• 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 Five - Creature

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“What is Gurney?”

Lemony hummed. “Gurney’s our... medic, I guess? He’s not strictly a biologist, but he might as well be. Academia in the Empire works somewhat differently.” She smiled to herself, looking down the corridor as they walked. “He’s a bit strange, but nice, I think you’ll get along.”

I get along with Lemony, is that why? “You’re strange and nice too,” stated Retcon, matter-of-factly.

“Eheh, well, thank you.”

...Why is she changing colour?

They stepped out into the large, open space at the end of the corridor. In the middle of the room was a huge circular table with cushions all around. There was a strange claw-shaped object in the middle of the table, which Retcon assumed was decorative, but the table was otherwise bare. Several doors lined the walls, as well as an open doorway to another long corridor. There were no windows, barring a large skylight in the high ceiling. Up against one of the walls were two large boxes, like wardrobes, only with a glass façade, filled with many colourful things. It looked like a display case, perhaps to show off the Institute’s collection of dangerous magical artefacts. The most brightly-coloured objects were probably the most toxic, she decided.

“Why don’t you wait here.” Lemony gestured to the table. “I’ll go find where Gurney is, and we’ll be right back. Okay?”

Retcon looked around. “Uh, sure.”

Lemony walked up to one of the glass wardrobes and pressed a few buttons. There was a muffled whirring, and a clunk. She opened up a flap at the bottom and retrieved a poison-coloured metal cylinder. Holding it with one hoof, she twisted something at the top, and the cylinder hissed at her, causing Retcon to jump, wings shuffling, as she eyed the angry object. “Here!” said Lemony, offering the cylinder to her. “Try this, I think you’ll like it.”

Retcon leaned forward and sniffed it gingerly. “What is it?”

“It’s a drink. Try it.”

Taking the object in a hoof, she carefully twisted it around to get a better look without tipping it over. The outer side of the cylinder was covered in text, much of it askew and difficult to read, and with many words entirely foreign to her. Even the words she could recognise were assembled into jumbles barely recognisable as sentences, starting and stopping at unexpected intervals. Locating a small hole on the top, she shot Lemony a questioning glance, and took a hesitant sip.

The hint of a sweet flavour was immediately overpowered by a surprisingly sharp sensation in the fluid. Eyes bulging, she just about managed to not cough it back up. “Ack! It bit me!”

Lemony burst out laughing. “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just fizzy! What do you think?”

Retcon frowned at the cylinder. In her surprise, she hadn’t gotten much of a taste. She took another careful sip, this time more prepared for the sharp ‘fizzy’. “It’s… actually really nice. Like… like it’s made from the sweetest fruit in the world.”

The unicorn chuckled. “That’s a funny way of putting it, but sure.” She gestured down the other hallway. “Anyway, I’ll go see where Gurney is, just stay put and I’ll be right back. Deal?”

“Yes.”

Swigging the peculiar drink, she watched as Lemony trotted off down the hall, one that looked almost indistinguishable to the hallway they had come down; lined on either side with door after door. She settled down at the table and tried to read the story written on the cylinder. Perhaps it says where the drink comes from? It was so delightfully unlike anything she could remember ever tasting, so much better than the coffee, that she decided to savour it, instead taking smaller sips.

She glanced around the space idly. One of the doors was labelled ‘Warp Room’. The other doors only had numbers, ranging from ‘Room 01’ through to ‘Room 04’.

As the time ticked by, she allowed her mind to wander. It seemed odd that, for all the many doors in the building, she had only met two ponies who worked there. Lemony, the pink unicorn, seemed very friendly. Retcon enjoyed her presence and company to a degree. Trust was, of course, a different matter. She wasn’t sure she could exactly trust Lemony, given her very vulnerable circumstance, and the transparent reluctance to give more than the surface level answers to her questions.

She wondered if the many questions for which she had unsatisfactory answers were either because something was being kept from her maliciously, or because the true answers were simply by nature unsatisfactory, and that she wasn’t the only one who didn’t know the unknowns. Maybe, before she asked if truth was being hidden behind deceptions, she should find out if there was even a deception in the first place. How could she even know one way or the other? She grumbled under her breath, taking another sip of the drink.

She had less of a clue about Shower. The lilac pegasus ex-guard wasn’t exactly unpleasant; she had come across as friendly and genuine. Instead, there was something of an edge to her, some flicker of severity behind her casual eyes. Retcon realised that she didn’t like Shower, but she couldn’t place exactly why, since the other pegasus had also behaved in a reasonably pleasant manner. Maybe she hadn’t given Shower enough of a chance? Perhaps she just preferred Lemony, thereby making Shower by default the worst pony she had ever met. That was a shame.

