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A Twist in the Tail
Forever Growing Bubbles
An MLP:FiM fanfic set in the Conversion Bureau Alternate Universe, by Midnight Shadow
The bed was small, the couch even moreso, so Vertigo and Alice reluctantly shared the former. It wasn’t as comfortable as his cloud bed, and attempts to fetch down a cloud for him to stand on just plain hadn’t worked. He could almost stand on them, but moving them about was completely out of the question.
“Maybe that’ll change when there’s more of you?” Alice asked as he returned empty-hooved, “You’ve only been around for what? Nine, ten months?”
“You think more of us ponies will move to Earth?” he asked.
Alice had shook her head, “Naa, not really. Mostly it’ll be us humans, as newfoals. You know the bubble’s growing, don’t you? They don’t like to talk about it.”
Vertigo blinked in shock, “Really? But... why? That’d mean...”
Alice laughed and threw her arms wide, expansively, “One day, all this will be fields. It’s touched ground already over in Maine. I think it ate all of Newfoundland already, and some of Africa and Europe. They tried their best to stop it, a while ago, back when it was still small and in the middle of the Atlantic. For three days, they lit up the sky with nukes.”
“What’s a nuke?” Vertigo asked in a sombre tone.
“Do you guys have fireworks? You know, little rockets. Pfft, whiz, boom?”
Vertigo nodded, “On Nightmare Night, we set them off to scare away Nightmare Moon.”
“Well, imagine a really, really big rocket...”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
Alice sighed, “Yeah, we’ve used them against each other, too. Twice.”
“Twice? What happened?”
“It ended a war. The country they were used on surrendered. Two cities wiped off the map.”
“Cities?” Vertigo’s ears splayed back, “Your cities are really big... two bombs? Just two?”
“Yeah, two small ones. ‘Bout a tenth of the size they used against your bubble.”
“A tenth?” Vertigo’s voice was a whisper, he could hardly comprehend such destruction, “You humans scare me.”
Alice hugged him softly, “I’m sorry, V. We’re not all that nice when we fight, and we kinda fight a lot.”
“Newfoals aren’t like that, they’re... like us.”
“All the more reason, V. I made my mind up. You know, when I fished you out, I half thought you might be Dad. It’s been a while coming, but I’m ready to go. Pony me up.”
Vertigo nuzzled her softly, “If that’s what you want, we’ll go together. If I were a pony, I’d head to a bureau. I bet that’s where Glenn’s gone. Midnight Glenn, he called himself.”
“Midnight, huh? Sounds like a name I’d give a filly.”
“You don’t know the half of it. Let’s try to get some sleep.”
The hammering on the door woke them at what the vidscreen informed them was a little over five in the morning. The hammering was loud and insistent, louder than Alice had ever heard before, and at five in the morning it was more than a little threatening.
“Lights! Sentry, who’s outside knocking?”
“I.D. bracelet reports Miller, Hank, and associates.”
“What the hell does he want?” asked Alice rhetorically. She pulled on her pyjamas and stretched before picking up a baseball bat from under the bed.
“Patching audio through... now- ‘S THE PONY, ALICE. WE JUST WANT THE PONY. YOU WON’T GET HURT.”
“Woah, shit, V, V! Wake up!”
Vertigo was already awake, his wings spread wide and his ears splayed back, “What do they want?”
“Yelling like that? Nothing good. Get behind me. They probably can’t get through that door without a fight, but it won’t stop ‘em trying.” Alice ran out of the bedroom to the small hallway, “Hank? That you? What the fuck do you want?”
“We just want the pony, Alice. Give us the fuckin’ pony and we’ll go.”
“Nuh uh, Hank, first you gotta tell me why. What’s he done?”
“Ain’t you seen the news?”
“Fuck no, Hank. unlike you, I try to sleep at night.”
“Them fuckin’ beasts are stealing our planet!”
“I know that bubble’s growing, Hank-”
“No, no you don’t know. They’re calling it an expansion phase or some shit! There’s another one, on the West coast.”
“Bubble. Those fuckin’ ponies are invading, it’s an invasion I tell ya!”
“Hank, what the hell are you talkin’ about?”
