• Published 11th Jun 2016
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Equus Metamorphosis - boardgamebrony



2072 TX: A young human with a degenerative bone condition must prepare for a life-saving technological transformation into Rainbow Dash. His robotic partner Pinkie Pie, several other robot ponies and exosuited-humans guide him toward his new life...

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( 4 ) The Crying Phoenix [4th Floor]

Nurse Redheart guided Armin and Pinkie Pie through the disorienting white rooms of the 4th floor. Armin noticed the Nurse’s hoofsteps were very light considering that her suit had to weight a considerable amount. Come to think of it, he had never asked how heavy the suits were. He would be carrying it around all day, and his bones could only handle so much, so he needed to ask.

“What’s the weight of the Exosuit, Nurse?” Armin asked.

“They vary, and they can be changed, added to, and subtracted from even while being worn. At least an outer shell can. There are certain parts that do not come off, because they are necessary for the function of the suit. But I understand you have a certain condition which forbids you to take off any major part of the suit. So at most, you might be able to remove some outer plating. My suit weighs about 15 pounds. It’s not very good on the protective side, but perfect for my job.”

“And mine? It will need protection. I can’t afford to fall and break something,” Armin said.

“The heaviest suits we have are 50 pounds. It’s unlikely yours will weight that much. More like 20 perhaps.”

Pinkie furrowed her brow. “Who would need a suit that’s almost as heavy as firefighter gear?”

“Any exosuit wearer who lives around hazardous conditions. Melody Noble’s exosuit is actually the lightest, weighing about 12 pounds.”

Armin stepped up. “Oh what does she have?”

“Octavia Melody, whom you might be familiar with, considering your Pinkie Pie there.”

Pinkie and Armin looked at each other. Pinkie spoke first. “And her Pod Pal is Vinyl Scratch…”

“She’s living the relationship of her dreams,” Armin said. He smiled.

“We will be too! Very soon,” Pinkie said and nuzzled Armin. We already are, he thought.

There was a circular curtain around one of the areas in the next room. It was only slightly transparent, and Armin could make out blue non-human feet, almost like paws, below the bottom of the curtain. Whatever this individual was, they had a long finned tail and were very tall. “Who’s that?” Armin asked.

Nurse Redheart looked over. “Wait right here,” she said. She walked beyond the curtain and started asking questions in a whisper. Armin couldn’t make out what she was saying. He turned to Pinkie and saw her ears turn into position as she started mouthing something and nodding. She motioned for Armin to come closer.

“Saying ‘How are you doing? Is the tranquilizer working for you? Don’t go out swimming after taking it. You may look like a sea creature but you still need to breathe air.’” Pinkie suddenly stopped. Armin looked over but couldn’t tell what Pinkie saw. Her expression meant something serious. She motioned for Armin to pull out his tablet. A message popped up from Pinkie Pie wirelessly.

She heard me talking. I saw her ears go up. I don’t think she’s going to be happy with me.

Armin smiled. He almost said something and then typed back a response. He held the tablet towards Pinkie to show her.

You’re such a rebel.

Pinkie Pie stuck out her tongue and smiled. Then her face dropped as she continued her message, only wirelessly this time.

He says he isn’t sure he made the right choice. He

The message suddenly cut. Both Pinkie and Armin looked at the screen to see a message from Nurse Redheart.

This is such a thing as patient/doctor confidentiality. Please go to my office and wait there.

---

Pinkie tried to avoid staring looking at Nurse Redheart sitting at her desk, arms crossed, eyes narrow and brow furrowed. Armin, however, kept his eyes trained sorely on the Nurse. And she looked upset.

“Pinkie,” Nurse Redheart started, “There is no reason for you to be eavesdropping on my conversations with patients.”

“Sorry,” she said without turning to look at Redheart.

“This isn’t a game, Pinkie. You can’t be doing stuff like that. If I felt you had malicious intent, I could throw you off the grounds right now.”

Armin leaned forward. “Why won’t you let us hear what he has to say?”

Nurse Redheart peered at Armin with a bit of shock. “What do you mean?”

“He had some reservations. I’m assuming about the exosuit. Possibly problems with it? Why didn’t you let us hear about them?”

