• 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 Race For The Border

Special credits: The enclosed illustration by my spouse Chatoyance.

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 Five
A Race For The Border

The sea, the sea, the beautiful sea. It spread out to every horizon as he soared along. Beside him, on each side, flew two beings of unimaginable grace and beauty. To his left, a dark and starry maned alicorn mare, to his right, a white alicorn mare with a mane and tail of streaming rainbow energies. Without speech, he could hear them.

"Welcome, welcome, thou who hast brought so many to Our realm, both with thee, and before thee," came Princess Luna's greeting. She dipped, curving Her pinions in an elegant arch.

"Indeed, welcome, sir. Alas, Our time here, together, is all too brief, we have little leisure" was Celestia's counter. She pressed closer to him, steering him into a turn towards a, now distant, shoreline.

"Thou art needed in the world that soon shall end." explained Luna, the note of urgency in Her tone conveyed command as well as concern.

"Needed?," asked Oliver, "Hadn't I better go then?" A pristine beach sparkled before them as they swooped to land. Oliver noticed that only his own sturdy hooves left imprints in the sand. Where each of the Princesses stood, no indication of weight was evidenced beneath Them.

"That you shall, and shortly so, " came Celestia's reply. "First, and quickly, a small Gift. When you wake you shall remember." Each of Them turned Their heads towards him, caressing his crest and withers with Their necks. The touch was electric, intimate, comforting, and completely correct all at the same time.

"Remember thy Element, sir, and how to rise above it. Keep thy head, and thy wits about thee. Keep thy calm, and recall that deep within thee shall be the knowledge thou shalt require." were Luna's parting instructions as Oliver felt the dream shift and slide away from him, like so much vapor. In the recesses of his hind brain he could hear a terrified neighing of his name. A frantic cry reached him as he shook his head and neck, waking more swiftly than expected.

Clarity and awareness fought back against the post-conversion muddle in his mind as he realized he was sopping wet. Beside him, clutching the edge of his saturated mattress with her forehooves, was a terrified unicorn mare. The shine of Bonne Chance's forceshield flickered sporadically, lighting the icy waves with crimson. Oliver could make out the faint form of the ship's hull behind them as he turned his head. His ears were filled with the roar of battle, engines and propellers buzzing in a dissonant, but steady, thrum. In the distance above them, an approaching copter let down a rope ladder. Through the copter's lighted and open carrier door he could just make out the silhouette of helmeted humans. Gunfire added to the cacophony of chaos, but as far as he could tell, none of it seemed to be aimed towards them.

Oliver stretched his neck and forelegs out, trying to help the mare as she scrambled onto the sodden pallet, Neither of them were able to hear above the surrounding bedlam. Oliver motioned to his companion to turn around. As she complied, he spread wide his wings and giving them an experimental shake, he rose a fraction above the churning water. Netta's gasp of surprise was drowned out, as she felt the black pegasus stallion grip her around her barrel. She watched the waves engulf and swallow the mattress as she was carefully lifted out of harm's way.

Oliver turned towards Bonne Chance, keeping as low as both wind and water would allow. He hoped that the clouds and confusion would help to cover them. If so, he would be able to make it to the speeding yacht without drawing fire. Each wing-beat gave him confidence, he couldn't remember a time in his life when he'd felt this strong and fit. "Under completely different circumstances," he thought to himself, "this would be very enjoyable".

A staccato of white noise issued from the radio, giving little hope of making out the incoming message, but Marina held her sensitive ears perked and ready. Sputters and partial words gave sporadic bursts that fought for coherency amidst the din. Finally she pieced it all together, "Captain, I have the conscript. Shall I read it to you, Sir?"

"Thank you, yes, please." Captain Smollette couldn't spare her more than a momentary backward glance, but he listened as he continued to maneuver their vessel with deft skill and speed. He more leaned on the wheel, now, then held it. Exhaustion and tension were visible in the set of his muzzle and the sweat that plastered his coat.

