Conversion Bureau - Through the Glass but Darkly

by Dan_s Comments

Chapter 1: Prologue and Epilogue

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Conversion Bureau - Through the Glass but Darkly
Prologue and Epilogue
by Dan_s Comments

DISCLAIMER: My Little Pony is the property of Hasbro, Inc.

Celestia trusted her advisors. She trusted Twilight to be obsessively thorough. She trusted her ponies to be caring and decent. The horrified expressions on every face in the crowded, normally wide-open scrying room confirmed what she had suspected, even feared. Their eyes reflected the blue, white and brown world that had helped Equestria so much without knowing the aid they had unwittingly rendered to the many races of Equestria.

Even when they served as a negative example, they taught my ponies and our neighbors critical lessons without us having to pay the price in blood, sweat and treasure, Celestia thought as she glanced at the person who nearly filled the room, Even Queen Tiamat, most ancient and mightiest of dragons seems disturbed by the conclusions.

"Can we do nothing?" Rarity asked quietly, a marked change from her attitude about how pretty the world appeared.

Like most, Celestia thought, She had not known so many of the advances over the centuries had been made by copying and adjusting the inventions of these brutal, barbaric, desperate, loving and inventive people. Nor how many missteps had been avoided by their unintentional counsel. Celestia's emotions whipsawed back and forth as it they did whenever she thought of these creatures. But for the first time she was angry and frightened for her benefactors.

"That is why I brought you all, Her Majesty Tiamat and her retinue, and you my loyal ponies," Celestia admitted, "I am at a loss."

Now, they were all going to be destroyed, not by their own hand as all their native naysayers claimed, Celestia thought but kept her placid outward appearance, But on the brink of overcoming all that held them back, and everything that had made 'The Solar Goddess' Celestia and 'The DracoTyrant' Tiamat leery, nay terrified, about announcing themselves to them . . . this atrocity.

"I don't know whether to be heartbroken or enraged," Tiamat admitted, then looked at the frightened ponies and she tried to regain a face as placid as Celestia's.

Celestia looked around at all her ponies looking up to her as if she could simply make this problem go away. "I can divert the asteroid easily enough," she said and the ponies all smiled, "But that will only delay the eruption of those volcanoes by how long?"

Twilight looked sick and ashamed as if she had personally condemned them to death and failed her mentor. The poor mare bowed her head in disgrace. "It will go from fourteen months, to twenty-seven," she admitted, "And our best estimates are, when the first goes, the second will erupt in three to five months."

"The first will erupt here, in a park they call Yellowstone," Tiamat's chief geologist reported from a message window, there being no room for two such massive creatures in the room. "What insanity made them put a park on a dormant volcano?" he asked in bewilderment.

"A wonderful, joyous insanity," Celestia replied tearfully, "One that would have made them such wonderful friends."

"It will destroy one of their major breadbaskets. They might survive the eruption, but with the agricultural and industrial heartland of one of their mightiest nations wiped out, they will teeter, where we would assuredly fall," Shining Armor said emotionlessly, bottling up the emotions Celestia and everyone else in the room were being overwhelmed with. The image changed, the globe rotating. "When the Rotorua caldera in the Taupo Volcanic Zone goes a few months later, it will all be over save for the weeping. Their planet hasn't seen such a disaster in 60 or so million years, more like two-hundred and fifty."

"We just bring them all here!" Pinky said excitedly, "Tell them about the volcanoes and tell them we have plenty of space. Then when it's over, they can go back home. It'll be the world's greatest sleep over!" She happily leapt high in the air.

"Most of them will die in weeks if they came here," Twilight said quietly, "The magic that we're used to, will warp their bodies and minds. Those that don't die of massive organ failures will become a danger to us and themselves. None of them will be alive to go back."

Pinkamena landed, her hair straight. "We can't let them all die." She looked at the despondent faces all around her. "We have to do something. Even if we've never met, they're still our friends."

