The Conversion Bureau: Rise Again

by kildeez

Chapter 4: Chapter IV: Rediscovery

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The royal bedchambers had seen better days. Of course, they had seen worse days. A couple weeks before, for example, when Celestia had stormed in blazing hot enough to ignite the curtains with her sheer fury. After blackening every piece of fabric, she had spent the rest of the day methodically tearing apart every royal crest she could lay her eyes on, moving on to ripping apart the bedspread with her teeth before sinking to the ground, crying into a pillow cradled in her hooves. That had been the first day of her isolation inside the room.

Now, two weeks after that day, her room had earned a reprieve. Celestia sat up on the bed, stacks of papers spread out before her. Some devoted to eyewitness accounts of strange goings-on related to Earth and the Newfoals, others to selections from different human cultures with a strong focus on reincarnation and the afterlife. Still more were nothing but DMV records of random people from the Detroit area.

It was a mugshot from this last pile that Celestia held in front of her muzzle. A picture of a man with a slowly-forming beer gut partially hidden by a raggedy, white beard, a beer clenched in one hand and a barbecue fork in the other. Her eye traced over every wrinkle in the man’s face, every blemish, every crease and fold in his skin. The records at her hooves identified him as absolutely no one in particular. A construction contractor working on a new overhead conveyor in the plant during the last days before human society collapsed entirely. He died alongside his wife on the patio of their house on the outskirts of Detroit, both wearing their Sunday best, both holding hands, if the way the sleeves were found close to one another when they were discovered was any…

She paused and stamped a hoof into the blankets, her eyes clenched against tears. She wasn’t going to do this. She couldn’t continue functioning if she was going to take every story personally. There were over seven billion humans on Earth when their planet was swallowed by the gods-damned Barrier, if she was to cry over every one of their losses, she would likely never stop, just continuously cry until she forgot what it meant to smile.

She finally sank back in the bed, massaging her temples to fend off the impending headache a little while longer. This was getting ridiculous, a solid week of studying with barely time spared to use the bathroom, sleep, and pick at the platters the servants left outside her door, and what did she have to show for it? A hoofful of Newfoals suddenly activating God-mode to rescue ponies in danger, some possessed machinery, and a ton of enemies suddenly turning friendly at the behest of unknown forces. In other words, no more than what anypony else researching these occurrences had.

Letting her breath out in a long, frustrated sigh, she murmured: “You have ten seconds to leave this room before I turn you and whoever put you up to this into a couple of scorch marks on the floor.”

A few seconds later, one of the few intact lampshades in the room sprouted a pair of translucent wings, which buzzed as the changeling they were attached to quickly lifted away from his hiding spot and landed on the floor with a bow. “Sorry,” he (or she, Celestia still had trouble telling) said, bowing repeatedly as they backed out the door, held open by the pair of her personal guardstallions on the other side.

Again, Celestia sighed. Though it was wonderful that the changelings were integrating so well (Luna had even mentioned a changeling stallion getting comfortable with the Element of Honesty herself, ironically enough), she wished her sister would stop attempting to send them into her room. Celestia had spent enough time in here, she knew its ins and outs. She could tell if a lampshade wasn’t where she left it, or hear the raggedy, mouse-like whispers of breath from someling hiding where they really didn’t want to be.

Or perhaps she was looking at it all wrong. Perhaps she had shut herself in here for so long that her sister now felt obligated to spy on her, just to make sure she hadn’t done something stupid. Celestia scoffed at that idea; depressed as she might have been, she was a long way from suicide. However, were her actions really that concerning? Was she still carrying herself with the pride and tradition of her title? Perhaps not. Perhaps it was time to end this silly quest and just head outside, into her sun.

That’s exactly what she would have done, were it not for a sudden epiphany, one of those out-of-nowhere moments. It struck her as she pulled herself off her bed, settled on all fours amidst a pile of dirty plates and empty bonbon wrappers, and trotted towards the door. As she reached for the knob, an odd memory of her sister struck her, this one of a time when they had just been a pair of fillies, training to become the leaders all ponykind would need them to be. She could remember the day so clearly it was as if she were there all over again, feeling the grit from the solid-oak wooden desks they had needed to sit at, her nose tickling with the constant touch of chalk dust, the slight scratching as the piece of chalk in Starswirl’s grip made its way across the board.

He was talking about something…something important…of course, being a filly, Celestia was having difficulty remaining focused when the only window beckoned with promises of games to play and places to explore and picnics and tea parties to have under a clear, blue sky. Dear Maker above, this had been so very long ago, before even the rise of Discord and Equestria’s founding! And Starswirl had been droning on, and on…about…about…

“About the plane of magic…about the frequencies that existed behind all things…” her eyes widened. Dear Maker above, she really HAD been looking at this all wrong. She had been so focused on the humans, never even thinking about the one thing all ponies took for granted, and that had snatched humanity away in the first place.

