• Published 25th Jun 2015
  • 2,799 Views, 439 Comments

Cross The Amazon - Chatoyance

No Potion. No rescue. South America is 4353 kilometers wide. Run, Dr. Kotani. Run for your life.

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1. Calloway Went Thataway

T H E C O N V E R S I O N B U R E A U :


By Chatoyance

Chapter One: Calloway Went Thataway

Dropspindle had to hurry because the pegabuses were eager to leave. Literally chomping at their bits, the pegasus teams responsible for evacuating the last ponies from Huancabamba were already upset. They had expected to be able to leave two days ago. It would only take a few minutes. Somehow, she had forgotten to pack her careful recreations of Peruvian weaving into her saddlebags. They must be right on the bed, right there - she had just been in such a rush when the klaxons sounded.

It was simple enough to sneak out of the supposedly locked pressure door. It wasn't really locked. More latched. Nopony would even know she had bent the rules and left. She absolutely had to have her traditional Peruvian fabric recreations. It was the entire reason she had risked visiting the human's earth at all!

Life in Huancabamba was slow and unhurried, moreso even than in Equestria, and that was saying something. It had taken forever for the Conversion Outreach Teams to locate and convince the remaining humans to convert. It had taken almost as long to find them again once they had run off to play and enjoy the magical powers of their new bodies. The Peruvian Newfoals seemed intent on restoring the dead land, and had gotten straight to work. The Newfoal government workers had no end of trouble in rounding the transformed locals up for transport to Equestria.

The poor Newfoals just didn't understand the danger. They didn't comprehend the Exponential Lands.

For the first few years, the Exponentials were not such an issue. If a pony stood and let the Barrier sweep over them, they could be certain that a few days travel would bring them to a settlement, or a village, or even the border of original Equestria. Not now. Not in Year Five. The Exponential Lands had truly lived up to their name, and even the fastest pegasus could likely end up lost forever in the ever-expanding New Equestria. That was why the pegasai pulling the pegabuses were so anxious. They wanted to see home within their lifespan.

The issue was angle. From the side, from ground level, the Barrier would deposit a pony on the leading edge of ever-expanding Equestria. But from just 45 degrees and higher up the curve, it was possible to take advantage of the bent dimensions to arrive within reasonable distance of proper Equestria. The air was terribly thin that high, more even than in Peru. It was very near the edge of space, in what humans called 'low orbit'. The pegabuses were pressurized, and the pegasai wore special suits and helmets with air hoses that led back to the buses. They had to be bolted into special harnesses next to low-pressure thrusters that supplied compressed air over their magical wings.

They were the first and last space-faring Equestrianauts. Equestria had no infinite space, no vacuum. The sky was a crystal dome, vast beyond imagination. The Equestrian stars were curious forms of living light created by the princesses. The sun and moon were disks that slid across the crystal sky. The universe of Mundis, the cosmos of the humans, was dangerous and terrifying. The earth's environment was infinite, airless and empty - the pegabuses full of ponies and the pegasai that pulled them were one tiny puncture from death at all times.

It was a nightmare universe of impossible horror. Vacuum. Solar radiation. Killing cold. And to fly too fast could mean being flung out of the earth's 'gravity well' altogether, to be lost forever in absolute nothing! Dropspindle shuddered. No scary story from her Equestrian childhood could compete with the terror of the human's cosmos. Poor, suffering creatures. Celestia was so very kind to try to save them.

The hotel was just down the street and around to the right. Dropspindle galloped down the ancient road. It was cracked and broken pavement, and very rough on her hooves. Humans didn't seem to like dirt roads, they paved everything over everywhere. Huancabamba was supposedly a very tiny, very backward human city, yet it was almost larger than Manehattan! Such huge buildings, compared to Equestrian ones.

Dropspindle opened the doors to the hotel lobby with her hornfield. They were a bit heavy, almost beyond her thaumatic lifting capacity. She had always been better at delicate and fine control than power. When the doors were wide enough, she dashed through.

