• Published 2nd Jan 2021
  • 609 Views, 168 Comments

Retcon - Beige Monkfish



A pony with no memory awakens in a strange facility.

  • ...
1
 168
 609

Chapter Eleven - Will Out

Vti plpn ugdb bt xchtri

“…Alright now, take it easy...”


A piece of paper was pushed before her.

She didn’t want to read it.

She was sitting. There was a desk. The door was shut. She wasn’t alone, but she didn’t pay the others any attention. She didn’t need to. She didn’t need to do anything.

They could do what they liked. It didn’t matter. Sometimes they made sounds. Deciphering was pointless.

She wanted to slip away into unconsciousness, but her body wouldn’t let her. It kept her painfully awake.

All she could see was Lemony, looking at her.

And it wouldn’t stop.

She looked away. She looked up.

An off-white unicorn was standing beside her. Her long mane and tail were green with thin, vivid streaks of crimson. On her flank was the mark of two leaves. Her emerald eyes spoke of a restrained storm. She had been speaking.

The pegasus blinked.

Standing to one side was a griffon. Gurney, she recalled. She had met him before. He seemed fretful.

The pegasus looked down at the paper. She was asked a question. The ink on the paper wasn’t swimming any more, but the words were too difficult. She looked up at the unicorn, and shook her head.

Lemony’s eyes.

Gurney stood beside her now, speaking. She blearily watched his beak move. It was sharp, and could pierce her neck with a swift movement.

“Retcon?”

She knew that word. It hurt.

“Are you with us?”

She tracked Gurney as he moved. He was looking at her with his forward-facing eyes. She should respond. “…Hi, Gurney.”

The room sounded different. Her voice, sounding so close, cut through the thick haze which threatened to recoalesce.

After a confused moment, he came closer, beak flashing. “Hey. How’re you holding up?”

She thought as hard as she could, swallowing dryly. “I’m… not holding up.”

“That’s okay,” he said gently. Was he… smiling? The griffon was always the hardest to read. “You’re okay, just take your time.”

She blinked down at the desk. “…Okay.”

Gurney glanced, concerned, at the off-white unicorn, backing away as she trotted near. The pegasus watched as she took a seat next to her at the desk. The unicorn’s expression was calm, with hidden severity just below the surface. She leaned her crossed forelegs on the table.

“Do you know me?” the unicorn asked simply.

The pegasus wanted to shy away, but she daren’t move. Eventually, she shook her head.

For the first time, the unicorn broke eye contact, just for a moment. “I go by the name Sky. What is your name?”

Retcon. “…I… I don’t…” She shook her head.

Sky nodded. “Would you mind if I called you Retcon?”

Blood dripping from her neck.

“…A little…” She glanced at Gurney, who was looking at her, worried. “…Okay.”

“Okay then. Retcon, look at me.” She did, deep emerald eyes filling her vision. “I will not lie to you, Retcon. Ask me, and I will answer.”

Slowly, she looked down at the paper. Her name was written on it. She didn’t want to read it.

Retcon.

She met Sky’s eyes. “…What is my… real name?”

Sky paused before responding. “We don’t know. You refused to tell us.”

She tasted something bitter. “Who am I?”

Turning her head, Sky nodded at Gurney, who after a pause turned and left the room. It was the room she had met Shower on her first morning, she realised, Room 36. Then Sky turned back, once more meeting her eyes. She drew a slow breath.

“You are a changeling.”

…A what?

She opened her mouth to reply, but Sky continued, “Changelings are a race of shape-shifters. We don’t know a great deal about them, we can get you the details you gave us.”

The pegasus blinked lethargically. “…Shape…shifters…?”

Sky nodded. “Changelings have the ability to change form into that of a pony.”

She searched Sky’s inscrutable eyes. Frowning, she lifted a foreleg up slowly, turning it round.

This is mine, isn’t it?

There was a dreadful crawling sensation over every inch of her body. Every olive hair of her coat felt like a needle. “But…” She could see the fringe of her forest-green mane just above her vision. “…No…”

Sky leaned back, taking her forelegs off the table. “Take your time.”

The pegasus- she was a pegasus, right? She felt the weight of her feathered wings shift against her back. “…But I-” She looked up at Sky pleadingly. “What?”

The unicorn was impassive.

“Shape- but this is me, right? Tell me this is me!”

“That’s not your natural form, no,” Sky said gently. “But it is a form you yourself chose.”

