This is an entry into the fifth Ponychan TCB Writing Event as organized by Krass McWriter. Following the PROMPT: “Simply put, write a continuation, prequel, or spinoff of someone else's TCB story.” I have decided to continue BronyOfSteel’s short story The Conversion Bureau: Ten Minutes as seen on fimfiction.net
Based on the story Ten Minutes by BronyOfSteel
The terrible battle to reach that which the humans had struggled to defend was over.
The humans had only needed to fight for ten minutes. Ten precious, terrible, brutal and horrifying minutes, the most desperate moments that either species had ever known.
The bodies of ponies, and partially transformed humans lay upon the ruined ground, marinating in blood and ichor. The ponies had fought with the only weapon they would use, flasks, crystal eggs, and vials of the transforming serum known as 'potion', a purple, grape-flavored construct of human nanotechnology and Equestrian magic. Where the ponies won, new ponies arose, smiling, their hearts filled with peace.
The humans had fought with grenade and bullet and when these were gone, bayonet and knife. Where the humans had won, lay newly created corpses, dead, gummy eyes staring into oblivion, or rolled back into bullet-riddled skulls. Ragged chunks of both pony and former comrades had spattered on cracked ground and crumbling wall, rapidly becoming crimson nurseries for swarming flies. They had shot the ponies to prevent them reaching the device. They had shot their potion-covered own to prevent them turning into yet more ponies.
At last, the screams of horror and pain had been silenced. There remained only one human left, wounded and bleeding, crumpled like a broken doll against the heavy concrete cradle that supported the immensely heavy treasure the humans had been guarding. It was a hypernuclear device, magnitudes more powerful than any mere hydrogen bomb. It was a planet-killer, and it represented the last, fierce act of angry men to deal vengeance upon the alien Equestrians. Hidden, behind the wounded man, a small box quietly performed subtraction upon the numbers it displayed. The numbers were counting down not minutes but seconds, and there were precious, precious few of those left, now.
Celestia, the immortal ruler of the cosmos of Equestria stood facing the last soldier, her eyes angry, her mouth tight. The last man would be converted, for ponies, however hard they fight, do not kill. Not even one who has slaughtered so very, very many.
A pale yellow Pegasus stood before her, looking nervously at the ground now that she had Celestia’s attention. “I-if it wouldn’t be too much trouble princess, could I be the one to convert him? It would mean a lot to me.”
The princess cocked her head to the side for a moment before speaking again, “Why does this mean so much to you, young one?” All traces of disdain and anger that had colored her voice while speaking to the young man were now gone.
“W-well I k-kinda know him.”
Celestia’s expression turned thoughtful, “I see… what is your name?”
“Sky Shimmer, your majesty.”
“Sky Shimmer if it means that much to you, then I will allow you this great honor.” The princess of the sun said as she walked over to the small pony and nuzzled her affectionately.
Sky Shimmer after receiving the princess’ blessing then turned from her ruler to the young man, and began walking towards the human with a slow meaningful stride, her eyes never leaving his face. The young man in question just returned the unwavering gaze looking into her eyes and seeing concern, regret, and recognition?
Finally the pale yellow pony reached the young man, looking down at his now crimson shirt with the deepest regret the young man had ever seen, “Michael…” she spoke, low enough for just the two of them to hear, the young man’s expression changed to one of shock at hearing his own name. The Pegasus then brought a hoof behind the young man’s head as she brought her own forward, touching her forehead to his, “I’m so sorry.” She whispered as a single tear rolled down her muzzle.
The young man sat there for a moment before bringing his own hand up behind her head, running his fingers through her mane. “Me too.”
And with that Sky Shimmer drew the young man into a kiss, and as he sat there locking lips with the pony that had once been the girl he had loved with his entire being, the young man could taste the grape on her lips.
And then suddenly everything turned the purest white the young man had ever seen.
The blinding brilliance slowly began to fade. As the bright, white glow dimmed, Michael began to wonder how he could be seeing it, how he could be seeing anything at all. At first, he had thought that the brilliant flash of light was the hypernuclear device detonating. But now that he considered it, he realized that would be absurd.