Starswirl had droned for hours about magical theory, the actual underpinnings that defined it and the way it pervaded all things in Equestria and now Earth as well. Of course, Celestia had never been interested in the structure of it, just how to use it, like most ponies. Starswirl, however, had been an expert on what magic really was, how it harmonized like human radio frequencies in the air. How different spells had different frequencies, even basic telepathy, and how theoretically, these frequencies could be used to carry anything. A letter in a dragon’s breath, for example, or even…

…even a mind! Oh, she was a fool, focusing on the humans for so long when it was magic that had taken them! Yes, the ambient magic within Equestria had stripped them of their physical bodies, but what about the rest? Their minds, their emotions, their very souls? What if that had all been whisked away onto some magical wavelength? What had that Newfoal said to her sister…”that’s who we are? Could he have been referring to his fellow humans in some form of magical hivemind? Could it be that simple?

Or maybe this was all just wishful thinking. Maybe this was just that last smidgeon of hope lurking in her thoughts, and maybe she should just go with her original instinct and walk out this door. Starswirl himself said that nopony could possibly link themselves with the magical wavelengths, much less become one with them. The magical harmonies would rip anypony’s mind apart.

Then again, that was anypony, what about an apex predator? What about…

Her mind swirling with indecision, Celestia just closed her eyes and whispered one of the sagest pieces of advice she had received from the humans: “Fuck it, let’s just give it a shot and see what happens.”

Without another thought, she sank to her haunches and closed her eyes. She breathed in and out, using the meditative techniques Starswirl had taught her so long ago that Equestria had not yet become reality. After a long, drawn-out wait, she felt something. Something that twitched in that infinite darkness, something amongst the waves of undulating, untamed magic…

She frowned, focusing. Even with her incredible strength, it was nearly impossible, like attempting to snatch a tuna out of a stream with chopsticks. Oh, but it was there. Like a hand reaching out of the waves somewhere on the horizon, constantly bobbing out of sight and disappearing and reappearing somewhere else, but there.

Another boost of focus, and she reached, treading out into that deep, undulating sea, trying not to be swept away by the currents. The average pony would have been torn apart by now, their minds dragged away and cast out in a million directions, leaving behind a brain-dead husk. However, a Princess of her caliber had no trouble navigating the treacherous currents, until…

There…over there!

A single dead spot in the ocean. It appeared to defy all natural laws: by any rights, it should have been torn apart as easily as any pony would have. But here it was, like that one spot in the wave pool that was calm for a few seconds longer than the water around it, except this one remained.

Sighing, Celestia tucked her hooves under her chin and dove headfirst into the spot, and immediately she fell. She plummeted into some dark abyss without light, without emotion, with nothing but voices. Thousands of them. Millions. All crying for help…

She fell, and was swept up by the voices, drowning in them, completely drowned out. It was like exploring some dark part of a lake by your house and suddenly finding yourself at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. The sheer depth was beyond overwhelming, it was crushing. She was a fool for coming here, and now, she was doomed to remain here until the sheer cacophony of cries around her simply split her skull open…

Except fuck that shit. She was a princess, and she was not going to allow this to happen! Too much was riding on this succeeding, not just for her ponies, but possibly for the humans as well! Finally, Celestia did something she had once done on the floor of the United Nations in New York, something done for a little bit of peace and quiet amidst the chaos of a regular meeting: she whipped out the ol’ Royal Canterlot Voice.

“Would you all stop screaming like children and act like the adults you’re supposed to be!?

To her surprise, it worked. The voices hushed up immediately, allowing for a positively deafening silence to follow in their wake. She sat there, completely at a loss, completely forgetting what she had come to do. It took a few minutes of that horrible stillness, but eventually it returned to her. Oh, but how should she start? Fortunately, the answer to that question came to her much more quickly, in the form of a memory of a confident, young blonde in an American soldier’s uniform, flashing a thumbs up before stepping into what was thought to be her certain death. “Elisa?” She called into that spinning, endless void, her voice reverberating uselessly amidst the emptiness. “Elisa Uschenko, are you in here?”

A few more moments of heart-pounding, desperate silence, and then:

Hey there, Sunbutt. Didn’t I tell ya I’d see you around?

Back in the real world, tears of the purest joy started rolling down Celestia’s cheeks.

Next Chapter: Chapter V: Todd Reborn Estimated time remaining: 23 Minutes
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