• 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-Four - Trial

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There wasn’t any running and shouting yet, so that was a bonus. Retcon glanced behind her. Should I… just go? Um…

The mare at the end of the hallway had stopped in place, looking right at her. She was a cream earth pony, her mane and tail a two-toned purple and pink. She was a little too far away for her emotion to be clear, but there was definitely a slight roiling sort of sensation coming from that direction.

She seemed to mutter something to the other two ponies beside her, who stopped their conversation to turn and look down the hallway. Three sets of ears stood pointed and alert.

It felt like something heavy had been placed around the top of Retcon’s neck.

After a frosty silence, the other mare took a step forward. She was an earth pony too, pale with a berry-red mane. She paused, and then with a slight hesitation, raised a forelimb and waved gingerly back.

…Okay then.

The three earth ponies appeared to be waiting. Feeling like she was no longer able to just turn and leave, Retcon took a steadying breath and trotted up to them, her head held low.

“Uhh, hi,” she said meekly as she drew close. She was at least not drowning in their emotions, there were a few things coming her way but not as strongly as she had feared. She lifted her head a little.

“Hey,” chirped the red-maned one, her expression neutral rather than masked by a smile.

The blue stallion nodded a greeting at Retcon. “Sooo, did we get the wrong memo or something?”

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be clueless. I guess they work here then?

Red-mane shot him a glare, but her expression shifted when she turned back. “I’m Roseluck,” she said, lifting a hoof to her chest. “This is Noteworthy and Bon Bon,” she gestured at the stallion and mare in turn.

There was a moment of silence. “Oh. I'm Retcon.” Should... Do I go instigate a hoof bump? Hm, maybe not.

The emotions were strange. “Retcon,” Roseluck repeated in a drawn-out tone, eyes narrowed.

“Uh, oh, yeah. Long story.” Retcon shrugged, but it was more jerky than nonchalant. “Didn’t know what it meant at the time. Do you three work here?”

Noteworthy seemed about to say something else. “Yeah.”

“I’m gonna go find Sky,” the one called Bon Bon piped up abruptly. She regarded Retcon with a careful look. “Nice to meet you,” she said amicably, then turned and trotted off down the other hallway.

Retcon watched after her. “You too,” she muttered, although the volume wouldn’t carry to within earshot. That was sudden.

Roseluck and Noteworthy shared a look.

“So, umm-” Retcon managed not to flinch as the attention was returned to her. “Did… did we know each other before the, uh, the memory wipe?”

“Rose did,” said Noteworthy, gesturing to the red-maned mare.

Roseluck shook her head. “We only met just the once. How come you know about the memory wipe? Didn’t it-… I mean…”

“Yeah, everything before this week is blank. I guess… I found out some stuff, so Sky told me the rest.”

“So wait,” Roseluck started, “you thought you were a pony and then found out you’re a…” She gestured up and down at her.

Retcon nodded.

“Sheesh, that can’t have been fun.”

“Wasn’t great,” Retcon affirmed dryly.

“What’s it like then? Being a changeling?” Noteworthy asked, then glanced upward, frowning into the distance. “Is that rude?”

Is it? She lifted a foreleg to inspect the holes. The two ponies followed it as well, seemingly taking interest. “It’s weird. I guess having no coat is the biggest change, everything feels different. It’s hard to explain.” She lowered her hoof. “Also hard to tell how ponies will react. But, you’ve been nice,” she added in a small voice. “Sooo, thanks.”

She tasted a momentary pleasant flavour.

“Well, thank you. It’s nice to meet you,” said Roseluck earnestly.

You met me before, apparently. “What was I like?”


Retcon blinked. “Before. Noteworthy said you met me before.”

“Oh.” Roseluck’s brow furrowed. Noteworthy turned toward her as she thought. “Kinda… distant. I guess you could say you were, mmm, difficult to get along with. Oh, not unpleasant or anything,” said added. “Just… let’s just say you’re doing a lot better than back then.”

“Huh.” She knew she wasn’t that great at understanding the nuance of interaction, and had assumed she had a lot to learn. To hear that she had improved in some way was a surprise. “Thanks,” she said sheepishly, not really sure how to respond. “I’m… I still need to get better. Especially at new people. Everyone I’ve talked with already knew who I was. Well, except in Canterlot.” There was that Guard guy. Oh, and that orb, I guess.

“You’ve been to Canterlot?” Noteworthy sounded surprised.

“Oh, yeah. That was only because of the lavastone.”

There was a jolt of alarm from the two earth ponies. “What lavastone?” Roseluck asked flintily.

Retcon’s ears fell flat. “You didn’t know?” She didn’t like how serious they had suddenly become. “Umm, there was a lavastone in Canterlot yesterday.” Was it only yesterday? Feels longer.