The talking machine-brain-thing that somehow managed the hotel was barking. Its voice sounded like barking to Dropspindle - the humans had claimed that it sounded just like a real person, but they didn't have pony ears. Not back then, before the human government sent the Outreach Teams to rescue them. The talking machine - humans made the craziest things - didn't sound at all real to Dropspindle. Its voice halted a lot, it didn't possess a natural cadence at all, and the timbre was all grating and tinny too. It was being very talkative.

Dropspindle ignored the mechanical voice and clomped up the stairs as fast as she could. She had to stop to catch her breath between floors - there were many times in her life she had envied the tirelessness of earth ponies, this was one of those moments. Hurry. She had to hurry.

Her door was open, as she had left it. Inside her room, on the bed, was the large pile that represented the labor of the last six months of her life. It was so big - she'd been a busy pony. Using her hornfield, she began stuffing the fabric examples into her saddlebags. So many samples! She had brought skeins and skeins of Equestrian fibers to work with, and learned from every Quechua expert in the area. The colorful fabrics had fascinated her from her first glimpse of them during one of the Crown's official - and mandatory - 'Accepting Newfoals' seminars. The princesses wanted everypony to understand that the former humans had good things to offer Equestria.

The seminars had been instituted because, apparently, some ponies had actually been so frightened of the former humans that they had conspired against the princesses and deliberately abandoned thousands of Newfoals in the Exponentials without any way to get back! It was a very shocking thing to learn about. Even if the seminars weren't mandatory, everypony Dropspindle knew would have gone anyway. Nopony wanted to think that ponies could ever do such a terrible thing to any creature! Those naughty ponies must have been very, very afraid.

Which was silly. During the last six months, Dropspindle had met many, many humans before they became ponies. They were very strange looking - like really weak, shaved diamond dogs more or less - but they had been mostly polite, and many were as friendly as any pony. Some of the humans had talked about very scary and violent things involving their history, and some even seemed like they wanted those things to happen again. Somehow they felt that killing other humans would grant them freedom in some strange way. That was just spine-chillingly alien.

But the weavers and spinners she had dealt with had been nothing but wonderful!

So much fabric! It was lovely, too. The bright colors and the wonderful, alien patterns were just so exciting! No... have to hurry. Dropspindle stuffed the bright red Quechua shawl into her bulging left saddlebag. The pile on the bed was still significant. "Baguettes!" She quickly sorted through what was left, looking for particularly special pieces, and did her best to cram them into her bags any way she could. The larger pieces could never be taken.

Swearing breads under her breath, Dropspindle turned reluctantly towards the door. Hurry. The pegabus.

It was not possible to dash back down the stairs. Human stairs were very narrow and rather tall for a pony. Going up was strenuous, but easy. Going down was dangerous and steep. A goat could do it easy. Dropspindle had several goat friends that would have found human stairs a playground. For a pony, it was a bit on the scary side.

While she made her overburdened climb down, The talking machine's barking voice sounded louder. It was reporting something or another. Probably just repeating that everypony should get to the pegabuses, pronto. Yes, yes, talking box, I know, I should get to the bus, believe me, I know. Dropspindle grumbled as she passed the last floor before the lobby. Fabric could be surprisingly heavy, in bulk.

Something about... no. It couldn't be.

There was one human unaccounted for. A human! Unconverted!

Dropspindle entered the lobby at last. The machine voice sounded almost desperate, as though it somehow cared. A man, a human, had not reported in. For three months... what? He was investigating caves or mines in the hills near the town. It must be a mistake. No, apparently he was using the human's 'electrical power', and had recently 'downloaded' games from the 'hypernet' thing. The artificial voice was very insistent.

The man was a scientist. He was named Kotani. Calloway Kotani. He studied rocks or ruins or something. Calloway.

