A Conversion Bureau story.
Chapter Four: Blue
Blue. Now there was a color rarely associated with a ceiling. Yet here it was, a vista of unending blue stretching out above him.
Was he in a medical clinic?
Naw, couldn’t be. Medical care required employment with corporation approval. Tristan was a no body, a decimal point in a world of statistics.
Was he dead?
That was a distinct possibility; the bat had hit him pretty damn hard. For such a slight lass she certainly had a mighty fine swing. Around him a cool breeze was whipping past, suggesting a certain peaceful atmosphere. Everything was so bright too, stinging eyes that were used to the dark murky world of the forever clouded city. Long ago he had heard a guy on the holo-vid talking about ‘the afterlife’, how it was full of gates, endless feasting, new-mobile women and so on. That would be good; he could really go for a Moonglow right now.
Sadly the biker’s returning senses informed him that, along with being very much alive, the young man was also sporting a headache rivaling the intensity of the sun. Sticky warmth beneath him clung to the back of his neck and hair. Reaching up gingerly Tristan touched the slick and lifted his fingers back to inspect the tar like blood coating their tips.
‘So, defiantly alive, cus I can feel pain. Not indoors, cus there’s a breeze.’
Then the blue above him…
No, it couldn’t be. The sky was a dull grey even on the very best day. Sometimes it would take on green hues at dawn or dusk, perhaps brown if there was a dust storm on its way or black when another old city was ablaze. But Blue? It was just crazy. If some Joe anybody had come up and told him ‘the sky is blue’, he would have likely shot them on the spot to be sure the whatever brain fever the poor sucker had didn’t spread. Unfortunately by that line of logic though, now he’d have to shoot himself too.
Gingerly rolling onto his front, Tristan pushed himself onto his knees, taking a moment to steady his shot nerves before attempting to stand. Columns of dust lifted from the rubble strewn concrete, dancing among the abandoned Cutters and corpses that had once been his wing mates. Finally struggling to his feet, he stepped out from the pile of crates where he’d fallen and assessed the bloody mess. The convoy was gone too, though at least they’d left the quads.
There was an odd sensation of pressure, a fleeting susurration that made his ears pop. Instinctively he turned towards the source.
High above the industrial mega city of New Massachusetts, enormous tendrils of gas poured through the emptying sky, the accumulated smog of thousands of corporation factories drawn inexorably towards a sphere of gradually contracting cloud. The macabre remains of Salem shimmered as a pulse rippled across its surface, rushing past the awe struck biker faster than the speed of sound. Ears ringing with the sudden wave, Tristan kept his eyes fixed on the shrinking orb as he backed away towards the abandoned quad bikes. Around him the world was becoming sharp and vivid, the burning sensation of thalamic resonance tickling his scarred skin and filling his mouth with the tinny taste of ozone.
As the twisting sphere dwindled, the once darkened cloud began to take on a purple hue, glowing with an intense radiance that stung the onlooker’s eyes. Razing a hand to block out the worst of the light, Tristan could see shadowy fragments rising from the mega city, his suspicions compounded when the tip of the central tower suddenly leaned ominously and broke away.
Hands now upon the bike’s handles, Tristan swung a leg over the Quad’s saddle and fumbled with the ignition, a metallic clunk didn’t bode well for his escape plans. Cussing violently, the banger reached back to the top of the engine and began pulling long plugs from their sockets, swapping them around as quickly as his shaking hands permitted. In his peripheral vision the clouds convulsed suddenly, dragging his attention once more to the celestial display above the city. There was a moment of spacial confusion as the smog bank seemed to twist inside out and pass through eye watering dimensions.
And there it was, already several hundred meters across and growing rapidly. There was no sound, no sudden rush of wind or roar of thunder. Beyond a perfectly flat event horizon laid a scene not unlike a painting in a child’s story book, a bird’s eye view looking down onto the forested mountains of Equestria.
With a groan of half seized magnets the repulser drive thummed into life beneath him, just as the outline of the mega factory began to crumble and vanished beneath the silently encroaching oblivion. Jerking the quad around, Tristan slammed his foot down on the accelerator and rocketed towards the slip road leading away from the docklands. No sound reached him bar the crunch of rubble beneath the tires. Yet the reflection in the cracked wing mirrors told the story of sweeping doom. Behind him a wall of rubble and dust was being thrown up before the expanding window. Entire buildings uprooted from their centuries old foundations, experiencing a momentary freefall before being sucked into the colossal shield racing ahead of the emerging world. Beyond the dome the shattered remains of a corrupt civilization shone briefly as they entered the intense magical field, falling to the mountains as a sudden blizzard of whitest snow.
Now there was sound, the shaking of the earth beneath him and the roar of rubble rushing up behind. Cracks overtook the fleeing biker, crisscrossing long the length of the solid concrete road ahead as something black and twisting forced its way out of the long dead earth. Vivid green oozed bubbled up through the gaps like liquid life, spreading and consuming everything it touched. Far to his right an eruption rocked the already unstable ground, part of an old underground rail system lifted into the sky on immense branches, the remnants of its cargo carriages spilling onto the road ahead.
