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

Retcon - Beige Monkfish

A pony with no memory awakens in a strange facility.

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Chapter Twenty-One - Char

ᒯᑢᑅᒧᒷ ᒣᐸᒧᒯᑐ, ᐳᑎ▢ ᑌᐸᒥᒷᑐᒥ⊡ᒣ ᒥᐯ ᐯᐸᒯᒯᑢᐸ⊡ᑐ▢ᑐ, ᒣᒥᐱ▢ ᑅᑢᐸᒯᐯ▢ᒷᑕ ᐸᒬ

In only a matter of seconds, Retcon the pegasus was no more.

Every part of her body, every sense and nerve-ending was wrong. Her legs were the wrong proportions. She no longer felt the subtle flow of air on her coat, her hide replaced with something different. The familiar weight of her wings had vanished entirely.

As she closed her mouth, she found two massive fangs jutting out from the front of her upper lip. Her jaw was the wrong shape, her teeth were concerningly jagged, and as she explored her new mouth she found her tongue to be uncomfortably alien.

Nothing felt right, nothing was familiar. She had become an entirely different person.

Sparkler was staring at her, suddenly slightly bigger than she was a second ago. Lemony was transfixed by the floor. She was generating dark feelings.

You’re still holding the thing, a small part of her mind noted. Feeling the room starting to spin, Retcon looked down to place the nullite on the floor-

...H-Oh jeez, that's...

The was something profoundly, intimately disturbing about seeing something completely different when she expected to see her own body, and to see it move on command. It was yet more disturbing to see so many holes in her legs. She gingerly lifted a forelimb up to look at it, thoroughly creeped out on a fundamental level that she could see right the way through it.

The limb was smooth, jet black and just slightly glossy. It was harder than flesh, though still flexible and malleable, and while not squishy still had some give when pressed. Bringing her hoof up to her face, she found more of the same, slightly restricting her expression. If she still had skin, it would have crawled at the feeling, the dulled sensation of touch as she brushed her cheek.

Everything she felt was profoundly wrong.

“Woah.” That was Sparkler's voice. Retcon glanced up. “Got to say that was pretty cool.”

Was she taller? No, Sparkler was the same size. Retcon now seemed to stand half a head shorter than she did before.

“Um-” Retcon blinked. Her voice had come out differently.

“You okay there?” asked Sparkler.

“Yeah, I’m... fine.” she replied, working her mouth around her fangs. The voice that came out of her mouth was more airy than she expected, and not distinctly male or female. It also had a strange fluttering to it, as if she were talking into a rotating fan. It wasn’t her voice. That was someone else.

Sparkler frowned. “Do you want to take a minute?”

Yes. “No.” Trying her best not to look at her limbs and to ignore the alien signals her body was sending her as she moved, Retcon picked up the nullite cylinder. “Deal with it l-later. Let’s go,” she said curtly, ears flicking at the sound of the stranger’s voice speaking so close. Before I freak out.

…At least my brain seems to think the same, I’m still… me. She drew a steadying breath, steeling her nerves. Just got to keep it together. Get the stone, worry later. One task at a time.

Sky looked on the surface as impassive as ever. “…Very well,” she said after a pause. “You have your instructions. Get in, locate the lavastone, contain it, and stay put.” Her resting scowl had all but vanished. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Retcon’s eyeline trailed to the ground, though looking away hurriedly as her forelegs came into view. She tried to ignore her muzzle on the edge of her vision. Sparkler gave her an encouraging nod and a quick “Good luck”. Lemony hadn’t moved much.

Retcon adjusted the nullite under her foreleg. “…Alright…”

She pushed aside the flap on the gazebo. Shooting a glance up and down the street, thankfully still devoid of any ponies, she stepped outside. Immediately she felt out-of-place; the sensation of the wind was noticeably dulled, lacking as she did her coat, mane and tail. The first few steps almost devolved into a stumble as she tried to make sense of her new, slightly shorter legs.

It was only when she stood outside with all the colours of the street that she noticed the change in her vision; the world seemed slightly more saturated, bright colours ever so slightly brighter and dull shades perhaps less dull. However, she seemed to have more difficulty bringing distant objects into focus as she used to. The grand towers of the castle reaching over the roofs looked a little blurrier than before, something she might not have noticed had she not been looking at it on the way up. At least close objects were sharp.

