The Conversion Bureau: Rise Again

by kildeez

Chapter 6: Chapter VI: We Are

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Admiral Azrael with the Teilaxieu Navy had struggled long for his position. Going from a mere cadet born to a moderately-successful family on Turg-IV to Admiral in a mere forty years had been no small feat. In his decades of service to the crown, he had seen more combat than twelve regular conscripts put together (possibly because the average life expectancy of a conscript on the front lines was a little over five hours, but that was beside the point).

He had climbed through the ranks, performing admirably at every step of the way. It was he who finally broke the siege of Stolag-XIV, he who annihilated the Praxian fleet before they even had a chance to get off the ground, he who had seen every battle that, in just the last few decades, had taken the Teilaxieu from a simple kingdom barely holding onto one solar system to a galaxy-wide empire, holding a respected seat in the high galactic council over the normal council members. And now, he was to add another conquest to his already-impressive list: Earth.

It seemed almost foolish that the Teilaxieu government would send a being of his prestige to personally oversee what was obviously a basic cleanup operation. The Empire had been studying the native population for years now, and it was obvious they barely had the technology to enter deep space, much less offer up any sort of resistance to a Teilaxieu Stormcrusher-class Dreadnought. A few weeks of pounding from a couple Dreadnoughts’ worth of six-parsec cannons, and any hope of resistance from these “humans” would almost certainly be a memory. There would be stragglers, of course, fools who believed they could still somehow retain some amount of their “freedom” simply through insurrection, but that was where the ground troops would come in handy. All six-million of them.

“Sir?” His first mate, a fellow Teilaxieu by the name of Roswix, rose from his seat and saluted, one clawed hand rising to his brow, just above one of his seven compound eyes. “We’re inside their moon’s orbit now.”

“Ah, good,” he nodded. “Now, any signs of activity? Anything from their space and news agencies?”

“Er…no, sir,” the other creature shrugged, one talon-covered foot circling the other in the Teilaxieu’s universal sign of confusion. “There’s…nothing.”

“Really?” Azrael blinked a few times. He had heard that Earth’s space-observation abilities were rather far along. They most certainly should have been noticed by now. “Well, perhaps we overestimated their technological aptitude.”

“No sir, you don’t understand,” Roswix continued, taking a seat in his cubicle again. “When I say nothing, I mean there’s nothing. No electronic transmissions on the entire planet at all!”

“What!?” Now, that was damn near impossible. Last he heard, these stupid monkeys were flooding the airwaves with as many pictures of small, fuzzy things as they were physically capable. No species discovered electromagnetic transmission and then just stopped, it simply didn’t happen. Until that species discovered neurophasonic transmissions, of course.

“This is impossible…” Azrael whispered. “Can somelieu get me a ground-level picture of one of the cities?”

“Right here,” Roswix slid a talon over the screen on the cubicle’s south wall, bringing the view to life. “This is live footage from one of the human cities, they call it ‘Tokyo’.”

Azrael was treated to the sight of gleaming towers of steel and glass, their so-called “skyscrapers.” An entire city of stone and steel. For a moment, he had to admire it. Surely, this was a species destined for greatness, and for a moment, he felt a pang of conscience at being the one who would steal that destiny away to turn the planet into another mining world. Just a moment though. Then, years of obedient duty to his superiors kicked in and he shrugged the guilt off, only to have it replaced with utter confusion. A shiver raced up the back of his carapace. His compound eyes blinked a few times. The city was empty. Here was a place obviously built to accommodate thousands, if not millions, of working, living, sapient beings, and it was empty. He got that feeling a human would recognize as what one felt when walking through an empty stadium or theatre long after closing time and heard someone behind them. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

“Is there anyone left?” He asked quietly. Not that he mourned mankind’s passing, of course, but still to think he bought an entire Teilaxieu battlegroup to occupy an abandoned planet…he just didn’t like to waste resources in such a way, yes, that was it.

“Er…not what we were expecting, sir,” Roswix suddenly looked like his mother had just caught him with a talon in the grubmeal jar. “The entire planet seems to be inhabited by small, sapient, quadrupedal equines of various hues, and based on some periphery scans, they possess level-33 reality distortional powers and intelligence at least on par with man’s.”

