The Conversion Bureau: Rise Again

by kildeez

Chapter 1: Chapter I: The End

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For the first time in months, Elisa Uschenko was content. A bottle of her father’s oldest vodka sat squeezed between her knees, and every couple minutes she poured herself some into the shot glass she held in one hand. Of course, she would have preferred the Lay-Z-Boy in the den back at her father’s place, not this folding chair in this abandoned warehouse south of the Bronx, but beggars could not be choosers. As the first effects of the vodka started slowing her thinking, it hit her that she probably should have been more upset about this, that she would be so close to a perfect night alone were it not for the fact that her chopper pilot had ditched her and left her with a pilotless helicopter on a landing pad just outside the city. It was probably just that serenity she’d read about people getting when they knew they were dead anyway. Yeah, that was probably it.

“Still, not bad for a last meal,” she said aloud, her voice sending a few rats scurrying in the flickering, yellow glow provided by the warehouse’s emergency lights. Chuckling at the scurrying, she poured herself another glass, her long, blonde hair falling about her shoulders as she bent over the blessed liquid.

The door opened, and then shut. Elisa grimaced. This was just what she needed, one of them coming to say how sorry they were, look up at her with that pitiful little look. She did not need this, not now, not in the last moments of her life. The sounds of hoofsteps on the concrete floor filled the air.

“If you’ve come to join the pity party, I’m afraid we’re all full up,” Elisa announced without turning in her seat, raising the bottle over her head. “I got all the company I need with ol’ Ivan here.”

The hoofsteps stopped. She heard the rustle of wings. “Surely, you can make room for royalty?” A calm and all-too-familiar voice asked.

Elisa nearly dropped the bottle in her rush to turn and salute. “Princess Celestia!” She gasped. “Corporal Elisa Uschenko, United States Army, fifth Battalion of United Nations Alliance…”

“That’s enough, that’s quite enough,” Celestia said, urging the human to sit with a wave of her hoof. “We have so little time left here; let’s not waste it on trivial formalities.”

“Oh,” Elisa said, flopping back down on her chair and propping her combat boots up on the card table set before her. “In that case, go ahead and take a seat, Sunbutt.”

Elisa heard a tiny giggle from the Princess, and smiled to herself. It was nice to learn that the real Princess Celestia did have a sense of humor. The American-born Russian patted the chair across from her, shaking off some of the dust mites, and the Princess nodded in gratitude before taking her seat, a tiny, half-hearted smile playing at her lips. “Sunbutt?” She asked.

“If the shoe fits,” Elisa replied with a shrug and another sip, this one straight from the bottle.

Celestia nodded sagely, motioning to the bottle. “May I?”

“Be my guest,” Elisa shrugged. “It’s a free country, for however long it’s gonna be around.”

The Princess nodded gratefully and grabbed the shot glass in her magic, allowing Elisa to pour a tiny amount from her bottle. “Don’t worry, this’ll be enough for you,” she said with a drunken smile.

Celestia arched an eyebrow and downed the tiny amount in a single sip. She grimaced, gave a tiny, petite cough, then returned her gaze to the human with a smile. Elisa’s eyebrows rose. “Not bad.”

“Thanks, I’ve found the consumption of alcohol really helps with reaching out to members of your race,” Celestia replied, tilting her glass for more.

“Go easy on that, Princess,” Elisa said. “That there’s the real stuff. None of that supermarket shit: actual, Russian vodka, straight from the Motherland and aged for decades.”

“I can taste it,” Celestia said, taking one more sip, grimacing, and setting the glass on the table.

Elisa nodded. “So what brings you here to my humble, little corner of the world? I figured you’d be having dinner with the President or something.”

Celestia’s smile faded, replaced with a sadness that was almost impossible for the young soldier to bear. Dammit, why do they all have to be so cute? She thought to herself.

The Princess grabbed her drink, downed the remainder in a single gulp, and met the soldier’s gaze. “You’re it.”

“Ah, good,” Elisa said, nodding. “I’m sorry, I’m what?”

“You’re it. The last human.”