The growing feeling of revulsion lessened, but didn’t leave. The pegasus… she kept her eyes fixed on the desk, withers hunched. “…What am I supposed to look like?”

Sky tilted her head. “Well, far be it for me to be sentimental, but a changeling is ‘supposed’ to look like whatever they want, so… But if you mean your natural form, you’ll have to wait for Gurney.”

“Okay…”

The paper in front of her appeared to be a copy of her file, though different from the one she had been given, much longer. She didn’t want to read it.

“Um…” She looked up at Sky. “‘Retcon’?”

“It’s a nickname for a memory-altering drug. Its effects on the speech centres of the brain are limited, so you apparently retained some memory of the word.” She paused. “You’re welcome to it as your name if you still wish.”

…I liked that name… It was mine. “But… why? Why was my memory removed?”

“You asked us to.” Sky’s expression softened slightly, breaking eye contact. “You came to us because you were desperate. Starving, maybe a week from death. When you were told of Compound B67, you requested a dose.” The steel returned to her eyes. “You wanted a fresh start, as a pony. The plan was to wipe your memory, prep you for integration into society, and then leave you be. That was all your idea, and we… acquiesced.” She turned away to face the door. “Well, not you. A different you. You’ve only existed for four days.”

The door opened before Retcon could respond, and a hesitant Gurney stepped in, a folder under one wing. He shot her a quick glance, before passing the folder to Sky.

The folder was enveloped in a meadow-green glow and began to turn in the air, seemingly unsupported. The glow matched a similar aura emanating from Sky’s horn. She was too exhausted to question it.

The folder flipped open and landed on the desk, showing loosely-bound pages. There was a lot of text, just looking at the paper hurt her head, but part-way down the page was a pair of charcoal pictures.

They depicted a creature somewhat equine in profile; one was a full-body side-on, the other was a close-up of it’s face, staring straight at her. It’s hide was black and slightly glossy, it’s limbs riddled with holes. It had wings; thin membranous structures on it’s back, like a fly.

Most disturbing was the creature’s face. Two needle-sharp teeth jutted out from it’s upper lip, and it’s eyes were a flat grey, with no pupils.

“…This is a changeling?” she asked in a small voice.

“Yes,” said Sky. “You posed for those sketches.”

The words struck her like a physical blow to the stomach.

…That’s me!?

She leaned in closer to get a better look, but the pictures were only small. The creature did not look friendly, she thought. She tried to find anything familiar in its features, but came up blank. It was like seeing a nightmare when expecting a mirror.

She lifted her head to look at Sky. “...Thank you.”

She waved a hoof. “Keep that, it’s a photocopy.”

Retcon nodded idly, returning to the pictures.

Sky stood. “We’ll give you some space.” Glancing briefly at Gurney, she turned and left the room.

Gurney raised a talon upward in her direction, hesitated, then seemed to reconsider and lowered it. “I’ll just be outside.”

The room felt emptier as the door closed. She was alone.

She skimmed the text in the folder; seemingly a dry and detached description of the pictured insectoid. She was almost afraid of reading it. Flipping the page, concealing those sketches, revealed a form. At a quick glance, the text at the top of the page made mention of B67 and talks with the changeling, it appeared to lay out an agreement, information on changelings in return for the retcon drug. At the bottom were two spaces signed by pen. Next to the neatly printed “Sky” was an unreadable curving pattern. She would have called it a scribble were it not so delicately crafted and clearly intentional. Beside it, next to “unnamed changeling” was the word ‘YES’ written in plain blocky mouthwriting.

Flipping the page revealed no further papers, so she closed the folder, turning her attention instead to the semi-familiar file;


Property of Royal Investigation Institute
CLASSIFIED - EYES ONLY
do not copy
do not remove from facility
do not transfer

