• Published 20th Nov 2011
  • 10,922 Views, 73 Comments

The Humanification Bureau - Ezn



In the grimdark future of MLP, there are only humans.

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Act Two: "The Bureau"

Act Two: "The Bureau"

"Four legs good, two legs better!"
– The sheep, Animal Farm

In the months that followed the humanification speeches given around Equestria, the life of Monochrome the earth pony went on as usual, even while the rest of the world turned itself upside down around him.

The pony who had attempted to assassinate Dr Kage and Twilight Sparkle and subsequently started a riot was still at large, as were his or her colleagues, who had incited riots at Applejack and Rarity's speeches in Appleloosa and Manehattan respectively. Ponies and humans alike were shocked by the group's violence, and after some initial hesitation, ponies from all walks of life flocked to the humanification bureaus.

"I may not have my magic anymore," a former unicorn had said during one of the humans' impromptu Equestria-wide information broadcasts, "but all the technology that's been specifically designed for human use means I won't even miss it!"

"As a former Wonderbolt, I look forward to learning how to pilot these amazing flying machines humans use to zip across our planet at incredible speeds!"

"Ah've been guaranteed a hee-uge farm over in human land!"

The final testimony resonated with Monochrome. He had spent years living in a dinky little shack on the edge of what had once been one of his family's famous orange orchards. The ground was cursed with a thousand intricate hexes, and trying to grow anything on it would, at best, be a waste of time. And if the ground had been magic-free, it wouldn't have mattered, because nothing could grow without proper sunshine.

Ever since he had grown old enough to leave the orphanage where he grew up, Monochrome Orange (a terrible name, given by his uncaring parents – Monochrome had dropped the "Orange") had got by doing menial labour for unicorns, in exchange for magically-conjured food.

Monochrome had never seen a unicorn with a cutie mark that didn't have something to with food, bar Twilight. His own cutie mark was also food-related – it was a picture of an orange. He was an orange farmer who had never seen a natural orange, much less grown one. Worse still, it meant that every new pony he met would make a point of telling him how disappointed they were that he wasn't a unicorn.

A little less than two months after Twilight's speech, Monochrome found himself walking back home along a dusty trail, alongside his good friend Ruffled Feathers.

"I think I should take back what I said about humans when I first saw one," she mused, flying lazily just above Monochrome's head. "I found some of their fashion magazines the other day, and all the style and fabrics they have are simply divine! No wonder they're so fond of clothes!"

Monochrome smiled and nodded at Feathers. He didn't much care for fashion, human or otherwise.

"Ooh, that's new!" Feathers exclaimed, pointing a hoof at something to the left of the path. "I didn't know there was a humanification bureau here!"

"Heh, yeah," remarked Monochrome. "Can't say I've really noticed it."

"My friend Indigo Swirl got humanified the other day. She's calling herself ‘Irene Smith' now. ‘Irene Smith'... what an odd name... What does it even mean?"

"I don't think human names come from colours and objects like ours do, Ruff. From what I've seen, they just make up nonsense words instead."

"How funny," remarked Feathers thoughtfully.

The two made very little small talk the rest of the way, and finally said quiet goodbyes once Monochrome reached his shack.

***

"I've decided to get humanified," Ruffled Feathers said a few weeks later. "What do you think of the name ‘Rachel Fren'?"

"What?" Monochrome asked, incredulous. "Why would you want to do that? You do realise that humans can't fly, don't you?"

"Yes, Monochrome, I've noticed their lack of wings through my ‘blind adoration'," Feathers replied mockingly.

"And? You love flying!"

"Humans have got plenty of flying machines!"

"You know that's not the same! I rode in a flying machine once, and you told me as much after I was done throwing up!"

"Look around you, Monochrome!"

Feathers gestured around the room with her forehooves, and Monochrome noticed how quiet everything was for the first time. They were seated at a table in Feeder the Kind-Hearted Unicorn's Charity Soup Kitchen, eating some magically conjured, but otherwise very boring helpings of vegetable soup. They were the only ones at their table, and this was their third course.

Monochrome looked around the room, counting seven other ponies. He added on two to account for anypony in the kitchen, but the headcount still fell shy of double-digits.

"Everypony's gone," Feathers said. "Do you know what percentage of Equestria has already had themselves humanified?"

Monochrome shook his head.

"Well I don't either, but I'll bet it's really high! Everypony's doing it, Monochrome."

"That is never a good reason to go through with something."

"Normally, I'd agree with you, but this is about survival."

"You're being a little melodr–"

"No! Look, just, please come to the bureau with me. You don't have to get humanified, but I want you there for moral support. This isn't easy for me, you know."

Monochrome sighed deeply before grudgingly agreeing to go.

"Yay!"

***

The following day, Ruffled Feathers and Monochrome met up just outside the humanification bureau closest to the latter's shack.