Elisa sat upright in her seat, her boots dropping to the floor. A bit of her vodka sloshed out of the bottle. Her jaw dropped, her widening eyes locking with the Princess’s. “The president and his family were found dead in the Oval Office,” Celestia explained, only the tiniest bit of a quiver reaching her voice. She smiled, the corners of her mouth quaking, her eyes misting over. “They apparently decided that if America was going to die, they just didn’t belong anymore. Had no place. H-he-he was still holding hands with the first lady…and the children…”

Just all too damned cute, Elisa grumbled as she found herself wrapping her arms around the alicorn, stroking her mane. “It’s alright, you did all you could.” She whispered.

“Did we!?” Celestia shrieked, tears rolling down her face. “Did we really!? We tried to stop The Barrier, yet it still advances! We tried ponification, but all that did was delay the destruction of the mind!”

Elisa shivered as memories of those first awful days after the Barrier’s appearance came back to her. At first, the discovery of a land of magical talking ponies just on the other side of a rift in space-time over the Pacific Ocean had seemed like a miracle, something to make the Earth more colorful. Sure, there was the tiny unfortunate caveat that organic matter passing through the portal from the Earth side was destroyed by the ambient magic of Equestria, and so ponies could come and go on both worlds freely while humans were confined to their side, but that seemed like a tiny wrench in the works and little more. There were a few companies exploring suits and drugs to make humans immune to the effects, but for a while most were content with things as they were, with only a few rabble-rousers in between accusing the princess of purposefully creating The Barrier.

Then that ambient magic started leaking through. A few trickles at first, a couple instances of jets and speedboats disappearing in the area of the rift, but nothing that couldn’t be dismissed as a freak storm. Then all at once, the trickles became a downpour. The island of Peleliu was wiped clean of all terrestrial life in a single, sudden flash of light. The ponies could only watch in horror as a massive burst of magic flowed through the rift, steadily expanding outwards into what became the new Barrier.

Overnight, those few companies exploring suits and drugs went from recreational exploration to humanity’s only hope for survival. Relaxed laboratories became bustling centers of activity for human and pony scientists alike, searching desperately for something that would allow man to live within The Barrier, or perhaps stop it entirely. Celestia even sent her own protégé to study.

In the end, it was hopeless. The Barrier advanced relentlessly despite the best efforts of human and pony, and every suit and drug and half-assed, hillbilly-inspired diving bell still ended with any terrestrial organic matter disappearing in a flash, from anybody stupid or brave enough to test it to the fungus in their toenails. Then, a new hope emerged: Twilight Sparkle had the brilliant idea of ponification. If the human form couldn’t survive Equestrian magic, why not change that form into something which could? Sure, it meant sacrificing their human bodies, but that had to be better than total destruction! Just like that, there was hope. Corporations worldwide went into high production, creating products that would adapt people to their new bodies. Steering wheels that could be gripped by hooves, business suits for quadrupeds, remote controls meant to be used with subtle rocking of a hoof over a dial. For the first time in months, there was hope, and man and pony breathed a collective sigh of relief, a few of the early “Newfoals” even crossing the border to establish colonies in Equestria, proving the effectiveness of the transformation and becoming the first humans to see Equestria with their own eyes.

Then, contact had been lost with one of the colonies. An expedition by the Canterlot Guard showed that every one of the former humans was still there, just standing around, doing nothing and smiling cheerfully at passersby. It didn’t take long for intelligence tests to establish that the Newfoals had literally lost their minds, as well as all memories of their previous lives. Of course, any royal guard who saw them might have told you that. “Something in the eyes,” they would say, usually while suppressing a shiver. “You can just tell there’s nothing going on up there.”

Further tests with the other Newfoal colonies in Equestria came up with the same thing: the Newfoals were still losing their humanity, a bit at a time. Turns out, ponification didn’t save the human mind. Only delayed its inevitable destruction a little while. Panic was widespread. Cities burnt. Governments collapsed. Soldiers abandoned their posts. And still, The Barrier advanced, steadily devouring continents with an air of inevitability that bought back every bit of the old fear from before ponification had been discovered. The officials from ponydom and mankind made their speeches, urging for calm. Even Twilight Sparkle made appearances on TV, assuring everyone that they were doing everything they could to “work out all the kinks” in the serum. She kept smiling throughout those speeches, Elisa remembered, though her mane kept getting more and more unkempt. The soldier swallowed a lump as an image of Twilight’s last speech before the broadcast stations went down appeared in her mind. She didn’t smile throughout that one, reporting in a quivering voice the meager progress that had been made to the few UN delegates remaining in New York. About ten minutes in, she had collapsed on the floor, the podium hitting the ground next to her. She had hugged her wings to herself and screamed how sorry she was over and over again, tears streaming down her face for a full three minutes until the broadcasters went dark and never came back.