Sort: LS.028
Subject ID: C13.274.A
Type: Fauna, F
Hazard Assessment: C
Subject Classification: Changeling
Identifying Features: Natural appearance is consistent with known examples of changeling drones. Subject is currently disguised as a pegasus mare possessing an olive coat, forest-green mane and tail, and tree mark.
Feature(s) of Interest: Total amnesia caused by 10oz dose of Compound B67. Has no memory of life before arrival at facility. Can recall language and recognises certain subjects such as food, some artificial objects, and other sapients; some general concepts still exist. Maintains the intelligence expected for a pony of her apparent age. Subject has no recollection of her changeling identity, and believes herself to be a pegasus. This belief is to be encouraged.
Containment Procedure: Subject is to be assigned to standard sapient quarters to encourage the belief that she is a regular pony and not an SOI. She is to be closely monitored by assignee to ensure the development of new memories progresses as expected, and to ensure all prior memories have been purged. As such, subject is to be permitted rights inconsistent with Hazard rating, in accordance with behaviour and at assignee’s discretion. Subject is to be encouraged to take up a regular pony diet. However, due to the subject's necessary dietary requirements, the assignee is required to form a bond of friendship with the subject and allow for passive feeding. As these emotions must be genuine, the assignee must be selected carefully, as feigning will result in the subject starving. Further consideration must be given to ensure the subject is able to sustainably siphon energy upon release.
History of Subject: Subject was an Infiltrator for a changeling hive, strongly believed to be the same hive from the Royal Wedding. Subject surrendered herself to the Royal Guard unprompted. Being the first changeling to be captured since the Invasion, subject was transferred to the Institute for study. During interrogation, subject expressed disenfranchisement with the hive, particularly regarding leadership and conditions following the failed Invasion; she expressed belief that returning to the hive would lead to her death. She submitted herself for voluntary memory excision in exchange for intel on the changeling race and the functioning of the hive. Upon the conclusion of questioning at the Institute's discretion, subject was given 10oz of Compound B67. Addendum: Prior to this procedure, Compound B67 was explained to the subject using its informal name of 'retcon'. See Notes.
Assignee: Lemony Meringue
Notes: Original name unknown. Has selected for herself the name 'Retcon'. This development was allowed so as not to disrupt integration. It appears that the subject was able to recall the word, though the meaning has been purged. This may be due to the limited affect that Compound B67 has on the speech centres of the brain. No other memories seem to persist, and the recollection of the word does not appear to have roused any suspicion on the subject's part. It was explained that the word is a literary device, the meaning of which the subject found agreeable. Personal note, it is my belief that Retcon chose this name particularly because Lemony and myself advised against it, perhaps out of a desire to be contrary in an environment where she felt she had little control, and not because the word held any meaning for her.

Filed by: Flt Lt Light Shower


Bleary-eyed and foggy headed, it took her several seconds to recognise the sound of knocking at the door. She knew she should respond, but her mouth wouldn’t move.

The door cracked open, and in stepped Shower, her head lowered. “Hey. Can I come in?”

She blinked. “…Yeah.”

Shower closed the door gently behind her, then took a seat on the opposite side of the desk. She looked uncomfortable; her expression was less severe than it was when last…

Retcon swallowed, ears flat. “Umm… Is… Lemony okay?”

Shower gave her an odd look. After a moment, “She’s alright. It… looked worse than it actually is. But…” their eyes met, “she’s still hurt bad.”

Retcon winced. “I’m…” She drew a shaky breath. “I’m sorry…”

Shower regarded her sadly. Her coat around her forelegs was matted, like it had been dried hastily, and her mane was dishevelled. Her eyes were red. “Yeah… I’m sorry too.” Her voice hitched.

Something caught in Retcon throat. She sniffed.

A moment passed between them. Then another. She couldn’t bring herself to look Shower in the eye, looking instead at the papers in front of her.

Absently, she lifted a hoof and pushed the folder across the desk, turning it round to face the pegasus. “That’s… me.”

“…Yeah… We met.”

Retcon looked up. “What was… I like?”

Shower’s eyes were locked on the photo. “Truthfully? Scary.”

Retcon snorted, amused despite herself. Shower glanced up, surprised, but the sides of her mouth began to curl. “What? It’s true.”

Letting her mirth fade, Retcon nodded at the photos. “I guess I can understand, seeing that thing.”

“…That’s just you, though.”

“I guess.” She couldn’t make the link in her mind between herself, an olive-coated pegasus, and the blank-eyed, fanged beast.

“Um, ‘Invasion’?”

Shower’s expression darkened. “Yeeah. Uh, about a year ago during the Royal Wedding, a hive of changelings attacked Canterlot, attacked the Princesses.” Her scowl deepened. “Some of us were there…”

…Oh no… I didn’t… “…W-was I-”

Shower shot her an icy glare. “Don’t ask that.” Holding her gaze for a second, the look softened. “You, uhh, you told me the Invasion was a mistake, that your Queen had gone… forgive me, nuts with desperation. You wanted nothing to do with the Hive, not after that.”

…Okay…

“S-Shower… What do I do?”