Admiral Azrael, being more versed in human slang than his counterpart, blinked once, his mandibles clicking together. Then, taking a long, even breath, he said: “Magical, colorful, talking ponies?”

Roswix blinked once in return. “Yes, sir.”

Azrael blinked both his compound and his normal eyes one at a time, a process that took several minutes. It was a while before he spoke again. “Did they all discover a land of magical, talking ponies?”

Colorful, magic talking ponies; and it would appear so, sir.”

Welp, leave it to the species behind lolcatz to punch a hole in the universe and make their cutesy memes a reality. “We better get down there and see how much damage those maniacs have caused to the laws of physics,” Azrael grumbled.

“Yes, sir,” Roswix sighed, relieved to have something to take his mind off the land of magical, colorful, talking ponies beneath him.

“We also better fill out a threat-assessment form for these equines,” Azrael said. “Until then, what’s your opinion on them? Hostile? A possible threat?”

“They appear docile to me, sir,” Roswix replied simply. “Whatever is allowing them to bend reality the way they are does appear quite powerful, but it’s nothing a couple hits from the 99 hi-vel cannons can’t fix. Though there is something rather curious…”

“Curious about a group of magical, talking ponies that have taken the place of superintelligent walking monkeys?”

“Er…yes sir…” Roswix stifled a guffaw, keeping his attention on the screen. He switched the view to a small farmhouse on the outskirts of another human city, one called “Cheyenne.” A large, gray-colored pony stood ramrod-straight beside a fencepost, a dripping paintbrush in his teeth. After a few uncomfortable moments, the pony’s jaw went slack, and the paintbrush gave a wet smack against the dirt road.

“What the…”

“It’s what I was telling you about, sir, it’s like this all over the planet,” Roswix switched the view a few more times, showing still shots from all around the world. A pony family gathered at a dinner table, all around a mare currently slumped over where she sat. A pony couple standing at the seashore, gazing off into the sunset, at least until a gull landed on the mare’s head and she toppled over like a statue, her legs going limp as the sand under her head became wet with drool.

“What in the name of the Emperor…” Azrael began. “What is this, a virus?”

“Nothing that’s showing up on our scans, sir. If it is a microorganism of any kind, it’s nothing like anything that’s been recorded in this sector…or any other sector…before.”

“Then what is this!?” Azrael moaned. “Where did these ponies come from!? Why are only some of them affected by whatever this thing is!? Why is the reality-distortion around this entire planet suddenly so high!? And where in the name of all that is good and holistically-approved by the Teilaxieu central authority are the humans!?”

In answer to his question, every speaker and listening piece on the bridge squealed loudly, right past the threshold of pain. The Teilaxieu commanders all fell to the deck, clutching their hearing proboscises in pain. The screeching continued, eventually coalescing into an obviously masculine voice: “Hello!? Hello! Oh, hi, sorry…hang on…”

A bit more screeching, and finally the pain stopped. “There, okay, is that better?” A now feminine voice continued sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry, still getting the hang of this.”

“So…wow…alien dudes…” the voice said, continuing in the tone of a college burnout. “Like…take us to your leader and stuff.”

Gathering his marbles, Azrael grabbed the nearest speaker piece and pounded a claw against the input button. “Who is this!?” He demanded. “How did you hack these frequencies!?”

Of course, the bigger question was how they were speaking Teilaxieu at all, but ever the military man, Azrael had certain things to focus on first. This time, what sounded like a young boy with a heavily-Chinese accent responded. “Oh, hi mister! It’s not that hard! Just have to think on the same wavelength!”

Azrael once again blinked his eyes, one at a time. This time, he whipped through the entire process in the space of ten seconds before pressing the microphone to his mouth and stating a single phrase that, in the coming days, would be repeated all throughout the galaxy by the inhabitants of both the Teilaxieu Empire and the Galactic Council: “What?”

“Oh yah, this whole magic thing is really the bees knees here, dontcha know!” Now he was talking to a Wisconsin mom, apparently. “You just gotta think hard enough and poof, you’re light! Or poof! You’re a wind current! We’re anything here now, isn’t that somethin’?”

“Hold on,” Azrael’s growing confusion finally led him somewhere. “Are you the humans?”

“Give the man a bloody cigar!” An English-accented voice announced.

“Then…where are you!?”