If the device had detonated, the entire northern hemisphere would have been turned to molten rock, the atmosphere instantly converted to plasma, and the entire planet’s biosphere extinguished within less than a second. His own body would have become nothing more than a flashprint on the concrete, which itself would have vaporized in less than a millionth of a second. There literally would not have been time for the signal from his own retina to travel the distance from his eyes to the back of his head where the visual centers of his brain were.
There would have been no possible way to see anything, had the device at his back detonated. He would have been terminated instantaneously; he would literally been dead before he could physically have known it.
Yet Michael was still seeing the light fade, and he still tasted grape going down his throat, and he still felt the lips of the pony that had delivered that kiss. Sky Shimmer pulled her muzzle slowly away from Michael. She was waiting, expectantly.
Michael swallowed again. He had involuntarily swallowed during Lisa’s... no, Sky Shimmer’s kiss; her mouth had been full of serum, full of the nanotechnomagical ponification serum, which Sky had forced into him. He should be changing. Yet nothing was happening.
Michael looked around. He was no longer in pain; his wounds from the battle were still there, but he was not bleeding anymore. Behind him, the hypernuclear device, the most destructive weapon ever conceived, still supported his back.
What was going on?
Sky Shimmer also seemed confused. She turned back towards princess Celestia. “Princess, he isn’t changing! I gave him the potion, but he isn’t changing!”
“He is currently suspended, my little pony; the serum derives its potency from the magic of Equestria, and thus is subject to my will. It is my will that holds him now, on the cusp of change, and supports his injured flesh.” Celestia, regent of all Equestria, literal goddess of the sun, turned her attention to Michael. “Young human, while yet you remain so, I wish to show you something, that no resentment may be harbored in your heart despite what will come. Stand, and join me.”
Michael had been known as Reaper. He had served his species with all of his heart, and all of his ability. He had killed countless numbers of the alien, equinoid invaders. He had held the line until the ten minute countdown was up. But the bomb had clearly not detonated. The flash, the flash of light; Celestia must have cast some kind of spell, some strange alien magic that had rendered the hypernuclear device inert. Perhaps he could yet set it off...
Michael rocketed to a standing position and turned around, hoping to activate the manual detonation system on the device. Where the device had been now stood a perfect replica of it; only made of stone. The flash must have been some magic that changed the bomb to stone. Gone was the metal shell, the layers of cesium and protactinium, in place of the detonation control system was simple granite in the shape of that device. The entire weapon was granite now, nothing but common stone, all the way through.
He could tell because it had cracked in the middle, and he could see down the crack into the stone heart of it.
Suddenly he realized the true horror of what he was looking at; Celestia must have converted the weapon just after it had already detonated; she had acted in a space of time so small that it could not be perceived, a space of time on the level of millionths, perhaps billionths, of a second. She was not flesh. She could not be a biological creature to do that.
She must truly be... a goddess.
Michael turned, and examined his wounds. They were terrible; he should be dead by now. He was not bleeding, and they did not hurt. The only thing that could have saved his dying flesh would have been ponification; but he was not changing.
Finally he faced his enemy, Celestia. “Why? Why are you keeping me alive, BITCH?” Michael’s hands clenched into fists, his face a mask of hatred and fear.
Celestia simply looked at him, her face nothing but compassion now, endless compassion, and this angered Michael even more.
“I swallowed that grape shit! Why aren’t I a pony now? You said I was suspended or something? Why? Why are you doing this?” Michael was confused; nothing made sense anymore. It wasn’t supposed to be like this! Celestia was the enemy, and she should be dead. He should be dead. Why was she even bothering with him? He was just one human among many in this last stand!
“I already explained, little one. I do not wish you to suffer any resentment or feel any shame for your own actions.” Celestia’s voice was calm, her eyes kind.