No, she didn’t dislike Shower. She just didn’t understand Shower all that well. Perhaps that was it.

The inside of her foreleg was itchy. Lifting it up, she could see an irritation on the skin just under her fur. It was a tiny red dot, like an insect bite.

A door opened in the hallway she had come down, very close to the open space she was in, causing her to flinch at the sound. Twisting in her seat, she saw a white unicorn with a blue mane and golden armour step out into the hallway alone, the door shutting behind him. He had already started trotting down toward her before their eyes met.

“Afternoon, ma’am,” he said pleasantly as he drew close. “Funny place, this, isn’t it. I’m guessing this is the foyer?”

For one with such an authoritative appearance, he looks lost, she thought, watching as he glanced around the room. “Who are you? Please?” She added the last part in an effort to sound polite.

“Corporal Cobalt Storm, ma’am. I’m sorry to disturb you at work, I’m just here for some paperwork.”

“Oh.” Should I… She smiled to herself. “My name is Retcon.”

“Nice to meet you, Retcon,” he replied. “That’s an unusual name, i-if you don’t mind me saying of course.”

“It is my name,” Retcon said proudly. “And, nice to meet you as well.”

“You know, for a spec ops branch, I thought you guys would be busier. Hardly seen a soul since I got here.” His grin faltered as he glanced down each hallway. “I was actually hoping, uhh… I don’t suppose you’ve seen-”

“Retcon?”

Down the other hallway, she could see Lemony near the end beckoning to her. She turned back to Cobalt. “I have to go.” She quickly finished the dregs of the drink.

Cobalt nodded. “Sorry to bug you.”

“You are not a bug,” she replied, before turning and walking away. He seemed amused by her response.

I think that was a successful conversation, she decided, pleased with herself. I told him that it was nice to meet him. And I got to use my name.

Lemony was smiling as she got closer, though she noticed the unicorn glancing down the hallway past her. “Come on, we’re down this way!”

She started back down the corridor ahead of Retcon. Passing door after door, she turned right at the end, leading to another, albeit very different hallway. There were only doors on the far wall rather than on both sides, six of them, and they were all much larger, more distantly spaced from each other, seemingly made from metal rather than wood.

Standing in front of one of these heavy doors, staring intently through a wide rectangular slit into the room beyond, was a creature the likes of which Retcon had never before seen.

It was somewhat taller than she, with huge brown wings folded against it’s back. It stood on four legs, though it’s front two ended in vicious-looking talons, and in place of a muzzle was a sharp beak. It wore a satchel over one shoulder.

It turned to the two ponies, it’s binocular eyes homing in on her own. And then it grinned.

“Ah! How’s our star guest?” it asked. It’s voice could be masculine, sounding lightly accented.

Retcon stood and stared in silence. She had no idea how to react. The creature looked a threat, but his behaviour was unexpected. She turned her head to Lemony for guidance.

The unicorn seemed amused.

The griffon raised a talon and held it outstretched towards Retcon, who managed to stop herself from flinching. “Name’s Gurney,” he said cheerfully. “And before you ask, no, it’s not short for Gurnard.” Lemony rolled her eyes.

“That wasn’t going to be my question.” The pegasus glanced hesitantly at the open talon before her. “I was going to ask if you eat ponies.”

Gurney burst out laughing, the sudden sound startling her. She glanced at Lemony for help, who was holding a hoof to her mouth.

“Ahh, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Fräulein! I hear you’ve chosen yourself a new name?”

“Uh, yes. It is Retcon.” Not ‘Frown Lines’.

Gurney nodded, grinning. “Nice name. To answer your question, no, griffons don’t eat ponies.” He tapped his beak with a claw. “I mean, I’m an omnivore so I technically could, but if it’s smart enough to say, ‘no thanks’, that’s basically cannibalism.” He shrugged. “That’s how I see it anyway. Besides,” he grinned pointedly at Lemony, “some ponies are just a bit too sour.”

“Oh har har.” She turned to the pegasus. “Listen, I need to go have a word with Shower, so you stick with Gurney, okay? I won’t be long.”

“Oh, sure,” she nodded in assent. Lemony excused herself, retreating back down the hallway.

“Now,” Gurney pulled out a notepad and pencil from his satchel, flipping the pad open. “I’ve got a couple questions for you, I just need to check up on how you’re doing.” He wrote something down, murmuring under his breath. “So, you are Retcon the pegasus, correct?”

Oh, I guess the questions are easy. “Yes.”

Gurney nodded, making a short mark with the pencil. “Good.” He raised a brow. “And you can’t remember anything from before yesterday, correct?”

“…No. Well, some words and concepts,” she added. “I remember how to speak, but… not who I am or where I’m from or anything else.”

