• Published 14th Jan 2013
  • 26,297 Views, 1,588 Comments

The Monster Below - Greenback



An earth pony seeks to transform himself into an Alicorn, but how far is he willing to go to get what he wants?

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The Second Miracle

The day after the festival ended, I saw my parents to the train station, promising that I would come and visit during Hearth's Warming Eve. After all, they had come to visit me, so it was only fair for me to do the same at the next major holiday. And as the train headed off down the tracks, I waved goodbye, pondering what that visit would be like. Would I still be Silverspeak the Earth pony? Or would my parents see their son carrying wings upon his back? Only time would tell.

With my parents heading home, I turned my attention to the new challenge of getting wings. While offering more possibilities then my previous endeavors, I faced the problem of convincing Beakbreaker to look into making them, as she probably wouldn't be keen to embark on such a lengthy project so soon after her last one. If I was going to convince her, I needed evidence to prove that it would be a worthy endeavor. It'd be difficult, but if the need arose, I could use my charm on Beakbreaker, and...persuade her to take the challenge. It was an uncomfortable thought, but if I wanted to get any closer to my dreams, I might have had no choice.

I hoped it wouldn't come to that.

***

I spent the next few weeks preparing my pitch for Beakbreaker, and was ready to go when she invited me to have lunch with her at the company cafeteria. We were both late, but when I saw that no one else was around, I knew the time was perfect for me to make my move.

“So,” I asked. “How's the newest batch of legs coming along?”

“Very well," Beakbreaker said. "Another week, and then I'll be doing so many surgeries to attach them."

"Then what?"

"Oh, keep repeating the process, I suppose."

"Have you thought about doing research on anything else?" I made the most charming face I could. "Like wings, perhaps?”

“Oh, sweet Celestia, we're not back to that, are we? Silverspeak, I told you, I can't do wings.”

“I remember you saying you couldn't do horns. You didn't say wings were impossible.”

“If I didn't know better, I'd say you were obsessed with them."

"Well, I want you to succeed," I said. "When I was preparing all those proposals and speeches, I did a lot of reading on Equestrian scientists, and I noticed something: when they managed something giant, something that defines their whole career, they usually stop. They figure they've proven themselves, or they're too afraid to try something else and fail. I don't want that to happen to you.”

"That's a long way from happening," Beakbreaker told me. "Besides, there's still so much work to do: the legs have to be tweaked and perfected, we need to streamline the growth process, and finalize therapies for post-op work.”

The debate had begun, and I quickly realized that Beakbreaker wasn't going to be easily persuaded. I could have used all my memorized reasons for creating the wings, but I didn't have time. The lunch period was ending, and I didn't want to drag out the process of persuading Beakbreaker over several weeks or months. With a heavy heart, I realized that my best strategy was to play my trump card early, and overwhelm Beakbreaker's defenses before she could mount them.

Telling myself that it was for a good cause, I turned on the charm.

“Those are valid reasons to keep going,” I said. “But you have so much potential and talent. If you keep pushing yourself, I really think you could become the most famous scientific mind Equestria has ever seen.”

“Oh Silverspeak, don't be silly. I––”

“Think about it,” I said. “If you could manage wings, then you could bring hope to all the pegasus ponies out there. You could make their worst nightmare a thing of the past. If they lost their wings, they wouldn't be grounded for the rest of their lives. The nightmare of an entire race would be gone!”

Beakbreaker said nothing, but she inched forward in her chair, intrigued.

I had hooked her.

“I remember what you said about the horns, and how it's impossible to make them. But what if you manage to find a way while working on the wings? If you could manage that, and perfect a method for creating naturally grown horns, then you would have single-handily created legs, wings, and horns for all ponies. Can you imagine how incredible that would be? You would usher in a new era; you would single-hoofidly make prosthetics obsolete. You'd be the greatest medical scientist Equestria has ever seen!”

I paused to let my words sink in, then hit with the killing blow. “You've already started the process. Why not take it all the way to the end?”