"Ready?" asked Monochrome.

"I sure am!" replied Ruffled Feathers confidently.

Monochrome had to stop himself from asking her how she could possibly manage to be ‘ready' to completely abandon her birth species and change into an alien. He had a nasty suspicion that the answer would have something to do with fashion anyway.

"I do hope you'll change your mind about this once I get humanified, Mono," Feathers implored.

"We'll see."

The Greater Canterlot Humanification Bureau was a dome-shaped metal building, built in the mysterious, featureless style of humanity's other Equestrian outposts. Unlike the monolithic towers and hulking compounds, however, this building had open door at ground level.

Upon entering the open doors, Monochrome looked back and noticed that much of the building's wall-space was taken up by one-way windows, which sent a shiver down his spine. Humans could look out of their buildings, but ponies could not look in.

Turning his attention to the building's interior, Monochrome saw that he and Feathers were standing in a pleasantly homey foyer. Long couches were set at the sides of the room, and a low table filled with ratty-paged magazines lay in its centre. A female human stood behind a white counter at the far edge of the room, already being bombarded with questions by an overeager Ruffled Feathers. A fan whirred on the room's low ceiling.

Monochrome smiled and sank onto one of the room's comfortable couches. Being in the room reminded him of the few times he'd been to Manehattan – the only place in Equestria that had the horsepower to enforce rule of law or cleanliness standards.

"Just head on through that door, dear, and we'll have you humanified in no time!" the human said to Feathers, once the former had finished rattling off her personal details.

"Wow," replied Feathers. "Uh... already? Isn't there... anything else I need to do?"

"You've given me your details, and you say you want to get humanified," the human replied. "Now, I don't want to pressure you into this, so if you're having second thoughts..."

"No, no, I'm ready. Just... let me talk to my friend quickly."

"Alright, but you're not allowed to bring anypony else with you when we begin the process. We don't want to cause any... undue stress."

Feathers nodded understandingly and fluttered over to Monochrome.

"You're not going to be able to do that in a few minutes," he told her snidely.

"It doesn't matter," she replied resolutely. "I've been flying around nearly nonstop this past week, just getting it all out of my system. I don't really need to fly – and it's a small price to pay for survival."

Monochrome rolled his eyes.

"Don't be that way! Look, I know you don't agree with this, but just, please, give me some support here. Wish me good luck."

"Good luck," Monochrome said, trying to sound cheerful, and failing miserably.

Feathers sighed. "It'll do."

With that, she turned tail – literally, for the last time – and stepped towards the door in the back of the room.

Monochrome's heart sank as he watched her disappear through the door, catching sight of the flank that was soon to become whatever it was that humans called their flanks. He sighed heavily, wondering if there was something he should have done differently.

"So I take it you're not here for our two-for-one special?" the human at the counter asked, calling Monochrome's attention to her for the first time.

Monochrome glanced at the human's carefully styled purple hair, and noted how it matched her deep blue eyes – or at least, he was fairly certain it matched, based on the little he'd picked up about colour theory from Feathers's long, one-sided conversations about fashion. She looked familiar, somehow.

"I'm joking of course," she added. "We don't charge for this service."

"Who are you?" Monochrome asked bluntly.

"My name's Rarity, but I'm thinking of changing it to something a little more species-appropriate. What do you think of ‘Rachel'?"

"Rarity as in the Element of Generosity Rarity? That Rarity?"

"Why, yes, actually. As usual, my fame precedes me."

"Why did you do it?"

"Why did I do what, dear?"

"Humanification. Why did you do the humanification thing?"

Rarity put a hand on her chin, and struck a thoughtful pose, eyeing the ceiling fan's whirring blades as she tried to come up with an appropriate response.

"How could you... just... give up your ponyness? You were one of the greatest ponies who ever lived."

"Well, yes, I suppose it does sound like an odd decision when you mention that," Rarity began. "But the thing is, my dear, uh..."

"Monochrome."

"... my dear Monochrome, the thing of it is this: we are more than just ponies. We are living, thinking beings. We have souls, and we have thoughts. We are very much like the humans in that way, much more than you may think."

"And so?"

"I was sceptical at first too, just like you are. But I've seen things that have made me a convert. And not strange prophecies about the place the humans are from, or empty rhetoric about the ‘superiority' of the human race, no. I've seen things right here in Equestria that have made me realise that being a pony is not going to be just another of being for very much longer."

"Like?"

"The crater that used to be Ponyville. That ghastly nothingness in the sky where the sun and moon should be. The blackened ground where nothing can grow. And don't even get me started on this week's fashions in the Canterlot ruins!"

"I've lived with all those things my entire life and I've survived."

"Well, forgive me for my greed, but mere survival is no way to live."

