac lurched forward from the sudden advance, his grip in the heavy beaker almost giving away. He kept his hand securely locked onto it, but not the contents. A small portion of the purple serum splashed on Isaac’s hand.
Slowly but gradually, a warming sensation began to envelop Isaac’s hand. The sensation was comparable to having his arm wrapped in a warm blanket, but he payed that no heed. His mind was aflame with panic and fear.
“SHIT!!! Shitshitshitshitshit!” Isaac placed the beaker and test tube down on the desk and sprinted over the sink. His hand was starting to feel warmer now, the sensation creeping its way up his arm. Looking down, he saw his skin beginning to darken around the serum-soaked part of his hand.
Isaac turned the faucet on full blast and soaked his hand and arm with the icy cold water. The warming sensation gave away, the purple fading from his skin and down the drain. He let the water run until he couldn’t feel his arm anymore. Isaac gave a heaving sigh, his entire body trembling.
As the panic drained from him, Isaac looked up to see Roxy, a look of horror on her face. She was staring right at him, a hand over her mouth. She ran over to Isaac frantically.
“Oh god, Isaac! I’m so sorry! I shouldn't have done that while you were handling the serum,” Roxy wrapped her arms around Isaac, pulling him into a big hug. Isaac apprehensively put his arms around the woman, relaxing his body. His heart was starting to slow down from its grand prix, his breathing becoming smoother.
“It’s... okay. It was a very dilute sample... and it wasn’t designed to be administered through the skin. I managed to stop it, though. Don’t worry... just be careful when you... do that again, okay?”
Roxy buried her head in Isaac’s neck, Isaac bringing his hand up and gently ran his fingers through her tight black curls. She brought her head back, looked into Isaac’s eyes, and gave him a small peck on the cheek.
“OY! YOU TWO! Will an’ I are headed down to the pub! Get your sorry arses out here an’ come with us! Las’ bit o’ fun til we’re back at it tomorrow!” Quincy shouted from outside the lab.
Roxy and Isaac both shared a frustrated sigh. Isaac looked down into Roxy’s hazel eyes and smiled. “I guess I owe you a nice dinner now, don’t I?”
Roxy chuckled softly. “I’ll hold you to that. Now let’s go have a bit of fun. We can pick this up again later, okay?”
“Okay, now for the moment of truth, you guys.” Roger walked over to the four lined up tanks, inspecting the connections and input pads on each tank. After making sure everything was secure, he walked back to his desk and sat in his chair. He tapped his computer’s keyboard for a moment.
“The clones are about a year and a half old, the age acceleration factored in. This is to ensure that they can get ponified without any major problems arising during the process. Aaand, here we go.” Roger pressed a button on his computer. The cloning tanks buzzed to life, the eerie purple serum beginning to flood each tank. The once clear fluids each clone floated in now took on a violet hue.
The effects weren’t instantaneous, but they did happen much faster than anyone expected. Isaac watched his own clone begin to shift. Bones began twisting and moving, shifting into new shapes and positions. His skin began turning a new color, small hairs sprouting from it. The head began warping, the jaw and nose pushing out from the rest of his head. Hair began sprouting from his head down his neck, his new mane growing in.
It finished somewhat quickly. The tanks were flushed clear again, the violet tint fading away, giving each clone their true new colors. Isaac walked forward and peered into his clone’s tank. Inside floated a pegasus pony. Still asleep even after the ponification, the foal slept soundly. His coat was a vibrant sky-blue, the short mane and tail a bright white. The hairs seemed to reflect the light shining into the tank, looking almost like spun silver thread.
“Eugh. I hate green.” Quincy scowled and walked away without looking too much at his own ponified clone, a green coated earth pony with a pitch-black mane. He went back to his computer and began reading over some documents.
“I never expected myself to come out as a unicorn.” Will looked in at his clone with a apprehensive curiosity. His clone was a bright red, the red horn poking out through an orange mane. “Pretty neat, I guess.”
Roxy walked to her clone’s tank, her eyes wide and glistening with tears. “They... they’re like our children...” She placed her hand on the clone’s tank. The foal inside was a deep blue unicorn, topped with a bright yellow mane. Roxy couldn’t take her eyes off the foal; she was hypnotized. She stayed kneeling there, unmoving even after Quincy and Will left for the house. Roger departed not long after, asking Isaac to lock up and turn off the lights when he and Roxy left.
“Roxy? Are you okay?” Isaac asked, packing his things up, getting ready to leave himself. She didn’t move. “Come on, I’m getting a bit worried.” Isaac placed a hand on her shoulder, but withdrew it when she spun her head around, a ferocious look on her face.
