• Published 14th Jan 2013
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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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A Wish for Wings

When I arrived at work the next day, I was greeted by two security guards in the lobby. They were the type that had never cracked a smile in their lives, and glared at me as I presented my identification. Satisfied that I was who I said I was, they let me through. I had to pass past several other pairs of guards before reaching the laboratories. No sooner had I stepped out than two more guards came up and demanded to see my identification. If the two at the gates were rays of sunshine, these two were worse. They reminded me of punks and bullies from school, the types who hated the world,and desired power and control above all else, especially over their fellow ponies.

Trying to push the thought aside, I showed my badge, and the guards reluctantly let me go, freeing me to be hounded by suspicious looks all the way to my office. It was a relief to finally head inside and lock the door. No sooner had I done so than there was loud pounding on the other side. Not wanting to show my ID again, I ignored it.

“Silverspeak? You in there?”

At the sound of Beakbreaker's voice, I quickly let her in. I wasn't ready for how red her face was, seemingly cooking from the inside in anger. "Glad someone managed to get in here."

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Beakbreaker stormed in and locked the door behind her, taking out a small crystal. I recognized it as an anti-listening charm. When it was on the table and glowing, Beakbreaker cut lose. “Sweet Celestia, Silverspeak, these guards are a nightmare! The CEO's hired them yesterday, and already they're swarming around the building like rats! They went into the lab and went through all my equipment!”

“Hate to be a killjoy,” I said, “but what if they were just making sure everything was in place?”

“They were, but you should have seen them do it! They were shoving everything aside, not caring if it was breakable or not! And you know what's worse?! They took all my documents! Not only scientific ones, but they took my journals and notes! And they shoved me out when I tried to stop them! Shoved me!” Beakbreaker's face contorted and I wouldn't have been surprised to see steam shooting out her ears. “And you know what's worse then that?! They said all the equipment and data, all my notes and journals, didn’t belong to me, but to the company! And when I complained to their leader, he said that there was nothing I could do. Their orders come from Coin Counter! He can do whatever the tartarus he wants, and I can't stop him!”

“Their leader is here?” I asked. “Who is it?”

“I don't know,” Beakbreaker said. “I didn't catch his name, but he had this stupid grin on his face the whole time, like he was enjoying bullying me around.” She growled in frustration. “I wanted to punch him in the face!”

Trying to defuse the situation, I asked, “Did he say how long they were going to be here?”

Beakbreaker buried her face in her hooves. “They said it's a permanent arrangement. The higher-ups are so freaked out about the break-in that they've gone paranoid overnight. Now they're throwing all their bits into security, and they're going to keep these guys on full time.”

The thought of these brutes becoming a permanent fixture at work made my stomach queasy.

“How am I supposed to work around such uncultured ingrates?!” Beakbreaker said.

“We'll find a way to make it work,” I said. “Remember that break-in at the library?”

“Yes.”

“They eventually called off the search for whoever did it. Coin Counter and the others can't stay paranoid forever. Eventually they'll snap out of it, and things will die down.”

“I hope so. Because if this has to go on for years, I might loose my-”

There was a loud knock at the door.

“Not now!” Beakbreaker called out.

A key was inserted into the lock, and the door swung open.

“What in tartarus do you think you're doing?!” Beakbreaker barked. “This is a private conversation!”

A pony stepped into the room, and in a heartbeat I knew he was the leader of our new security guards. Not from his flashy tactical uniform, but because there was only one pony I knew who would become the leader of legalized thugs. I had hoped never to see Mangus Bluehorn again, but there he was, standing before me. He hadn't changed much since graduation. He was a bit more muscular, but that sneer was still the same.

“I said, this is a private conversation!” Beakbreaker said again. “What makes you think you can just barge in here?”

“Security, Ms. Beakbreaker,” Mangus said. “New rule from the top: No doors are to be closed or locked, and no anti-listening charms, artifacts, or devices of any kind are to be kept inside the building at any time.” He snatched the charm off the cabinet, putting it inside his pocket.