Rarity glanced at the orange on Monochrome's flank. "What does your cutie mark mean?" she asked.

"Means I'm a good orange farmer."

"Have you ever farmed oranges?"

"No."

"Then how did you get it?"

"Intense meditation."

"...I see."

Monochrome lifted himself off of the comfortable couch and scooped up a magazine in his mouth, which he promptly nosed open and pretended to read, thinking he had bested Rarity.

"Do you want to grow oranges?"

"More than anything."

"You can't do that here. You're an earth pony. You can't do anything here anymore, except slave labour and begging."

Monochrome raised a hoof indignantly, but lowered it when he realised he didn't have anything to reply with. Rarity was right, and he knew it. Nothing had grown in Equestria for years.

"Things are only going to get worse, Monochrome," Rarity implored. "You have a chance to get out of this horrible situation, and make a real life for yourself. Why won't you take it?"

"What happened to not wanting to pressure anypony into this?"

"I'm not pressuring you; I'm just stating my case. Things are going to get worse in Equestria: this is a fact. More curses on the ground, further desecration of Canterlot, more dead pony bodies in the streets. It's going to happen, and I don't envy the ponies left behind to experience it."

With Rarity having the final word, the conversation fell silent. Monochrome went back to pretending to read his magazine, and Rarity practiced twiddling her thumbs.

Monochrome hadn't even turned the first page when a silver-haired human female wearing a grey dressing gown stumbled out of the back room and into the foyer, leaning on the wall for support.

"Ruff!" Monochrome cried, leaping off the sofa and galloping up to his friend's side.

The newly minted human smiled weakly at her friend before sprawling onto his back, making his knees buckle a bit.

"I think you're a little too old for pony rides, dear," Rarity said, rushing out from behind her counter to help Feathers onto her feet.

"Ruff... how do you... feel?" Monochrome gasped.

"Please... call me Rachel from now on," Rachel said. "Ruffled Feathers... was always a horrible name."

He had to grant her that one.

"I feel fine, Mono," she added. "Good, even. I'm still pretty much the same as I was before, just with fingers. Neat how we know what those are now, huh?"

"Yeah," Monochrome replied. "But, uh, where are you going to sleep tonight? Humans can't walk on clouds. You're, uh, welcome to stay at my place."

"And I'm sure Rachel thanks you for the kind offer," interjected Rarity, "but it's a new humanification bureau policy to set all new humans up with a place on one of the escape shuttles as soon as possible. The first ones are due to ship out any day now."

Rachel smiled and gave a little shrug, motioning towards Rarity with her eyes as if to say "she's the boss".

"Right. Of course."

"Goodbye, Monochrome," said Rachel, motioning for Rarity to help her kneel. "I hope I will see you again soon."

"Goodbye, Ruffled Feathers," replied Monochrome, putting a foreleg around his friend's neck as she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head in his mane.

***

Monochrome's head drooped as he trudged back to his shack, feeling truly alone. His best friend was a human, and there was nothing he could do change that.

Finally arriving back home, Monochrome shucked his saddlebags into a heap in the middle of the floor and collapsed on his bed, feeling utterly drained. He pulled his blankets over himself, and tried to go to sleep – at least then he would be able to put all the fears and doubts in his mind to rest for a few hours.

Monochrome tossed and turned, uncomfortable no matter what position he took. He started counting sheep, and when that failed to put him to sleep, he tried counting goats, and then pegasi. All of the pegasi were clones of Ruffled Feathers, and they would slowly morph into humans as they swooped over the fence. Monochrome's eyes shot open and he tossed his blankets aside; this wasn't working.

A glint from his saddlebag caught Monochrome's eye, and he walked over to investigate it. A magazine slipped out of the bag – the magazine he had been pretending to read at the Humanification Bureau. A lifetime of hardship had given Monochrome a small dose of kleptomania.

Having nothing better to do, he flipped to a random section of the magazine. The left-hand page had a picture of a bowling alley and some bowling balls on it. On the right-hand page, a male human was getting ready to launch a bowling ball down his alley. So humans have bowling too, Monochrome thought. Their bowling alleys look a lot like ours. The balls even have the same...

Monochrome took stock of the three holes in the bowling balls on the left hand page, and then looked at the human on the right-hand page again. The human appeared to have stuck his fingers in the bowling ball's holes.

Monochrome had always wondered why it was that bowling balls had holes in them, but this made no sense to him. Ponies don't have fingers! he thought. Why would...?

He flipped to another random page of the magazine, and saw a fashion runway full of humans. Another page showed a quaint little village of wooden houses, which bore a suspicious resemblance to the old pictures he had seen of pre-crater Ponyville. Yet another page showed two humans fencing with each other, gripping their swords in their hands.

Wide-eyed, he put the magazine back into one of his saddlebags and hastily pulled them both on. He had to get back to the Bureau.

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