Celestia looked at the expectant faces around her. She sighed. "I was hoping some of you would tell me the answer. In a year, I haven't found one." She shook her head sadly. "I'd free Discord, if I thought he'd take the problem seriously." She raised her head to look at the shocked expressions. "Many of them are really his kind of people." She'd hoped to break the gloom, it hadn't worked.

Tiamat cleared her throat. "There may be a way, I wouldn't suggest this, but if they face extermination." She glanced at Celestia, shame engraved on the dragon matriarch's face. She continued only when Celestia nodded, "Some dragons wish to travel among ponies, without being seen or noticed. We have a potion. It changes the body's shape, and suppresses some of our less pony-like instincts. It has the same effect on a pony's mentality, although they remain ponies in form. We could adapt it for use on them. They would be ponies, in body and mind. That would give us the time and resources needed to reverse the process when their world could be reclaimed."

" 'Less pony-like'?" Celestia asked worriedly, "What do you mean?"

"Greed, hostility, vanity," the dragon glanced around, "Intellectual jumps. The impulses are suppressed, allowing us to pass as perfect, little ponies." She glanced around. "Sorry."

"We could adapt it to have less effect on the humans," Twilight nervously suggested.

"Little unicorn, it took the greatest dragon mages one-hundred fifty years to perfect this potion. Even if your mentor diverts that asteroid, we have what? Twenty-seven months? We'd have to ensure that the magic itself wouldn't kill them. We hardly have enough time for other niceties."

Twilight moaned and squirmed under the dragon's gaze.

"With Celestia, Cadence and I assisting, we will," Luna said, looked at her sister, "We have to."

"What do we tell'em?" Applejack asked and seemed to panic as the entire room's attention shifted to her. She looked up at Celestia and regained her focus. "We tell the folks in Ponyville a swarm a rabbits are coming, and some of them panic. We tell these critters their world's gonna end, we aren't gonna be able to save any of'em."

"There are over seven billion of them," Celestia said softly, and let the others goggle and gasp. "Yes, this 'violent, warlike and heartless' people have managed to mass that many people, feed and clothe them, to varying degrees. It is not only their population, but their art, science, music, literature, architecture, all the elements of their myriad cultures must be preserved. They will eventually want it all back." She looked at Applejack. "Are you suggesting we lie to them? A lie so huge that it will have to be believed?"

Applejack stood ready to deny it, then just bowed her head. "Yes'm, if the truth kills'em, what good is that truth anyway. We don't lie, that's dishonest, but we rescue'em. All that'll come." She straightened up and looked at her shocked friends. "Goin' ta 'billions' is way past any fancy math. If'n we could start right now, with the princess buyin' us time, that's hundreds a millions every month. That's tens a millions every day. I've herded enough critters to know if ya panic'em, they go every which way. If Discord's little present taught me anythin', it's that some truths aren't worth knowin'. We can apologize and beg their forgiveness later. We can't do that if they're all dead."

"Well said," Rarity said as she nuzzled the frazzled Applejack, "IDEA! If they are as fractious as we've seen. We should play to that." Rarity grinned at Tiamat. The huge dragon actually drew back. "Certainly you have a potion to return a dragon to a dragon. There are Diamond Dogs, and griffons to consider as well." Rarity grinned and looked at Luna. "Have you ever wanted to play the bold rebel, skulking in the shadows?"

"NO!" Luna exclaimed, then looked at Celestia, who smiled.

"Oh very well, Celestia will have to be the rebel and you can be the power behind the throne," Rarity said, and considered with a hoof on her chin, "Lyra would be perfect as your go between with whatever anti-Ponification factions there are. They can even get dissident scientists and experts to start working on a humanification potion."

"What's going on in that head of yours?" Dash asked her friend worriedly.

