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

Retcon - Beige Monkfish



A pony with no memory awakens in a strange facility.

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Chapter Twelve - Pieces

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“I’ve ruined everything…”

Gurney turned back to look at her, slowing his walking pace. He seemed concerned, although she found his avian features difficult to read.

The two of them were heading back to her room. Gurney was carrying the papers and files she had been given in his satchel, in case she wanted to read them later. In all honesty, she would rather forget about the word ‘changeling’ altogether.

Then she would remember that such a thought wasn’t entirely hyperbolic, and it would begin to feel like her heart was burning a hole in her chest.

If she was still having such thoughts now, maybe she and the fanged creature in the sketches shared more in common than she was comfortable with.

“Come on,” said Gurney, gently. “It’s more important to focus on what you can do right now. What’s done is done, but the world ticks on, and we gotta move with it.”

She nodded glumly, not feeling much like arguing. It didn’t make her feel any better.

Turning a corner, they came to the hallway with all the unlabelled doors. A part of her wondered why there were so many rooms without room numbers, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because she wasn’t even a real pony. She was a shapeshifter who had taken the form of one and cut her only friend’s throat wi

“Retcon, look at me.”

She looked up to see that Gurney had stopped. “One step at a time,” he said kindly, binocular eyes boring into hers. “The only thing you need to do right now is to walk from here to your room. Nothing else is important. Think you can do that?”

“But… I-”

“Nope, doesn’t matter. Right now, your only task is walking. You don’t get to move on to the next task until you’ve finished.” He smiled gently, gesturing with a wing down the hallway. “Ready?”

Mouth hanging open, she nodded.

“Come on then.” Gurney started back down the corridor without waiting for her, and she followed soon after. “You’ve had a long day, you need rest.”

She frowned, matching his pace evenly. “Why are you being nice to me?”

Gurney shot her a questioning look. “I want to. Shouldn’t I?”

“But I mean… knowing what I am, what I’ve done…”

He shrugged. “So what? Sure, ponies get creeped out by changelings and what they’re capable of, that’s pretty natural I guess. I just think you’re neat.”

She looked away, considering his words. Like a specimen?

“And what about you?” he prompted. “What do you think?”

“About… changelings?”

“Sure.”

What did she think? “…I guess I… don’t really want to think about it.” Looks creepy. Probably don’t make many friends looking like that. I can’t imagine talking through those big teeth. Can they talk?

“Well, to be fair, you’ve never actually met a changeling. For all intents and purposes, you’re a pony, and always have been. But, there’s a changeling in the building.” He smirked at her. “She’s kind of shy about meeting you, but you should give her a chance. I reckon you’d get along.”

She scowled. “That’s not the same thing and you know it.”

“You’ve been crying,” Gurney stated coolly, raising a brow.

“S-so what?”

“Changelings can’t. They don’t have tear ducts. They physically cannot cry.” Gurney gave her a sideways glance. “Retcon, you’re a pony. It may not be your natural form, but when a changeling transforms, it’s a bit more than just skin-deep.”

“Right…” That gave her pause for thought. To hear that the body she controlled and the face she wore was all just a façade was difficult, even terrifying to consider. To not even know was she actually was, it made her skin crawl, as if there were something moving around just beneath the surface, and that that something was the real her. The hairs of her coat stood on end and her feathers bristled; she felt like she was contaminated, like the pegasus body wasn’t hers. Part of her vision was obscured by her forest-green mane as it settled in front of her eyes, but she had dared not brush it out of the way. She didn’t want to touch the face.

She wanted to curl up and hold herself, but that’s just it. That was the problem. Whose forelegs and wings would do the holding? And who would be held? Not her. It wasn’t her body; it was someone else’s, and she physically could not get away from it.

Was the changeling even female? Did changelings have genders? Was that a concept she need abandon? …Did she even think the same thoughts, or did her brain change too?

But… she decided she liked listening to Gurney talk. Looking up at her mane, she brought a forehoof to her face, trying not to grimace as she brushed her fringe out of her eyes. “…I guess.”

“Oh hey, guess what?”

She frowned. “What?”

Gurney stopped suddenly and turned to face her, grinning. “Task complete. Good work.”

She blinked, recognising the door that they had stopped at. “Oh.” It didn’t feel like much of a success. “Right. Now what?”

“Now you should get some rest.” Gurney tilted his head slightly, speaking gently. “You’ve had a few bombshells today, your mind needs some time to process everything. We’ll pick things up tomorrow. Is that okay?”

“...Okay.” She nodded gingerly, then paused. “Um, could I get something to eat? I haven’t eaten since br-...”

She trailed off as she watched Gurney’s expression change, becoming more uncomfortable as she spoke. With a start, her mind caught up. She gasped, horrified, backing away from the griffon. “No, that’s not-... I-I don’t want...”

“Hey, hey, it’s alright.” Gurney gestured placating with a foreclaw, talons flashing sharp in front of her.

She shook her head. “I don’t want to hurt anyone! I promise! I-...” Her blood ran cold, voice dropping to a whisper. “...Have I been... feeding off you!?

