• 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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3. This Little Piggy

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

By Chatoyance

Chapter Three: This Little Piggy

The little blue-gray mare struggled to balance the overlarge clothsack of imported Equestrian oats on her back. As she half-ran, half-stumbled under the tippy bulk, she used her hornfield to steady, push, and pull the mass to keep it from falling. The distance from the Outreach Depot to the jitney lot seemed ten times longer than before she had oats on her back.

Humans, like Dr. Kotani, didn't seem to comprehend the problems unicorns faced. A pegasus could extend her flight magic into any object she touched - such as a carriage, or a heavy sack - and move it easily. Earthponies were tireless, and had an utterly uncanny sense of balance. If she were an earthpony, there would be five sacks on her back and she wouldn't be worrying about balancing them. Humans just seemed to assume that all unicorns were at least as powerful as one of the Royal Unicorn Corps, or even the princesses themselves. Kotani had actually asked her to teleport them both to safety!

Yes, some unicorns could do some pretty amazing things - just as any particularly gifted pony could do amazing things. But not all unicorns were... what was the humanese word? 'Wizard'? Not all unicorns were 'wizards'. If Kotani needed some weaving done, or dye removed from fibers, Dropspindle knew some great spells for that. She even got a gold star in Vestication - if Kotani needed to get dressed instantly, she could probably pull off a basic clothing apport even on his bizarre human frame. But teleportation, especially at distance - that was Royal Corps stuff. Ordinary unicorns never mastered things like that. What a rude demand to make!

The air was so thin. Dropspindle was forced to pause by one of the human's many alcohol bars. The humans drank many horrible-smelling potions in order to derange themselves. At first, Dropspindle had assumed that the alcohol bars were the mirror of Equestian salt bars, but at the end of her first week in Huancabamba this assumption was violently proven wrong. On the weekends, the humans crowded the bars and drank copious quantities of the strange fluids. Their beverages were made by allowing sweetened fruit and grain juices to rot and go bad. The result - as one human native had put it - "Pickled their brains".

The effect was nothing like how salt affected ponies. The humans became loud and often violent. There had been a stumbling, uncoordinated quarrel between young humans that turned into a clumsy physical conflict. The humans struck each other with their forelimbs over and over until blood poured from their faces. One lost teeth from his head, another had his eyebrow torn open and had needed to have his flesh stapled back together. Human medicine was horrific - they had no elixirs to regrow teeth, and no unicorn medics to regenerate bone and flesh. They just stapled themselves together and went toothless.

It had been a rude awakening for Dropspindle. For two weeks after, she had shrunk away from humans on the street and crept in fear that at any moment the tall bipeds around her might go utterly mad.

Huh. Dropspindle had caught her breath fully. That hadn't taken long. The wind was fierce around her, but it was not nearly as thin as it had been for the last several months. She glanced at the half of the world that was a shimmering wall. The Barrier was moving faster than the air could either be transformed or get out of the way. The air was much thicker now. The air... 'pressure'... had increased. The Barrier must be very close indeed.

Her mouth fell open. Past the western edge of the town, just beyond the low hills, the ridge of mountains in Jacocha had been cut in half. The Barrier was devouring them, a wall against which the mountains were dissolving away. As she stood, the sack of oats balanced on her back tilting in the rushing wind, she could see the Barrier moving down the slope of the mountain at a steady pace. She could see the Barrier coming, moving towards Huancabamba. The thickening air roared louder in her ears.

"HURRY!" Dropspindle was almost galloping now, desperately clutching the sack with her hornfield. "KOTANI! HURRY!" She had expanded her telekinetic grasp so that it encompassed her own spine. She could feel the hollow shapes of her own vertebrae and the butter-soft cord within. It was a grotesquely wet and vaguely terrifying sensation - how did medical unicorns deal with such things? But it was also an excellent grip. By binding her hornfield to both the sack of oats and her own spine, she had effectively bolted the sack to her body. As long as her thaumatic strength held, the sack shouldn't fall off. It hurt a bit though, the weight tugging directly at the bones in her back.

