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

Retcon - Beige Monkfish



A pony with no memory awakens in a strange facility.

  • ...
1
 168
 606

Chapter Four - Artefact

111 040 167 141 163 040 164 150 145 162 145 056 040 123 164 151 154 154 040 150 141 166 145 040 156 151 147 150 164 155 141 162 145 163 040 141 142 157 165 164 040 151 164 056 040 127 145 162 145 040 171 157 165 077

“How was it possible to build out here, so deep into the forest?”

Retcon was trotting down another long corridor beside Lemony. The unicorn had offered the choice between a tour of the Royal Investigation Institute in which the amnesiac had found herself, or a crash course on pony society. Retcon had opted for the former on account of it being the more pressing of the two unknowns.

She couldn’t yet bring herself to trust Lemony or the ponies of the Institute, but she had decided that at least acting as if she did would be the most likely option to yield positive results. At least, until she were to be offered a greater reason to distrust them than unknowns and what-ifs. Something about the place set her teeth on edge, and she hoped that learning more about it might set her at ease.

Either that, or give her the reason she sought.

Having been allowed in the open courtyard so soon, she felt slightly less claustrophobic than she had before. Even though the facility was located in the middle of a dense forest, she at least had the option of escaping, should she so decide. She could have left when last she went flying, but the remoteness of the location and the lack of a direction in which to head had stayed her wings. She wasn’t yet certain she could survive alone in the forest. The only question was at what point would lost out there become more appealing a thought than stuck in here?

She glanced over at the pink unicorn. Lemony had been kind and cheerful, and her company gave Retcon a feeling of wellness that she attributed to a case of early-onset friendship. However, Lemony was not always the most forthcoming with information.

“Truthfully? I dunno, I’ve only been working here two years. I heard Princess Celestia herself helped with the building way back, so my best guess it is was teleported in, probably in chunks.”

The Princesses can teleport buildings? That’s terrifying.

Retcon frowned. “Why is it deep in a forest in the first place? I couldn’t see any sign of settlements.”

“Hmm, ponies are a prey species.” She shot the pegasus a small smile. “Historically, at least. We are herbivores, and we evolved from herd animals. And when we see something that we don’t understand, we panic. The pony who runs from a rustle in the bushes is safe, but the pony who thinks, ‘well, it’s probably nothing’… maybe it is nothing. Or maybe it’s a predator.” Her expression shifted as she looked the pegasus in the eye. “You have to understand, ponies can become… jumpy in groups, but we’re smarter than our instincts. The herd panics, but the individual can be reasoned with.”

Retcon blinked. Okay…

“Do we have any predators?” She paused at a spike of amusement coming from Lemony. “I mean, I guess that’s a stupid question…”

Lemony chuckled, “No no, I understand. We don’t really have any natural predators, nothing you really need to worry about. Of course there are wild carnivores, especially out here in the Everfree, like hydras, timberwolves, manticores, but nothing… nothing really that specifically hunts ponies. Just, if you leave town, don’t go too far off the beaten path. That’s why the Institute is out here in the Everfree, everypony who’s grown up in any of the nearby villages knows not to go in.”

“Right. That’s… I assume we’re safe inside?”

“Hah, yes, don’t you worry. Ah, here we are!”

Lemony stopped at a door on their left. Room 11. She reached for the handle with a hoof, then paused, glancing at Retcon. “Hey, umm, don’t tell anypony what’s in here.” She grinned conspiratorially. “It’ll be our secret, okay?”

“Uhh, okay.”

Wait, do the others not know she’s doing this? Am I not supposed to be allowed in here?

Retcon glanced up and down the hallway, seeing that it was still otherwise empty, and quickly followed Lemony inside.

The room appeared to be used as some form of storage room, with a half dozen rows of free-standing shelving units filling the centre of the space. The shelves were stacked with uniform cardboard boxes, each bearing a label with tiny writing. She could see that there were tables pushed up against the back wall, though unlike the shelves, the tables were empty.

Lemony had practically skipped down one of the aisles, and was already pulling out one of the boxes. Holding it under one foreleg, she ambled down to the tables and plonked the box down on top.

Following behind, Retcon glanced at some of the labels as she passed. Each label was mouth-written, starting with a seemingly random collection of letters and numbers with no discernible sorting system, and then an apparent descriptor of the contents.

P2.157
“Courage Reactor”

TD.195
“Riparius shard, inert”

SC.085
“Cassy”

TW.006
“Risen Mitten” NOT FOR USE

MG.987
“Iroquois Pliskin”

She couldn’t help but scowl, barely understanding a word she was reading.

Lemony waved at her to join. “Come have a look at this!” Out from the box, she carefully lifted a small stone attached to a long piece of sturdy string. The stone had a number of small runes carved onto its surface. She held it out towards Retcon.

Retcon leaned forward, inspecting the object for peculiarities. “What is it?”

“It was found in a temple up in the Frozen North! Listen! Nûna êower canne ne oferhîeran mîn hlêoðorcwide.”

The pegasus blinked at the sudden change in language. “Uhh, what?”

Lemony lifted the object over her head, wearing it as a pendant. “Hwæðre gîet êow canne!” she said, beaming, though this time it was as if she were speaking with two mouths at once. Retcon heard the strange words, but at the same time she also heard meaning superimposed over it, as if Lemony had at the exact same moment also said the words “And now you can!

She giggled at Retcon’s open-mouthed reaction, and removed the object. “It’s a translation pendant,” she explained. “There’s a spell woven into it, it translates the spoken word into the native language of the listener, it’s super neat!” She gently placed the pendant back into its box. “So far it’s been able to handle just about every verbal language we’ve thrown at it. Sp- uh, one of my co-workers has been trying to figure out how it works, see if we can replicate it.”