We know, Elisa thought, her eyes squeezed shut to force back the tears. We know you’re sorry. Don’t be. It’s not your fault.

“I-hih-hih-it’s not fair!” Celestia screeched. “This was supposed to be the greatest moment in our civilization’s time! Contact with another world! And instead, it…it…”

“Shhh,” Elisa whispered. “Princess, hush. Don’t make my last moments sad ones. It’s just how things have to be.”

“Th-there’s still time, you know,” Celestia said. “I know ponification doesn’t work for long, but you’ll still be you for a little while. It’s not much, but it’ll give you a few more weeks before…” she choked, unable to finish the sentence.

Elisa pulled away, shaking her head as tears rolled quietly out her eyes. “No, let the last human die as a human,” she whispered. “We should step into the dark with our heads held high, Princess. Let us face the end with dignity.”

Celestia choked out a sob, embracing the human once more. “Everypony will remember that,” she whispered. “They’ll remember your bravery, your courage, especially near the end.”

“You make sure of that, Sunbutt,” Elisa said, a tiny smile rising through her tears. “You do that, or I swear, I’ll personally come back and haunt your ass but good.”

Celestia chuckled. “Do you promise?”

“I’ll certainly try,” Elisa said, still returning the embrace. She noticed that the Princess wasn’t moving. Curious, she pulled away, having to wrench free of Celestia’s grip as the mare clung to her like a child with its favorite plushie. She finally took note of the deep glow radiating off the end of the Princess’s horn. “Ah, I thought it got a little easier to see in here.”

“Well, I thought it was a bit dreary, so…” Celestia replied with a little giggle that obviously wasn’t meant to sound so ragged and strained, even as cords popped out on her neck and sweat gathered on her forehead.

Elisa’s eyes widened in realization. “You’re holding it back. By yourself.”

Celestia gave an exasperated sigh. “I’m certainly trying.”


“It would have killed you by now,” Celestia said. “I-I just needed to say goodbye.”

“Alright,” Elisa said, reaching out a hand and resting it on the alicorn’s shoulder as her eyes slid shut. “Goodbye.”

Celestia said nothing, barely even acknowledging her.

“Um, Princess?” Elisa said. “Now’s the time.”

“Not…as long…as I say it isn’t…” Celestia gasped.

“Princess, no. You can’t keep it back forever.”

“I can certainly try,” she gasped her eyes gaining an eerie, white glow as the pressure on her magic grew. The upper corners of the warehouse started to shimmer as The Barrier pressed into the warehouse, the multi-hued haze of pure, natural magic growing around them.

“Princess, please! I’ve made my peace!” Elisa begged.

“I HAVEN’T!” Celestia bellowed, standing, her neck trembling with effort. “I haven’t! Not yet!”

“It’s not your race that’s dying, you did…”

“How in the fuck am I supposed to live with that, huh!?” The mare screeched, her eyes now glowing pure white. Above them, the roof of the warehouse filled with that strange, mesmerizing glow. “How am I supposed to live with the fact that my failure led to the extinction of an entire species of thinking, loving creatures!? Tell me, please! Because I don’t know!”

At that, the mare broke down, sobs rising from her chest, tears of blazing, pure, white energy cascading onto the concrete. “I don’t know…” she whimpered miserably, like a filly being asked to explain what had possessed her to disobey her parents.


“Stop calling me that!” She begged. “Please! Not until…not until I’ve saved you! Just one, please…”

She bowed her head, the air humming with the incredible strain of magic on magic. “…Just let me save one…”

Elisa watched in growing dread, her eyes darting from the straining princess on the floor to the slowly advancing haze descending on them from the roof. She stepped in close to the princess and started stroking her mane, and then she noticed the stress fractures spreading throughout her horn, arcing all over its structure, adding weakness. She bit her lip. There was nothing for it now.