“Turn on the teevee, Alice. Watch the news, then give us the pony. If you don’t give us the pony, we’re gonna come get him. We gotta fight ‘em.”
“Like hell I am! House, news. Search phrase, bubble expansion.”
“Working...” replied the soft, emotionless voice of the house computer system, ignoring the tumultuous barrage on the door.
Alice watched, eyes wide, as on-screen appeared another bubble, rising from the ocean. It was followed by unconfirmed reports of similar bubbles all across the globe. As the hammering increased in volume, as it became more rythmic and determined, Alice listened to the scientists explaining that the ‘bubble’ was a three dimensional projection of a four-dimensional hypercube, a tesseract. It was changing and growing, morphing somehow according to mathematical rules that were beyond Alice’s understanding. She turned, open-mouthed, to Vertigo. “V, do you know about this?”
“Me?” Vertigo shook his head with horror, beginning to shake, “Please, Alice, you’ve gotta believe me, I don’t know anything about this! I don’t even know where the gates came from, let alone why they’re... growing like that. You’ve gotta believe me! Please don’t let them get me!”
Alice shook her head, “I won’t, buddy. I know how this story goes. I’m a collaborator, a turncoat. Even if I gave you up, I’d find a bullet in my brain - if I was lucky. If not, I’d merely be shunned, my stuff stolen, my life ruined. Dammit, that idiot Hank’s made up the rest of my mind better’n anything. We gotta go.”
“Can’t go out the front door.”
“That just leaves the window.”
“I can fly, but you?”
“Fire escape, V. It goes down. Hustle.”
The pair fled to the window, Alice pulling on some clothes as she half-hopped and half-fell across the room. She grinned like a maniac as she lifted one heavy steel-toe-capped boot and kicked the window in the corner. It shattered and burst outwards.
“I always wanted to do that. V, out.”
The door splintered and broke and the mob poured into the room as Alice yelled out, “Emergency, fire in apartment thirteen-b! Sensors dead, safety override!”
There was an alarm beep that started up loud, echoing throughout the entire comples. Various pipes burst, showering everything with a deluge of water. “So long, mother fucker!”
Vertigo leaped over the edge, hooves springing him off the railing. Alice looked down, there was a mob in the streets. She swore, “Vertigo! The roof! Up!”
“They’re coming, Alice! Run for it!”
Alice screamed and flailed with her baseball bat, slapping at a hand and probably breaking the wrist of whoever had tried to grab her. She heard cursing from behind her as she stomped loudly up the stairs. One or two inventive but unlucky residents had had the same idea, and were opening their windows. She smashed them in the face with her bat, sending teeth spraying in a colourful arc.
“Now you see why I want out, V!”
“Alice!” Vertigo cried, circling. There was a loud crack and projectiles zinged through the air.
“Guns! Roof, now!” Alice cleared the last set of stairs and all but threw herself onto the roof, panting.
“Now what? I can fly, but you..?”
“How much weight can you carry?”
“I-I-I... I don’t know. In Equestria...”
“More than me, right?”
“Yeah, much more.”
“Then it’s time I saddled up. Sun’s that way, fucking smog, the bay’s that way... fuck it, Vertigo, we go that way! That way! Hackensack, the old reservoir, they ponified it. Best place for me and you right now, maybe things make more sense over there.”
“Few miles that way. Move it!” Alice leaped onto Vertigo’s back. The pony gave one quick glance back at two heads that were popping over the railings. Two men, quickly followed by a third, jumped over the edge onto the flat roof. They started running.
“V, I’ve gotta teach you some better swear words!”
The pair were already galloping. The edge of the building loomed.
“Oh, fuck me.” whispered Alice, as Vertigo slammed his forehooves down almost over the edge of the pallisade, allowed his momentum to carry, and then sprung up in a mighty leap, his wings spreading wide as his hind-legs kicked off into space.
Alice had stopped gibbering to herself, though her knuckles were white with the pressure as she held on painfully to Vertigo’s mane.
“I fucking hate heights, V,” she whimpered.
“You’d hate the stop at the bottom more.”
“Fuck you, V”
“You’re welcome, Alice. We still going the right way?”
“I dunno, I’m too scared to look!”
“Alice! I don’t know shit about Humania!”
“It’s America, and who taught you such language?”