She passed the corner that led back to the Plaza de Armas and pounded down the cracked street to the jitney lot. Where was Calloway? Where was that silly monkey... she couldn't see the human anywhere. The jitney he had chosen was ahead. She had hoped he could help her get the heavy sack into the vehicle. At the steps that led inside, Dropspindle released her field and let the sack fall. She glanced around. No Kotani.

Dropspindle whinnied and turned. She grabbed the sack with both teeth and telekinesis. She began working her way backwards up the steps into the jitney van, dragging the bulky grainsack, trying hard not to let it snag or tear.

The Verdulería Chévere de Huancabamba was very dark, now that the power for the town had suddenly shut down. The plascrete-and-glassite Peruvian equivalent of Googlezon featured a bizarre blend of ancient and new. Calloway had found it fascinating that handmade, traditional ayahuasca vessels sat side-by-side with the latest romball players and last year's MicroSony Mindset. It was a colorful store.

It was also a store that had supplies for miners and tourist elites come to sample local Shamanism. Canteens and ropes, shovels and candles and, best of all, GovRation foodpaks. Calloway made a careful path into the pitch recesses of the market where those goods were. Several times his cart slammed into an unseen display or edge of a shelf. Outside the wind howled, it was getting louder by the minute.

The silver-and-black checks gleamed in the available light. Calloway grabbed handfuls of the foodpaks from the shelves and dumped them into the cart. These were the same traveling rations Blackmesh carried when they needed to cross zones on foot. When the cart was overflowing, Calloway snatched canteens by the armful and began racing back to the front of the store. In the dim light, the cart collided several times, spilling paks, but there was no time to waste trying to gather them back. He pushed the door open and rammed the cart outside. With the cart holding the door open, Calloway turned suddenly and ran to a display that held compasses and LED flashlights. He grabbed several of each, stuffing them into his pockets. Then he ran back to the cart.

The market door was rattling from the wind, Calloway watched as a foodpak sailed away from the cart to scud and flap down the street. The Barrier was a nightmare wall now, eating the very mountains as it came. It was as high as the stars and as wide as the sky itself, it divided the world in half. Even glancing at its massiveness made him feel a sensation of vertigo mixed with a bizarre terror that the impossibly tall thing would topple over and crush him somehow.

He began pushing the rattling shop cart down the cracked street. Water. Those canteens needed to be filled. He had noted a cafe by the jitney lot, it must have a sink. The electricity was gone, but the water should still hopefully work. If it didn't, he would be in trouble soon. Calloway had to take a detour down an alley because the road was in greater disrepair - out the other side he found the next street over in better condition. He began to run, as best he could, pushing the cart ahead of him. The canteens dangled from their straps and whacked constantly into the metal cart and his legs both. After two more blocks he noted he would have bruises the next day.

If he survived to the next day.

How fast was the Barrier moving? As Calloway ran and pushed and rattled and grew more sore from the punishing canteen impacts, he tried to work it out in his head. It was Year Five, which meant that the hypersphere intersecting the earth was... somewhere around fifteen... sixteen thousand kilometers in diameter? Something like that. All of the Northamerizone was gone, the Barrier had just touched the continental Eastasiazone. That was the reason Kotani had decided to take a couple of months off on the Worldgovernment ticket. He'd made the decision just after Nippon had become Included.

He had never expected to see his grandmother's homeland, the homeland of his people. No Wandering Japanese ever did. It was a radioactive exclusion zone, the entire region. It would be 50,000 years before humans could ever live there again, at minimum. But somehow it had mattered that the land was still there. As long as Nippon existed, as long as the land was there, even if it was death, even if it was poison, then he still had a homeland and a past. When there had been nations, that would have been his. But Equestria had devoured it. Nippon was gone. The deadly mountains, the poison streams, the radioactive cities taken by what was left of wilderness... all gone. Forever.

Calloway Kotani was now truly a man without a home. Even fifty thousand years from now, the Wandering Japanese could never return. There was no land to return to. Nippon was just more Equestria now. Somewhere behind that shimmering wall, everything that Kotani's family, his ancestors had ever made, every place they had ever walked, or died, or lived, was now air and land for ponies only.

Perhaps it was a strange justice. They had killed their islands and been forced to wander the earth. Nippon had been recycled, was all. Perhaps ponies could take better care of it than Man had.

