Mark sometimes had odd dreams he could never understand or fully remember in his waking hours, but somehow he felt in some deep corner of his mind he was not dreaming the strange sight before him. For one thing he could feel the grass and smell the flowers of the small garden he stood upon. He wished he could dismiss this whole situation and pretend he was dreaming, because its possible consequences were terrifying.
He estimated the garden to be at least 20 feet by 20 feet square with solid steel encasing the whole of it. He looked up and noticed their was a ceiling probably 12 up with light-bulbs placed in a geometric pattern to properly light the entire room. This of course only left him more and more confused while his mind tried and failed to answer the pressing questions. What? Why?When?Who? How?
Focusing his mind he tried to remember what he could that might help him. It was hard and disorienting but he finally managed to recall coming home from work on Friday night from his part-time job at McDonald's at around 8:00. He had played his new Halo 4 game for several hours than gone to bed so he could be rested for his programming class tomorrow.
After another five minutes of wracking his brain he finally accepted that this was his latest memory, and therefor he had no possible explanation for being in the garden lined prisoned cell. Trying to focus on other topics he looked again at the walls hoping to find some kind of door or window he missed before. He didn’t expect them to be unsecured of course, but he might be able to overpower a guard.
It took all of ten seconds to see that no door or window was noticeable on any of the monochrome silver walls. Why would someone build a room with no doors?
“Because it would serve no reasonable purpose. In fact, experience has shown us that adding any doors was a detriment to our work. The subjects would spend all their time beating on them instead of listening to what we were trying to tell them.” The voice was feminine and oddly cheerful considering the nonsense she was saying.
“Did you read my mind? What do you mean subjects?! Who the hell are YOU?!!”
“Yes. I mean all the test subjects used in the Burrowed Time project like yourself. I am Dr. Sarah Heisman former head of the project and currently the pilot of The Advancement. Before you ask yes I will explain all this to you and why you are here.”
Mark opened his mouth to start barking questions anyway, but closed it when a square of light appeared on the wall opposite where he stood. Displayed was a picture of a car wreck. A red Mustang appeared to have hit a white Chevy Malibu in the side. There couldn’t have been much hope for anyone inside the Chevy.While unsettling it was rather confusing. Maybe there was something he was missing.
“It is hard to see from the photo but in the passenger side of the Malibu is the broken body of Mark Vand. Your spinal cord was severely damaged leaving your entire body in a vegetative state. Your brain however was protected by the cars air bag and emerged nearly unscathed other that a minor concussion.Your friend Tom was much more fortunate receiving only fractured bones down his entire right hand side.The drunk driver of the Mustang was ejected through the windshield on impact. He did not make it.”
Everything inside him screamed at him to deny this. It couldn’t be true he couldn’t be here. Only when his backside hit the wall did he know that he’d been backpedaling trying to escape this terrible vision before him. Now that he new what to look for Mark couldn’t stop himself from finding all the little details on the Chevy proving it to be his friend Tom’s car. The Megadeth decal on the side Mark had put there to irritate Tom, the scratch in the windshield from the storm last December, and finally the cheesy racing stripes from the hood to the back Tom had added on a whim. He had to get out of here. Anywhere was better than here with this impossible truth.
“That is why we removed the doors and utilize the steel walls. One poor soul ran for five hours before he exhausted himself. Ugh there has to be a better way to do this.”
How dare the woman just blather on while the world imploded! She sounded like a woman trying to explain physics to a toddler. Irritating bitch. Little did he know she had fallen into Sarah’s benevolent trap. What is the only guaranteed way to get somebody to stop thinking about something depressing or overwhelming? Make them angry. The vital monitors she was reading indicated that Mark was now in the green in all areas.
Letting him rant for a little bit more she prepared the next part of her introductory brief. She just hoped he would be able to take this bit of information more stoically than the last. Bringing up the schematics and mission statement of Burrowed Time grabbed his attention eventually.
“I know there are numerous questions running through your mind, but please let me try to answer some of them in a way you can understand. In the year 2011 A.D. the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA developed a bionic arm capable of reading basic input from the human brain. This in turn opened a new avenue of research. Could the human mind be used to process and control other equipment or machines? Could the brain signals be read and interpreted into download-able code? They believed the answer to be yes to these and many other questions born from the idea of the bionic arm. The many different questions all received their own dedicated research teams and projects. Burrowed Time is dedicated to the second question.”
“ So wait you’re saying you took my brain and downloaded it?! Who gave you permission or does the government not answer to laws anymore?”
“Yes that is exactly what we did, and your mother gave us permission using her power of attorney. Back to what I was saying. On paper the idea of downloading the brain to be difficult but doable. In practice we discovered two unforeseen obstacles. The first was that attempting to reintroduce the information was far more difficult. Each and every brain was different and therefor the format we used to store the brains data had to be custom built per subject. Second was a distinct lack of willing subjects to undergo the procedure. The inability to test our theories nearly derailed the entire project until I saw a news article in the paper about you.