"Any group that can be so many things at so many different times, has to be able to convince themselves of anything. Some of them will convince themselves of our bad intentions no matter what we do. We might as well let them do the heavy lifting for the second step, returning humanity home." Rarity glanced around at the stunned faces. "A good salesmare should know what their customer wants, before they walk in. Some will want to be ponies no matter what. Others only if they are desperate. Some will refuse even as the volcano is erupting. We have to allow each to seek their own way with some dignity and hope. If we are doing this monstrous thing to save them, it behooves us to let the refusers keep their dignity and honor. If they are going to die, they deserve a chance to 'win' the victory we want to gain for their race anyway."

Celestia grinned and nodded. "Do you want to be in charge of the efforts?"

"I, in charge, of princesses?" Rarity asked, then swooned. Twilight and Rainbow Dash caught their friend as she fell.

For the first time in a good while, they all laughed.

Twenty-six months later

Twilight remembered Lyra's simple warning 'behave or it's the caldera'. She knew that she wouldn't take chances, but she knew she'd survive for a while. The bag removed from her head, and the rag removed from her mouth had Twilight blinking and grimacing as she registered all the armed troops around her. These humans' hatred of her species, and her personally felt like heat radiating off their bodies.

Welcome friends, she thought ironically, You have done us and yourselves a greater service than you know. For 'deadly enemies', you have been better representatives of your people than you know. When Discord learned you would be available in your billions, he decided to behave.

"One spell, one trick and it will end badly for you," the leader said calmly, not a threat or prophesy, a statement. The leader of the coalition of the Human Liberation Front stared at Celestia's representative on Earth.

Twilight saw Lyra and a few others who had 'defected'. The nod she received told her it was time. "Very well, you want the truth. About twenty-six months ago, we detected an asteroid whose impact almost exactly a year ago would have set off the supervolcanic caldera at Yellowstone, and likely at Taupo. While these eruptions will be fascinating to study, the effects on human population would be devastating. I can't decide is this planet is terrifying or spellbinding. Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, and that's just the weather! I can't wait to -"

"Twilight!" Lyra's shouted warning brought her back on track.

"Yes, sorry." Twilight grinned sheepishly. "The eruptions had a high likelihood, nearly a certainty, of exterminating all higher life forms on this planet. We decided that we had to intervene. Celestia diverted the asteroid, but couldn't eliminate the volcanic threat."

"Why not?" one of the guards asked. Only his latent hostility shielded him from the enormity of what Twilight had blithely admitted. Most of his fellows were looking at each other, or their leader. The leader's incredulous stare encouraged her to finish laying it all out.

"Because it would require the removal of seventeen hundred cubic kilometers of lava, all at once. Removing it piecemeal would have just triggered the eruption. And then comes the problem of where to put it. It would explode as soon as you teleported it, so even low-earth orbit would have the same effect as an eruption. Dropping a bomb like that in the sea would have created tsunamis and poisoned the oceans. Despite the media reports, magic does have limits."

"Why should we believe you?" the leader said.

Twilight sighed. "Maybe it won't happen on our time line. But your own scientists have confirmed the pressure build up in both locations. I admit, we were guessing the actual date based on probabilities, but within five years, we guarantee it will happen."

"Why didn't you simply tell us?" the leader asked, "We aren't children to be led by the hand by mommy."

Twilight reeled in her temper. "Because there would be panic, or people would convince themselves we were exaggerating, or they wouldn't believe us!" Twilight said carefully, then shouted, "Like you not believing us that the ambient magic was harmful. How many of your soldiers have you sent to illness and death in Equestria? We told you the absolute truth, and you still didn't believe us!"

"Twilight," Lyra warned.

