Kevin toyed with his mug, filled though it was with cold tea. Something to calm the nerves, they had said. He had been startled to wake up in a makeshift bed in the conversion room, even more startled to find himself unchanged from the human he was before. Trixiebelle had mentioned something about 'reporting' this to someone or other, the potion 'rejecting' him. He had not found the strength to correct that assumption. He had of course heard of the 'dream' the concoction gave new converts. He was expecting it to go exactly as others had said theirs did but something was different in his.
Absently, he toyed with the dial on the highly advanced yet all too useless piece of equipment. The radio, borrowed from one of the newly converted, hissed. Static, static, that piercing whine of high-speed data transfer. He smiled. At least the AIs were keeping busy. Plotting humanity's take over. Actually, giving the world to the AIs might not be such a bad idea. Can't do worse than his own species had, he'd wager.
He thought back over his last week, what he had supposed was his last week as a human. How he had struggled with whether he was going to go through with it. How he had wondered about the reasons behind the whole affair. In the end, he had surrendered to the reality of the situation. Humanity was, for the most part, extinct. Not in full but now there were so few of them left, their way of life for the last thousand years, with all it's change and difference, was dead. They were dead. He had finally put aside his concern over the why of the process. Something good done for the wrong reasons was better than something wrong done for the right ones. Despite that, this new, well, problem was a more difficult one. One that went deeper than reason.
A knock called his attention to the here and now.
“Come in, oh wait.” He stood and knocked the privacy block from the door, spinning it aside and switching off the radio's whine. He sat back down to allow whoever was on the other side room enough to enter. “Ok, come on in.” A white muzzle appeared, a slight smile on the lips.
“Are you decent?” A female, much taller than the other ponies he had seen. Her voice, it was angelic but tinged with a hint of humor. He glanced down at his nudity, curious.
“Does human nudity offend ponies now?” The large white head of a stately mare popped through the crack, soon followed by the rest of her rather large, for a pony, body. Her pink eyes had a hint of mirth in them.
“No, but unchanged humans seem to have issues with it themselves. I don't like to make anyone nervous.” Behind her Kevin could see a few Pegasus guards in bright golden armor take up station at his door. They didn't pay him any heed. “So, Kevin, how are you feeling?”
He looked up at the strangely tall and, well, regal mare. “You have me at a disadvantage, ma'am. You know me but I'm afraid I don't know you.” She looked down at him, the horn in her head glimmering in even this artificial light.
“Yes you do, Kevin. We've met before, not too long ago now. Me and my sister.” She nodded behind her, a smaller form having entered his room quietly. She was as dark as her sister was bright, as silent and, well, sullen as the brighter mare was was cheerful. That was when he noticed the wings, kept close to their bodies to prevent any unneeded banging about in the close room. Winged Unicorns? There was only one pair of those.
“My apologies, princesses. You are correct, I do know of you. But what is this . . .” Kevin sighed as the realization sunk in. “So the dream was real.” The pair of Allicorns nodded. “This . . . complicates things.”
Luna, the darker of the Princesses, sighed herself. “We've never had anyone reject the gift before.” Kevin held up his hand before she could continue.
“I didn't reject the gift, per se. I rejected you taking, eh, IT away.” Luna looked up at her sister, a mask of confusion marring her beautiful form. “Surely you know what I speak of?”
“She does not, Kevin. I do, however.” Celestia looked down at her younger sister, her eyes shining with love and trepidation. With worry. “I wouldn't, couldn't let my sister help with that part. It would hurt too much.” Luna, confused, looked between her sister and the dark human sitting on the bed. She seemed lost.
“Celestia, what are you talking about? I thought you trusted me.” The words contained more hurt than anything Kevin had ever heard before. More confusion, more pain. More betrayal. Celestia's gasp made it clear that it was nearly the case with her as well, or nearly so.
“Oh no, Luna! No no no, I DO trust you! I wanted to protect you, to protect you from the hurt.” She glanced at Kevin before turning back to her now teary eyed sister. “I-I'm sorry Luna. I should have explained it to you. I shouldn't have kept it a secret.” She knelt, her head bowed. “I just couldn't see you hurt. Please, I couldn't lose you again.”