Nurse Redheart bit her lip, quickly looked around the office and then back at Armin. “I’m not hid…” she caught her breath and started again, only more controlled. “The only thing I’m hiding is what I legally need to. Which is anything involving other patients that are not you. If YOU want to ask him personally about his reservations or issues, you can do so and I won’t stop you. But you will NOT eavesdrop and play little games while you are in here. Understand?”

“That’s fair,” Armin said. His anger overrode Redheart’s chastisement and he felt only the barest amount of remorse at accusing her of withholding information. Even though she wasn’t a Pod Pal with room for more complex circuitry underneath the suit, Armin realized her pony eyes held a lot of expressive ability. Including unmistakable anger. “I’m sorry,” Armin said, wishing to soften the room.

“That’s fine, but don’t let it happen again. I’m serious about that threat.” She sat back in her chair and stared out the window. All three of them could see what appeared to be small ponies moving back and forth in the distance of a cel-shaded wonderland. Armin looked closer and recognized it as Equestria. But it didn’t make sense. The position of the room in the building indicated that the window he was looking through was positioned only a few feet from the outside of the building. And they were 4 stories up. Yet everything beyond the window looked 3-dimensional. Armin was seconds away from asking about it when Nurse Redheart spoke up. “Why don’t you trust me, Armin?” She blinked her eyes over and over and he saw her gulp down very prominently. Is she holding back tears, Armin thought?

“I just saw something suspicious and I wanted to know what I was about," he responded.

“Suspicious…” Nurse Redheart repeated. “I’m talking to an upset patient and you think that’s suspicious…” She gripped the armrests on her chest with white gloved hands. They made a tense, tightening sound. There was silence for a bit and Nurse Redheart kept her eyes trained outside the window at the playing ponies in the distance. She breathed in and exhaled very loudly. “I don’t know why I have to keep doing this…”

“Do what?” Armin asked.

She spun around quickly. “Defending myself!” Her eyes were halfway between anger and sadness. “I work here every single day trying to make lives better for people like you. People who come in with no hope left anywhere else. I work really hard to make sure that every detail is taken care of. When I heard you were in the lobby, did you know why I took so long?” She typed quickly on the computer and flipped the monitor around on its swivel neck. “Look. Look at what I’ve done for you.”

Armin and Pinkie read the details on the screen. Armin spoke them aloud in summary. “You…you talked with Zer0 while we were coming down here and he…she told you about my reservations about the gender of the costume. You found…you found a way to use it as a medical excuse so I could have a discounted rate on the masculinization of the features…so I wouldn’t be gender dysphoric…” Armin sat back. Now he felt bad.

Nurse Redheart started talking again, but her voice was more strained. Both pink pony and the young man could tell she was trying to keep her professionalism intact. “I do little things like this for every client who comes in here. But I don’t always tell each of them. I figure it’s fine to do things in the background. Not worry about getting any credit. I like making people happy.” Pinkie Pie lowered her head at the last comment. “But I guess I’m going to have to prove myself more often now, since everyone keeps questioning my motives. And yes Pinkie, I just got your wireless message in my Heads-Up-Display. And no, you don’t have to worry about my ‘outburst’ being caught on a secret camera SYS-TER hid somewhere in my office, because there isn’t one.” Nurse Redheart sat back down.

Armin turned to Pinkie “Did you really say those exact words?” Pinkie nodded. “I was honestly worried about the same thing. I don’t want you to lose your job because of me.”

“Armin,” Nurse Redheart said, shaking her head, “What…what world do you live in where there’s this constant hidden threat? SYS-TER did tell me about how terrified you were of her in the elevator. Yes, she told me that because the elevators DO have cameras. Because they’re a public space in the building that needs monitoring. And she wanted me to help you feel at home. But I can’t now. I can’t do that.” She turned back around and looked out the window. “Not if you’re going to be this paranoid. I just…don’t understand technophobes.”

“I’m sorry, Nurse,” Armin said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“I want to help you, Armin,” she said, still facing away. “But I get hurt too. Don’t let my appearance fool you. If you want a lesson in exosuits from someone who has one, then here’s a lesson you should remember: the expression on the suit does not tell you about the person underneath. You can’t see all my scars. I wear this face because I want to be like this…but it doesn’t mean that I am underneath.” She waited for a few seconds. “Do you know why I wear this suit, Armin?”