“Oh, that’d take a reeaaallly long time to explain,” now a young boy with a heavy Brazilian accent. “Like, so long! It’s so weird! And ‘sides, it’s not important.”

“It’s not!?”

“No, what’s important is you,” a Nigerian man said, and his voice oozed venom. “You have come to our world to enslave us, have you not?”

Ah, here was something the Admiral could understand. Negotiations. He nodded and took a breath. At last, something familiar he could hold to. Taking a few extra moments, the Admiral leaned back into the microphone. “Enslavement is such a broad term,” he replied. “And really, think of all the benefits that come with joining the Teilaxieu…”

“Frankly son, y’all might as well quitcher jawin’,” a new voice with a southern accent said. “Nobody here’s gonna listen to any a’ the shit you’re spewin’ outcher pie hole, so you might as well shut it.”

Azrael scowled, a corner of his humongous, fang-filled mouth turning down and quivering with distaste. He was used to negotiations with military organizations, those at least could be counted on going well! What was he doing wasting all this time with these nobodies, this menagerie of utter nothingness from the common dredges of the planet below? “Who are you to speak to me in this way!?” He bellowed into the speaker piece. “I am Azrael, destroyer of the Praxians, reaper of a dozen worlds! Who are you to even dare stand against me!?”

An eerie silence befell the bridge. Utter and complete nothingness. For a second, Azrael thought he could hear the solar winds rumbling off the ship’s hull. Then, the voices returned. Thousands of them, millions. Their response was short, simple, and only too telling: “We are.”

Azrael waited a few extra minutes, and when nothing else was forthcoming, he sighed and pressed the speaker to his lips. “You are what?”

“We are,” came the same, cacophonous reply.

“You are what!?” He demanded, his patience already worn thin.

“We are.”

You are what, damn you!?

“Uh…sir?” Roswix said, taking the same tone of voice someone would take when they looked up and saw a full-strength enemy battalion descending upon their trench. Azrael looked up, following the other Tielaxieu’s pointing finger to the viewing screen. The radio dropped from his claw.

The clouds were moving, and far more quickly than they were supposed to. The clouds of Earth all over the entire continent of Asia were readjusting themselves, repositioning for one message to relay to the stars, until in cursive, in plain English, they read:

We are

“We are,” the mob repeated in the radio.

“Sir, the planet is yelling at us,” Roswix whimpered.

Azrael’s jaw worked up and down, his mind still adjusting to the fact that he was being told off by a planet.

“Sir, the planet is yelling at us,” Roswix said, a little bit louder now.

Azrael finally found the words to sum up his thoughts. “No. Fucking. Way.”

“Sir, the goddamned fucking planet is yelling at us! What do we do!?” Roswix was screaming now, his voice just one amidst the din rising in the control room. All around him, Azrael’s veteran, highly-trained army disintegrated into a panicking horde, only held in their seats by the knowledge that they could just run as far as the tail of the ship.

“E-evasive maneuvers!” Azrael gasped, sounding more like a recruit during his first moments of battle than like the Destroyer of the Praxians. “Send a message to home! Get us out of here!”

Even as he spoke, he noticed the clouds moving again, this time forming the shape of a hand, forming a circle with its thumb and middle finger. His eyes widened.

“Sir?” Roswix gasped. “I have the bridges of the ships behind us on the horn. They’re asking why we’re calling for a general retreat! What do I tell them!?”

The hand in the clouds reared back, as if directing itself right at him personally. Azrael swallowed and shivered like a child. “Tell them, there’s something down there,” he said. “It cannot be overcome, cannot be tamed, cannot be destroyed. It can be fought and twisted, but never broken.”

“Sir?” Roswix asked again. “Sir, what is that?”

Azrael’s eyestalk opened and focused just as the massive middle finger popped up in a sudden flick.

“Will,” he whispered.

The force that hit his ship was unlike any weapon ever encountered by the Teilaxieu armed forces. A massive force, like a hand the size of Mars, smashed into the hull and sent the ship flying back, spiraling end over end. The screams of the crew filled Azrael’s hearing proboscises, replacing all other sounds. The bridge twisted wildly around him, the entire gargantuan dreadnought sent spiraling out of control. Console pieces, sheets of nano-surface, and his fellow Tleilaxieu all bounced helplessly around, screaming the entire way, an entire battle-hardened machine of war transformed into a panicked and blind animal in an insane tumble.