“That's my property!”

“Relax, you'll get it when you leave. But if I see it again, it's mine. There are no private conversations in this building any more. Consider everything you say company property.”

“Including what I do inside my own apartment?!”

“The company's apartment. And yes, that's no longer private either.”

“That's insane!” Beakbreaker said. “You can't get away with this! I'm going up to the CEO's right now, and-”

Another magical shove, and Beakbreaker was shoved into her chair.

I stormed forward. Surprised, Mangus spun to me. He had been so focused on Beakbreaker that he had failed to see me. He was caught off guard at another pony in the room, but only for a moment. His eyes narrowed, realizing there was something familiar about me. It took him a moment to remember who I was, and once he did, that sneer came back, and it was like he and I were still colts on the playground.

“Well, well, well,” he chuckled. “Look who we have here.”

“What are you doing here, Mangus?” I asked. Then, deciding to get back at him for coming into my life again, I twisted the knife a little. "Aren't you supposed to be at Canterlot University?”

Mangus' grin faded. "It wasn't for me," he said, rubbing his hair. "I... I didn't fit in.”

I didn't buy it. There was no way to know exactly what had happened, but it was easy to guess: Being on his own, Mangus had bombed horribly, not able to count on idiotic, fame-obsessed adults to do all his work for him, and had flunked out. Oh, what I would have given to see that. But as it was, all I could do was fantasize, and enjoy seeing Mangus trying to make himself look noble, and failing miserably.

“Besides, the University was boring anyway. All those books and scrolls; who needs 'em when you can just go out there and practice in a practical way?” He flashed his badge. “Used my connections to get into a private security company. Me and the boys now get to keep the peace. And now here we are, helping to protect the most valuable medical tech in all of Equestria. How's that for rising through the ranks?” He grinned. “And what are you doing here?”

“He's my secretary,” Beakbreaker said proudly.

Mangus didn't bother to hide his chuckle. “A secretary? You?”

“He's done far more then you can ever imagine,” Beakbreaker said. “In a way, these wings and legs wouldn't even be here without him. Tell me, what have you ever contributed to Equestrian society that didn't require a badge?”

Mangus glared at Beakbreaker. He was never one to accept defeat or being upstaged in any way, and tried to come up with a comeback.

“Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go see the CEO's to tell them about your job performance.”

Getting up, Beakbreaker left the room, bumping into Mangus and almost knocking him down. He started to curse, but Beakbreaker was gone before he could do anything.

Figuring that I should come along and provide some feedback of my own, I got up to follow her out. Mangus blocked my path.

“Hey Silversqueak, where do you think you're going?”

“Back off Mangus,” I said. Pushing him aside, I headed to the door, which suddenly slammed shut, the lock falling into place.

“Oh, but we have so many things to catch up on.”

Mangus' horn lit up, and I was dragged up against the wall, and pinned in place.

“Let me go!” I shouted, thrashing for all my might against Mangus' magic.

“You and I have some unfinished business,” he growled. “Remember that kiss? You drew blood. I can bring charges against you for that.”

“You're a rent-a-cop,” I shot back, “not a police officer.”

“No, but I have friends in the force. Lots of 'em. Can you say that?”

“No, but I can tell the police that when I bit you, it was in self-defense. You were forcing sexual acts upon me without my consent. And I'd be willing to submit to a memory charm to prove it. You think your cop buddies will side with you against charges of sexual assault?”

Mangus had subtly drawn his hoof back for an old-fashioned beating, but paused. If I submitted to a memory spell, he'd be forced, by law, to submit to one as well, so that nothing would be hidden regarding that moment in time. Coupled with his non-stop bullying of me throughout childhood, no jury in all of Equestria would side with him. Everything was tilted in my favor, and there wasn't a thing he could do about it, no matter how many friends he did or didn't have on the force... if he even had any.

