Celestia stared down into her swirling cup of mocha with a thoughtful glare. It was a mocha alright, but yet again it was missing that special something. She’d asked for the baristas to make it with whipped cream on top, with chocolate drizzle, with caramel, with different beans, with extra cream. Nothing seemed to make this cup of coffee stand out. It was just… there.
It had been one month since she’d decreed that a chain of coffee places should be opened up throughout Canterlot. She’d found she was tired with making her own in the morning just after she raised the sun. She wanted special coffee, coffee that she couldn’t just whisk up at home. It needed to have that certain something, that artisanal quality that made it really pop off your tastebuds and sing warm songs of comfort on its way down your throat. She’d thought that hiring her own staff and opening her own small chain was just what the sleepy, caffeine-addicted doctor ordered.
It seemed now that she had been wrong.
She let out a hefty sigh as she sat alone in the small cafe. All the customers and employees had gone home for the day, which was probably for the best. None of the ponies she’d managed to hire were working out. They weren’t terrible, at least not most of them, but they weren’t good enough to really wow her. Other customers also seemed to be left annoyed and let down at the simple and flavorless offerings of her coffee places. She needed to make a change. But what?
As she sat there, stroking her chin thoughtfully, an idea occurred to her. She sat bolt upright, suddenly, a smile quickly spreading over her expression. Then, she briefly shut her eyes, and her horn began to glow.
“Cup that’s full of coffee grounds,” she chanted slowly. “Show me the best barista around!”
With that, the cup of mocha in front of her began to glow. The surface swirled, as if fresh cream was being poured into it, and slowly it began to form shapes. The shapes began to move of their own accord, and even began to interact with a detailed environment around them. Before long, the image was crystal clear, like looking at a tiny, coffee-shaded TV screen. As Celestia opened her eyes to look down into the cup, one of the shapes on the screen began to speak.
“Hey, did you hear me?” a female voice shouted. “One tall, non-Fat latte with caramel drizzle!”
The view in the mug panned away from a human girl wearing a green visor, over an interesting logo featuring a mermaid with two tails. The name written in the circle around it was “Starbucks.” Celeste quietly damned herself for not thinking up a name like that. It was so much better than ‘Horse Beans.’
The view in the cup panned further over to feature on a male human, this one looking sternly at a large metallic machine, the likes of which she’d never spotted before. His hands were flying across the device, pulling and pushing things in some magical order, until warm brown liquid began to fill a very generous looking cup.
“Yeah yeah,” he said, voice mildly annoyed, “I heard you. Coming right up.”
Celestia watched in awe as he continued to work on the drink, even going so far as to carefully draw a hatchwork across the top in gooey caramel. Then, as if he’d done it a million times before, he transported the practically glowing cup over to the counter, and into the waiting hands of a customer. The young lady who’d ordered the drink took a deep, hearty sip, then let out a soft moan that was nearly sexual in nature.
“Oh my Goooood…” she said, voice nasally. “It’s like, totally, the beeeeeest.”
“You’re welcome,” the male human said flatly.
Celestia sat back and allowed the image in her coffee to fade. She again resumed scratching her chin. What she’d just seen proved that she’d been looking at everything wrong up until now. She’d picked the wrong name, the wrong machines, and definitely the wrong staff! She had to have this human as her staff, had to have this layout and design. Only then could she have a proper, delicious cup of unique coffee, just like those humans. But how?
All at once, the solution hit her, and her smile broadened to evil-genius proportions. She knew it would take a lot of magic, and that she’d have to be very careful with how she played everything. But if she did it right, she’d soon be the most famous coffee chain owner in all of Equestria.
Celestia lowered her head, and her horn once-more began to glow…
“Anon, are you done with that triple, venti, soy, no foam latte yet?” your manager calls from the front.
