Isaac had practically sprinted back to the house. He leaped up the stairs into his room, and started typing and clicking manically at his computer terminal.
“What is going on, sir?” the AI asked.
“We’re leaving, SyRE. Frank’s a madman, and we can’t stay here any longer. I’m going to back you up with everything else I can get my hands on onto a portable terminal.”
“If you say so, sir.”
Isaac began dumping all of his research data onto various portable drives, and started loading everything up into a backpack.
“What the hell has gotten into you, Isaac?”
Isaac jumped and almost spilled the contents of his bag. He looked to the door, and saw Will panting almost as much as he was.
“We have to leave. Like, NOW.”
“Not until you explain to me why. I’m not letting you do something stupid until I know the method to your madness.” Will walked in and gently eased Isaac to a seat on the bed.
“I can’t stand working for someone so heartless. I... I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I just want to get out of here. You saw what he fucking did to those guards! What makes you think he won’t do something even worse to Quincy?”
“There’s nothing we can do for him now. But you said that we gotta leave, right? Well, I don’t like it, but it looks like we’ve got no choice. We’ll take the truck we came in. I still have the keys. I’ll go pack up and meet you outside-”
“There’s one other thing,” Isaac said, still staring at the floor. “We need to go pick up my clone. I’m not letting him stay here.”
“You CAN’T be serious!” Will yelled. “They’re god damned science tests! Nothing more! Don’t go crazy like Roxy did! They’re not our children!”
“Well, you can do what you want, but no matter what, I’m going back to get my clone whether or not you like it.”
Will rose from the bed, and began pacing around the room. “You aren’t making this very easy for me, Isaac. I followed you here, hoping that for once in your life you had the guts to make a decision for yourself and stick to it... But I know more than anyone else that once you set your mind to something, nothing in heaven or hell can get in your way,” Will conceded. “You got a plan?”
“Who was the one who came up with all of our pranks back in high school?” Isaac said with a grin on his face.
Isaac gently eased the door to the storage room open, shining his flashlight into the dusty room. He slipped in, and when it was clear that he was alone, he gave the signal for Will to come in as well. Isaac spotted a strong metal cart in the corner and rolled it with him further back into the room. Will stood at the door, constantly peeking outside to check for any unwanted visitors.
Isaac rolled the cart down the aisles of old equipment as quietly as he could, looking up and down the shelves for the tanks. Row by row passed, and with each one, the unease began to grow in his chest. SyRE had confirmed that the tanks were in this storage room; it was in the documents he had taken from Frank. But where were they?
Rolling down the last aisle, Isaac pointed his flashlight down to the end, and saw them. Both tanks, his and Wills, still lightly humming with both clones still in one piece. Isaac hefted the small tanks onto his cart, setting his on the bottom, and Will’s on the top. He slowly rolled the cart back to the front of the room, but something struck him as odd. Quincy had been taken just a few hours earlier to the stock pony room, but where had his clone gone too? Surely it was too valuable to just throw out, and especially when both his and Will’s were still in storage...
Isaac rounded the corner to see the door. A thin sliver of light was shining out from underneath the door. The lights hadn’t been turned on in the hallway outside when they had arrived. Isaac saw Will with his back to the door, keeping it jammed with his foot, hoping that whomever was outside would just think it was locked if they tried to investigate it.
Even in the darkness, Isaac saw Will’s chest heaving up and down with each breath. They were so close. They had the clones. All they would have to do is wait for whomever was outside to lose interest and walk away, then they would load up the clones into the truck and be off away from this terrible place.
The light underneath the door began to shift as steps on the laminated floor tiles echoed from outside. Everything seemed to freeze for those short moments.
The shots rang in Isaac’s ears as the door was kicked open. Will was thrown to the ground several yards away, his breathing ragged and wet. The lights clicked on, filling the room with a blinding glare that caught Isaac by surprise. Will was surrounded by a growing puddle of red. In the doorway stood the last man Isaac wanted to see that night: Frank Dunland.
“Did you HONESTLY think I didn’t see this coming? You science types are always so FUCKING predictable! Always letting your conscience get in the way!” He yelled, lifting the assault rife into the air. He strolled over to the ragged body of Isaac’s best friend, and crouched over it. “What a shame William had to be swept away by your silly little plan! He had such a bright mind. Too bad you led him to his death!” He stomped his boot down onto Will’s back, forcing him to let out a howl of pain.
Out of the gurgles of blood and the wheezes from his punctured lungs, Will said one thing. “H-he... lp... me...”
Isaac was frozen. Frank let out a triumphant laugh, and shouldered the rifle as he pointed it at Isaac. “Say goodbye!” Frank yelled as he began to tighten his finger about the trigger.
Isaac began to hear the faint cracking of glass. Frank and Isaac had been too busy to notice what had been happening to the tanks on the cart. The tank on top was now violently boiling and glowing a fiery red. Isaac turned his head, and saw what had been causing it. The unicorn inside it had woken up, and it had seen the entire thing. They weren’t the eyes of an innocent child anymore; they burned with vengeance. Isaac took the opportunity to dive behind one of the shelves of lab equipment.