“I won’t let you take her from me.” Isaac backed up, eyes wide. Roxy turned back around and looked back into her clone’s tank.
“Right... well lock up when you’re done.” Isaac opened the door to leave and turned back to look at Roxy once more. “Please be okay. Please,” he whispered to himself before leaving.
Isaac awoke to sunlight shining into his eyes from the window. He slogged out of his bed and into the bathroom to wash up. It was the first full night’s worth of sleep he’s been able to have in a long time. Between his work at the lab and the constant stream of thoughts coursing through his head, he had very little time to just relax.
He walked downstairs and into the kitchen. He reached up into one of the cabinets for a mug and filled it with near-boiling water from the faucet. He reached into another cabinet and pulled out a small box. Roxy had never been able to drink the vitamin drinks that the fort always served, and opted for raspberry tea whenever she could. She had offered her cache of tea packets to Isaac during the first week they moved in, letting him use them whenever he wanted. Isaac was never a tea person in his past life. But now, he couldn’t keep a steady head during his work without a steaming mug of it on his desk.
Isaac dropped the teabag into the mug, watching the tendrils of color start to spread from the small herb bag. He just noticed that he didn’t see anyone else since he woke up, which was odd, since they all usually left for the lab together every morning. Isaac shrugged to himself. Perhaps they were all sleeping in after finally finishing the toughest part of their work.
Isaac thought back to what he saw in the tank. The small equine form lingered in his mind. The aqua blue coat... the silver-white mane... Isaac thought it was funny what Roxy had said before he left the night before.
“They’re like our children...”
Isaac supposed she was right. They had slightly modified the genetic structure, slight mutations would also be present, but still retain enough similarity to his own genetic roots that the small foal could in fact be considered his son. He never thought that he would end up a father, even if it was for some pastel-colored pegasus. “Gee, I’ll have to give him a name at this rate,” Isaac said to himself.
Isaac walked back upstairs with his mug of tea and sat in front of his computer terminal in his room. The screen winked to life, along with the speakers.
“Good morning, sir. Anything I can help you with today?” SyRE asked.
“Yeah. Can you dial up Sunny Days on the encrypted line?”
“Of course. One moment, please.”
A window popped up on the screen, showing his video feed next to a black window. After a few moments, the black gave away to a bright yellow face, already smiling.
“Isaac! You haven’t called in forever!” Sunny yelled.
“Sorry, sis. Been working pretty hard down here. How’s Bullseye?”
“He’s out right now, picking up some breakfast. And by the way. I still don’t forgive you for missing the wedding!” She said with a frown on her face.
“Security is really tight around here, and since I’m working on pretty important stuff, I really can’t get out of here. But when I do, you’ll be the first pony I come see. How does that sound?”
“I was meaning to ask you. Why did you come out here back then? I didn’t want to bring up any bad memories the other times I've called...”
“It’s okay, Isaac. My wing made a full recovery and I’ve been flying ever since. But when I saw you run off from the beach, I couldn’t just let you go again. I wanted to talk to you as Erika, not as Sunny Days. So I got Bullseye to come with me and we followed you down to Delaware. When we saw the guys carrying the guns, we landed in the woods to try and look around on hoof, when those thugs jumped us... We never did anything to them!” Isaac saw her eyes begin to glisten with tears.
“It’s alright. Some of the people here... they do terrible things to ponies. Most of the time without any provocation.”
“Then why are you working for them?” she asked, tears wetting her face.
“Because... Because... I...” Isaac started. “This is all that’s left for me. I don’t have any more options. I’m hoping that my work can help create a future for both ponies and humans. I’ve gotta go. I need to be at the lab. I’ll call you again soon, I promise.”
“Oh... Okay, Isaac. Take care,” Sunny said. Isaac closed the link, took one last gulp of his tea, and walked out from the room. He grabbed his bag from the living room, and left for the lab.
When Isaac finally arrived at the lab building, he made his way down the flights of stairs down to the lab. He walked down the hallway, and as he rounded the corner, he knew immediately something was wrong. The doorway was covered in “CAUTION” and “DO NOT CROSS” tape, and the windows were obscured by a translucent tarp. He whipped the door open, and upon doing so, he truly wished he hadn’t.
The lab was filled with people. Isaac was able to pick out ones he recognized: Will and Quincy stood next to each other, discussing something between them. Frank Dunland was practically yelling at Roger, his face a bright red.