“Hey, Sunbutt?”

Celestia chuckled. “I-I think I’m starting to like that title more than ‘Princess’,” she said between panting, heaving breaths.

Elisa nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind. But you gotta know: I think the stress is starting to go to your horn. I’m seeing cracks all over the place.” Celestia didn’t respond. “Sunbutt?”

“What is…one horn…compared…to an entire species?” She finally replied, her chest rising and falling with each pained breath.

Elisa nodded sagely. “I figured you’d say that,” she sighed. “You have a good one.”

Celestia smiled. “Where do you think you’re…” her eyes opened as the fingers left her mane. Celestia’s heart skipped a few beats as she whirled in place, still maintaining her magic, searching desperately for the human. She spied her just as the soldier approached the gray, metal doors leading outside, their surface shimmering with that damnable magic hue.

“E-Elisa!” She screamed, reaching out for the soldier. She threw herself at the human, trying to grab her physically, but the force of her magic dragged her right back into the center of the room. She arched her elongated neck and flicked it in Elisa’s direction, trying to throw her magical protection towards her, but the weight of the Barrier was far too much. It was like she was at the very bottom of the Marianas Trench, and her magic and her own body were the only support beams maintaining this tiny pocket of livable space. The pressure was too much for her to move, too much for her to expand or nudge the dome, too much for her to even reach out with her magic and try to pull the human back.

Elisa, for her part, paused just short of the doors, Celestia’s desperate cries still echoing in the far reaches of the warehouse. Tears covered her face, but she still smiled and raised her hand in salute. “See ya around, Sunbutt,” she said. Then she threw the doors open and stepped outside.

“NO!” Celestia shrieked as the ambient magic ripped the human apart, her body evaporating in bursts of multi-colored dust. “No, please!” She begged a god that either didn’t exist or didn’t care, pleading for anything, any change to this wretched existence. The human saluted her until the very end, until her arm vanished in her sleeve and her uniform collapsed to the concrete, poofs of dust rising from inside.

“PLEASE!” Celestia screamed, finally allowing her spell to fall. The ambient magic washed over her immediately, inundating the last pocket of non-magical space on both worlds. She rushed through it without a thought, clutching at the empty uniform, clawing at it desperately, as if Elisa was simply hiding somewhere in the folds.

After a few minutes, she stopped. She held the tattered remnants of the uniform in her trembling grip, shaking as tears pooled on the concrete beneath her. Then she nuzzled the fabric, holding it close to herself and sobbing for what was lost. The empty streets of New York did nothing but echo her cries back to her.


“Princess Twilight!”

The lavender Alicorn lifted her head off her desk, moaning tiredly. She ran a hoof over her face, felt the bags there, and wondered when the last time she’d had a decent night’s sleep had been. “Yes, Lieutenant Sentry?” She asked.

“We have a report from the team at the Library of Congress,” the guard said, a weak smile on his face as he laid a piece of paper in front of her tired eyes. “Looks like most of it’s intact, despite the fires! We’ve saved almost the entire collection!”

“Good, good,” she said, returning the weak little smile. “Between that, the British Library, and the National Diet, that’s a good many of their books we’ve saved.”

“Miss Rarity would also like to report she’s found at least half the Louvre intact,” Flash added helpfully. “And Miss Fluttershy and Miss Pinkie Pie have managed to salvage a few dozen more servers from Silicon Valley.”

Unfortunately, Twilight’s face just fell. Her wings quivered with the tears rising in her eyes. Flash knew what she would ask. “And…the other half of the Louvre?”

Flash took a deep breath. Best to get this over with quickly. Like ripping off a Band-Aid. “I’m sorry, Princess. It was that windstorm last week: all our ponies were occupied with keeping the Eiffel Tower standing until the unicorns could work their preservation magic. Maybe some water got in, shorted something in the wiring, but by the time somepony noticed the alarms…”

He trailed off. Twilight could fill in the blanks, she was a smart pony. She let out a shivering gasp, her head sinking into her hooves. A quick sob wracked her body, which she silenced by stuffing a hoof into her mouth. “I-I’m sorry Princess, we tried…” Flash said.