“All from a flick of the fingers,” he mumbled, gazing out into the void he’d been sent spinning into, hardly able to believe his own words. “All of this…from a flick of the fingers.”

For the first time since basic training, Admiral Azrael allowed himself to experience terror.


Blueheart attacked the grease stain with the sort of ferocity usually reserved for people embroiled in the most brutal of combat during the final push for victory. Her sponge flanked along the pan to strike from a new angle, earning a few extra millimeters of cleanliness before encountering the stiff resistance that had first stopped her. Sighing, she added a few more squirts of soap in the pan and left it to soak. The sinister agents of grease and dirt might have won this battle, but they had far from won the war.

Realizing there was no use in putting it off any longer, Blueheart yanked off the rubber dish gloves and wandered over to the living room. There, Todd and Red sat on the couch, Todd with eyes like glass, Redheart with tear-filled, exhausted eyes that watched the television screen without really seeing it, her head resting in his lap.

Blueheart let out another sigh that went completely unnoticed before she trotted in, resting a hoof on her sister’s shoulder. Redheart bolted up, realizing there was another pony in the room for the first time, then immediately settled back into Todd’s lap, the bags under her eyes seemingly growing deeper.

“I can’t do it again, Blue,” she whispered, a shivering gasp shaking her frame. “I just can’t.”

“I know,” Blueheart whispered. “Come with me. The village will take care of him.”

Redheart gasped, curling up into a little ball while Blueheart stroked her back. “Just one more night,” she whispered. “Let me spend one more night with him, and I swear, we’ll leave tomorrow.”

Blueheart’s hoof retreated. “Okay,” she said, falling back to the kitchen to take up her battle with that night’s dinner once more. Her sister needed time, she knew. Celestia only knew even she was having difficulty wrapping her head around the fact that this nightmare was starting up all over again. As she left, she spared one look over her shoulder at the heavy-breathing, glass-eyed cretin on the couch with her sister. His gaze remained fixed straight ahead, a line of spittle dribbling from his mouth. She shivered as she returned to the kitchen.

Redheart’s attention turned back to the TV, her breathing levelling out to a slow pace. Once again, she allowed herself to fall into the world of Rory and Lorelei Gilmore, taking solace that the damned Barrier which took everything else from her at least left some shadow of what once was. She didn’t even notice the hoof stroking her mane, massaging her back right between the shoulder blades. And then, a muzzle leaned down close to her ear and whispered, “So, what’s got my super-hot wife in a tizzy now?”

She bolted upright, threw herself atop him, and kissed him passionately. For a second when she pulled back, her stomach leapt at the idea that she had merely imagined the voice and that she had just kissed the drooling idiot that had taken her husband’s place. These fears were dashed, however, as that confident old smile she’d fallen in love with curled across his lips.

“Hey,” he said. Then she hit him, a good hoof-punch across the jaw. “Ow, what!?”

“Again!” She gasped, keeping her voice just above a whisper to avoid alerting her sister. “How could you do that to me again!? Do you know how scared I was!? Do you have any idea!?”

“Sweetheart, sweets! I get it, okay!?” He pulled back, looking up into her eyes with his head bowed, his ears folded back. “I’m sorry. I got pulled away for something really important, and got caught up before I could say goodbye, alright?”

She placed her forehooves on her hips and glared. “You better be. And I hope you realize this means you’re on dish duty for the next two weeks, buster!”

“Two weeks!? Aww, c’mon, how is that fair!?”

“And you better perform damn good tomorrow, too,” she said, her glare still hardened on his eyes, though a hoof reached around to give his right flank a squeeze. “I’m sending Blue and the kids home, so I want to squeeze as much loving in before you get called off again.”

The stallion shivered beneath her. “Duly noted.”

“Good,” she said, pressing her muzzle to his again before curling up against him, a contented smile on her face. Todd also settled down, preparing for a nice night with some mindless television and the love of his life.

“By the way,” she said, still stroking his barrel. “What was so important that you had to just get yanked away like that, anyhow?”

“Oh,” he replied, his eyes shimmering in the late-day sun. “Just saying goodbye to some new friends.”

Next Chapter: Chapter VII: The Final Message Estimated time remaining: 2 Minutes
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