“Wh-... What the hell...” Isaac muttered.
Will walked up next to him, and placed his hand on Isaac’s shoulder. His face was dark with gloom. “It’s Roxy... There was an accident last night after you left.”
Isaac didn’t know what to think, or even what to feel. Isaac walked over to the center of a large group of people, pushing and shoving his way to the open area in the center.
It was Roxy. She was on her back, her eyes glossed over, staring at the ceiling. She was smiling. Her dark skin seemed a bit greyer, but it looked almost as if she was still alive.
Frank Dunland walked up behind Isaac. “Don’t worry, kid. The lady was crazy. She brought it on herself when she opened her clone’s tank. Roger, forward me a full report of what happened the minute you find it out. I have something I have to take care of.” Frank stormed out from the lab, slamming the door behind him.
Isaac looked over to the cloning tanks. Roxy’s tank had it’s top hatch wide open. So she took her clone out before it was ready? Why would she do that? He looked to his own clone’s tank. The main control panel on the front had a large scorch mark on it, almost as if it was hit by a bolt of lightning.
“It seems that the magic from Roxy’s clone fried the tanks. The Age Acceleration drives on each one were the only parts damaged, fortunately.” Roger said from his desk. “Okay. Got the security footage from last night. Lets take a look.”
The group gathered around the screen at Roger’s desk as the static cleared. Roxy was still standing in the same place she was when Isaac left. Her head darted from side to side, looking around the lab. The speaker came to life.
“It’ll only be for a minute... Nobody has to know... I just want to hold her...” Roxy whispered. She punched in a code onto the front panel of her clone’s tank, which let out a loud beeping as the tank cover began to open. Roxy reached in, and scooped up the dark blue foal into her arms.
“She... she’s so small... so soft... just like Rory and Casey... Please...” she said to the foal, holding it closer to her chest. “Please don’t leave me like they did...”
The foal began to squirm in Roxy’s hands, her face lighting up in joy. “D-Does that mean you’ll stay?!” she cheered. The foal opened her eyes, looking up at the human holding her. The clone began to moan, eventually growing into loud cries. “Shhh, shhh, it’s okay.” Roxy tried to calm her clone down, holding it close to her chest. A smooth light began to come from the foal, bathing the lab in it’s white glow. Tiny flashes began to appear around the pair, the foal crying louder than before. The flashes grew into small crackles of electricity, striking out at the lab and equipment around them.
There was a bright flash, a crash of thunder, and a scream. After the camera recovered from the interference, the lab was still. Roxy was on her back in the position she was still in. She stared at the ceiling, with the same smile she still wore.
Nobody said anything after the video ended.
“It was the radiation from the magic the clone used. She was killed almost instantly,” Roger murmured.
“I-I could have snapped her out of it... I could have stopped this!” Isaac yelled.
“Listen Isaac. We all saw her when she looked into that tank. She snapped when she thought of the clone as another child of hers. She was beyond saving after that,” Will said.
“I know... but she didn’t have to get herself killed!” Isaac slammed his fist into the desk.
“Alright fellas. I don’t think we’ll be able to get much done in the lab with it in this condition. Take the rest of the day off. I’ll send out messages when we know what’s gonna happen to us,” Roger said.
Isaac couldn’t work today even if he wanted. The thoughts of Roxy were still tying his gut into knots, the guilt and dread hanging down on him. You could have stopped this. She would still be alive if you helped her. Voices whispered in his head, chiseling away at his fragile mind. Each accusation, another bit of his old self gone forever. If you loved her, you would have helped her. You never did love her did you?
NO! Isaac screamed in his head. I DID LOVE HER! I wanted to be close to her... I was never closer with anyone in my life before... Isaac whispered in his mind. I only let her be so she could tackle her personal demons herself... It wasn't my place to interfere... The voices quieted down, leaving his mind in peace for once.
He walked back over to the clone tanks and looked into his own. The small blue foal floating in the tank didn’t seem any different or worse for wear other than that. Isaac was in fact glad that his clone wasn’t being forced to age prematurely anymore.
Isaac picked up his things and walked out from the lab, refusing to let his eyes anywhere the darkened corner of the room.
“That’s... horrible... I’m so sorry you had to go through that...” Twilight said. She had stopped taking notes a quarter of the way through, and instead listened closely.
“She’s always been on my mind since then. So much could have happened between us. I keep playing those few times I spent with her alone in my head over and over again. But...” Isaac let out a stuttered sigh, feeling chocked up at the memories. “So! I think it’s getting a bit late, wouldn't you say so, Morning Roast?”