Growling, Mangus lowered me to the floor. “I won't forget this.”

“Neither will I.”

I stormed out of the office, angry, but pleased. Mangus had come back into my life, and where I worked, no less. He would no doubt try to retaliate for the insult I had given him, but that was what pleased me, for I had bested him. Not with magic or physical force, but with reason and wit, two forces he lacked, and will never have.

***

Beakbreaker's pleas to the CEO's were passionate and fiery, and for once she didn't need me to write a speech, all but yelling that the company was overreacting and that putting Mangus and his bullies in charge of security was only going to tear morale to pieces. I backed her up, telling Coin Counter and the others that Mangus and his underlings were bullies. Giving them badges and the power of law enforcement was like giving a flamethrower to a pyromaniac and expecting him to guard an oil-soaked forest. I did use my talent to influence my words, but I quickly learned that when it came to protecting their money, corporate leaders have a will that is all but unbreakable.

In the end, Beakbreaker and I couldn't convince Coin Counter and the others to fire Mangus and his group, but we did get a consolation prize: Mangus and his underlings would be warned that if they caused morale problems among the staff, their paychecks would be cut in half. If morale continued to drop, they would be fired. And to everyone's relief, it worked. The guards, previously smug and secure, were forced to be polite and unobtrusive as they went about their daily rounds.

Mangus, in particular, was miserable at having to behave himself. And though he didn't do anything to me or Beakbreaker, he made sure to give me the look of death every time we crossed paths, as if silently warning me that he'd pay me back for spoiling his fun. He would, eventually, but at the time I just smiled at him and went on my way. Break-in or not, there was still work to be done.

The months passed. After a while, we no longer noticed the guards. They tried to assert their authority every now and then, but a reprimand (and a halved paycheck), put a stop to their little rebellions. Better still was getting a raise for my efforts in helping to make Beakbreaker's work life easier, and better yet was the day I got a memo announcing that Beakbreaker was to be honored at the Equestrian Medical Awards, a prestigious ceremony that takes place every five years to honor the best and brightest the medical field has to offer. But what I didn't expect was for her to come into my office and tell me that she was allowed to invite one guest to the ceremony, and that she wanted that guest to be me. Surprised (and a little flustered), I accepted.

What Beakbreaker didn't know was that while I was honored to go, I was also excited. Perhaps that would finally be my opportunity to ask for wings.

***

The night of the ceremony arrived, and I found myself at Beakbreaker's apartment, dressed in my finest suit. She emerged with an elegant business dress, not the type you'd see at the red carpet for a movie premiere, but still very pretty.

“Well,” she asked, “how do I look?”

“Like you're about to win a lifetime achievement award,” I said.

Beakbreaker grinned. “That'd be a treat.” Locking her door, she headed for the elevator. “Come on, we got ourselves a ride to catch.”

I wasn't sure what she meant by ride, but upon exiting the tower, I was surprised to find a carriage waiting for us (rented and paid for, I learned later, by Coin Counter for his prized researcher). I climbed in after Beakbreaker, momentarily gobsmacked at the elegance around me. I had never ridden in a carriage before, much less one with thick, elegant seats and luxurious carpeting. It was fit for a celebrity, and as we arrived at the Manehattan Opera House, Beakbreaker was treated like one, swarmed by reporters, her peers, and patients desperate to thank her for their new lease on life, or to someone in their family.

Beakbreaker was just as surprised as I was at the overwhelming reception, and it took us almost ten minutes to make our way through the crowds and inside, where we took our assigned seats. As the other guests arrived, Beakbreaker chatted with those around us, but I was left to myself, having nothing in common to chat about with the ponies around me. I didn't mind, though. It left me with plenty of time to think about how I was going to ask the big question.

