• 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 Thirteen - Restart

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Sleep was exhausting.

She had been on the cusp of consciousness for hours, lying still underneath the drooping tree. The soft breeze of the sheltered courtyard had become bitingly cold in the dead of night, something she noticed as she drifted in and out of sleep, though the low branches and the many tiny leaves offered some small respite. As her mind awoke, she found herself curled inward, practically hugging herself with her wings and tail.

The fur around her face and forelimbs was matted. Her eyes were sore, and she felt completely and utterly drained. It was as if all of her emotions had been replaced by a lead weight in her chest; heavy, but finally ambivalent.

Even still, every breath of the fresh morning air was exquisite, like a balm for her soul. As she watched the world brighten, the orange light of the sun creeping down one of the brick walls, and as the chirping of birds joined the soft rustling of countless leaves, she lay on the grass beneath the tree, and just was.

Thought had long abandoned her, hurt a distant memory. All that mattered was the moment, and she was in it.

Eventually, consciousness began to reassert itself, as her limbs grew restless. She stood lethargically and stretched, rubbing away the grass stuck to her face.

A new day.

A fresh start.

Her name was Retcon, and she was free. Free to do what she wanted, to forge her own path. It was by her own volition that she had stayed, sleeping in the Institute courtyard overnight. Even though it was the hostile forest stretching out in every direction that had settled the issue, it was still an issue that she herself had settled, without anyone else’s input. No more locks, no more lies. She was here because she wanted to be here.

That’s how she rationalised it to herself.

She slipped the satchel containing her papers over her head. Smacking her parched lips, she set off back toward the entrance to the building, leading into one of the long hallways. As far as she was concerned, she was no longer one of their subjects of interest.

Her stomach grumbled, causing her to pause mid-step. It was something she had been trying to ignore. Just the thought of… it made her feel decidedly not good inside.

Reluctantly, her situation was one of the reasons she hadn’t left. The only people in the world who knew who and what she was all worked inside and, though she was loath to admit it, she still needed them. Or at least, she needed the Institute’s Warp Room, assuming it was what she thought it was.

Yeah, just the Warp Room. Nothing else.

She also had the feeling that, right now, she really shouldn’t stray too far from ponies. It was a conclusion that made sense, though she tried not to dwell on the reasoning.

The thought had crossed her mind that after her... meltdown, the whole 'changeling' story had been a total lie, but a part of her held that it was unlikely. It had always struck her as odd that an amnesiac would be brought to such a place, but a magical shapeshifting parasite would fit right in. She had known that she had been drip-fed a very stingy amount of information; both Shower and the unicorn had been moderately forthcoming about their deliberate vagueness.

Yesterday was something different. She could feel the relief as Shower spoke, distinct from the carefully tight-lipped and curated way she had talked before. The honesty, as she last spoke when she left the room.

Sky was very difficult to read, especially in the short period of time they talked as well as due to Retcon’s state of mind at the time, but she had spoken with an air of calm truth, in the way that one may look into the eye of a dragon and trust it implicitly when it says “you’re not getting out of this alive”.

She didn’t like Sky.

As always, she hadn’t been able to get a read on Gurney at all, having to rely on his alien avian facial expressions and his tone of voice. Given what she had been told on how changelings couldn’t feed off of griffons, her suspected explanation gave credence to the idea that she wasn’t what she appeared.

How much of her unfamiliarity with pony society, even for things as simple as holding her own in a conversation, was because of the amnesia? How much, she wondered, was because she wasn’t even a pony at all? At this stage she was afraid of learning more about changelings, these parasites that had apparently led an invasion of some sort on the pony capitol, attacking the pony Princesses. She had no idea what she might uncover if she went around irresponsibly asking questions. But at the same time, there were some things she needed to know about herself; first and foremost, she was hungry. The thought of sapping energy from another being rankled with her on a fundamental moral level, but the very concerning reality that she was only getting hungrier had already begun to erode her qualms. Like it or not, she needed to eat.