A strange thing happened: I had thought I would need to use my charm throughout the conversation, but halfway through, I found I didn't need to. The thought of Beakbreaker pulling off both wings and horns was tremendously exciting. True, I wanted those wings and horns for myself, but at the same time, that technology would make Beakbreaker famous, and help so many other ponies. It would be a win-win-win situation for everyone, and benefit everyone for ages to come.

But if I played my cards right, I'd be the first to reap the rewards.

“That's... that's a lot to contemplate,” Beakbreaker finally said. “I'll... I'll have to think about it.”

I nodded, taking care to neither be disappointed or happy. I had done my part, and planted the seed of an idea.

All I could do was wait to see if it would grow.

***

Nothing more was said about the wings for several days. I wasn't anxious at first, figuring that Beakbreaker was just taking her time. But after a week, I got concerned. Whenever I passed by her at work, she gave no clue or indication of what she was thinking. It was tempting to ask about what she thought of my idea, but I remained silent, figuring it would be counter-productive to show that I was anxious.

My waiting paid off when she came to my office two weeks later and knocked on the door. “May I come in?” When I nodded, she pulled up a chair and sat down. “I've been thinking about what you've said,” she told me. “And while I don't like the idea of spending several years in the lab, I think you're onto something.”

I pretended to be surprised. “Oh?”

“The past few days, I've been going over my data, and what literature there is about wings, looking to see if they're feasible... I think they might be.”

It took most of my willpower not to leap up and cheer.

“Now, that was on my own time. If we're going to go any further on this, we need to set up a meeting with the higher-ups and get both approval and funding. You think you can write a proposal?”

I pulled one from my drawer. “Already done.”

Beakbreaker was surprised. “Really?”

“Things were a bit slow this week, so I decided I might as well write one up in case something like this happened.” I explained.

Beakbreaker took the proposal, looked it over, and nodded as she read. “Only a few things I'd change, but this is actually pretty good... do I have anything scheduled for this afternoon?”

I checked. “No.”

“See if you can schedule a get-together with the CEO's. Might as well work to get the ball rolling.”

Scribbling a few suggestions on the proposal, Beakbreaker left me to my work, and I went like a madpony, quickly sending out notes to the CEO's and adding the suggested changes to the proposal. It seemed destiny was on my side that day, for I had scheduled the meeting for later that afternoon. When it came around, Beakbreaker appeared in her finest medical wear, took the revised proposal, and headed up to our corporate overlords upstairs.

Was I nervous? I'd be lying if I said I wasn't, but I highly doubted Medicomp would turn down an opportunity to make even more bits, and especially if the opportunity was coming from their most famous scientist. Still, there was a gnawing sensation I couldn't get rid off, the feeling that something wasn't quite right. Perhaps it was my conscience, reminding me that I was treading a very fine line. It was one thing to make a suggestion, but something else to quietly steer an entire company to make what I wanted. And just how would Beakbreaker react if she discovered that I was influencing her just to make my dreams a reality?

I didn't have time to finish that thought, for Beakbreaker came back into my office, having spent just an hour upstairs, and looking mighty pleased with herself. “Congratulations Silverspeak,” She said. “Thanks to you, we now officially have the go-ahead to start research on wings.

I grinned.

***

With the company backing her up, it was easy for Beakbreaker to jump from working on legs to working on wings. There was still work to be done on her original project, but Beakbreaker turned it over to her assistants, and by the end of the week, work was officially underway on creating replacement wings. Much like before, life settled into an entirely predictable pattern: Beakbreaker all but retreated into the world of the laboratory while I was once again plunged into the heart-pounding life of writing reports and summaries for CEO's. In one of my earliest notes to the higher-ups, Beakbreaker said that due to the more delicate nature of wings over legs, she had no idea how long research and development would take, emphasizing that it could be anywhere from a few years, to even a decade before they got results. She wasn't kidding; for five months she labored away in her lab, working day and night, leaving only to sleep and perform the next round of leg replacement surgery when the next batch was ready. Her entire waking world was confined to the laboratory; she even took her meals and restroom breaks in there.