“No, you haven’t. Retcon, you need to chill.”

She froze, trying to keep her breathing under control. She shook her head, eyes wide. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“I know you don’t.” Gurney took a step closer.

“S-stay back! Stay away, I don’t want to hurt you,” she pleaded.

The griffon stopped in place. “You can’t,” he stated seriously. “Changelings can’t feed off of griffons, so just… stay with me, okay?”

She dipped her head, her breathing slowly returning to normal, and took a cautious step forward. “…Y-you promise?”

Gurney nodded. “Das verspreche ich. Honest.”

“…Okay.” She stopped, but still wanted to get away from the griffon.

He tilted his head. “Not that you hurt ponies when you feed off them anyway. You don’t need to make a big deal out of it, yeah?”

“No, but… Shower said L-Lemony was… that I…”

Gurney tilted his head. “Lemony had a scheduled day off to get her energy back. She was just tired. Being… a volunteer is pretty draining, but that’s it.”

“But I don’t want to drain anyone!” she exclaimed. “I don’t want to steal energy from other beings! It’s…” She shuddered.

“I’m sorry, I really am,” Gurney shrugged, “but… tough. Unless you want to starve to death.”

She flushed. “No I don’t want to starve to death!”

“Then that’s how you get food. Besides, you never noticed you were doing it until we told you.”

She scowled. It was true; she had thought she was subsisting off of the solid food she had been eating. The whole time, she had been sucking the lifeforce out of her only friend, and it never once bothered her before. But that didn’t mean she could continue doing it now she knew. It was obscene.

She sighed. “How exactly was this plan supposed to work?”

“A few of our agents live in the same little town; friendly little place,” Gurney said, shifting his weight. “Once you were ready, we would have set you up there. You’d have been able to passively absorb more than enough to get by.”

“…So I was just going to drain the life out of unsuspecting ponies? With neither me nor them realising?”

“Well you don’t need all that much to keep yourself alive…”

“Oh sweet mercies, a diet,” she scoffed. “Thanks.”

Gurney regarded her coolly, a brow raised. “Alright, what would you suggest?”

Her face heated up. “I… I don’t know…”

Gurney shrugged, then gestured to her room. “Come along Retcon, you staying out here all night?”

Retcon. She scowled, glaring at the door as he made to open it. “Don’t call me that.”

The griffon halted mid-step. “Hä?”

Glancing up at his expression, she felt guilty for snapping. “I mean, I don’t think… Maybe it’s not such a good name.”

“I thought you liked that name.”

“It’s not a real name though, is it? It’s a name for a… memory drug. It’s just…” She made to rub her forehead with a hoof, blinking at the olive forelimb as it entered her field of vision, then lowered it again. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“You didn’t know. How could you have?” Gurney scratched the back of his neck with a claw. “I mean, I kind of liked it, if it helps.”

“What, even though I named myself after a drug?”

The griffon shrugged. “Well, no one else outside of the Institute would know. We make it here, so it’s meaningless to the rest of the world.” He smiled earnestly. “I guess, I always thought it was kind of a hopeful name. ‘Retroactive continuity’. A fresh start. I thought that was a good idea.”

“…Right.” Retcon. Huh. I did like it. “It’s okay, I guess.”

“Well, it’s up to you,” Gurney said, opening the door to her room.

“Hmm. Sky said… the changeling never said it’s… my old name… right?”

“Yeah, that’s true,” the griffon murmured. “Sorry, you… she was quite adamant about taking it with her. To be honest, I’m not a-hundred percent sure changeling drones have names.”

“Oh…” ‘Drone’…

“So yeah, your choice.”

She… Retcon frowned. “Yeah.” She glanced inside the room; everything was still as she remembered from before, her books on the trolley appeared untouched. It seemed like it had been days since she had last seen her room.

“You alright there?” Gurney asked, looking concerned.

Retcon. “…Yeah, I…” She chewed the inside of her cheek. “I was just thinking…” Drawing a breath, she turned and looked the griffon squarely in the eye. “Do you think we could go to outside?”

The look of concern on the griffon’s face morphed into something she couldn’t place, but she didn’t like it. As the silence stretched on, it took all she had to keep from backing down.

Finally, those binocular eyes turned away from her, as Gurney pulled the door closed. “Come on then,” he muttered, shooting her a momentary glance as he walked past.

Surprised by the ease with which he had agreed, though still put-off by his demeanour, the mare fell into step with him as they followed the hallway. She kept her gaze mostly focused ahead, though when she glanced sideways at Gurney he would be looking forward, appearing troubled. An uncomfortable silence fell between them, broken only by the sounds of their steps.

As they turned the corner to the large courtyard doors, Gurney turned to her briefly, but closed his beak without speaking. He opened the doors and stood aside for her to pass through first, glancing back down the hallway before stepping out too.

The sky was red, the sun hidden behind the walls of the Institute. She realised how easy it was to lose track of the time of day when so few of the rooms inside had windows. Stepping out into the courtyard, her senses were assailed by the sounds and smells of nature, the gentle fresh breeze over her feathers. Or, someone’s feathers.