Marina read out, "This is Copter Alpha, repeat Copter Alpha, we have your Six, we are allies. Copter Beta has engaged H.L.F. vessel on your behalf. You have two ponies overboard in your wake. Rescue cannot reach, due to forceshield and incoming. We advise you that full immersion is imminent."

At first Smollette merely nodded his head to the message, then the meaning sank in. "TWO PONIES? Overboard in our wake!?" he whinnied, "Wasn't everypony below decks? Sweet Celestia!. Scramble the crew, Marina, let's get them some help, NOW! Then, thank that copter, we need all the help we can get!"

"Aye, Aye, Sir. We've got crew available, and I have a message for you to call Florrie, in Sickbay, too. I'll try to acknowledge the copter as soon as we get this taken care of, Sir." Marina sent forth commands that set unseen hands and hooves into motion, a flurry of switches and clicks punctuating each stage of the procedure.

Meanwhile the Captain grabbed for his own headset, and coded the Sickbay up. "What's up, Florrie? Make it quick, please. I've kind of got my hooves full at present." Thankfully the internal communications weren't as botched as the radio, less interference from forceshield and Barrier alike.

The nurse unicorn's tones kept things businesslike and brief, "Three things, Captain. First, Greenwind's awake and doing well, though I had to practically tie him down to keep him from reporting to the bridge. Second, I've commandeered adjacent quarters for any emergencies. Last, and most importantly - I've got everyone who hasn't converted yet reporting to the cargo hold. There's only about 20 or so, at most. We're going to do an en masse spray dousing. That way crossover won't be at issue. That's all, Captain, Sickbay over and out"

Smollette acknowledged the message and clicked off, "Mostly good news, all in all, Marina, how's it on your end?"

The earth pony First Mate reported, "Looks like our Overboards are on their way back, and under their own power, at that, Sir. As yet, they're unidentified. One pegasus stallion, and one unicorn mare, in transit. Guide ropes and landing lights are being provided, and one of the medics has reported to the aft deck, just in case. Now that the copters have engaged the H.L.F.ers, I'm working on stabilizing the forceshields against further hits. We should be good, Sir. Luna willing!"

"Yes, I'd noticed things seemed to be calming down a little. Means I can slow Her* down a little. Maybe give our Overboards a better chance of catching up with us." Smollette felt a wave of relief shiver through his weary muscles. He did his best to keep his grip on the wheel, with a silent prayer to the Sisters, that soon he might be able to rest.

Known for her levelheadedness in times of crisis, Florrie had long been used to taking charge. She was infinitely glad that, so far, her precautions had proven unnecessary. Though, Murphy's Law being what it was, she never counted on such luck holding for very long. Fear had spread when the ship began to be rocked and pitched from the force of the enemy's fire against both sea and shield. Now that more normal nautical motion was resuming, things were calming down. Panic had been prevented, and Florrie was grateful that a stampede in the hallways had remained only a distant threat. Greenwind fidgeted and complained behind her, still determined to give her a hoof-full, and an earful of the myriad reasons he should be allowed to resume duty.

"Stifle it, Wind, or do you want to make me find you a muzzle?" she queried. At the very mention of the word, the young pegasus stallion stammered to a halt in his diatribe.

Meekly, he hung his head, ears drooping, "I'm sorry Miss Florrie. I just wish I could be of more use."

"You've already been of tremendous use today, Greenwind, without you we wouldn't have spotted that ship until it reached our radar sensors. It's only because of your patrolling and warning that we were able to get such a good head start on those H.L.F.ers - you've kept us out of range for anything more than aftershocks. If you really want to do something else that's useful, why not make sure that everyone who needs it, has made it to the cargo hold? Hmmm?"

Greenwind brightened considerably. He eased himself from the sickbay bed with a nod and was out the door with a parting flick of his tail, before she could change her mind.


*Her - in this case the Captain means the Bonne Chance. All sea vessels are considered to be female, and are often referred to as Her or She, especially by their crew.