“What was that just now?”

Lemony closed the box flaps shut. “Oh, that was just some rough Old Gryphonic. Why, did you recognise any of it?” she added with a smirk.

“No, not a word.” …Should I have?

“Yeah, not surprised.” She lifted the box up and carried it back to its shelf. “It’s a dead language.”

“Then how come you can speak it?”

“I studied it in college, for academic purposes.” She lifted down another box. “It was partly because it tied in with the history course, but... If I’m honest, mostly because not many ponies wanted to take that course. I thought it would be an easy way to make friends if there were only a few of us.”

Retcon cocked her head. “Did it work?”

Lemony smirked. “Not exactly. Turns out the course was so unpopular that year, I was the only one.”

Why does she think that that was funny? “I would have thought the other way; taking a course with more ponies increases the number of potential friends to you would be near to.”

“Yeah, I suppose. Still, it’s not like I wasted a course! Being able to speak in Old Gryphonic is a neat party trick. Plus, it comes in handy at work.” She delicately lifted a slab of rock out of the box with her hooves. “See these glowing runes? They’re written in Old Gryphonic.”

“You’re a historian, right?” asked Retcon, looking at the unicorn.

“That’s right.”

Don’t sound accusatory. “I would have thought... Why are you my chaperone? If Shower is a guard, or, ex-guard, she would have made sense. But you... a historian, I don’t get it.”

Lemony pursed her lips, then gently lowered the slab back into the padded box. “Shower has an ongoing assignment right now. I was studying this slab before you came to- came to in the hospital. And, well, this old stuff can wait ‘til later!” She laughed nervously.

...Resentment. Just a little, does she resent me? The box caught Recton's eye again. No... This is Lemony’s purpose, and she is being kept from it to look after me. She was... excited to show me these things?

Don’t lose her now.

“Why are the runes glowing?” she asked.

Lemony’s expression brightened. “Haven’t a clue! They just do. I mean all that's written appears to be a poem. But you see this?” She indicated an uneven side of the slab. “This says to me that it was once part of a larger piece. Plus, this last line lacks its rhyming couplet.”

“Poem?”

“Yeah... It’s like... It’s a wordy story. That rhymes.”

“Oh. What is the story about?”

“It’s about a griffon hunting a pony for food,” said the unicorn matter-of-factly.

Retcon's eyes widened. “What? I thought you said...”

“Oh, hah, don’t worry. It’s an ancient story, griffons are pretty friendly now. Heck, I work with one. They don’t eat sapient creatures,” she concluded with a sure smile.

Retcon’s initial panic dropped, but she still felt uneasy. “Right.” So that means I’m safe, right?

“Heh, sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out there.”

“I don’t want to get eaten,” she stated.

Lemony gave her a side look. “You didn’t think I was going to eat you, did you? When you first woke up? You were pretty on edge.”

“I’ll let you know when I reach a conclusion.”

Lemony snorted, amused. “Sure thing!”

Wait, was that a funny thing? Funny things are good, aren’t they? “So, why are you studying the poem rock?”

“Well, like I say, we don’t know why it’s glowing, though that’s pretty innocuous. I’m more interested in where it’s from.”

Retcon watched as Lemony gently lifted it back into the box. “Yeah.” She rubbed the inside of her foreleg. It was still itchy.

“The last place we found with runes like this also held a lavastone, which… well, they’re nasty. And then, there’s this.” Lemony smirked as she returned the box, bringing down another and placing it on the table. “Word of warning, don’t touch it, alright?”

Retcon raised a brow. “Okay?”

Carefully, Lemony opened the box revealing nestled in the shredded paper packaging a small, metal arrowhead, with very sharp-looking edges.

“What is it, a weapon?”

“No. Well, maybe? But not because it’s pointy.” There was a glint of something in the unicorn’s eyes. Joy, certainly. But also, something that set Retcon on edge, like a hunger. “You know what gravity is, right?”

She frowned. “No?”

“Gravity is the force that means there’s a down, put simply. There’s a lot more to it, but basically; when you drop something, it falls. That’s gravity.”

“Oh.” That needs a name?

Lemony gestured at the arrowhead. “We call this the Grav Destab; ‘Gravitational Destabiliser’. If you were to activate it, everything that is in contact with it in that exact moment would no longer be affected by gravity. Like, at all. It all just sort of floats there, and if you give it a nudge, it keeps moving in that direction until it hits something. Also, the effect never seems to wear off. We have no idea how to reverse it. Creepy thing is, it was found in the middle of a field, along with somepony’s possessions.” Delicately, she resealed the box. “So yeah, we try not to mess with this too much. We really don’t want to set it off accidentally. A pegasus might be okay, I guess. You still have air resistance. But good luck staying put when sleeping!”

That’s… terrifying… Suddenly the room, filled with stacks of boxes, felt that bit more unsettling. Retcon cleared her throat. “How exactly do you ‘activate’ it?”

“Ah.” Lemony grinned. “Now that would be telling.” Lifting the box up, she carried it carefully back to the shelf. “This is what we do here. Something like the Destab is too dangerous to be public knowledge.”

“Do you have any magic things that work on memory?”

Lemony's lips quirked. “Nothing that will help get your memories back, no.”

A thought came to mind, an image from the courtyard. Many windows, some with bars. “You don’t just keep artefacts here, do you.”

The unicorn seemed to become a little more serious. “No, not just artefacts.”

Retcon tried to keep a straight face. “Tell me.”

Lemony glanced to the door. “Hmm. Perhaps...” She nodded, and turned back to the pegasus. “We should go talk to Gurney.”