• 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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So Below

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 Eight
So Below

Florrie stared at the casks of potion as if they'd become her own personal nemeses. The high powered jet hose now lay in an uncoiled mass upon the cargo hold's floor, in a statement of impotence and frustration. Up until now, casks had been easily tapped, but these few last barrels had sat longer than all the others. As it was, she was surprised that they had held together when they were rolled out of storage. Further handling of the casks threatened imminent, explosive results.

Greenwind cleared his throat behind her, and titled his head to indicate the waiting passengers, huddled cold and naked upon their mattresses, doing their best not to look worried and scared. "If we break them, the distribution won't be right. Right?", he asked.

Florrie ground her teeth in anger, choking back her desire to nip the inquisitive colt. It wasn't his fault that the casks were dangerously distended from the damp. Even if the corks were removed, she feared the "champagne" effect. Attaching the hose would have to be accomplished quickly, as the potion might otherwise spill out before it could be effectively distributed among those who watched so anxiously. Knowing there was more than enough to go around was some small comfort, and if nothing else maybe rolling in a puddle would do the trick, but it became a guessing game on dosage even with the hose...she dared leave no room for tragic accidents to occur.

Here she was, one of the best magic-users on board, literally able to melt walls away with her will alone - and she couldn't figure out how to overcome this simple problem? If it wasn't so important, she might laugh; instead all she could feel was the sting of embarrassment as she felt the eyes of her shipmates riveted to her horn in hope. She could tell the seconds were ticking away. The barrier, growing ever closer, was a further pressure added to her task.

Greenwind shifted nervously behind her and she snapped her neck around to chastise him. Before the words could form on her muzzle, the sight of his wounded wing, awkwardly raised like a school-foal begging for the teacher's attention, stifled them. She glared at him and then the moment of solution hit her like a brick between the eyes. "Greenwind, what did the doc say about you flying? That wing doesn't look too bad - do you think you could still manage a short hover?"

The colt blinked and glanced at his wing, giving it an experimental flap. He winced a little bit, but nodded to her. "Don't remember the Doc sayin' I couldna' fly if I had ta" he replied. Whatcha' got in mind, Miss Florrie, ma'm?"

"Can you steer levitated items, yet, Greenwind? Do you know how, and do you think you could direct the barrels into place? GENTLY?"

Those who waited close enough to hear the whispered queries perked visibly with hope, and the motion went like a wave of expectation through the group.

Greenwind eyed the barrels tentatively, "I think I could, yes, ma'am." It was clear he wasn't quite on the same page as Florrie, but it didn't matter. Her next comment made her plan clear to him as she said,"Then I think I've got this sussed.” As Greenwind swiveled his ears in puzzlement, Florrie smiled. “It's been a stormy ride, recently, Greenwind, and now... well......Tut,tut, it looks like rain."

The youngster grinned sheepishly, and nodded as he turned to get some lift-off room, "Purple rain, Miss Florrie, aye, a right good shower of it, I reckon!" A couple of trotting steps saw him awkwardly airborne, a slight tilt in his balance as he turned and banked back over the waiting, soon to be, new foals. As Greenwind passed over the barrels, Florrie's horn glowed. The aura of her magic encapsuled the swollen containers and lifted them up into the his wake. Bobbing like buoys behind him, he did his best to center the floating casks over the mattresses. Every face in the room was fixed upon him, and he felt himself nearly bursting with anticipation,

Florrie called out, "Try to space them as evenly as you can, lad. You folks, gather up together ,under them, as best you may, " She smiled, widely, as she realized that all she'd have to do at this point was a little bit of her "disappearing act", as Netta called it. A wall was just wood, and so were the barrels of potion. Briefly she wondered if the potion would form a cloud, within Greenwind's area of influence. Either way, it still looked like rain.

As her hooves hit the deck, Netta could still feel terror coursing through her body. Most of the rescue crew scrambled to help steady her as she landed. Some of the others turned their attention to helping Oliver. The huge stallion still hovered in the yacht's wake, with the guide rope firmly clenched in his teeth. The line cast that had finally made it to them may have been the crew's fourth try, but it could not have been better timed. The storm had tossed the dark waves, obscuring the rescue lights hung from the railing. Without the line, Oliver and Netta would surely have succumbed to the grip of the cold, dark sea.

Oliver found flight far easier now that he was trying it unimpeded. It took only the twitch of a wingtip to steer, as he hovered higher over the waves. He allowed his crew to aid the unicorn mare to stand and stumble her way below deck, no doubt heading directly towards sickbay. The storm didn't frightened him, now that she was safe. Oliver's powerful form seemed made to glide through such turmoil with ease and he felt no chill even as the wind whipped his mane and tail into an imitation of the sea-foam below. When the aft deck cleared of all but two of the crew, Oliver folded his wings and came to a neat landing. With little fuss, he allowed instinct to guide his smooth descent.

The copter that had helped to light their way was an almost invisible speck, now. Oliver hoped the pilot would be alright.
Once he'd identified himself to the crew, the tenor of his rescuers altered to more respectful tones.

“Welcome back, Sir, good to have you on board again!”

This last voice came over the ship's speakers when his status was relayed to the bridge.

“Nice to be back, Marina, how's everything else holding up?”

“We're working on it, Sir, but things seem to be smoothing out. We're going to be heading straight in, now that you're back aboard. The last of the New Foals are being mass converted in the cargo hold. We don't want to give those H.L.F.'s an opportunity to regroup.”

“Seems wisest, beside we could hardly see the Conversion Terminus with the weather reacting as it is. No visibility, and far more danger than I'd anticipated – a shame, really, but it can't be helped.” Oliver dipped his neck to bring his muzzle closer to the microphone. “Is there anything else you'd like to tell me, Marina?”, he queried. He didn't know what prompted the question. Something in her tone of voice, combined with his newly heightened instincts, had the words coming out before he even knew he'd spoken.

The hesitation on the opposite end of the speaker only served to strengthen his growing concern. Reticence was palpable as she whispered her reply. And not for one moment did he believe the First Mate's response of, “Sir?....umm..no Sir.” when it finally came to his ears.

As she switched the intercom off, Marina blew a “Hrmph!” through her nostrils. Craning her neck around, she could see the Captain at the wheel. He wasn't a bad sort, she knew. No pony really could be, he was just focused – dedicated. Smollette wasn't the type of pony to think out of the box. His brusque, straight forward, and no-nonsense attitude instilled respect in every member of the crew.

Marina knew that, for him, the copter's helpful occupants were out of his venue. But Oliver had heard it in her tone of voice. The unease was growing stronger in her with each moment. Electronic devices would soon be useless, the closing barrier canceling out all Earthly technology. Stalled copter engines would be just one of the problems the unseen rescuers would have to fend against in their struggle to safely reach Equestria's shores.

Marina's hoof struck the deck with a thud. “No!” she shouted! The Captain's wings snapped up at her sudden outburst.

“No? No, what? What's wrong, Marina?”

“It's just NOT right!” the mare replied, stamping the hull, this time, with emphasis!

Smollette had been bending his full attention on steering. He had reached a hoof out to increase speed just as Marina's outburst startled him from the motion.

“Sir!, permission to leave the bridge, Sir!?”
She hollered over her withers, not even awaiting his puzzled response as her hooves thundered down the passage.

“Gran....granted” he stuttered after her, complete befuddlement causing his jaw to drop. Then, with a shake of his head, he turned back to the wheel, once more.