He sat back in his seat. He had been waiting for this.

Nurse Redheart continued. “I used to work here without one. I was a nurse just like any of the other ones you see out there. Regular human. No augmentations. Well…I had a few small ones, but nothing major. Who doesn’t right? I worked here for three years and everything I’ve told you about the way I work? I did all that even then. Helping people and their Pod Pals come in here and leave happier and more secure than when they arrived.” She turned to look at the window and hesitated. Her eyes were definitely crying now. Armin didn’t know the suits could do that. Nurse Redheart raised her hand and tapped the window. The visualization changed and the view was now the actual exterior of the Technomancer building. Redheart exhaled loudly. “Thanks Pinkie, but you don’t have to send me encouraging messages covertly. You can speak.” Pinkie shook her head and kept her very attentive gaze on Redheart. She nodded. “All right then. Three years after I started working here, there was…was a very stupid bill that passed up in Austin. Some of the anti-technology legislators and their Luddite lobbyists had paid them to pass legislation limiting what companies could do technology-wise within the city limits. Anything involving augmentation was deemed a ‘potential health hazard.’ Allies of the pro-tech industries fought back and it took a year to get the bill overturned, which is amazing considering how long it takes to do anything here in Texas. But for that year, people protested against us in the streets. Down there,” she said pointing to the spot across from the Technomancer property. “I was…”

She suddenly spun around and put her hands over her face. She breathed very deeply and Pinkie reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder. Armin wanted to, but he hesitated. He didn’t know why. Pinkie looked over at him, motioning for him to help too. Armin reached over and held Nurse Redheart’s hands. She squeezed them tightly in response. She sniffled a bit and then backed up in her seat, nodding to both of them. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“No, I’m sorry. I was the jerk. Forgive me,” Armin said.

Nurse Redheart opened her eyes and looked at the computer screen. She flipped it around and rapidly typed until she hit the enter key and flipped it back. “There,”

Pinkie and Armin read the news headline on-screen

PROTESTOR KILLS NURSE, CRITICALLY INJURES ANOTHER

“It should say ‘Terrorist,’ but the local media favored the causes of the anti-tech lobby,” Redheart said.

Armin and Pinkie continued to read.

A 19 year-old protestor affiliated with the organization Human Family First brutally attacked and murdered a nurse and critically injured another. Head Nurse of Technomancer Industries, Judith Curie, was killed when the protestor set her on-fire with a Molotov cocktail in protest of the attempted repeal of the 2065 Human Purity Act. Assistant to the Head Nurse, Alexandra Malek, was also set on-fire by the vicious attack. Alexandra is in critical condition at Spohn Hospital. The protestor ran from police and shot himself when cornered at a nearby restaurant.

Armin looked up. “You’re…”

“I was Alexandra Malek,” Nurse Redheart said. “When I was recovering, one of my Technomancer co-workers, in a bit of a misguided encouragement, started calling me Phoenix.” She looked at them both. “Because phoenixes are reborn after they burn themselves to death.”

Pinkie noticeably exhaled, even though she didn’t need to breathe.

“The intention was good on his part,” Redheart said. “But he was right. I was reborn. Because Technomancer offered me a full expenses-paid exosuit transition process. And I got to pick the suit.”

Armin leaned forward. “But the Human Purity Act. I thought such augmentation wasn’t allowed.”

For once during their talk, Nurse Redheart smiled. “Melody Noble flew in from Great Britain with Vinyl Scratch. In three days, they set up an augmentation-based religion with all the necessary paperwork, bought a building, had me ordained as the lead minister, and made one of the key religious beliefs the right to augment whenever they wished. And under the Religious Freedom Act that was currently in-place in Texas, I could not be denied the right to augment my body or it would be considered a denial of my religious rights.” Nurse Redheart’s smile had never been bigger. “And as the final middle-finger Melody threw to the establishment, she made sure the religion was based off one of her favorite video games, knowing that even then they couldn’t touch it.” Nurse Redheart opened a drawer and pulled out a brochure. Armin couldn’t help but laugh when he read it.

“This is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s clearly a joke!” He couldn’t stop laughing.