“Shame? SHAME?” Michael was beyond anger now. “There is NOTHING I have to feel SHAME about! You fucking monsters; I killed my share of you but it was never enough! If I have any shame, it is because I DIDN’T MANAGE TO KILL MORE OF YOU!”
Celestia had a sad look on her muzzle. “You killed nopony. Not forever. And no human either. There is nothing for you to feel sad about. Let me show you.”
From behind Celestia came a myriad of faces, some human, most Equestrian. The humans and ponies walked forward and stopped just behind the solar goddess; most were unknown to him, but some he recognized; that bastard doctor that ran that Conversion Bureau, the one that cried like a pussy when he slit his throat. The physician’s assistant, what’s her name, that he put a bullet in. Damned race traitors.
That blue unicorn he helped vivisect to get information; the fucker cried like a baby the whole time, and in the end didn’t know anything useful. By the end Michael had been forced to hear the monster’s entire life story, none of it useful. Most boring interrogation he’d ever had to suffer through.
The others must have been the ponies he had shot or stabbed or otherwise terminated over the last year. How could they even be here? How would Celestia even know any of these traitors, why would she even bother to show them to him? None of this made any sense.
“So? What is this, some kind of illusion? Your witchcraft doesn’t scare me, you four-legged fuck!” It had to be some kind of spell. They couldn’t be here; if nothing else they were dead. He knew the one’s he remembered were dead.
“There is some illusion to what you see; let me correct that.” Celestia’s horn glowed briefly; the humans in the group shifted, wavered like candles in a breeze, in their place were now ponies. “I wanted you to see all of your victims, and know who they were. The humans were ponified before they died, and so they joined the herd, and thus they are here, now. You did not see their transformations, so I allowed you to see their previous forms.”
Michael wasn’t following entirely; why was Celestia picking on him, specifically? Why him?
“Michael?” A deep brown pegasus stepped slightly forward; the creature had just a moment ago been the Conversion Bureau doctor that he had killed. Or thought he had killed; he had moved on, right after slitting the bastard’s throat, maybe there had been time for someone to slip the traitor some potion before he bled out. Michael hadn’t stayed to find out.
“Michael, I want to tell you something.” The pegasus who used to be a doctor seemed calm and slightly worried, a strange tone for someone facing his killer. “I forgive you. I really do. I’ve never been happier. Because of you, I was turned into a pony that very day, and my life has been wonderful ever since. So, it’s OK. I forgive you.” There seemed to be tiny tears in the pegasus’s eyes. He seemed genuinely concerned.
“Wait, are you dead or what?” Michael was getting more confused with every second. Yet something here was nagging at him. There was something he had heard once.
“Oh, I’m not dead, Michael! I’m very much alive! I live in Trottingham now, in Equestria. I have a wife and two wonderful colts. I’m just here at Celestia’s request to help you. No, don’t fret, I’m perfectly fine!” The doctor / pegasus gave Michael a big smile.
“I’m alive and fine too!” It was an earth pony, light gray with a bright green mane. She had been the physician’s assistant just a moment ago. “And I’m happy now too! Really happy! I’m married to a mare, just a wonderful filly, and we’ve adopted a little foal and... well, listen. I forgive you, Michael. I totally, totally forgive you.” She grinned at him. That unnerved Michael quite a lot.
“What is this? What is going on?” Michael turned to Lisa, or rather Sky Shimmer, “Do you understand any of this? What is happening here? Tell me Lisa! Please!” Michael was frightened now, the last of his bravado and anger failing him.
“I’m sorry if you are upset, Michael. But I really think you should listen to what the others have to say. And... I’m Sky Shimmer now. But... I still love you.” The pale yellow pony gently smiled at Michael, and this made him back away, slowly.
