Twilight Sparkle looked over the lines of humans, bound in the telekinetic grips of several dozen unicorns. It was hard to hold back tears. These murderers of the so-called “Human Liberation Front” had killed so many ponies before they were captured. Bodies still littered the field. But she knew that it was the duty of every pony to help those who needed it, even if those they helped didn’t realize that they needed it, even if they resisted it.
She gave a small nod, and unicorn Guardsponies worked their way down the rows of humans, administering the life-giving Ponification Serum – or “Potion,” as it was often called. Still the humans struggled, turning red-faced with their fruitless attempts to break free. They all tried to prevent the Potion from being poured down their throats; some even spat it back in the Guardsponies’ faces. Not that it prevented the change. Even the smallest drop of Potion on human skin could transform a hateful murderer into a friendly pony. But the process was apparently quite painful. The process could be sped up and the pain reduced by increasing the quantity of Potion and ingesting it instead of having it splashed on the skin, so the ponies did their best to meet both of those specifications. Unlike the humans, ponies didn’t enjoy causing pain.
Twilight joined the Guardsponies in their task. It was only right for the Princess of Friendship to have an active role in introducing the concept to new ponies – aside from just having led the research team that had developed the Potion, of course. Just before she was about to pry open the mouth of one of the humans, he opened it voluntarily. “Wait!” he shouted. “Can I at least say something before you change me?”
Twilight sighed, but lowered the flask of Potion. “Look, if this is going to be a rant about how I’m worse than Mengele, Princess Celestia’s worse than Hitler, and all ponies are worse than Nazis; or some crazy talk that achieving perfection isn’t worth anything if you don’t have to struggle for it or that it’s humanity’s flaws that make it so great; or a long string of profanity; then trust me – I’ve heard it all before.”
The human shook his head. “No,” he replied. “I want to say something you’ve probably never heard from someone like me. I want to say… thank you.”
She was so startled, her telekinesis almost gave out. “Wha–? You’re thanking me? You want to become a pony? I mean, I’m happy and all, but… why the buck did you join the H.L.F.?!”
He chuckled. “You misunderstand me. I don’t want to thank you for that. You see, back before you showed up, my life was pretty shit. I grew up with an absent father and an abusive, alcoholic mother. I tried my damnedest to do well in school, but I was still only average. I couldn’t go to college – couldn’t afford it – so I ended up hauling garbage for a living. I only ever heard from my mom when she wanted money.
“It hurt. It hurt a lot.
“I ended up turning to drugs to make the pain go away. But I couldn’t afford them on the salary of a garbageman, so I mugged people. I held innocent people at knife-point and took their hard-earned money so I could get my fix. Eventually, I got caught. I went to jail. While there, I went clean. A better person came out of my cell than went in it. But my improved morals didn't matter. I was a convicted felon. Nobody wanted to hire me. I lost my shitty little apartment and had to sleep on the streets. I went back to drugs, robbed more people. I was stuck.
“And then you showed up.
“Everyone heard your speeches. All of us learned of this wonderful land called ‘Equestria’ and wished we could go there. And when you unveiled the potion, most of my friends went for it. I didn’t. I didn’t believe anyone could be that kind and selfless. I figured it had to be a trick. After the mental effects came to light, I was even more certain that everyone is a monster, that there’s no such thing as a “good person” – or pony, for that matter.
“Then we discovered the Barrier was expanding. When the nukes failed to break it, I realized I was going to die. I’d always known that, of course, but now the Grim Reaper was staring me in the face. As I was sitting in a filthy alley, thinking about how utterly fucked I was, some of your ponies came down the street, putting up your latest posters. The ones with what’s-her-face, the red pegasus. Strawberry Jam, or something like that. You know that one?”
Twilight grimaced, but nodded. She certainly did. She’d always hated that line of advertising, but the PR department had insisted that it would drastically increase the rate of conversions. It wasn’t a point in humanity’s favor that the PR ponies were right.