The pony leaning on the door was startled back to reality after listening in on the interview. “Oh, uh, yeah! Oh don’t you two worry your little heads about that. You two are welcome here any time you’d like! Does that mean you’re gonna start wrapping up?”
“Yeah I think so,” Isaac said. The sun was beginning to set, and the breeze was beginning to get a bit chilly.
“Oh no no no! You can’t stop now! What happened after that?” Twilight asked.
“Why don’t we wrap up here first and I’ll tell you the rest back at my place, if that’s alright with you? The story is almost finished.” Isaac stood up from his chair and pulled out a small jingling sack from his pocket. He fiddled around with his hand inside, drawing out a small handful of bright golden coins. He handed them to Morning Roast, who smiled and nodded in return.
“Keep the rest as a tip. Thank you for putting up with us,” he joked.
“Oh, why the pleasure was ours!” she giggled, before heading back inside.
“Got everything?” Isaac asked.
Twilight was busy packing all of her supplies into her saddlebags. Her notebook itself looked like it was going to rip the bags open by itself.
“Just about... There! All done. Ready when you are!”
As the pair approached the door to Isaac’s house, Isaac turned the brass doorknob and eased the door open slowly. He flipped the switch next to the door, illuminating the living room with a bright light. He flipped a few more, lighting the outside patio, keeping the dark of the night at bay.
“Well let’s get back into it. What ha-” Twilight began, before being hushed by Isaac.
“Shh. You’ll wake him up,” Isaac whispered.
Twilight cocked her head to the side, confused. Isaac walked over and sat on the couch, looking down at his side. Twilight walked around with him, and saw what he was talking about. Fast asleep on the sofa was a young pegasus colt with fur as blue as the sky and a mane so brilliant it looked like spun silver.
“That’s... No... It can’t be! That’s... your clone!” Twilight whispered, trying not to yell.
“Yeah. I named him Windchaser. He’s been staying with me since I left the IHSA. I’ll explain more in a little bit.”
“Explain what daddy?” a tired voice asked. The colt had woken up, and was giving a great big yawn, stretching his legs out over the sofa.
“There’s my big stallion! Get a little tuckered out, buddy?” Isaac asked.
“Yeah... With SyRE working, I got really bored. I watched some movies... but I guess I fell asleep...” Windchaser said before letting out another long yawn.
Twilight looked on in wonder at the two of them. What she saw there was a true connection between father and son, even if they were closer to being clones.
“Hello there Windchaser. My name is Twilight Sparkle. It’s an honor to meet you,” Twilight said courteously, holding out her hoof.
“Hi Miss Sparkle,” Windchaser said, shaking it.
“Windchaser, I’m having Auntie Sunny pick you up very shortly. You’re going to be spending the evening there while Miss Sparkle and I finish our talk. Okay?”
“Sure thing, daddy! I haven’t seen Pearl and Bracket in forever!” Windchaser cheered. Seems he was wide awake now.
“Now make sure you behave. They’re still young and you’re their role model-” Isaac said before a series of knocks came from the door.
“It’s open!” Isaac called out.
“Oh, right!” a voice said from the doorway.
“Thanks for coming over on such short notice, Sunny. I need the house to myself for the evening. I’ll come over and pick him up by eleven.”
“Sure thing, Isaac. Say, who’s this? Oh Isaac! I didn’t know you were looking for somepony! Wait til Bullseye gets a load of this! If you two ever need more alone time, just let us know!” Sunny laughed. Twilight’s face began to take on a slightly pinker hue.
“Uh, sis, she’s one of Celestia’s advisers...” Isaac whispered. Sunny caught herself in mid-laugh and stuck her hoof in her mouth with a high pitched *squeak*.
“Oh I'm so sorry! I hope I didn’t offend you, ma’am!”
Twilight recomposed herself, shaking her embarrassment from her face. “Oh, it’s quite alright. Isaac’s been telling me his story. I know all about you Sunny Days!”
“Well I hope he only mentioned the good parts! Well, I have to be off. Bullseye can’t handle the kids for too long without me there. Come along now, Windchaser!”
“Sure thing Auntie Sunny! Bye-bye daddy!” the colt called.
“I’ll see you later tonight, son,” Isaac said, before giving Windchaser a light kiss on his forehead. He ruffled his white mane, and sent him off. Isaac closed the door behind them, and walked back to sit on the couch.
“I’m sorry about all that.”