The show finally began. Despite the fancy lights and the prestige of sitting among the brightest minds Equestria had to offer, I found the whole event to be pretty boring. Most of my time was spent trying to stay awake as one award after another was handed out for various categories I had no interest in, or couldn't even understand (ordinary ponies aren't likely to get excited over the best plasma-based circulation cure?). Only when the ending finally came did things get exciting, as the Equestrian Board of Medical Directors announced that it was time to give out the award for greatest achievement to Equestrian society. Everyone was on edge, eager to find out who would have bragging rights for the next five years.

I watched Beakbreaker as she clutched the armrests of her chair, not daring to imagine that she could possibly win. And when the envelope was opened and her name announced, Beakbreaker almost fell out of her seat, and was practically in tears as she staggered to the stage, too overcome with surprise to speak. She tried, but all she could get out where happy sobs. Was it embarrassing? Not at all. There was no doubt among anyone that she had earned this, and I was proud to see her up there, holding the biggest award someone in her field could earn.

It was a moment she will treasure until her dying day.

Once the ceremony was complete, and all the awards given out, a concert was put on for the recipients and attendees. As the winner of the highest award, Beakbreaker was given the honor of sitting in the theater's pristine booth, and as her guest, I went with her. We had a spectacular view of the stage below us, and felt like royalty as the musicians came onstage and began to play, led by famed cellist Octavia.

Beakbreaker and I sat there for a long time, listening to the concert below. I could have asked her there, but decided not to. It wouldn’t be appropriate to interrupt her night of bliss. This was her moment to shine, and I let it remain that way, watching the concert below, enjoying the music.

It came a surprise when I felt Beakbreaker’s hoof touch mine. I looked over, only to see her watching the players below. Had she touched my hoof by accident? It didn't look like it, not by the way she had angled it, or that she was focusing on keeping it there.

I wasn't sure what to do. Unlike most of my classmates back in school, I had never gone on dates or flirted with other ponies. The world of romance was uncharted territory to me. But I figured that for a simple gesture like the one Beakbreaker was giving me, the best thing to do was to go along. So as we both watched the musicians play, I let her hoof remain where it was.

After a while, I touched it back as well.

***

When the concert came to an end, Beakbreaker headed out onto one of the building's patios, desiring to get a glimpse of Manehattan at night. We had a lovely view, surrounded by the golden glow of lit glass and countless streetlights shining up from below.

“Very pretty,” I said.

"The award, or the city?"

"Oh, uh... both."

Beakbreaker held her award out. "Want to hold it?"

“No, that's okay," I said. "I––”

She practically shoved the award in my face. “I insist. This is as much your award as it is mine.”

Not wanting to get into an argument, I took the award and looked it over. “I don't follow you.”

Smiling, Beakbreaker twirled, her front legs outstretched. “Just look at all this! Three years ago, I was picking up trash to pay the bills, and you were working at a grocery store. And now here we are, recipients of the highest honor science can give. I may have done the research, but it was you who paved the way. You helped me get here.”

I blushed. I had heard her compliments many times, but this time I didn't try to correct her, accepting it without complaint.

Beakbreaker stepped closer to me, lowered her voice. “My offer still stands, you know.” She took my hoof in hers. “I want you to be happy, Silverspeak. Tell me what your heart desires, and I'll do everything in my power to make it come true.”

I was caught off guard by how she had come on to me like that, but delighted. This was my opportunity, and I'd be an idiot to turn it down. “Well... there is something...”

“Yes?”

I almost told her, but something stopped me. A gut feeling that this wasn't something to be spoken aloud in public. Though we were away from others, there was still the chance we could be overheard. “Actually, could we do it somewhere private?”

Her eyebrows arched up.

“It's nothing illegal. I just don't feel comfortable talking about in public.”

Beakbreaker thought for a moment. “I know where we can go. Follow me.”