“I forgive you too.” It was a pony in the crowd, the huge crowd, behind Celestia. Michael whipped around to face it, it was purple and gold. Michael had no idea who or what it was.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” The pony seemed slightly sad at this. “I was walking home with my best friend after going to the market for more hay and some oranges. You and your friends shot us as you drove past. You took my head off right here, remember?” The pony gestured with a hoof. Seeing that Michael had no idea whatsoever, the purple creature’s ears sank. “You killed me very quickly. I didn’t suffer very long. About thirty seconds or so. It wasn’t as bad as you might think, I was mostly just in shock. Anyway, I forgive you. I wish I could have gotten to go to Equestria, but I’ll get to go there next Generation, so I guess it will work out in the end. In the meantime, I have a wonderful... existence... here. Anyway, I forgive you.”
“I’m in hell. That’s what this must be. I’m... in hell.” Michael’s voice was very soft now, and his eyes were wide with quiet horror.
“No, Michael, you were in hell. You were in the hell that was human life, the hell that was Earth. You are far, far from that which you call hell now.” Celestia stood close to him now, he hadn’t noticed her approach. But then, he was preoccupied with the horror he was feeling.
“Why... why don’t you just kill me? Why do this to me? I don’t understand. I just don’t understand.” Michael crouched down on the balls of his feet, and began to rock gently, supporting himself with his arms. He had been a warrior, a fighter. He had faced his enemy and he had done what he had to. He had seen terrible, terrible things. But this... this was the worst thing he had ever experienced.
“They all forgive you, Michael. That’s why they are here. To help you. They want you to be free of guilt, to know that it’s OK. They just want you to be happy, Michael.” Celestia’s long face was close to his head, he could feel her breath.
“I don’t understand... I just don’t...” Finally, the tiny memory nagging at him surfaced. The dream. The Conversion Dream.
Switch had told him about it. Tank too. They had heard that when humans were Converted, they almost always had dreams. Conversion Dreams. They would meet Celestia in them, run with a vast herd, see all kinds of things. The taste of artificial grape was still in his mouth. Lisa had given him potion, he’d swallowed the whole thing, he couldn't help himself. Besides, it didn’t matter, the bomb was just about to...
This must be his Conversion Dream. It was the only explanation. That was why all the ghost ponies were here, why Celestia was taking such an interest in him, specifically. Oh, god, that meant that the bomb hadn’t detonated, and any moment he would wake up, changed. He would be like all the others hit by potion - he wouldn’t be himself anymore. He’d be one of those smiling robots.
“Just do it.” Michael was sobbing now. “Just finish it, Celestia. I’m ready to be a pony now. Just make it stop. I can’t stand this. You’ve had your revenge. Just end it. I know this is a dream. I know this isn’t real. Just end it, finish it.”
“This is real, Michael.” Celestia raised her head; Michael stared up at her, he couldn’t help it after such a statement. “This is perfectly real. There are many kinds of real, little one. The magic of Equestria is deep and profound. Where we are now is just as real as any other place, it is just a different real, a different place. These ponies are real, and their forgiveness is real. All you have to do is accept it.”
Michael’s mind spun; what bullshit was this? “What the fuck are you talking about?” Some of his anger had returned now. “What kind of shit is this?”
“In your world, there is no magic.” Celestia sounded as if she were teaching a kindergarten class. “To you, to a human, a dream is just a dream. But in a world with magic, dreams are more; they are another type of real, at least some dreams, and you are in just such a real dream now, and here is just as real as the world you think you know.”
Michael had heard enough. “Just tell me what you want me to do to end this.” He meant it. Anything. Just let it be done.
“Hear that they forgive you. Accept that. Forgive yourself for your actions as a human. You could not help what you did. No human can. You were as much a victim of your humanity as those behind me.” Celestia’s horn glowed, and lifted Michael back to his feet. “You have been the victim of the meat you were made of, the cold world you grew up in, and the genetic behaviors you were programmed with. You were as helpless in your actions as any of the machines Mankind delights in making. But now, you are truly free.”
“If I am free, then send me back and let me activate that bomb!” Michael stood defiantly and glared at Celestia.
“Is that truly what you want to do?” Celestia looked him square in the eye; her gaze made him shrink slightly. “Look at your lovely mare, here, Sky Shimmer. She is beautiful, kind, and she loves you. Do you truly wish to kill her?”