“Amare-ica?” repeated Vertigo, “Funny. Sounds almost like it could be one of ours.”
Alice chanced a peek. She hunched over and screwed her eyes up very quickly after, “Yeah,” she said after a moment, “we’re going the right way. Do you see a big squarish building? Green?”
“I do, I think.”
“That’s it, that’s the one. I’m pretty sure. I’ve looked at it on the ‘sat pictures plenty.”
“Remember when I said about the stop at the end?”
“Hold on tight.”
“Oh fuck me.”
“You ain’t my type, Alice.”
“Shut up shut up shut up!”
Vertigo flared his wings to loose forward speed, but the weight on his back threw him off. He stalled, flipped and twisted in the air. The pair of them slammed rather heavily into the ground and slid to a stop in some bushes, choking and wheezing.
“Ow.” said Alice, after she’d got her breath back. “You okay, V?”
“I think so.” the stallion got to his hooves and shook himself out, “That the bureau?”
Alice looked up, “Can’t you read?”
“Ah. Yeah, it is. You go in, see if the coast is clear.”
“Things don’t seem quite so crazy down here.” commented Vertigo, still shaken
“Big bureau like this, there’s plenty of ponies about. It doesn’t mean there won’t be problems... you don’t think you ponies really are invading do you?” asked Alice, before throwing hands up at the dirty look Vertigo gave her, “Hey, gotta ask. Scoot, get in there and tell me if the coast is clear.”
Vertigo didn’t see a door handle. He trotted cautiously up to what appeared to be huge glass and steel doors and raised a hoof to push on them. He hadn’t seen hinges either, but...
“Oh hello, that’s neat!” Vertigo fluttered his wings as the doors slid open. He clip-clopped over the threshold, wincing slightly as the doors closed again, blocking off the sounds of they city. As his eyes adjusted to the light inside, he noticed an attractive unicorn ponying the front desk with a strange device up to one ear, a plate of what looked like toast floating next to the other and crumbs adorning her muzzle.
“Good morning, I’m Ele- another one?” he heard her say.
The lime-green pegasus pony trotted up to the front desk, shuffling his wings nervously. “Hi, I’m Vertigo, Pointe Vertigo, and I’m looking for somepony.”
“You know, a few more returns like you and they’ll think something’s wrong with the potion we cook up here.”
“A return? This wouldn’t happen to be a chestnut fi- er, stallion, with a burgundy mane, would it?”
“Maybe,” the receptionist eyed him suspiciously, “what do you want with him, assuming he’s here?”
“I gotta see him, I just gotta.”
“I see. You came all the way from Equestria, huh?”
“Er, Ellie, was it?”
“Elegance, Elegance Flare.”
“Elegance, miss, you wouldn’t believe the day I’ve been having. Have you guys seen the news yet?”
“The shield wall, the bubble, whatever you ponies call it on this side, it’s growing, there’s like, a million of them all over the planet.”
“There’s what?” spat Elegance, coughing crumbs across the desk, “Wait, are you serious?”
“I have a friend out there too scared to come in incase this is some... invasion!”
“Vertigo, I haven’t got the slightest clue what you’re going on about, but you’d better get your friend in here if you think there’s trouble. We’ve been having alerts from the security grid for a while now, some rogue group has been popping up and threatening all sorts of nonsense on the news.”
“I’ll go get Alice.”
“And I’ll let the director know.”
Alice poked her head up above the bushes as she saw Vertigo trot out through the doors. “Hey V, what’s the story?”
“They didn’t even know!”
“Don’t they watch the news in there?”
Vertigo shook his head, “I dunno, maybe they think it’s better if they don’t.”
“I trust you, V. Let’s go.”
Vertigo pricked his ears up at a sudden increase in the volume of the already-loud city. He turned his head to see what looked like a mob of humans waving cards and signs in the air. “What in Equestria is that..?”
“Dunno what you call it, I just call it trouble.”
The two figures headed for the bureau as the mob grew closer. The crowd saw the pony running, and something must have set them off. There was shouting and hollering, and the crowd started running.
“Lock the damn doors!” shouted Alice, “Please!”
“Do as she says, the humans out there are nuts, no offence, Alice.”
“V, none taken. Mobs are never pretty. The more members, the stupider they get.”