Frank opened fire on the tank, nicking the glass in various areas. One shot had landed on one of the cracks, causing it to spiderweb across the rest of the tank. The glass shattered everywhere, spilling the liquid inside onto the floor. Will’s clone was hovering in mid-air, surrounded by a fiery aura, making him look almost like a living fireball. Frank lifted his rifle back up at the clone, and pulled the trigger once more. All he got was a hollow click.
The unicorn flew forward, glowing as bright as the sun, and shouted
The force of the charge lifted Frank off his feet and launched him back into the hallway.There was a violent explosion, shaking the entire building to it’s foundation. As the light and heat began to dissipate, Isaac rose back to his feet, and ran to see the damage.
The hallway outside of the door was a charred wreck. The wall opposite from the door was scorched black, and melted in places. Isaac looked out the door down each end of the hall, and saw no sign of Frank.
“I...saa...c...” gasped a voice form behind him. Isaac whirled around and slid to the ground beside Will. His face was beginning to loose color, and the red puddle surrounding him was much bigger than before.
“Will! WILL! YOU CAN’T GO!” Isaac screamed. His heart had been put through so many hurdles since he arrived at the IHSA, he wished he never came here in the first place.
“I... It’s alright... Don’t get... so beat up... over it... ya wimp*cough*cough*” Will lifted his head up with the last of his strength. He winced from it, but continued. “J-Just promise... One thing...”
“Yes! Yes! Anything!!” Isaac cried, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"Live... live for the two of us...” Will let out his last breath and slumped over. His eyes dimmed as he faded away.
Isaac slammed the door of the truck shut, his eyes still slick with tears. He wiped them away with his sleeve, and started the engine. He stuck his clone’s tank in the passenger seat, keeping it secured with the seatbelt. He shifted the truck into reverse and slammed on the gas pedal, caring not for the other cars that the truck shared the lot with, but simply with getting away from this dreadful place.
He peeled out form the parking lot and down the winding roads leading to the entrance gate. As he approached the gate, the entire fort had come to life, lights flicking on everywhere, sirens beginning to wail. He slammed down on the gas, smashing through the wooden barricades and out into the streets. He sped down the road, still hearing the sirens wailing from behind him.
He figured the best place to go would be into the woods, away from anyone who would try and follow him. He remembered one of his uncles had a summer home somewhere in the hills around here, so that would be his first destination. He rounded a road carved into the face of one of the high mountains, and began to slow down. Over the side of the railing, he could see Fort Stillwater still alive and shining in the distance, the sirens still echoing across the landscape. He stepped out from the car and stared at the place that had once held hope for him, but only brought him pain and loss.
Several shadowed figures flew down the mountain right in front of him, almost knocking him down to his feet. Isaac squinted his eyes in the darkness and saw that they were indeed pegasi that had just passed over him. He saw them approach the complex, but disappear from sight. Nothing happened for several moments.
All of a sudden, a bright purple cloud of gas shot up from one of the buildings, falling back down to the ground, bathing the area in a thick haze. Several more plumes shot up around the area, and each one blanketed the complex in progressively thicker clouds. It was the same mist that Tom had used on Quincy... The ponies were forcing the humans in the IHSA into ponification. That’s what happened to all of the other sites around the world: they were all bombed by this ponification gas.
Isaac dashed back into the truck and sped further into the mountains, hoping he hadn’t been sighted.
It had been several hours of driving until Isaac had found the house that had once belonged to his uncle. When he pulled into the driveway, he saw that the entire place had been completely trashed. Looters, lodgers, and other hooligans had found and made a ruin out of it. Isaac knew too well that he wouldn’t find anything worthwhile there.
He turned off the car, and sat there. He pulled up his backpack, and opened up the portable terminal that SyRE dwelled in.
“Hello, sir. Anything I can help with?” the voice asked.
“You have GPS active, right?” Isaac asked, his spirit completely drained.
“Can you look for a house in a one hundred mile radius that still has power? Anything at all. And make sure it’s at least a fewvmiles away from any major road.”
“There is one about sixty miles down the highway and five miles down a path through the woods that appears to have been cleared just for it. I will give you directions as we go along.”
Isaac started the truck up again, feeling it rumble to life below his feet. The tank in the passenger’s seat sloshed a bit, shaking the small foal still suspended in it. He squirmed a bit, but fell back into his peaceful slumber.
Isaac pulled out from the driveway to his uncle’s ruined home, and started down the road, following SyRE’s directions.
“Sir, may I ask where Mr. Rathmore has gone to?”
Isaac felt the wound in his chest open once again. Will’s bloodied body laying there in the pool of red...
“He... there was an accident back in the lab. He didn’t make it,” was all that Isaac could let out before he would beak down again.
“I understand. I will pursue this topic no further. My sensors are indicating that the IHSA base at Fort Stillwater has gone silent. Do you know why?”
Isaac didn’t feel the same amount of sadness for the base as he did for Will’s death. “The ponies gassed the place in a bombing run. Forced ponifcation.” He said, his tone more balanced now.
“That would explain why the other bases went silent then. What do you think of the situation?”
Isaac pondered the question. What did he think about it? In the several calls to Sunny, never once did she seem hostile to him or his decision to stay human. Were all the ponies behind this?
“I don’t know. Perhaps they wanted to silence the IHSA, maybe to complete their assimilation of the human race, I can only really speculate for now. But all I know is that I can’t afford to show my face to any of the ponies from now on.”