The cart nearly tipped over as Calloway passed the plaza. Fifteen or Sixteen thousand, five years - no, six years. Year Zero was when the bubble in the North Pacific first appeared. The count was from Zero. So six years, about nine thousand kilometers over all - the distance to Hawaii, which was vaguely near where Equestria first appeared. South of. About five thousand kilometers per year... but then the expansion was not constant. Sometimes it went, sometimes it paused... but overall...

As Kotani reached the edge of the jitney lot, he decided that the Barrier must be moving at about fourteen kilometers per day. More or less. It wasn't constant, but that was a decent average. He vaguely remembered seeing that mentioned in a kiosk news report before he went into deep mine seclusion. That would mean... um... just over half a Kay per hour.

Walking speed was... what... three or four Kays per hour? Even on foot staying ahead of the Barrier shouldn't be too hard. Yes, it was coming. But just in shoes a man could move eight times faster than that deadly wall! Just keep going. And in a van, it should be possible to leave the Barrier far behind. This wasn't as dangerous as that pony was making it out to be! This was eminently doable. They had cars, they had roads, and there had to be some cities down below. That meant more fuel to drive farther... heck, there would have to be an airship field out there, somewhere. The Southamerizone was huge!

Kotani didn't actually know much about it though - most of his career had been spent looking for oil and other resources in Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Franz Joseph Land, New Arctica, Hyperborea - all the iceless islands and microcontinents of the Northpolarzone. He'd also done some work in the Gamburtsevs in warming Antarctica. Peru had sounded exotic. It still had towns. It wasn't really part of the Worldfavela. The brochures he had read on the hypernet described it as a 'taste of the pre-Collapse world'.

It had not exactly lived up to the brochures, unless the pre-Collapse world was a crumbling hovel for impoverished native peoples. Still, it had several bars and a nice, deep mine - and easy Googlezon delivery by lifting body transport drones. All on the WorldGov creditstick.

It was easy to breath. That was new. The air was positively thick. The barometric pressure must have risen to sea-level values - or close to it. The Barrier was squashing the atmosphere because it could only process earth matter so fast. Calloway had watched an article about what it was like near the Barrier. The abstract had become real - the Barrier was visibly creeping down the mountain behind him.

"Where have you been?" The excitable unicorn was at the jitney. Drophandle. Spindle. Whatever.

"Look!" Calloway let go of the cart and let it bang into the jitney van. He waved his arms slowly up and down. "Canteens! There's a cafe right over there - " He pointed the direction "Help me fill these up. Maybe there will still be some picarones or something to snack on for the journey. Oh, and if there is any pie, synthetic or not, grab it. No reason this can't be fun!"

Dropspindle stared in disbelief at the human's cavalier attitude. "The Barrier is coming!" Was this monkey mentally challenged?

"You really need to calm down. I've worked it out. We can outwalk the damn thing on foot." Calloway grinned. "Or hoof. Point is, you've got me all panicked for nothing. We've got a car, it's topped up, there's extra barrels of alcohol bolted on top - you ponies underestimate the power of human technology. We've got all the time in the..."

"Have you even looked at a map of this part of your world?" Dropspindle had several canteens around her neck, and was floating two more with her hornfield.

Kotani shook his head as they walked. "No. Grab a map if they have one. You can navigate while I drive. Just get us to the freeway, and..."

Dropspindle stopped in the middle of the street, just outside the cafe. She stared at the insane monkey for a moment. "Calloway. Kotani." She worked to control her temper. It wasn't easy. "Just where do you imagine are we going?"

Kotani slumped. Yakity-yak. This mare definitely liked the dramatic talk stuff. He returned her baleful glare.

"Where we are going, where we have to go - to escape certain doom, for both of us - there are steep cliffs, torturous heights, incredibly rough terrain, endless lengthy switchbacks, maze-like canyons - and the only roads are crumbling dirt paths barely wide enough for that bulky wheeled monstrosity of yours!"

Kotani didn't know that. He had imagined a luxurious drive.

The little unicorn mare gave the shaved ape another glare. "And that is just to get off this one particular plateau."

"Oh?"