Noteworthy mouthed the word ‘yesterday’, and shared a glance with Roseluck. “I- We were given standby messages yesterday. I never heard anything else about it.” He shook his head. “In Canterlot, though… Even with the Institute involved, that’d make the news.”

“I think it did,” said Roseluck, eyes wide. “The newspapers this morning, there was a bit on a house fire in Canterlot, with one fatality.”

A blackened mass lay in the middle of the room, small wisps of smoke rising from it.

Retcon swallowed thickly. “Uh, yeah. That was it.”

“Jeez, what a way to go,” said Noteworthy. “I’m guessing it was contained pretty quick? The ‘stand down’ came in only a few hours later.”

“Who was the assignee on the case, do you know?” asked Roseluck.

Assignee? I don’t- Was it Sparkler, maybe? She seemed in charge of the thing. Retcon cleared her throat. “Um, might’ve been Sparkler.”

Roseluck nodded. “Makes sense. We should probably check in with Sparkler first of all. Well, it was nice to meet you, uh, Retcon.”

“Oh, yes, likewise.”

“Guess we’ll see you around,” said Noteworthy. “Do you always go around undisguised, or how does everypony know its you?”

“Um, I’m just like this right now.”

Noteworthy nodded. “Makes things easier I guess.”

The two earth ponies said their farewells and left, leaving Retcon standing in place. That was a… successful conversation, she mused. Her first meeting with newcomers while in her natural form, and it had gone well, mostly. Well enough that she felt somewhat put out by how plain it was. It was if she had forgotten something in it, that something was missing.

Conversely, the one named Bon Bon had left rather quickly, and all three already knew to expect a changeling staying in the facility. She couldn’t take this as necessarily a good indicator of how well a first meeting would work outside of the Institute.

Retcon scuffed the ground with a hoof. The hallways were now empty, besides herself. A successful conversation with ponies, in her bug form, having started with no forewarning. Not bad. She nodded absently, setting off towards her room.

Retcon pushed the papers aside and rubbed her eyes. Since she had awoken, she had spent much of the morning reading over her files Gurney had given her, seeking for some clue for how to access her magic.

Rather than list all of the spells a changeling is able to perform, the file had simplified it down to ‘transformation’ and ‘other abilities common to most unicorns’, which she supposed meant levitation. This was followed by a short list of magic that had been cast by the Queen during the Invasion that wasn’t typically shared by drones, though it was written in less-certain language.

Well, not like I ever wanted to make ‘fire portals’, whatever they are. All I need is transformation. Anything else is bonus, and for later.

She had kept reading through to the following section on changeling feeding ability. It began with much the same information Gurney had described, but the file quickly shifted into the hypothesised mechanisms of energy transfer, and Retcon was unable to follow. She didn’t recognise half the words, and the other half were words she knew but had never seen in this context.

Grumbling, she had flipped ahead. A section on the following page began with ‘Emotiphagy via Manual Single-Party Manoeuvre', at which point she had given up trying to decipher it. How come Gurney writes like this but talks normal out loud?

She instead returned to trying to find her magic by feel, but she had no idea what she was supposed to be looking for. She imagined the aura she had seen Sky and Sparkler summon but couldn’t figure out how she was supposed to create it. Even though it was magic she supposedly still possessed, she couldn’t remember feeling any sort of indication before that she had gotten close to tapping into it.

If it’s something any changeling can learn, am I supposed to learn it from another changeling? Scowling, she flipped onto her side on the bed. Where am I going to find one of those? I can’t leave if I’m stuck looking like this… and I can’t stay here.

A flash of stark teal caught her notice. Looking up, she could see a reflection of her own eyes just at the edge of the large mirror on the opposite wall, behind the desk. She stared back for a brief moment, taking in the two bright, flat-coloured orbs amidst jet black, before jumping off the bed and stepping up to the mirror.

Perhaps she would never be able to relate what she could see in the mirror to her sense of identity, even for the brief time she had been building it. It didn’t seem correct for her fangs to jut so far from her upper lip, or to be able to see right through her limbs. As she folded her ears back, a thought struck her, and she prodded the frill atop her head.

I’m bald.

For some reason that was funny. It wasn’t news to her, certainly not after the incident that had removed her pegasus form, but nonetheless it was an odd thought to put into words.

Heh, my head is shiny.

A tingling at her scalp drew her attention. She turned to the door. Somepony was coming.

She waited while the sensation built; either she was sensing a small degree of trepidation, or she was more nervous than she thought. She considered opening the door to meet the newcomer faster and bypass the knocking of the door, but that seemed… improper, somehow. Wait first.

Instead she stood by the door as the morsel of emotion drew nearer, going through the expected motions of interaction. Knock knock knock. She counted to three, then opened the door.

At first she saw a trolley directly in front of the doorway, holding nothing but a candle, standing unlit in a holder, and a small box. Then her attention was drawn to the pink unicorn standing just to one side.