• Published 29th Apr 2012
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The Last Holdouts - A Conversion Bureau Story - Aedina

The last few humans who've waited for conversion bid farewell to Earth as it succumbs to Equestria

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A View From The Balcony

The Last Holdouts

By Aedina

A C o n v e r s i o n B u r e a u S t o r y

Chapter Two

A View From The Balcony

Greenwind felt he would never tire of the sensation of speed, of cool air racing against his flanks. He curved his wings to allow a current to lift him effortlessly higher. "Talk about an airiel view", he thought to himself as his mane whipped across his crest and withers. One of the first of those aboard the Bonne Chance to go pony, Greenwind had never regretted his decision. When it turned out he'd become a pegasus, as well, it seemed good luck was truly on his side. "Thank Celestia!", was his reoccurring thought. "Thank Luna, too", he added as an afterthought. He always felt a little guilty when he forgot to include the Night Goddess in his thoughts, and hoped he'd train himself to do so automatically over time. She'd figured more significantly into his Conversion Dream than Celestia Herself, and Greenwind was still trying to determine what it could all mean.

Robert Coppin had always been underfed, underweight and underdeveloped as a human. "Bobby Boy", as the neighborhood gang bullies had dubbed him, had spent most of his life feeling either overly vulnerable, or completely ignored. Given his choice, he tended to prefer the latter, and over time he became very very good at being very very invisible. In this, his light frame had been an advantage. Bobby could squeeze into, and through places where others would get stuck. This talent bought him peace, if not respect. Throughout his favela, hide and seek wasn't just a game for him, it was his survival. Keeping to himself and out of sight so much, he'd been seriously out of the loop when Equestria made its debut.

Greenwind could clearly remember when he'd first seen the ponies. For a blink of an eye his peripheral vision would pick up colors moving, shapes that didn't match anything he'd even imagined before. Closer inspection revealed beings that made his jaw drop. The only thing that kept him from moving out and talking to them was his habit of perpetual caution. But coming around a shadowy corner, one day, he got an unexpected taste of true horror. At first, he thought it was some sort of parade, pretty ponies all in a row, quite literally. Then it dawned on him that the streaks of dark red gracing their muzzles weren't ribbons. The crowd across the square from the ponies were waving weapons, not banners. Cheering and jibing accompanied the ongoing slaughter. It shamed Greenwind to remember how cravenly he'd crept back into his hiding place, terrified of attracting any unwanted attention.

The next day, he dared to approach a Favola Kiosk. Stunned, he lost all focus beyond the tiny flickering screen as he watched a living Fairytale unfolded itself, a bubble filled with green and gentle lands. For the first time in his lonely, desperate life, Greenwind felt his heart warm with hope. When the image of the White Mare Queen appeared, to invite anypony who cared to come to Her magical realm, he remembered tales his grandmother would tell him of the Seelie.

Three of the verses from an old legend had haunted him since he'd been a lad.

"Delightful is the Land beyond all Dreams,
Fairer than aught thine eyes have ever seen.
There all the year the fruit is on the tree,
And all the year the bloom is on the flower.

There with wild honey drip the forest trees;
The stores of wine and mead shall never fail.
Nor pain nor sickness knows the dweller there,
Death and decay come near him never more.

The feast shall cloy not, nor the chase shall tire,
Nor music cease for ever through the hall;
The gold and jewels of the Land of Youth
Outshine all splendours ever dreamed by man."*

Here, at last, was the Summer Country. And it seemed that entrance was free - or nearly so......just his body, he had never been really fond of his body, anyway, except for the ability it gave him to hide. Robert had looked up the nearest Conversion Bureau, mapping the safest course to follow, and without a bag or a backward glance he turned and began walking. His steps felt lighter than they'd ever been. The weight of fear that had crushed his chest for as long as he could remember had been lifted. Robert felt the urge to whistle, but suppressed it, he hadn't grown quite that careless yet. He straightened his usually hunched shoulders and strode briskly down the very middle of the street, where once he would have hugged the shadows and searched for potential hiding places.

"Sometimes all it takes to turn a life around is one idea, one spark of inspiration," Greenwind reflected as he circled ever higher. The Cape of Good Hope became a tiny line on the Northern horizon as the wind picked up. He felt his mane and tail being twisted into tangles as he scanned the area for trouble. Trouble was what he found. Black specks in the sky, rapidly approached with the hum of engines as their heralding trumpet. In the sea, though still out of radar range of Bonne Chance, were equally grim and dangerous looking vessels. Some had armaments clearly mounted on every conceivable surface. Greenwind squinted his eyes against the wind, and swooped lower and closer. Shots rang out just as his approach allowed him to clearly see the emblem on the nearest ship.