Screaming at the top of his lungs, Tristan swerved wildly as the quad leapt up the crumbling plasta-creat, his panicked reactions juggling between the shifting cracks and cartwhealing transport crates. Sheer luck saved him the poor choice of the highway, the tumbling crates forcing him to veer away as the slip road broke from its moorings. Careering past dock offices, he was treated to a side on view of the towering wave of debris, before he dove through a broken down fence and onto the industrial wastes.
Now not daring to look back, he pushed the quad as hard as it would go, his form a miniscule dot diving below the collapsing highway as the tidal wave of rubble folded down upon the last of the dockland.
Billowing dust engulfed him, stinging his eyes and choking his already burning lungs. Blind to the road ahead, Tristan kept his foot welded to the accelerator, flooring his stead long after the thunder of masonry had died. Blinking against the filth he felt the quad bike jarring against uneven terrain, dozens of potholes vying to be the first to unseat him, beaten to the punch by the end of a vehicle that loomed suddenly out of the murk.
With a cry of alarm he banked hard, barely clipping the edge of the convoy bus.
A feeling of weightlessness over took him as the bike was torn from his grasp.
“…tried to kill us.”
“Not that am’….“
“Keep that….just as…. Didn’t fix your jaw so that you could start questioning my judgment. Now away with you.”
Blue eyes hovered above him.
Bright teal light danced at the edges of his vision, obscuring everything but those eyes brimming with concern and hope, windows into the most wonderful sky of all.
As the light began to fade feeling returned to his aching body, gradually spreading along his spine and out into the very tips of his fingers and toes. Everything hurt; even his fingernails and hair ached, and that didn’t seem physically possible. The banger felt as though he’d been stretched out thinly and squashed back together. Reactively the man groaned and rolled into a fetal position, some small part of him taking note of the ruddy green hooves stepping back from his pained body.
“Careful now,” said the noble voice, something brushed against his ear in a comforting manner “I know it hurts but you’ll have to let things settle for a moment.”
Uncurling slightly the man blinked the dancing stars from his vision until he could make out the teal unicorn smiling above him. Seemingly satisfied that he wasn’t going anywhere, her head swiveled to look at a small group of refugees gathered nearby.
“You keep that bodyguard of yours on a leash too. She is not to attempt to harm him again.”
“No promises there miss.” Snorted a familiar figure near the lead of the pack.
Struggling to his feet, dizziness concealed the warning words that issued from the small equine beside him as he gazed dumbfounded at the same convoy he had helped. Dazed and confused the man stood awkwardly, mouth gawking around dislocated words as he pointed an accusing finger at the short girl whom had clubbed him in the dockyard. By some miracle he was alive, awoken by his intended victims in some kind of short valley, probably a trench left from some previous unfinished construction.
Ignoring the unicorn’s startled demands for him to remain seated, Tristan began to run stiffly towards the scree slopes surrounding the road side. Every muscle in his body protested, every bone screamed for him to stop, all over ruled by a rising dread of what might lay above the rise of discarded earth. Hitting the ground hard as his legs gave out, the young rag-clad man dragged himself the last few inches to the summit and gazed down upon what had once been his home town.
Mega factory Massachusetts was gone, wiped from existence and replaced by a giant glowing hole in reality. Salem had been almost entirely consumed too, the few parts which remained buried under a hundred meter high wall of rubble. Like a spiders web the green oozing he had witnessed eating away the dockland spread slowly across the wreckage. Strange tangled things had erupted right around the border of the bubble, their immense twisting limbs shredding what few buildings had remained standing after the emergence. Growing before his eyes, the alien structures began to sprout lush plumbs, concealing what had been Salem beneath a vibrant canopy of every conceivable shade of green.
Everything was gone. His home, his life, everyone he knew.
Shouts of alarm failed to break through the numb emptiness the ‘ex-banger’ felt sweeping over him. He barely even noticed the world falling away as thin fingers closed around his neck, lifting him away from the dirt.
“Don’t you dare!” Shouted the kindly equine, voice filled with righteous indignation that was quickly quelled by a second more relaxed tone.
“Sorry Miss, but she’s doing what she’s programmed to do.”
Were they talking about him? Tristan didn’t care, not now, his brain was struggling to get a grasp on the magnitude of destruction he was witnessing. The grip on his neck began to tighten, the fingers drawing together in a smooth vice like action. A loud ‘thump’ interrupted their progress. Averting his eyes from the carnage, the man looked down the bony arm to the face that stood in judgment of him. Apparently though, said judgment was being interrupted by the mare who had revived him at the road side, now repeatedly bucking the Revenant in the leg. Such an action would have shattered the bones of most healthy humans, never mind the brittle skeleton of a falave dweller like himself.
“Do Something!” the pony screamed desperately, her strikes having little to no impact on the iron like limbs of the doll woman.
“Ugh, fine!” The owner of the second voice stepped into view, revealing the same girl who had introduced him to the concrete back on the docks.
“Sarah, we’ve healed him, so killing him now would be a waste of resources.”
To his surprise the grip slackened. There was a brief pause in which Tristan could almost hear the numbers crunching through the plastic head in front of him. People like him were no bodies, nothing but a statistic. All the man could hope was that his number would be more useful as part of the machine’s calculations, then as a remainder to be cut away.
Gradually, the vice released him entirely, allowing his feet to gratefully touch the ground.
A mirthful laugh drew his attention away from the woman who would be his doom, back to the girl who had been his headache.
“Guess what, it’s your lucky day!”