• Published 31st Mar 2012
  • 3,255 Views, 23 Comments

The Conversion Bureau: Why? - Minalkra



A man asks the most important question of himself and the ponies: why?

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Chapter 2

Kevin woke with a stretch, the bed a tad smaller than any he'd ever slept in but large enough for his understated frame. A new day had dawned and it was finally his turn. He smiled, his eyes glinting in the harsh glare of the flickering overhead. As much as they complained about human methods, they loved to the technology when it suited them. Or maybe, maybe they use it because they think it makes humans feel safer, more at-home?

It didn't matter. For some reason, he had been saved for last. The last in his little pod of people for turning. The last human . . . no, no just the last man in this sleeping block. After the first night with Trixiebelle, he had hardly said a word. Nothing more needed to be said. Some of the humans, even some ponies, had tried to engage him in conversation but he purposefully kept them distant, except for the times when someone was turned themselves. He was sure to offer some form of congratulations then. Trixiebelle herself had avoided him. While Kevin was sure he could corner her in her office or even in the cafeteria, he didn't need to. She was surely struggling with those questions he had implanted into her mind. He wondered what she had come up with.

A gurgling sound rose him from his reverie. His body had needs and, he smirked, this might be the last meal he ever gets as a human. Not the end of the world, in and of itself, but something to mark as a special occasion in his own personal time line. Kicking the light blanket off, he rolled easily to his feet, the cold linoleum floor a not unpleasant shock. Kevin wondered if he would be able to feel through hooves but only for a moment. Time was a'wastin', as his not-so-dearly departed grandmama used to say. A quick search through the slight mess his temporary home had become rustled up a clean pair of boxers and a light tank top. He smiled, he found himself doing that a lot since he had finally made up his mind. He at least wouldn't have to get used to sleeping naked.

One quick shower and a tooth scrubbing in the utilitarian bathing facilities later and he was off to the cafeteria, still boxer-clad. That would get some looks, he thought with some level of mirth. At least, from the humans and newfoals still around. The cold floor was somehow refreshing.

“Hi and . . . well now. A bit rare to see you humans in your, er, undersaddles?” The pony behind the counter tilted his head quizzically. He reminded Kevin of a cat momentarily. It was all he could do to keep from laughing. “Well now, I don't think there's cause for making fun at my expense about that.”

Kevin stifled his chuckles and ordered his morning meal, ignoring the looks and glances he was getting from the other patrons of the Conversion Center's cafeteria. A few of the older newfoals, those who had been in basic a while, smiled at his disregard for human convention. Better to get rid of the apprehension now. He waved to a few of the ones from his pod, startling them. Always he had been so quiet, so distant. So unponylike. It brought smiles to the faces of many to see such a change, and even before the conversion.

He sat, like he had for nearly a week now, and cracked open the only book he had taken to the Center. A book about human thought, about what humans thought about thought and how thought worked. A human thing, his last human thing save his clothes. He wondered what the stallion behind the counter thought of him ordering a meat lover's pizza so early in the morning but shrugged it off. It wouldn't matter soon. Besides, he grimly noted, he wasn't yet a third of the way through his book yet. Never had really gotten through the whole thing before but it still was a tad irksome.

“Mr. James.” Kevin glanced up at his name, surprised at the sight before him.

“Miss, er, Trixiebelle. How unexpected. I hope you don't mind my fare, it's a bit, how shall I put this, carnivorous today. Last meal and all. How morbid.” She shook her head, slightly grave.

“Many do similar stunts. A last act of humanity, if you will. You wouldn't believe how many ponies come out of those chambers already with foal from a different 'last act.'” Kevin blinked, not sure how he was to take that. Trixiebelle smiled coyly. “Or how many want to enjoy a pony act before it is time.”

“Ah, yes, well, ah.” He realized that some people had a hard time telling if a black man was blushing but he was fairly certain the mare across the table could see. She giggled slightly. He didn't know if he had been pranked or if she was serious. After a bare seconds thought, he realized he didn't want to know all that much. “Anyway, Trixiebelle. What can I do for you this fine, soon-to-be-last day of this condemned man?”

As he spoke, her smile disappeared. “I'd like to talk with you, Mr. James. Privately. Would you care for a walk in the garden? It's spring and so your lack of clothing won't hurt. And I doubt anyone really would care at this stage anyway.”

With a snap, he shut up his book and took one final, almost triumphant bite of his pizza, chewing and swallowing it with gusto. “Least of all, me.” He stood and took a step towards the exit before looking at the book in his hands. He placed it table, removing the folded corners with care. “I've never finished this thing anyway.”