This fucking job. You suppress the urge to let out a moan, and instead focus on your task at hand. No foam, huh? Who the fuck doesn’t like a little foam with their coffee, it’s just a fun texture! If you could even really call this proper coffee. At least this is your last order of the day, you remind yourself. Just get it done, finish out the week, get paid, go home, and get drunk. Like every weekend.
You finish up the drink and bring it to the front, where another teenybopper customer is practically wetting themselves with excitement. Before the custom cup can even touch the counter, she snatches it out of your hands and takes such a big drink you’re pretty sure she’ll burn her tongue. Instead, she lets out a heady sigh, and her eyelids flutter with ecstasy.
“S-so… g-good…” she stutters out breathlessly.
“You’re welcome,” you say, just like you’re supposed to.
If only you could make girls talk like this in the bedroom.
As she practically skips away, your manager, Karen, gives you a side glance.
“Would it kill you to be more enthusiastic?” she says, as she moves to lock the front door.
“Probably,” you say with a shrug.
“The only reason they keep you on is because you can make an orgasmically good cup of coffee,” she grumbles. Then, as she approaches the front of the cafe, “Know what? You can lock up tonight. I have to go pick up my cat from daycare.”
You’re about to protest, but she slips out the door before you can manage it. Damn, foiled by fur babies again! You snarl at the front door in defiance, then slump back into a small chair you set up behind the counter, just for when your legs get a little too tired. You hate this job. You hate this horrible little post-college life you’ve settled into. It’s paying the bills, barely, but your Art History Bachelor’s wasn’t intended for this kind of work. And no, making pictures in the foam of coffee doesn’t count as using your degree.
You suddenly feel very tired, very worn out by your day. You know you should close up and get home, but after being surrounded by, and pumped full of (hey, those energy packets don’t taste too bad), so much caffeine today, you’re completely sapped of energy. Maybe a short nap, just a little one, and then you can get up and get going again. Just a little nap, a tiny one… just… a little…
You shut your eyes, just for an instant. Then, they flicker open once more, and everything has changed.
Around you, it’s bright, morning daylight rather than evening. The cafe is decorated with bright, smiling pictures of cartoon horses drinking coffee, and the line waiting outside seems to be made up of… are those ponies? The equipment behind the counter seems to be the same, and there are fresh pastries in the display case. But where Karen usually stands is a white mare with freckles, and visibly uncomfortable braces. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and you can’t believe you just made that pun with your own brain, and she glances back at you in open annoyance. Maybe she has more in common with Karen after all.
“Caramel Mocha,” she snaps, “I said are you ready to open up?”
You leap to your feet, ready to ask what the fuck is going on here and figure out why that’s a talking horse being so rude to you. Except… you don’t. Jump to your feet, that is. Instead, you look down to find yourself standing wobbly on four large, brown hooves. Wait… are you…
You stumble and practically crawl your way over to the metallic espresso maker, and stare into the reflection. There, you find a light, creamy brown colored pony staring back. Your eyes are large and amber in color, and you have long dark eyelashes. Your mane is also pulled back, and a green visor goes across your forehead. The logo on it is a unicorn’s head, eyes shut and mane flowing. The words around the outside read “Sunbucks.”
“What the fuck!” you cry, and find that a female voice echoes from your vocal cords.
Are… are you a horse? A female horse? And… why does this all feel so natural? So right?
Before you can have a chance to make sense of any of this, you hear the white unicorn speak again.
“Mocha,” she whines. “We gotta open up! Come on, get with it, and don’t swear in front of the customers!”
You turn to say something to her, but you see that she’s already magically unlocking the front door. In an almost avalanche of fur and hooves, ponies come pouring into Sunbucks. What’s worse, is you’re pretty sure they’re already shouting their orders. Without hesitation, the white unicorn smiles at one and clears her throat.
“Welcome to Sunbucks, can I take your order?” Scarcely have the words left her mouth before she turns to you and gives a barking shout. “Grande, iced, sugar-free, vanilla latte with soy milk!”
You stand there, frozen, as a realization hits you. This is a dream. That’s all this is, you’re asleep and having a weird coffee-fueled dream! That’s the only way this makes any sense!