I followed Beakbreaker out of the concert hall, our progress momentarily slowed by a few of her colleagues giving a few last minute congratulations. It was almost midnight by the time we got back to the Medicomp tower, and the only ones still awake were the guards. We headed up to Beakbreaker's apartment, which she then locked, lighting a fire to dispel the cold. And when the apartment was nice and warm, she activated her returned anti-listening charm as we sat on the black-leather sofa.

"So,” Beakbreaker asked, “What's on your mind?”

With no reason to hesitate or delay my dream any longer, I dove right in. “Well, it's something that...well, that no one's ever done before. You're the most qualified to pull it off, especially after all we've been through. I wouldn't dream of asking anyone else."

Intrigued, Beakbreaker listened closely.

I took a deep breath. “Beakbreaker... I'd like you to––”

“Hold on a second,” Beakbreaker said. "This doesn't have anything to do with sex, does it?”

I stopped. “What?”

“Are you... you know... asking me to do something––”

I shook my hooves. "No, no, no! Nothing like that!"

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. I was afraid you were going to ask me to do something… well, out of the ordinary.”

I shook my head. “It's nothing like that.”

A smile. "Well, then, what is it?"

I took another deep breath. This was it.

There was no turning back.

“Beakbreaker... I'd like you to turn me into a pegasi.”

For almost a minute, Beakbreaker sat on the couch, so caught by surprise that she had no idea to react, much less process what I said.

"You... what?"

"I want you to give me wings," I said, keeping my tone humble and respectful.

Beakbreaker chuckled nervously. “Silverspeak, I... wow... you're serious?”

I nodded.

“But... well, what you're asking is... it's never been done before. No pony's ever been surgically turned into another species.”

“Twilight Sparkle became an Alicorn.”

“Yes, she did. But that was special, and it was Princess Celestia who made it happen. That, and it involved magic, not scalpels, needles, and thread.”

Long before out talk, when I had still been planning and articulating my arguments, I knew that no matter what I said or how I said it, Beakbreaker would still be caught off guard by my request, and in denial that she could even pull it off. Thus, I decided that going the emotional route was my best course of action.

“Beakbreaker, I mean this in the best possible way, but you don't know what it's like to be an outcast among your own kind, like I was.”

“Actually, yes, I do. I was the only one in my tribe who was interested in science, remember?"

“But you were among others like you,” I said. “Saddle Lanka, where I was born, has been the birthplace of the greatest unicorns who ever lived. I was the first earth pony born there. I was an outcast before I even left the hospital. I had to grow up seeing everyone else use magic, doing anything they wanted, things I could never do. I can't become a unicorn, but this is my best chance to be something better, to defy fate for making me a nobody."

“But you're not a nobody,” Beakbreaker said. “Just look at all you've accomplished. And you did it without any magic or without wings.”

I hadn't thought of that. "Maybe... but that isn't what I want. Ever since I was little, I've wondered if I was a mistake. If I was... well, this is my chance to fix it."

I could have used my charm to sway Beakbreaker, but it was unneeded. Years of pent-up anger and frustration had been given a voice, and she realized that I wasn't pulling her leg. Never had she seen me more serious, and the passion was stronger than any charm I could have used.

It was silent in the apartment, the two of us looking at each other as the fire crackled, Beakbreaker at a loss for words. “This... this is something I need to think about for a while," Beakbreaker said after a long silence. "Perhaps we should talk about it tomorrow. Would noon in the park near the lake work for you?"

I nodded. And, without wanting to sour the moment, I thanked her for a wonderful night, and asked if she needed anything before I left. When she said no, I bid her a good evening, and headed back to my apartment. Was I excited? Yes. Was I frightened about what the following day would bring?

Absolutely.

***

When noon rolled around on the next day, I made my way through Manehattan's biggest park, feeling oddly calm. Beakbreaker was already sitting besides the lake when I arrived, tossing bread crumbs to the birds. She was neither smiling nor frowning when she spotted me, and made room for me on her bench. I sat beside her, looking out to the trees and the lake.

"So," I said, "did you think about what I said?"