Being mostly limited to my office, I didn't see Beakbreaker all that much during those months. The few times I did, she always had a look of excitement on her face; even on days when things didn't go as planned, she wasn't going to let a few setbacks stop her, no matter the cost. I was pleased to see her working with such vigor, but I wondered how it would affect her health. Coin Counter and the other higher-ups didn't help: unlike the legs, in which they largely stayed upstairs and let Beakbreaker do her work, they began to come down to the lab to check up on how things were going. They were smart enough to not make uninformed suggestions, but they were eager for results, and wanted an even more successful repeat of the legs, which continued to sell at a phenomenal rate.

As we drew close to the one year mark for the project, I noticed that Beakbreaker's mood was improving. She had the look of a pony who could see the end of a long journey ahead, and the daily reports revealed why: there were marked improvements in muscles, nerves, and especially in having feathers grow in correctly. We were finally given a timeline for the first prototype. While Beakbreaker didn't have a confirmed date, she was able to say that it would be sometime within the next two months.

That date came sooner than I thought.

As one long day came to an end, I was preparing to head home when Beakbreaker entered, giddy and looking about. “Is anyone else around?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “Why?”

“Perfect. Follow me.”

I didn't know what was going on, but I had the sense that something big awaited me within the lab. Thus, I eagerly followed Beakbreaker inside. And as it turned out, I was right.

Lying upon a table before me was a large container of blue gel, and within, a pair of wings.

“The first prototype,” Beakbreaker said proudly.

I walked up, awestruck. Just a year before, the dream of wings was just a dream, the fantasies of a pony who wanted to be more then he was. And now, here they were.

I ran my hoof over the container, peering longingly at the wings within. Much like the legs that had preceded them, they looked perfect. "So, what's left to do?” I asked. “Putting real muscles in?”

Beakbreaker grinned. “Oh no. Everything's in. Nerves, sinew, muscles, blood vessels, they're all there. All we need is a pony who's lost their wings, and we can proceed to the testing phase.”

I almost volunteered myself for the procedure right then and there, but managed to stop myself even as I opened my mouth to speak. I had been fortunate to get Beakbreaker to work on the wings at all, and proposing myself as the test subject would be going too far. Besides, these were prototypes; despite their apparent perfection, there could have been flaws or mistakes that needed to be ironed out. I didn't want to take to the skies, only for them to fail mid-flight.

Biting my tongue, I remained quiet. I would have to bide my time once again.

***

As could be expected, the Medicomp higher-ups were ecstatic when Beakbreaker showed them the prototype. Months of waiting, investing and being not a little-too-patient had finally yielded results, and the call went out among the staff for any pegasi who had lost their wings. One of Beakbreaker's fellow scientists had a neighbor who had been forced to undergo amputation after colliding with a tree and mangling her wings beyond repair. She came in a few days later, all too eager to try these new wings out. I couldn't blame her; while I envied pegasi and unicorns for their abilities, the loss of their gifts could be devastating. To lose a horn or wings was, in some ways, worse than death. Unicorn horns could grow back, but it was a process that could take years, sometimes decades. Pegasi have it worse, as their wings can't grow back. While they could get magical replacements, they were temporary at best, and the metal prosthesis available are crude and cumbersome.

The chance of getting new wings was something no crippled pegasi could pass up.

With the patient chosen,it was time to proceed to the all-important surgical attachment. With the surgical room filled, and the patient put to sleep, Beakbreaker went to work. But unlike the legs, this was so much harder, due to the more complex and intricate network of nerves, tissue, and sinew that needed to be put in place. Not only did she have to rip out the patient's atrophied wing muscles, she then had to insert the new ones and ensure that they were correctly lined and attached to the surrounding muscles and bones, lest they be ripped out mid-flight.