The truck rumbled across the asphalt, the wind blowing into the cabin smelling crisp and clean. Much better than the smells from the IHSA.
“Turn right.” Isaac looked along the side of the road, not seeing an exit into the forest.
“I can’t, SyRE.”
Isaac looked closer at the rows of trees, each one set away from the next one by a few feet... except for two. Isaac turned the truck onto the dirt, and drove into the gap between the trees, tearing down branches and he pushed through the foliage.
When he cleared the trees, he saw a dirt path, just wide enough for a car to drive down. He stepped on the gas, hearing the dirt and gravel crunch below the tires. The path continued on like this for a while, Isaac driving slower than he normally would, being careful not to run into one of the many trees that lined the road and wreck the vehicle.
The first bits of sunlight began to brighten the sky as he continued down, before the rising sun finally shined down through the leaves and branches into the car. Isaac finally arrived into a wide clearing with a single house straight out of some suburban area in the middle. As he drive closer, he could see the entire roof of the building was covered in solar panels, with a fresh stream running through the clearing behind the house.
He pulled up next to the building, wondering if anyone was home at all. He turned off the car, and stepped out onto the bright white gravel driveway. He walked up to the front door, and to his surprise, it opened. Nothing seemed to be locked at all. He stepped inside the spacious house, looking around in wonder at how such a wonderful place could still be around with the state the world was in.
He wandered through the house, occasionally shouting "Hello?", but received no response.
He finally made his way into the kitchen, which sported a spectacular view of the forest surrounding the property. He looked down onto the counter and saw a slightly faded envelope placed delicately onto the counter.
Isaac opened up, and unfolded the letter within.
As you may already know, this house has nobody living in it. I apologize for possibly misleading you. And, as you likely already know as well, the state of the world is pretty interesting at the moment. I had this home constructed several years ago just in case there was a reason for me to leave civilization for some reason, seeking solitude.
Unfortunately, that time did in fact come. But when I sought to leave civilization, I found one so much better than the one I had previously thought to be the only one available to me. And as such, I have no need for this retreat anymore.
I leave this place to you, whosoever happened to stumble on this place. The solar panels will provide you with plenty of electricity, the stream out back will provide you with fresh water, and there is enough preserved food in the basement to provide for a single person for a full ten years.
Life isn’t always as bad as it seems. Make sure you always have something worth living for. Remember that.
Isaac placed the letter back down, and sat at the table looking out to the field. Surely this was too good to be true. He feared that in moments he would wake back up, sitting in the drivers seat of the truck back at his uncle’s house, still in need of proper shelter.
He decided just to play along for the moment, enjoying the peace and solitude while his dream would allow it.
He walked back out to the truck, and began unpacking his bag, SyRE’s terminal, and the cloning tank. He carried everything inside, and set his things down in the main foyer. He pulled the crystalline green holo-drive from the portable drive and set it in one of the ports in the wall.
The speakers cracked and fizzled to life. “This place is quite marvelous, sir.”
Isaac knelt down and looked at the tank that held his clone afloat. “Hey, SyRE. Is there any way I can open this thing up without breaking anything?”
“Yes. Plug the cable from your portable terminal into the back of the tank and i will initiate the waking procedure.”
Isaac took one of the cables he brought with him in his backpack and hooked the tank up to the terminal. A series of lines of code lit up on the screen, and a faint whirr came from the tank as it came back to life. The lid slowly spun a few times, and lifted up.
Isaac reached into the icy liquid and scooped out the young aqua-blue foal. It squirmed and yelped in his arms, but calmed down shortly after once Isaac started to whisper to the foal. “Shhh, shhh, it’s alright little guy.”
The tiny figure Isaac was rocking in his arms finally opened it’s eyes, laying them on Isaac’s smiling face. Almost as a reflex, the foal began to smile as well. For the first time in as long as Isaac could remember, he was happy. No, he wasn’t just happy. This was the happiest he’s ever felt in his life. Tears began to form at the corners of his eyes as he began to hold the soaking wet foal closer to his chest.
Isaac opened his eyes to the sun poking through the blinds in his new bedroom. It turned out he wasn’t dreaming, much to his joy. He sat up, stretching his arms out, hearing the joints in his back crack and pop. He stepped out from the bed and looked around. The bedroom was a somewhat spacious one, the queen-size mattress bare when he got there the day before. The sheets were stored in the dresser, sealed in cases to keep them from getting dirty over the past several years the house had been empty. They were a plain white, but a smudge of color was poking out from under the sheets. A light aqua-blue.
The little pegasus Isaac had removed from the cloning tank. The foal was having trouble walking right off the bat, so Isaac carried the small pony with him for the remainder of the evening. Right now, the little guy was snoozing away, his head resting on the pillow next to the one Isaac had just been using. This was the only bed in the house, but... he didn’t know why, but Isaac would have wanted to keep the foal close anyway.
The little eyes popped open, the luminous green irises focusing on Isaac. The pegasus yawned silently, smacking his lips afterward. Breakfast time. Isaac stood at the foot of the bed, smiling at the pegasus.