“MOCHA!” the white unicorn snaps.
You shudder, and your weird little barista brain springs into action.
“O-oh, right,” you say, unsettled by how feminine you sound.
Unsteady on your hooves, you teeter and stumble over to collect a cup. Your front hooves lack all the dexterity of your usual fingers, and you grit your teeth in frustration as you try to get the machines to do their jobs.
“Stupid fucking thing,” you mutter.
“Don’t swear!” the unicorn hisses at you.
As usual, you hold back a groan as you focus on the task at… hoof. You complete the drink, pouring it over ice before serving it to the customer. They take a quick drink, and sigh as usual.
“You’re welcome,” you try to say flatly, but your girly girly pony voice comes out like you’re just the most excited creature that ever lived.
Before you have time to figure that out, the unicorn shouts again.
“Non-fat frappuccino with extra whipped cream and chocolate sauce!”
You make the drink, and it instantly becomes easier to use your newfound pony body.
“Grande, quad, nonfat, one-pump, no-whip mocha!”
You make the drink. You even find you’re liking the way your hips move as you step quickly between machines.
“Caramel macchiato, venti, skim, extra shot, extra hot, extra whip!
You make the drink, and now you find you’re almost smiling. Why does this feel so good to you, so much more rewarding than usual? It’s almost like something is forcing you to be happy, that you can’t help grinning as you present each drink to the customer.
You go on like that for hours, but time flies by as you become more and more expert in using your pony body to make coffee. Now, the vague sex-noises of your satisfied customers makes you feel warm inside, and even the barking orders from the unicorn don’t bother you. As far as dreams go, it’s not really a bad one, and you’re almost sad when your long work day ends, and the unicorn magically locks the front door. You both let out a sigh of a day well-worked, and turn to each other.
“Nice work today, Caramel Mocha,” she says with an appreciative smile.
“Likewise,” you say, finding yourself smiling.
“Now,” she says, clapping her front hooves together. “You just gotta sign some paperwork to get your paycheck, mkay?”
A scroll and quill magically appear, hovering in the air in front of you. You start to read the paperwork, as you always do like the paranoid time-waster you are, but decide to shrug it off this time. What does it matter, it’s a dream, right? And money is money, even if it’s horse money.
You sign on the dotted line, and the scroll vanishes once more. The unicorn in front of you smiles then, almost… sinisterly? That should be concerning but...
But… you don’t care. You can’t care. You know you should be afraid, but you’re not that either. You’re not uncomfortable, you’re not worried, even if some deep instinctual part of you is in full screaming panic mode right now. You’re just… okay with this. Isn’t this how you’ve always been, anyway? Isn’t this who you’re supposed to be? Aren’t you… Caramel Mocha?
Celestia lit up her horn with a magic burst, and allowed herself to transform back to her true shape. She looked around at her handiwork, as the Starbucks she’d transported here, with a few changes of course to make it more her style. It looked official, the perfect place to bring in all the hip ponies and really put her cafe on the map! Then, she glanced at her smiling new employee.
Maybe it was a dirty trick, making him sign away his old life, but once he’d forgotten his past entirely she knew he’d be happy there. It was for the good of coffee in her realm, so it was a noble cause. Besides, he hadn’t seemed that happy in his old life anyway, and she could already see recognition of what had been done to him fading from his expression. But would he really just accept this new reality without question? Could it really be this easy?
“Caramel Mocha,” she said regally, “Do you know who I am?”
The other pony smiled.
“Yes of course, Princess!” she said brightly. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
Celestia shut her eyes in pure delight that he plan had worked, and breathed in a sigh of relief.
“That would be wonderful,” she said dreamily. “Can I have a venti matcha green tea frappuccino made with soy milk, chips, and peppermint?”
The new mare in front of her never wavered in her smile. Nor did she even blink.
“Of course, Princess!” she said. “I live to serve.”