There was that smell again. As Retcon approached the house with the open door, a bitterness in the air started to become pronounced.

Conscious of the pegasus Guards she had seen earlier, she quickly reached the house. It was somewhat eerie, standing in an empty street and looking into someone’s vacant house. Resisting the urge to call out, feeling like she was intruding, she cautiously crossed the threshold, ducking so as not to hit the spike jutting out of her forehead, and stepped inside.

So far so good…

The smell hit her full-force. Burning, and smoke. Standing in a small hallway, she followed her nose to a door near the back, leading to-

Oh… Found you.

It appeared to be a kind of food-preparation room, with a few familiar heating appliances on and inset into the work surfaces, though unlike the one back at the Institute appeared to lack a cooling wardrobe. Unlike the wood-panelled hallway, the floor was made of stone tiles, which was perhaps the reason the building was still intact.

A blackened mass lay in the middle of the room, small wisps of smoke rising from it. The ceiling was a patchwork of dark splotches against the white paint, and the floor was strewn with a kind of black dust.

Retcon trod carefully, drawing shallower breaths and tried not to look at the thing.

On the nearby worktop was a huge bag with straps, much larger than a satchel or saddlebags. It appeared to be designed to sit on a pony’s back, able to carry much more stuff. It caught her attention because the bag was unzipped, with a box sticking out.

The box did not look like it belonged. It looked old, far older than anything in the house. It appeared to be made of discoloured stone, chipped and worn with intricate carvings on the sides which may have once been runes. It was difficult to make out detail from the carvings, being as they were not particularly sharp, perhaps weathered away. The lid, sitting slightly off-centre, was attached at the top by a very short length of frayed rope, which was tied at the other end to the back of the box.

The gentle blue glow coming from within told her she had found it.

Cautiously, Retcon approached the box. Even though she appeared to be safe, more so than the former resident was, it wouldn’t hurt to be careful.

She set the nullite on the surface beside the large bag, then glanced around the room. Seeing a collection of metal tools sticking out of a pot, she retrieved a pair of tongs. Grasping them in her forehooves, she gingerly hooked the tongs over the loop on the lid where the rope attached, and carefully lifted it off the box, setting it down just behind.

Inside was a decently-sized translucent crystal, milky-white in colour, asymmetrical with what appeared to be a small patch of rock attached at one end. Carved into the flat faces of the mineral were exceedingly fine etchings, perhaps of the same family as the runes Lemony had showed her before. Every rune glowed steadily with a soft blue. It was rather pleasant to look at for such a deadly thing.

Retcon paused to steady herself. Alright, don’t mess this up. Task one…

She twisted the top off the nullite, setting the lid to one side and placing the cylinder right next to the small box. Returning to the tongs, she gave them a few test clacks in the air to ensure her grip was steady.

Here we go…

As delicately as she could, Retcon positioned the tongs over the box, and gently picked up the lavastone, lifting it up and out. She held it there for a moment, pausing to blink a few times. Being careful to maintain her grip and not to rush the process, she positioned the crystal over the nullite tube, and lowered it down until the tongs touched the lip of the cylinder. With the lower half of the stone wholly within the cylinder, she let go of it with the tongs, letting the crystal drop and clink loudly at the bottom.

Retcon let out the breath she had been holding. She dropped the tongs and took a step back. The lavastone was now contained.

The stone box was completely empty, but her eyes wandered to the large bag it had come from. Being careful not to disturb the box or the nullite with the straps, she reached over and lifted up the bag, which was surprisingly heavy with all the things in it. A quick glance inside didn’t reveal any blue glow, nor any tell of old stone objects, mostly just an assortment of cloth. To be sure, she tipped the bag up, shaking the contents out onto the floor until it was empty. Poking through the resultant pile, she found mostly clothes and towels, a length of rope, some kind of multitool, a notepad, and several small objects that didn’t look particularly old or arcane. Nothing glowing blue.