Beakbreaker nodded.

“And?”

She sighed. “To tell the truth, Silverspeak, there's no logical reason to say no what you want. But emotionally... well, that's harder. This just doesn't feel right. I was up all night thinking about what you asked, and I couldn't shake the feeling that this isn't a good idea.”

“Why?”

She tossed more crumbs. “To be honest, I don't know. Maybe because it's never been done before. We'd be heading into uncharted waters, and, for all we know, a hurricane.”

“But we'll never know unless we try.”

She nodded. “But tell me, Silverspeak: if I give you these wings, what will you do with them?”

“Fly around, obviously,” I said, giddy at the thought. “Enjoy the freedom of the skies. Go wherever I want. Save money on train tickets, that sort of thing.”

“But what are you going to do for a living?”

“Keep working for you as a secretary.” I chuckled. “Besides, I'll save a lot of time by flying to work instead of taking the subway.”

Beakbreaker wasn’t amused at my joke. “Is that what you really want to do for the rest of your life? Write reports and speeches? If you were given such a great gift, you’d be wasting it if all you did was sit behind a desk.”

I flinched. “No. I mean, I'd find something. When I first got to Manehattan, I didn't know what I was going to do. And yet, look at me now.”

“You can't always count on the past to predict the future.”

A bird hopped near my hoof, hoping I would have some food for it.

“Besides, it's not just like you can get wings and keep going through your life,” Beakbreaker continued. “You're going to cause a ruckus. You'll be talked about for decades to come, maybe centuries. You'll be the trend-setter, the first pony to defy nature itself and become a completely different species. You'll never have another normal day in your life. Is that what you want?”

I was no fool. I knew that getting wings would make me famous, and bring with it attention I might not want. But things must be sacrificed if we want to achieve our dreams, and if I had to come under public scrutiny, than so be it.

“I'll deal with it," I said. "And if I have to be famous to make my dream come true, than I'll do it."

“You still haven't answered my question," Beakbreaker said. "Are your wings going to be toys, or something you'll use to help make the world a better place?"

"Of course I'll use them," I said. "And if I get them, it will show other ponies that they can change, too." I turned on the charm. "Besides, you could say fate has finally guided me to you, the one individual who could help me achieve my dreams... maybe it's no coincidence that we met."

Beakbreaker tossed the last of her breadcrumbs onto the ground, was silent for a long while.

“You really want to do this.” she said at last.

I nodded. “More then anything.”

She closed her eyes and tilted her face towards the sky. I got the impression she was trying to figure out the best way to say something uncomfortable.

“Every instinct I have says to walk away from this,” she said. “But… I made a promise, and I intend to keep it. If this is what you truly want… then I’ll do it.”

I almost leapt from the bench, wanting to dance and cavort and jump around the lake in ecstasy. But I managed to contain myself, not wanting to cause a scene and make a fool of myself before the other ponies. Instead, I gave Beakbreaker the biggest grin I ever had.

She was going to make my dream come true.

***

Thanks to the wings being fully researched and developed, I didn't have to wait for technology to catch up with my dream. Had Beakbreaker not agreed to do the surgery as a favor, I could have paid for it myself if I wanted to. And finally, there were no legal situations to keep the surgery from proceeding. But Beakbreaker still insisted that we talk the situation over with those in charge, mostly to ensure that there would be no misunderstandings or liability issues.

As Beakbreaker and I entered the boardroom a few days later, I was fully prepared to use my charm on Coin Counter and everyone on the board of directors. After coming this far, I wasn't going to let a bunch of older bureaucrats stop me on the verge of a long awaited victory. Beakbreaker was the first to speak, telling everyone present that she had a proposal for the company. No doubt thinking that this was going to be about lab-grown horns, Coin Counter and the directors leaned forward in their seats, eager to hear what their star employee was suggesting.

They weren't expecting the proposal of attaching wings to an earth pony.