“Doesn’t matter. Unless they wanted to face a multi-million dollar lawsuit over denying a dying girl the right to be saved, it had to be recognized under the Religious Freedom Act,” Nurse Redheart said.

“Pinkie, look at this. ‘Augmentationism is a belief system held by over 500,000 members worldwide (“Melody got that many people to sign in solidarity with me over 72 hours. Lots of people wanted it,” Redheart said) and seeks to spread the gospel of technological truth and prosperity. Members of Augmentationism believe that a just God would want their children to thrive in all technological environments. Community efforts include increasing internet-access to all needy families, offering scholarships to students excelling in technological research, bringing cheap and affordable tech courses to underprivileged kids, and offering financial assistance to those in need of purchasing augmentations as part of their belief system.’ This is beautiful. Can I keep this?”

“Of course. I’ve got like fifty of them,” Nurse Redheart said. She then began to move her arms and hands in a very showy manner as she explained even more. “By the way, our patron saint is Saint Jensen, who was once a cop in Detroit but, after a near-death experience, was brought back to life through the miracle of augmentation technology. He lived a digital life of course, but that is valid under our belief system. To pray to him, simply raise your augmented, or unaugmented hands to the sky and say ‘Oh Saint Jensen, I know you didn’t ask for this, but like Icarus flying too close to the sun, we flew too high too fast, and now we look for your guidance, given to us by almighty Eidos.’”

Armin was laughing so hard that even Pinkie Pie had to join in. Nurse Redheart was giggling so much that she nearly fell out of her seat. The three shared their joy and Armin stood up and hugged Nurse Redheart, who continued laughing even as the tears fell from her eyes. “You okay?” Armin asked her.

“I’m great,” she said. “I needed to let all that out. Thank you,” she and Armin took their seats again. Nurse Redheart sighed. “Feels good to laugh.”

“I…I don’t know what else to say. I mean…I have many questions, but my mind is a bit jumbled right now. Too many thoughts.”

Nurse Redheart motioned to Pinkie with her hand. Both of them touched hands and their eyes lit-up. “Pinkie has my call number now. Just have her contact me with any questions and I’ll answer them as soon as possible. I leave for home at 7PM though, so I won’t answer anything as quickly over there, just so you know.”

“I’ll have to ask you what It’s like to adjust to home life in an exosuit later,” Armin said.

“Mostly, you break a lot of things your first few weeks. But you get used to your newfound strength,” she said. “Don’t ever knock on doors that are made with cheap wood. You’ll leave little dents in them.” Nurse Redheart averted her eyes for a second while thinking about something.

Both Pinkie and Armin stood up. “Where should we go next?” Armin asked.

Nurse Redheart leaned forward. “I know SYS-TER has been guiding you to talk to certain people first-off, but from here on out, you get to choose. However…you still need clearance from a few people before you’re allowed to do your operation. So stay away from floor 37 till you’ve got it. You’ve already got my clearance whenever you’re ready to go. Now you need three more.”

“A quest!” Pinkie said. “Three of them!”

“You need to talk to the Technomancer Psychologist and get their blessing. You also need to pass the exams at the testing facility to prove you are fully informed of every bit of basic information needed to perform this procedure. After you get those two in whichever order you choose, then the last one you have to see is SYS-TER.”

“Come again?” Armin said. “You mean…the AI?”

“Yes,” Nurse Redheart said. “She will not go easy on you, trust me. Even when I was ready, she was only a slightly bit lenient with me, because of my situation. But just be honest with her and you should be okay.”

Pinkie and Armin hugged Nurse Redheart and she held them so tight, Armin wondered if she ever got physical affection at all in her daily life. She let go and waved goodbye. “Remember, Armin! Honesty!”

They stepped out of the office and noticed the blue finned exosuit wearer was gone.

“We’ll probably see him later,” Pinkie said.

They entered the elevator, pressed the button and headed up. “Finally. Ascending again. Saint Jensen help us,” Armin joked.

---

Author's Note:

Extra Story Details

Writing Time for This Chapter: 2 hr 25 min
Draft Number: 1 Draft
Setting: Technomancer Industries Corpus Christi Offices, Elevator and 4th Floor
Themes: Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Aggression and Lack Thereof, Love, Religion

Story Notes:
Saint Jensen loves all of you. I want you to know that. Even when mankind is divided, he still cares.