Michael looked down at Lisa, his Lisa. Even as a pony, she was beautiful. He loved her. He loved her, even in that body, he loved her. It had been easier when she wasn’t there. But she was, and she was in front of him, and it wasn’t easy now.
“I... I don’t want to die, Michael. I... I want to live with you. I want to live in love with you.” The words were simple, but it was clear she meant them. “I serve Celestia, just as you served your cause, but... I don’t want to hurt anypony anymore. Celestia doesn’t engage in violence. But she can’t allow violence either. That bomb... it would have killed... everything. I can’t accept that kind of thing being justified anymore, Michael. It’s wrong.”
Sky Shimmer looked down. “I just want to live in love, forever. With you. Please.”
Michael felt his heart sink. Now he knew he couldn’t do it. Even if the device was right in front of him. He just couldn’t do it. She was right here. She was here, and he couldn’t do it anymore. He... didn’t want to. Not like that.
“Alright. Fine. No, I don’t want to kill her. I never actually wanted to kill anyone. I just wanted to make you... aliens... leave. Just leave us be. You came and invaded us. You came and turned us into you.” Michael turned to face Celestia again. “You killed us, you... ponies. You killed us, you killed our entire species. What were we supposed to do?”
“Are you dead?” Celestia’s question seemed absurd.
“No. Of course not. I’m talking to you right now. Of course I’m not dead!” Michael sneered at Celestia.
“Is Sky Shimmer, the one you knew as ‘Lisa’, dead?”
“No... I mean yes... not exactly. I don’t know.” Michael was torn inside. “She isn’t human anymore. She’s Lisa, but she’s not Lisa, now she’s this yellow pony. There are things about her I recognize, I know Lisa, and she’s Lisa, but she’s also not. Lisa would have shot you right in the face, not bowed to you. But yet... she’s Lisa too, and... I don’t know.”
“When she kissed you, was that the one you love?”
Michael thought about that. She had kissed him with the lips of a pony muzzle, not a human face, yet in that intimate moment, he knew more perfectly than what his eyes showed him, that it was his Lisa, his wonderful Lisa. “I’m sorry” she had said, even as she forced the potion, stored in her large pony cheeks, down his throat. She must have wanted him to be a pony like her, to be her stallion... but she still cared about what he wanted in that moment, that he wanted to remain human... and she had said she was sorry.
All this time, he, and Switch and Tank and Maverick... they had considered the ponified, the newfoals, to be nothing more than puppets. Just robots, controlled by Celestia. They were better off dead, that was what Tank had said; because they had lost all of their free will.
But... Lisa... Sky Shimmer.... had said she was sorry. She had hesitated, though she had followed Celestia’s command. Those were not the actions of a robot without free will.
“Lisa... Sky Shimmer.” Michael crouched down to look her in the eye. “Why did you do what Celestia told you to do? Why did you ask to convert me back then?”
The yellow mare smiled up at him. “You were going to get converted anyway; if it had to happen, I wanted to be the one to do it. I didn’t want it to happen to you from somepony that didn’t care about you... the way that I do.”
“But why do what Celestia says?” Michael studied her eyes, trying to determine if she really did have free will in there.
“I want to obey Celestia. I want to serve her, Michael, because she truly is good. In every battle we were in, do you remember? Ponies never hurt any human. They always tried to save the very ones that were killing them. Remember how we used to laugh about that, like it was stupid, like it was their weakness that we could exploit?” Sky Shimmer looked very sad at the memory. “It wasn’t a weakness, Michael. It was kindness. It was love for other living creatures. We shot them down while they were trying to save our own fallen soldiers. What use is humanity if that is what it thinks is good?”
They had done just that. When a soldier fell, hit by the shrapnel from his own grenade, or hit by friendly fire, or even just in the throes of Conversion after being hit by potion, the ponies always stopped for them. And both he and Lisa had used the opportunity to bag more ponies. And they just kept coming, trying to help, even when they were being gunned down.
