• Published 2nd Jan 2021
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Retcon - Beige Monkfish



A pony with no memory awakens in a strange facility.

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Chapter Eight - Opportunity

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Knock knock knock

Retcon snapped to awareness as the knocking on the door rang through her room.

She had been awake for hours already, reading parts from the books she had, jumping from one to the next. She was initially most interested in the non-fiction books, mostly because she was interested in facts over stories, though a part of her quite liked the big pictures they tended to have. However, her attention had gradually been drawn to a fictional romance story. She had begun it the night before; initially she hadn’t been sure what to make of it when she had started, but it had proven surprisingly engaging. By the morning she couldn’t help but wonder what happened next.

Closing the book, she jumped down from her bed onto the carpet. “Come in.”

With a click, the door unlocked and opened, and into the room stepped Shower. “Morning,” she greeted pleasantly. “Yeesh, you ever comb your mane?”

Retcon glanced up, confused. “No…?”

The other pegasus shook her head lightly, but seemed amused. “How are we today?”

Retcon had seen the her occasionally, but hadn’t spoken since the first morning. A sure-spirited smile graced Shower’s face. Retcon didn’t quite like it, though she couldn’t but feel it was purely for silly reasons. Shower was still better than Gurney, she had decided; she couldn’t read the griffon at all.

“I’m fine.” She glanced to the door behind Shower. “Is Lemony with you?”

“Just me today. Lem’s a bit off-colour, so she’s taking a day off.”

“Oh.” She felt concern rise within her. “Is she okay?”

Shower nodded. “Yeah, she should be fine, don’t worry about it. She’ll probably be back in tomorrow, just needs a bit of a break. In the meantime, looks like you’re stuck with me!” She stepped to one side, one foreleg outstretched openly toward the door. “After you, madame,” she said in a funny voice.


“So, how you been coping so far?”

Retcon paused with a mouthful of pancake. The two of them were back in the large, open room with the two fizzy drink wardrobes, sitting at the huge circular table which had a buffet of food before them. She swallowed. “Umm, I’m okay.”

Shower raised a brow. “Yeah? I mean, I’m not prying or anything. Just, y’know, wanna make sure you’re good.”

“…I’m fine.” Retcon chewed the inside of her cheek, then leaned back in her cushion. “It’s… difficult, I guess. Everything is new, and… well,” she looked the other pegasus in the eye, “anything could be a lie.” She broke eye contact. “And I wouldn’t know it. I couldn’t. All I actually know is that I don’t know. What kind of foundation for action is that?” She smiled dryly. “Isn’t that silly?”

Shower took a moment to respond, her expression somewhat serious. “To be honest…” she started, gently, “I think that’s pretty sensible.” She leaned forward, forelegs crossed on the table. “I… couldn’t begin to understand what you’re… what you’ve been going through, I get that.” She rolled her blue eyes, smirking. “This isn’t exactly an ideal situation for anypony, right? But y’know what? You’re doing better than any one of us coulda hoped, you know that?” She glanced off into the distance, shaking her head slowly. “When we first brought you in… And to see you now? I’d have never believed it!” The smile became warm. Genuine. “And for the little it’s worth; I’m happy for you. Lem’s happy for you, she’s been singing your praises about your progress!”

“…Right. Okay,” Retcon floundered. “Sorry, I… don’t have… words to say.”

Shower snorted. “Don’t sweat it.” She took a bite out of her bagel. “We’ll have you back out there in no time. Not that we don’t like having you around, but the sooner we can get you to clear off, the better, right?” She took another bite as she thought, before continuing more earnestly, “Thanks, for making this place a little more interesting.”

Retcon’s face heated up. “I’ve only been here a few days. I would have thought, this place… with all the magic things you have, how could somewhere like this get boring?”

“Heh, yeah, you’re right. It’s more like… Well we don’t get visitors often. Secret base, middle of nowhere, right?” Shower sighed. “The stuff that goes on here… We can’t exactly talk about this stuff to anypony. So, to be able to talk about all these mad artefacts and creatures and stuff to someone who doesn’t work here… It’s certainly a change of pace.”

Retcon nodded. “I suppose. …But, we haven’t exactly talked much.”

Shower finished her bagel. “Yeah, sorry about that, I’ve still had paperwork. Plus, you’re… well, Lemony’s your assignee. That’s more her thing.”

Retcon snort-laughed. “Must be part of the job for a historian.”

Shower chuckled. She grabbed an apple and took a bite before replying. “Y’know… Lemony’s never really been one for interaction,” she said evenly. “I don’t want to say she’s a loner, exactly, but… maybe a ‘natural outsider’.” She stared at the apple in her hoof. “I don’t know what she was like before… well, before she came to work with us. She’s not been here all that long, to be fair. She’s kind and friendly, but… she never spoke much. Not unless you prompted her.” Shower grinned. “Ask her about some ancient warlord or obscure tribe and she’ll talk your ears off until she gets self-conscious, but otherwise… Socialising isn’t really her thing, and I can respect that.” She looked Retcon dead in the eye. “You’ve really brought her out of her shell. You know that?”

Retcon blinked. “Umm, no?”

“Heh, well she’s still the same with the rest of us, at any rate.” Shower smiled. “But she likes you, so, thanks for being a good friend for her.”

She… I have a friend? Retcon was at a loss for words.

Shower scowled. “Urgh, enough yucky sappy crap for one day,” she proclaimed, taking another bite out of her apple. Still, Retcon could tell the other mare was amused.

She glanced around the huge table with the almost-two-dozen cushions around it. “Shower… how many of you work here?”

Shower gave her a side glance. “Mmm… ‘Bout a dozen or so?”

“Huh. I’ve only seen four.”