The pegasus gently shook her head. “…I’m sorry, I don’t know. This whole fresh start idea, it’s kind of unprecedented. I don’t know where to go from here. This was a deal we made with… old you. But old you is gone…”

A chill crept into the air. “You’re not going to try again...?” …Right? How many times…

Shower pulled a sour face. “I think that’s a bad idea. Repeated use of re- …of B67 can have bad effects. Thing is, the mind wipe was an opportunity for a clean slate. You still kind of have that, even if you know more than you had wanted.”

Retcon considered that; what did she want? ‘To live peacefully’, what a broad, open-ended goal. Of course she wanted that, it was as unhelpful as saying she wanted things to be better than they were. She did however know she wanted to leave the Institute, that hadn’t changed, though her level of urgency had. She wanted to go out and see the world, partly to be out away from the faculty and have agency over her life, but also because everything she knew, everything she had ever experienced was contained within these walls. She wanted to stand on a cloud, and swim in a stream, and feed bread to ducks, and nap in the sun, and cook a meal. She wanted to meet other ponies, to ask them their names, and to tell them hers in return. All the wonderful things she had learned about the outside world from…

…She wasn’t a pony. She wasn’t a pegasus, she wasn’t like Shower and the others. A shape-shifter… she didn’t even know what she was.She had agonised over the possibility that she could have been deceived, when apparently even her own face was a lie.

What even was a changeling? Why hadn’t the book of magical creatures mentioned them? Before exploring the outside, maybe she should learn about herself. And what was that about…

“Shower,” she started, timidly. The subject file was still open in front of her. Filed by: Flt Lt Light Shower, it said. She put a hoof on the corner of the paper, as if it were about to blow away. “Can I ask something?”

The pegasus frowned. “Sure.”

“…What does it mean, that part about ‘necessary dietary requirement’?”

Shower paused, following the other mare’s line of sight. She chewed the inside of her mouth. Conflict, mixed feelings. Her gaze appeared to gradually lose focus, staring through the table into the distance. She drew a hesitant breath. “…Changelings don’t… eat normal food. Well, they can, but…” She trailed off, and sighed. “They subsist off of the positive emotions of ponies. Changelings consume love, to survive.”

“…Love?” She felt like she had been doused with ice water.

Shower snorted dryly. “It’s no accident the Invasion happened during a wedding.” Her eyes softened after a second, and she looked back up. “…Changelings are a parasitic species, they leech energy from ponies,” she stated slowly, expression neutral. “I’m sorry, but it’s just how it is. They feed off of the positive emotions of ponies for sustenance. Like… vampires, but for brain states rather than blood. That’s what the shape-shifting is all about, y- they take pony-form to hide amongst us and gather energy for food.” Shaking her head gently, she broke eye contact. “We had no idea what a changeling was before the Invasion; that’s how they survived so long, living in complete secrecy. Then, pfthhh,” she shrugged. “You can’t hunt when your prey knows you’re there. I remember you were starved half to death when you came to us.”

“…B-but then…” Retcon began, her voice a hoarse whisper. “…I was… Why aren’t I hungry a-anymore…?” She searched the pegasus’ deep blue eyes, hoping not to hear the answer she knew was coming;

“Why do you think Lemony had the day off today?” Shower asked frankly.

“…I-I…”

…No…

…I’ve been feeding off of Lemony…?

Her vision began to swim. “…I-I’m… I didn’t kn…”

“Save it,” Shower said gently, raising a hoof. “That was the point. Lemony volunteered, she knew what she was doing. We weren’t about to let you die, and… well, Lemony was the only one of us who was able to build up enough of a friendship that you could… eat.” She sniffed. “Like I say, some of us were there in Canterlot.”

“I-I’ve been…” …feeding off of Lemony… The lump in her throat wouldn’t shift as she swallowed. …All this time, I’ve been… And she knew?

“Lemony saved your life,” Shower said dispassionately. “You should know that. If she hadn’t volunteered, you’d have starved about a week and a half ago.” Shower stood, not looking at the other mare. There was a sad resignation in her eyes as she walked past, heading to the door. “Oh, and, if you pull something like that again, if you hurt Lemony, I will kill you.”

Retcon didn’t move a muscle, the air in the room flowing softly around her as the door behind opened and closed.

Author's Note:

And there it is! Now that we've reached this stage of the story, I wanted to raise a few things that I couldn't have done before without spoiling it.