Somewhat relieved, Retcon gave the room a final once-over, as well as briefly checking the other rooms as well, thankfully with nothing to show for it. Returning to the food room, she placed the top back on the nullite cylinder and twisted it down tight until it made a dull click and could no longer be twisted.

She turned the cylinder around, inspecting it with a frown. She felt the crystal inside clank as it moved. That was it, wasn’t it? Mission accomplished? She could no longer discern the seam from the lid. As far as she could tell, it was sealed correctly.

She stood in place with the nullite, conscious not to move it far from the spot she had found it, and craned her neck towards the door. “Okay, I got it!” she called out.

She heard hoofsteps a minute later. She couldn’t help but second-guess her actions, but the approaching pony didn’t falter or begin shouting even as they entered the house.

It was Sky who stepped into the room with her, her horn aglow with a green aura and a serious expression on her face.

Retcon held the nullite closer. “I, uh, think I got it.”

Sky shot a momentary glance at the burnt thing on the floor, then approached Retcon. Focusing on the nullite, she lifted a foreleg and touched a hoof to it.

A heartbeat. She held it there.

And then-

Sky lowered her forelimb, and just for a moment Retcon tasted a blip of emotion from her. The unicorn nodded curtly. “Good work.”

Retcon felt like she could collapse with relief, making sure she wasn’t about to lose her grip. She gingerly held it out toward the unicorn. “…Do you-?”

“You hold it. Even sealed, levitation is a bad idea. Can you carry it outside?”

Drawing a steadying breath, Retcon nodded.

With Sky taking point, Retcon trotted three-legged out through the hallway, paying close attention to where she was placing her hooves. It was only with the focus on her task that she was able to quell her shock as she stepped out into the street and saw, standing beside Sparkler, Lemony, Misty Fly and Shower outside of the gazebo, a unicorn in golden Royal Guard armour looking right at her. She certainly felt his shock though.

“Wait here,” said Sky, stopping Retcon just on the doorstep, making her way over to the gazebo. The Guard, a stallion with a white coat and blue mane and tail, said something and pointed, not taking his eyes off her for long. Retcon averted her eyes. Deal with it later, she thought, clenching her teeth.

She looked up when she noticed Shower heading over, seemingly anxious tinged with something more hopeful.

“Nice one.” Shower inclined her head approvingly, stopped just in front of her. “I’ll take that off you.”

Recon delicately transferred the nullite to Shower, who cradled in firmly both forelegs. With a nod and a grin, Shower spread her wings. “See you back at base!” She then kicked off with her hind legs, flying straight upwards before levelling out and gliding away, a distant dot in the sky.

A sudden motion brought Retcon’s attention back to the gazebo. Misty Fly had taken off from the ground, following after Shower from a distance.

Retcon felt somewhat dizzy. Task complete. Hesitating for a moment, she made her way over to the others, watching the Guard warily.

Sparkler seemed about to speak, but the Guard beat her to it. “I’m hoping you have an explanation for this,” he said. His armour and helmet were a gleaming gold, and there was a small emblem of two vertical bars off-centre on the chest plate beside a large gem.

“Of course.” Sky’s light resting scowl had returned. “More to the point, the dangerous artefact has been removed out of the city. We’ll need to do a sweep of the building to confirm, after which we will return jurisdiction to you, Captain.”

The Guard looked like he could smell something bad. “Yes, thank you. What manner of artefact are we talking?”

“You will receive a report on the particulars,” stated Sky plainly, tilting her head slightly.

“Dare I expect a complete report? The last paper I read from the R.I.I contained a whole load of nothing.”

“Certainly. I will see to it personally that you will be given a full and complete report of everything that you need to know.”

“Good,” replied the Guard. There seemed to be a buildup of negative emotions coming from nearby, which Retcon surmised was probably coming from him. The Guard then turned to glare at her. “Now what may I ask-”

“Before you go, I have need of something from you,” interrupted Sky.

The Guard gave her a look. “What is it?”

“Your armour, please.”

His eyes narrowed dangerously. “I beg your pardon?”

“You are pardoned,” Sky responded coolly.

The Guard stated at her, an eye twitching. With a shake of his head, his horn lit up and both his armour and his helmet appeared beside him in a flash. In an instant, his coat shifted to a light red, with a brown mane. He scowled at Sky, but said nothing.