Shower paused mid-chew for a brief moment. “Uh, four?”

“Yeah… You, Lemony, Gurney, and… that stallion…” What was he… “Cobalt, I think. I was just wondering why… where everyone else is?”

The lilac mare’s piercing eyes took on a stony edge. “Cobalt?”

…Was I not supposed to...? “Yeah, I think? I was in here, Lemony left to find Gurney, and he just turned up.”

Shower’s flinty look softened. “Oh? What did you guys talk about?”

“Umm…” What did we talk about? “He said he hadn’t seen any souls. He was here for paperwork. I told him my name, but that was about it before Lemony came back.”

“Huh.” Shower finished her apple, but Retcon could tell the other mare was conflicted inside. After a minute of silence as they ate, Shower dropped the apple core on her plate, and stood. “Hey, I might know what that was about. D’you mind hanging around? I’ll just be right back.”

“Oh, sure.”

Shower smiled in response, then turned and trotted down the hallway from which they had come. Retcon frowned, what was all that? Leaving me here all…

She grinned to herself, then glanced around, down the hallway behind her, empty, to the one Shower had gone down, just as she turned a corner.

All alone.

Retcon recalled her resolution at the end of her first full day; to return to the place with the huge metal doors and try to find a room with bars in the window, just to set her mind at ease. She hadn’t had the opportunity with Lemony the day before, as the two had spent almost the entire day either in Lemony’s office or the courtyard. But now…

Well, if Shower got mad, she could just say she went for a wander. It’s not like she was told to stay right here. Just to ‘hang around’, and she was indeed planning on being ‘around’.

Glancing about again and seeing no one, Retcon slipped away from the table, trotting hurriedly but lightly down the other corridor, her heart leaping in her throat at the sudden rush of agency she felt. She passed door after door, coming to the junction at the end. Checking behind her, she couldn’t see Shower returning, nor were the hallways on the left and right occupied, so she continued to her right, coming to the hallway with the metal doors.

Retcon couldn’t stop grinning. She had done it.

There, on the first metal door, was the label she had already seen;

GH.038
“Allison”

The door at the end of the hall housed the Windigo, she recalled. That left four doors in-between that she hadn’t seen. All she had to find was one room, housing one of these dangerous animals, to have a window with bars in, and that would be enough for her. Moving to the next door on her right, she read the label;

AS.014
“Kelpie”

A word she didn’t recognise, perhaps just a name like ‘Allison’. Reaching with a forehoof, she slowly slid open the viewing hatch in the door, taking care to make as little noise as possible. Inside, she saw a room of similar construction to the room that housed the manticore; walls, floor and ceiling made of the impossibly flat stone. However, the majority of the floor in the room dropped downward into a wide hole, which was filled almost to the top with water. A small, indoor lake. The room was otherwise bare, again with no window.

Retcon was about to close the hatch and move on to the next door, when a flat shape resembling a fish tail emerged from the water, before splashing down again. She hesitated, her attention drawn to the pool. As she watched, the upper half of a sea-green pony appeared from under the surface. The mare placed her forehooves on the edge of the pool, steadying herself, then shook her head violently, water flying from her wet mane.

Then, she looked directly at Retcon. She smiled, a friendly smile, a welcoming smile, marred only by the vicious sharp teeth he possessed. She waved a hoof in greeting.

Eyes wide, Retcon stepped hurriedly away from the window, slamming the hatch shut. She staggered back from the door. With a start, she realised she had forgotten to breathe, her lungs starting to burn.

It’s clever, she thought, her spine running cold. It’s a thinking being. It saw me. It…

The manticore, the Windigo, they were just beasts. This ‘kelpie’, she could see the spark of awareness in its eyes.

Being kept here. As… what?

Am I being kept here?

The fears she had been quelling began to once more resurface.

Okay, there’s going to be a reason for this. I’ll ask Lemony… when she gets back, I’ll ask her… what they’re doing keeping an intelligent… thing here. Locked up. She shook her head in denial. I’m different, aren’t I? I got the standard room. The kelpie got the room with the big metal door. We’re different. I’m not locked up here, I can leave.

But, why is it locked up?

There was the distant sound of a door being opened down the hallway, causing Retcon to jump and almost cry out in surprise, followed by the tell-tale scratch of talons.

Gurney. This way.

She had to hide. All of a sudden, talking her way out of trouble no longer seemed as appealing as it had before, but the only places to hide without passing the end of the hallway he was coming down were behind the metal doors. With the sharp-toothed manticore’s room on her left and the sharp-toothed kelpie before her, she scrambled to the next door to her right, sliding open the viewing hatch. Inside was yet another flat-stone room akin to the others. All she saw in the room was a large orb on a pedestal, and no creatures, nothing moving, nothing living.

She glanced behind her as the sound of griffon drew closer and closer. I’ll take my chances. Grabbing the handle, she pulled the heavy door outwards, just wide enough for her to slip in, and dragged the door almost closed. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to open it again if she closed it all the way, and could only hope the griffon wouldn’t notice.

The viewing hatch was still open, though she couldn’t do anything about it from this side of the door. Standing on the tips of her hooves, careful not to lean on the door lest she push it shut, she looked back out into the hallway, struggling to keep her breathing even. After a painful few seconds, she saw Gurney tread into view. His wings were held outstretched; hooked over one was a bucket, and over the other was a large wooden frame with thin bars running laterally through it, and a series of large colourful beads on each bar. As she watched, the griffon disappeared beyond the right side of her vision, heading in the direction of the manticore’s enclosure.

Retcon let out a sigh of palpable relief, breath fogging the window.

Then she wondered, exactly what room had she entered, in her moment of blind worry?

…And why could she hear music?

“…So, are you going to speak first, or shall I?” asked a voice.