Attaching legs was fairly simple, and with practice Beakbreaker had shortened the procedure to two hours. But with wings, it took five hours. And for those of us in the audience, it was nerve wracking knowing that a single mistake or slipped scalpel could ruin everything. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Beakbreaker, who had to work all that time without a break, relying on her assistants for everything, including wiping the sweat from her eyes. But before I knew it, the five hours were gone, and Beakbreaker was finishing the final stitch, and collapsed into a chair as the patient was wheeled away. She had done her part, and all we could do was wait and see if the patient's body would accept the wings.

After spending the week in a medically induced coma to let her body heal, the patient was finally awoken. Beakbreaker and the higher-ups all feared the worst, but the universe was in a good mood that day. When the patient awoke and tried her wings, they moved perfectly. Any visitor to Medicomp that day would have heard the celebrations taking place throughout the tower.

As could be expected, the patient was eager to get going and jump back into the sky after being grounded for so many years. While she was warned that a full recovery could take a long time, she wasted no time in physical therapy, and was spending her days in the tower's gym, doing her utmost to work her new muscles to full strength. I was there to watch, eager to see how fast she would progress, and see the results of my hard work. She had no idea, of course, but it was because of me that the patient had gotten this far. I was going to watch every step of her progress, knowing that, given time, it would be me down on that track. I was there to see every inch of progress, every additional second of air time. I never missed a session.

Because of that, I was there the day everything fell apart.

None of us saw it coming. The patient, making great strides, had gone from jogging around the track, to steadily cruising for a few minutes at a time, all within two months. She still had a long way to go, but at the rate she was going, anything seemed possible. But on that day, she was too eager and too confident, wanting to rush ahead, safety limits cast aside.

After completing a few laps at slow speeds, she took a short break, trotting around the gym. From my place at the observation deck, I watched as she continued on, and then ran, going faster and faster. From so high up, I could see the mischievous grin on her face as she leapt and spread her wings, pounding them as fast as they could go. In seconds, she was going faster then she had ever managed before. For a few moments, she was as free as she had been years before, ready to take to the skies.

Then it happened. Her grin vanished. Her wings stiffened, and then locked up, sending her crashing to the floor, where she grabbed her back and howled in agony.

When the news came back from surgery a few hours later, it was the worst possible outcome. The stress of the shoulders being forced to go full blast so suddenly had torn the implanted muscles to shreds, leaving the patient with a bare back, her precious, ruined wings removed once again.

Everyone was devastated. The patient, the therapists, the CEO's, but most of all, Beakbreaker. After all her successes, this was her first real failure, and to have it happen on a patient made it so much harder. But that only redoubled her efforts to make the muscles stronger. She went back into her lab and didn't come out for three days, not even to sleep or eat. On the fourth, she emerged, barely able to stand as she told me to write an update for Coin Counter. The next batch of muscles had been pumped full of steroids and growth hormones, making them at least twenty percent stronger then before, and less likely to tear themselves apart.

With the message passed to me, she collapsed to the floor and passed out. I had to carry her to her apartment, where she slept for almost two days. And while she did, her fellow scientists checked the muscles, and confirmed that they were stronger than before. It wasn't long before the patient had her second surgery, and when she woke a week later, found her new wings working as well as the last. It was back to physical therapy for her, but there was no brashness this time. She was slower and more cautious, eager to avoid a repeat of her past impatience.

For six long months, the patient worked to regain her strength. Her pace was slow, but her progress was undeniable. At the two month mark, she was cruising for short distances. At three months, she could hover for almost five minutes instead of one, and at four months she could cruise for ten minutes instead of two. All the while, Beakbreaker and I watched, anxious at her progress. Beakbreaker feared that the muscles could fail at any moment, and the process would have to start again. But it was much more personal for me: if the muscles failed, so would my dream. All my efforts, persuasion, and work to ensure that things went the way I wanted, would have been for nothing.