--------------------

The oaks were different in this light, he realized. He had barely left his room in the week he had been there. True, he had come out and congratulated everyone – no, everypony who had come out of the conversion chambers, but he had always been distant. Aloof. They always told him to lighten up, to smile. He was doing that in spades now.

“Oaks in spring. Grass in spring. The sky . . . in spring.” He closed his eyes and leaned into the light breeze as it blew across him. Everypony that had exited the chambers had some form of flowing mane. He had never let his hair grow much longer than an inch or two and so he never had let the wind really blow it back. It wouldn't have mattered much, it was too coarse. Unless he straightened it chemically, which he had never done. Unnatural, silly. For some reason, the thought of having the same hair type as everypony else filled him with profound joy . . . and profound sadness.

“You humans do look a bit silly without your clothes on.” Trixiebelle had stopped and turned to look at him from a few feet away. She was taking him on the same path he had led her that one night about a week prior. He knew this, he recognized it. It felt right.

“Well, I do have my underclothes on. I can take those off but the few police left might not like that very much, especially if we're going to go to the overlook.” He grinned at her. “Or are you curious as to the 'other side' as it were?”

If a pony could blush . . . oh, wait, she was blushing. “No, no! No, goddess no.” Kevin burst into true laughter, walking to catch up. He thought of flinging off the last of the human things he had then and there. He was sure, other than his crude sexual innuendo, Trixiebelle wouldn't care. But there was time enough for that later. He still couldn't look at a pony butt, flank as they said called it, and get aroused. Like looking at a horse and feeling the same. Still, he supposed that would change. Either that day or in due time.

Soon, they had reached the summit of the small hill that had such a view of the whole of Boston. It looked better in the daylight, he thought. It didn't look . . . sick. It didn't look like it was dying. Idly, Kevin gave it an exaggerated salute. Trixiebelle looked up at him, concern clearly on his features, the day's previous jokes set aside.

“For a week, you say little to anyone and we kept pushing you back, thinking you would leave. You would get cold hoo-, er, feet. For a week, we get nothing but reports of how cold, distant you've been. But here we are.”

“Here we are.” For all the sorrow he knew was there, he felt at peace. Like a man with a terminal illness finally accepting death. Just like that, in fact. Wasn't this the death of Kevin the man, a college trained black man from Harlem who grew up at the tail end of the Crack Wars? Who wanted nothing more than to break the cycle of despair and poverty he saw around him, from every person and every race the whole world over? The death of one Kevin and his rebirth as . . . somepony. The name would come, in due time. And with his death, the whole of humanity would get one step closer to true Paradise. To Eden, to utopia. To that mythical land of everything. He could try to draw parallels with the rebirth/salvation myths of ages past but, nah. He felt flippant.

“And then the talk of a 'condemned man,' as if this was one of your people's crude death sentences.” He cocked an eye at that. “Hush, they were crude.” That earned her a shrug and a nod. She turned, very serious to him. “We do not force anyone. At any time you could leave, Kevin. You could walk out those doors, back to your people and your ways. You could . . I don't know, revitalize this whole world. Kevin, I'm serious! You and a few like you could make a real human paradise with our help. Kevin, why are you laughing?!”

Laughing was an understatement. Kevin, the studious and serious young man that made all the ponies ache to be his friend, was rolling in the grass and cackling so hard it hurt. As astonished as she was, her talk not going as she had planned, Trixiebelle could not help but giggle as the taller-than-her human rolled across the hillock locked in a frenzy of mirth like a small schoolfilly. After a few moments of false starts and giggle fits, he stopped and sat on his heels, looking up at her with those well-like brown eyes of his.

“You have no idea, but I was thinking something similar.” She blinked. “Oh yes. A day ago, as it was getting close. Call it preconditioning butterflies,” her quizzical look earned a wave from him, “it's a saying. And then just now, though I wasn't really being all that serious. If I had just a hundred people who thought like me, well, we could at least keep some sliver of mankind alive. And with pony help, we might be able to stop the cycle of hate and death we've been locked in for millenia.” He sighed.

“But Trixiebelle, if there were enough humans to do that, we wouldn't be in this situation to begin with. No,” he held up his hand as she opened her mouth, “I don't think we would have purely avoided it. There would be problems, probably similar to what we're facing now. But there wouldn't be such a rush for a new life. We would, I don't know, fix the one we have instead of trying to drop everything for a new one, dropping this broken world for the quick fix.” He looked up at her, for once.

“No one can judge us except future us. And now there won't be future us. You know it, I know it, every human out there knows it by now. Either they're getting ready for their end . . . no, they're all getting ready for their end. Either as men,” he waved towards the remains of Boston, “or as ponies.” A flick of his head towards the Conversion Center. “We are a dead species.” He looked away, his eyes suddenly sad.