As he felt a surge of burning pain stab through his right wing. Greenwind spiraled out of control, frantically struggling for balance. Only the strong wind kept him from slamming into a fist hard sea as he gasped for breath. "Carrots!", he exclaimed, as he got enough control to turn and flee, hoping an awkward flight path would go un-traced by the H.L.F. fleet below. Leaving a blood trail to follow right to the Bonne Chance warred with his urgent need to communicate the sighting and his even more urgent need for medical attention.

He'd seen that sign before, long ago. That the H.L.F. was proud of their genocide, he had no doubt, but that they blatantly advertised it was a wonder to him. Why would someone want to give a warning that anypony could clearly see? Anypony could see the sign, that was sure, and anypony with any brains would immediately turn and get out of the area, FAST.

The instinctual urge to gallop away was what the H.L.F. were counting on. Trap wires surrounding the perimeter could have been avoided (and usually were) upon a pony's approach, but the fear inspired by the sign was often enough to make even an otherwise smart pony desperate enough to stumble upon them. What little remained of a pony after tripping such a wire would sometimes be enough to make a very gory trophy for some proud H.L.F. leader, but usually not.

It wasn't until he'd once unwittingly stumbled into a slightly less lethal version of that same trap, created around just such a sign that it had all made terrifying sense to him.

While he did all he could to focus his pain blurred body on safely reaching the yacht, his mind traced once more to his past. His first sighting of the H.L.F. a sign had been on his very quest to seek out the Conversion Bureau he'd intended to approach for ponification. It had been centered in a blockade that spanned the entirety of the broken down road that led to the Center and to the docks that ferried the New Foals to Equestria, the sign was.... in its own way ......rather impressive. While he stood considering it, and its unspoken implications, the mob that had erected it had their chance. Fortunately for Robert, he still had two feet instead of four hooves, or he would have had a very short pony life indeed.

"Where d'ya tink y'er goin' me bucko?" rasped a gravelly voice behind him, making Robert jump.

"Stockyard, dockyard, looking for scraps, maybe a job, if I'm lucky." was his quick witted reply

Narrowed, un-trusting eyes raked him over. A metal baseball bat tapped out Morse code for imminent and impending violence on the palm of the hand opposite the one that held it. "Big, Large, and Giant," were words that vied for descriptive accuracy in Robert's mind as he tried not to visibly shake or sweat under the hate-glazed glare. "Crap!" was what finally won the vote, though.

"No'tin' there for the likes o' yew, ye'aint no twoffer, an' ye'aint from 'roundabouts that I ken reckon, "growled another gorilla in the crowd, this one held a two-by-four with nail studs along it. Whether they were coated with rust or with dried blood was something Robert hoped he'd never be close enough to discern.

"Sorry, sorry, didn't mean to trespass, don't want no trouble" he nervously intoned.

The baseball bat pointed itself passed his ear, hovering over his shoulder, just an inch from contact. "Best be on yer way, then, buck-o, an' best ye ne'er come back. I see yer mug in these parts agin' and it'll be paintin' the pavement, yew ken?"

"Oh, Aye, Sir, thank ye, Sir!'

With military crispness, Robert spun on his heels and marched away as quickly as he felt would be acceptable. Once out of sight he fell back to old talents, hiding and watching. He'd wait until the coast was clear, and then find a better way to reach the Center, he thought. It was as he planned his route, that a plume of dark smoke registered on his field of vision. The stench of burnt flesh, horse flesh made him retch as he realized that the Conversion Bureau was on fire.

Wiping tears from his eyes as he fled upwind he cursed his cowardliness. His former confidence was too new to him, too fragile and tentative to withstand the conflagration. Robert hardly knew where he was running, but he didn't stop until he reached the end of the previously blocked off docks. Apparently all the H.L.F.ers had gone to the bonfire. Robert wept more openly, and crept into an unusually large (and equally unusual) open loading bin, hiding himself among the boxes and miscellaneous gear that nearly filled it.

Pain brought Greenwind back to the moment. He turned his head to make certain he'd not been followed before swinging an approach vector to the now sighted Bonne Chance . "I can do this!" he told himself. He tucked his left wing closer to his side, his wounded wing flaying unresponsively, making it difficult to do anything more than dive. He felt the yacht's force shield tingle as he approached and prayed that the Captain would shut it down in time.

Greenwind would have conveyed his gratitude to the Captain, who did indeed see him heading in, and cleared the shield for him. Yes, he would have, had the crash to the deck not knocked him unconscious - he lay in a pile of his own blood and feathers as a stretcher was rushed out to tote him to sickbay. "H.L.F." he managed to mutter, before the darkness overwhelmed him.

* paraphrased from the Celtic Myth: Tir Na Nog (Land Of Youth)