“No, it’s okay,” she said shakily, holding up a hoof for him to stop. “The Tower is important. The Louvre may have been the mind of the city, but the Tower was its heart. If anything, the heart is what we need to preserve. Let it keep beating, even if the mind is gone.”

Flash arched an eyebrow at her. “Poetic.”

“Sorry, consequence of reading so much,” she said, meeting his gaze with a cute, sheepish little smile. “It comes out when I’m upset enough. Just tell me one thing?”


“Tell me we saved the Lady,” Twilight said, her smile fading and utter desperation rising in her eyes. “Tell me the Mona Lisa’s alright. She was so important to them, and she was painted by one of their greatest, tell me we…”

The way Flash’s eyes fell; Twilight knew she had her answer. She gasped again, in absolute horror. “No…” she whispered.

“We do have ‘The Last Supper,’ though,” Flash offered. “It’s on its way to the Royal Archives for safekeeping now.”

Twilight either didn’t hear, or didn’t care. A hoof went to her head, her shoulders rising and falling as sobs took her body. “Her smile’s gone,” she whispered. “Gone forever…”

“Yeah, and good riddance,” somepony muttered. Twilight, in her distressed state, never heard it, but Flash’s ears perked immediately. He whirled in place, gazing around, but the only thing he picked up were Twilight’s quiet sobs and hoofsteps from the hallway outside. Darting out the ornate, crystalline doors, Flash’s head wheeled around until he spotted a patrol heading down the hallway. Two crystal ponies with spears in their hooves trotted away, laughing jovially about something. Flash barreled down at them like a twister just outside a trailer park. When he was close enough, he flapped his wings once, twice, and leapt into the air, shooting right over the ponies’ heads and landing in front of them.

“Which one of you little shits said that!?” He hissed, wings flared aggressively.

Both Crystal guardsponies paused, their eyes wide in surprise. Then they widened with horror when they realized they were speaking with the Flash Sentry, the guard who held Princess Twilight’s ear, and some said, her heart as well. He might have just been a lieutenant, but his star had been rising long before the Princess came along, and now, a single word from him could make life for anypony in any section of the Equestrian Guard very difficult. Plus, it didn’t help that these two were just privates, and completely outranked.

“H-He did, sir,” the mauve pony on the right said, giving up his partner instantly. The other guardstallion glared at his partner for giving him up so easily, then turned a wary glance back at Flash.

“Would you care to repeat what you just said, soldier?” Flash asked.

At first, the guardstallion on the left grimaced, his gaze drifting to the floor. Then, his resolve hardening, he glared right back at Flash. “In fact, I would love to tell you, sir!” He bellowed. “I was just thinking that mankind being destroyed was just karma settling accounts! After everything they did to their world and to each other, why are we trying to save what’s left when we should be letting everything they did rot!?”

The dark glare that entered Flash Sentry’s eye was more than enough to blast away the guardstallion’s meager bravado. He cringed, but managed to keep his hooves from carrying him away, stumbling like a frightened colt. Flash took a deep breath in through his mouth, then let it out slowly through his nose. He did this a few times, each time the glare dissipating until he reached a point where he looked somewhat sane again. When he spoke, his voice shook with barely-restrained rage as he addressed the private.

“While it is true that mankind has committed truly atrocious acts, it is also true that they have created fine works that would make your mind reel. You haven’t gazed up at the Empire State Building. You haven’t seen the Sistine Chapel. You haven’t looked out over the Great Wall and realized you were standing on thousands of years of history as tumultuous and complex as the greatest of our thinkers’ minds. Their art, their philosophy, their science, their cities of gleaming glass and towering stone, all of it accomplished with nothing but their wits, their tools, and their bare hands. Yes, they have committed horrors beyond any that a pony has even dreamt of, but can you honestly tell me we would have been much better if it wasn’t for the guidance of the royal sisters?

“But still, barring all that, you would still have the fact that during our time there, both Princess Twilight and I had the privilege…no, the honor…of getting to know some of them. And…and I’m ashamed to say that at first, I thought like you,” he paused here, swallowing once, shaking his head, and continuing, that glare still hard in his eyes. “I heard the horror stories, I read the articles, I saw what they had done and thought them to be nothing more than barbarians. But when I talked with some of their thinkers, when I listened to some of their singers, when I read the works of some of their writers, I realized there was more there than could ever be known. When a human feels, the emotion can burn continents. It can also create works of art unlike anything you could ever even dream. I regret every moment I spent living in the fear and prejudice you live in now, because the relationships I built with them will last me a lifetime, and I could have been building them sooner.