The room went silent. Then that silence was broken by a barrage of questions. How could such a thing be done? What were the dangers? Could the company even allow such an experiment to take place?

Sensing that my talent was needed, I stepped forward. Beakbreaker explained that I was the one who volunteered for the surgery, and was willing to accept all the risks. While Coin Counter and the directors knew who I was, they were shocked that a lowly secretary was the one who would be the subject of such a monumental procedure.

“Him?” one of the CEO's said. “You can't be serious.”

“I am,” I said.

“Why would you want wings?”

“Simple,” I said, turning on the charm. “To fly.”

"But... you're an earth pony. Earth ponies can't fly."

"I'm aware of that," I said, increasing the charm. "But let me ask you all something: Imagine being unable to use your magic, or being unable to fly. Now imagine being in that position for the rest of your lives. Imagine seeing pegasi flying about without a care in the world, or seeing unicorns conjuring wondrous things, and never being able to join them. That is what life is like for me. Other earth ponies can accept that, but I can't. This is my chance to be better, to be more than what I am.”

My charm had worked, for I could tell that Coin Counter and the directors were hooked. But they weren't convinced about my idea just yet.

“Perhaps we can try this,” I offered. “I get the wings and try them for a year.” I looked to Beakbreaker. “A year is long enough to see if wings would work, correct?” When she nodded, I turned back to the directors. "If nothing happens at the end of that year, and my wings work, then you will know the procedure is safe, and can offer the service to other earth ponies.”

The directors seemed convinced. They probably figured that if this worked, there would be multitudes of earth ponies who would line up to get wings, which meant more money for Medicomp. But there's always one voice that goes against the crowd, and it came from Coin Counter.

“Silverspeak, I can't put myself in your hooves, and I can't imagine what life is like for someone with no magical abilities. But while the technology exists to do this, what you're suggesting goes against the order Equestria has followed for centuries. There will be doubt and outrage among the public, most likely a very large part of it. It could cost all of us a great deal, both personally and professionally. Do you understand?”

I nodded, trying to judge how hard it would be to persuade Coin Counter. Yet, he had an honesty about him, and none of the hostility or skepticism the directors had. It felt wrong to hit him with the metaphorical sledgehammer, so I opted for honesty and an emotional appeal.

"All I'm asking for is the chance to try," I said. "And if this works, we can make not only my dream come true, but the dreams of so many others."

All eyes turned to Coin Counter, who was deep in thought.

I waited, my heart anxiously beating in my breast.

“Medicomp was formed to help ponies achieve their dreams," Coin Counter said at last. "And if this can help further that mission, then we'll do it.”

***

Arrangements were made. Forms were created, signed, then duplicated and triplicated. I underwent a checkup, and then counseling to make sure I knew exactly what I was getting into. I understood why it was done, but was amused nonetheless. Did Coin Counter and the other directors really think I had just jumped into this without any forethought? I knew the risks I was taking. I was told that my body might reject the wings, or that I might not be able to handle the stress of becoming so famous once I was revealed to the world. But I wasn't intimidated.

I was ready for this.

***

The day finally arrived. I woke with the sun, eagerly picking up a small bag that held everything I would need for my upcoming stay in the tower's hospital. Because of how long my recuperation might take, I had informed my landlord that I would be out for at least two, maybe three months, and arranged to have my rent automatically paid every month via the bank. When asked what was going on, I smiled and cheerfully said that I was going on a vacation.

My walk to the subway station was almost like a dream. I felt so light that it was as if I could float away without needing wings at all. Getting onto the train, I watched as buildings passed me by, realizing that this was the last time I'd ride the subway as an earth pony, and perhaps the last time I'd ride it at all. After all, why ride when you could fly?

I shivered with excitement.

Reaching the Medicomp tower, I checked in and headed up, my enthusiasm a shield to all the scowling faces of the guards. Not even Mangus' smug grin fazed me. Arriving in the lab, I found Beakbreaker waiting for me.