“Come on, little guy. Just walk to me right here. You can fall and tumble around all you want on here,” Isaac said, trying to stifle a laugh at the image forming in his head. The pony pushed himself up on his four small legs, wobbling all the while. He took an apprehensive step forward, then another, then another, then... fwoomph. He fell right onto his face, right into a bundle of sheets. Isaac couldn’t help but laugh. But the laugh was... happy. Pure. It was a laugh he never felt before. And the foal joined in with a fit of giggles to accent it.
Isaac pulled the foal close, holding him against his chest. The pegasus looked up at Isaac as he walked the pair of them down the stairs and into the larger part of the house. It was fairly simplistic in it’s design: there was a kitchen with a dining table, a television room, and an office on the ground floor. The basement held the computer core as well as the majority of the food stores and batteries to store energy from the solar panels above. Isaac stepped into the kitchen and set the foal down on the wooden table.
“Hey SyRE? You up?”
“Of course, sir. I do not require sleep. You should know this.”
“I know tha- Whatever. Uh, let’s see... Do you know what ponies eat?”
The speakers stayed silent for a moment. “My records have a full description all aspects of a pony’s physiology. For the time being, I suggest feeding your clone vitamin supplements stored in the large cabinet above the sink, seeing as how we do not have any maternal milk. Grass and flowers are also part of a proper diet for your clone.”
Isaac couldn’t imagine eating something like that for breakfast. But as long as the pegasus was hungry, he’d do anything for him. Isaac stepped out the sliding glass doors from the kitchen out to the field behind the house. He saw the treeline about a half-mile in the distance, various bushes and grassy hills in between the house and there. He walked around the green expanse, collecting shoots of tall grass and dandelion blooms. They were everywhere. He’d have to check what flowers out there are edible for the foal before experimenting with any more.
Isaac walked back inside, hands full of grass and dandelions. He dropped them on the counter and walked over to the cabinets to look for bowls. He grabbed two white ceramic bowls and filled one with the greens and the other with water.
“Sorry, kiddo. I don’t think we got any milk here.” He placed the two bowls in front of the silent pegasus. He looked down at both, and looked back up at Isaac. “Fine.” Isaac took one of the blades of grass in his fingers and held it before the foal. After a moment, he opened his mouth and tossed it inside, trying to hide his distaste.
The pegasus looked down at the bowl of grass and slowly dipped his muzzle down, biting on a few blades himself. His eyes lit up, diving right back into the bowl, taking bite after bite of the grass and dandelions. He took a few gulps of water before digging right back in.
Isaac chuckled and looked around the kitchen to see what he could make for himself. For now, it would have to be a simple meal of oatmeal with cinnamon, brown sugar, and some of the freeze-dried apples that were hidden among the other foods in the freezer. But now that he thought about it, it sounded pretty delicious to Isaac.
He sat down with his bowl and spoon. The foal had already finished his meal. He watched Isaac as he began to eat, his eyes transfixed on the man.
“Ooohhh...” The noise escaped the pegasus’s mouth. Maybe...
Isaac put his spoon down, and looked directly at the foal. He pointed at himself and said, “Isaac. Isaac.”
“Ey... szak... Eyysack,” the foal struggled with his name. Maybe this would be easier...
Isaac pointed at himself again, and said, “Daddy. Daddy.”
“Da...ddy. Daddy!” The foal cheered, a smile lighting up his face. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” Isaac was surprised when the foal leaped forward, landing on his chest, knocking his bowl of oatmeal all over the ground. He wrapped his hooves around Isaac’s neck, burying his muzzle into his shoulder. Isaac brought his arms around the small pegasus and held him close. He could feel the foal’s tiny heart racing in his chest, the little wings on his back fluttering like mad.
“Hey, SyRE. Picking anything up on the radio bands?” Isaac asked from his desk.
“No, sir. I do not detect any more human activity.”
Isaac slumped down in his chair. “Can you connect with any other networks out there?”
“Yes, I believe I can so long as they have an active satellite link. What would you like me to do?”
“Can you download everything from Fort Stillwater? I want to know what else had been going on over there.”
“Of course, sir.”
Isaac leaned back in his chair. Everything seemed to be happening so fast. Just a few days ago, he fled the compound, and...
The memories came back with the force of a freight train. Roxy’s death. Quincy being forced into ponification by an old friend of his. Will...
A crippling sense of loss overtook Isaac. He sat in his chair for some amount of time, blurring together into some timeless span. He fought as hard as he could to keep his tears from returning, but when he thought he had it under control, the memories of his parents resurfaced. They left him by himself. They effectively disowned him, taking his sister away from him to the Bureau he had almost admitted himself to that day.
Everything he cared for was always taken from him. His family, Roxy, Quincy, Will... He had nothing left. He was a man without direction...
Isaac was awoken by a soft tugging on his pant leg. He sat up, wiping the tears from his face to see his clone spitting the fabric from his mouth. He looked up at Isaac, his bright green eyes meeting Isaac’s. The pegasus ran out the door, disappearing for a moment. He popped his head back in, looking back at Isaac.
“Sir, I believe he wishes to show you something.”
Isaac pushed himself out of his chair, following his clone out into the green field behind the house. The pegasus ran laughing up to the top of the highest hill, freezing in place at the top. Isaac watched as his clone’s head turned, his ears twitching. A few moments passed, as a gust of wind blew through his mane, the sun dancing off the bright white. The foal’s smile turned into a small frown, but he stayed on the hill, his legs bent and ready. Another gust blew through his mane, and this time his smile grew larger.