It didn’t seem so fun, now. It didn’t seem like a noble fight, now. Michael remembered shooting his own men, as they were changing. The memory made him cringe.
“Michael, all you have to do is imagine, just imagine, that maybe what matters isn’t race, or species, or whether a person has thumbs or hooves. Try to imagine that what matters is... kindness. Love. Just being... nice.” Sky Shimmer pressed her head against his. “Maybe being human isn’t what we should be fighting for. Maybe we shouldn’t even be fighting at all.”
It was pointless anyway; humanity was beaten in any case. If Celestia could stop a hypernuke with a spell in mid-detonation, there was no weapon on earth that could ever stop her invasion. When humans fought, the result were bullet-ridden corpses. When ponies fought, if it could even be called fighting, the result was smiling ponies.
If it was being a zombie, they sure seemed like happy zombies. Happier than any human had ever been. Happier than he... had ever been.
And Lisa was still Lisa, even if she was Sky Shimmer. She just wasn’t Violent Lisa. She was Kind Lisa, like in all of those intimate moments, only... all the time. Was that really such an evil thing?
Michael began to doubt the point of his war. The more he killed them, the more they tried to be nice. And all those he had shot and bombed and hurt... forgave him.
What did he have to show for all of his efforts? Blood, and pain, and holes in his own body.
“I’m ready now.”
Celestia looked serious. “Why?”
“Because I would rather live in love with Li... Sky Shimmer, than go on thinking I’m right about everything. Because I really am sick of killing and seeing things die. Because I know humans can’t win and right now... I’m no longer sure I even want them to.”
“Oh, Michael!” Sky Shimmer was smiling, tears in her eyes.
“Then what do you want?” Celestia spoke softly.
“I want to be alive with Sky Shimmer. I don’t care how. I want to be... I want to be a stallion for her. I want to live in love with her.”
Celestia smiled. “Welcome, then, welcome to the...”
* * * * *
Michael’s eyes began to focus; the sweet yellow face in front of him was busy licking his muzzle and kissing him. “Sky...? Am... am I alive?”
“Oh, Michael, of course you’re alive! We never kill anypony. You’re alive, and you’re healed and I’m so glad you’re finally one of us!” Sky Shimmer kissed him deeply, this time on the mouth, and it was sweet, and passionate, and it made Michael feel warm and happy inside.
And he did feel happy. He felt happier than he had ever felt before. He had always suffered from depression - that weight was gone. All the negative thoughts, all the angry feelings, they were just... gone. He felt lightheaded. It was like... it was like he had been carrying a ton of bricks on his back, and now... they were all gone.
Michael raised a foreleg and brought it to his face. A shining red hoof, new and strong, gleamed in the light. He turned it, studying it. Then he placed it on the ground, testing it. Finally, he put his weight on it, and tried to stand up. He was a little wobbly, but managed to make it to his hooves.
Sky Shimmer pressed her soft, pale yellow body to his, steadying him. He looked around. The scene was much the same as in his Conversion Dream, only the crowd of ponies were not there. The device was solid stone, just as in the dream.
“My stallion! You made it! It’s so good to see you!” It was Tank, now a fine stallion.
“Dude! Welcome to the winning side, my pony!” Maverick grinned and Michael grinned back. He couldn’t help it. He just felt so good.
Then he saw Celestia.
She stood nearby, overseeing the effort to heal the wounded and comfort the dying. She turned her head and looked at him. Her eyes were kind, but sad.
“Celestia...” Michael didn’t know what to say. What could he say? “I’m sorry. I’m... just sorry.”
Michael hung his head, his ears down.
“Michael, it’s alright.” Sky Shimmer licked his ears, somehow it was wonderfully comforting. “Celestia forgives you.”
And in that moment, Michael remembered his dream that was more than a dream, and he knew that Sky Shimmer was right.
And then Michael realized what he should be doing instead of just standing there. “Come on, Sky, Tank, Maverick... let’s see what we can do to help clean up this mess we made.”
And so, in kindness, they did.