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

Retcon - Beige Monkfish

A pony with no memory awakens in a strange facility.

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Chapter Seven - Orientation

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The comic book was far more engaging and enjoyable than Retcon had expected, especially considering its ‘fiction’ categorisation. She didn’t believe for a second that any of the events in the story had any roots in reality despite the narrative describing them as fact, but she couldn’t help but feel for the protagonist on his quest to avenge his love. For a work of fantasy to make her feel such an array of emotions was a surprise.

It was late at night, or perhaps early in the morning, when she had finished the book; it was only short, and she didn’t have much else to do. Not wanting to delve too deeply into another book at that time but still feeling awake and intrigued, she skimmed through a few of the topmost books to see what kinds of topics they covered. Equestria Historia appeared to cover the history of the nation she found herself in, if she was correct on her assumption of the name. The book was probably non-fiction, but she could only guess. It did mention a Princess Celestia and a Princess Luna, names she recalled hearing earlier. This book was probably worth reading next, she decided.

A large book with a fanciful picture of a strange animal caught her eye; a huge, sharp-edged creature with massive scaly wings and wreathed in flame. The book turned out to be an information repository on magical creatures. She found an entry on Windigos right at the back of the book, thanks to a ‘Contents’ page near the front. She used it to find manticores as well, before branching out onto other pages to look at the pictures. She put the book back when she looked for the page on cockatrices on account of the unfamiliar name and found that, judging by the page numbers, some pages were missing.

She also found a small, thin book titled 150 Sudoku Puzzles, which she wasn’t sure whether to categorise it as fiction or non-fiction. She had a definition for a ‘puzzle’, but not for a ‘sudoku’, and each page just had boxes with numbers in them, so she gave up pretty quick.

The sky was starting to brighten outside when she finally started to drift.

A moth danced in the window.

“So, never go into the Everfree Forest?”

Lemony nodded. “Yeah.”

“Under any circumstances?”

“Pretty much.”

“Despite the fact we’re in the Everfree literally right now.”

“Well, no, we’re inside the Institute.”

“Which is in the Everfree,” Retcon insisted.

Lemony snickered. “Yeah, alright, sure, you know what I mean.”

The pegasus tried to keep her expression neutral. “I think so. The forest is dangerous, so don’t wander around in it.”

The two were in Lemony’s office, a small room that appeared well lived-in. Book-filled shelves covered two of the walls, with occasional esoteric objects that Retcon couldn’t name interspersed between the tomes; a wooden cube with maze-like indents over its surface, a knife in a very weathered sheath and runes covering the handle, a painted carving of a unicorn, and several other things. A large, sprawling potted plant sat in the corner. Dried leaves had collected around the floor underneath, particularly around the back where they were most difficult to reach.

The desk between them was covered with papers of all sorts including the map they were inspecting, as well as what looked like a few oddly-shaped rocks, and a tiny green plant in a little pot. A picture frame faced away from the pegasus, though she had seen briefly as she entered that it depicted Lemony with two other ponies, though neither were unicorns. Framed on the wall behind Lemony was a large, flat rock with strange indents in a helical pattern.

Lemony nodded, then pointed at a point on the map. “Okay, you see this big mountain here, near the forest? This is Canterlot, the capital city of Equestria.”

“Canterlot…” Retcon tried to memorise the names she had been told. “What does it mean for a city to be capital?”

“It means it’s the big important city in a country or province, typically where government goes on.”


“Yeah, like, the body of leadership that runs things.”

“Oh, okay.” Leadership-y thing, got it. “Is that to do with the Princesses?”

Lemony smiled encouragingly. “That’s right. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are the joint heads of state and heads of government, though they delegate a lot to nobles and ministers and such.”

“Just the Princesses?” Retcon asked.


“No queen or… or king or anything?”

“Oh! No, the Princesses are right at the top.” Lemony tapped her chin. “Equestria hasn’t had kings or queens since the pre-Classical era. If the reports I’ve seen are accurate, the Sisters initially tried to turn down titles of royalty altogether. I think ‘Princess’ was the least they were able to get away with.” She shrugged. “Based on what I’ve read, at least, it’s difficult to find detailed reports from back then.”

“Back when?”

“Oh, this was about 1,400 years ago, shortly after the defeat of Discord.” She paused. “…Who I should probably explain.”

Retcon’s expression slackened. “How long is a year?”

Lemony blinked. “Um, 365 days?”

That’s what I thought. So then… Oh wait, of course… “Okay, so this was the first Princesses? I thought you still meant Celestia and Luna.”

“Huh? Oh, no, I still mean them.”

“…What? But I thought…” she floundered.

“They’re alicorns,” Lemony stated gently. “Alicorns are ponies who possess the innate magic of pegasi, unicorns and earth ponies all at once. They have the fortitude of an earth pony, a horn for spell casting, and wings for flight.”

“That’s…” Retcon trailed off. …cheating… She shook her head. “Do you work with alicorns?” I’d like to see one.

“Hah! No, they are extremely rare. There are only three alicorns in Equestria: Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Princess Cadenza.” She blinked. “Oh! And Princess Twilight, her coronation was just last month.”

Those are new. Retcon was about to ask further, but a thought stuck in her head. “What do you mean about spell casting?”

Lemony chewed the inside of her cheek. “Unicorns can cast magic through their horns.”

The pegasus waited a moment for an elaboration, before asking, “What does that mean?”

“Well… a unicorn can take magic… you know what magic is?”


“Umm, magic is a form of energy; there’s a field of this energy that surrounds us. Earth ponies and pegasi interact with this field passively; earth ponies draw strength and vitality from it, and the wings of a pegasus don’t just push down against the air for propulsion. Unicorns are… unicorns can manipulate the field for all sorts of uses. It’s kind of difficult to explain just with words.”