“I've called the police... I don't know when they'll get here though.”
“Think those doors will hold?”
“I certainly hope so.”
The hurried conversation in the reception of the bureau came to a halt as a siren sounded throughout the complex, “Attention all convertees, all applicants and all staff. We have a major situation, so I want you all to remain calm. I repeat, remain calm. As some of you are aware, there has been a disturbance with the shield. We don't know what's causing it, but the scientists from both sides are calling it an 'expansion phase'. There is no cause for alarm. We are, however, encountering street protests...”
“They call that a 'protest'?” spat Alice, nodding to the crowd that could dimly be seen through the darkened glass. They were hammering and kicking on the glass with any weapon they could find laying about.
“I don't think it would be in anypony's interest to announce we were under attack, human.”
“Ssh!” hissed Vertigo, “I'm trying to listen!”
“--Repeat, it is advised that all convertees report to the cafeteria, the ponification rooms are well-built shelters able to hold firm against even medium-sized arms fire, not that we're expecting that.” the voice tried to chuckle, it didn't quite work, “The police have been notified and we're sure that everything will be under control momentarily.”
There was a sudden loud CRACK and the safety-glass fractured.
“V, have you ever had a day where it just felt like you were run off your, er, hooves?”
“Funny, very funny.”
Unsurprisingly, they ran.
Summer was yawning happily as he dried. The girls were lounging about, leaning on him and basking in the warm air. Trish was running her fingers through his mane, idly.
“What do you do to get it this soft and luxurious?” she asked with a sudden burst of intent.
“Oh, it takes work. You've got to learn to brush it right, and it's essential you use the right conditioner.”
“Ponies have conditioner?”
“Of course! You didn't think a mane like this grows naturally, do you?”
It took him several sets of beauty tips later to realize that he was acting more 'one of the girls' than he thought suitable. By this time, they were braiding his mane and tail, and he decided not to interfere. He liked the attention from a female, he told himself. Yeah, that was it. He scowled, they were far too young, and no, no he liked the mane-care. Dammit.
It took the alarm bells going off to bring him out of his reverie. He listened intently to the warning message and stood up carefully, “Girls, I'm sorry, we've got to cut this short. We've got to get back to the main building!”
“What's going on?” Debs asked.
“I don't know, but it doesn't sound good.” he closed his eyes as they dressed. Lying down he’d been able to forget they’d been skinny dipping. He wryly noted that human women didn't 'do' it for him any more, but that he wasn't sure quite why.
“Aren’t you guys coming?” he shouted to the pegasus newfoals and their instructors.
“Naa, Summer, we’ll be fine in here. This lot can all clear the roof if we have to evacuate. You can’t, so move it.”
“Attention all personnel, lockdown sequence initiated, repeat, lockdown sequence initiated.”
“Crud.” swore Summer, “Girls, we’ve got to run if we’re gonna get to safety. Ten minutes and the doors to the dorms and cafeteria are gonna be permasealed until the police override.”
They started running, Debs and Trish with a panicked expression on their faces. Liz seemed to take it all in stride. “You mean to tell me they’ve got this place wired for an attack?”
“That’s what they told me, never thought I’d see it. I mean who’d want to hurt ponies?”
“You haven’t heard about the HLF?” replied Liz.
Summer shook his head, “I... went pony a while ago. There were demonstrations, but...”
“I knew it!”
“Ya caught me.”
“What’s it like?”
“You... drink this stuff, fall asleep, and wake up a pony.”
“Oh, yeah, I hear that most newfoals have this dream... I did.”
“Dream? Of what?” puffed Liz. They’d cleared the park by now and were bolting down the interminable corridors of the complex.
“Left here... of Celestia, Luna, Equestria. It’s like... you’re everywhere and nowhere, and suddenly there’re these ponies, only they’re just... pony shapes, you know?”
“I dunno, you... kinda choose what you want to be.”
“Choose? Bull, they said you don’t get to.”
“I can’t explain it, the ponies choose you, I guess. At least, they did for me. When you find where you fit in, you come face to face with...”
Summer pulled up short. There in front of him was a lime-green pegasus stallion, with aqua mane and tail, and the bluest of deep blue eyes he’d ever seen.