He nodded again, drawing another short mark. “No pain anywhere, no headaches?”

“No.”

“Lemony said she’s fed you; do you feel you’ve been eating enough?”

“Uhh, I guess? Maybe I could do with something to eat soon though.”

Nod, mark. “Alright. Favourite colour?”

“Huh?”

Gurney smirked. “Just answer the question.”

She paused. “I, uhh… I haven’t thought about it. It’s not important, is it?”

“No, not important. Interesting though.” He finished his note, then closed the notepad. “I wonder if your preferences have changed, or if you just don’t remember forming any. If opinion and memory are stored differently.”

“If you’re the healer… Lemony said you lot have dealt with amm- memory-loss ponies before, right?”

“On occasion, yes.” Gurney’s feelings were difficult to read. It probably had to do with the beak. “We’ve had a couple here at the Institute, but none had such a complete loss of memory as you have. Y’know, they were missing a day or two, a week, never much more than that.”

Hmm. “Did any of them ever get their memory back?”

Gurney took a moment to respond. “Sometimes, but only very rarely. In your case, I think it’s best to act as though you won’t.”

“Right…”

He cocked his head slightly, which looked strange as his binocular eyes followed her. “What’s on your mind, pal?”

Pal? She shook her head. “If I’m honest, I can’t help but wonder if there’s anyone out there who knows me, or is looking for me.” She frowned. “I mean, it’s not that I miss them if there is. I can’t miss someone I don’t know. It’s, y’know, whatever. It’s just…” Her chest tightened. “Well, I hope I’m not putting anyone through that, I guess.”

Gurney nodded sadly. “I understand. If it helps, you were brought in by the Royal Guard, so they all know about your situation. If anyone comes forward who’s looking for you, we’ll know.” He smiled. “So don’t worry about it, yeah?”

Retcon sniffed. That makes a lot of sense. “Yeah.” She cast about to change the subject, settling on the huge metal doors. “So, what’s all these?” she gestured to the nearest, the one Gurney has been looking through. There was a written label beside it;

GH.038
“Allison”

“Ah, welcome to my domain!” he said, grinning widely. “This is where we keep the living things here for study. If it’s alive, or a near enough facsimile, it gets put here.”

“I didn’t.”

Gurney grinned. “Not complaining, are ya? No, you’re sapient and not here for, y’know, study, so you get one of the standard sapient rooms.”

Retcon raised an eyebrow. “But, big metal doors?”

“Magic artefacts can be unstable and wildly unpredictable. Magical creatures; exponentially so.” He rapped on the metal with a talon. “Better safe than sorry, right?”

She nodded at the label. “What is an Allison?”

“Allison’s a manticore. Big, ferocious beasts they are.” He gestured to the door. “Come have a look.”

At eye-height was a thin horizontal slit in the door, with glass in the middle, and an open hatch which appeared to be a cover for the slit. Peering inside, she could see a habitat made from impossibly-flat stone. In one corner, curled up and seemingly asleep, was a huge creature. Its forelegs appeared similar to Gurney’s back legs, it had a pair of small leathery wings, and a segmented tail that Retcon could tell held a poisonous stinger. Its face was concealed by a large mane of fur.

Unlike her room, the furnishings were very basic; bowls for food and drink, some disembowelled plush toys were scattered about, blankets, small animal beds, and many other things she couldn’t name.

Even though the creature was asleep, she was suddenly very thankful for the huge, metal doors.

She glanced questioningly at Gurney. “Allison?”

He shrugged. “She didn’t respond well to Janet.”

“You keep it here because it’s dangerous?”

“Well, not exactly. In this room, yes, but if that were all then we’d just let her go in the Everfree. Predators are common out there.” He smirked. “No, we’re interested in her because she’s different. Manticores aren’t all that smart, maybe about on par with your average cat, but that’s about it.” He gestured to the door with a wing. “Allison’s abnormally smart, in certain areas, particularly maths and memory games. I mean, she’s not all that much different otherwise, even a pony still edges her out in arithmetic. She’s still a manticore and can be, you know, difficult to work with. I’ve been trying to figure out if this is some trait that’s been induced in her, or if there’s a population of clever manticores out there. That would be cause for concern!” he said, sounding thrilled at the prospect.

He’s certainly very forthcoming. Though… why is he telling me all this? Retcon mused to herself, glancing back into the room with the manticore. I get that Lemony said she’d give me a tour, to show they had nothing to hide. Is that all this is? Those barred windows I saw, are they just for dangerous animals?

She took in the creature’s enclosure; it was decently sized for a cell, more than sufficient for an unintelligent animal. I got a nice room. I’m glad I didn’t wake up in there.

…Is that the point? Is that why I’m being shown this?

…Wait…

…This room doesn’t have a window.