Twilight faced her fellow unicorn. "Lyra, I don't care about playing it safe anymore!" she shouted, she turned to face the human. "Yes, we didn't tell you the whole truth. Yes, we know the potion had side effects, and yes we knew that you had reasons to oppose us. Well I'm sorry! But what would you have done? Saved as many lives as you could? Or let your people die?" Twilight ran out of steam, she bowed her head. "We aren't as cunning as your people. We had so little time. We did the best we could with the time and resources we had." She raised her head as she felt the tears starting to flow. "If you have some advice that would have made it easier, I'm sorry we didn't think of it. If you have some idea how we could have improved the potion in the three months we had or reverse its worst effects on those who took it, I'd be glad to hear it." She walked up to the leader, and felt the weapons tracking her, but the need to talk freely overwhelmed self-preservation. "So you all hate me, and you hate Celestia, and you hate the 'traitors' of your own race who helped us. Well, you know what, I don't bucking CARE!! Because if you're still around to hate me, then you lived! And that's better than watching you all die." She walked back a few steps and curled up on the floor. "If you want to kill me, that's fine. I did a bad job of it. But I saved all I could: your people, your culture, and your technology. You could have done better, fine. Your 'secret' project to create the humanification potion was also part of our plan. It would have taken us eleven years, but working with your people, Lyra and her teams are what? Fourteen months away from clinical trials?" She curled her tail tightly around herself now. "If there has to be blood for you to forgive all the others, then take mine. I'm tired of this. Tired of knowing I should have done better. Tired of wondering when the end will come. Tired of deciding who lives, and who dies. Of what treasures we must rescue, and what we might have to leave behind. Tired of knowing all of you would hate me no matter what I did."

"Lyra," the leader said.

Twilight almost wished he'd give the order.

"Sir," the humanophile unicorn squeaked.

"Take her to a cell," the man said huskily, "Pick the guards."

"Wallace, Troy, Roberts, come this way please," Lyra said as she lifted Twilight off the ground and carried her along.

Twilight heard the footsteps. Once she was out of the wardroom, she felt a tremendous surge of magic. Lyra didn't quite drop her, but the shouts of alarm and the sound of weapons being readied broke her from her nihilist fugue. The lessened gravity gave her the first clue.

"What have you done?" the tall male shouted, aiming the rifle at her head, while two others aimed their weapons at Lyra.

The human facing her was self-possessed, the pair guarding Lyra were uneasy.

"I'd say we're on the moon base," Twilight said offhandedly, "The Marines should be coming in. I'd surrender if I were you."

"Luna did this?" Lyra stammered.

"If they wouldn't come to Equestria, we have to evacuate them somewhere." Twilight felt awful. "I'm sorry Lyra, we kept some things from you as well. But with all your responsibilities, we decided not to add to your burdens."

"You were working with her?" the female gunsel demanded.

"We were all working to save your people. We all had different ways," Twilight said, "Luna wouldn't have done this, unless something went early."

"Gentlemen, this is Colonel Braddock, of Her Majesty's Marines," a voice sounded through the walls and over all the radios, it hastily added, "Bloody - Her British Majesty's. Welcome to Moon Base Alpha."

For some reason all the humans winced at that.

"You have Twilight Sparkle. We request you send a delegation to observe the eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera. This will confirm her explanation of events. Please do not do anything precipitous. We have orders to minimize HLF casualties, but we also have orders to ensure her safety."

"Wallace, Troy, Roberts, Lyra, take Sparkle out to the Colonel," came over the radios from the leader, "Watch what they want us to watch, and report back."

"On your feet," the angry man gestured with his rifle.

Lyra trotted up beside her. "How many were left?" her fellow unicorn asked.

"A few hundred thousand, including the team at Yellowstone. Hopefully now we can pull them out," Twilight said as they stepped out onto the interior of a lunar cavern. In the distance, Princess Luna watched, looking very pleased with herself.

The British Marines politely relieved the 'observers' of their weapons, then led them to a gallery with a clear roof. Earth appeared above them. Near the edge of the terminator, an odd, growing spot drew the eye.

"Bloody hell," a Marine with lieutenant's insignia gasped.

"We should be able to get your potion team working on the reverse. Then maybe they can improve our Ponification process," Luna said to the HLF troopers and Lyra. "Twilight, we did our best, but it isn't over. There's helping them reclaim their world. But I think you can take a few days off."

Twilight's head drooped. "Thanks."

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