The pegasus’s wings began flapping like mad. He started into a wobbly gallop, and leaped off the hill. Catching the wind under his wings, he glided erratically through the air, straight into Isaac’s chest. Isaac and the foal were both knocked to the ground. Isaac’s chest was a little sore from the impact, but his attention wasn’t on that. The foal sat up on his chest and shook his head, trying to rid himself of the dizzying sensation of the crash.
“Wow! That was fantastic!” Isaac cheered, the foal giggling like mad.
“Yay! Daddy!” His clone latched onto Isaac’s neck in a hug. That was when Isaac realized he hadn’t even given the foal a name yet. He was his son. He should have a name.
“Hmmm... What should I call you?” Isaac set his clone back down on the ground, who was already running back up the hill. He froze at the top again, waiting for the prefect breeze. As the wind ran through his white mane, he caught it under his wings, gliding back down the hill next to Isaac.
“How about Windchaser? You sure do love flying, don’t you? Not even a week out of the tank and you’re already able to glide!”
“W-wwind... chaszer... Windchaser!” The foal began cheering, shouting his new name at the top of his lungs as he ran up the hill, ready to catch the next gust of wind.
I haven’t lost everything. I have him now. I have my son.
“Come on, dad! Tell meee!” Windchaser moaned.
“Nope, not until we get outside. You gotta be patient, little guy.” Isaac lugged out a blanket with him, opening the sliding glass door to the field. The two of them had been living here for eight years now, each year beginning to blend together. Isaac had spent plenty of time with his son, but also spent time before his computer, collecting data from active networks across the world. He wasn’t able to access many, but the ones he were able to get had quite the collection of movies.
Isaac and Windchaser would lounge every few nights and watch a new movie together, more often than not Windchaser falling asleep halfway through. On the days that Isaac was working on his computer, Windchaser would be working on teaching himself flying in the field behind the house. Among the movies SyRE downloaded were collections of air shows by both pegasus and airplanes. The ones Windchaser watched the most was exhibitions by the Equestrian Wonderbolts, the aerial acrobatics and stunt team. He was fascinated; he watched the shows without blinking, hypnotized by their flight trails and maneuvers.
Windchaser would often try these stunts himself, and more often than not crashing in a bad way. He broke his leg once trying a particularly dangerous dive-bomb corkscrew. Isaac gave his son a stern talking-to, explaining that the Wonderbolts had years and years of professional training. Windchaser shouldn’t be attempting their tricks just yet.
“Daaaaad, come oooon! What are you gonna show me?” Windchaser said. He was dragging his hooves along the ground, following his father into the darkness. Isaac said nothing, but kept walking. He dropped the blanket on the grass on the side of a hill and sat down. He motioned for his son to do the same. He fell on his back and stared at the sky.
“So what is it? What ar- ooooohhh!” Windchaser finally saw it. A bright white spot glowing in the sky, soaring among the countless points of light behind it.
“it’s called a ‘comet’. It’s basically a giant snowball flying through space.” Isaac stared up at the comet, looking at it in wonder. “Back when I was younger, we couldn’t see the night sky like this. There was always so much gunk up in the sky. We could only see the moon and a few stars. That was it.”
“Woooow... How fast is that comet going?”
“About a million miles an hour. It’s pretty fast.”
“Then you know what?”
“What’s that, Windchaser?”
“I’m gonna learn how to fly faster than a comet!!” Windchaser leaped into the air, soaring around the clearing. He began flapping his wings faster and faster, pushing himself as hard as he could.
From the ground, Isaac watched as the dark silhouette in the sky began to glow under the dim moonlight. Windchaser began to take on a light glow, a faint trail of white light following in his wake. But before it could become anything more than a dim glow, it fell from the sky. Windchaser landed next to Isaac in a fit of coughs and wheezing.
“Take it easy, little guy. You still got a few years to go before you can go that fast. Let’s head back inside. It’s getting chilly, don’t you think?”
Isaac folded the blanket up again, holding it under his arm as he and his son began walking back to the dimly lit house. Isaac held the door open for Windchaser before entering himself. Windchaser staggered over to the sofa and collapsed on it, about to fall asleep from the exhaustion. Isaac noticed something, however.
“Hey, Windchaser? You feel okay?”
“I... feel... so tired...”
“Hmm, because I noticed something a little different about you. Are you sure you don’t feel anything new?”
“What are you... talking about dad?”
Isaac smiled. “Take a look yourself.” Isaac pointed at Windchaser’s flank, before disappearing into the kitchen.
Isaac filled a glass with water, but almost dropped it from the shouting. “I GOT MY CUTIE MARK! DAD DAD DAD! LOOK!”
Windchaser bounced into the kitchen, standing sideways to Isaac. On his flank, there was the image of a white comet, a brilliant tail of white light trailing behind it. Windchaser was positively ecstatic.
“So you know what that means, right?” Isaac said, giving the glass of water to his son. He took it with his mouth, downing the drink in one gulp.
“That means you gotta keep that goal. Learn to fly faster than a comet!”
“Yea-” Windchaser’s cheer was interrupted by a great big yawn.