“Why you?” He looked back to her, his, well his friend. Hopefully long term friend once it was all said and done but his friend now. And he was glad he could call her that.

“Because this is my dream. My life was, well,” he barked a laughed, a hoarse laugh, “it was rough. All I ever wanted was a chance to make a difference. To help people. To help, I don't know. Help heal the world of some of it's ills. I went to college, got a psychology degree. I opened a business helping people learn how to cope. How to change. Change themselves, their world. Change it for the better. And then you pon-,” he stopped. He looked at Trixiebelle, like he was seeing through her. “And then you people showed up. And you had the perfect little concoction to make everything better. With one teeny little side effect.”

He plucked at her fur, not sharply but enough so she knew the 'side effect' he was talking about. “I don't blame them for rushing to it. It's a joy. I saw my whole life's work done before my eyes. The whole world, save a few hold outs too stubborn to change. Let's face it, I couldn't do a better job of trying to convince them than you guys did.” He snorted. “What was left for me? My family was either dead or ponified. Most of my clients were gone, and for the better I'd wager. My world was dying but in it's death, it was birthing such a new world.”

“Why you? Why change?” She sat down, bringing their faces nearly level. She had convinced many to make the change and had suggested others think on it themselves. But this was somehow different. This was deeper? More insightful? Something was different. Maybe not unique, probably not unique. But different. And they both knew it.

“I . . . I don't really know. I'm no savior. No delusions of grandeur here. I'm not clinging to this world, I've mourned it for so long I was glad it was ponification that did it in. Least it'd be peaceful that way and not the choking gasping death of pollution or the horrid screaming death of war. I have nothing holding me back but nothing really pushing me forward. I suppose that is it.” He sat back, off his heels. His knees were not weak but trying to hold that position was not at all comfortable. “Being in limbo sucks.”

Trixiebelle couldn't help but laugh. Kevin blinked and began to follow suit. The two people that sat on the hillock laughed for a good long while, man and pony.

--------------------

“Kevin James. It's go time, my human friend. If you're as quiet a pony as you are a human, we might just have the perfect match for a certain animal-obsessed Pegasus from Ponyville! Kevin James, come on down.” The stallion's voice crackled over the loudspeaker, drawing Kevin out of his doze with a start. The hallway was silent. There were no more humans to wish him well. At least, not in his pod. But he didn't need that.

Kevin looked around his room absentmindedly. Was there . . . no. No there was nothing. He had packed up what little remained of his belongings but left the suitcase there. No sense leaving a mess. He hoped the next person to come through here was happy. Happy with the choice. Happy.

He walked through the building, not quickly but not hesitantly. Two legs. Last time on two legs. He wanted to savor this feeling. He gave a slight dance as he walked through one of the many doors between him and his destination. How many millions of years of man-ape death until that one stood up to look around before heading into the grass? One of the few things that allowed his species to gain such prominence over the world. And he was giving it away. No more death, though. No more need.

Kevin looked around him. He had ended up in the reception area, boxers and all. The receptionist, a pony named Bladrick, looked up from his magazine. How he was holding it in his hooves still wasn't adequately explained. At least, not yet.

“Heya Kevin. Through that door,” he motioned with one hoof to the only door Kevin himself had not yet explored, marked AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY, “and down the hall. They're waiting for you, Kevin. In the test chamber.” Kevin glanced at the stallion and raised an eyebrow. Then, the corner of his mouth followed.

“Half-Life?” The stallion nodded.

“Loved it then, love it now. Can't play it very well with these though.” He held up his hooves.

“Would you still go through with it?” The newfoal, well perhaps not that new, nodded and went back to his reading. Smart idea, putting the recently converted on the front desks. He idly wondered who this Rarity was that came up with so many of these wonderfully . . . personable ideas. But that would wait. He paused to steel himself, stopped, wondered what he was steeling himself for and, with an unconcerned shrug, passed through the door. A hallway. And another door. The only other door, in fact.

“Really?” The yellow unicorn mare looked up from her floating clipboard to see the mostly naked human standing in front of her. He was one of the darker ones, the 'black' humans, she noted. She wondered what he was talking about and said as much.

“The door, a hallway, then a single other door.” She blinked. “Why? What's the point?”

“We took the concept from your medical establishments, I think. Something about making it seem more, oh, cozy or something.” He began to laugh the mare in front of him blinked again, wondering if she made some sort of pun in human speak.