“That is what being a human is, private,” the stallion grumbled. “So if you want to keep disrespecting their memory like this, you better start counting your teeth. You’re gonna need to know how many to look for after I knock ‘em all out of your empty, little head.”

The guard, struck completely senseless, could only shake his head. Sentry snorted. “I didn’t think so,” he said. “Get back on patrol before my senses come back to me and I sentence you to lifetime latrine duty.”

Both guards nodded, saluting and muttering quick “Yes, Sir,” before scampering away like frightened colts. Flash kept the glare up after them for a while, then let it sink away, his ears folding against his head. Sighing, he trotted back to Twilight’s room, where the Princess was sitting up, her eyebrows raised.

“Wow, Flash,” she said. “That was…incredible…”

“I…yeah,” he said, rubbing a forehoof against his foreleg bashfully while his cheeks grew hot. “It was…actually a part of the speech I was gonna give in a few days. Some of the guards have been talking like that, so I figured I could set the record straight. Least I could do, you know?”

“Yes,” she said, sighing sadly. “I can understand that. There are so many ponies opposed to the preservation of Earth that I wonder if…I wonder…”

All at once she sniffled, quickly wiping at her face with the back of a hoof. “Oh Celestia…I’m sorry, here I am, all-knowing Princess of Friendship, weeping like a filly.”

“Hey, hey,” he said, rushing to her side between her wings. “It’s alright, we’ve all been through a lot these past few days.”

“D-did I tell you?” She whispered, barely keeping her voice from cracking. “Last week, Princess Celestia and I visited one of the refugee camps in Connecticut, before The Barrier could reach it. There were kids and women and men just working so hard and…and they were all so happy to see us…so brave…”

Flash Sentry had nothing to say to that, so he just continued stroking her back, running his hoof over the growing muscles between her wings. They were getting stronger, he could tell. All that flying she’d been doing back and forth between worlds, rushing in mad dashes to this panicked mob and that refugee camp. And he’d been there through it all. She was incredible, the most amazing mare he’d ever…

The doors slammed open, and the massive silhouette of Princess Celestia strode in, her head low, her eyes red.

“Princess!” Twilight gasped, leaping up and vaulting the desk to land at Celestia’s hooves. “How are…you…”

She trailed off. The Princess didn’t need to speak to let everypony know she wasn’t doing so well. The bags under her eyes, the tears still soaking her facial fur, her hunched-over shoulders, the frizz in her mane, all spoke volumes for her. “Princess?” Flash asked carefully.

Celestia’s tear-streaked face rose at his voice, and all of a sudden he could see the thousands of years this mare had lived, all present in that one look. “The last human is gone,” she said simply.

Neither Flash nor Twilight moved. They still didn’t move as Celestia turned and trotted out the hallway, her head lowered. They didn’t move as her hoofsteps faded away into nothingness. Then, Twilight just fell over, as if every muscle in her body had gone slack at the same time. She wailed then, wailed for what was lost, wailed for what had been, wailed for all the pain, all the suffering.

Flash could do nothing but pull her in close, hold her, and comfort her. After all, it’s not like he knew why an entire race of sapient creatures had to die. And, judging by the silence that fell in between each of Twilight’s cries, nobody she was calling to did either.

Author's Notes:

This one's gonna be much shorter than some of my other stories, guys. Not quite a one-shot, but not quite a longer tale either.

Either way, I know, I know, "Ugh, Flash Sentry! He's so bland and undeveloped! He has no character! Kildeez, why would you make him a hero in your story?" To answer that, let me say you're absolutely right. Flash is bland and undeveloped. Which means he can be anyone we want him to be! He could become whatever we care to make of him! Hell, Twilight had to fall for him for some reason, right? I just don't accept that she would just go all gaga over some dumbass jock! He could be what we want him to be, so why is everyone determined to turn him into yet another unlikable asshole in the MLP universe?

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