“Alright then.” Gurney unslung his satchel, holding it in a claw as he looked at it in thought, before proffering it to her. “Here.”

“Your satchel?”

He nodded. “Take it. It’ll probably come in useful.”

Hesitantly she took the bag from him, setting it beside her. “Thank you, Gurney.”

“No worries.” He sniffed, looking away at the surrounding windows, before turning back. “Well I guess...” he trailed off, then, grinning weakly, extended an open claw to her. “See you around.”

Glancing uncertainly, she reached up to the claw with a forehoof. The griffon gently clasped her hoof and shook it, before letting it go. He then gave her a polite nod and, without waiting for a response, turned and walked back inside. She felt she should have said something as he left, but her mind couldn’t concoct anything worthwhile.

With a clunk of the doors, she was alone. At long last, here she was; outside in the courtyard, by herself. She was free.

Why then did she feel so heavy?

Did she even want to leave? She had wanted to get outside, but beyond that, she really didn’t know. She had the option, the opportunity, but to actually take it?

She had no plan, no idea which path would have the better outcome, and so indecision kept her grounded. There was too much to consider, too much to think about. She needed time.

Still, being outside was calming, the chance to leave was right overhead should she wish to take it. Drawing a long, steadying breath, she felt freer than she ever had, and with it, a clarity she sorely needed.

She also hadn’t felt quite so lost as she had the first night of her awakening.

A patch of pink caught her eye. Picking up the satchel in her mouth, she trotted over to a flowerbed with familiar pink flowers. Zealous flowers, or something like that; these were the flowers that Lemony had showed her. The unicorn had seemed proud of them, she had been growing them.

They looked so delicate in the shade of the evening.

Dropping the satchel gently to the ground, the mare looked up, taking in the whole enclosed courtyard.

“This is the garden. I come here to read, or to get away from it all, or to scream if I’ve had a stressful day. It’s nice out here, don’t you think?”

-she closed her mouth. She didn’t feel like talking, much less shouting. Exhaled lengthily through her nose, she closed her eyes.

She flapped her wings harder and harder, climbing in altitude as she gained confidence, feeling as though flight was starting to come more readily. She felt something encouraging coming from Lemony, perhaps a shout of praise, and it warmed her.

Lemony never said a word, did she.

Carrying the satchel in her mouth, she stepped over the grass and sat beneath a tree, one with long, drooping branches and thin leaves that seemed to form a curtain around her.

The very thought of Lemony sent sharp flashes of emotions through her. It was an awful sensation, weighing heavily in her chest, like a mighty pendulum attached to her heart. Lemony was her only friend in the world, and all this time she was feeding off her, gorging on her life force like a starving parasite.

She choked back a sob. She was a starving parasite. At least, she had been starving when they had taken her in, apparently. What a life that must be, for her to want it all wiped clean. What a time she must’ve had, out there as a free changeling, to be willing to erase her very identity.

A 'fresh start', indeed. And how had she spent that? How had she wasted that?

With the edge of a knife.

...Why would anypony have volunteered to feed the parasite in the first place? Why would they want that; to help her? She felt like she had irrevocably betrayed Lemony’s and Shower’s trust, stealing something so incredibly precious; the very energy that keeps a being alive. What kind of a creature would do that?

She sighed, closing her eyes. That was the question, wasn’t it. What kind of creature was she?

She had been told so much, and knew so little. And yet even now, she was terrified of delving too deeply, for fear that what she may find could be even worse. She lifted an olive foreleg, inspecting it. This was what she was, in her internal image of herself; a green pegasus mare with amnesia. This was her Me.

This changeling thing, did it think the same as her? Was it even a her?

...She wondered... if she could shapeshift...

She blinked, dropping her hoof to the ground sharply. That was not an idea worth entertaining right now, not when she was trying to figure things out, figure herself out. If this form was not her native form, and she didn’t know how to control it, she didn’t want to get stuck in the body of someone else, or something else. She was having a bad enough crisis of self-identity already without making it worse.

No, this body was her, and she was keeping it.

...At least, for now...

...Maybe it’s like... Do I just concentrate on-

Nope! She clasped her ears with her hooves, screwing her eyes shut. Not thinking of it.

What would happen then, to her? The green pegasus her? Would she simply cease to be, a different creature taking her place?

Would it even care?

Would it still be her? Was this form simply a cloak she shrouded herself in, to be dismissed on the barest whim?

She barely knew who she was, something she had been trying to rediscover over the last few days. Maybe, after all that, it didn’t matter who she was.

She blinked, flicking an ear as a fly flew too close. It may not matter to a changeling, but it mattered to her. An intelligent creature had been wiped from existence, and she had been given what was left of its life to make something of it. A chance to live, perhaps to do better than her predecessor.

A fresh start… That’s what I am. She smiled to herself, despite everything. Maybe it’s not such a bad name.

She wondered if ‘old-her’ was still within her somewhere. A part of her said probably not, but she couldn’t help but speculate; what would the changeling think of her? Probably very little, she snorted, thinking about how far from the intended plan she had strayed.

Well, your plan sucked anyway.

Retcon spread her wings.