Perhaps, if she spoke to Shower or Gurney, they might have ideas of how to go about it. They had been keeping her fed since she had arrived, after all.

She stepped out into the large room with the big table, which was bare of food. Given the space's role as an intersection between hallways, it seemed like an ideal place to hang about. She hadn’t seen anyone yet, and didn’t quite feel up for snooping around, not after seeing the gravity stone and the kelpie and... whatever in the world was in the room next to the orb. At least if she stuck to the safe hallways, she’d have more of a chance of talking her way out of trouble if she were no longer welcome. She could always leave via the courtyard if needs be, though the thought of having to navigate the Everfree, particularly on an empty stomach…

She stepped up to the wardrobe with the glass façade, wondering how she was supposed to get a drink out of it. There was a collection of buttons to the side of the glass, each with a small number printed on them. Were they for quantity, perhaps?

As she was inspecting the many colourful cans behind the glass, she heard a muffled whoosh of air from nearby, followed after a few seconds by a click. She turned to see the door labelled ‘Warp Room’ swinging inward, and out from the room stepped a pony she had never seen before; a pegasus with an ice-blue mane that was spiked upwards. Her coat was light-cream in hue, though from the neck-down she wore a light-blue flight suit with yellow highlights.

And there it was, just as Retcon had suspected; surprise, a small jolt of alarm. The same almost-instinctive sensation of feeling she had been getting from everypony. She could taste it. It was something she just knew, but it barely registered in her mind as something out of the ordinary. In fact, it had only been unusual in its absence when she hadn’t sensed anything coming from Gurney. Emotion, which had hardly shown on the pegasus’ face, yet she had felt a twinge of that alarm as if it were her own.

She hoped she wasn’t unintentionally taking anything from this newcomer, though she had no idea how to prevent it either way.

“Oh, hey!” greeted the mare. “I haven’t seen you around before.”

“Um, you too.” Ascertaining similarities is a decent way to hold a conversation with and get to know strangers. Do you work here?”

“I do, yeah.” The newcomer smiled in a friendly sort of way. “So, are you new?”

Hmm… “No. I’m here with amnesia.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Retcon tried to keep her expression blank. There was no surprise coming from the pegasus. Although, there was a small amount of… sympathy? Genuine sympathy? “Thanks.” She gestured vaguely with a hoof. “What’s with the weird suit?”

The newcomer looked down at herself sheepishly. “This? Hah, I’m a… Well, I’m a part of this pro flight group, I guess you could say, this is just our uniform. In fact, it’s actually part of how I got a job here. The Institute needed a strong flyer on its roster and, well, the hours are flexible. Most of the time.”

“Oh, you’re a ‘pro flyer’, are you?” Retcon said in a mock accusatory tone, hoping it would come off as a jest.

“Heh, yeah, I’m alright I guess,” the newcomer replied humbly, shrugging. She was grinning at the jab, much to Retcon’s relief that the attempt at humour had functioned as intended. “What about you? You flown much since you got here?”

“Not much,” admitted Retcon. “I can stay in the air, just… not had much practice.

“Well hey, that’s all it takes! The more time you put in, the more you get out.”

“Sure.” What was I… Oh yeah. Retcon gestured to the glass cabinet. “Do you know how this thing works?”

“The vending machine?” The newcomer stepped up close to look. “Yeah, you’ve gotta hit the buttons on the right there.”

“Um, which ones?”

“The ones that… Okay, you see these little labels next to each can? Just type in the numbers for the one you want. Which would you like?”

“I don’t really know…”

“Here.” The pegasus reached over and pressed two numbers. There was a momentary whirring, and one of the cans suddenly fell forward. “Try that one.”

Retcon gingerly pushed open the flap at the base of the wardrobe and took the can. It was a different one to the one she had before. The writing on the can was similarly colourful and big, and annoying to decipher. “Thank you.”