“You poor little ponies. You have so much to learn about humans and so little time. Or need, now, I suppose.” He shrugged, a nervous tick among some of his kind she was led to believe, and smiled a big open smile. “So what now?”

“Remove your clothing, er, the last bit of your clothing anyway, and up on that chair please.” She smiled warmly. So many had come shaking in fear, crying or even angry. A few had come smiling but most were strained smiles. This was the real deal. As he stripped the last few pieces of clothing away, discarding them in the hampers like so many others, and hopped into the chair, she began her routine. It was the same, no matter what Center you went to.

“My name is Angel Heart and I'll be your converter today. We know you humans have many questions about the procedure so we've condensed a few of the more common ones.” She flipped a page on her clipboard with her magic, eliciting not even a squeak from her temporary patient. She wished they all were this calm, especially around magic, though she noticed him jiggling his leg as he sat.

“You drink a sedative that knocks you out and turns you into a pony. No, I don't know how exactly, though I know it's magic and I do know it's painful if you're awake so that's why we knock you out.” She smiled at him and he just smiled back. Excellent. She placed a check mark by one of the boxes on her paper.

“The newfoals, er, new patients wake up as ponies, after a short nap of course, and begin their life anew in Equestria. Some appear with their Cutie Marks, some don't but that's not really all that important at first. Just getting the hang of walking is all most ponies can think about the first few hours. After that, well, it depends on the type of pony you come as. Do you have any questions?”

He smiled, grinned more like it, and that was not as pleasant as his smile. Canines. Angel Heart shuddered to think of what damage those could do.

“Could we skip all this and get right into it?” The unicorn blinked and looked right at the strangely energetic human before her. No one has ever asked her that. She considered his question for a moment.

“Yes, yes we can. Drink this.” She levitated a cup over to him. And sat back.

Kevin looked at the cup hovering in front of him a second before taking it. He sniffed it, making the mare smile. Many had done that before too.

“It's just water, dear. It's the vector for the magic. We add a little flavor, different every day. Except grass or hay.” She frowned. “Humans don't eat those and we had some trouble with that concept.” The human, a Mr. Kevin James she noted after a glance at her clipboard, grinned again.

“Homework, my fine filly. You should have done your homework.” He raised his cup at her, a sign of camaraderie she was told, and down it in a single gulp. It tasted like . . . apples.

--------------------

The world floated before him. A field of grass, as far as the eye could see. As he drifted toward it, he could feel the ponies, hundreds. No, thousands. Millions. An uncountable multitude. Rushing, like ships through the grass. Like dolphins in the surf. He could feel their intent, though no voice gave it form. Run, it said. Go. Rush. He followed, but something held him back. He could feel the ponies form, but it wasn't their form. Their, well, souls. Their spirits? Mental bio-electrical signatures? Whatever they were, there was something different about them. These ponies were clean, he supposed. Pure. Unfettered. Unfettered, that fit. But something clung to him. He followed but it dragged at him. He didn't gallop but he ran. He ran with them. A single man, unnoticed in the herd. Approaching a cliff, the herd jumped into the air and, as part of it, he followed.

For a moment, he felt wings. He felt them as clearly as an angel would have. But they did not last. He did not plummet. He did not fly. He . . . dove. Swam. Swam through the air as fast as his arms could take him. It was hard, the thing that he could not see still dragged at him. But the herd, he still followed the herd, now a multitude with wings. And they accepted him, a strangely shaped pony in a place without shapes. Soon, the herd crashed, no, parted, no. It flowed into a mountain. It wasn't a mountain. It was but it was also a castle. A place of ancient power and learning. A place where so many had come before. A herd, all with horns of great power and learning. Ponies. Unicorns. And one man.

Before him sat two ponies, Alicorns, mares in name and shape but so much more in truth. One shone with the light of the nuclear furnace above, the other with the cool light of reflection, studded with fires of her own. They smiled, calmly but cautiously. He was filled with warmth from that. Filled with . . . wait. They wanted something. The thing he had. It clung to him, it was heavy. Let them take the burden. It hurts you. And Kevin, for the first time, realized that it did. It dug at him like nothing had ever dug before.

He cried out. It hurt to hold. It hurt to carry. It hurt. The herd cried out as well, echoing his anguish. It was hot, it was cold, it hurt. It . . . no.

With a gasp and a tortured scream, Kevin, still in human form, awoke from the agony with a terrified Unicorn and a very concerned Earth pony looking down at him. As he gasped for breath after that painful ordeal, the Earth pony frowned. He knew her name and her other shape from the herd. He knew . . . nothing, then, as he passed out again.

“That has never happened before,” Trixiebelle said, with a deep look of concern.