It was a perfect situation for both parties. We would be able to test our theories, and patients like you who previously had no hope would be given an chance at a new life. To be blunt you were scheduled to be taken off of life support one week after we arrived and spoke with your mother. She had sold everything even her house and car to pay for your medical bills. We explained our project and our belief we could one day place you in a new body with a life of your own. She readily agreed to let you be the first test subject in the Burrowed Time project.
As you are standing there listening to this it seems redundant to say it worked perfectly. With proof of concept in our grasp we were able to obtain much more funding and test subjects. Some where cases like yours but many were willing participants.”
Why was it every time he seemed to have a grasp on the situation she pulled the carpet out from under him again? Government test subject? Wait. New body!? Looking down at his body was only human nature, but what he saw quite nearly broke his mind.
He was standing on all fours witch he should have noticed sooner. Where his hands and feet should have been there was hooves. His entire body was covered in bright red fur. Spinning around to use the steel walls as a makeshift mirror conformed what he had started to suspect. He was a midget horse with oddly human facial features. Extending from his forehead was a horn the same color as his fur. His head was crowned with black hair. Turning to the side revealed a tail of the same color.
Just as hyperventilation started to settle in all at once he was calm and decidedly mellow. It was like a switch had been thrown. Sitting down seemed like an awesome idea, but he didn’t know how with his new tail so he continued standing.
“My apologies. I was forced to alter your mood to keep you from hurting yourself. I use this only as a last resort because it builds mistrust between me and the subject. Please understand I will refrain from doing it anymore as long as you don’t force me to.”
The happy feeling was gone like in an instant leaving cold uncertainty in it’s wake. She could alter his mood, read his mind and he was a midget human faced horse. Could this get any worse? He prayed against hope no gods were listening and took that as a challenge.
“I had hoped to forestall that revelation until later in the brief but as the saying goes the cat is out of the bag. The stored data of our minds, I volunteered my self to be a subject upon retirement, was essentially kept in the government basement for nearly five hundred years before the technology existed to give us our promised bodies. The military veterans of the Chinese-American war were prioritized and many were successfully brought back to society. However many saw the creation of artificial human life as an abomination, and was outlawed by the conservatives in power at the time.
The United States was therefor left in a terrible predicament. It had signed legal agreements with its citizens to give them bodies in order to conduct their tests. Bodies they were now legally unable to provide. The answer came from the telescopes searching the skies for life. They had found signs of intelligent life coming from a planet about 250 light years from earth. The test subjects would be put on a ship capable of building the bodies and go to this planet as ambassadors of Earth. As the original head of the project my data was used as the controls for The Advancement. Using satellites and micro droids I have studied the population of the planet and its ecosystem.
There are several sentient species on the planet with the “Ponies” seeming to be at the top. Using personality assessments and resource allocation I determined which subjects would become what species. You were chosen to be a Unicorn based on your intelligence and inquisitiveness. My main objectives at the moment are getting all subjects used to their new bodies, get everyone fluent in the main language prevalent in the planet, and have you study the culture of the society before you attempt first contact.”
“You heard me perfectly clear. When I am satisfied you and the rest of the 33 subjects are capable of fulfilling your role I will send you to the planet. Are there any questions you have before we begin?”
“Several. First off exactly what date is it? What security measures are in place to ensure our safety if these aliens become hostile? If there are 33 subjects why are you in here with me and not having us all together? Finally why is my voice so high and rather feminine?”
“All decent questions. There is hope for this project after all. The date is December 15, 2596 A.D. All Subjects will be given a crash course in basic combat and SEER training with the very latest in techniques and technology; along with an armed escort team all currently in cryogenic freeze awaiting defrost. Being a piece of data on a computer means I can duplicate or splice myself in order to give every subject one on one debriefing and training. Not to mention it’s generally a very bad idea to stick 33 people in the same room and tell them everything they know just went out the window.
Many of the soldiers and marines given back bodies during the initial wave thought we must be Chinese Psy-ops trying to gain intelligence. The destruction was catastrophic but not nearly as much so as the casualty count. Poor scientists trying to serve the same brave souls who killed them. The conservatives used the incident to cement their case against the project saying the procedure left the war fighters vicious and unable to tell reality from fiction.”
Mark waited for a couple minutes for his last question to be answered to no avail. Exploring this new body seemed a better use of his time then conversing with disembodied voices anyway so he turned to face the wall behind him. Once again he saw the strange face that was now his, but with a much calmer attitude. Until he started noticing a peculiar trend in his facial features.