“But we’ll do that tomorrow. Come on, time for bed.”
Isaac led his son up the stairs and into their bedroom. Isaac pulled back the sheets for the pegasus as he crawled into the bed. Isaac tucked him in, brushed his mane to the side and gave him a kiss on his forehead.
“Goodnight, my great big stallion.”
Isaac turned the light off as he walked back downstairs. He settled into his desk chair, staring at the computer screen.
“Is everything okay, sir?”
“Yeah, yeah. Windchaser just got his cutie mark. Tired him out big time.”
“Wonderful news, sir.”
Isaac looked at the clock on his screen. Tomorrow was going to be the eight year anniversary of his flight from the IHSA. Eight full years of living in the house Edgar Holbright left for him. Eight wonderful years living with his son, Windchaser. Eight years of hiding from society. The pony society that had overtaken the entirety of his world. Eight years since he called his sister. Isaac was tired of hiding.
“Hey SyRE. Call up Sunny Days, please.”
“Of course, sir.”
“Isaac? Isaac is that you?”
The truck rumbled down the road, whirling around the twists and turns as they descended the mountain roads. The young pegasus in the passenger’s seat was trying his best to keep a grip on something to keep him from bouncing around so much.
“Daddy, why does it have to be so bumpy?” he pleaded.
“Well, the roads have been cracking and breaking from years of nobody taking care of them,” Isaac said to the young pony. The sun shined down into the cab, reflecting off the young pegasus’s brilliant white mane.
As the truck rounded the last hill, Isaac and Windchaser finally got a good look at the town SyRE had given them directions to. It was the closest one for miles that would be the most likely candidate for ‘recolonization’ by the ponified humans. They rolled down the hill, but Isaac took a dirt road off to the right before he got near the town. As the truck barreled through the woods, Isaac began to slow down, easing the truck to a stop.
Isaac stepped out from the truck, and walked around to the passenger’s side. He opened the door, and helped the pegasus currently struggling with the seat belt. He clicked it open, causing it to recede back into the frame of the truck. Windchaser hopped out, and the pair walked further into the woods.
They happened upon a clearing, filled with tall stems of grass. Windchaser gave out a loud cheer and bounded into the small field, jumping in and out of the grass. Isaac scanned the treeline, looking for something.
“Fancy meeting you here, stranger.”
Isaac whirled around to see a golden yellow pegasus standing before him.
“Sunny!” Isaac kneeled down and wrapped his arms around his sister in a loving embrace. “Windchaser! Come on over and say hi to your aunt!” Isaac yelled back into the field. Sunny looked perplexed, but became even more so when the laughing pegasus popped out from the grass.
“You must be my Auntie Sunny!” the colt said, walking over to Sunny’s leg.
“Why isn’t he the cutest little colt I’ve laid my eyes on! Well, next to Bracket. Did you adopt him?” Sunny asked cheerfully.
“Y-yeah, I’ll tell you the whole story someday. Could you just look after him for the afternoon? I have some business to attend to in town.”
“Sure thing, Isaac! I never thought about it before, but being a parent is pretty fulfilling, isn’t it?”
“You sure got that right. This little guy has made my life bearable these last few years.” Isaac stood up and walked over to the blue pegasus. “Listen, little guy. I gotta go out and take care of some grown-up stuff. You’re gonna be going with your Auntie Sunny for the afternoon, alright? I promise to come and get you as soon as I can!”
“Sure thing papa! I can’t wait to finally meet them!” The colt was bouncing in the air, laughing all the while. Sunny couldn’t help but laugh along with him.
“Come along now, Windchaser! You’re still a little colt, so you’re gonna have to ride on my back to the house.” Sunny knelt down to the ground, letting the colt climb onto her back. “Hold on tight!” She yelled, before starting into a great gallop, leaping into the air and catching the wind under her wings. The two faded beyond the treeline.
Isaac watched them as they faded from his view and walked back into the truck. He started the engine, and continued on towards the town.
As the truck crawled through the streets, very few ponies came out from their houses upon seeing it. Many of them scampered into the various alleyways and side-streets, eager to avoid contact. Isaac wanted to get to the center of the town, it would make getting noticed much easier.
The town, now repopulated by the ponies, had undergone a radical transformation in the last several years. Many of the houses had been rebuilt and repainted with bright colors, bringing life back to the old skeleton of a town it used to be.
As Isaac neared the center of town, fewer ponies tried to scurry away, but instead they simply stopped in their tracks and stared. To them, the sight of a human was extremely unusual. Most had not seen a human in a dozen years.
He put the truck into park, and turned the key to kill the engine. He opened the door and stepped out into the blazing sunlight, ponies gasping and some even screaming at the sight of him. Am I really that scary? Isaac thought to himself.
“Who’s in charge around here?” Isaac yelled out to the crowd. “I want to talk to your mayor or police chief!” He wasn’t sure if their culture had either; he never really looked into it.
A timid looking unicorn tiptoed out from the crowd before him. She was clearly nervous, and possibly terrified. “I-I’m the mayor’s assistant... I c-can take you to her i-if you’d like...” she stammered.
Isaac knelt down to her eye level. “I would greatly appreciate that. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt anyone,” he said reassuringly. Isaac could almost see the tension fade away from the unicorn as she let out a sigh.