Luna, her face now wet with tears shook her head. “Sister, what is this thing that you must protect me from, then? What is this thing that hurts so much?”
“Hate.” Kevin's voice seemed too deep in the room, too drastic a difference from the two sister's lilting and angelic voices. Luna turned to look at him, Celestia turned away. “And fear. And anger. And not just any hate or fear or anger, pure unrelenting and burning. A hatred that burns so hot, it is cold. A hatred with no thought or reason. A fear based on stupidity and ignorance. An anger born of these two. Most who turn, I take it, never feel it dragging them. They are hopeful for a new life, for something better.” He looked away. “I didn't have that cushion.”
Luna looked at her sister, her eyes now sad but no longer hurt. “Sister.” She reached her hand - no, hoof – out and rose Celestia's face to hers. “I've felt those before, sister.” Her sister nodded.
Celestia's voice was probably meant not to be heard by him but in such a small room it carried well. “I couldn't lose you again, Luna. Not again. Not so soon.” She looked at her sister, Luna's eyes dark and sad but understanding.
“I'm not going to let it control me anymore, sister. I-I couldn't lose you either. Not again. Not for that long.” She too knelt, her long neck wrapping tenderly around Celestia's. They lay that way for a good amount of time. Kevin, despite his burning curiosity, did not feel it was right to interrupt.
After a time, they collected themselves and stood. Kevin smiled, smirked really, and tilted his head at the pair. “So, Princesses. Now comes the great thousand dollar question. Er, thousand bit question.” The two Alicorns looked at the nude man sitting a bare foot away from them. “Why?”
They knew what he was asking. Luna, having only just found out about this Hurt her sister took from the humans, could not answer. Celestia simply did not know how.
“Ponies are not like humans and for more than the reasons that are obvious.” Celestia, Kevin and Luna, with royal guard in tow, had relocated to the park. Kevin, due to human-based decency laws, had borrowed a white bathrobe from one of the newly arrived converts. The two Princesses went as was natural for them.
They had retreated to the overlook, where he had first posed the question to Trixiebelle a week ago. Soon it would have a reputation of being the place to ask the questions that all sentients struggle with. The trip had been as quiet as all the others though there were now triple the numbers involved. It was so odd seeing the ponies, who otherwise would walk about without a care in the world, suddenly duck and dodge out of the royal procession's way. Kevin had found it almost vulgar but, he supposed, it was similar to a presidential procession. It was exactly the same.
He found Celestia staring at him, a slight grin on her face. She must have been waiting for some sort of response. He shrugged, smirking. She cocked an eye at him but continued.
“All species have a sort of, well, empathetic net. Magic heightens that, that's one of the reasons ponykind are so peaceful to each other. We feel more fully each others pain. It's not the psionics your fiction writers hoped for but it serves us well enough.” Celestia's ear twitched, a fly buzzing away angrily from his perch on it. Luna, seated a few feet away under one of the oaks, smiled at her sister's slight, er, ponyity? Though there was a slight sadness in her mirth, etched with lines of even older sadness enhancing it. Kevin supposed the hurt from their earlier conversation was still too young for proper conciliation, along with whatever betrayal had happened between the mares.
Celestia shock her head, another fly buzzing angrily around her. “Equestria has fewer flies, I swear.” She stood from where she sat, taking a moment from her explanation to attempt a new position. Her frown indicated she knew it was fruitless. “Anyway, the empathetic network works in the here-and-now but it extends. All old hurts, all old pains. They can transmit still. I would not have new converts acting like walking balls of pain to tear at the souls of my people, Kevin. Let us take the old pain away.”
Kevin smiled sadly. “70 million people.”
Luna perked up. “We've converted far more than that by now.” She looked between the sadly smiling human and her sister, with her lowered head, again confused. She sighed. “That's not what you meant.”