Prepping for surgery was quick. Giving my bag to one of Beakbreaker's assistants, I took a quick shower to clean up, and followed Beakbreaker into a prep room, where a mobile operating table awaited me. I climbed on and lay down, my stomach warming the thick padding beneath me. Behind the table, Beakbreaker changed into her medical scrubs.

"When we enter the operating theater, I'll do a quick introduction for the directors and everyone else. You'll be put to sleep, and the next thing you know, you'll be waking up in recovery, and head off to rehab.”

I nodded as a sterile cover was placed over my back, feeling quite calm. Giddy, even, as Beakbreaker and an assistant put on face masks and gripped the table's handles.

"Ready?" Beakbreaker asked.

I had been ready for almost twenty years.

"Let's make history,” I said.

The double doors leading to the operating theater swung open as I was wheeled through. I had always been in the stands during previous surgical procedures, but to be a patient in one was quite different. The lights made it difficult to see the ponies above me, but I could tell there were a lot of them.

“Mares and gentlecolts,” Beakbreaker said, reciting the words I had written for her. “Twice before, this room has played host to some of the greatest miracles science has to offer. Today will mark the third, and perhaps the most glorious of all... allowing a pony to change his species.”

I heard the excited whispers from the crowd, but was focused on staying calm. I wanted the surgery to start before any delays came up and forced us to abandon it. For almost twenty years, I had waited for this moment, and couldn't bear the thought of anything going wrong in the last few minutes.

“While my assistant brings in the wings and muscles, I will put the patient to sleep.” Beakbreaker walked up to me, anesthesia mask in hoof. “Count backwards from twenty,” she told me. “Nice, deep breaths.”

The rubber went over my mouth. Flinching at the smell, I began to count. “Twenty...nineteen...eighteen...”

I could already hear Beakbreaker's assistants pulling something into the room, but I paid them no heed. My eyelids became heavy, and it felt as if my strength was leaving me. I didn't fight it. I welcomed it, knowing what awaited me on the other side.

Then I drifted away, and everything went dark.

***

I can't recall what it was like to be in a coma, because I don't really remember. What I do remember is vague, a brief sense of being in darkness for a long time, like how a nap feels over in an a second, while a full night's sleep feels like a minute, at most. But the darkness that embraced me felt longer than that, with me unable to tell how long it went on.

Later, when I was in a contemplative mood, I wondered if that's what death is like.

Eventually, I felt things coming back bit by bit. I had been told what to expect before the surgery, and thus, it wasn't a complete shock when I finally woke and found a breathing mask over my mouth, air being pumped in and out of me with a mechanical hiss. Opening my eyes, I found them pressed against something thick and wet: stasis fluid. When limb-transplant patients are put into a medical coma, they are placed inside tubes filled with special gel to prevent bedsores that would arise from lying in a bed day after day, week after week.

Beyond the gel, I could see forms moving quickly, looking very excited. Many other forms came up close to the gel, looking at me. I looked back, curious as to who they were, or what they were doing. Then I remembered. After the surgery, I was going to be put into a medically induced coma. I was going to be in one of those tubes. And on my back would be...

Moving very slowly, I turned my head, excited and afraid of what I might or might not find. I didn't see anything at first, and blinked, trying to make my eyes focus through the liquid. But when they did, I looked again, and found two forms upon my back.

I froze.

Beyond my tube, my blurry spectators had stopped, waiting to see what would happen.

I shifted my back and felt something strange beneath my skin; giant slabs of meat would be the best way to describe it, located just under my shoulders. I tried moving my shoulders, and the forms moved, and then stretched through the liquid.

I didn't care that I was being watched, or that my emotions were up for all to see. I tried to cry, unable to do so from the liquid pressing against my eyes, for I saw feathers attached to those long, narrow, muscular limbs stretching forth from my back.

I had wings.

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