“Follow me, if you’d please.” Isaac did so, watching all of the ponies heads following him as he walked along the street.
“You WHAT?” the elderly grey mare screamed.
“Like I said, I want an audience with your Princesses. What were their names again?” Isaac asked, raking his mind for something that supposedly should be an important fact for him to know. “Ah! Celestia and Luna. I’d like for them to answer to a few things. Sooner rather than later.”
The mayor paced around behind her desk, visibly sweating. “You don’t understand, do you Mr. Hamilton? The princesses don’t just grant audiences on a whim! The typical amount of time before you’d usually be able to see them in three months! And that’s after all of the exhausting paperwork! Even for a... human.” She spat the last word out as if it left a bitter taste in her mouth.
“Just be sure to tell them I was a survivor of the Fort Stillwater raid.”
The mayor’s eyes widened for a moment before she buried her face in her hoof. “Alright, fine. But don’t expect any miracles, okay? Lily, can you take a letter? Tell Princess Celestia that an ‘Isaac Hamilton’ seeks an audience with her and her sister. And that he was at this ‘Fort Stillwater’ raid, or whatever it was.” She sat back at her desk, watching the unicorn jot down the message onto a levitating scroll with her quill. it quickly rolled itself up, and vanished with a small pop.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hamilton, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave my office. I have very important duties that I ne-”
With two brilliant flashes of light, two figures materialized into existence behind Isaac. He stood up, hands in his pockets, and turned around. Two majestic winged pegasi, Alicorns, stood before him. One was as brilliant and white as the blazing sun, her mane a colorful, billowing aurora. The other was as dark and graceful as the most pleasant night, her mane a lighter shade of blue than her coat. They both stared at Isaac for a moment before anyone spoke.
“I... guess I’ll leave you all alone, then... come along now, Lily. Lets give the princesses their privacy...” The mayor shuffled out the door, pushing the unicorn out with her. The large wooden doors closed with a dull thud.
“Princesses. Pleasure to meet you at last,” Isaac said, nodding his head.
“We apologize for the spectacle, but when we received the message about you, we had to be here as soon as we could. Especially since you had to witness that atrocity,” the white alicorn said with disdain.
“Celly, are you sure we should tell him...?” The darker one asked, apprehensively.
“Luna, of all ponies or people, he is the most deserving of knowing the truth,” Celestia said to her sister. “Mr. Hamilton. I’m sure you are aware of what happened at Fort Stillwater eight years ago, correct?”
Isaac looked back down at the floor. “How could I forget? I saw several pegasus ponies dropping those gas bombs on the last vestiges of mankind, forcing ponification on them. They weren’t given any choice in the matter.” Isaac tightened his fists in anger. He felt the blood beginning to boil within him as soon as he was reminded about it.
“Yes, well. These actions against your people were not under our jurisdiction. We always sought to achieve peace between your organization, for humans and ponies to coexist together. Unfortunately, your leaders always declined any offers we made, and constantly carried out heinous crimes against our people. In fact, after the attack on Fort Stillwater, we rescued hundreds, HUNDREDS, of ponies being held captive that were being used as test subjects. What do you have to say about that?” Celestia growled, stomping her hoof down into the wooden floor.
“Nothing. I don’t have any excuse for what my people did to yours, just like how you claim to not have an excuse for those who attacked MY people. I’m... just glad that they were rescued.” Celestia’s stern visage softened into a small smile.
“I’m just glad you aren’t as malevolent as some of your brothers and sisters were.”
“You said that the bombing wasn’t ordered by either of you. What happened? Why did it happen? Who ordered it?”
The blue alicorn, Princess Luna, spoke. “When a human goes through ponification, many of their human traits are kept, while others are... reappropriated. Usually this translates as people becoming less aggressive, manipulative, greedy, et cetera. They become friendlier and happier. But some humans kept some of those negative aspects. Most of these humans had held positions in your militaries and governments. They formed an association dedicated to bringing all humans over to our civilization. They called themselves the PER, or Ponification for Earth’s Rebirth.
“They worked in secret, recruiting other ponies to aid in their work, developing and weaponizing our ponification serum. They used it on all of the other bases your people were staying in. We’re just glad you made it out alright.”
“When we were informed of these actions, we took swift and decisive action. We arrested each and every member of their group and imprisoned them all. They were given opportunities to repent for their crimes, but they stood by their choices,” Celestia said with a harsh and serious tone.
“Forced ponification can be... jarring... to the human psyche. Most humans who underwent this process weren’t prepared for it and went mad, losing their sanity as a result. Many of them had to be admitted to mental institutions to aid in their recovery and reintegration into society. But the damage had been done. Most took their own lives in the minutes following their ponification,” Luna said woefully.
Isaac fell to his knees. This was too much for him. The last hope for mankind had been wiped out all because of someone’s self-righteous quest for teaching unwilling people their corrupted ideals of happiness? Isaac felt his head spin. All of the events at the IHSA... all of their work... had been for nothing. There was absolutely no way the human race could survive from such a blow to their already unstable population. There were... what? How many people still lived on the Earth?
Celestia bent down onto her knees, meeting Isaac’s eyes. “We are truly, deeply sorry for your loss. We never wanted this to happen.”