“World War Two. Around 70 million people died in that war. Six years.” Kevin looked up, first at the shocked, no, appalled Luna and then her sad sister. “True, the history of it will not be lost. But the impact, that will be. Can you imagine? The fact Auschwitz existed will be there. But I remember the first time I entered there. Where over one million humans, innocent civilians and children, were snuffed out of existence? One million. What does that number even mean?”
“How in the name of all that is good could you want to hold on to anything like that?” Luna, her voice barely a whisper, her face a mask of incredulity, could barely speak.
“It's not just that, Princess.” Kevin turned his sad, dark eyes to the darker sister, her relaxed stance now a shivering near-cower. He had no pride in what he said, but neither did he seem to despise it. It was fact. Nothing more. His voice, his whole body, relayed that truth. He sounded cold. “I've traced what little of my ancestry I could. My several times removed great grandmother was brought to this continent as a slave, one of several hundred on board a Dutch slave ship.
“She was captured in a raid, I think. One of the thousands of inter-tribal wars that wracked Africa for so long. A black man capturing a black woman and her family to sell to the white men on the coast. She was bought, packed into a ship with so many others she could not even stand and then left to rot for weeks at sea. Dozens died, their bodies either left to the elements or tossed overboard like so much garbage.”
Luna, shrunk from this . . .thing. This man thing, with so much anger. So much . . . so much sorrow in his eyes. But his voice was unnatural. It was still cold. These were facts, his voice said. These are emotions, his eyes replied, my history.
Kevin noticed her movement. A goddess, shrinking from a man. Had it been any other reason, he might have found it humorous. He lowered his head for a moment. “I'm sorry. This is a little, ah, closer to home for me.” He raised his head, again smiling that sad smile. “Not that it was any worse than the Holocaust. Just a bit more personal, you see.”
Luna blinked, her voice taken by his eyes. How they were a moment ago. A movement caught her eye, the unconscious flick of a mare's ear as it dislodged another of the pests from its perch. Celestia, watching the human very closely. Her eyes seemed . . . hard. Luna shivered, wishing she could retreat from both of these suddenly cold beings. The last time she had seen her sister like that was just over a thousand years ago.
Kevin noticed the dark mare's eyes and glanced at Celestia. The angel had a sword. “Please, Princess. I mean neither you nor your sister harm. I doubt I'd be able to anyway, but I truly mean it. Emotions run high when you, ah, identify with a historical wrongdoing.” The bright princess, her eyes still burning like the hardest of diamonds, slowly nodded.
“But regardless. Throughout history, these things have happened. For every Ghandi, a Hitler. For every Teresa, a Pol Pot. For every Jesus, Caligula.” He sighed. “We seem to be doubling up on some of them. Stalin. Nero.”
“All the more reason to take it from you. You scare me, human. All of you.” Luna gasped at such an admission from her sister. Even Nightmare Moon didn't scare her. Upset, yes. Saddened, very much so. But never once could she make her sister frightened. “We must break this cycle of hatred and violence.” The human, Kevin, simply nodded.
“There is another side to that, though. A side I don't think you've thought of, Princess.”
“That would be . . . ?” Celestia's voice was even, calm. Curious, but distant. Controlled. Luna felt like an observer stuck between two . . . somethings, she didn't know what. But Kevin was only a man. A human.
“What about the victims? 1 million deaths is a number. A wall of photos is just that. But what about the true history? The pain, yes the pain, it tells it's own story. A story of a young black woman on a bus ride to protest for equality for her people, being hauled off and beaten because of hate. The story of a little Jewish girl hiding in an attic for years, only to be killed just months before she could be rescued. The facts of these stories will exist but they will be distant. Un . . . unfelt.”
Celestia blinked, taken aback by that thought.
“They deserve a voice, Princess. A voice beyond the cold cement walls of a decaying building in the middle of the Polish plains, or a few scattered monuments to decades of struggle. Or a tower of skulls in the Cambodian jungle. They deserve to be remembered, they deserve to have their pain remembered, their sacrifice remembered.”