Despite the unicorn’s outward appearance, Retcon realised with a pang that Lemony was getting more worked-up as she spoke. “Could I see?” she ventured.

Lemony’s smiled turned sad. Bitter? “Sorry, I’m not all that good. You’d be better to ask somepony else. Though,” she lowered her voice conspiratorially, grinning, “maybe don’t say you’ve never seen magic before! You don’t want them to think you’re weird.”

“…So, can I not just say I have amnesia?”

“Hmm, yeah, you can. I mean, as long as you don’t mention this place, and we’ll go through your NDA later, you can say whatever you like. It’s just that the more unusual you act, the more questions you’re likely to get. That’s fine, of course! Questions are a natural way of getting to know somepony, but you don’t want to start getting awkward questions. Does that make sense?”

“Right, I think I get it.” Like all the questions I could ask you about why you don’t want to talk about magic. Lemony appeared a little more at ease as the topic had changed, she noted, deciding not to press the issue. Yet.

The unicorn stifled a yawn. “‘Scuse… Um, where were we?”

“Uhh, alicorns?”

“Right, yeah! Alicorns…” she blinked. “No, I think that was everything.”

“…1,400 years?”

“Oh yeah. Alicorns are unique amongst ponies in that they are very long-lived. Princess Celestia has been ruling Equestria non-stop since then. Princess Luna…” She stood and turned to a bookshelf, plucked out a book with her hooves, then turned back to the pegasus, grinning. “Let me tell you the tale of the Mare in the Moon.”

Celestia moves the sun, she thought numbly, staring at the ceiling from her bed. Luna moves the moon. Two ponies… the sun… the moon… They move them. They are ancient… and they move the sun and the moon.

The day had again been spent with Lemony, this time in conversation regarding the gaps in her knowledge of Equestria. She had learned of shops and currency, of houses and laws, of spaghetti carbonara, jobs and gardens and duckponds. Of how to make friends. A whole world of 'society' outside of this Institute. She longed to leave, to explore one of these towns she had heard of, but she couldn’t go more than a few sentences of conversation before she came across some word or concept that was wholly alien.

As much as it galled her, she had to accept she was not ready for society just yet. Lemony was very patient and forgiving, but Retcon still had more to learn. She knew she could leave at any point; her wings had twitched and flitted nervously when they had gone out once more into the courtyard, but the lack of direction and knowledge on the outside world kept her from just flying away. It was a sorely tempting prospect, but not just yet.

She greatly appreciated Lemony’s company, her tutelage. The unicorn seemed to be trying her level best to bring Retcon up to speed on how things worked, how to talk with other ponies, how to live a life on the outside. The more they spoke, the more the suspicions that Retcon had entertained since her waking had faded; if they were intending to keep her here, why would they teach her about how to live independently when she left? Sure, she could concoct reasons; maybe it was an advanced bluff, to make her convinced she was going to leave but that these lessons would never actually end... But such thoughts now felt like clinging to suspicions for suspicion's sake.

Lemony had quickly tired during the day. She said she had gotten very little sleep. Retcon hadn’t seen a bed in Lemony’s office, so she wondered if the unicorn had to leave the Institute at night, and how long such a journey would take. Given the remote location of the Institute, and having seen the door to a 'Warp Room', she suspected some form of magic shortcut, though where if anywhere this Warp Room lead, she couldn’t guess.

Magic was another topic of interest. The explanation she had been given matched the very loose and fragmented definition she had in her head, but some of the points concerned her. Hearing about the passive latent energy as used by earth ponies and pegasi made sense, once explained; drawing energy from the world the way one draws unto oneself heat from the sun when one stands outside. The idea that pegasi used a small amount of magic to sustain flight somehow made sense, in a comfortable kind of way. Perhaps this was a fragment of knowledge she once knew, back in its place in her brain.

What concerned her, however, were unicorns. Having been told that this Institute was set up to investigate unusual forms of magic, then to hear that those who possess horns could manipulate the world according to their will… it was worrying, deep down. Unicorns, capable of spellcasting. Once she had been returned to her room for the night, and as her mind began to wander, she recalled the Grav Destab, the object with terrifying magical potential. To think that unicorns had the ability to weave reality into such shapes made her blood run cold.

Of course, Lemony had tried to present spellcasting as something rather more jolly; levitation and lightcasting and the like. Small things that help everyday life. Perhaps a demonstration of such things would put her mind at rest, but Lemony had declined a display of magic.

And then, there were the alicorns, beings greater than any pony could hope to be. The thought chilled her, but she couldn’t help but wish to meet such a creature. Perhaps it was the investigatory nature of the place in which she found herself that she had begun to adopt, but she couldn’t help but find the concept fascinating, if also terrifying. She kept her fears to herself, taking Lemony’s calm demeanour as a template to follow.

She scoffed under her breath, amused, as she recalled the blind fear she had felt when Lemony had knocked at her door that first night. She didn’t regret her actions, nor her suspicions, which were all reasonable at the time, but it did strike her as funny how things had changed in only a few short days.

Still, for the first time, she now had a goal; the faster she could learn about pony society, the faster she could get out and live it. She wanted a house, a garden, a duckpond. She wanted to meet friends.

Retcon smiled weakly to herself. Perhaps amnesia wasn’t so bad. She had no idea who she used to be, what she used to be or used to do. Perhaps she had a good life, a life she could maybe one day reclaim, experiencing it anew. Maybe she had a bad life, in which case her loss of memory was a mercy. Either way, she had begun to feel that Shower was right; maybe starting from scratch wasn’t the worst thing.