His eyes were rather large for the face they occupied with the irises being a bright blue. What got his attention however were the long eyelashes protruding from them. There was no other way to describe them besides feminine. His snout was fairly short and rounded and he couldn’t make out any kind of chin.For the first time he tested the dexterity of his for-hooves by picking one up and trying to reach his manhood. The hoof was almost as flexible and useful as his arm had been minus the hands of course. When he reached the spot where a certain protuberance should have been there was now an unfamiliar crevice in its place. He was a she.
“Doctor I’m gonna need you ta do whatever it was you did last time.”
Immediately he began feeling calm and collected. “Thank you for that. Now could you tell me why I’m a mare instead of a stallion?”
“Before being place in The Advancement all subjects had their memories thoroughly examined by a psychologist for any possible mental disorders or criminal activity to prevent mankind's first contact with an alien species to be tainted. Your doctor diagnosed you with gender dis-identity disorder. You have secretly longed to be female for most of your life, but suppressed both this desire and your bi-sexuality unhealthily. The society we both lived in treated people like you negatively so you in turn treated yourself negatively.
When the diagnosis was made the doctor stated he would only sign off on your inclusion if you were made female and forced to confront your repressed desires. The government promised it would be so and here you are. To be honest in the three months I’ve been in orbit studying the ponies I’ve come to understand some of the features they find attractive in mares and designed your body around that.”
“I am not a faggot and you and your entire project can go fuck yourselves! I’m not lifting a finger to help people who make up lies to cover their mistakes!” While he yelled at the doctor his own mind railed at him; showering him with memories repressed and purposefully forgotten. All the times he had found himself standing in the women's clothing aisle and wishing he could wear the beautiful clothing. All the self hatred he had felt after checking out other guys. It was all true and he knew it.
“I had nearly 40 years of preparation before I had my mind stored. The concussion from the crash removed nearly a full day from your memories so the last one you have is going to bed. I cannot and will not try to say I understand what your going through, but please understand I will help you in whatever way I can. When your ready to begin learning all you need do is say so. Untill then I will leave you to come to grips with this new reality. You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for. Never forget that.”
With that the voice was gone and Mark new he was alone. Thinking about it, Mark was no longer a viable name considering he was now a mare. He needed a new name that fit his new life. He also needed to come to grips with the situation as the doctor had said. Mark was no longer a man and needed to stop thinking of himself as such. Deciding that saying it aloud would probably help he took a long breath and stated clearly,
“I am a mare, I am bi-sexual, and I love myself for myself not what I believe I should be.” For the first time in her life she actually meant those words. The entire world seemed lighter and brighter somehow. When she had gone to bed she had been just another guy in college who hated himself without even really realizing it. Now she was an ambassador for humanity circling a foreign planet in a costume made body. All seemed to be perfect except for one thing. She needed a new name for her new life.
“Doctor I need a new name could you help me pick one please?”
“It would be my honor. What do you need me to do?” The doctors tone changed for the first time in the entire conversation. Before it had been a forced and grating cheer meant to try and force cheerfulness from the subject. Now it was a genuine cheer that did much to bolster the flagging courage of the newly made pony.
“Doctor I would like to know is a common name in the native society. It seems appropriate that My new name reflects my new life.”
“Well to be honest most of the names of seen are a descriptor of the pony themselves. Yesterday I observed a pony named Carrot Top that grows and sells carrots for example. I can’t tell if names are given after a pony finds their chosen path or the parents are all oddly gifted with premonition.”
“Well I guess that means I’m gonna have to find my own path. Let’s see what am I good at... computers! I was working on a programming degree when this happened so I guess I’ll continue, but what kinda feminine name can you make out of programing?”
“How about Livewire? I think it sounds pretty bad ass while being gender neutral.”
“I love it! My name is Livewire. That really is bad ass!” While she was getting excited over her new name a bright light flared on her rear end. Turning quickly she saw a picture on her butt of a laptop with binary code on its screen. What the hell is that was all she could manage to think.
“Well that throws most of my theories of their societal structure out the window. I had thought the markings on the flank where a tribal style tattoo place on adults to show their place in the tribe. Apparently some on seen force places the mark on the ponies when they’ve found their place. This bares intense observation before we possibly breach some kind of cultural taboo. Ugh my head hurts thinking about it.”
Livewire was too shocked to believe what had just happened. Using her left fore hoof she rubbed the marking on her flank to see if it would come off. It didn’t. One moment it was a blank flank then the next moment it was tattooed almost like magic. Wait a moment. She was a unicorn with the horn to prove it. Didn’t all the stories of unicorns all have magic of some kind in them? Did she have magic?
“I wouldn’t have called it magic till seeing your intsa-tattoo, but all unicorns appear to have some form of telekinetic ability with some displaying abilities such as teleportation. Though perhaps I might have to broaden my spectrum after that display. It defies all known laws of physics. If they have that kind of ability in every pony than we may just be in for a much different adventure than I had anticipated. Welcome to the future Livewire you’re gonna be just fine.”