The human continued. “Yeah, so I was looking at that poster, and I thought, ‘You know what? I’m gonna stop being me no matter what I do. Might as well get some happiness out of the deal.’ And then the craziest thing happened.
“I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“I tensed, thinking I was about to get my head smashed into the wall. But it was a gentle hand, not a gripping one. I turned around, and I saw a clean-shaven guy in a business suit looking at me. No way would I have expected to see somewhere like that in a place like my slums. Definitely not walking up to me. People like that were marks, not friends.
“But he smiled at me. It was a thin smile. His eyes were sad, but seemed like he was trying to stay strong. I knew that feeling. He asked me, ‘You thinking of making the switch?’
“‘Yeah,’ I told him. ‘What the fuck’s it matter to you?’ I’d heard stories of the Human Liberation Front, how they were terrorists, blowing up Conversion Bureaus in suicide bombings and assassinating people who tried to go to them, calling pony supporters ‘species traitors.’ I figured he was one of ’em, that I was about to get gutshot. Not that I really cared at that point.
“But he just said, ‘Why?’
“I gotta admit, I laughed at that. ‘Why the hell not?’ I replied. ‘I’m living on the streets and we’re all about to die. What’ve I got to lose?’
“‘Your humanity,’ he said.
“I laughed again. ‘Humanity?’ I chuckled grimly. ‘What the fuck’s so great about humanity? We turned our planet into a polluted shithole, we hurt each other all the time, and nobody cares about anyone but themselves.’
“‘I can’t argue with the first two,’ he told me, ‘but the third? You’re dead wrong about that one.’
“‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ I exclaimed. ‘Look at me! I live in a cardboard box! Who do you think cares about me?’
“‘I do,’ was his reply.
“Again, I laughed. ‘I’m a druggie, thief, and violent criminal!’ I let him know. ‘You don’t care about me! To you, I’m the scum of the Earth!’
“His smile grew. ‘Sure, you may be a violent, thieving druggie. Hell, you might even be scum. But you know what else you are? You’re human. You’ve got a feeling heart, a thinking mind, and – no matter what those pony bastards might say – an eternal soul. Just because you’re human, you’ve got value. You deserve to be cared about. You matter, and don’t let anyone tell you different.’
“I returned his sad smile. ‘Yeah, well, not for much longer,’ I reminded him. ‘In a few months, we’ll all be dead.’
“‘Are you so sure?’ he asked. ‘There’s always a chance we can find a solution. The only way hope can die is if we let it. And even if all our attempts fail, wouldn’t you prefer to go out doing something important? Being part of something bigger than yourself? You think most humans don’t care about anything other than themselves. Well, here’s your chance to prove yourself better than them. Here’s your chance to show a cruel world that it couldn’t break you. Here’s your chance to truly care for your fellow man.’
“He pulled a business card out of his suit coat. All it had on it were the letters ‘H.L.F.’, a date, a time, and a location. ‘If you want to finally see the best of humanity,’ he said, ‘instead of the worst, come see us. There’s a place for everyone there.’
“I did go, for the same reason I’d been planning to go to the Bureau. What did I have to lose? And by God, I’m glad I went. I wasn’t the worst one there. The rumors were right. The H.L.F. is filled with murderers, rapists, and violent psychopaths. But it’s also filled with perfectly normal, middle-class people who’ve never committed a crime in their lives, people who simply love humanity and don’t want to see it destroyed. Nobody cared that I was a felon. All that mattered was that I was a human. That was enough for them, and they accepted me unconditionally. For the first time in my life, I had a family that truly loved me.
“So you see, I’m not thanking you because you’re about to ponify me. I’m thanking you because, despite everything you’ve done, you made me love humanity, not hate it. Ironically, you made me feel human again. And it’s for that that I thank you.”
This time, Twilight did lose her telekinetic grip, releasing the human and flask of Potion. But the human didn’t try to escape. Instead, he leaned over, picked the flask off the ground, and lifted it to his lips.