A soft click came from the door to the office. A faint hissing sound began to come from the vents to the room, a faint purple cloud oozing out from them.
“Isaac, get on the ground. Keep your eyes closed, and hold your breath. It seems what’s left of the PER found out about you being here.” Isaac dropped to the floor without any question, his eyes squeezed shut. He took a great breath of air and held it, the hissing continuing in the background.
“Luna, blast the door open. We have to get Isaac out of here NOW,” Celestia growled.
“Of course, sister.” Isaac heard a small ringing in his ears, before a loud explosion of splinters and metal rang through the office. As the ringing faded from his ears, Isaac made something out from the various sounds meeting his ears.
“Isaac! Follow my voice! We need to get you out of here! The ponification gas is too thick in there! Keep your eyes shut and keep holding your breath!”
Isaac started to feel his chest burn, his mind slowing, and his nerves flaring. He began to think of Windchaser, and what he would think if he came back to him as a...
Wait. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. Isaac originally was going to get ponified, but he got swept up in that god-forsaken riot. His parents calling him a terrorist and a racist only reaffirmed his false stance against ponification. Thinking back to his son, Isaac only wanted what was best for the young colt. Surely being raised by a human wouldn’t be the ideal childhood, but if he became a pony, he could do his best to pave a path for his son.
I’m going to do it. For him. One... Two... Three...
Isaac let out the air in his lungs with a giant wheeze. Luna and Celestia froze upon hearing the noise, looking back at the figure slumped on the floor.
It’s now or never!
Isaac braced himself for what he could only imagine as the worst pain he could imagine subjecting his body to, and took a deep breath from the purple cloud surrounding him. The smell reminded him of the foul smelling odors of cough medicine he had to take as a child, a very overpowering grape flavor. He took another breath. More of the overly fruity odor. He didn’t feel his body changing.
He opened his eyes, and looked down at his hands. He still had fingers, that was for sure. He felt his face, still flat. He could still wiggle his toes, and his skin, while tinted a faint purple from the mist, still had the pasty caucasian hue he had always lived with.
“What... happened? Why... didn’t I change?” Isaac stammered. He slowly rose to his feet, his legs trembling form the ordeal.
Celestia looked over to her sister, and lowered her head. “Isaac, did you work with the ponification serum during your time at the IHSA?” The pair walked back into the office, still cloudy from the gas.
“Did you touch it at all?”
“Uh, yeah. A dilute sample splashed onto my hand once. I washed it off right away though.”
“Oh dear. Isaac, the serum did have an effect on you then. While the concentration wasn’t high enough to facilitate ponification, your body... it fought off the changes the serum was trying to make. Your body built up more defenses against it in the time since then. I suppose you could think of it as a vaccine. Unfortunately...” Celestia readied her next words. “You’re immune to ponification now.”
Isaac was trying desperately to understand what she was saying. “Are you telling me... that I can’t get ponified? But most of my friends at the IHSA were exposed to even more of the serum than I was! Why did they change and not me, here?”
“Your body had more time to build up the immunity than anyone else did. Your body had eight whole years to prepare.”
Isaac sank to his knees in the purple mist. He was finally given the opportunity to join the rest of his kind, in this new world. Because he suspected everyone of hating him and secluding himself in the woods with his son, he sealed his own fate.
“But... you could use your magic! You could use your magic to turn me into a pony, right?” Isaac lit up with excitement.
“Isaac... our magic would kill you. I can’t knowingly endanger the life of any man or pony,” Celestia solemnly replied.
“I don’t care. I want you to do it. Even if it brings me to within an inch of my life! Just do it!” Isaac was beginning to get angry, his voice rising in volume.
“No. I will not.” Celestia stomped a hoof down onto the wooden floor with finality.
“DO IT!” Isaac screamed at the princesses. “JUST FUCKING DO IT! I DON’T CARE IF I DIE! I... I...” His eyes began to fill with tears of defeat as his voice began to go hoarse. Isaac slumped forward, his head pressed against the floorboards.
“All I ever wanted...” Isaac began. “Was a normal life... but every time I tried to find one, something was always in the way! It’s just not fair!” Isaac cried, slamming his fist into the ground.
Celestia knelt down to Isaac. “We’re deeply sorry about this... We both wish there was something we could do to help you join us, but even our abilities have limits. Anything we would try would simply kill you from the magical energies. What we CAN do, is give you everything you could ever need to live a peaceful, happy life in this town, or wherever you desire. It’s the least we could do for you.”
Isaac wiped the faint tears forming at the edges of his eyes. “I’d like that. I’d like that a lot. Thank you, your highnesses.”
Celestia nodded. “We will make the arrangements as soon as possible. If you need anything from us, please don’t hesitate to ask. But for now, we must address this issue of PER members working in this building. We’ll be in touch.”
With another bright flash, the two alicorns vanished from the room, leaving Isaac behind. He rose to his feet, and walked through the mist, swirls of purple in his wake. He walked out through the splintered doorway, dozens of pairs of eyes settling on him. Some of them were in surprise, others in fear, and others in anger.
Isaac waved to them, putting on a weak smile.
“THIS THE CANTERLOT GUARD SQUADRON. THIS BUILDING IS SURROUNDED. COME OUT WITH YOUR HOOVES WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM!”