Finally, almost a year after the surgery, the day finally arrived for our patient to do her final test and see if she had fully healed. The observation room was packed, and I was barely able to peer out the window as the patient started her tests, measuring her hovering capabilities, flight speed, maneuverability, and all the other attributes that pegasi use in flight. For three long hours I watched, constantly holding my breath, hoping against hope that everything was going to turn out all right.

At the end of the tests, the patient finished up her hour of laps around the gym, and wiped herself off with a towel, not having worked that hard since before her accident.

Her therapists, after giving her a mug of water, asked the all-important question: How did she feel?

The patient thought for a long moment, and then burst into a grin, saying that it was like her accident had never happened.

Within an hour, I was writing a new speech for Coin Counter to announce Medicomp's next miracle.

***

Medicomp has been the leading medical innovator in Equestria for the past several decades, making an enormous breakthrough once every ten years or so, but never before had they announced two within a few years of each other. The company, and the public, were thrilled beyond words. The firestorm of excitement, having tapered down after the legs, now roared back, blazing like an inferno. Within a week, orders for wings had skyrocketed beyond Medicomp's wildest dreams, until the waiting list was almost ten years long. They even got some orders from griffons and other similar species.

I watched it all, in that lovely position of being anonymous, able to walk around without anyone recognizing who I was, something Beakbreaker and the CEO's couldn't enjoy. No one knew that I was one of those responsible for this second miracle, letting me wander the streets and listen to conversations in restaurants, bars, and stores. Almost everyone was in favor of these changes, especially after seeing long-crippled relatives literally flying out of depression or lethargy that had consumed them, body and soul.

Not only was approval for the wings high, but there was the sense that change was in the air. If Medicomp had created legs and wings, then what was next? It was an exciting time for society, and for me. It was wonderful to watch pegasi get their wings back, and flying away from Medicomp to enjoy a life that had been taken from them, never failing to whoop in sheer joy, or to spin and do loop-de-loops as they sailed into the wild blue yonder. I smiled every time it happened, and with so many ponies getting wings, and with no reports of injuries or failed muscles coming in, I had every reason to be pleased.

It seemed that the time had finally come to ask Beakbreaker the big question.

***

The day finally came. I couldn't have asked for a prettier one, for it was an unnaturally beautiful day for Manehattan, and it felt like there was something beautiful in the air. I wasn't even nervous as I headed to work. Years of working and biding my time were about to pay off. I was on top of the world, and nothing was going to stop me.

At least, that’s what I thought.

The first sign of trouble was seeing so many police officers at the front of the Medicomp building. “Excuse me,” I asked the closest officer, “what's going on here?”

“You work here?”

“Yes.” I showed him my company badge.

“There was a break-in last night; group of unicorns tried to get into the labs. We think they were after those fancy new wings.”

I couldn't stop my panic, but I was able to get under control quickly. “Did they get in?!”

“No. Security devices detected them, and they fled like jackrabbits.”

Relieved, I suddenly remembered that Beakbreaker had almost certainly been in the tower. “Was anyone hurt?”

“No.”

Relieved that my employer was safe, I wanted to go in and ask if she knew anything. “Can I go in?”

The officer shook his head. “Sorry, but nobody’s allowed in until we’ve finished our investigation.”

“You have any idea how long that’ll take?”

“We should be done by the end of the day, so hopefully you can go back to work tomorrow. I suggest you go and enjoy your day off.” One of the other officers came over, and the two walked away, working on some new part of their investigation.

Had I known what was coming, I would have been in a foul mood, but I was just relieved that the wings hadn’t been stolen. But then I began to wonder what the thieves had been thinking. Breaking into a library by yourself was one thing, but breaking into the headquarters of a giant corporation with much higher security, and with more then one pony? That was practically begging to be caught. And even if the burglars had gotten away, it made no sense. Why would they be that crazy?

Perhaps, I realized with a chill, someone shared my dream of becoming an alicorn.

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