“Oh it’s quite alright. She’s very kind and charming. Why did you have to send him out with her, though?” Twilight asked as she levitated her materials back out onto the table in front of them.
“I... I can’t let him find out about the IHSA and what happened there. He’s... not ready to know of those atrocities.”
“I can only imagine what you went through when you were over there. I can’t even begin to think what those truths would do to such an innocent mind.”
Isaac nodded. “Well, shall we continue? We’re gonna have to jump ahead a bit, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh not at all! Please, do continue,” Twilight said as she pressed the red button on the recorder, her notebook open in front of her, and a smile adorning her face.
Isaac fell into his chair before his computer screen, exhausted from his day of work. Since the accident at the lab, He, Will, and Quincy had been reassigned to various different lab teams to assist as lab technicians, or to put it more accurately, slaves. They had to do all the clean-up, fetch anything any of the other workers needed, and were never included in on any of the work. Their project had been put on indefinite hold after the accident that took Roxy’s life. But it was better than working down at the Stock Stable again.
Isaac woke his terminal up, the screen shining brightly in the dark of the evening.
“Hello, sir. How was your day?” the speaker buzzed.
“Awful, SyRE. I don’t feel like discussing it too terribly much, to be honest. Have you picked anything up on the secure comm lines?”
Isaac had been growing suspicious of Frank Dunland since he arrived at the IHSA. When he discovered that SyRE could encrypt his secret calls to his sister Sunny Days, he asked SyRE if he could spy in on other information floating around the IHSA network. Very little of it was of any concern to Isaac, but sometimes he would get lucky and pick up on mysterious notifications from the other IHSA facilities around the world.
“I received another communiqué addressed to Mr. Dunland that had been delivered this afternoon. It was a single line of text.”
Three words lit up on the screen in front of Isaac.
[>SITE 8 LOST<]
“There have been no other signals received from the base referred to as Site 8. Frank believes it to be lost to the enemy. That makes this location the only one active.”
The pattern had begun just this past month. One by one, the other IHSA bases had begun going silent, not sending out their routine updates between the other sites. Just last week, three bases had gone silent one day after another. Until now, there had been no information as to why this had been happening. In other messages SyRE intercepted, Frank as well as other staff had simply brushed it off as either technological failures or weather patterns interrupting their signals. But this was the first notification alluding to the fact that a IHSA site had been lost.
“This can’t bode well for us-“ Isaac began as a message notification popped up on the screen. Isaac clicked it, opening the short message from Will.
>Come to the command barracks. URGENT<
Without hesitation, Isaac grabbed his bag and sped out the door. If Will said it was urgent, it had to be. Isaac just hoped that it was nothing bad.
Isaac rushed up the steps into the main building. One of the receptionists greeted him and pointed him to the staircase. Will had left a note with them for when Isaac arrived. Isaac followed the directions down to a dark corridor in the basement. When he arrived at the room the receptionist indicated, he slowly opened the door.
Inside were two rows of chairs in front of a large glass window. Behind the window sat a mint green unicorn who was shaking and twitching madly, seated at a small table. Isaac peered through the darkness in the room and saw Will seated in the front row. Isaac shuffled in and sat next to him.
“So what’s going on, Will?” Isaac whispered.
“This unicorn was caught near one of the gates, trying to break in. He was asking for Quincy by name.” Will rested his arms on his legs, slouching forward. “Frank asked for Quincy to do the questioning while we watch on.”
“But what are the guards for?” Isaac asked, eyeing the two uniformed men stationed on either side of the nervous unicorn, bearing dark assault rifles.
“Frankly, I don’t want them to have to be necessary,” Will sighed, leaning back into his chair.
“But it’s better to have them there in the first place and not need them than to need them when they aren’t around, wouldn’t you agree, men?” Frank had just walked into the room, dressed in a full formal military uniform. He took a seat nest to Isaac, and gave a hard pat on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. They’re in there to make sure your friend Quincy is safe. He should be coming in any minute now. Curious how they knew where your friend has been staying, wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Hamilton?” Frank sneered, glaring at Isaac.
“Uh, yeah. That is odd. No idea how they could’ve known.” Isaac felt his stomach drop. Did Frank know about his calls to Sunny? Was he under suspicion as a traitor? Before he could finish his thoughts, a door into the room opened up, and Quincy walked in. He pulled up a chair to the table opposite from the unicorn
“What’s your name?” Quincy asked.
“Uhm, uh, Minty Fresh...”
“Your REAL name,” Quincy growled, his voice audibly fiercer.