“Name’s Misty Fly, nice to meet ya!”

The can hissed as she pulled open the tab at the top. “My name is Retcon.”

There it was again; alarm, but just a taste of it. Retcon looked up at Misty Fly, whose expression had frozen in a look of friendly interest, but it was that acrid and sharp sensation that gave her away.

Misty Fly recovered quickly, looking for all the world as if nothing were wrong. “That’s an unusual name,” she said lightly.

Retcon smiled weakly. “So I’ve heard.”

“Can I ask how you got that name?”

She’s fishing for information. Retcon took a sip as she thought, the drink was similar to the previous one; sharp but very sweet. “I chose it. I just liked the sound of it. Must’ve heard it somewhere, before I lost my memory,” she said, looking Misty Fly straight in the eye.

Misty Fly shuffled her wings. “So, what’s been going on since I’ve been away?”

Retcon glanced down at the can she was holding, swirling it around. “My entire life happened, I guess. Gurney and... and Shower, they showed me around a bit.” She looked up. “You guys have way too many doors.”

Misty Fly snorted. “Took me ages to figure out my way around.” She looked briefly down each hallway. “So, what are you up to, is Gurney or somepony with you?”

I think I like the other drink better, but this is still nice. “No, just me, but I do want to talk with Gurney. Thought I might wait around here.”

“Isn’t that his satchel?”

Oh yeah, my papers. “Yes. He said I could use it.”

The suspicion abated somewhat. Were ponies really that trusting?

“What did you want to talk about with him, anything I could help with?” Misty Fly asked.

...Why not. See how she reacts at least.

“Well I’m getting kinda hungry,” Retcon stated simply, taking another sip.

She felt a jolt of something… dreadful. Something she realised she’d tasted before, though she hadn’t had the chance to consider it. Fear, of her. It was only for a moment, and it wasn’t very strong, but there was no question; Misty Fly knew what she was, and as she’d suspected, ponies had very low opinions on changelings.

It had been tempting to talk openly about her nature to the stranger just to guage the reaction, but the fear response surprised her. It would perhaps be prudent to ask about the typical view ponies had on changelings before outing herself, especially if knowledge of the Invasion was widespread. This required further study.

To her credit, Misty Fly recovered quickly, though even a regular pony might have noticed something was amiss from her brief shift of expression. “I mean, have you had breakfast yet? Want me to grab you something?”

“Um, no thanks,” replied Retcon.

“Alright then.”

What is she thinking? Wait, would have it been better to say yes? Ack, too late now.

The new pegasus took a sharp breath and continued, “Cool, well, I need to go and-” She gestured vaguely with a wing. “Well anyway, I’ll see you around. Nice you meet you!” She smiled, but there wasn’t much behind it.

“Uh, you too.” There was a mixture of sensations coming from Misty Fly as she turned left, all too muddled and weak to make any assessment.

She sipped the sharp drink as she thought; the pegasus had seemed pleasant enough, right up until Retcon had mentioned her name. Of course, those who worked at the Institute knew of the word as a memory wipe drug. Presumably, Misty Fly must have known about her history, and using the name of the drug that wiped her memory must have struck her as odd.

Should she have said that she knew her own secret? She wasn’t sure, not even of how much Misty Fly knew. Keeping her changeling identity secret wasn’t something she had really considered a necessity, but the sharp emotions she had received had raised doubts. But even then, Shower had never seemed all that afraid. Was it perhaps only fear that Retcon would find out what she was?

The emotion was rather directed…

The possibility of presenting a false name did occur to her, but the thought was distasteful. Despite its origin, and in fact due in part to it, ‘Retcon’ was who she was. To pretend that she was someone else would be dishonest.

You!

Retcon jumped, almost spilling her drink. Following the voice from down a hallway, she could see an apoplectic Shower marching toward her, with a concerned-looking Misty Fly in tow.

“Where in the world have you been!?” bellowed Shower.