“What will you do now?” Trixiebelle couldn't hide the concern in her voice. Not only was her Center the first to have a rejected human but it was one she had befriended. One she had hoped would follow her to Equestria as a friend, one that might even, one day . . . she squashed that thought. The writhing form of the human on the conversion chamber's floor had seen to the death of that idle day dream. She had met him only twice, she reasoned, not enough time to really get to know anypo -no, anyone. And every time she repeated that thought to herself, her heart would break just a bit more.
Kevin looked at his equine friend, his face strangely content. Her face held concern, true. It would have, he supposed. But it held something more. Hurt. A pain that he had seen before. A pain he had felt before. A pain he discovered he shared. He knelt, taking her face in his hands.
“Oh, my little pony. We humans are adaptable creatures. If one plan fails us, we try others until we get the result we're looking for.” He smiled. “Did you ever come up with an answer to my question?”
Trixiebelle blinked. “What ques-oh. Why?” Kevin nodded. “Because we needed your genome mapped out. The Princesses never thought you humans would ever finish that project so, when you finally did, they were quiet surprised. They had to rush some preparations to get out here as soon as they could.” She smiled, his face stunned. “They hate to see creatures in pain.”
Kevin stood there, a mare's face in his hands, and burst out laughing. Trixiebelle jerked back a bit, startled. “Oh Trixiebelle. Oh, that is the best news I've heard today.” He looked at her with the happiest eyes she had ever seen on his face.
“If you have your answer, why don't we try again?” She knew she was getting her hopes up. She knew there was something deeper than the 'why' he had asked her a week and a half ago, something that had happened between him and the Princesses. Something that sent the royal pair off with a profound sadness and now was sending her friend, her . . . friend with some form of wild, mad contentedness. It was unnatural for a human.
Kevin thought a bare second on his response. He knew what it was and, had you described it to him a bare four years ago, he would have recommended his own institutionalization. But the world had changed much in four years and things that were mad once were sane now. He had only to . . .
Trixiebelle had never really been kissed. She had her 'experimentations,' yes, but this . . . and such a strange feeling, to not be kissing a muzzle. Could he taste the simple hay lunch she had? Humans didn't like hay, she knew she should have gone with the salad . . . what would her mother think? What about her father? Did the security cameras go out . . . was that a Pegasus patrol? Would they call her a 'skinlover?' Above all, why didn't she give a horsefeather?
“I'll write once I've saved humanity from extinction. Don't go anywhere, or have your mail forwarded. I'm holding you to trying it out again. The potion, I mean. I just need to get some things settled. And you know what?”
“I think I like hay.”
Thanks a ton to Midnight and Pride at Ponychan for their help, as well as all the other bronies who helped to proof read and correct this thing. Thanks to Equestria Daily for introducing me to MLP fanfics, and for inspiring me to finish the only fanfic I've ever have. I've tried before but, well, yeah. Fanfics. Thanks to Ponychan itself for providing me a way of dumping this sorry thing on unsuspecting ponyfolk. Thanks to Elvis for . . . er, actually, thanks to you. For reading it. And this overly long ending shpeal. I could wish for more in the execution but that ending, it surprised even me. I wish I had more to offer but I'm spent on this tale. For now anyway.
Authors final thoughts: Yeah, there's the misanthropy we all know and love. I will admit, it seeped into this as well. Again, I'd try to offer some reason or excuse but sometimes, we all just want to watch the whole world die. This was my 'watching it die of cancer.' Well, probably not cancer. More like ... lupus. And I get to be a pony so NYAH. Anyway, things happen. Looking back, would I write the same story now?
Am I glad I wrote this story? Hell yes. It raised some interesting points I felt that should have been addressed in other, more ... coherent stories. In fact, re-reading it I can see the seed of my unease with the whole TCB concept. But in this story, I stuck to the trope firmly. Humanity was bolting for the door and no one was asking questions. I hate that, so I had some guy ask some questions. I've moved away from this sort of thing, though. Slightly. I still do fic-ceptions, a fanfic of a fanfic. But I don't only do fic-ceptions.