How could he not know? Equestria was coming! The Barrier was nearly here. It dominated the entire sky from horizon to horizon! It had been clearly visible for the last two months, since the pegasai cleared the smog layer...

It couldn't be seen until then. The human had been underground for three months. If he'd never come up, if he'd had all he needed down there, if...

The metal talking thing could do nothing. It couldn't move - it was very clear on that point. The human was in danger.

How could this happen? The humans had sent government representatives to save everyone! Had one man just simply been forgotten?

This had to be dealt with. Dropspindle burst through the hotel doors and ran as fast as she could through the thin air to the pegabuses. The pegasai were all sealed into their special 'space suits' and it looked like they were ready to take wing.

Dropspindle ran in front of the lead pair of the nearest bus and began to explain. There was a human lost! They had to wait! Was there any potion left? Yes, a human, an unconverted human! The Barrier was nearly here, they were all sealed in to their suits, they couldn't risk everypony else to unseal, unhook, disconnect and go searching the hills. Get in. Celestia had been very clear - not every human could be saved. Not every human wanted to be saved. Yes it was sad. Yes it was a tragedy. Get in. Get in now!

Dropspindle went to the pressure door of the bus. She opened it and stared. So many Newfoals. All going to live a happy new life. That poor man. That poor, poor man. The whole situation just chewed at one. It just burned. That poor man, nobody even knew he was there except the metal voice, and humans didn't much listen to their talking machines. Sometimes that made Dropspindle wonder why they had even built them.

She lifted her overfilled saddlebags - right at the edge of her telekinetic strength - and threw them into the bus. They flopped and lay still. She sealed the door. She ran back to the lead pegasus. He didn't like, or agree, with her statement of intent.

He would try to wait. As long as he absolutely dared, but she had better be faster than a Wonderbolt trying to break a speed record. Look at the sky! The Barrier!

And he wasn't kidding. Dropspindle couldn't help but glance at it, and half the sky was just a solid wall of shimmer and distorted Equestria, and it loomed over everything like doom itself. It looked like you could just reach out a hoof and touch it. It was the largest, most massive thing Dropspindle had ever seen, and even though it was home, at this moment it looked terrifying.

Oh, if it rolled over her right now, she would be fine. She would be in Equestria, in the exponential lands, there would be grass presumably, and water, and probably even trees and who knew what else. She would live a long, long life with a full belly.

Alone. Utterly alone. If she just started running, and never, ever stopped, she would die of old age before she even came close to anypony else. The distances in the Exponentials now were unthinkable. Incredible. Impossible. The humans described it in 'light years' whatever that meant. Light years of newly minted Equestria. Enough room for all the Newfoals, and there were billions and billions of them! Home wasn't just land, it was other ponies. A pony always needed other ponies. Alone was the worst of all possible things.

She should just get on the bus. It was the sane thing to do. The human wasn't even a pony. It should know better. It should have paid attention to its government! He should have paid attention. He had a name. Calloway. Calloway Kotani.

"CROUTONS!" Dropspindle ran for the hill the barking machine had indicated. At least it had displayed the proper location on one of the human's big magic electric paintings. She knew exactly where to go, that was something at least.

Please, please, please let the pegabus wait. This was insane. But it wasn't right to just leave this Calloway there! He must not even know! He was all alone, and the Barrier was coming, and there wasn't any potion, and even if there was, there probably wasn't enough time...

Oh, what a stupid thing to do. But by Celestia and all that was good, it just wasn't right to leave somepony to die alone when they could be saved. It wasn't right! She was not going to be like those naughty ponies that abandoned the newfoals back when. That wasn't what Equestrians were about!

Just wait, pegabus.

Dropspindle the unicorn ran with all of her might, what little she had. It would be okay. Celestia loves all her little ponies. It would be alright.

Hang on, Dr. Calloway Kotani!

The little blue-gray unicorn sped away from the broken road, and into the dry, desert hills of Huancabamba.