“Quincy! It’s me! Tom! Tom DeLaney! From Dylan Pharmaceuticals! Your pal! Come on, cut me some slack! I’ve b-been roughed up since I-I got here!” The unicorn’s voice was starting to crack and stutter in places.
“Why are you here Tom? Why did you ask for me? Me in particular?”
“I-I-I wanted to try and talk some sense into you! Surely you’re miserable here! C-C-Can’t you just follow the rest of your friends and just join us? Y-Y-You’ll f-f-feel so much b-b-better!”
Quincy closed his eyes and rubbed his brow. Isaac was more concerned about the unicorn than Quincy. Surely he didn’t go through all this trouble just to try and talk Quincy into ponification.
“I-I-It’s the greatest feeling in the world! Y-Y-You of a-a-all people would b-b-benefit from it the most, y-y-you g-g-grouch!”
“SHUT THE BLOODY HELL UP, TOM!” Quincy screamed, making the unicorn almost fall over in his chair form fright. “You can’t be serious. You come all the way out to the middle of nowhere just to try this shit on me again? You and all the twits back at Dylan tried to talk me into it once before, and I stand by that decision. I’d rather eat my own bloody colon than be a pony!”
“I-I-I w-w-was a-a-afraid of that... I r-r-really w-w-wanted you to just take the e-e-easy way out. Y-Y-You see, everyone e-e-else back home are s-s-saying that y-y-you lot a-a-are the ones h-h-holding everypony back...” Tom began, his stuttering even worse than before.
“I don’t have any time for this...” Quincy said as he began to stand up from his chair.
“B-B-But y-y-you can’t g-g-go! I-I-I h-h-have s-s-something t-t-to show y-y-you!” Tom cried, his horn starting to glow a sickly green color. It slowly shifted to a deep purple hue, and mist started rising off of his coat. He started to chuckle, the mist slowly rising into the room. The chuckle grew into a laugh, but one of a madman.
“Ehehehaha... hahahahahaha... HAHAHAHAHA!”
“End it,” Frank muttered into the speaker. The two guards in the room nodded, raised their guns, and fired a single shot each at the mad unicorn. A fine red mist sprayed all over Quincy and the table as the head slammed into the table, a trickle of blood dripping onto the floor from the pool of his blood. Quincy recoiled in shock, staring at the still body in front of him.
“WAS THAT SO FUCKING NECESSARY?” Quincy screamed at the window, before slouching over from a fit of coughs. Both the guards had dropped their guns and were coughing along with Quincy. Isaac stared into the room and saw the purple mist was still rising from the unicorn’s fur.
All three of them in the room were doubled over on the floor in pain. The coughs has stopped, but were replaced by grunts and cries of pain, the bodies convulsing on the floor below the purple blanket of the mist. More cries echoed out from the room, all the while Will and Isaac looked on in horror.
Frank reached back for his walkie-talkie. “Evacuate the room, and get a HAZMAT suit ready for me.” Frank stormed out of the viewing room and down the hall.
With a loud whirrrr, the mist in the interrogation room swirled and was swept into the ventilation pipes. Three blurred figures remained in the room. As the last of the mist cleared, the two guards in the back slowly rose to their feet, their legs trembling below them. They looked at each other, not saying a word. Their faces described it all.
“What... what the bloody hell... happened?” a voice groaned from below the window. Isaac and Will stood up from their chairs as a figure stood up from below the glass.
Quincy shook his head, clearing the daze from his mind, but what he felt was unnatural. It felt like he had more hair than normal, and his legs didn’t feel right. He looked down, trying to figure out the situation. Before his eyes were two dark green hooves. “Wh-wh...” was all Quincy could manage. Quincy had become the spitting image of his clone: a lean earth pony with a deep green coat and a pitch black mane.
The door to the room opened again, but this time entered a figure coated in a bright yellow HAZMAT suit. Behind the mask was the grim face of Frank. He eyed Quincy, who still was in a stunned daze from his new condition. Frank walked behind the table to the two guards. They had become grey earth ponies with black manes, still stumbling on their new legs. Frank reached into the pouch that hung at his side, pulling out a semi-automatic pistol and aimed it at the two.
The two slumped over, each with matching holes in their foreheads. Frank walked back over to Quincy, who still hadn’t moved an inch from before. “Take this one and toss him in with the rest of the stock. Maybe he can still be of some use to us. And get rid of his clone. Filthy vermin.” Frank stood back up and walked back out the door.
Will heard the door close not from in the interrogation room, but the door to the viewing room. Isaac had already left. With no other choice, he followed.