“Thank you,” said Sky. “That’s all. Naturally, I’m certain you’ll be discreet with regard to today’s events. I’m sure we’re in agreement.”

“Yes, of course,” he said through clenched teeth. With a final glance in Retcon’s direction, the Guard turned and strode away.

It was starting to get a lot harder not to notice the colour of her muzzle in her peripheral vision. The way every nerve felt wrong, how everything had the wrong proportions, how she was lighter on her hooves and closer to the ground.

“Was that really necessary?” asked Sparkler.

The armour and helmet were twisting slowly in the air in front of Sky, suspended in her green aura. They halted as she turned to look at Sparkler, her look of concentration fading as she quirked an eyebrow.

“I mean, having the Captain see Retcon,” Sparkler added.

“Yes.” The armour continued to tumble in place as she resumed watching it intently. “He knows better than to blab, and it’ll serve us in the long run.”

“Right.” Sparkler appeared unconvinced.

Retcon glanced briefly at Lemony, looking away quickly. The unicorn hadn’t looked at her since she had gotten back. She didn’t blame her.

…Well, what next? What am I supposed to do now?

“There,” Sky said to herself as the armour and helmet ceased turning in the air. She dropped them both in front of Retcon. “I’ve tweaked the illusion spell to be a bit more potent. Normally it just shifts the wearer’s natural colouration to match the Guard uniform. This should mask your eyes, teeth, and the holes in your legs too, as long as no one looks too closely. It’s more draining on the gem so don’t dawdle, and don’t draw attention to yourself. Lemony, get Retcon back to the facility.” She set off in the direction of the house. “Sparkler, you’re with me.”

“Alright,” Sparkler called after. She turned towards Retcon, alternating between eye contact and looking at the ground. “Hey, listen, umm... You’ve been a great help today, so, uh...” Sparkler swiftly leaned in close and pecked her on the cheek, quickly moving back after. Retcon flinched in surprise. “I don’t know if that’s any good to you, but uhh... for what it’s worth, thank you. You saved our skins today, literally.” With an awkward half-grin, she hurried off after Sky.

Retcon watched as she went, stunned. She suppressed a shudder. Now was not the time to be self-conscious.

Lemony scuffed the ground with a hoof, glancing up. “Umm… How are you feeling?”

Retcon shrank from the question. “Not great. Don’t know. Trying not to think about it.” She tried not to look the unicorn in the eye.

Lemony hummed shortly. “Well, thanks for coming. You’ve saved us a lot of trouble.”

Charcoal-coloured, hole ridden forelegs drifted into view. “Yeah.”

“…Um…” Lemony half-lifted a hoof towards her, then dropped it, glancing restlessly behind herself.

Retcon glanced up. “…Can we go?”

Lemony nodded jerkily. “…Sure.”

She let her mind wander as she struggled into the golden armour, with Lemony a few paces away. All of her senses were being bombarded with warning signals that something was wrong, and it was all she could manage to ignore everything and just keep moving. One step at a time, one task at a time. She could worry when they got back.

She was anxious to get back. There was a lot she needed to think about.

Lemony was anxious too. Retcon kept her interactions as short as possible.

With the armour on, she saw her legs had shifted to white, with a subtle indication of a regular coat. She hadn’t felt the change, the illusion was more like wearing a sheet over her real form, rather than the full-bore transformation from before. The mask was passable, though if she looked closely, she thought she could make out the holes in her legs. She certainly still felt them, it seemed sight was the only sense the armour’s spell could fool. Lemony confirmed that her eyes looked normal, though going by her withdrawn demeanour, Retcon agreed it would be best for them to hurry.

The journey back was a blur, even as she walked. Once they reached the Guards’ cordon, the crowds parted to allow the two of them through. She felt her heart hammering in her neck, but no pony spoke to her, no one gave her a second look. She walked with purpose, eyes forward on the road ahead, acting as if she were in control, as if she knew where she was going and what she was doing.

They were suddenly back at the platform with the place leading to the Warp Room. Retcon spared a momentary glance out towards the evening sun setting over the world, before swiftly following Lemony inside.

It was beautiful, she was sure, but she wasn’t seeing it.